"This is the first time I've shared my story and it's scary as shit" Kayla Brereton - OneWave Alex Heads
Kayla Brereton who launched OneWave in Alex Heads Queensland, shares her inspirational story... A couple of years ago I went through a really tough break up (I’m not sure they’re ever not tough, but mine sucked). After a year of forcing myself to shut down any pain or emotion, my body couldn’t handle it any longer and I started having panic attacks. My body was literally forcing itself to feel again. I became terrified of what was happening to me, resulting in some intense anxiety issues. This went on for months with the attacks becoming more frequent and aggressive while the anxiety took over what felt like every aspect of my life.
It was dangerous to go swimming or driving (due to the potential of having an attack). I started hating public places. I was scared of everyone and everything, with every part of my life feeling like a struggle I would never win. At the time I was living in Sydney and remember calling mum (in Queensland) every morning crying hysterically at the thought of simply getting out of bed. The concept of surviving the next 12 hours was overwhelming and terrifying.
I remember one work meeting where I had to excuse myself (while pitching for a new, high-profile, high-paying, this-means-everything client) to get a “coffee”. I actually went to the bathroom and sat on the floor crying from the pain of another attack pounding my chest. I had no idea what was happening to me or why. I had no idea who to tell or how to ask for help. I was confused and angry because it shouldn’t be happening to me. I had been a ballerina, TV presenter, radio newsreader and successful PR chick. I had a good family, good friends, good home and car. I had no right to be upset. I had no right to be having panic attacks or anxiety.
But that’s the thing about mental health – it doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t choose you based on your job or car or looks, race, religion, family or friends.
Due to the attacks being so bad I ended up at the Doctors. I was diagnosed with a Generalised Anxiety Disorder, frequent Panic Attacks, Depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder / Perfectionism – all masked by intelligence and the ability to present well. You see my panic attacks had resulted in anxiety, which resulted in a big dump of self-hate, resulting in depression. My obsessive need to present well (perfectionism) and intelligence to understand what was required from me in different situations meant I was able to mask emotions, or in most cases hide them completely.
My Doctor told me to move away to a small shack somewhere by the beach and start again. I needed to re-learn self-worth, values, expectations and the definition of achievement. At 22, I was told I needed to take the time to re-build my life.
Around the same time (those mornings I couldn’t get out of bed) I scrolled through Instagram and came across OneWave. I was completely in awe. I couldn’t believe there were young, aware, normal-seeming people openly talking about being in a “funk” and experiencing what I was. It looked healthy, fun and care-free. They were honest, kind and seemed as if they genuinely cared. They were starting conversations about an issue which was destroying my life, yet still shunned by society and mainstream media. Even without meeting them, they made me feel like I (with my crazy mind and pounding chest) was normal. I wasn’t alone.
I was in no form to drive to Bondi and wasn’t going to dress in fluro or rock up at a public place. Damn it, I couldn’t even get out of bed. But I promised myself when I could, I would do OneWave. I’d show others it’s okay not to be okay. So one year, four different doctors, 10 psychology sessions, about a million tears and a move the Sunshine Coast later I was ready.
In January this year (despite not owning a surfboard, fluro, roofracks or being able to surf) I posted on the local Facebook community page that I was keen to start OneWave and had a local guy Drew Neiht respond. He wanted to start it too! He knew the coast, could surf and loved OneWave – sweet. From there we invited our friends and the group began to grow. Some days there were three of us, other days there were 10. But every time I bloody love it. I left feeling excited, fresh and free…. funk free.
Eventually people started asking questions, recognising us and coming down. Others found out via social media, some had been waiting years for it to start! It didn’t take long before the community got behind it – within weeks OneWave was featured on 91.9FM, WIN News (Ch 9) and Salt Magazine. We made flyers and gave them to local businesses. Lifeguards, bloggers and community groups helped spread the word. Everyone wanted to share the stoke of OneWave.
People started telling me how it was changing their life. Friends, friends of friends, surfers, strangers and survivors shared how for the first time (in a long time) they had something to look forward to. For those who work away, it’s something to come home to.
At OneWave, we hear stories of how people feel safe, understood and as if they finally belong. Some overcome their fear of the ocean or simply enjoy the incredible feeling of catching a wave for the first time. People have good weeks and bad but know if they are struggling, there are others to call who want to help because they genuinely care. At OneWave conversations matter, ideas matter… people matter.
Months later, OneWave Alex Heads has grown into almost a movement on the coast. People are starting their own community-based endeavours knowing they have the full support and love of the community. Knowing they, their talent and ideas matter. There are yoga groups, meditation and music jamming sessions. Friendships have blossomed, people feel empowered and conversations are happening everywhere about mental health with so many proud to be part of the OneWave community.
This is the first time I’ve shared my story and it’s scary as shit! It’s not easy to openly discuss your vulnerabilities and present yourself, in a way, as damaged goods. But as I write this I think of those who have endured or are enduring life’s battles. Who are struggling, like I did, to simply get up. But that’s what OneWave is all about. It encourages you to wake up, get up, surf it out and talk it out – and that means everything to me. I wish people knew how much one simple conversation has the power to change someone else’s life… maybe even save it.
THANK YOU for sharing your inspirational story Kayla. You're one brave amazing human:) Big love from all of the OneWave Community. Lets surf soon Yew!