'Surfing helps me cope with depression'

Grant Trebilco struggled with mental health issues for 10 years before being diagnosed as bipolar in 2012.

Grant Trebilco struggled with mental health issues for 10 years before being diagnosed as bipolar in 2012.

I went through 10 years of hiding the fact that I had depression. It was essentially a decade of massive highs and massive lows. I didn't know what it was. And because I didn't understand it, I hid it from everyone because I didn't want to be seen as the bloke with issues. I was embarrassed. So I didn't tell anyone.

One day it got so bad that I had to leave halfway through a work presentation. I was presenting in front of a group of 20, and had so much anxiety I had to walk out in the middle of it. That's when I knew I had to go to the doctor. He referred me to a psychologist who put me on anti-depressants ... but unfortunately they sent me into the manic stage of bipolar.

A tumultuous week later, where a bunch of things went down I don't really want to go into, I ended up the psych ward at Manly Hospital

“Maybe if I share the simple recipe of saltwater, surfing and talking about mental health I can prevent people from ever ...

“Maybe if I share the simple recipe of saltwater, surfing and talking about mental health I can prevent people from ever feeling the way I did," says Grant Trebilco.

I was there for 10 days, and can honestly say they were the hardest 10 days of my life. The feelings I had hidden for so many years were suddenly very real and I was in a ward with between 30 to 50 people who were all suffering exactly like I was. It was extremely confronting. I went from the highest high to the lowest low just hours after arriving there. I was diagnosed with bipolar.

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My mum and dad came over from New Zealand to support me in hospital. Once I got out, they helped me pack up my stuff and move back to New Zealand with them. I needed family close by.

I had a hard time at home in the beginning – I couldn't even sit on the couch for five minutes without getting super anxious, so I started going into the surf everyday with my dad and after a while, I realised that surfing was the one thing that could put a smile on my face. It was the only time I didn't feel numb. Being in the surf during that time was where the germ of the idea for One Wave originated.

The other thing that helped was not hiding it – being able to talk about it freely was a huge thing and very liberating after all this time.

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I eventually decided to tell one of my mates I had bipolar. I built up the courage and told him out in the water, waiting for a wave. I had been so scared he'd judge me and make me feel bad, but instead he told me he'd also suffered from anxiety at one point, and was really understanding. Then I told another person, and another, and everyone had some kind of story they could share.

That's when One Wave began. It's a not-for-profit surf community which is about sharing the simple recipe of saltwater, surfing, good friends and Fluoro Friday – a morning of surfing with other people who have mental health issues – so you can start to feel better about yourself and know that you're not alone. We wanted to create this community to give people hope they can beat mental health issues.

One Wave has just turned three, and Fluoro Friday is now held at 60 beaches worldwide, from San Diego and Spain to Mexico and Bali.

It's about wearing ridiculous, bright clothing and getting people down to the sand to start a conversation about mental health that would never normally happen. We want to remove the stigma, and the first way to do that is by people sharing stories with other people. It also gets people swimming in the ocean which definitely helps you through a funk, and just be part of a community where it's okay not to be okay. It doesn't matter who you are or how old you are. It's a fun way of getting people to talk about a very serious issue, and makes it easier to open up.

You know you're doing the right thing when someone shares on Fluoro Friday, that they'd filled their pockets with rocks to drown themselves the night before, but knew that if they just made it through to Friday they'd be okay. That was one of our good friends and regular attendees on a Friday morning. It makes everything we're doing worthwhile.

- Juice Daily


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