Taku New York Graffiti_Mental health blog

What I am Learning about…Mental Health

“Good mental health is a sense of wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem. “ – Mental Health Commission, WA

Australia’s Mental Health Week (2 – 11 October) has started and I feel inspired to share my Top 5 Down-in-the-Dumps triggers and how I Act-Belong-Commit to maintain my mental health and wellbeing.

My public speaking career has grown from sharing my personal stories of loss, failure, pain and fear. I am always on stage telling audiences how these uncomfortable feelings still help me find the courage to learn, grow, overcome and keep trying!

Top 5 Down-in-the-Dumps

I am an inspirational speaker but even I am not immune to the realities of life.  Here are the things that sometimes get me down. Drum roll please….

1. Death (family and friends)

Six years ago I was on the phone in Perth listening to news that my father had passed away in Zimbabwe. I remember feeling such shock, fear, panic and helplessness knowing that I was so far away and there was nothing I could do. My world fell apart and I was an emotional mess. It has taken our family years to finally get to grips with this loss and there are times that are more difficult than others e.g. Father’s Day, family gatherings.

I don’t want to lose any more of my loved ones…nobody does!  There are times when the fear of receiving that next phone call can be emotionally debilitating. I know the grieving process well and sometimes I have tried to “prepare for it” but it’s always different when it happens. The pain is still as raw and gut-wrenching as ever.

Every day I am learning to love and live as best as I can whilst I have precious time with my family and friends.

2. Dating after divorce (relationships)

Everyone has relationship challenges at some point in their life, and the scale of these can vary. A few years ago I got divorced and it was such a life-changing experience. There were dark, lonely and sad moments when I felt lost and disconnected to who I was. I worried too much about what people thought and what they were saying after my seemingly huge public failure.

It took a long time for me to find my true voice and start dating again. This is still an interesting journey because it’s not always easy or perfect. I am simply grateful for what people are teaching me about relationships, love and life along the way.

Every day I am learning to show myself honest, compassionate and patient love first before I seek or share that with others.

3. Daring to chase my dreams (business)

Running my own business has been a constant source of happiness, inspiration and fear for me. Every moment that I step out, try a new idea or speak there are moments I wonder why. I have had some epic failures and phenomenal successes that have left me asking “What am I doing and who really cares?!”  But I, Taku, care! All I can say is that it’s like being on an exhilarating rollercoaster and the more I dream, the bigger my dreams get and onwards I continue.

I simply could not have it any other way.

Every day I am learning to embrace the uncomfortable feelings of fear, discouragement, frustration and uncertainty that come with the JOY of chasing my dreams.

4. Disaster in the world (helping others)

I love and hate reading the news every day. I want to know what is happening in our world; I want to stay connected. Oh but the scale of war, destruction, disease etc. just overwhelms me sometimes. I wonder what real difference I can make and sometimes my feelings of helplessness have resulted in apathy, numbness and cynicism.

Every day I am learning to accept that no one has the answers for some situations. I still have to do and give my best because that can make a (small) difference.

5. Do I look good enough? (self-image)

Ah the ladies will understand this constant struggle! In the past there were times when I was severely unhappy with some aspect of my physical appearance. There were things I could fix easily, and things that I grew to accept are unchangeable. I still have my moments of weakness but thankfully these are far fewer as I get older – in fact I bought some awesome new bathers last week!

Every single day I am learning to celebrate my body, my mannerisms, the way I think aaaaaand the way I wear my hair! Go the ‘fro!

BONUS: Disappointment (all of the above)

“Life is real” has fast become my favourite saying this year because life is real. Disappointment, in my life, is most present when I have hope for something or someone and it just doesn’t work out how I imagined it. There are many situations beyond my control that cause me disappointment; those are hard enough to deal with. But the times that I have gone into a situation unprepared, with unrealistic expectations and with my ego wearing a fluorescent yellow hi-vis shirt…OW! That has been so painful and I have learnt my lessons quickly.

Every day I am learning not to expect perfectionism of myself, others or the world. I am learning to let go of controlling the things that are simply beyond my control.

How do I Act-Belong-Commit for my mental wellbeing?

ACT: Do something

Book Club

I need my “quiet time”

Every morning before I start my day I have “quiet time” where I pray, reflect and plan my day. It gives me so much peace especially before days I know will be emotionally or physically challenging. I also love to read during my quiet time and I have many books that have inspired me in tough times.

I take “time out”

I make time to escape and explore new things and places. I always plan one big overseas trip every year and in between that I go on smaller trips and try new hobbies. This year I tried (and actually committed to) dance classes and cycling – they are now my favourite ways to stay physically healthy and fit.

I create

I am an artist! I see and experience my world in full colour. I am happiest when I am expressing myself creatively e.g. writing, performing, Instagramming – it doesn’t end. I also like to challenge my creativity and this year I tried stand-up comedy for the first time. It was terrifyingly wonderful!

What one thing do you do that makes you feel good?

BELONG: Do something with others

Family and friends_

I have my loved ones on speed dial

I have an amazing network of loved ones who humble me with the depth, compassion and patience of their love. I know who to call for social outings, moral support, loud laughter and ugly cries. All these beautiful people keep me sane and happy!

Who do you have on speed dial?

COMMIT: Do something meaningful

Classroom Reading

I help others

You don’t realise how blessed and fortunate you are until someone less fortunate asks for help. I could give numerous examples but I’ll simply pick one group.

Young people.

I want to help them with my whole heart. My dream is to help them be able to deal [creatively] with their own down-in-the-dumps moments.

Do you know someone who needs your smile, your words of encouragement, your apology or your forgiveness?

Need some help?

Life is a beautiful gift and we’re all in it together. Please reach out to your loved ones or these organisations if you need assistance.

Beyond Blue (for depression and anxiety)

National Youth Mental Health Foundation


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