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.

fifo-focus
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.

sunrise
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!

regina-george
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.

fifo-friendship
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:

 

The Gift(s)

It’s that very important time of year again. October is here! The weather is warming up. The garden is going insane and most importantly, it’s my birthday and my dirty work anniversary month. Although it is a bit presumptuous for me to declare the full three years as I have spent nearly nine months now on the sidelines and away from the plant… Technically it still is three years doing FIFO, so I am claiming it regardless.

Presents... they come in all shapes and sizes. A tissue bow on my gym bag. Lots of creative people out here!
Gifts… they come in all shapes and sizes. A tissue bow on my gym bag. Lots of creative people out here!

I always get very excited in the lead up to my birthday. I commence the countdown about six weeks beforehand and by the time it’s my birthday week, I am thoroughly exhausted and no longer care. This is why I am writing this a bit early, before the excitement exhaustion kicks in!

Without question, over the last three years I have annoyed a great number of people here. Some intentionally, others not so – I have been informed my laugh puts people off. Thankfully, there’s enough hearing protection around the place to assist those with that problem. However, it appears that I have also made some great friends, or alright acquaintances at best, as I have gotten a few presents through the years from my colleagues. My birthday and anniversary month had me thinking about all the lovely little trinkets I have acquired from the people I work it on-site over the last few years.

Technically not a present but a very pleasant surprise to walk into. A towel pup!
Technically not a present but a very pleasant surprise to walk into. A towel pup!

Majority of these probably don’t mean a great deal to anyone but I, even the people who gave these to me may not realise how grateful I am for these little things.

I really appreciate even the smallest and most random of things. I may not come across as super sentimental but deep down, I am a little bit (although I will deny this if someone feels the need to verify this statement in person). An SMS to see how things are or to check how my doctor’s appointment was goes a long way in securing a spot on my People I Like list (also known as my People I Don’t Want to Throw into the Crusher YET list). Although certain comments like me being as noisy as certain super noisy people on-site negates the nice SMS gesture and puts you on the other list, the Crusher Feed list. Yes, FF I mean you. But thankfully, it’s my birthday month so you have a chance to make a transition, depends entirely on what present you get me of course…

Anyway, to celebrate October, I decided to share with everyone some of the awesome things I have acquired over the years.

A door locking device from Mr. Carpeto. You have all read about my struggle with the cleaners waking me up. The lovely Carpets got me this nifty little thing; it’s to stop anyone from entering your room as it keeps it locked even if they have the key. Although it hasn’t happened to me, some of the guys had been woken up by cleaners actually entering their room while they are still in there – supposedly some caught in semi compromising positions. Although I never had that issue when I was still doing nights there have been several near-misses in the last few months as I change my morning routine. The cleaner has opened my door just as I am about to walk out – thankfully nothing embarrassing has happened yet but the close calls are enough to get me to start using this magnificent tool.

Safety first! Locked from the inside, prevents the likelihood of indecent encounters with the cleaners.
Safety first! Locked from the inside, prevents the likelihood of indecent encounters with the cleaners.

My woes about the cold nights also did not go astray, as a certain someone currently teetering on the Crusher Feed list gave me this pocket warmer last year. Sadly, when I actually needed it I couldn’t work out how it is supposed to function and I couldn’t find the gift giver to clarify … so it has never been used. From what I can gather it’s something which emits heat in your pocket – but there’s some technical bits beforehand which I couldn’t work out. But isn’t it pretty though? I may not get it to function as required, but its decorative and that works just as well for me (especially when its not too cold).

I think its the requirement for lighter fluid that has me scared on this one. It may have to remain a shiny decorative fixture for now...
I think its the requirement for lighter fluid that has me scared on this one. It may have to remain a shiny decorative fixture for now…

An old coin from Indy the feather-man, well technically he is the Enviro-man but he wears feathers on his cap so I am going to go with feather-man. He found this on one of his environment technician excursions, or whatever it is that enviro’s do. I used to collect coins as a kid so when he asked if I wanted it, I said, heck yeah! He didn’t give it to me all grotty, he buffed it so it is in the state that it’s in now – display case material! He reckons that this type of coin was pulled from circulation in the early 1950’s and was most likely thrown into a fire as it is a bit singed.

My very pretty penny.
My very pretty penny.

From the most entertaining comedy duo on site, also known as the drill and blast guys mentioned a few blog entries ago – a Disgust eraser and the most awesome USB drive ever. The eraser was a random thing his daughter had left in his bag and when he handed it to me as a joke at the bar that night, I took it. Disgust is my favourite character from the movie Inside Out so I am most definitely keeping it – hopefully his daughter doesn’t ask for it back. Might make it uncomfortable then!

The beginning of what could potentially be an extensive Disgust collection. Yes, I am very much in touch with my inner child.
The beginning of what could potentially be an extensive Disgust collection. Yes, I am very much in touch with my inner child.

The USB drive, supposedly the other half of the dynamic duo was at a conference and was racking his brain for what he could give to me. Of course, this story being true is as likely as me hitting the next lottery jackpot! But I excitedly accepted the USB and in my usual mature manner, showed it to everyone I could because I really think it is pretty awesome.

No words...
No words…

In terms of actual occasion presents I have been very lucky too. I got my one and only honey badger shirt for my second Christmas on site. This was when only two of us did a Kris Kringle for Christmas! It was really challenging trying to figure out who got it for me but thankfully I was able to narrow it down. The previous year when the whole crew was involved in the Kris Kringle I also got a pretty awesome bag plus toiletry kit. Which was surprising as someone else got a mankini and another one something even worse… Miss Andy also started me on a bit of an obsession with gym tops after giving me my first viscose material tank for my birthday last year. For those of you out there who exercise, do yourself a favour and check out anything that’s viscose fabric.

Nothing indeed...
Nothing indeed…

There’s also the various teas I have had the pleasure of indulging in. I have never been a big tea drinker, up until I started working with the Curly one. He always has a box of tea in his bag and he has me hooked now. The best cup of tea I had was the one that was there waiting for me one morning when I wasn’t feeling well. I went out and did my first round of area checks, by the time I came back there was a warm cup of tea waiting for me to help me feel a bit better. When we changed areas and no longer worked together, I would get tea bags every now and again on the morning trips to work to continue on our tea experiences.

Another birthday present from a few years ago from a colleague.
Another birthday present from a few years ago from a colleague.

These are a few of the things I am very much appreciative of in my time on-site. As much as there are people who make it challenging. There are also a number of people, and their smallest of gestures, who make it more than worthwhile.

And of course, special shout out to the Dunning-Kruger poster boys and the Darwin Award contenders I have come across. Thanks to you lot, my mane now sparkles in the right lighting. Yes, those smart guys in the white coat argue that grey (or technically white) hair cannot be attributed to stress. However, I like to give credit where credit is due.

Going for The Clooney look this year!
Going for The Clooney look this year!