Mental Health Week 2016

Mental Health Week and Mental Health Day, two significant initiatives I had no prior knowledge of up until a few months ago.  I learned about Mental Health Week when I saw a post on a Facebook group asking for involvement in some way for a FIFO mental health week drive. Mental Health Day has been and gone, and we are in the middle of Mental Health Week, but I still find that I have to go searching for information. A very significant difference to when it’s World Donut Day or World Chocolate Chip Cookie Day wherein I am inundated by updates and postings across all social media platforms. Some of which even make it to news mediums!

It is disappointing that there isn’t the same amount of interest and attention being given to such an important topic. Having dedicated several years to studying psychology and human resources, mental health is a point of interest for me but it seems to still be a taboo topic for most. Some throw it around as a catch cry or a trendy term but majority are still too scared to delve deep into the mental health topic. Admittedly, it is a minefield. A lot of education and awareness still needs to happen before people (myself included) can comfortably discuss mental health across all forums. I feel that majority perceive discussions on mental health with the same trepidation as discussions on religion and political affinity.

Mental health has been a hot topic especially in FIFO for a few years now. I remember eagerly awaiting the report from the West Australian Parliament on FIFO mental health. I downloaded the document when it was made public. I remember eagerly reading it, armed with a highlighter and a pen, furiously writing my thoughts and comments on the margins! I was determined to formulate a reply and share my FIFO experience to the committee. At that stage they were encouraging public comment and I wanted to share my positive experience about FIFO. I couldn’t relate to most of the examples contained in the document.

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Thanks to the lovely Sandra of FIFO Focus for the opportunity to get involved, even if it’s just in the form of cookies.

At that point, my FIFO experience was mostly positive. I used to treat being on site like being on a holiday camp away from the evil KFC empire! I loved the flight up and back, especially if I got a window seat! I enjoyed seeing the changing landscape, didn’t enjoy it too much during cloudy days though. Once on site, I had a chance to take in Mother Nature at her best and worst! The alarms set at ungodly hours and the end of night shifts were often rewarded with magnificent sunrises. The sunsets were equally amazing too. Before working on site, I would have seen only a handful of sunrises as I was never awake that early. I liked the routine, it put some semblance of order into my otherwise organised chaos approach. I also liked that there was an option to socialise or stay in my room. Foxtel, air-con and heating – luxuries my room at home doesn’t have!

I am not saying it was all fun times, I am fairly certain my blog posts from those years would have covered the challenging times too. It wasn’t all fun times but it was more fun and positive than not. There were the usual challenges, some courtesy of Mother Nature, some can be attributed to “creative differences” and personality clashes, and of course, most can be attributed to the temperamental plant we were working with.

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One of the many gorgeous sunrise I got to enjoy whilst working FIFO.

My FIFO experience changed significantly after my injury. Those who had negative things to say about me prior to the injury got very vocal. The rumour mill went on overdrive and I was copping everything from milking it, to faking it, to what was I still doing there when word on the street was I had already been sacked. Some of the braver and more genuine souls would actually come and talk to me about what they heard to get my side of the story. Most of the recreational and professional gossipers just went with whatever was the most interesting angle.  In other words, the vibe changed significantly.

Zombie Wrap
I had no idea when I took this photo in Jan 2015 how much that split second slip up would change my career plan and impact my life so much. It has been a roller coaster ride!

I still believe that it is up to us to decide how the opinions and attitudes of others affect us. I am the only one who decides whether or not I have a bad day. I am the only one who can decide whether or not I will let their comments about milking it and faking it upset me. It is up to me to decide whether or not I let their insecurities, pettiness and negativity impact me. This works, to a certain point. When you are constantly faced with negativity, it is hard to keep your head above ground. It is hard to keep swimming against the tide for extended periods. Ultimately, you get tired and end up getting carried by the current. Stressors like these can lead to the decline in our physical and mental health.

We all need thick skin to survive certain situations, FIFO being one of those that require thick skin and a strong sense of self. I was lucky that I grew up with older brothers, male cousins and their circle of friends. These guys basically trained me for site life. I credit part of my stubbornness and drive to growing up with these characters who put my through my paces very early on.  What I wasn’t prepared for was Regina George and her minions, mine site edition!

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For those who may not be as into teen movies as I am, the Regina George reference is from the movie Mean Girls. If anyone wants to remake the movie into a FIFO or mine site edition, hit me up for story lines. I have heaps!

It became very challenging but as the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I was lucky I had (and still have) a great support system – my partner and my friends, both on site and off.  I am also a talker, which was very unlucky for my support system! There was no holding me back especially during the more challenging days. Having this blog also helped a great deal. Stringing words together to make a story has always been therapeutic for me. For those situations, conversations and challenges not appropriate for discussions or blogs, I had a notebook. Lots of furious scribbling! Writing, talking to great people got me through the challenging times and enabled me to forge strong friendships with like minded people.

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I got this from the amazing Drewie (Hard Hat Mentor), check her out on LinkedIn. She is a ball of positivity and encouragement.

To those who are experiencing similar challenges, please find an outlet. It doesn’t necessarily have to be writing or talking. Maybe there’s a hobby out there, a sport, whatever it is, find something to help get the negativity out of your system.  There are lots of resources in relation to Mental Health Week and Mental Health Day which have information that may help. Trust me, you are not alone. I have found so many others who share the same experience, not necessarily exclusive to the same company or industry. Challenging people are out there in droves and challenging situations come in different forms, so regardless of what you do, find a release and put a premium on your mental health.

It is what we take out of all the challenges that make the experience worthwhile. I have those challenging situations and people to be thankful for. Without those experiences I may not have pushed myself as hard or realised just how driven, strong and capable I actually am. Everything is a learning experience after all!

 

For those who would like to know more about Mental Health Week and Mental Health Day:

 

2014: The year that was

As the year wraps up and the Best of 2014 lists pop up everywhere, I felt it was a good opportunity to make up for my slackness on the blog front. So here’s a quick look at my roller coaster 2014!

 

The FIFO life. That's home for the work week down there.
The FIFO life. That’s home for the work week down there.
The process plant down below. Our birds eye view as we fly in.
The process plant down below. Our birds eye view as we fly in.

 

Work wise there were ups and downs, and then more ups and downs. At the start of the year I was supposed to move into a logistics coordinator role. After putting $100 on the bar for my leaving drinks and looking like an absolute tosser by having a cry on the morning of my last pre-start meeting, the role was canned four days before I was set to start. Going back to work and explaining to people what had happened (when I myself didn’t even know what exactly happened) was beyond exhausting. Thankfully I was able to take some time off to recharge and reset my brain. Mind you, even now – 10 months on – I still get queries about what happened to that role.  Luckily hindsight is a marvelous thing and now looking back, I am glad the role didn’t happen; I wouldn’t have learned a lot of things I now know and I would have missed out on honing a whole range of skills had I changed roles. Although the cleaners waking me up at 10am when I am on night shift is something I could have done without…

 

 

    On top of the world, well at least on top of the stockpile. Had to stay up the head end of CV007 (the scary one) for over two hours to keep watch on the stockpile as we were preparing the plant for our first big shutdown. February 2014
On top of the world, well at least on top of the stockpile. Had to stay up the head end of CV007 (the scary one) for over two hours to keep watch on the stockpile as we were preparing the plant for our first big shutdown. February 2014

 

I have been trained on how to use the Rock Breaker and how to operate a Bobcat. I have ran the Crushing and Grinding circuit by myself – I know, I still struggle to get my head around the fact that I am allowed out in the plant unsupervised! I have trained newbies with more operating experience than myself and even had the words “senior area operator” pop up in my appraisal. Big year, right?

Full Bucket Badger. My first official outing after being passed out. My spotter and guide Mr Big Job's expected me to be so atrocious that he suggested we go on a separate radio channel so as not to jam the airwaves on our regular channel. Thankfully, within a few minutes he realised I wasn't that bad and we could go back to the normal channel.
Full Bucket Badger. My first official outing after being passed out. My spotter and guide, Mr Big Job’s, expected me to be so atrocious that he suggested we go on a different radio channel so as not to jam the airwaves on our regular channel. Thankfully, within a few minutes he realised I wasn’t that bad and we could go back to the normal channel.

 

I have nearly tipped myself over on the Bobcat, it took everything I could muster to keep going rather than chicken out. I have kind of mastered the art of shoveling and hosing (on some days at least, most days I still hose myself).  Through the year I have also had the privilege of getting to know some of my crew a bit more and strengthen friendships.  I have also managed to annoy certain people, which makes things interesting and super fun at times

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Rock breaking 101. This isn’t a bad blockage. A bad one usually means you cannot see the crusher opening. Depending on how bad the blockage is, it could take a few minutes or five hours to clear it. Sometimes even longer, with an excavator having to dig up the bin before the rock breaker can even make a impact.

 

Even though I have learned a lot more this year in terms of the plant and being an operator, I am most proud of the hard yards I have put in the gym and in improving my health overall. In April 2014 I stared going to the gym. Luckily, I have hard arse (HA) Harry and the lovely Miss Andylicious on crew. They are dedicated lifters and HAHarry is a pro who is more than happy to shower anyone who will to put the hard yards in with his extensive knowledge and expertise. Training with them feels like having my own personal cheering squad too as they are not only excellent teachers but top motivators. Every little achievement is celebrated and acknowledged – even my nine kilogram bicep curl in October was a highlight for all (but mostly for me of course)!

The dynamic duo. Adding bucket loads of awesomeness to my arsenal in 2014. Don't really know how to thank them for everything they have taught me this year.
Anyone want tickets to the gun show? The dynamic duo. Adding bucket loads of awesomeness to my arsenal in 2014. Don’t really know how to thank them for everything they have taught me this year.

 

I have never been a gym junkie.  NEVER! I have had numerous lapsed gym memberships in the last 10 years. I gave up on the treadmill in 2002 when I nearly face planted because I was too busy talking to my friend next to me. So the change this year has surprised me most of all! Even now, months down the track, I still feel like I am having an out of body experience when I drag myself to the gym at 3.30am. I used to think people were crazy for doing such things! Now when I am at work and we are on days, I go to the gym in the morning for cardio and then do weights at night. When we are on nights, we are already at the gym at 2.30pm. I used to get very annoyed when the cleaners would wake me up at that time but now exercising actually wakes me up more and energises me for the shift ahead. On day shift, the days where I skip my morning sessions are the days I struggle to focus and wake up at work – even if it means I have had an extra hour of sleep.

 

I even manage to make time to go to the gym when on holidays. This was in Bacolod, Philippines September 2014.
I even manage to make time to go to the gym when on holidays. This was in Bacolod, Philippines September 2014.

 

So, in a nutshell, in my two years as an operator I have been acquainted with two new friends I didn’t know much about prior to this adventure. I introduced you guys to my first friend – manual labour, at the start of this blog series.  Now, as some of you make your New Year’s resolutions for 2015, I introduce you to my new friend – the gym.

Only hard yards in the gym and eating right burns calories. Nutrition + Cardio + Lifting = Super levels of awesomeness
Only hard yards in the gym and eating right burns calories. Nutrition + Cardio + Lifting + Positive/Supportive People = Super levels of awesomeness

 

By going to the gym regularly and training with some pretty awesome people, I have also changed my eating habits. It just seems like such a waste to gorge on unhealthy food when I have put in the effort at the gym. No, I haven’t cut anything out of my diet. Just listened to HAHarry’s tips and applied them. Treats before 3.00pm, eat smart; basically just thinking about what I am eating rather than mindlessly inhaling a pack of chocolate chip cookies at 10.00pm because I felt hungry.

 

March 2014 vs October 2014 Let me repeat the equation which yielded these results. Nutrition + Cardio + Lifting + Positive People
March 2014 vs October 2014
Let me repeat the equation which yielded these results: Nutrition + Cardio + Lifting + Positive People

 

To those of you who have getting healthy, getting fit, losing weight on your 2015 resolutions list, you can do it! Heck, if I have managed to do it after years of extreme allergic reactions to the gym, any form of exercise and healthy eating, then I don’t see how any of you can’t do the same. It has been a massive shift in mind set and habits, but it somehow doesn’t feel like I have sacrificed anything or I have had to make drastic changes to achieve it. My mindset has changed so much that one of the things I am looking forward to the most in 2015 is doing the Maxine’s Shape Up Challenge (http://www.maxineschallenge.com.au) in February.  This time last year I wouldn’t even have contemplated it. I would have just put it in the too hard/impossible basket and not even bother. Now, I cannot wait to start and to train insane!

Photo taken at Chapters A Book Cafe, Dipolog City, Philippines September 2014
Photo taken at Chapters A Book Cafe, Dipolog City, Philippines September 2014

 

What has been my biggest learning so far? Easy! Whatever I set my mind to, I can achieve. That is how I sum up my 2014. I hope every single one of you reading this has had a learning to take away from the last 12 months. I hope 2015 brings more laughter, challenges, learnings, and triumphs for all of us!

Usual messy day.
Usual messy day.

 

As always, thank you so much for taking the time to ready my blog. I really appreciate it. If there is anything in particular you would like to know more of, just let me know.

Here are some other highlights from the last year. I promise to lift my blog game in 2015! Happy New Year to all of you.

 

ET phone home
ET phone home
Taking the safety game to a whole new level with high visibility nails! Safety first!
Taking the safety game to a whole new level with high visibility nails! Safety first!
Hanging with Papa Smurf. I met Pops when I was still recruiting. I recruited him, after I gave him a mini heart attack - it's a good story but needs to be told in person. Pops also moonlights as Santa (see the previous years Christmas post for evidence).
Hanging with Papa Smurf. I met Pops when I was still recruiting. I recruited him, after I gave him a mini heart attack – it’s a good story but needs to be told in person. Pops also moonlights as Santa (see the previous years Christmas post for evidence).
The BF and Pops/Santa/ZZ Top
The BF and Pops/Santa/ZZ Top
Hands down the best work dinner of 2014. Crayfish!
Hands down the best work dinner of 2014. Crayfish!

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At times, regardless of the dust, noise and mess, it really is very pretty working in a processing plant and being out and about at all times of the day and night.
At times, regardless of the dust, noise and mess, it really is very pretty working in the plant and being out and about at all times of the day and night.
Christmas Party 2014. We are all pretty special, right?
Christmas Party 2014. We are all pretty special, right?
A selfie to wrap up this post! Bring on 2015!
A selfie to wrap up this post! Bring on 2015!