Matt Poynter, UWU CASINO Member & DELEGATE
“The dark side wins by making us think we are alone”
(Poe Dameron – ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ 2019)
I hope that in sharing my journey it will create awareness that we all need to look after ourselves; that it gives motivation to check up on family and friends; that it helps someone struggling in silence to ask for help. Reaching out to friends and family is a STRENGTH, not a WEAKNESS.
In January of 2020, my mother informed us of her decision to cease chemotherapy and radiology treatment after battling pancreatic cancer for three years. Her decision was admirable and scary at the same time and resulted from a desire to live what was left of her life instead of trying to prolong it and spending her time in and out of medical appointments and hospital visits.
March decided to throw us all a new challenge to an already difficult situation with the first COVID lockdown resulting in financial insecurity and survivability. Trying to provide for all the medication and appointments that were now required started the downward journey in my head.
Cracks started to show and I mentally started to fail. Feelings that I had wasted my life and reflecting on the fullness of what mum had achieved with hers. I found purpose and staved off the downward mental slide in realising that I am very much like my mum in that underlying desire to make others lives better.
Mum’s health continued to deteriorate faster and faster, sleeping more often and not having energy to get up or eat.
On the evening of 1st of July, Mum passed.
I was able to hide from the darkness with all the administrative requirements associated with being executor of mum’s estate. I was oblivious to the clouds gathering as I was so caught up in financial pressures, estate administration, engaging lawyers and dealing with legal issues and struggling with everyday tasks under COVID conditions.
I felt as though I had control when in reality I did not. My focus still shifted to helping others that reached out to me for guidance and support and I ignored my own needs.
A light was turned on with the excitement of restrictions lifting and a returning to work in late November. I was asked back to commence on day shift (I have worked permanent night shift since I commenced employment with Crown in 2012). Little did I realise that this small change in work/life balance would trigger my first complete breakdown. With all that was going on, my safe place (work) was no longer safe. I was constantly switched on and even during breaks, was on calls or having to email responses to handle legal and estate issues. I was surviving on two to three hours of sleep and ended up mentally crashing.
Mum had always been there as my mental health regulator, my confidant, my sounding board and my compass. The realisation that she was gone, that all my structures were gone, broke me completely.
The anniversary of mum’s passing hit me hard. Still fighting legal and estate stuff, handling issues from colleagues, and reworking proposals and ideas to promote a more mentally healthy workplace kept me busy. Lockdown 5 impacted the darkness as uncertainty grew and the disconnection of family, friends and work impacted further the declining headspace and the biggest realisation of all… that I was on my own.
Dark thoughts of how much easier things would be if I didn’t have to worry about them… if I wasn’t here to have to handle them. This fleeting thought scared me enough to reach out to my doctor and seek the help I need.
Regular checkups with my doctor and a mental health plan have been implemented and referrals to psychologists have been made to clear and process all that needs to be filtered and cleansed from my mind to find balance and peace.
I am in a much better headspace now and hopeful of finding that balance I have lacked. I am working with my doctor to rediscover the light and have so many people to thank for checking in on me. I feel as though I have had a certain amount of luck, but as was recently pointed out to me… I made my own luck by acknowledging I needed help and reaching out!
To those of you that knew parts of my journey and made efforts to check in and make sure I am ok – I cannot express my thanks enough!
I share this with you all to create awareness of the struggles of mental health. Even the strongest of us succumb to the darkness and “It’s ok to not be ok!”
Be kind to yourselves and each other… and if you notice something different in your family and friends, be sure to ask them “Are you OK?”
SUPPORT IS AVAILABLE
- Lifeline – 13 11 14, operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Lifeline Text – 0477 131 114, operating 12pm – midnight (AEDT), 7 days a week
- Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636
- Lifeline webchat – operating 7pm – midnight (AEDT), 7 nights a week
- OkToTalk – helps you find the right psychologist for your needs.
Other ways to connect:
- Join your local union or workplace Facebook group
- Start a regular virtual social catch-up with friends or colleagues