How 3 Remarkable People Influenced My Writing
My third book, Choosing Happy is the culmination of two years work and I couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out. But it didn’t start life as excellent as it ended up. My writing style and my editing were influenced greatly by three very special people and their stories, and I want to share a small part of them with you now.
Let’s start with a little courage.
Or a lot, if I’m honest. You see, admitting to yourself that you have depression takes a whole lot of courage. Sometimes this is actually the hardest step. But to then take that extra step and tell anyone who cares to listen that your mental health is not as ka pai (good) as it should be, that’s next level. And that’s exactly what John Kirwan did. Name sound familiar?
Well, if you follow rugby at all then you’ll remember Kirwan as one of the best union players in the iconic New Zealand All Blacks. He was one of the highest try scorers in international rugby league history and he also coached the national teams in Japan and Italy.
But what many people don’t realise is that he struggled with crippling depression at the height of his career. Kirwan chronicles his battle, and ultimate triumph in his book ‘All Blacks Don’t Cry: A Story of Hope’. And it is one of the few books in this vein that I really enjoyed reading.
While writing Choosing Happy I had moments where my fingers hovered over the keys, and I would have a mild panic attack about what I was writing. You see, I weave facts and solutions together with personal anecdotes in many chapters, and I worried that letting people in on my crazy life story would open me up for criticism and judgement.
But then I looked at John Kirwan, and I knew that if a public figure such as himself, a man who plays the blokeiest of sports, and is expected to be constantly strong, can encourage and inspire others by sharing his struggles with depression, then so can I. John highlighted the fact that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, or how great your life is perceived to be, mental health issues can affect us all. And his openness has encouraged many people to acknowledge problems in their own lives, and seek the help they need.
Mental health still has a huge amount of stigma attached, so the courage people show when they not only ask for help, but then offer that help to others irrespective of how they will be perceived, is incredible. You see, to be courageous you first have to be afraid. I love heights, so jumping out of a plane is lots of fun for me, it takes no courage. But talking about my personal life in the public forum? That’s terrifying!
Thank you John for inspiring me to jump.
And when my courage starts to fade, or I forget how wonderful my life really is, I take a moment and head to Instagram. But not to just mindlessly scroll. I’m looking for one person in particular. Lisa Cox. I don’t remember how I found Lisa originally. I just remember being blown away by her positivity.
Lisa has every reason to be wallowing in a little self-pity. A brain haemorrhage, pneumonia, heart attacks and seizures left her dead. Twice. The subsequent damage to her brain gave her epilepsy, and the doctors had to amputate a leg, all her toes and the tips of 9 fingers. She’s also 25% blind. Lisa is only 27, an age where we’re generally just starting to figure life out, and yet she has been through more than most people ever will.
So why do I stalk her on Instagram? Because she is a vibrant, healthy person who actively encourages gratitude and positivity. She has bad days just like everyone else, but she doesn’t let them define her. She is constantly reminding herself and others that life is amazing. It is full of joy, and colour, and love, it we pause long enough to see it.
Lisa centres me. She reminds me why I write. And she encourages me to take that crap from my past and use it to create a better future. Not just for myself, but for other people too. Because my past experiences have strengthened me. They have made me more understanding, they have encouraged me to find answers, and to share those answers with others who are struggling. They have made me a better person.
And sometimes it’s hard seeing through all the dirt to the beauty underneath, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Sometimes it’s the rain, that makes you sparkle.
Rounding out the fabulous three is Kristina Kuzmic, also known as the ‘Truth Bomb Mom’. She rose to fame with hilarious videos such as ‘I’m Not Your Friend Kid’, and ‘4 Reasons Woman Should NEVER Breastfeed In Public’. But it wasn’t these comedic videos that captured my attention. It was one simply entitled ‘Hope’.
Kristina is Croatian. She only moved to America when she was 14, as her family sought to escape their war-torn country. In her video ‘Hope’ Kristina talks about how she was so low as an adult, she actually considered ending her life. She also talks about how she picked up those broken pieces of her life and re-formed them into something wonderful. And she does it in such a raw, honest, way that you cannot help but pay attention.
I wanted that for Choosing Happy. I wanted to be honest with people about my battle with depression. About how I still struggle with sadness, and irritability. And about how I took those struggles and used them to not just help others, but myself. Kristina’s videos showed me what truth really looks like. It encouraged me to open myself up, and share myself with perfect strangers. And they gave me hope.
Your life doesn’t have to be perfect, to be perfectly wonderful.
You can have a horrific past, and still have an incredible future. And no matter how broken you think you are, you can always re-build.
Choosing Happy has an authenticity now, that it simply didn’t have before. I included more stories about my life than I was really comfortable doing. But I like to think that my truths will help someone else in the same way that Kristina’s have helped me. Thank you Kristina for telling it how it is, and for reminding people that there is always hope.
When I wrote Choosing Happy John, Lisa, and Kristina didn’t know me from a bar of soap. They had no idea that their stories, their courage, positivity, and truths had inspired me to create a book far more genuine and honest than it began. And this is what I want you to recognise.
Your actions can change peoples lives. Even those you’ve never met. You have the opportunity every moment of every day to inspire. To offer hope, or comfort, or courage, or love. So speak the truth, be courageous, and find the positive even on the bad days. Hell, especially on the bad days!
To see some of John’s story you can watch a short video on YouTube.
If you struggle with low mood, or know someone who does, then check out Choosing Happy, my new mental health book on Amazon xx