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Waters rising

The story behind this song is more personal than some, and perhaps a bit harder to relate, but I think that it is an important story to tell. After all, there's still a stigma attached to mental health conditions, and surely the best way to dispel this is to share our own stories. So here's mine.

I think I've always known, on some level, that I was affected by higher levels of anxiety than most people. But I didn't ever acknowledge it until Sydney's first COVID lockdown had sent my usual anxiety levels skyrocketing, and all of a sudden it became necessary to do something about it. Once I mention the lockdown, I feel as though many people will already be nodding their heads. Lockdown is hard. But actually, I feel as though this had been building for some years. I had been gradually becoming more and more busy across all the different facets of my life. People would comment on how much I was achieving - but it was definitely coming at a cost.

I began to feel completely overwhelmed with a sense of things not completed. I went around with a clenched jaw and tense shoulders, and soon started experiencing migraines and terrible neck pain. The pain fed the anxiety and vice versa, until I could suddenly tell that I was very close to breaking point. I decided that I needed to see my doctor and ask for help to manage my anxiety. But even that idea was anxiety-provoking. It felt impossible that anyone would believe me - after all, wasn't everyone always telling me that I was so capable, so on top of everything?

So I forced myself along to the appointment and managed to tell my story, half-expecting to be told off for wasting the doctor's time! Instead, I was met with genuine understanding and sympathy. I left feeling an overwhelming sense of relief and lightness - and wishing I'd know how easy it was to get help, once I was brave enough to ask. Even though I had barely started on my journey of recovery, the first step seemed very significant. I wrote this song in the next couple of days - possibly a bit preemptive, since I still had quite a way to go, but that's how relieved I was feeling!

I've dedicated this song to the health care team that helped me through the period that followed (my doctor, Alex Raffles, and psychologists Emma Smith and Sally Freedman). I'm very grateful for the help and for the compassion with which it was given. And without minimising the personal dedication, I also want to extend my thanks to all of the health professions that support mental health. It's a huge task and one that must take its toll.

I'd also like to encourage anyone else who feels the waters around them rising to consider seeking help. It really is there, if you can bring yourself to ask for it! I'm sure you won't regret it - I certainly don't.

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