Garry Mills loves a challenge and his mission is to add value to as many peoples lives as possible. Garry coaches people for their public speaking, careers and personal growth; is a regular MC and host; a radio presenter; and a member of Team Australia in an international fitness competition that has now been produced into a reality TV show. He competes in triathlons, just ran a marathon and has been rowing for a few years. He has a beautiful wife, kids and mini schnauzer.
Garry also has depression and is very open about his illness to raise awareness, reduce the stigma and share his personal experiences to help others. For these reasons he was grateful to be the guest speaker at the beyondblue charity ball in Canberra this year.
In 2016 Garry wrote an article for Canberra’s Resolution Run Series, which financially supports men’s health through the OzHelp Foundation. Garry is the race day announcer for the run series; this is the article he shared for their newsletter about his depression and the benefits of exercise.
Who hasn’t been touched in some way by mental illness? Chances are you know at least one person with a mental illness and if not, maybe you just don’t realise it. Did you know that ‘depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In Australia, it’s estimated that 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. In any one year, around 1 million Australian adults have depression.’ (beyondblue website 2016)
In 2012, I was 39 years old and medically diagnosed with depression, also known as the black dog. The catalyst for taking action was one question from my wife: ‘do you think you have depression?’ Recognition was a huge weight off my shoulders. It is true I had been going through very tough personal challenges for a while. I look back on my life, however, and recognise I suffered depression a long time before 2012. I say suffer because my depression, unmanaged, was exhausting and debilitating. It impacted every part of my life and relentlessly affected those I loved and cared for. I pushed them away and retreated from association and friendships. I was an unsociable and cranky bastard; the hardest thing is I had no reason to be and I had no rational explanation.
Fast-forward to 2016 and I have made so much positive progress. I am rarely cranky or down in the dumps and I have achieved significant goals in that time. I am married to my beautiful wife, am a very proud dad, and I am passionately building my profession in coaching, training and speaking. I am a volunteer reader/presenter on radio 1RPH, helping deliver news and other information to the print handicapped of Canberra, Wagga Wagga and Junee. I was a contestant in an overseas reality TV show that will be aired in Australia early 2017. I was recently in a national TV commercial and the presenter in a video for a large government department. The reason I am telling you this is not to gloat or brag. I want you all to believe in yourself and to know that if you commit your heart and soul to reaching your goals, anything is possible. Depression is an obstacle and challenge, not your dream killer.
My depression hasn’t been cured and probably never will. That’s fine by me as it’s no different to managing many other illnesses. I no longer allow it to stop me living a very happy and healthy life. Regular exercise is a significant part of my life and I cannot over emphasise how important exercise is to help manage my depression. Although I am not a sports scientist or personal trainer, I do know that when I exercise, endorphins are produced, along with other chemical responses I probably would struggle to pronounce. I feel fantastic during exercise and for hours after I finish. What I experience from exercise is a free wonder drug I know is really good for me and won’t get me arrested!
It is true exercise isn’t always fun or what you feel like doing at the time. Depending on what you do and the intensity, it can hurt and test your physical and mental limits. I love technical sports that push my boundaries and skill development. I am a competitive rower for a big rowing club in Canberra and I am also a keen snow skier. Every time I go out I know I can always learn more and improve. I need to maintain my technique even when hurting and fatigued during training or a race. The fitter I am the better I perform and the more energy and mental strength I have.
Challenging yourself is a great way to overcome your limiting beliefs and to make progress. My untreated depression rattled my self-belief and I struggled to leave the house or do anything productive or healthy. Exercise is a great way to improve yourself in a healthy and positive way, choosing activities that you like and suit your level of fitness and skill. To build your momentum and commit to exercising, it is so important you establish daily habits to progress. If you are new to exercise or want to take small steps, a 30-minute walk is one way to build your new daily exercise habit. Group exercise and team sports are a great way to be accountable, meet new people and stay motivated. Exercising and sports are a common interest for so many people so not only will you feel better physically and mentally, exercising with others will create new possibilities for friendship and fun.
The Resolution Run Series is a fantastic example of bringing people together to exercise, have fun, support a great cause and experience personal growth. Running doesn’t require anything more than your running gear, space to be free and your commitment to get out there and give it a go. Connecting exercise to improving your mental health is so important as it really does make such a positive difference. Without regular exercise, the ongoing management of my depression is a much greater challenge. There really is no downside to exercising and I really do encourage you to start today.