Joe Williams has had voices in his head telling him to commit suicide every day since the age of 11 and he’s proud his new book details those daily struggles in vivid and compelling detail, because he wants his experiences of managing bi-polar and depression to help others battling the same illnesses.
His honesty is brutal, but then again, so is his message he hammers home across the globe, a star rugby league player, a boxing world champion, suffering unimagined mental issues every day.
“As long as I can remember I’ve always had an inner dialogue in my head that told me I wasn’t good enough, that I’d never amount to anything and that I was better off dead,” Joe said.
“I almost comatosed myself every afternoon after training just to just to get home and get away from reality.
“You know I’d have my kids crawling all over me wanting to play with their dad and I couldn’t even lift my head off the lounge,” he said.
He hopes his book will help others, and show that you can get through those dark times.
“The book, there’s a lot of self-help in the book, it’s letting people know what I went through, there’s suicide attempts, there’s drug taking there’s alcohol abuse but it’s all about how I’ve got through these dark times – think about it – a voice is trying to kill you every single day for a huge majority of my life, I’m talking looking at oncoming cars, I’m talking about looking at trees and making a plan, it’s gripping stuff but it’s real, nothing’s made up, it’s everything that I go through every single day,” Joe said.
“This is real, we have people taking their lives every single day, feeling they’re alone and they can’t get out of those dark places, this talks to those very people and it’ll hopefully help them to get out of those dark places.
“Why I do what I do, and why I’m always so busy helping other people, is helping people helps me – we live in a society where everyone worries about themselves, when we start to help others we realise that if I help you and you help you and you help you, eventually it comes back - we have a saying in Aboriginal culture we call Narpitji Narpitji which is to always give – we’re always giving so everyone is always receiving,” he said.
“Defying the Enemy Within – How I silenced the negative voices in my head to survive and thrive” couldn’t be more timely, with new research from Beyond Blue this week identifying anxiety as the nation’s most common mental illness with two million sufferers identified every year.
Joe says anxiety is just one of his problems.
“100 percent, everyone’s idea of living today is how much money we’ve got and how many houses you’ve got, mate if you’ve got a roof over your head, clothes on your back and a gutful of food then you’re happy, you’re living,” Joe said.
“I’ll tell you why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pre-1788 never had problems with anxiety and depression, we had everything we needed, absolutely everything we needed as far as we had food we had water we had shelter and family.
“A big contributor to today’s anxiety problem, and the world is crippled with anxiety, is the thing that everyone wears on their wrist, a clock, we’ve all gotta be somewhere at a certain time, we’ve all gotta do this by a certain day,” he said.
If you or someone you know needs help:
- Talk to a GP or other health professional
- SANE Australia Helpline 1800 18 SANE (7263) www.sane.org
- beyondblue support service line 1300 22 46 36
- Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au
For young people:
- headspace 1800 650 850 www.headspace.org.au
Joe Williams says he’s spent years researching brain injuries.
“What the science is starting to show is that concussions and head trauma causes depression and I can think back and track back as far as I can go to my first suicidal ideation (suicidal thought) telling me to kill myself, was the week after I had my first concussion at the age of 11 and obviously after a lifetime of rugby league and a lifetime of boxing you get a few concussions you know and a few head knocks,” Joe said.
He said the film “Concussion” starring Will Smith was a turning point for him in his understanding of the trauma that’s been such a major part of his life.
“The film talked about an illness called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy CTE) they tested something like 143 NFL players, 140 came back positive, it’s a brain injury with repeated concussions and pretty much bruising of the brain which cause depression.
“So the importance of head trauma and this is why I get so upset with the NRL and the AFL around head trauma and head injuries is because they just don’t understand the impact it has and this stuff doesn’t come to the surface until six or eight years afterwards.