Hi, my name is Ivan Zwart and like many of us, I have had my battles with my mental health. The good news is that I’m really well now and have learnt a lot from my experiences. I’ll just share a little of my story in the hope that it may be of benefit.
Up until the age of about 21 not much seemed to go wrong in my life. I went to good schools, played heaps of sport and had a great family life. Life was very good to me. Unfortunately, however, my mother developed dementia when I was around 21 and she battled it for almost ten years before she died in 2006. To make matters worse, my father developed cancer a few years before Mum died, and he died in 2010. While it was terrible for all of my family, the stress associated with my parent’s suffering affected me badly. I struggled from anxiety for five years, chronic fatigue while living away in Darwin, and after Dad died I had the first of three manic episodes, the first two of which were followed by depression. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
The loss of my parents in this way and the period of struggle with my mental health was really difficult, but it also taught me a lot about life and perhaps, a bit about the human condition. During the difficult times I did a lot of reading of self-help and psychology books, and I also did a personal development course, all of which helped to some degree. However, the most significant improvement in my wellbeing came when I discovered heart meditation. I’d tried mindfulness and fount it helpful, but the heart meditation was even more effective and it brought with it feelings of lightness, peacefulness and joy – all things which I hadn’t really felt for a decade or two. The heart meditation has become a daily practice for me, and changed my life immeasurably. I’m consistently happy now, I love my life and not long after I started the practice in 2010 I also met my wife Dani, who has been incredibly supportive and kind.
The other thing that my struggles have done is enabled me to pass on what I have learnt through my business, Happy Ground Wellbeing, and also get involved with Flourish, initially as a consumer representative and later, a staff member. I can’t say I wanted the struggles I’ve had, but they have enabled me to learn, which is what happens for most people who go through tough times (and that’s pretty much all of us). The main thing I’ve learnt is that while we all have work to do to improve our wellbeing, underneath our burdens and trauma we are all naturally peaceful, loving and happy.
If you’re struggling at all, the message I’d like to pass on is that things can and will improve, and that finding peace and happiness isn’t all that complicated if we know what to do. The trick is to find tools that make you feel happier, and then practice them consistently. Then anything is possible 😊