Back from the black

UPON REFLECTION: Jim Pickersgill, a Leongatha accountant, is urging people experiencing ill mental health to seek immediate help.

JIM Pickersgill could not find the energy to do anything.

Even dressing himself became a chore.

“My body had just been exhausted from trying to continue on for such a long time and it just got to the stage where I was physically and mentally burnt out,” he said.

The Leongatha accountant remembers the time 30 years ago when he felt as though his arms and legs were in plaster.

His heart endured strong palpitations, his thoughts were racing and rushing through his mind was an overwhelming fear of death.

After seeking help, Jim was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and depression.

Looking back, he believed he had been battling with the conditions for most of his life.

“I just thought everyone was like that. I did not know any different,” he said.

“Around the age of 30, it culminated and I just fell in a dirty, great heap. It was terrifying, extremely isolating, and there was just the lack of capacity to function on a very basic level.

“The depression was just like being in a dark hole. The more you tried to get out, the more you just kept on dragging more dirt on yourself.”

Jim believed there was no clear reason for his mental health deteriorating, but felt his lifestyle at the time may have been a contributing factor.

“I was working extremely hard and probably did not take the necessary breaks. That was just an opportunity to do more work,” he said.

“The first anxiety attack just came out of the blue. It was like a train had suddenly come out of nowhere and hit me from the side.”

Reaching out for help was a “huge step” and one he was not comfortable with.

“But I knew I had to do that,” Jim said.

“I’ve always been a person with a thirst for knowledge so that the more I learnt about it, the more I was empowered and more aware of it in other people.”

His road to recovery included reading about depression, which emphasised the value of recognising glimpses of normality, and taking up Hatha-gita yoga and meditation.

“The moment I get up I do about half an hour of meditation and also take moments out during the day to have a quiet moment for just a minute,” Jim said.

“Being disciplined and working on these things have helped in so many ways so I can work at a reasonable level.”

He also practises controlled breathing: breathing in for four seconds, holding the breath for four seconds and breathing out for eight seconds, all while picturing a weak tree in bushland, repeating the cycle four times.

Jim also engages the services of counsellors to not only work on his mental health, but also his own career path.

While Jim said his mental health was not a concern today, he said the conditions were “hibernating” and his experience has made him more sympathetic towards the plight of others.

“Before my episode, I felt that people chose to feel that way so maybe it was an excellent karma lesson,” he said.

Jim’s advice to others experiencing ill mental health?

“It’s important they reach out and sometimes reflecting is tough, but the first step would be to go to the doctor and say ‘I’m really struggling’,” he said.

“We have these wonderful resources like Lifeline and Beyond Blue, people who are trained in how to move forward.”

These organisations are supported by his accountancy firm, Jim Pickersgill and Associates.

“It’s important that that awareness is out there. I think we still need to promote a lot more awareness,” Jim said.

“You do not want an illness to be treated as a flippant thing or the new black.”

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14.
  • Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=30737

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