Starting the Conversation
Marc, Waikato Dairy Farmer
How hard is it to admit that underneath that mask of happiness you’re really a blithering idiot that feels like having a good cry?
For me it was bloody hard. Maybe it was a pride thing. When my kids were young I felt I had to be resilient and tough, be the role model and the solid rock of the family. The only one that really knew was Maria my wife, and even then I didn’t tell her much. I didn’t want to burden her.
Six years ago it got really bad. I would crash into bed and go out like a light, but then at 2am I would wake up, and my brain would say to me “I’m glad you’re awake – here is a never ending list of things you need to worry about”. There is no-one you can talk to at 2am and in the pitch dark you’ve only got yourself and your thoughts. Sometimes the most dangerous place you can be is inside your own head.
One morning I was getting the cows in and had a massive panic attack. Despite there being nothing to be scared of, I was suddenly shit scared but didn’t know what of. It felt like the world was crushing in and on top of me. It lasted for 10 minutes, it was brutal and it was truly a sickening feeling. And then I had to carry on and milk the cows and deal with staff and try to pretend that I was fine. The world just doesn’t stop when you’re a farmer.
Despite all of this going on, I still never considered reaching out or talking to anyone. Luckily Maria did reach out and told my brother’s wife what was happening. I was pretty pissed off that my “dirty secret” had been let out. So when my brother called and said “I need to come and see you” I really didn’t want him to. I was embarrassed, even ashamed. My brother was someone who seemed to have it all sorted and in control – always positive, happy, successful and I really didn’t think he would understand what I was going through. He came into our house, sat down and said “Mate, I’ve been on anti-depressants for 5 years!” He then went on to tell me about all of what he had been through five years prior – and so much of it was exactly the same as what I was experiencing. The only person that he had talked to was his wife as well.
That was the turning point for me. I went to my GP, and even just getting out of the car, walking into his office, sitting down and telling him “ I have a mental health problem”, was like a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders. And then I started talking. To the GP, to my brother, to my friends, to other farmers, and to my family. And do you know what? So many people have the same issues. And now I don’t care who knows that I have suffered from depression, I’m happy to talk about it with anyone.
It’s such a cliché but talking does help. You’ve got to connect with as many people as possible. There are loads of other things that I have found have helped me, but connecting with as many people as possible is key. You can start by ringing the Rural Support Trust and get one of us round for a coffee. We might not be able to solve every problem, but at least we can listen.
Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254