Chew Like Hell – An Exercise in Control

Over the past 9 months I have been a little manic, and  I have bitten off more than I can chew. Now it is time to chew like hell.


Right now I can feel that period of mania ending, and the downswing is on the way, but I have a lot of things I need to achieve this year, and so with meditation, exercise and commitments like that which I am making to you now, I WILL get it done. I will not allow depression to sap my vitality, I will work harder to achieve my goals knowing the illness which I am fighting, and I am asking you for your help.

All my illusions of control were pretty rapidly smashed apart when I embarked upon a series of events a few years back, beginning with a ten metre fall from a balcony and mushrooming into the derailing of my career, the loss of my wife and the end of my marriage. You see up until that point in time, I assumed I exercised a fair amount of control over my life. I had a successful career, and was just embarking on an exciting new phase of it. I was happily married with an eight month old son, was about to move back to Sydney with a new job and a family that I loved. Life was good.

Then I fell off that damned balcony.

Having broken seventeen bones and sustained a frontal lobe brain injury in the fall, the wheels fell off. I went through an eighteen month period of mania, unlike anything I had experienced before. This brain injury was the trauma that my genetic predisposition to bipolar needed to really kick my particular brand of crazy (a.k.a. Bipolar II Disorder) into gear.


(N.B. about a year ago I was diagnosed as Bipolar II, a label I don’t like using, but for the purposes of this line of thought and subsequent article, I’m Bipolar II. I’d rather choose to think of myself as someone who is more energetic than most people most of the time, and needs to be mindful of his state of mind to maintain his good health.)

So I was manic, spending money like it is going out of style, sleeping very little, exercising no impulse control and saying anything that popped into my mind without thought for the consequences. The symptoms of a bipolar manic episode combined with those of a frontal lobe brain injury do not make for a human being you would say is operating at ‘maximum efficiency’.

I was sacked three times in as many months, became a stonemason, quit it, and was training the house down to reach a slightly unrealistic goal to win the Death Race in Vermont. An incredibly difficult ultra endurance event. Before I could get to the Death Race, I did The Longest Day, another incredibly difficult ultra endurance event over 25 hours of hell. I suffered adrenal fatigue and went into a period of 9 months of depression, which ended with me checking myself into hospital, as I was so down on life that I was contemplating suicide.

I’ve been better since February this year, as my medication pulled me out of a funk, but looking back I think I can now say I was in a manic episode these past ten months. During this time I have become separated from my wife, and allowed myself a fair amount of self indulgence. Since September I’ve spent money freely, amassed debt, not worked much, drank too much alcohol and not been very focused. Now I have a pile of debt to wade through, a bunch of money that needs raising to get me to Cambodia for a cause I am passionate about, and a life that needs some control exercised around if I am to pull it all off.


Add to these challenges the fact that I feel I am swinging from a manic episode to a depressed one, and there’s work to be done. Medication helps, but if it is going to be, it is up to me. I need to take action.

So as of January 1st I’m off the booze for six months. I’ve already quit smoking and I have big plans for 2015. It is time to get my shit together.

I will raise $50,000 for my ‘Ride to Happiness” with the Black Dog Institute from Cambodia to Vietnam.

  1. I will pay off my debts
  2. I will train hard, run two ultra marathons in respectable times, get a podium finish in a Spartan Race and gain entry to the OCR World Championships
  3. I will complete the second year of my stonemasonry apprenticeship
  4. I will meditate and exercise regularly.
  5. I will work harder on my relationship with my ex-wife
  6. I will  be an even better Dad than I already am.
  7. I will also reconnect with my friends, as I have been slack since leaving Sydney.

And this is the first step. I’m sitting at my computer at 4:00am writing this post, making these commitments, and asking you for your help. For in sharing my goals I make myself accountable for them, and would like to ask you all to hold me accountable too. Will you do that for me?

If I could also ask for your help in a few other ways too that would be great. Please stay in touch. Drop me a line occasionally to see how I am going towards my goals, and get in touch if there’s anything I can do to help you reach yours. If you feel so inclined, you could sponsor me for my Cycle to Happiness by clicking this link. (Personally I think it should be called The Cycle to Vitality. If you haven’t seen Andrew Soloman’s TED talk already, check it out here. In it he asserts that the opposite of depression is not happiness, it is vitality, and I couldn’t agree more.)

I’ll be working as a brickies labourer in the New Year, combining an income and physical training in one foul swoop. I’ll also train six days a week in order to achieve my athletic goals and ensure the endorphins keep flowing. I’ll be writing regular blog posts to keep you  posted on my progress, so please drop by my site anytime you like for a read.

I know I am putting myself out here with this post, but you only get back what you put out right? I am sending this post out into the world with positive thoughts, a dream of making a difference to those who need it most, and immense faith in the wonder of humankind and community, which will help me achieve some lofty goals in a difficult period in life.

I’ve one last favour to ask you. If ever you’re struggling at all. If you’re lacking motivation. If you’re feeling flat and need someone to talk to. Please call me. We’re all in this together, and while I will endeavour to keep in touch with you all as regularly as possible, I’m only ever a phone call away if you need someone to chew the fat with. I’ll be your friend in need.


4 thoughts on “Chew Like Hell – An Exercise in Control

  1. Al,
    I commend you on your courage by putting yourself out there and asking for support. I will be on board to help you through your journey and hope 2015 is a turning point for you.

    Let’s work on a once a month catch up to see how you are going with your goals.

    Have a happy and safe new year



  2. Brenno,
    Count me along for the journey mate! I have no doubt you will achieve what you set out in your goals for 2015!
    If you want to try a different form of fitness come do a boxing session when your in Sydney next, just to mix it up.
    Have a safe and happy new years champ!
    Your a true inspiration to life itself and for others out there in a similar situation.
    Always here for you
    K Man


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