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Life is the extremest sport there is.

Currently, in Australia, it’s Christmas Day. The humidity is suffocating, the heat not so bad. I honestly wouldn’t mind the heat if the humidity was not here. That said Christmas is going to plan. So far I’ve only dropped a bottle of cola and a bottle of lemonade. All in all, I’d call that a success.

Yesterday I read a wonderful, insightful and compelling essay by Australian writer Anna Spargo-Ryan. The Suicide Gene was a unique insight into a life lived with mental illness. Spargo-Ryan’s raw honesty draws in the reader, laying bare the thoughts and struggles many with depression find difficult to articulate.

Reading the article I saw many parallels between Spargo-Ryan’s journey and my own. There are differences of course, but for the most part I recognised myself and my own journey in the words she used to describe the indescribable.

Whether it’s mental illness or something else that plagues us, I’ve come to realise that life is about the extremist sport any of us could have signed up for.

Today’s post is not a long one. I’ve got lunch waiting for me. This post is to acknowledge a beautiful piece of writing that touched me at a soul level and articulated how important it is to have a conversation about mental illness.

Having an invisible illness is still met with scepticism and dismissal. You only have to look at the conversations being had on a public level to see that little, if any, understanding is provided to people who can seriously call having a shower an achievement.

If you lose a limb, or are suffering from cancer it’s pretty obvious to those around you. But when it is your brain playing with your concept of reality, politicians – and ex-politicians – can get away with publicly dismissing you as a liar, or a drug addict, or just plain lazy.

When you live your life with your worst enemy inside your head it can make the most basic of things a gargantuan task. It’s not about seeking sympathy or getting a ‘get out of jail free’ card. It’s about fighting the sense of worthlessness that only gets passed by the strongest of efforts.

In ‘The Suicide Gene” Spargo-Ryan takes us on an open and honest journey into what that is like. While examining the suicide of her Grandfather in connection to her own mental illness she takes a step in the public conversation that I hope many people read.

Spargo-Ryan’s experiences are not unique. She speaks in a voice that many people will recognise. But it is through her experiences she is able to show those who don’t understand a path to recognising the experiences their friends, family, co-workers and associates may be going through.

The Suicide Gene isn’t a light, fluffy read. But it is a compelling one. I hesitate to call it brave writing. To label it so seems patronising to me. In my opinion it is honest writing. The essay provides a humanity to a cold and clinical diagnosis.

For me, it was a gift to read. It felt, in a strange way, at last I was understood.

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