How To Develop Low Self-Esteem, Sell Out Your Integrity, Do Drugs, Lose Your Mind, Get 100k In Debt And Overcome Depression
Paranoid that I would get heavily medicated, locked up in a padded cell and put in a straightjacket, I isolated myself at a remote beach house in Piha, New Zealand. Various Health Professionals had diagnosed me with Depression, PTSD, Anxiety and Adrenal Fatigue after attending a ten day silent mediation in the South Thailand Jungle. I was hearing voices in my head and at the time I really thought my life was over.
That was almost four years ago and a far cry from where my mental state of mind is now.
Today I feel utterly and eternally grateful as it’s because of this journey I can share with you something I’ve been working on for quite some time. A blueprint that outlines all the things I’ve learned over the last four years that have helped get me well and keep me well called The Wellness Report.
The Wellness Report is a comprehensive online questionnaire based on research from medical and wellness experts around the world. It takes about 25 minutes to fill in, and once completed you will receive a free customized Wellness Report in your email, outlining your unique wellness score and recommended lifestyle changes that if applied may positively change the way you feel.
The Wellness Report has a growing list of top medical advisers who will connect every six months to discuss new research and information to keep the information relevant and up-to-date.
The Report was developed out of my own sheer frustration, simply because the reasons why people have “depressive-like symptoms” are different for everyone and all of the information that helped me get well came from so many different sources – doctors, holistic health practitioners, books, friends, relationships and research papers. I wanted to collect all of this information and make it easily and freely available to everyone around the world in the hope that it could help people better diagnose potential root cause(s) of “depressive-like symptoms” and help people get well faster.
You can learn more about The Wellness Report and take the questionnaire by going to –
All I ask is that if information in report benefits you in some way, please consider donating to Live More Awesome by clicking here so that we can do more to support more people on their journey back to wellness.
My journey leading up to this point however is not one a lot of people would call conventional.
As far as case studies go, I’m what the medical profession would label as “a poster kid for depression”. I have a long and strong family history of addiction, mental instability, trauma and suicide. Although I grew up in a family where my parents were very awesome people and I was taught very good morals, as far as family life goes it was quite a dysfunctional and at times a very emotionally hostile environment. My dad was what psychiatrists would label “a workaholic” who had businesses in the automotive and car parts industry, and was around a lot less then I would have liked as a kid. Looking back, I don’t think my dad ever really got over the trauma of almost losing my mother from postnatal depression after my older sister was born. As a typical man of his generation, he suppressed everything he was feeling so that he could “hold it together”, and work became his out when things got emotionally difficult back at home. In those days postnatal depression wasn’t “a thing”. Doctors just assumed my mum had gone insane, so they locked her up and heavily medicated her.
My mum, who has a heart as big as Texas, was involved in the not-for-profit sector for as long as I can remember and it wasn’t unusual to have foster kids or other people living with us for months at a time. I think this is where the part of me that always wants to look after people came from. Big-hearted as she was, my mum was still working through her own demons from childhood issues that stemmed from growing up with an alcoholic father. As a result of all this, my role in the family from a young age became that of an independent confidant to my family, a rescuer and a mediator. Growing up as a peacekeeper, I learned how to keep all my feelings inside, just like my father always had. It just felt easier that way, there was enough going on in the family without me adding my issues to the mix. This resulted in me being a very shy, ultra-sensitive, introverted kid with quite low self-esteem. But please don’t confuse my honesty with a lack of love for my family because I love them all to bits. We’re all just doing the best we can with the knowledge and resources we have available to us at the time, it just was what it was.
I can’t tell you the amount of times my sister and I spent sitting in the car in the driveway, hours late for school, hearing our parents verbally fighting inside the house for what seemed like an eternity. To compensate for their guilt, our parents would give us some hush lunch money, which started my long standing addiction to junk food and eating away my feelings. I had days at school where I would spend them hiding in the toilets crying, not wanting to go to class because I was so scared my dad had left us and I would never see him again. Added to this, I had a moment in primary school where I got told off in front of the entire school and made fun off by a teacher in assembly in such a bad way that I started bawling my eyes out and it really affected me and I became petrified of being in front of groups of people and public speaking became my worst fear ever. It’s something I still struggle with today as a result.
Self-esteem aside, I was born with an interesting skill set of sorts. For some reason I’ve always had a big gravitation towards breaking rules and take risks, I had a natural gift as an entrepreneur, I was a very independent thinker and I could get on well with most people I came in contact with regardless of their age. Even though I was shy, I never had any problems standing up for myself or others for what I believed in, or if something didn’t make sense to me. My dad had taught me to work hard, and that there was always a solution to a problem if you looked at it from all the angles.
I started my first business as soon as I was old enough to walk and talk. My family used to take me to local garage sales where I would buy up small items and resell them for a profit at a stall I put on the footpath in front of our house. My second business was a little more risqué, at the age of six I used to buy stick on tattoo packs, cut them up and sell them separately to all the kids at the Christian School I went to. I had quite a nice racket going on until I got pulled aside and told that my operation wasn’t very becoming of a good god fearing man. I finally parted ways with Christian school after I got in trouble for recruiting a small crew of other bored kids and slowly dismantled the rock wall that ran around the perimeter of the school over a period of months. After a heated debate with the teacher overseeing my after school detentions, my parents decided it was best for me to go to a much bigger school which opened up a whole new world for me. I was able to make friends who lived locally, which made it easier for me to escape home when things felt too hostile.
One day I had an idea to organize a big party down at local beach. I saved up and purchased an inkjet printer, created flyers and got them passed around a few schools in the different areas. The idea worked, the party was a big success and the cross-school beach party idea started to evolve into a life of its own. I still remember one night watching an entire army of riot police charging towards a sea of party goers with helicopters flying overhead shortly before being knocked down by police batons as I tried to escape by climbing over a tall wooden fence into someone’s back yard.
My next creative idea was a little more on the ‘illegal’side. I saved up and purchased a colour scanner which in those days wasn’t very common, or cheap. Having worked in my father’s car parts business, I had learned how to deal with suppliers and was able to track down near identical paper and replicated two different types of birth certificates so that my friends and I could get into nightclubs and buy alcohol. Back then, the drinking and nightclub age was twenty and I looked like I was a ten-year-old with the height of a five year old child to match. But my baby face was apparently quite believable and I always seemed managed to talk my way in.
I first discovered drugs quite by accident when I was fourteen after severely breaking my arm in two places and dislocating my shoulder playing rugby at school. The hospital had a long wait list so they put me in a bed for a few days and loaded me up on a high dose of morphine to numb the pain. But on the first night my charts must’ve gotten mixed up because all I can vaguely remember is just having had a nurse administer some morphine and feeling like someone was rubbing cotton wool around the inside of my head when a new nurse doing the rounds administered another dose… I kept trying to yell, “They just gave me some, I don’t need any more. STOP”, but I couldn’t move a single part of my body. This was my introduction to the feeling of getting high, I loved it and I wanted to experience more.
Bored and restless now that my dream of being a professional tennis player had come to an abrupt end from my injury, a friend in Science class swore me to secrecy one afternoon about a weed plantation he found in the bush near his house (I grew up in West Auckland – this was a pretty common place occurrence) so I said I would pay him if he could get some seeds from the plants and then I researched everything I could about cannabis and taught myself how to grow it. It turned out I had quite the talent for cultivating cannabis and it became a bit of a side project until I was twenty two. Yes, there were plenty of other drugs and if I’m totally honest I’ve probably consumed enough substances over the years to level a small city block. I also came very close to securing substances in large quantities, but having gotten a bit cocky and given the fact that at the time I was high on ecstasy almost every second night and not 100% thinking straight, I decided to organize a giant street party with two other neighbouring houses while I still had a small growing operation running out of the wardrobe in my bedroom.
As you might have expected, the party got well out of hand. The Police turned up and stormed through the house to clear everyone out. I’ll never forget the moment, walking the last policeman down the hallway out to the front door, high as a kite hallucinating watching the world around me turn into zeroes and ones like a scene out of the Matrix, when out of nowhere the officer said to me, “Mr Drupsteen, is there a reason why we can smell the distinct scent of cannabis inside your house?”. As careless as I was I knew I had some time up my sleeve before they could get a search warrant to legally search the property. I quickly got all the drugs out of the house and hid everything in our neighbour’s back yard until morning. Driving a car full of weed plants across the city to the Waitakere’s the next day on a come down was probably one of the most nervous drives I’ve ever done. The police never did come back to the house but my life as a side-line grower had come to an abrupt end and I started to clean up my act.
I was twenty-four when I first went through depression. I had quit my well-paying job working in IT to move to Melbourne with my girlfriend at the time. She was working in the banking sector and had been offered an all-expense paid big three months trial managerial position so we decided to give Melbourne a shot. We had also just signed our lives away and mortgaged ourselves up to the hilt on a little bungalow in New Zealand. Life was very much on the fast track to experiencing the white picket fence, golden retriever, two point five children lifestyle that society had told me I always wanted.
Laptops weren’t really a thing back then, so I traveled with an entire suitcase full of desktop computer and spent my days sitting in our apartment working on an idea I had to build an online software platform, playing cards with the house cleaners and wandering around the local delis in the afternoon trying to decide what to cook for dinner later that night. Melbourne was a very different life to anything I’d previously experienced in New Zealand but at the same time it also felt very isolating. I had made no effort to meet new people and I had way too much alone time on my hands for my own good.
About ten weeks into Melbourne life I woke up to what I can only describe as a niggling little dark cloud of unexplained sadness sitting just above my head. And every day it grew slightly bigger and bigger until it became a storm I could no longer ignore. It wasn’t until many years later that I properly understood what had triggered it. I was with someone who absolutely loved me unconditionally, but I had never felt capable or worthy to give that same unconditional love to myself. Every moment living with that person from that point on became a constant reminder of my considered failing at life for what I thought should be one of its fundamentals: self-love. So in order to escape that feeling I decided to get up and leave. It was one of the toughest life decisions I think I’ve ever made.
To share a little more light on this relationship I should probably give you the full picture. My girlfriend was married when we first met. Her husband had cheated on her and they had both tried to resolve it, but when the trust is gone it’s very hard to get back. We met at a party at my sister’s house, instantly clicked and eventually she ended up leaving her husband to be with me. If I’m really honest there was a part of me that got off on the fact that someone was willing to leave someone else to be with me, that insecure egoist child part of me that wanted so much to be liked, loved and chosen was able to feel validated. But the guilt I felt for being “that guy who broke up a marriage” slowly started to bear its weight down upon me. For those of you who have been there, you will understand what I mean when I say, “It’s hard to build a solid long-term relationship on something that starts from a place of dishonesty”.
On top of that, my girlfriend was also quite unwell. Doctors thought she had a brain tumour because she would get really bad frequent headaches, lose all motor control, the ability to talk and often completely pass out. I still remember the nights I would wake up in the early hours to find she had left the house in disarray with the front door wide open, and I would find her wandering the streets naked and disorientated. I’ve often thought about the situation my dad found himself in when he searched for my mum when she had gone missing with postnatal depression. It’s interesting how history repeats itself. Other times I had to break the bathroom door down because she had passed out in the shower, hitting her head on the way down. The stress I carried from being in this relationship and not talking to anyone about how I was feeling had affected me much more than I realised. I felt like I needed to be strong for the both of us but the truth was that I also needed some support but I didn’t know how to ask.
Then came the afternoon when I sat down and found the courage to tell my girlfriend that I needed some “space” and I was going to go back to New Zealand for a while. I realized then even the calmest of people can lose it when their trigger buttons are pushed. My girlfriend proceeded to physically destroy our entire apartment and everything in it in a fit of rage while I barricaded myself in the spare room. The next day after sitting down and trying to talk about it like adults, she ran out of the house clutching broken glass in her hand threatening to kill herself, and luckily I was able to find her on a tram before she could cut herself too badly. When I finally got back to New Zealand, I was still in shock with doctors saying I had suffered from post-traumatic stress and depression and I became bedridden for months. That wouldn’t be the last time I would be the catalyst for a marriage break-up, or be in a relationship with someone who tried to end their own life. If the past has taught me anything, it’s that for me I’ve needed to experience the same scenario twice before I learn from the experience and can move forwards from it.
I’d like to be able to say that I got the help I needed to get myself well at this point, but that’s not how my story goes. There seemed to be a lot less access to good resources around mental wellness at this time and the advice given to everyone around me was that I should do talking therapy with a professional and that I should go on medication. I was referred to a leading Psychologist who in my opinion was more dry and brittle than a bar of Weet-Bix and his first action step was to put me on anti-depressants. A week into taking the medication I felt like I was on a mild dose of ecstasy all the time. Which I would have totally have been OK with if I wanted to feel mildly high for the rest of my life and hang out at dance parties all day, but not ideal if I want to thrive in normal day to day living. What’s more, my ability to concentrate on tasks disappeared and I became really tired and wanted to sleep all the time.
After five months of living in a pharmaceutical haze I decided to take myself off the medication and with the help of some good people around me I started to pick myself up off the couch and reconnect with world around me. The challenge now was having walked away from the house I partly owned and having quit my “secure” job to move to Melbourne I was now broke and jobless. I had always wanted to have my own business so I decided now was as good a time as any to start. I remember being so broke I had to borrow ten dollars off my family just to put petrol in my car to get to my first potential client meeting. I couldn’t even look the person in the eye when I spoke to them I was so nervous but I worked hard, stuck with it and within a few months my new web development business started to grow. But “success” without balance breeds a whole new set of challenges and I slowly and unconsciously started following in the footsteps of my father by becoming a full time workaholic. Business became my new addiction and I allowed it to keep me distracted enough to avoid all forms of emotion and feeling.
The little free time I did have, I managed to fill it with parties, illicit substances and girls. I never had a problem meeting women, but finding and staying in a healthy relationship was another story altogether. For the next eight years I floated my way through a raft of amazing, interesting, independent, smart and talented women but each time I got close and started to let my guard down, all those emotional memories of feeling sad and not giving myself enough love would come flooding back, and so I would find an excuse as to why this person wasn’t right for me and move on.
When I look back, there were definite catalysts in the form of my childhood relationship role models that tainted how I viewed the world love. I had been very close to my granddad, who as much of a rather nasty human being as he had been to people as an alcoholic he was quite the charismatic man when he was sober. In a lot of ways his energy kept my mum’s extended family together through their very open and welcoming home that was built on a kiwifruit orchard in Whenuapai. I think I was about eight when I went with my mum to pick my grandparents up from airport one day to find my Nana alone and distraught, crying her eyes out saying that my granddad upon getting off the plane had turned around and told her he was leaving her for his secretary, walked off and never came back to New Zealand for almost twenty years. My granddad had always made a lot of time for me and had been there for me, so for him to just up and leave without saying goodbye really broke my trust and I held a lot of anger and resentment towards him for many years. I just didn’t understand how anyone could treat my Nana in that way and that experience really affected my ability to completely trust the people I cared about.
The second was my parents getting divorced when I was seventeen. I was so angry, all I could think about was, why couldn’t they have done this earlier, everyone would’ve been better off not having had to be around years of hostility.
Both of these experiences made me develop a false story in my head that said “Real love equals pain” and getting too close to people should be avoided at all costs.
Not long after I started my business, one of my best friends who was working in Vietnam on a feature film had a project fall through, rung me up out of the blue and sold me on coming over to Vietnam for a visit. Spending time in Vietnam opened up a whole new world for me and has given me enough crazy stories to make for a really entertaining biography one day. There were a lot of Mafia connections through the circle of friends I kept, and there were times when I felt like I was living in a South East Asian Scorsese movie. It taught me never to judge a book by its cover as there would be times where I’d be sitting down for dinner with the most unassuming friendly people and later when I’d ask my friends, “What’s their story?”, “Oh, he was responsible for making sure that McDonald’s would never enter Vietnam”, or “He heads up the counterfeit DVD industry for South East Asia”.
When I wasn’t spending my mornings recovering from the previous night’s killer hangover I would be getting picked up by the drivers of bored, married Vietnamese business women for coffee and tennis dates. Other times I would catch up with friends whose biggest challenge for the day was figuring out how to make enough money to afford to eat a meal.
As far as most journeys go, eventually there’s a point where part of the journey requires you to go downhill. This point for me in Vietnam when I was advised to leave the country because a woman I had been seeing (let’s call her Kate for name protections sake) was unbeknown to me married and her husband was a very well connected man. Given the intensity levels things had reached, I decided it was best for everyone concerned to take this advice on board and get the fuck out of the country quick smart, but not before leaving Vietnam in an epic blaze of glory. That last night was spent hiding from what looked like a Rolls Royce driving around the city looking for Kate, almost setting a bar on fire by seeing who could be the first to ignite the bottles of spirits behind the bar with cigars and then having a race down the main drag with Cyclos (peddle powered taxi’s) we had “borrowed” from the local drivers.
I woke up in a daze to find over thirty missed calls on my phone. Kate had gone home at some point in the night and told her husband she was leaving him. Only when she came back to find me, I had passed out but not before locking myself in my room. When she turned up, the concierge lied and told her that I was inside with another girl and then attempted to sexually assault her outside my door while I was inside sleeping like a baby. She spent the night outside my Hotel sitting on the footpath in the rain crying, waiting for me to wake up. On the drive out to the airport she told me she loved me and wanted to leave her life in Vietnam and come to New Zealand to be with me, I told her I had made a decision to never get myself involved with someone who was a relationship again and if she wanted to be with me that she should call me when she had sorted her life out. That was the Vietnam I got to know and love, chaos in harmony.
I’ve had a few positive turning points in my life, and living in Vietnam was one of them. Experiencing the complete polar opposites between extreme poverty and wealth and the high importance placed on connection with family and your local community consistently drew me back there. I guess it was partly the feeling of connection I had when I was young that disappeared when my granddad left New Zealand and it felt good to have that feeling back.
I was out for dinner at a restaurant surrounded by rice paddies one night (which had ironically run out of rice FY) and met an amazing local family who had two young daughters. Their biggest dream was to get their kids a good education but given the financial capacity of their lives, short of winning the lottery this was never going to be a reality. Over a period of months, we became good friends and eventually my friend and I got what little money we could muster and helped them relocate to Australia and establish a new life there. The feeling of joy I experienced from knowing we had been instrumental in supporting someone to make their dream come true sparked a real desire to change my life priorities. This experience inspired me to help fund-raise to set up school in Vietnam that Tim Ferris was promoting in through an organization called Room to Read and would later be one of the initial sparks that inspired me to want to start Live More Awesome with Jimi.
The second big turning point I had was when I was living in Rio de Janeiro and where I also first experienced cocaine. I was staying on Copacabana beach opposite where Snoop and Pharrell filmed the music video Beautiful, but the reality of life there was often times anything but. Within a week of living in a small apartment block I got introduced to two different cocaine dealers staying in my building. Meeting one of them was something like a scene out of the movie Scarface. I was taken to a room filled with Rasta flags, while three coked-off-their-faces men who looked like they hadn’t slept for months pulled out a switchblade and a massive bag of yellow-looking “rocks” and proceeded to smash them on a table in-front of me. One of them put the switchblade up to my nose and told me, “You try, you like, you come again”. The next day I got introduced to a local delivery guy who would risk his life to travel out to the jungle and collect cocaine as close to source as possible for you, all for a $5 tip.
A year prior to my arrival in Rio, the wife of a man living a floor below got into an argument with a fruit vendor that operated outside the building. The story went that she went upstairs and told her husband, he put down the television remote, went downstairs and shot the fruit vendor dead and then went back upstairs to finish watching his TV programme. I heard story after story like this in Rio, and as beautiful as it was the cost of human life was felt very cheap.
One day I met this fiery, tall redheaded Dutch girl who decided I needed to go with her to see her friends place out in the Favelas. We were on route to said destination in a VW Combi taxi van when we came across this stretch of road where about thirty working girls who all looked under the age of thirteen were on the street, waiting to get picked up. Having already spent a lot of time in Vietnam I had thought I’d seen most of the ugliest sides of life that you could imagine, but seeing these young girls out like that with such a look of emptiness and brokenness on each of their faces, void of life absolutely broke my heart. It’s not something I think I will ever really come to terms with. Things like this just should never ever happen. Standing on the deck overlooking the Favelas at night seemed beautiful on the outset. Every thirty seconds or so you would see little fireworks going off around the city. I asked my Dutch comrade what the fireworks were all about, “Oh, those are the watchers warning the local drug dealers that the police are nearby. And those sounds you hear that sound like gunshots every so often, those are gunshots”.
You’d think that once you witness the ugly side of the drug trade first hand that it would put you off taking anything for life, but cocaine is a hell of a drug. From my own personal experience I believe the solution to change people’s dependence for drug use or any form of addiction for that matter doesn’t lie in the abstinence, but rather with supporting people to create lives full of positive connection and purpose. It wasn’t until I started letting go of the pain I felt, connected with people who had healthier lifestyle habits and created a life that had real meaning to me that the desire to want to get high naturally started to dissipate.
The very next day as I was sitting down at a little TGI Friday’s on the beach to contemplate what I’d just seen I met the happiest human being I’ve ever been fortunate enough to come across. He was the manager of the restaurant and proceeded to sit with me and shared his life story and explained that for him every day was a good day because he was one of the fortunate ones who learned how to read, he had a job and could afford to financially help out his family. Seeing the extreme contrast in lives over that twenty-four hour period really made me start to re-evaluate my own life. When I thought about it, I had everything I needed… so what was the point of growing my business any further? How much money did I really need in order to live a lifestyle that left me feeling “content”? I wanted my life to have more meaning then helping businesses that weren’t pushing humanity forwards shift money from one place to the other. I really wanted to really make a positive difference in the world that existed long after I was gone. I just didn’t know how yet.
After traveling and living remotely between New Zealand and other countries including Thailand, Argentina, Brazil and the U.S. I eventually returned to Vietnam. This time I connected with a little powerhouse of a woman I had met years earlier who at the time owned the largest nightclub in Ho Chi Minh. She was cheeky, smart and elegant and commanded this presence about her everywhere she went and I became completely smitten with her. What attracted me most was her strength, drive and generosity. Every weekend she would give back to the community by taking her staff out to do big food drives to some of the poorer neighbourhoods. She had grown up in a dirt poor family living on the side of a river, working from a young age while looking after her two younger sisters. She had said once that she still remembered freaking out the first time she saw a “white person” floating past her on a boat on the river, that was how rural and non-western influenced her life was. Growing up she became very street smart, learned how to work hard, how to hustle and eventually became a very successful businesswoman. We used to talk a lot about the ethics that running such a business in Vietnam brought along with it, because to run such a business requires that a lot of people get their “red letters” in order for you to stay in operation. She desperately wanted to get out but with over a hundred staff and all the financial support having that business gave to her extended family that was never going to be an option.
It took me a good four months of working my charm (or just sheer persistence) before she finally agreed to go out with me and before long I became part of her extended family. She also had a son who I also really started to feel connected to so in order to be closer to them, I started to open an outsourcing office for IT in Vietnam so I could be there on a more permanent basis. But life seemed to have other plans and literally overnight the US dollar shifted. I lost a good amount of money and I had to come back to New Zealand with my tail between my legs. I could’ve gone back in a years’ time and tried to make it work, but if I’m really honest, I used business as another reason not to allow myself to really experience the feeling of love and being loved on a much deeper level.
At around twenty-seven, one of my business partners back in New Zealand, who had previously had a hand in the legal high industry, asked me if I wanted to get involved. With dollar signs dangling in front of me, I saw this as a potential easy out from my web development business that had started to feel like a noose around my neck that I could never fully step away from. I spent the next four years involved in the legal highs industry initially helping market products overseas and eventually being involved in the whole process from product design to manufacturing to sales. We were still small scale compared to some of the other companies in the industry, but the bigger the business grew, the more stressful it became. I had too much on my plate. I was juggling too many projects and at the same time I was starting to resent having to deal with people whose moral integrity wasn’t in line with where I wanted to be anymore. I would try and justify it in my head saying “What you’re doing is legal, so it’s fine”, but at the end of the day no matter how I looked at it I couldn’t find an angle where the end outcome of the business was contributing to a more positive and loving society. The desire in me to be focusing my time and energy on positive projects that improved people’s lives was increasingly becoming more and more overwhelming.
Feeling completely burned out and emotionally drained I decided that the best way to solve all my problems would be to go on a ten-day silent meditation in the south Thailand jungle.
This experience was to be the start of the biggest turning point in my life.
Most people come away from a silent meditation feeling at peace, renewed and refocused. I suppose in hindsight that’s what eventually happened, but not before every single piece of my mind fell apart. One of the nights I was meditating in my little jungle hut and suddenly I started seeing what was I can only describe as a movie reel of my life in reverse. Only it was just the highlights, or low-lights of every single issue, challenge or drama I had ever experienced in my life. It was the most intense and bizarre experience I’ve ever had and it left me sitting in my little jungle hut crying all night for the first time in a very long time. All of the repressed feelings I had shut off for so long had come to the surface and there was no escaping them. I was in a total state of fear and shock, my brain was over-thinking everything and wouldn’t shut off, I couldn’t think straight, I was anxious, I was paranoid. I felt like I was going insane. And in some ways I think I actually did.
My sister had flown over to visit me after I had finished the retreat so we could work on a new business project together, but I was so broken I had to cut the trip short and come back to New Zealand. All those years of being dishonest with my feelings had come crashing down. I couldn’t work at all, none of it made sense to me anymore and the very thought of turning on my computer made me feel sick inside. My emotions had finally caught up with me. I could feel everything I had suppressed, compounded a thousand fold and it felt worse then what I imagined not being alive would feel like. I eventually contacted all my business partners and clients and upset quite a few people by walking away from every project I had become involved in over the last twelve years.
But I hadn’t quite yet hit rock bottom. I think there must have been some part of me that didn’t feel like I was worthy of financial stability because I decided to go for broke, literally. I got myself into over 100k worth of debt over a period of a year from not working and trying to get myself well, debt which I am still slowly working my way through to this day. I refused to go on the sickness benefit because I thought I would never go off it; I spent money on every single person, programme or product that promised to “get me well again”. I enrolled in psychology papers at university because I wanted to better understand my own mind, but I was too unwell to attend them. I used to drive to University, but sit in my car in the car park for hours because I felt too depressed to go into a class and be around people and then drive back home. I also started training to be a life coach remotely through a woman in the U.S. called Martha Beck who had been Oprah’s television go to coach for a number of years. Six weeks into the training I realized I was felt too sick and couldn’t mentally concentrate well enough to keep going. It felt as though my brain would just shut off when I tried to focus and study.
I also tried anti-depressants again but all they seemed to do was enable me to feel emotionally numb while being flamboyant and careless with my money and decision making. Do I regret any of it? Never, not for a second but it’s not a path I would advise others to go down. The financial implications of making decisions while being mentally unwell are rarely talked about and if there’s one thing I would encourage anyone to do if you are in a dark place is to connect with someone you trust (if you have someone available) who can support you with making sound financial decisions.
I believe everyone has a turning point they need to reach in order to be able to start their journey back to balance and wellness and for me, mine was going beyond broke. That was when I felt like I could finally let go of the idea of trying to fix myself and focus my energy on embracing, loving and accepting my past, my present and myself. I reconnected with my faithful friend and life coach Wetex Kang, whose father had graciously taught me Tai Chi, and I met an amazing therapist by the name of Caroline Cranshaw who stuck with me, believed in me, supported me to get well and eventually became one of my best friends. I also made a promise to myself that when I got myself well that I dedicate all my skills and talents to helping and supporting others to get well and stay well.
I’ve never been a “networking” events kind of person but that was how I first met this rather quirky yet confident character called Jimi Hunt. People had been saying to me for years, “You need to meet my friend Jimi. I’m sure if you guys met you’ll end up doing something crazy together”, but the universe had always made other plans. The next day we caught up for what I thought was going to be a coffee man-date, but instead Jimi spent the whole time trying to wow me with a very pretty looking presentation that showed off his design prowess. I didn’t want to talk business so much, I just really liked the guy and thought that we should be mates and hang out. So that’s just what we did and in no time at all we became fast friends. It was around this time that Jimi’s wife left him and his life got completely turned upside down. To cope with the pain Jimi was feeling, we started brainstorming together around a ridiculous idea he had to get a $5 personal inflatable raft (also known as a Lilo), and use it to go down the Waikato River to raise awareness for Depression. Before we knew what had happened, Lilo The Waikato became a huge success, and Live More Awesome was born. I’ve been so fortunate in the fact that out of all the people I could be doing Live More Awesome with, I managed to find one of the most naturally self-assured, self-confident humans in Jimi who has been able to front enough confidence for the organization when I haven’t felt it in myself.
The rest of my journey is what makes up The Wellness Report.
I guess where I’m going with all this today is to simply share this message with you:
If you can do anything for yourself in 2015, I want to encourage you to cut yourself some slack and instead of focusing your attention on all of the things outside of yourself to bring you happiness, make this year a year where you focus your energy on loving and accepting yourself.
So much of our time in modern society is spent trying to show people “how great our lives are” that we’ve forgotten how to really share from that vulnerable place in our hearts that we rarely open up for anyone. We’ve gotten so good at it, that we’ve even created a whole digital protective layer called social media where we can further curate our outwards appearance to make ourselves appear even more together and appealing without really ever letting people in. But the truth is that life can be pretty fucking challenging at the best of times and while we put up a good front, all of us have our little private battles going on behind the scenes. We’ve all experienced pain and hurt throughout our lives, maybe we’re still experiencing that hurt and pain right now. We all have a dark side we tend to keep very hidden and we all have secret things about ourselves that we’d rather not people know about.
Sharing our truth is about letting go of any of the judgements we may have made about ourselves and the judgements we think others might put on us, letting go of the guilt, letting go of the anger, embracing every aspect of our past with brutal honesty and loving and accepting ourselves so that we can take full responsibility for our own mental well-being and happiness in the present.
I know it’s a crazy idea, but what if, all the things we’ve experienced in life that challenged us and brought us pain were actually all the things that we could learn from and draw strength from to help us stay well and help us consistently live more awesome lives?
When I take the time to consciously look at my life in the bigger scheme of things every experience has served me as an amazing place not only to draw strength from but to help me become a more compassionate, loving and giving human –
- My upbringing as dysfunctional as it may have been at times taught me how to read people’s emotions well and how to feel empathy for other people. I like to think that this skill helps me in life by being able to really listen to someone from the heart and simply to let people be heard. This skill has given me more amazing friends then I could ever hope to connect with.
- My curiosity to push the boundaries, question everything and take risks has allowed me to experience a full spectrum of life and given me some interesting skills that I can now funnel into more positive projects such as creating The Wellness Report and The World’s Biggest Waterslide.
- Being involved with drugs sparked my fascination with nutrition and pharmaceuticals. Without it I would have never been passionate enough to research all the information in The Wellness Report to be able to help myself and help others. It also taught me that the payoff from selling out your integrity can never outweigh the feeling that living with a positive purpose gives you.
- Making good money taught me that you don’t really need to be ridiculously wealthy to live a really awesome life. What’s more important is the interaction and experiences you share with people along your journey.
- Living a life where I suppressed my emotions and never spoke up, has given me a story to share around the importance of opening up, sharing your truth and asking for help.
- Being in a myriad of relationships has taught me that my reactions to people are simply a mirror of the relationship I have with myself. Create space for a healthy relationship with yourself first and you’ll be in a pretty amazing place to make a healthy one with someone else.
I could’ve been married with kids right now, lost in Saigon, ended up in jail, peddling drugs or adding another number to the suicide statistics you read about in the papers. But Instead I’m here having been gifted with an amazing opportunity to learn to love myself and to share my truth with you in the hope that a little piece of my story might inspire you to open up and do the same. And for that I am forever grateful.
So if being and staying well sounds like a place you’d also like to get to, please check out The Wellness Report over at –
My simple wish is that some of the information and tools I’ve learned along the way may also support you on your own journey back to a place of wellness.
Big Hugs x