A Burden Shared is a Burden Halved

Having just decided to stay at home in Newcastle, Australia for Christmas, and not make the 6 hour journey home to the farm, I faced a relatively ‘lonely’ Christmas.

Instead of spending the day alone becoming depressed, a very real possibility, I bought a Peking duck from the Thai grocery store, swapped my neighbour a bottle of Chandon Sparkling wine for some vegetables, and cooked for three. My guests were my new apprentice Kirky, whom I met while we were both inpatients at The Mater, and my old mate Arty, who has been homeless in Hamilton longer than the 4 years I’ve lived here.

We drank champagne and feasted like kings, while we hardly even spoke because the tucker was that good.

We smoke leisurely cigarettes in the back yard and shared a Turkish meerschaum pipe while listening to the world carry on around us.

And it made me reconnect with the notion that, even when we are lonely, we are never truly alone.

I didn’t get to see my beautiful little boys on Christmas Day, but I saw them just before and they are with me now. Plus I got to share a beautiful lunch with Arty and Alex. It was a day well spent and one I shall remember.

One People. One love. One god.

More Things That I Have Learned

For the second time in my adult life, I’ve spent a few weeks as an inpatient at The Newcastle Mental Health Unit, which is a ward of the Calvary Mater Hospital at Waratah, Newcastle.

Both of my admissions were voluntary, until I saw a Psychiatrist, who then ‘sectioned’ me under the Mental Health Act of 2007.

While I would be lying if I told you that I enjoyed my stays here, it’s the honest truth that I needed them.

At the beginning of my stay in 2015, and again on the 28th of November 2017, I was NOT OK.

Since I fell from a 10 metre balcony on 12-2-12, I have been diagnosed as Bipolar II, and subsequently as affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I made the PTSD diagnoses myself, as after 5 years of erratic behaviour and at least 7 different psychiatrists, not a single one had been able to make the diagnoses themselves.

I have learned that The Mental Health Act of 2007 is far from perfect. In fact it is SO FAR from perfect I feel confident saying that it is completely broken.

Many of my fellow inpatients come into the ward as bent and broken human beings, and re-enter society as their ‘normal’ selves.

In my opinion, even when bent or broken, by life’s rough and tumble, by drug abuse or by physical, verbal and mental abuse, each human being is perfect just as they are.

The only issue is that they don’t fit the ‘mould’ of normality that society holds to be true.

Have you met any ‘crazy people’ lately? Did you judge them? Or did you remain calm and speak to them? Did you treat them with the same level of dignity and respect you wish to be treated? If the answer to this final question is yes, I applaud you.

There would be far less crazy people in the world if we postponed judgment, gave them time to be themselves, and listened to their story. Sometimes that is all it takes to turn a crazy person into a normal person – someone we can relate to on many levels. Someone who might even teach us a little (or a lot) about the weird and wonderful world in which we live.

I challenge you then. Speak to a homeless person. Buy them a coffee. Give them a dollar. Ask them to tell you THEIR STORY. If you have the courage to do so, I would hazard a guess as to say you will be pleasantly surprised.

In the words of one of the 20th Century’s greatest prophets,

“One love,

One heart,

Let’s get together and feel alright.”

Bob Marley

p.s. I am OK now. Thanks to the wonderful nurses and doctors at The Mater, to whom I am eternally grateful.

” Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, I would value your thoughts, feelings or comments, so please feel free to share them.” Alexander Michael Brennan

First World Problems

When you work an 11 hour day, shower, and relax yourself with a self massage of anywhere you can reach, the last thing you expect is a fight.

My cosy little house is on a quiet side street though not too far from the main street and many pubs. Usually it’s a sleepy, suburban sort of street, where all the neighbours know your name. But not tonight.

I was just about to lie down and listen to some relaxing tunes, when the piercing sound of a young girl screaming obscenities at some unknown attacker shocked me from my thoughts. He shouted back, insisting she come with him, and it went  quiet for a while. I thought it was done. But they kicked off again and I decided I had to check it out.

I walked out the front of  the house in my pyjamas, and stood at the gate watching two teenagers argue softly about how she didn’t want to go with him, while he insisted otherwise. I asked them politely to leave as they were outside my bedroom, but she refused to budge despite his whining insistence.

“She doesn’t want to go with you mate, why don’t you just call her later and catch up then.”

“I don’t have a phone bro! C’mon Bree, just come with me?”

It was clear he wasn’t about to leave, so with a frustrated grunt  I went inside to grab some shoes and a jacket,

When I returned Bree hadn’t moved and old mate was looking more and more agitated.

“Righto mate, if you’re not gonna leave, I’m gonna make you leave. C’mon, let’s go.”

I put my arm around him to usher him off, but he broke away screaming, “I’ll fucking smash you bro!”

“Righto mate, let’s at least stand in the light so that we can see each other.”

He refused to follow me into the garage light shining out onto the street.

“Fine, if you won’t leave for me I’ll just call the cops and you can deal with them.”

As I stormed inside to grab my phone, I heard him say, “Now look what you’ve done.”

When I got back, he was gone, and Bree was still loitering around outside my house.

“Where have you got to go?”

“Just to my cousins place around the corner near the bus depot.” Bree replied.

“C’mon then, I’ll walk you there.”

After I dropped her at her cousins and said goodbye, I was left with an angry energy burning inside me, obviously the adrenalin and disgust of what I had just been through on account of some young punk hopped up on ice thinking he was a man.

Is the atrocious behaviour of these deadbeats because the get into the ice? Or do they get into the ice because their behaviour is atrocious?

Whatever the case may be, I wish there was less drugs and the violence in the world.



Science – Another System of Belief

It came to me, the other night whilst carving stone, that science is no more or less than another system of belief we as humans use to attribute meaning to the otherwise crazy, misunderstand-able world we share.

Just as Catholicism, Islam,  Judaism and Buddhism (or any other ‘ism’ or ‘am’ you may be able to think of) is a system of belief.

When you think about it, the only reason Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote The Holy Bible is because they were developing the system of belief that Jesus inspired through prayerful meditation, consciousness and centredness.

When the Prophet Mohamed became the vessel through which the Koran was delivered, when he managed to aggregate all the wisdom that those prophets who came before him gathered from those who came before them, it was because he was laying down the system of belief that they had established through prayerful meditation and centredness and consciousness. 

When the Buddha shared all the wisdom that he had acquired from being born into bliss consciousness, he was elucidating a system of belief he had worked out through meditation, centredness and consciousness. 

When Steven Hawkins explains the mysteries of the universe, despite the fact that it is, indeed, “fact,” he’s is also delivering the latest system of belief that evolution has equiped us with.

So why the disagreement? 

Believe whatever it is you need to believe to get by.

Do no harm.

And move on…

The Serenity Prayer

As someone who has had direct experience with several alcoholics throughout his life I am no stranger to the Serenity Prayer, as it is something they utilise widely in Alcoholics Anonymous. You’ve no doubt heard it, it goes:


It’s a beautiful little prayer, whether you are religious or not, and one which my brother Dan gave to me printed on a piece of laminated paper some time ago. I shrugged it off as something I had seen and heard before, but it must have seeped into my consciousness, for somehow I have been living it lately.

In addition to a whole range of challenges I have faced of late, I injured myself and have been unable to train lately. This has seen me forgo my chance to run in The North Face 100, The Buffalo Stampede, True Grit Shirt Course Titles and possibly even the True Grit 24 Hour Endure, all of which I have bought tickets for.

While chatting to my friend Rachel this afternoon, I told her about all of the goals I set myself, and shared with you all, earlier this year. It was a pretty full plate, and achieving said goals would have made me feel pretty damn good about myself.

I could rage against the injustice of wasting $1,000 in entry fees, against all the fun I am missing out on and the friends I am missing. I could worry about how my mental health may be affected by not getting as much regular exercise as I am used to. I could worry about the commitments I made back on January 1st this year, and broadcast publicly, but I am not.

In a way, being injured has been a blessing, as I haven’t been focused on my goals so much as I have been on what is most important in my life, my family and friends, my health and my work. 

If you’re one of those people who believe that everything happens for a reason, then getting injured has been the reason I needed to focus on what’s important.

Without realising it, I have been living the Serenity Prayer, and please God it will pay off.

Thanks Dan, if not for your humble gift I may not be where I am right now.  You’re a damned good brother and I love you mate.

Get Busy living or Get Busy Dying

Morgan Freeman quotes this line in the classic movie, “The Shawshank Redemption,” and it has always resonated with me, though never more than in the past few years.

You see, I had a bad accident a few years ago, resulting in a frontal lobe brain injury. I lost a little bit of my sanity for a couple of years, and went through 18 months of mania followed by 9 months of severe clinical depression. I also lost three jobs, my wife, my vitality and my will to live. Things got so bad that I was seriously contemplating suicide, but the thought of leaving my two sons without a father and a big question mark over how and why he died was too much, so I checked myself into hospital, started taking medication and have been better ever since.

My experience with depression extends beyond my own life. I have lost one of my best high school friends to suicide, our next door neighbour took his own life when his farming debt became too much to handle, and a family friends son shot himself for reasons no one can understand. My father is bipolar, and while the shrinks tried to label me the same, I choose to believe I am a bloke who has more energy and enthusiasm than most people most of the time, and needs to be careful not to burn out and become depressed.

So my current approach to maintaining good mental health is geared towards having an active, healthy lifestyle. I am heavily involved with my children, my ex-wife and my local community. I exercise daily, meditate and do yoga at least every other day, and steer clear of booze and drugs most if not all of the time.

I’m running in ten obstacle races in 2015, two ultra marathons, and I am cycling over 500 kilometres from Vietnam to Cambodia to raise money for the Black Dog Institute. I’m getting busy living, for if I don’t I’ll pretty quickly start to get busy dying.

If you or anyone you know suffers from mental health issues, rather than trying to counsel them on how to change their thinking or mental processing of the issues they face in life, help them to get busy living. Exercise, involvement in their local community, charity work, focusing on the beauty and truth in the world around them rather than the ugliness and lies they create in their own mind is the key to vitality.

For the opposite to depression is not happiness, it is vitality. In order to combat depression, you need to seek out vitality. You need to get busy living.

If you care to support me in raising $50,000 for The Black Dog Institute in my Cycle to Happiness in March 2015, please click on the link below and make whatever donation you feel comfortable with.


Black Dog Image

Trauma Based Growth – How Wading Through a Pile of Shit Can Make You Better Man

Trauma comes in many different guises. There is the physical trauma of al car accident; broken bones, whiplash, cuts and bruises.

There is the emotional trauma of losing a loved one, or of a relationship breakdown; anguish, pain, regret, despair, loneliness and self chastisement for not saying “I love you,” enough.

There is the existential trauma that may arrive when all you believe in is shown to be a lie.

And then there is the trauma of living with a mental illness every day for the rest of your life, dealing with the stigma attached to it, and assuring your friends and family that you are not, in fact, manic, you’re just energetic and enthusiastic in general, with a bipolar tag from a shrink giving them cause for concern when there is none.

Since falling from a ten metre height in February, 2012, I’ve experienced most if not all, of these traumas. If I were to list them in chronological order it would read as such:

1) Fell off a 10 metre balcony in February 2012. Broke 11 ribs, 4 vertebrae, punctured my lung and kidney, sustained a frontal lobe brain injury.
2) Checked out of hospital 3 days later, unaware of the fact I had a brain injury and that I had undergone significant personality changes due to damaged neural pathways.
3) Knocked off my motorbike and spent the night in hospital under general anaesthetic to clean a serious cut on my knee and close the wound with 40 stitches in May 2012
4) Contract for new permanent role terminated at the end of my 3 month probation due to inappropriate communication and interaction with colleagues and management. June 2012.
5) Arrested for drunk and disorderly behaviour in London during The Olympics. July 2012
6) Sacked from a new role with my previous employer twice in a month. They took me back the first time as I had just discovered I had a brain injury. The Director agreed to meet with my brain injury rehab specialist, who explained what the injury meant and convinced them I would recover quicker if I were employed. They agreed to take me back after the first sacking. And then sacked me again in November 2012.
7) Became a Stonemason for 6 months on advice from specialist that physical labour was ok. Resigned as my anxiety was becoming uncontrollable. January – June 2014
8) Went back to my previous career in recruitment for 6 months, until I became suicidal, resigned and checked myself into a hospital for two weeks. July 2013 – February 2014
9) Told by my wife that she isn’t in love with me and shall never be again, and she insisted on a seperation.
10) Despite repeated marriage counselling sessions, my wife does NOT want to get back together, but rather, work out how best to raise our children seperately for the rest of our lives.

Now it could be said that all of the above is enough to break a man, however, I genuinely believe that I am a much better man as a result of all this trauma.

I am far more compassionate to people with disabilities, I am cognisant of the relative ease with which one can sustain a life altering brain injury, I am more patient, kind and accepting of other people’s idiosyncrasies, and I know now that the true value of a man’s life is not measured by how much money he earns, rather, it is imeasured by how many friends count on him, and how often they call for his sage advice.  Finally, it can be measured byn the bonds you build with all those in your community, friend or foe.

So then, do I just need to go through some trauma to learn how to be a better man? I hear you ask. Fair question, and the answer is no. It is possible to learn all these lessons over several years by meditating, reading, paying attention to the challenges your friends face and how they overcome them, and by being 100% committed to change.

But of all the people I know who seem most wise despite their age, have suffered significant trauma. Think of Nick Vujicic, born without arms and legs, yet so.positive he has manifested a destiny most would have thought impossible. H is a globally sought after motivational speaker, successful beyond his wildest dreams, and married to an amazing, attractive, intelligent woman.

Think of Dr Gill Hicks. She lost both of her legs and very nearly her life in the London bombings. And yet now, she has founded M.A.D. For Peace, an amazing organisation which advocates for peace globally through cells based on the Al Quieda model. Check it our here:


And think of Nelson Mandela, arrested and jailed for 27 years for his beliefs, and yet he was able to become South Africa’s first African president, and change the trajectory of its political system significantly.

What differentiates these people from others who have suffered similar trauma and achieves nothing of real note, is that they have several attributes which are essential to grow personally through trauma:

1) They believe everything happens for a reason.
2) They are committed to achieving the best possible outcomes in their life, despite having been through such trauma. It’s in the past, don’t dwell on it, learn from it.
3) They live in hope that, because of the trauma they have experienced, they can use what they have learned to make the world a better place.
4) They don’t make excuses or blame others for what has happened to them. They are accepting of the random nature of life, and accept what has happened as nothing more than part of their journey in life.
5) They are survivors. They choose to live no grow, rather than die with bitterness in their hearts.

So IF you were unlucky enough to be in a serious accident, and IF you were to live to tell the story, and IF you are in possession of all the attributes listed above, then yes, you WOULD grow through trauma. You would become a better man. You would go on to bigger and better things. You would be capable of still living the life of your dreams.

For, as stated in Marianne Williamson’s poem, “Our Greatest Fear” which has also been quoted in most motivational clips on YouTube and in several movies:

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.


Being Time in Kenya with Heidegger

Anything that can capture the ephemeral nature of time and space like this piece is brilliant. Thank you.

Global Sojourns Photography

Kenya Maasai Mara Africa-22

The concept of time is fascinating. From physics to philosophy, the notion of time is difficult to define.

From our normal existence in the world, we often define time as ‘fleeting’ in the sense there is never enough. Frustration builds as the majority of time is spent catching up on work…work that is always running further and further away.

Kenya Maasai Mara Africa-19

The more worry about time, the less there is.

This has been the script for me this year.  Just as I am ready to celebrate and enjoy autumn, this great season is fading fast.

Back in September, I noticed the leaves turning color. But instead of picking up my coat and heading out, I dropped my head for a quick analysis of work and business only to look up a couple of months later to find winter staring me in the face.

Kenya Maasai Mara Africa-15

Pushing open the window, a gust of cold wind…

View original post 937 more words

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

In addition to being the title of a famous book by the Czech Author Mila Kundera, ‘the unbearable lightness of being’ is a phrase which resonates deeply with me. There is a depth to that combination of words, an almost weightiness to the concept of being unbearably light, in itself a juxtaposition that invites more than just a passing thought.

The premise of the novel is that Kundera is challenging Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence. The idea that the universe and it’s events have already occurred, and will occur ad infinitum. It is due to this eternal recurrence of events that our decisions have a weightiness to them, for what we choose to do now will affect our outcomes not just in this life, but in every recurring life we inhabit for eternity.

Kundera posits that we only live once, and that what happens based upon our decisions is unique and fleeting, hence the lightness of our being. Whatever may happen to us only happens once, so there’s no need to be at pains over that which occurs, it is but fleeting and shall never recur.

All that aside, the reason I am so enamoured of the phrase is that it has a certain attractive quality to it, a beauty that not every sentence has, and a resonance that is rare, in my mind at least. I believe that Kundera’s assertion is more accurate than Nietzsche’s, that our existence is a one time affair, and that whatever happens this time around shall never occur again. Depending on your religious beliefs, you will die one day and either ascend to heaven, descend to hell, transcend into an endless, meaningless void or he reincarnated as a creature with a higher or lower level of consciousness and social status based upon how you lived this life. I like the Buddhist approach best, the last one, despite being raised as Roman Catholic, believing in God and all the values of the church.

So why is it that our being is so unbearably light? What is it that gives our existence such an ephemeral, almost intangible quality, despite how caught up in the drama of our day to day lives we.sometimes become? It is because I have come to.discover that the ONLY moment we need worry about is THIS moment, right now, the present.

That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the past or plan for the future, but regretting what has come to pass or worrying about that which may occur is a sure way to wind up with mental health problems, whereas living in the NOW is a sure fire way to ensure your serenity, if not happiness and contentment with what life has to offer. For even if I am in excruciating pain, I know that it is only for this very moment that I need bear the pain. The next moment, I can deal with when it arrives, and be grateful the last has passed.

If I were to dwell in the past, I would wind.up depressed, I know this for a fact, because it has already happened to me. If I were to only worry about what kind of future I have ahead of me, I’d be so busy stressing about buying a house, finding a girlfriend, raising my children and making money that I would never give myself the space to enjoy what is going on around me. I wouldn’t ever stop to ‘smell the roses’ or enjoy a great piece of music, a delicious meal or a friend’s good company.

So keep this in mind as you go about your day today.

Yesterday is history,

Tomorrow is a mystery,

But today is a gift.

That is why it is called The Present.


To Live In Fear or Hope?

As you may already know, I suffered a frontal lobe brain injury, which has caused structural changes to the neural pathways in my brain, and resulted in lasting changes to my personality. Namely my ‘executive function.’ This is the ability your brain has to schedule tasks, organise your life and respond appropriately to any given situation. 99% of the time, my impaired executive function causes no issues. I use a calendar, reminders in my phone and a healthy dose of self restraint to ensure I  don’t offend, upset or ignore the needs of others. I have received a lot of encouragement and support from a large group of f  riends, both new and old, since sharing the story of my accident, seperation and ongoing challenges life has thrown at me since I fell off a balcony a few years ago.

For this I am eternally grateful. I could choose to become reclusive, stay silent and deal with my issues alone, in fear of the judgement that may be directed towards me for the chouces I have made. Or, I could do as I have done. I can live in hope that the understanding and compassion that we all harbour for our fellow man will triumph over the loss of social esteem that sharing my story may incur. And triumph it has.

1% of the time, I respond to situations inappropriately and then have to live with the consequences. I am guilty of going to a local cafe, drunk, at 7am one Saturday morning a few months ago and doing something that, to me seems innocent enough, but not to the cafe owner…

When I returned on the following Monday the owner of the cafe, a young bloke more concerned (it would seem) with the image his cafe projects of being hip, sophisticated, and cool than of maintaining an amicable relationship with a regular customer, gave me what money was left of my weekly $50 tab that I pay at the start of each week, and asked that I never return again.

“Why is that mate?” I asked with confusion written all over my face.

“What you said on Saturday morning is just not on. I can’t have that kind of talk in my cafe.” He replied.

“What did I say?”

“Well one of the customers commented on the fact that you were at a cafe drinking coffee at 7am when you should really be home in bed sleeping it off.”

My reply, apparently, was, “If I was at home I’d just be smoking it up and whacking it.”

I assume I got a laugh…either that or a look of disgust. Whatever the case may be, the owner didn’t appreciate it one little bit.

So I haven’t returned since then. Until this morning. I stood at the takeaway windows, and received a happy, “G’day mate, how’s it going?” From one of the baristas.

Then the owner came to the window and said, “Can I help you?” with a look that clearly indicated he would rather not.

“I’m just after a takeaway mate. Is that alright?”

“Um. Yeah. I guess so.” He replied with about as much enthusiasm as someone offered an undesired yet necessary enema.

“Look mate, if you never want me to come back again, just say so, and I’ll never come back again. I just think it is unusual that for 99% of the time I drank coffee here, I was well behaved, friendly, appropriate in my interactions with your staff and customers, and based on a single comment, you’ve asked me never to return.”

“Please don’t come back again.” Was all he had to say.

Does he fear I’ll drive off all his business? Is the colour of my money different to anyone else’s? Is he threatened by my outgoing personality. Does he suspect I’ll lose it and hit him in the face?

Whatever the case may be, he chooses to live in fear of what me and my less than fully functioning brain are capable of.

Do I now live in fear that I’ll never drink coffee at this cafe again?

Or do I live in hope that the narrow minded approach this proprietor has shown me is an anomaly, and find somewhere with better coffee, service and more open minded staff? I chose the latter. And it is going well so far. Plus I drink far less coffee than I have in the past and save myself at least $40 a week.

So what would you do if you were the proprietor? Choose fear? Or choose hope?