Jamie & I met in 2014 when we spoke openly about our struggles with mental illness (which you can read here). Jamie had a project that encouraged people to be comfortable in their own skin. Something that even Jamie had troubles with growing up. For me, it’s something I still struggle with from time to time. Over the past 2 years, Jamie & I discussed the need to get more chatter happening about mental health and suicide prevention in our region & around the country.
We are both Mackay boys (Jamie born & bred) and I have been coming to the Mackay region since I was a small boy with my family residing in the region for many years. In the time I have been living in Mackay (12 years) I have been heart broken to see how many young & older residents are taking their own lives. For whatever reason, these people are unable to seek help, or have someone ask “are you ok?” Something needs to be done.
ChangeTee was created to create conversations to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and to create positive change in the community. ChangeTee donates 10% of the proceeds of every item sold to the chosen charities ensuring they can continue to do the amazing work they do in the community.
Jay & Jamie
A Little More About Jay
Where do I start? How do i write about myself, when the view of myself isn’t how it should be? It’s the same for approximately one in every five Australians, who will experience a mental illness in the next 12 months. That is your mother, brother, sister, father, work mates and even your neighbours. I will try my best to give you an honest view of me.
My life… Well, I had a pretty normal childhood. Define normal I hear you say. Well “normal” these days consists of a broken family, visiting parents on the weekend and having to share our Christmas days with two lots of families. It wasn’t all bad – I got twice the amount of Christmas presents. But for me, I also had twice the pressure to feel like I needed to succeed. To be “good” to be someone that all four parents would accept. Im sure from my parents eyes, that wasn’t the case, but that my friends is what mental illness is all about. Your mind playing tricks on you. Constantly.
Growing up in Brisbane, as I mentioned earlier was pretty “normal”. I realised from a young age that there was something different about me. I liked boys. Yep – I was gay! Didn’t my mind start playing games on me then.
Daily I would have this conversation in my mind “What if my family disowned me… I could always run away and not tell my family about my secret… My brother was right – he used to call me gay all the time. How did he know and i didn’t..? Maybe I should just end it all, it would be easier to not be here”
Reading those words back now, gives me a tear in my eye to know JUST how close I did come to doing just that. Ending it all.
I was living in Melbourne, and in a relationship with someone who was 13 years older than I was. To my friends and family in Brisbane, I was living with a “friend” cause I wasn’t game enough to tell them all. My mum was the only one that knew I was gay. I came out to her one morning at 3am, crying on the beach… She responded with “I already knew”
One day, close to the end of my relationship in Melbourne, I had enough of the constant fighting with my then partner, I had enough of the constant arguing in my own head (as explained earlier) and I felt alone. My family were in Brisbane and it felt like they were a million miles away. I couldn’t get the help I wanted, needed, and deserved. I had a plan on how to end my life, and I was seconds away of completing my plan. What stopped me? Seeing my mothers grieving face. That’s it. That’s all I could see. Why would I do this to her? Why would I do it to anyone? But she was the reason I stopped.
I relocated to Mackay to recover. In that time I built a home, landed a job at a Radio Station (working in radio was my dream and have been doing it for majority of my working life) and had a few failed relationships. Then comes along my now partner Jamie, we have so much in common, yet we are so different. We compliment each other.
ChangeTee was created to make a difference for the people like us who have had THOSE conversations in our own heads. The pressures and self doubts. The mental illness that is taking over the country.
Social media in my work (breakfast radio) can be hard. We give the listeners & family / friends just a short snippet of our daily lives. Famous people I interviewed that day. The biggest prizes and competitions. The road trips I go on for the breakfast show ALL looks very glamorous, but it’s just the side of life that I am allowing you to see. I don’t show you the rates bills coming at the worst possible time. Or when my dog falls ill and I have a thousand and one bills to pay.
I start to worry about how I am going to juggle it all… But I only show you the cute pic of my dog, in a bandage on the couch with me, and the status says “nawww the cute little guy gave me a fright”… What I really should have said is “Man I love this dog, but this bill came at the worst time possible. Can I afford to pay the bill? What about my mortgage and my rates???.. Jay you’re a failure my friend” – THAT’S where my mind goes… When something doesn’t go right – I feel like a failure.
I love the shirt slogan we created “my life isn’t always social media perfect, but that’s ok” And it is absolutely ok.
Help us change the way we see, hear and feel Mental Illness.
A Little More About Jamie
Growing up life was pretty good, I had a wonderful family and a lot of friends that I would do anything for. When I hit high school I noticed that I was a little different from most of the other guys at school. They talked about girls and I just wasn’t interested. This feeling would reveal itself as a major part of the way my life would go, but more on that later.
Somehow I was labeled the “Guru” of the group. I would be the one people come to for advice or support when it was needed and I would be more than happy to help. I was seen as the strong one, the one with my head on my shoulders and the one that seemed to have it all together, but in truth I was just like everybody else with my own problems and emotions going on however I wasn’t one to express them. Something I still struggle with at times now (just ask Jay, he made me re-write my initial about me section).
This hit a breaking point in Mackay when I realised that I was gay and it was going to just add to the cocktail of secrets and emotions going on. Drugs and alcohol become security blankets that took away the bad and replaced it with good, well that’s what I thought until the night that found me jumping off the bridge in town. Sure friends were around but apart of me didn’t really care what was under the dark waters below. I survived obviously, but after that night I knew I had to get away from Mackay if I wanted any hope at life.
Sunshine Coast offered some relief as I was able to be myself without having to worry about my parents finding out about my secret and when I was ready I eventually told them over the phone that I was gay and it was one of the happiest days of my life. The weight that was lifted from my shoulders was immense and they like everyone around me already knew I was gay. This happiness came at a cost as an abusive relationship led me to holding a pair of scissors to my wrist a few times, standing at the edge but never taking the jump. I think my family are to thank for that. I couldn’t do it to them.
Study and I change of environment promoted a move to Melbourne. Keeping things a little shorter for this about me section I eventually ended up seeking professional health and was diagnosed with depression. Something that had been going on for a long time. I decided personally that I didn’t want to take the medication option if I didn’t have to (which is the thinking behind the slogan for the “Thrills” tee) and that I had to work on changing my life and working out how I could change my mental health. I started exercising, eating healthy, doing yoga and reading a lot of self help books regarding the mind and I eventually dug myself out of my hole. Do I ever fall back in? Sure, but I know how to deal with the triggers a little better now.
After meeting Jay we connected on a lot of levels but our similar experiences and our shared passion for creating positive change in the community have led us to creating ChangeTee.