Indigenous Mental Health – The Statistics are Scarier Than You Think


Ok, I’ll admit I am by no means the only university student facing this dilemma but it’s my justification for being decidedly absent (for a very long time).

A couple of updates just to let you know that I’m still alive and well (physically at least).

Less than 6 weeks I will walk out of my last uni exam and – hopefully – 4 more weeks after that I’ll graduate in a gown with some not so subtle rainbow lining. Exciting? Hell yes! Leaving much room for social activity? Haha, what is “social”?

So besides university and a casual job, I have very excitedly recently started working in the field I study. I know right? How does this happen? Am I even a real uni graduate? Or adult for that matter? I feel the answer to the latter is an emphatic no but other people apparently feel differently.

More excitingly, the company itself is Indigenous owned and focuses on renewable technologies, specifically solar. They’re helping to bring power and communications to remote communities in Australia and the results are incredibly heartwarming, to say the least.

The event that has been my passion project for the last month or so is *heavy breathing* a panel event that explores Indigenous Mental Health! Not only that, all the proceeds raised are going towards developing and implementing Indigenous-specific mental health programs to be delivered in remote communities. I think I’ve typed the details of the event so many times over I’m close to getting carpel tunnel, so I’ll keep this brief and say I’m thrilled world-renowned environmentalist David Suzuki will be there, Indigenous champions like Nathan Blacklock and Elijah Douglas, as well as Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore (besides you can check out more info in the link above). I’m a little giddy.

Despite all my excitement for what is going to be an amazing event, that inescapable current of sadness is there. Suicide rates in Indigenous communities are heartbreaking, in fact 95% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have had their lives tainted in some way by suicide.

I’ll admit that I used to be useless when facing those sorts of statistics. What can I, one person, do? Well, on my own, a fair bit apparently. With the help of others? A hell of a lot more. This event is coming together amazingly. For my non-Sydney based friends I’m afraid getting to the event itself might be a little challenging but you can still help out and donate here!


Alternatively, if you can make it to Sydney I’d love you to be a part of the event… general tickets are available here and I promise it will be an enlightening evening.

That’s the extent of my check-in for now. Wish me luck in making this event as amazing as I know it can be, or do one better and donate some money (every dollar counts) to a great cause.


When it’s OK to be Not OK: The Necessity of Grief

I haven’t posted in a while, and this has been a culmination of me being the most easily sidetracked person ever as well as an onslaught of uni assignments and exams last year.

Much more than that though, the last month of 2015 was a very personal hell. Though I posted a lot on Facebook as a coping mechanism, it hasn’t been until now that I’ve felt totally ready to coherently write about it.

November 24, just a month before Christmas, my beloved Aunt passed away in a motorcycle accident. Though it’s been years, it also seemed too recently I’d lost my other aunt, who took her own life.

Watching my mother lose both her sisters, as well as my Nanna lose two daughters, was in many ways harder than my own personal loss.

My Aunty Kathryn had also been an amazing partner to my Uncle Richard, and mother to my cousin Lauren, now 11. Lauren came into Kathryn and Richard’s life several years ago after losing both her biological parents. Kathryn, being her godmother and having no children of her own, immediately took up the role of mum and was everything a good mum should be. Losing one parent would be hard enough, but losing three and to be coping as amazingly as Lauren is is a feat I don’t think any other eleven-year-old would manage. I can honestly say Lauren is one of the most beautiful, intelligent and kind-hearted young ladies I’ve ever met, and I have no doubt my Aunt played a huge role in that.

I could delve once again into all the quirks I love about Aunty Kathryn, but that would take a good, long while. I’ll simply say that the most inspiring thing about her was she never let anyone else tell her how to live, or was concerned with other people’s opinions of her. She lived her life for herself.

Now, I’m not going to say this happened for a reason. It didn’t. The sad fact will always remain, she died too soon.

I spent a solid month grieving, and it was an awful month. I’d be fine one minute, then felt like I was suffocating the next. If I wasn’t inconsolably sad, I was angry. In fact, I felt more angry than sad, looking back over that month. I pushed away a lot of people, and, perhaps most sadly, I looked for support in certain people only to find the support I needed wasn’t there. When that happened, I just got sadder, and angrier still. I felt neglected and let-down. It was very hard to see how people could be happy and be offering well wishes, when all I felt like doing was telling the world to stop and mourn with me.

With that said, that month of hell, of hating the world and feeling life was unfair and questioning everything was completely necessary. I am in no way thankful I lost my Aunt. I’m not thankful I felt so utterly useless and shit. I’m not thankful for the way I got so angry at people and myself for that month.

What I am thankful for are the people that stuck by me throughout that month, sometimes just silently supporting me. I am thankful for a chance to reflect on life, and how incredibly short and unexpected it has the potential to be. I’m thankful for my family, especially my parents, who have lost and struggled a lot but still have so much love and support for me. I’m thankful that in feeling that awful, it taught me that it was only a reflection of how much love I had the potential to feel, and that if I felt this awful at a loss how much positive impact one person can have on your life.

Grief is completely natural and necessary, because it isn’t a reflection of death but rather a reflection of life. The dead aren’t sad they’re dead, it’s the living who grieve for someone who brought so much joy, kindness and adventure into their life no longer being able to do so. We don’t cry as we remember their faults or the bad times, but all the times they made us laugh, the stories we’ve shared together, their outlook on the world.

To be sad over a death is merely a reflection of the positive impact that person had on your life when they were alive. Of course, it is different for everyone and everyone deals with grief in their own way. I have learned it’s ok sometimes to let that sadness consume you. It’s ok to torment yourself going through old pictures, and cry yourself to sleep at night, and avoid social events to just be alone, and feel silly when you start tearing up at the most random objects that remind you of whoever you’ve lost. It’s ok to feel absolutely and completely rotten, because it’s a reflection of love, and because it will get better.

Deal with loss in whatever way you need to, because when you come out the other side you take with you all the good things you loved about that person. You take what they inspired you to do, the qualities in them you wish to emulate. More than that, you take an appreciation of life.

Are you ok? VS. What’s wrong? A Note to Anyone With Depression, Or Anyone Supporting Someone With Depression

Those statements seem pretty similiar. In fact, in a lot of scenarios the latter is the immediate follow-up to the former.

But sometimes it isn’t that simple.

We don’t like to think of sadness or being down as just a natural state of being, and in a perfect world it wouldn’t be.  Low moods would be the result of some life event, be it stress from work, losing money, relationship problems… the list goes on.

But what about when there is no reason?

You’ve got a great job, a partner who cares about you, good friends… so what’s with this low mood you can’t shake? The sun is shining, that yoga class you were looking forward to just yesterday is on, and you’re meeting up with a friend for brunch later… but the mere thought of getting out of bed makes your eyes prickle.

Excuse the overly peppy, slightly cheesy example. It does serve to illustrate a point though. There’s no logical reason for you to be upset.

But depression and anxiety don’t follow logic. They aren’t rational things.

It’s easy to grasp at straws here and seek some kind of reasonable explanation for your feelings. If there’s some sort of causation, tangible or intangible, that indicates you have some sort of control over it. If you have some sort of control, maybe you can prevent it from causing you these feelings again later.

I hate to be the one to burst your bubble… I really, really do, but sometimes those explanations don’t exist. You’ll wake up and immediately want to go back to sleep. Not because you’re tired, not because your bed is just oh-so-comfy, but because being asleep is the only way to escape the emptiness. If you’re unconscious, you can’t be acknowledging those thoughts that chatter away in the back of your mind, whispering harsh words and questioning life at all.

That’s dark, I know it is. I’ve lived it, and frankly, it scares me that at some point in the future I’ll live it again. It happens every so often, thankfully less and less so now, but it still happens.

The good news? It isn’t forever. It might feel like it will be when it happens, but trust me, it will pass. Know that you aren’t alone, and that people still love you. You may want to push them away because you feel like you’re protecting them. If they care about you, they will actually want to help. Shutting them out isn’t saving them, it’s just hurting you both.

Sadly, it’s not something everyone can deal with and support. It takes a strong character, but when someone has seen you through a period of you at your worst, you hold onto them and you don’t let go. I’m not saying overburden them with every thought or worry that goes through your mind, but know if you need to, they’re there to talk to.

Depression isn’t an indicator of weak character. Hell, depression and anxiety can be the cause of some of the greatest strengths of character possible; personally experiencing those lows often lead to an innate desire to improve the world and the lives of others.

Woody Allen, Bon Jovi, Zach Braff, Jim Carrey, Winston Churchill, Kid Cudi, Hugh Laurie… you can probably see where I am going with this, but all of these people have, or have had, a major depressive disorder. And those are just a few examples of a very lengthy list.

Depression does not define you. A lot of the time, it can make you. It’s hard, so fucking hard, but push through it, and know that you’ll be stronger when you do. Sometimes it’s just baby steps; you got out of bed today and made yourself a cup of tea or paid your phone bill. You know what? High five. That’s awesome.

It doesn’t matter how small these steps are, still acknowledge them as achievements.

Now, for anyone who hasn’t suffered depression… this post may seem a bit irrational. I know it’s hard to understand when you haven’t lived it (though sometimes I have to remind myself of that).

Here’s an easy cheat-sheet for a few things to be mindful of:

  1. By now, you’ve probably got that even though the answer to “Are you ok?” may be a “No”, the answer to the question “What’s wrong?” may not even exist. So don’t be surprised or offended when someone answers “I don’t know” or even “Nothing”. That’s just their way of saying “Nothing I can physically put into words or rationally explain is causing me to feel this way”. It sucks because if there isn’t something you feel you can fix, it can be hard to know how to support someone. Just be there, even if it’s just to hold their hand or reassure them you’re a phone call away.
  2. “Try to take your mind off it” or “Find something to distract yourself” isn’t going to work. There’s no one thing their mind is on… It’s more a general feeling of sadness or emptiness; it engulfs everything. If that sounds scary to you, imagine how it feels to them. They’re going to need to wallow, and there’s nothing you can do except ride through the storm with them.
  3. “Do something that makes you happy”. Except the things that make them happy no longer will. See point two: those feelings of hopelessness tend to take over everything.
  4. “It could be worse, you could [insert bullshit scenario here]” You don’t know how they’re feeling, and maybe you’re right and it could be worse, but it also could definitely be better. Telling them their scenario isn’t comparable to something else just makes them feel like you’re trivialising their problems.
  5. It’s tempting to try to offer solutions but the lack of a reason makes a solution impractical. If someone is telling you they feel like this, they aren’t asking for advice, they’re just looking for someone to listen. So just do that.
  6. Remember, how they’re feeling now isn’t a reflection of who they are as a person. Depression is hard to live with: you don’t want to watch someone suffer through it and be difficult to be around, and they definitely don’t want to suffer it and put you through that. It is, however, temporary. Like any illness, it is something they are afflicted with that will cause them to behave differently while their body works to right itself. You just need to show them the support you’d show anyone feeling under the weather: patience and love.

‘Christmas Spice’ Infused Water

Because it’s sort of that time of year, right?

First, let me get something out of the way. I’m not about to tell you by drinking infused water you’re going to drop 10kg, completely detox your body and gut and poop rainbows for a week. That’s what regular exercise and consistently making healthy food choices most often is for.

What this is, for me anyway, is a good way to push me to drink more water. I have a habit of forgetting, but if it tastes yummy, I’ll happily down litres of the stuff.

(And I suppose if you really want to know, ginger is an excellent immunity booster and orange helps with blood circulation. Many studies also suggest cinnamon can help boost the metabolism… but I’ll reiterate again, this is a great addition to a healthy lifestyle, not a replacement for one!)

This was also an excellent opportunity for me to reuse all the glass Buchi Kombucha jars I had sitting on my bench. Huzzah for reusing!

I suppose I can also barely call this a recipe, but seeing as I am so time poor at the moment

Uni life got me like…


Anyway here it is!

“Christmas Spice” Infused Water

  • 4 glass bottles
  • 1 small piece of ginger (5cm or so)
  • Half an orange (you can then proceed to eat the other half like I did)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (or if you’re like me, just cinnamon powder)

Boil a jug of water, and cut your ginger and orange into 4 pieces. Divide it between your four bottles. Once the water is boiled, add it to each bottle. Break your cinnamon sticks in half and put one in each. Pop the lids on and put them in the fridge to cool. Voila!

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See what I mean? Not really a recipe. But don’t knock it until you try it, and it really is an excellent way to reuse any glass bottles you may have.

Mental Health

When I was five years old, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, better known by it’s acronym OCD.

Since then, a host of other diagnoses have followed: ADHD, anxiety, depression…

It can make life difficult. What some people refer to as ‘my quirks’ – checking switches are off, things are unplugged or doors are locked obsessively; scrubbing my hands until they’re red; the little mantras I have to say under my breath to reassure myself – can actually be very debilitating.

I’ve had months at a time where I would go to bed as early as possible, because if I was asleep at least I wouldn’t have to focus on the constant emptiness I was feeling and maybe, just maybe, I would feel something else the next day.

I’ve worked myself up so completely over something as simple as making a dinner reservation it’s caused me to have panic attacks, or sob uncontrollably, or just shut myself away from the world and refuse to be social for days or weeks at a time.

I’ve struggled.

But so has everyone. I have been inclined to place limitations on myself in the past because I was just too scared my anxiety would flare up, or I would enter another depression spiral, or even just because people would judge me for ‘my quirks’.
I left my first university degree after a particularly bad depressive episode and period of anxiety. For about a year and a half I worked a casual job and threw myself into fitness. I wanted to go back to university and have a career, not just casual work, but I could never even imagine being stable enough to put any degree of pressure on myself.
I’d seen psychiatrists in the past, but hadn’t been during this time. I was off medication at the time too, so finding the motivation to talk to someone and be pro-active about my situation was tricky.

I finally did, and it changed my life.

I was extremely lucky to find a psychiatrist as amazing as I did, who really listened to what I was actually saying, my specific symptoms, and helped me actually develop strategies to combat my anxious and depressive episodes.

On top of this, I am very pro-medication. Mental illness is like any illness and has the potential to get to the point where the body can’t just ‘heal itself’. If a chemical imbalance in your brain is causing drastic changes to how you feel, you can’t just change your mindset or ‘try to be happier’. Sometimes the body needs that extra assistance to right itself, and feeling like it makes you any less of a person to to take medication to treat a mental illness is like feeling weaker for taking antibiotics to fight off a viral infection or an aneasthetic for surgery.
With that said, there is a process to it. Mental illness is a very individual thing, so the medication to treat it is usually equally individual. Finding the correct type, the correct dose, perhaps even a combination of medications, that all takes time. It’s a process, and it can get worse before it gets better. But sticking to it is so, so worth it.
It is extremely fortunate I’ve found something and someone so effective at treating me, but I also realise a lot of other people haven’t, and a lot of people have it much worse.

We’re making progress at finally addressing mental health and disproving the stigma, but there is still a long, long way to go. It is terrifying to acknowledge that you may not be ok, that something isn’t quite right.
There are so many great resources out there though. One of my favourites is Beyond Blue ( but just telling anyone you trust is an amazing start.

Of course, this is only a glance of my experiences with mental illness, but I hope to be able to share more, and one day I would really love to be able to help individuals struggling with mental health to not have it define or detract from their life.

And so it begins…

Our society, our world, is unhealthy, but we have the power to change that.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I would like to say thank you and welcome you with my first blog post. For ease of getting to know me (and ease of preventing me getting hand cramps from typing!), it’s very similiar to my ‘Meet Maddi’ section. 
If you don’t know me in the real world, here’s a little virtual picture of me.
I was very unhealthy for a very long time. No I wasn’t diagnosed with a physical illness, I just didn’t take care of my body. I ate crap, drank crap, smoked crap (sorry Mum if you’re reading this!) and generally just felt crap. One day, I don’t even know how it started or why exactly, but I decided to change that. With strength-training and a diet relying on macro-tracking, I lost over 30kg and even ended up competing in a bodybuilding show.
Of course, that isn’t the end of it, and I struggled a lot with body dysmorphia and food issues for a long time (I still do). It’s an ongoing journey, but I’m learning to love my body for what it can do, not what it looks like. I’ve fallen in love with a new sport, powerlifting, and am passionate about getting more women involved in strength-training.
What I have been diagnosed with (and runs in my family) are multiple mental illnesses: anxiety, OCD, depression, ADHD… the list goes on. They can make life difficult at times, but I’m fortunate in the sense they aren’t completely debilitating. Others aren’t so lucky, but there are some amazing resources out there to help and society is finally taking a step in the right direction of addressing mental health issues.
I’ve lived in Australia most of my life, but have had the opportunity to live in England and Indonesia. I’ve seen people with so little physical possessions have so much happiness and love to give.

All of these have shaped my core beliefs and passions, and they are as follows:

Nutrition and proper fitness are key to not only looking after physical, but also mental health. Poor nutrition choices are often a result of lack of information or knowledge on how to make better ones. Your body wants real, satisfying food and a decent and varied exercise regime, not crash diets, processed ‘non-foods’ and endless cardio.

Mental health is a real and serious issue, and while it is amazing how much work has gone into disproving the stigma lately, we still have a long way to go. Nobody should be afraid to say they’re not ok, even if they don’t know why exactly they feel that way.

We’ve gotten our planet into a right mess, but if we take action now – introduce sustainable measures and change some of our current behaviours – it isn’t too late to fix that.

Always, always be kind to others. This world could never do with less positivity.

And finally, be kind to yourself.

I’m no expert on any of these topics. I’m still learning, and have a long way to go. As my knowledge grows though, I want to share it with you. Be prepared to see a lot of posts about nutrition and different lifestyles, climate change, mental health, fitness and sustainability. Thank you for joining me on this journey.maddi