I have come out twice in my life. Once at 40 with bipolar disorder and once at 50 as gay. I hope at 60 all I have to declare is that my prostrate is a bit doggy.
By far the hardest was telling my wife of 28 years and my 4 teenage children the truth about my sexuality but the hardest to navigate publicly has been my mental illness.
We have enormous ignorance and prejudice towards mental illness in Australia, particularly as it concerns men. How else do we explain that more than 8 Australians die by suicide each day, that 6 of them will be men, that suicide is the most common cause of death of all Australians aged 15 to 45?
Writing this series of blogs scares me witless and much more than swimming at night with sharks. Is it uncomfortable and too much information for those who know me? Will it be considered self indulgent by those who don’t? Will it affect my business and the trust people place in me as a lawyer?
I found my voice to speak of mental illness and such things from my swimming life. In the sea and the pool, I have met many with demons and some who bravely speak publicly about them. I respect those living quietly with their condition, I’m hardly one to criticise a late bloomer, but I’m inspired by those who have risked their careers, their acquaintances and their standing as capable people who lead good and productive lives while managing their illnesses and who are game to tell their stories.
These stories must be told until we are all bored with them, until we come to regard our respective conditions in the same way as we regard arthritis, diabetes, and the many other conditions that debilitate and challenge us daily but which are manageable if we face them head on with the love and support of our friends and families, our health professionals, our community leaders, and our elected representatives.
Men and women, but particularly men must become so exposed to these stories that it becomes alright to tell theirs, and then, and only then will the numbers tell a different story.