Talking with Nic from 'The Champions'
Tell me a little bit about yourself and what ‘The Champions’ is about.
Hello! I’m Nic Newling and I my passion is speaking about mental health and wellbeing to people all over the world. I spend a lot of time enjoying the company of my fiancé and our little dog Peanut. I live between Sydney and New York.
The Champions came about as an idea a little while ago. I’d already been speaking about my personal experiences with mental illness for quite some time and I was thinking how great it would be to take that to the next level. I wanted to build something that is about the mental health messages and the experiences we all share, not just about one individual person’s story like mine.
By a crazy stoke of good fortune I was speaking in a very small rural town and afterwards was approached by a guy in the audience named James. He explained that he is a branding expert from the U.K and is travelling all over Australia to take on passion projects rather than just doing the corporate thing. We met up when we both got back to Sydney and after many nights of talking and throwing ideas around we arrived at "The Champions". It comes from the idea that “we champion sharing to help improve mental health”. It’s an idea that we can all get involved with in different meaningful ways. We’re just getting started and we’ve got so much more to look forward to. The Champions shares through live talks, social media, traditional media, and anywhere else we find an audience. We have big plans for the future so there is a lot to look forward to.
What has your experience with Mental Health been like?
Very challenging. I first started experiencing the symptoms of anxiety and depression when I was in Year 7. I was a bit of a high achiever so I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform at an unrealistic level. I tried to get help but it took a number of switching to different doctors and trying all different kinds of medications until it got better. For many years I was quite suicidal, I was hospitalised twice when I was 14 and 16. That first time was for a period of nine months in an adolescent psychiatric ward. I was so scared going into it but when I arrived it was such a huge relief. I got to meet other people for the first time who were my age and who were totally open about what they were going through. At my old school there was none of that. It truly was one of the most liberating moments of my life.
I didn’t find the right treatment in that place, in fact I probably got worse in some ways. I had to return to my old school again and didn’t really cope too well. I wasn’t at all capable like I once was, I had to sit out on a lot of classes and activities, and I had very little hope for the future. Shortly after my 16th birthday my brother Christopher took his own life. He too was struggling with mental illnesses but we were entirely unaware how bad it really was because he seemed to be participating in life still. It was by coincidence that I was already at my very worst. It came a few months after I had shock therapy as a desperate last attempt to cure me but even that didn’t help.
In my subsequent hospital stay I received for the first time the correct diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. I didn’t know anything about Bipolar at the time so I was quite skeptical at first. I’d already been told over the years that I have so many different conditions that I didn’t really have. After getting on the right medication for the condition I began recovering very quickly. My moods levelled out and I looked forward to the future. It still took a number of years to really grow into myself and regain my confidence through talking therapy but it was completely worth it. I’m at a point now in my life where I’m so happy and really couldn’t ask for more. It was a long and challenging journey but I don’t regret going through all of that because it has helped me build strength and learn more about myself and about other people too.
What are the strategies that you have found most effective to help manage your symptoms?
Medication isn’t for everyone and it isn’t for every mental illness. For me it certainly has played a huge part in my recovery and sustained wellbeing. Making sure I stay on top of that and take my pill each day is essential. I think I’m quite fortunate in that I don’t have to put so many strategies in place as many other people with Bipolar do. I know that keeping busy but also having time to relax, having people around me who I can talk to, and doing stuff that is meaningful to me are all important parts of my happiness and wellbeing.
Why do you think that conversations around mental health are important?
Sharing helps everyone. Talking about our own experiences can be therapeutic and it can also help other people too. It can erode the barrier that many people have in seeking help and sticking with it. When we allow ourselves to see how common mental illnesses really are and that fact that effective treatment is available, we’re making huge strides toward a society of people who are more empathetic, understanding, and mentally healthier.
What do you do to help yourself when things are getting a bit tough.
I talk to the people around me who understand. I pick up the phone and make a call. I catch up with someone for coffee. I try to take the stress off and do something that I really enjoy doing. I try as much as possible to be aware of what’s happening rather than just ignore it.
If someone else is in a tough position that you have been in, what do you think would be most helpful for them to know?
That it’s going to get better. It might not happen right now. It’s likely going to be baby steps rather than a huge sudden change, but it will happen. Surround yourself with people who love you and who you trust and open up to them. Reach out to mental health services as soon as things aren’t feeling quite right. The fear we have about people reacting poorly to us speaking up is way overblown in our minds than it is in reality. More people understand and more people want to help than you might realise. It will get better.
Thank you so much Nic for sharing this with us! It is a truly amazing thing that you are doing and just so important to talk about.
Nic was also featured on the ABC television show Australian Story, you can watch the episode - 'The Fault in our Stars'
Nic's mum wrote a beautiful and very real memoir called Missing Christopher for which she won an Australian Human Rights Commission award. More info about the memoir, Missing Christopher can be found at www.missingchristopher.com where they can also read the first chapter.
Nic does talks in Australia pretty regularly so you can find out more about those through his e-newletter available through The Champions website.
Any information on this blog is not a substitute for professional advice. It is written from personal experience and research only. If you are in crisis, go to your nearest emergency room, call lifeline on 13 11 14 or dial 000. If you live outside Australia, link to worldwide crisis numbers can be found in the sidebar.