How Barry the Bike helped me

Host: Miss Jodie
Written by Miss Jodie – Jill of All Trades, Northern Australia.

When 2014’s FutureNTCA crew were given a bike as part of a professional development program, it was decided by the team that it would be used to promote mental health awareness. I went along with the idea saying I knew a few people close to me who had been affected by anxiety and depression in their lifetime and that I thought we could do something great for our rural community. But truth be told, the person I knew that had been affected by these illnesses, was myself.

Photo 1. Hon Willem Westra van Holthe, Hon John Elferink,with Barry the Bike copyHon Willem Westra van Holthe, Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries  and Hon John Elferink, Minister for Mental Health Services with Barry the Bike out the front of Parliament House in Darwin in March 2015.

Now before passing all sorts of judgement on me, let me tell you right now that this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever written. I’m laying it all out on the line. I’m leaving myself completely vulnerable. For the visual readers amongst us, I feel like I’m walking down the main street of my home town completely naked waiting for the rotten tomatoes to be hurled at me. That’s how vulnerable I feel writing this.

The reason I’m sharing so much information to the world, hoping to come out relatively unscathed, is because I’m hoping that by sharing my story, someone else is encouraged to seek help, or even deeply consider their own experiences and current mental stability. If just one person does that, than I consider this experience a win. I’m not here to whinge to the world (I have had a pretty awesome life which I’ll get into later), and I’m not here to seek sympathy, you’ll know it when I do. I am just hoping that maybe I’ll be able to help someone in some small way.

Photo 2. FutureNTCA 2014 used Barry the Bike to promote wellbeing messages on their Facebook page. copyFutureNTCA 2014 used Barry the Bike to promote wellbeing messages on their Facebook page.

The first time I went to a GP and said I’m not feeling so crash hot, even though I have nothing to be miserable about, she said (and I quote, word for word) “But that’s not you, look at you – you’re smiling.” I had never seen this GP before. She didn’t know me from a bar of soap. She had to look up her book version of medical Wikipedia to search the symptoms of depression and anxiety. So I walked out of there, paid my $75 consult fee, with absolutely no help what-so-ever. As a 22 year old, I took that to mean that I was being ridiculous – “toughen the heck up you weak and worthless waste of space”. This of course didn’t help the negative shark infested tank of thoughts swirling in my head.

See one thing you may not realise about people struggling in this way, is that they probably don’t show it. They may have developed an invisible mask that acts like a shield to protect themselves from showing others how desperate and confused they really are. For the scientists out there, depression can be like a fast paced feedback mechanism; one negative thought, feeds another negative thought, which feeds another, which feeds on the first, and the cycle continues. It becomes difficult to see anything other than this walled-in round-about that just keeps on happening, even (or perhaps especially) when you ‘know’ there is no reason for it; “You have a roof over your head, incoming wages, friends, family, and good health, yet you still can’t be happy?? What’s wrong with you? You are so pathetic”, or at least that’s how the cycle was going in my headspace. You know when you’re in a stock camp without phone, TV, or internet and all of a sudden your entire world is what’s happening right in front of you? The smallest things are the biggest dramas because that’s all you can see, there’s nothing to keep it in perspective? Well that’s what it can be like with depression, or at least it was for me.

Photo 3. Barry the Bike was ridden around the NTCA Conference to promote awareness of copyBarry the Bike was ridden around the NTCA Conference to promote awareness of, an online facility providing courses and materials to help those with depression and anxiety.

The second time I went three years later, I got a great GP. She was amazing. Her name was Robyn. I walked into her office and cried. I couldn’t speak, I just cried. I didn’t even know what I was crying about. I had nothing to cry for, but I could not help or stop myself. She cancelled her next appointment, sat me down, and told me what was going on. She prescribed me some medication and made a referral for me to see a counsellor.

Well that went fine for the first week, until I decided that I was feeling better so I didn’t need the medication. When the counsellor bought all the bull I was feeding her, in some warped way, I considered it a victory. It’s not that I didn’t want to get better, it’s just that I was insecure and a strong part of my personality is that I am a people pleaser. Even though I didn’t know this counsellor, I wanted to make her happy, so whenever she frowned at whatever it was I was saying, I made sure I didn’t say it again. In fact, next time I’d say the opposite. Three appointments later she had me ‘cured’! It was a miracle! Not really, I’d just lied a lot and now I didn’t have to go to appointments in the middle of the work day while avoiding the question of why it is I wanted to skip out on work, yet again.

The next time I had a run in with the black dog, was only three months ago when my dad passed away. Without a particular reason why, I couldn’t pick myself up off the couch, even though I had an important event to organise and jobs that needed doing with ever increasing urgency. Despite this, I couldn’t make myself move. The fear of the event/life not going well had me glued to the couch, without even the TV on for background noise. I was afraid of the future. I called my good friend and said this is where I’m at. She said “Book yourself in. You can’t do this any longer.” So I did, and I went.

I said to the GP, “I know me, I know how I work, and although I’ve never been in this particular boat, I am familiar with this ocean. I need help. I can’t continue like this.” He listened. He gave me a script for medication, and lastly he sat back and heard me talk about this online facility that provides lessons to help people affected by depression and anxiety beat their thought patterns and non-helpful behaviours; the website I had learned about when FutureNTCA chose to promote mental health awareness using Barry the Bike.

Photo 4. FutureNTCA members Melissah and Sam provided a great summary during the NTCA Conference in Darwin. copyFutureNTCA 2014 members Melissah Dayman and Sam Chisolm provided a great summary of the team’s efforts during the NTCA Conference in Darwin. is a website that provides lessons online to help people overcome their illness while assisting them to recognise and change their thought and behaviour patterns. When a person registers to participate in a course, they are automatically assigned a mental health professional to check up on each participant each week and see how they are progressing.

My GP was blown away. He had never heard of it. “Why don’t more people know about it?” he asked. “I don’t know” I said, “but they should!”. I think this is an invaluable resource. Someone who lives remotely can gain help or assistance without having the rigmarole of coming to town.

For those who are unfamiliar with station life, this can be difficult to achieve. Just getting there can take hours, and by hours I’m talking up to eight hours just to get to town. Not only that but unless you have friends you can stay with, than there is a significant cost of accommodation as well. On top of that you will be given a list by everyone else on the station of things they would like brought back “You know, if you have time . . . ” not to mention the stores (collection of groceries, parts, and supplies) from every business in the town. The thing that I think would stop people most, is having to justify why they want time off to head to town in the first place.

Let’s face it. Some people just aren’t good at lying and they would prefer to self-medicate, in whatever form that comes in for them, than admit to someone they work with and possibly admire that they want to book in for a mental health check (which just so happens to be another resource offer online). All of these services come for the hefty price of absolutely nothing.

This wonderful and comprehensive service is free.

I am happy to say that I am still on medication and I am thinking I might be here for a while. The relief the medication is offering is overwhelming (although the start was quite rough – have never vomited so much in my life). I think this is the closest I have ever been to what it must be like for people who don’t do what I was. I recognise that short periods of anxiety are normal, stress can really improve performance, and everyone feels sad at times, but to have my imbalances corrected so that I am not constantly burdened to the point of collapsing, is such a relief.

So if you are feeling like you recognise some of the things I have experienced in yourself, or think someone else you know might be feeling the same way, why not show them the website. It’s confidential, it’s helpful, can be done in the privacy of your own home and it’s free.  More harm will be done by not mentioning it, than ever could have been done otherwise . . . think of it that way . . .

Stay safe people. xo

Photo 5. Barry the Bike was taken to the ends of the earth to promote the wellbeing messages. See more on our Facebook page copyBarry the Bike was taken to the ends of the earth to promote the well-being messages. See more on our Facebook page.