What do you think was the cause of your anxiety and how did you overcome
To put it simply- I doubted myself and my worth. Added to this was years of fretful, critical,
pessimistic and negative self-talk. Put all this together and it's no surprise that something
had to give!
Firstly, it's important to get a handle on the concept that reality isn't determining how you
feel - your thoughts are. If you put twenty people in a room and asked them what
their level of comfort was, you'd get twenty different answers. The conditions
in the room are the same but it's the individual's interpretation of sensations
and events that make things 'seem' a certain way. If you think and respond
anxiously, you'll feel anxious so getting your thinking right affects
There are other components to recovery too, such as improving the
relationship with self, learning to detach from others' opinions and adopting a
healthier philosophy on life and many other skills - all of which helped me to
recovery and which I teach in my workshops
What do you think brought on your anxiety?
I had just taken the plunge into becoming a freelance illustrator after years of the security of paid employment. This was in the 'Recession we had to have' (according to Paul Keating), so it was a gamble and every second bugger was happy to remind me of that. Even though I had a good
client base (including the Sunday Age and the (then) Herald) my fears and
self-doubt kicked in, big-time. "Who do you think you are? You'll fail!'
You have also experienced depression. How bad did it get?
Very severe at times.
How did you overcome that and how are you doing today?
I don't necessarily see my depression as a bad thing. I see it more as a sort of hibernation
- a necessary retreat while I licked my wounds and regained strength.
I came to realize a few things, too - that the world went on quite nicely without my having to single-handedly hold it up and I also learned that feeling sorry for yourself (which, let’s be honest, is what’s
happening) doesn't change a thing. Life’s neither fair nor unfair. Life just IS according to the choices we make and what we bring to and how we interpret each experience according to our own 'filters'. It's these filters which make things seem either 'good' or 'bad', 'pleasant' or 'unpleasant'. Change the filter and you see things differently. People get this backwards - they think that they have to change the circumstances to feel better.
How did I overcome it? I used all that I'd learned above plus ongoing study into personal development, psychology and philosophy. I also think having a spiritual practice and context is crucial to recovery, so I meditate daily and visit an ashram which has given me a wonderful perspective. I see life
very differently now - it's really just a game which tests your strengths and highlights the weak spots that need your attention.
I now see challenges less as personal affronts and more like 'OK, what's this calling me
to work on now?"
How am I today? Never better but a work in progress as I will be till the day I leave this planet for the next adventure.
You’re also a talented artist, cartoonist, illustrator and counsellor. Which job do you love
I absolutely LOVE the feeling that comes with helping to empower someone to step into their strength and take back the reins of their life where previously they felt like a victim to their anxiety. I'm never more
sure, confident or clear than I am when I'm running my workshops. I just go where it feels right to go, with great results.
Painting is very much a contemplative, meditative thing where I can happily lose myself for hours. Then
there's that wonderful 'ahhh' moment when you just know the painting is finished. People seem to engage strongly with my paintings on an emotional level, so there's that connection to something bigger coming through, too. I love doing my illustrated books, too but deadlines can be, well, a bit deadly.
What message or words of advice would you like to send out to
people suffering from depression or anxiety?
That you CAN get better but starting right NOW you need to be willing to make recovery your focus and stop constantly reinforcing the problem by givin. Put it this way - you know you don't like it,
so what more needs to be said about it?
The next step is to start heading in the direction of where you'd rather be and to learn the skills you
need to learn to achieve that. Then keep going, one day at a time, never looking back. You'll get there. You'll find that you not only handle anxiety and depression better but many other aspects of life as well. It's a big journey but the learning along the way is invaluable and let's face it, necessary if you want to live well.
How does it feel to have helped so many people?
I keep thinking that I would never have been able to do so if I hadn't been there and back, so it makes my own little visits to what I thought of as hell at the time, something that now has value and meaning. I'm so happy when someone writes to me to say they don't need my help anymore and that they're doing it for themselves now. That's always been my quest, to help people remember that they are their own healers.
Describe your personality in five words
Passionate Courageous Creative Cheeky and a Right Royal Pain the Butt At Times (just like everyone else)
What is the number 1 life lesson you have learnt?
That I have taken 'IT' and myself way too seriously in the past