Getting proud – What I’ve Learned in 2014

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Visiting Times Square in New York

“You get proud by practising”

Those are the words we were given this year at the memorial service for fabulous Stella Young. It’s only now looking back at 2014 that I can see the great amount of practice I’ve had “getting proud” this year and the whole lot more I need to do in 2015.

I’m proud of how I navigated through 2014.

Fun photo shoot with Kirsty Daniel (from We Shoot photography)
Fun photoshoot with Kirsty Daniel (from We Shoot photography)

This year my partner Kevin asked me to marry him in a surprise proposal on the Yarra river in Melbourne. I’m proud of what the two of us have built together in a short amount of time. We’re blessed with good friends and family, our dogs Cynder and Sprocket and we’ve supported each other through some pretty major life changes.  I’ve learned a lot about myself by being with Kevin – he helps me to push my boundaries and try new things, he makes me feel worthy of love and support like I’ve never felt before and he demonstrates for me every day what it means to be proud.

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Featured by 12WBT

This year we completed the 12 Week Body Transformation and made a significant number of changes to our lifestyles. I reached what was probably the fittest I’ve ever been and I changed my haircut for the first time in years! I learned to not be ashamed of taking pride in my appearance and experimented with my new hair, clothes and more. I’ve never had a great body image, but this year I decided to give myself some credit for once.

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Men in Black style, right?

This year I took pride in myself and my career and made one of the hardest career decisions I’ve ever made. The opportunity to be the General Manager of SYN Media (A dream of mine for the last 9 years) came around and after a short stint as the organisation’s Acting General Manager and a job interview pending I did the unthinkable – I changed my mind.

A wonderful farewell doge'ing from Tess Lawley
A wonderful farewell doge’ing from Tess Lawley

Why? My dream has now changed. I realised that I’m ready to learn and do new things. SYN Media has given me more fun, opportunity, challenge and experience than I ever could have hoped for and I realised that it’s time for me to move on and let the next generation of SYN leave their mark.

So in January 2015 I will be finishing my role as SYN’s Education and Training Manager and leaping into the great unknown.  I have no idea what’s next, but I’m excited for some new challenges in my career.

With Adrian Basso at the CBAA 2014 Awards
With Adrian Basso at the CBAA 2014 Awards

I also finished 6 years as a board member of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia – a place where I have met some of the smartest, funniest, quirkiest and most passionate people in Australia. Their passion for community broadcasting and the power it has to transform and impact communities has taught me so much over the space of 6 years. I am so grateful to all the people I have met and worked with through the CBAA for sharing that passion with me.

Being a dork at the Statue of Liberty

I finally got to travel! After years of saving and promising myself the opportunity to travel I visited New York, Montreal and Toronto with one of my closest friends. I learned just how inspiring a new location can be (and how much it can make you miss your loved ones) and that you just need to do it and stop making excuses.

Down in Brooklyn

Unfortunately the trip also marked one of my worst experiences with anxiety yet (with some fairly severe physical symptoms), but I’m proud of the self care and compassion I gave myself over this time and thank in particular my travel companion Steph for her support through my tougher days. The experience inspired me to write and speak more openly about my anxiety for which I’m proud of myself for doing. I hope it can help others going through similar experiences.

Winning the National Youth Award for 'Creating Pathways'
Winning the National Youth Award for ‘Creating Pathways’ with Senator Scott Ryan

I won the ‘Creating Pathways’ National Youth Award at the National Art Gallery in Canberra and was published in ‘Inspiring Stories by Young Victorians’. What I’ve learned from these experiences is that if I’m proud of my work I should have no shame in telling people about it! Thank you to the people who have encouraged me to take on opportunities like these this year.

Thank you 2014
Thank you

Thank you for your love and support in 2014.

In 2015 I’m going to keep practising getting proud.

-JB

“Oh my god I’m going to die” – On anxiety

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On holiday in New York

“OhmygodI’mgoingtodieOhmygodI’mgoingtodieOhmygodI’mgoingtodieOhmygodI’mgoingtodie”

Welcome to my inner monologue four weeks ago lying on a hotel bed in New York City. On what was meant to be my big adventure holiday exploring North America it hit me worse than I think I’ve ever felt it:

Anxiety.

Heart pounding like crazy, pain searing down my arms and legs and constant thoughts hammering through my head telling me “you’re going to die halfway across the world away from your loved ones and there’s nothing you can do about it”.

It was just under two years ago that I first felt these sensations. It had been one of the busiest, most stressful periods I’d ever had in my work and personal lives. For weeks there’d been this rising tension across my whole body until one day sitting at my work desk the tightness in my chest became too much to bear. I walked into my boss’ office with surprising calm and told her “I’m going to take myself to hospital.”

At the hospital they scanned me, prodded me, tested me and told me there was nothing much wrong. My blood pressure was a little high and I was slightly dehydrated. I was placed on a drip for a couple of hours and sent home. A couple of trips to the GP for more testing that week also showed no major problems. I took the episode as a sign that I was long overdue for a holiday, took a break and thankfully the tension and the pains went away.

I still had no answers. Why the hell did my body do this to me when I most needed it to be operational?

It wasn’t until six months later that a good friend was having a rough time and told me about her experiences with panic attacks and anxiety. Through hearing her experience it occurred to me – did I have a panic attack?

The next day I booked an appointment with my GP and asked the question – Do I have anxiety?

Beyondblue describes anxiety as “…more than just feeling stressed or worried. While stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where a person feels under pressure, it usually passes once the stressful situation has passed, or ‘stressor’ is removed.

Anxiety is when these anxious feelings don’t subside. Anxiety is when they are ongoing and exist without any particular reason or cause. It’s a serious condition that makes it hard for a person to cope with daily life. We all feel anxious from time to time, but for a person experiencing anxiety, these feelings cannot be easily controlled.”

My GP referred me to my local headspace centre where I started seeing a psychologist and I’ve been getting support for the last year.  In retrospect I can now see that I’ve probably always had anxiety. Whilst these physical symptoms were new to me I can see how anxiety has influenced me throughout my entire life. Since being diagnosed I’ve also realised just how many people anxiety impacts. I never knew that many of my closest colleagues, friends and family have also lived with anxiety and how diverse a condition it can be. No two people experience anxiety in the same way.

This brings me back to my hotel room in New York City four weeks ago. Whilst travelling with a close friend who also lives with anxiety we both found out that travel was one of our worst triggers. However this time I came prepared. Prior to the trip I spoke to my GP about managing my symptoms and came prepared with some basic medication and tools to manage my anxiety. Anxiety was not going to ruin my holiday. The advantage of travelling with a close friend also living with anxiety was that we could be open, honest and supportive of each other. We may have anxiety, but with patience, support and compassion for each other we still managed to have an awesome holiday.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned out of this recent experience it’s that you are definitely not alone and you don’t need to suffer alone. Since opening up about my experience on anxiety I’ve discovered that some of my most respected, admired and treasured colleagues, friends and family have also lived through these experiences. If you think there’s something wrong please speak up – talk to your GP or one of the many support services available. Anxiety is just one of many mental health issues we need to discuss as a community. I hope by sharing my experience others will share theirs too and our community, our social spheres and our workplaces can become more supportive and understanding places.

-JB

If you need support you can contact the following services:

 

 

Follow this now: Humans of New York

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A couple of months ago one of my colleagues excitedly told me about ‘Humans of New York’ – a simple concept that profiles New Yorkers with a photo and a short quote.

I’m so glad she told me about it. Humans of New York has been a daily delight. It has made me laugh, burst out in tears, question myself, question others and go through a whole range of emotions. The stories are quirky, poignant, diverse and interesting.

It’s amazing how such a simple idea can be so powerful. You can find Humans of New York on Facebook and on Twitter. It’s a must-follow.

-JB

I’m aware there are many other “Humans of…” pages around. Do you have any other favourites? Let me know!