At the start of 2017 I was in a completely different place. I was starting a new job back in the corporate world, about to settle down into a career and trying to be what I like to call ‘an adult’. I had no idea that the Bicentennial National Trail even existed.
To get away from the city life, it wasn’t unusual for me to go up and see my grandparents on their rural property in the next state up. While they are no technical blood relation, that’s the role they hold in my life and therefore is the title they get.
In 2017, I lost my grandma to depression.
I took it hard and spiralled into a state of constantly re-living conversations, creating hypothetical dialogue in my head of what I should’ve said and blaming myself for not knowing or seeing what was about to happen. I played the ‘what if’ and the blame games so often I was living inside my head more so than in the real world. I was consumed with asking myself questions that I was never going to have the answers to.
And one day, I asked myself a different question.
Rather than sitting here feeling sorry for myself, why don’t I DO something about it? And thats when Green Gold and Blues was born.
Initially, the idea was to ride the entirety of the Bicentennial National Trail (BNT), a 5,330km trail that runs from Cooktown in QLD, to Healesville in VIC. In addition to losing my Grandma in 2017, in 2016 I lost a friend that I used to work with over in Colorado. I saw the BNT as a fitting tribute to them, as they were both passionate about horses and lived in rural areas.
Unfortunately, drought conditions cut my BNT attempt short after only 1,000km. Coming off trail and waiting for the drought to break wasn’t going to be an option, so I started looking for a Plan B.
Plan B came in the form on the Continental Divide Trail, a trail that runs Mexico to Canada in the United States. While I wasn’t able to complete the whole ~4,800km in the 5 months I had to ride, I took on sections of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana in an effort to continue raising awareness for mental health and getting the conversation going.
But the rides don’t stop there. In the future, I’ll be teaming up with Ben Brooksby, the founder of the Naked Farmer Trust. The Naked Farmer is a social media movement aiming to break down the difficult conversation barriers that often lay in front of people struggling to speak up about what’s going on inside. Together, we’re going to be touring Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales on horseback for the month of August, visiting Australian farmers to talk about life on the land and mental health.
Mental illness doesn’t just affect the person who is experiencing it. It affects those that they love and who love them.
The catalyst for this ride was an awful, terrible tragedy. However so much good has since come from it, and I hope will continue to do so.
The boots I wear every day, that I’ve walked hundreds of kilometres in and worn across the Victorian high country are my grandma’s. She is literally with me every step of the way.
But this ride isn’t just about her anymore. Nor is it about me. It’s about everyone who has ever been affected by a mental health episode, be it directly or indirectly through family, friends or co-workers.
It’s for everyone who has had the strength to make it through a tough day, has ever been there for someone else’s tough day and for those that have fought and won or are still fighting.
Don’t for a second ever think you are alone. There are so many people that put on a brave face that may be fighting a battle we know nothing about.
I have spoken to so many of you that have trusted me with your stories. The strength that you all have far exceeds my own and you inspire me on a daily basis.
Share those triumphs, talk about them. You never know who your strength will inspire. The more we talk, the more the conversation will carry. With this, I hope that more people will find that they are not alone and will be able to seek help without the fear of judgement, prejudice or discrimination.
If you are struggling or need someone to talk to, please reach out to someone you trust, your GP or one of the below numbers. Nothing is too big or too trivial.
beyondblue 1300 22 4636
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
Lifeline 13 11 14
NAMI 1800 950 6264
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1800 273 9255