Flying High While Feeling Low

While it may seem as though my life is one of cruise ships, exotic locations and constant laughs, as many of you are all too aware, nothing is ever quite as it seems.

Being a full time working comedian can at times be a struggle. There's a lot more to it than meets the eye. Those of you who know me well know that in no way do I live the high life. My car is 20 years old with a gearbox that constantly slips and brakes that shake every time I hit the peddle. I'm thankful that it still gets me to where i need to go though. Recently there has been a lot of gratitude posts being shared on Facebook and I think this is a wonderful thing, because no matter how bad we think we've got it, there will always be someone worse off than ourselves.

While many people may think that the life of a comedian is one of constant gags and laughter, the truth is that we go through the same struggles in life as everyone else. We have relationship issues, financial issues and work issues to deal with, and we deal with these while doing our job, and being funny and making others laugh.

Like many of you who are also experiencing tough times at the moment my financial situation isn't the greatest. Unfortunately in fact, it has gotten to the point whereas Tuesday morning this week was spent in my accountants office listening to him negotiating on my behalf with the tax office to accept my proposed repayment plan of a substantial outstanding tax debt. They subsequently denied my proposal stating that it wasn't good enough. Unfortunately the tax office are not interested in my plans for building a business centered around helping to reduce stress, depression and suicides through comedy and laughter. They would be willing to back off a bit however if I could show them proof of intended financial investment into the business, this unfortunately is something that I can not currently provide. They want their money and they are going to get it one way or another. To say that this is a stressful time would have to the biggest understatement in the history of understatments.

Stress is a killer, we all experience it, and right now, as I sit here writing and re-writing this, questioning if I'm doing the right thing by sharing this very personal stuff with you, I'm heartened by everyones's support and belief in me that I still have a lot to offer in regards to helping people. While I've managed over the past two years to help a lot of people through gaining knowledge into mental health research, and I've been fortunate enough to have met people from professors to labourers who all believe in what I'm doing, it's come at a cost. For the most part that is my own fault, I haven't worked nearly hard enough, or smart enough, and my current financial situation is of my own creating. I've spent the majority of the past year and a half focusing on my own health and well being, and my business has suffered as a result. Now, it's time for serious change.

At some point or another everyone goes through some incredibly tough shit in life. I've had friends recently lose loved ones and I find it amazing how we are able to put on a brave face, walk out the front door, and go and do our job. Whatever your job is, you hide the pain and stress of your emotions and you just get on with it. We humans truly are amazing creatures what we're able to deal with, get through, and overcome. Some people unfortunately, aren't able to deal with it, get through it or overcome whatever it is that haunts them. These people are the ones that I want to try and help, the 65,000 Australians that each year 'attempt' to take their own lives.

Personally, I've been to that deep dark place of thinking that there is no way out, no way forward, no light at the end of that long pitch black tunnel. A place where you feel you are totally and utterly alone in this world, that no one cares or understands, and that in fact, you'd be doing people a favour by not being around anymore. It''s a horrible, crippling place, and one which I'm determined never to revisit. The more I study, talk to Mental Health professionals and delve into this subject the more of an understanding I have as to what led me to that place of wanting to opt out of life. The circumstances that lead a person there are different for everyone, the destination however is the same.

Anyone that has had anything to do with Mental Health will tell you that it is more so the people around you that it affects more than the actual person suffering from the illness. Family members, friends and workmates all have to deal with you and your unpredictable, sometimes irrational and erratic words and actions. They watch you unravel before their very eyes and they have to find a way of dealing with it. Now I'm beginning to have a deep appreciation of what these people go through.

There are many different factors that lead to depression and the key to effective management of it is having a proper understanding of what the 'individuals' factors are. For years my doctors simply prescribed me antidepressants stating that was all I needed. Sure they take away the lows, they also however take away the highs, placing you in this middle ground of emotional neutrality. For years I would go on and off the medications of my own accord knowing that either way, no matter what I did, something still wasn't right. I still felt depressed and I was still causing a great deal of pain for those very close to me. It wasn't until I came in contact with the right team of mental health professionals that I was finally correctly diagnosed as having ADD and that that was in fact what was causing my ongoing depression. Finding the true cause then led to formulating the correct treatment plan. Now I'm a year and a half off antidepressants and feeling fit and strong for the first time in I don't know how long. My ADD treatment is ongoing and although I still do get down like everyone else, feeling depressed as such hasn't been an issue. Until this past week that is.

For anyone who knows me well you would be aware that I am a huge campaigner for using laughter to overcome stress and depression and now I find myself very much needing to practice what I preach. This last week has been very tough emotionally, as I'm sure many of you know all too well how overwhelming the stress of finances can be. I felt myself slipping back, but luckily I was caught by those close to me. Without this inner circle of friends and mentors to seek counsel with it would have gotten on top of me, sending me back into a dark place of depression and hopelessness. To simply say thank you to them hardly seems enough.

What has made these people I've sought out so special is that each and every one of them managed to 'make me laugh'. A gift that has been greatly appreciated and dare i say, life saving. It was said to me recently that while I'm onstage making others laugh to not forget to laugh myself
when I’m off stage. I will admit to having been guilty of this at times in the past. This has really highlighted to me the importance of what laughter can do to help you get through some really horrible stuff. We all feel so down at times that laughing is the last thing that we think we are capable of doing. However if you seek out the people in your life that know you well enough that they are still able to make you laugh without in anyway diminishing the gravity of your situation these people are worth their weight in gold. Love them and appreciate them.

For the past few days seeking out people and things that make me laugh has been a huge help to relieving the emotional pressure I've felt building up inside of me. I've had both friends and strangers make me laugh, I've watched my favourite comedies and have actually laughed out loud on numerous occasions over the past few days, and it's helped immensly. Following on from this, I still get the honor to walk onstage and I'll get to see the smiles on others faces knowing that I've bought some laughter into their lives. That is an amazing gift that I have been fortunate enough to have been given and sometimes I take it for granted. If you have the ability to make others laugh, use it, for it is without a doubt, a beautiful thing.

If you feel as though you aren't funny however, my advice to you is to firstly find what it is that makes 'you' laugh, and then share it. This sharing of laughter I believe is what helps us to connect with others emotionally, an important factor in overcoming depression.

Personal change has come in the form of an ongoing commitment to my well being through exercise, meditation and writing in a journal. As I go through this challenging time of change financially, I feel strong physically, mentally and spiritually to know that whatever happens from this point forward in my life.... I will be ok... I will continue to do what I do, making people laugh, building my business and endeavouring to help others to be able to  "Fly High, while Feeling Low".

 My family and friends have seen me through many a tough time and I'm so very grateful for not everyone has such a wonderful support network. You all mean so much to me. Whether it be personally or professionally I'm blessed to be surrounded by so many amazing people who all offer so much love and genuine support.

I still find it amazing that there are people I know who say that I inspire them, the truth is my friends, you inspire me. I know people that have overcome gut wrenching heartbreak and loss in their lives, others that have carved out incredibly successful careers for themselves and others still that have raised beautiful loving children. All of these people, and they know who they are, in one way or another inspire me to keep going and soldier on. A close friend said recently that 'You can't help others until you help yourself first" and that is exactly what I'm doing from this point forward, both personally and professionally.

 Thank you for taking the time to read this.

 Yours humbly,

Mark McConville


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