Two weeks ago, our Three Personal Perspectives on Mental Health forum featured guest speakers who held forth with glorious honesty on mental health and their creativity. It’s such an important event for us that we’re still talking about it! Writer, poet and presenter Barry Garner gives us his feelings on what it meant to share his story with the Twilight School audience.

[Editor’s note: the song quote is, of course, from The Beatles’ ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and covered by Joe Cocker among many others.]

Help From My Friends

When it comes to me living with a mental illness, it’s like the old song, ‘I get by with a little help from my friends.’

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Photo credit: Amanda Piper

This adage has never been truer than when I was preparing myself for the mental health forum at the Twilight School a few weeks back.

As the night drew closer, my anxiety around taking part almost made me throw in the towel. As always, my wife Carolyn was a wonderful support. She encouraged me to travel down to Sunbury and just tell my own story. Even with her encouragement though, on the day I wondered if I could give voice to my feelings.

I took solace in the fact that I wouldn’t have to face the audience alone. My old friend and mentor Bruno would be asking the questions, and joining me would be psych nurse Donna Millia and psychologist  Dianne Lee, both of whom I knew well.

Donna and Dianne spoke with real compassion about their work and having them sitting beside me on the stage gave me the courage I needed to share the parts of myself I so often try to hide away.

I spoke about having had suicidal thoughts, about anxiety and living with this thing called bipolar. And I talked about the people who have and who are helping me find my way.

Whenever I felt a bit too anxious I’d look down at my daughter Holly and her smile would cheer me on.

Listening to Donna and Dianne talk with such tenderness and compassion about people they cared for reminded me of the many great professionals I’ve met and of how finding good help is like finding gold.

I was so glad that I took my wife’s advice and went. I left that night feeling a bit braver.

Barry Garner

Barry Garner, author of Haloes in the Windscreen and Heroes and Daydreams, is a writer, blogger and poet who has been published in The Age, Platform and Eureka Street. This short biography in no way encompasses the beauty, honesty and humanity that comes to life in his writing.