A new career path

Two years ago I had a complete breakdown. I was physically exhausted and mentally shot. A perfect storm of a marriage ending, total burnout and disillusionment with work meant nearly every aspect of my life needed to change.

Over the decade beforehand, I had busted a nut to carved out a very promising career as a senior executive in non-profit financial / member services. I loved a lot of what I was able to work on and achieve, and me and my teams were flatteringly recognised within our industry as being exceptionally good at what we did.

I was proud of the people I lead and the projects we delivered. It was game-changing in some aspects… that’s not head-wobbling, but truth (I can acknowledge successes much more easily now). But in the last twelve to eighteen months of that time, I wasn’t sure I wanted to move further ahead or along from where I was.

At just 34 and only one rung (plus a number of years’ experience) away from potentially being the head of an organisation, I could feel my spirit being squashed in some ways. And with my home life on the rocks, my soul was, literally, dying.

After taking some medically-enforced leave to focus on my mental health (which was dire at that stage), I resigned from my job and didn’t have the capacity to even think about what might be next.

In the time since, I have worked on the biggest project I’ve been handed: rebuilding and remaking myself.

With the help of many people, both medical and occupational, my head began to clear up, sometimes with good progress and then other times seemingly going backward.

My time was spent on loads of therapy, reflection, analysis and exploration:

  • What things are actually important to me?
  • Do I want to live to work, or work to live?
  • What am I actually going to be capable of, in the short term and down the track? 

In many ways it was like re-doing the career planning things I’d done in Year 10, some eighteen years earlier. Me and the people I was fortunate to have helping me looked at all sorts of careers and roles, mapped out my skills, values and passions against them, and identified a shortlist of opportunities for me to think about.

A couple of weeks ago, I took the first big step towards a new career for myself: I enrolled in a course to study mental health, with the job outcome of being a mental health worker.

My personal lived experience as someone who’s lost a family member to suicide, faced my own mental health challenges, and the values I’ve acknowledged as being important to me (helping others, a sense of community and continuing to grow as a person), as well as the cathartic and creative aspect of the storytelling / ‘compassionate comedy’ shows I do, all seemingly lead me to this point.

And I’m really, really excited!

The course is through Open Colleges, and a self-paced, online mode of study. As part of it I’ll do a work placement and be able to work directly with people whose mental health isn’t great. And at the end, there are some great job roles in what is forecast by many to be the growing sector of mental health support.

Studying again has been so enjoyable. Being the child of a teacher (my mum), I’m fortunate to have been instilled with a love and appreciation of learning and growing. 

This field is new to me, as a soon-to-be practitioner anyway, and there’s a lot to get my head around. But through finding ways to manage my own mental health and start to rebuild a life for myself – and my kids – I’m in a pretty good place. Not without setbacks and speed bumps of differing sizes, but I’ve learned that’s likely to be a longer-term challenge for me. And I’m ok with that.

I don’t need to pressure myself to set the world on fire, as I now know I subconsciously thought I did.

I am enough as I am: a loving and very-involved father, and a human being of empathy, compassion, and curiosity. 

In the time ahead, can’t wait to get deeper into the course, do my work placement, and then get started at working with people who could benefit from the skills I already and will in time have, and play a part in making a difference for people.

My spirit is growing, and my soul is once again alive. To be able to share that statement makes me smile like a goofball 🙂 

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