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Steve Semmens: Bathurst Storyteller

Although I was unaware that I had suffered depression for most of my early life I knew that there was something wrong as I felt constantly unhappy.

My father was a controlling and angry alcoholic who was physically and psychologically abusive. As children we faced a constant barrage of insults and humiliation. Dad on the other hand was a full-grown man, stocky, fit, and aggressive. In those days he was what they called a “real” man. I think of my boys when they were young and I could not imagine taking my fists to them let alone anything else.

I tried to spend as little time as possible at home, always trying to stay over at friend’s places on the weekend, playing rugby, athletics and anything else I could think of not to have to go to school. By 14 I had jobs milking cows for neighbours.

At 15, life became unbearable. It was surreal and as I think back, I see everything in slow motion. The sun setting over the range, the volume of the dogs’ barking getting louder and louder. I slowly raised the gun to my head It was a .22 and a temple shot would easily do the job. With tears in my eyes I pulled the trigger. The recoil sent the barrel upward and the wind from the bullet brushed through my hair. I was a top shot and yet I could not even kill myself properly! Dad was right I was a failure!

I firmly believe God was looking after me that day. Our neighbour, found me lying next to the rifle and took me over to her place. She said three things. Firstly, I only had 12 months of school to go and the I was free to do as I wished. Secondly, my life had a purpose and I needed to seek out what that was. Lastly, happiness comes from within and when you truly learn that nothing can touch you.

It is hard to understand when those who are supposed to protect, support and nurture you are the ones who hurt you the most.

Fast forward a few years and I was moving to Sydney from Auckland at age twenty and making a life for myself. I started my business degree at age 27 and finished three and a half years later. Due to my anger issues it was suggested that I seek counselling from the University psychologist and that was the start of understanding the depression and placing me on the path of healing myself. It almost didn’t happen. Sitting in the waiting room of the psychologist I was about to see, I felt extremely uncomfortable and had decided to leave. As I got up to go the psychologist came out of her office and called out, “Steve, come on in”, so in I went. It was the start of a long hard journey to unravel the psychological damage from my former years, passing through the darkness of depression and into the light of enjoying and honouring life. But it was so worth it.

Over that period of self-analysis and attempting to be the best version of myself I have met some amazing people and made some great friends. It took the support of many friends and my amazing wife Sharyn, who keeps me calm and grounded, but I have been depression free for close to 14 years.

If you are feeling unhappy, or your get angry on a regular basis, or you are feeling that things are just not right, then go and seek assistance, I can guarantee it will make a huge difference in your life. We are not here to suffer. We are here to enjoy life, to love, and be loved. We sometimes just need some help to get there. Start a conversation and you will find you are not alone.

This is my brave!