Monday, 13 June 2011

Garry McDonald

Best known for his screen character Norman Gunston and show bearing the same name and endeared by the Australian community for his portrayal of Arthur Beare in ‘Mother and Son’ with Ruth Cracknell. Spoke candidly of his struggle with major depression and anxiety during an interview with Andrew Denton in an episode of ‘Enough Rope’. Speaking of depression and the symptoms, he said:
I couldn't get out of bed, I couldn't concentrate, I'd go to work and I'd just, was like a fog.

He went on to describe an extraordinary event, while waiting thirty minutes to see his doctor; he ended up sitting on the kerb at the edge of the road, almost in a foetal position.
And I went off to the doctors to see the GP and I remember they said, 'oh you can see him in half an hour'. And I went outside and sat in the gutter, well on the, on the sort of edge you know. And it was like you had this sort of extraordinary hangover. And you know eventually I mean you do, you end up being in the foetal position, it was extraordinary.

We all need a break sometimes, take some timeout, get away from it all, the pressures of work, the commitments, the dead-lines and work related stress factors. Usually we only need a couple of days at the shack, a weekend fishing up in the mountains or down the coast, a short getaway; but sometimes it’s more serious than that. We ignore the signs, press on regardless, keep up appearances, maintain the pace, but in the end the human brain will protect itself, it will shun the overload, it will take a break regardless.

Gary now an advocate for mental health awareness, a board member of Beyondblue, an Australian national depression initiative, for which he was recently awarded by becoming an Officer of the Order of Australia. He recommends walking on a daily basis, saying this is the best advice he received from any psychologist and the best advice he could offer to anyone struggling with severe depression.
Take a twenty minute brisk walk each morning; it’s very, very good.

It’s good advice, though exercise would possibly be the last thing you want to do when suffering from depression or anxiety, it doesn’t need to be intense exercise like one of Forrest Gumps marathons, try a little gardening, take a stroll in the park, walk the dog to the store to buy it a treat each morning, something for yourself too. The main thing is to get up, get going, anything to get you off the sofa. Exercise will help release good brain chemicals (endorphins) that will help counter depression; exercise is also a good detox, reducing bad chemicals in the immune system; exercise also raises the body temperature which can produce a calming effect, compensating feelings of anxiety.

Exercise has some positive psychological effects too, you will increase confidence levels and emotional feelings of self worth, by maintain goals and nurturing a sense of achievement on a daily basis. It’s also a great distraction, takes your mind off all the worries and junk thoughts that are holding you down. You may even meet people, a little social interaction along the way, a smile or a good morning greeting from other people in the neighborhood can have a positive effect on your mood. The journey through depression is a one step at a time process, but it starts with a single step and culminates in a new lifestyle, a new you, with your life back on track, maybe better than ever before.

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