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A travellers reflections
The Tackling the Challenge: Talking Men’s Health project gives a voice to men’s health and shares stories of overcoming life’s challenges, to encourage other men to ask for help. In this story, Malcolm shares his life journey.
By the age of 30, Malcolm had accomplished many things most would only dream of. He had received all of his engineering qualifications, owned properties, worked a variety of jobs and travelled for three years across 36 countries. Despite this, Malcolm felt adrift.
Returning to Australia from working overseas, Malcolm married for the first time and entered the hotel business, as part-owner of an establishment with his family members. ‘So I here I was, early 30’s with my name above the door of a hotel – I was very proud’.
Malcolm and his wife welcomed pregnancy news and opted out of the hotel business to focus on their new family. They welcomed a baby daughter into their lives who was born with Down syndrome. At the time, Malcolm felt a sense of shock then guilt, despite professional reassurance that a person who has Down syndrome can go on to live quite an ordinary life in the community.
Living with a sense of helplessness and feeling to blame, Malcolm started to unravel. He made some business decisions which did not go his way, and lost financial stability. He felt increasingly low and began to grow disconnected from his family. His relationship ended in divorce and he moved out of the family home – ‘I was in depression, deep depression’.
Malcolm moved to Sydney and lived with friends, working as a taxi driver to make ends meet. ‘I reached such a low point, I felt like a total nobody and didn’t know which way to turn’. During this time, Malcolm disguised the extent of his mental distress to his extended family but a good friend suggested he seek professional support from a nearby counsellor at Catholic Care. Over time, this counsellor, helped Malcolm identify and understand what he was going through. She guided Malcolm away from holding blame for his daughter’s intellectual disability and she provided him with tools to support his recovery from depression.
Malcolm’s recovery journey included non-judgemental support from a life-long friend who understood the depths of his depression; therapeutic support; re-engagement with study and joining a social group which helped him form new connections with others across Sydney. ‘Suddenly, life started to look up because I was mixing with lots of people’. He also credits his Christian faith which has grown as a result of facing the highs and lows of life.
In this social group, Malcolm met his second wife and moved to the Southern Highlands to support her new role as a teacher. Malcolm also credits his second wife for supporting him through his recovery. Sadly after 26 years of marriage and a second daughter, his wife passed away from cancer.
Now, Malcolm is proudly part of the Bundanoon Men’s group ‘Men at Shop’. This group is mainly retired men from a variety of backgrounds who meet weekly for an hour over a cup of coffee. ‘I often sit there and observe four separate conversations happening around the table, it’s never the same blokes together’. This group helps men connect with the community to combat loneliness, often after their partners have passed away – ‘it’s a great way for blokes to get out and be with other blokes’.
Malcolm is grateful and content with his life and his advice to other men is to make sure they have people around who they can trust, to talk to about how they feel and why.
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Malcolm’s story is a part of the Tackling the Challenge Project, a collection of local men’s stories about resilience and recovery. If you have a story to share and would like to know more, contact Brendan Bennett on Brendan.Bennett@health.nsw.gov.au or on 8738 5983. If you need support, call Lifeline: 13 11 14 or the Mental Health Line a 24-hour telephone service: 1800 011 511.