You’re about to embark on a bike ride from Rainbow Bay to the other side of the country and finish up in Perth. What on earth compelled you to do such a thing?
Basically, I live with Type 2 Bipolar and I believe that it is possible to live with mental illness and still achieve great things. I wanted to be able to do this on behalf of those who aren’t as strong as I know I am to inspire them to believe in themselves.
How did the idea for the ride come about?
I’ve always used cycling as a bit of a drug as I’ve found it keeps me balanced. I really enjoy it. Once I was released from jail a few years ago I went on a 150 kilometre ride out through Springbrook and Numinbah, which if you know those roads you know they’re quite hilly. I am a big man and it was just a real tough slog. I had to fight my way to the top of the hill and it occurred to me that it was just like the battle I face every day living with mental illness. I came up with the name Heavy Hiterz and to get it off the ground I knew I needed to do something great to make a difference in people’s lives and I thought well, what better way to do it than to cycle from the east coast to the west coast of Australia. I will be the first person in the world to do it.
What do you tell yourself to keep going on those long journeys?
After the last two years of living in Murwillumbah, where you’ve got to get up over mountains to get anywhere, I’ve learnt it’s about gritting your teeth, digging deep and knowing that when you get to the top, there’s a better ride waiting. For me, it’s just knowing that there is something great on the other side.
How long have you been training for this incredible 4564 kilometre trek?
It’s been the best part of two years but consistently full-time for about nine months.
How are you feeling a few days out? Any regrets?
I’m excited, just anxious to go to be honest! I got sent a photo of Tenterfield and there were icicles hanging off the fences so that should be interesting. Waking up each day with mental illness of any kind is tough so for me, it can’t be any tougher than that. The body will go where the mind will tell it, I’ve learnt that. Self belief is massive, if you can visualise something beforehand you’ll do it. 12 months ago I rode out to Kyogle, a 120 kilometre round-trip with 1700 metres of climbing, which is massive, but I got beaten the first time. I couldn’t make it up the Kyogle climb. Two months later I did it, I knew I could and since then I’ve used it to train. So what I am getting at is that if you can visualise something and back yourself you can achieve great things.
How long will it take you from start to finish?
I am confident I will do it in under 50 days. I will average 150 kilometres a day, there will be some days where I only need to do 120 but others I’ll need to do 190 to stay on track. It’s not going to be easy by any means but I’ve tried to prepare myself mentally as best I can and we’ve broken it down into a daily thing.
What do you hope to achieve through this ride?
I just want to get the word out there that you are not alone. Heavy Hiterz is a not-for-profit organisation that is here to help those living with mental illness and those who support people with mental illness. We are fundraising across the journey and all money raised will go into developing programs and better structured strategies for people to be able to implement in their daily lives to manage their illness.
How can readers help?
Readers can show their support by donating to the Heavy Hiterz website and they can follow the ride. There will be daily blogs and live video uploads, I really want to bring everybody along on the journey with me. Readers can also follow our community page on Facebook, over the last two years we’ve worked hard to create a safe place for everybody who wants to talk or share a journey or ask another person about their struggles with mental illness. Nobody has ever done this before and we have and it’s successful. It’s really wonderful and unique because it’s actually developed by people who live with mental illness. People can see and feel that there is no stigma to come and be part of the Heavy Hiterz community and some of the stories and journeys people have shared they’ve never spoken about before publicly. For me, that is a win right there. We’re saving lives because people are realising they are not alone and suicide is not the option.
Let’s take it back a bit, you had a tough upbringing and spent some time in prison for drug-related offences. What was the turning point for you?
I was physically and sexually abused as a kid, was in and out of foster homes and lived on the streets before being sent to prison. This last one was the big one, so to speak, I was looking at a ten year sentence and ended up with six. For me, not seeing my second son born, that was tough. Knowing what my wife and children had gone through from my choices and what we’d lost wasn’t good enough to have happen again. There were some lives I saw lost in prison due to mental illness and I just realised that not enough is done. For me, it was about coming out and being that person that finds the strength to make a difference. I know what I am capable of and I believe in what I do.
You were diagnosed with Type 2 Bipolar 15 years ago, if you could give that guy some advice, what would it be?
No one knew what Bipolar was back then so it was just a title for someone who was ADD, manic depressive, full of anxiety and aggression. They just chucked me a couple of tablets and I was a guinea pig for many years. I stopped taking medication because it made me feel terrible but I will say that once I found the right medication, which today they are a lot better at doing, it made a huge difference. It’s such a tough time and this is where people really struggle, it’s horrible. I do believe that I wouldn’t be where I am without the stability I got from medication though, it gave me a chance to breathe and to find me again. I have now educated myself about the illness, developed support networks and I have something that I am passionate about that gives me the high that I need. As long as I am active and doing something positive, life is very manageable.
Finally, any words to live by?
You are not alone.