My mental health recovery story Rahul Seth


In late January 2016 I saw a tweet on Twitter to apply to have your mental health recovery story shared shared at a recovery stories by candlelight evening hosted by the Western Australian Association for Mental Health (WAAMH) as part of their 2016 annual conference. Despite having a trip booked to New Zealand which finished 2 days before the event, I decided to apply for this and share my story.

Over the course of 4 weeks I participated along with 20 other participants in six workshops where we worked to develop our stories so they could be shared at the event. We worked with 4 speaker coaches and got to a point where we could perform a story without any written forms of assistance.

Unfortunately I didn't make the final cut for he event, but as consolation my story has been published in a book by the WAAMH. I was very fortunate to have some friends from my high school background (Trinity College) and the TEDxPerth community, of which I am a part of, help me in developing my speech for the event and I would like to thank them for their help. I would also like to thank Christine, my speaker coach, the other speaker coaches and the WAAMH for their part in developing my story. I found the experience to be valuable in terms of both professional and personal development.

The following story is my final copy of he written story published by the WAAMH. My story focuses on photography being the final key ingredient to my recovery. The pictures that accompany it follow the theme of "light through darkness" which I feel is apt for this story. Feel free to read and at the end there will be ways you can share your feedback with me. I hope you enjoy

Success is a journey, not a destination. These words were inscribed on an award I won from my checkout assistant days, at Coles. And only now I could fully appreciate them. Let me take you on a little journey on how i reached this current destination.

The pathway to this moment can be described as both interesting and turbulent. My origins are not simple. I'm Swiss born, moved to Australia at a very young age and I have Indian family roots. I was raised by a loving single parent, who put her heart into giving me opportunities that I probably would never have had if it wasn't for her work. This included many things, but the areas of focus were education and hard work.

Now, I can tell you that people from an Indian background typically place heavy importance on work and academia, and in my case that was no exception. In my high school years i found I had a talent for accounting. This became my natural career choice.

Then come my uni days. As a result of my upbringing, I had this notion that being successful in my career path would lead to success and opportunities in other parts of my life. To get the best career opportunity, I fully focused on maximising my grades. There was no time to foster friendships, no time to discover passions, and other than an interest in motorsport it was all about one thing: work, work, work.

Well you're probably familiar with the saying "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". At the time I didn't know that, my focus was the destination.

However, my first three working years after university was not a bright one. The first year working as an auditor was substandard where I ultimately received a formal warning for poor performance. This lead me to being diagnosed with depression. After spending the second year as a tax accountant, I was hit by a redundancy. This hit me hard.

The following year proved very difficult. I went through an eight month struggle of being unemployed. When I did secure employment, things were good. In truth they were too good. I ended up exhibiting some erratic behaviours which saw me hospitalised and received a diagnosis I wasn't expecting: I had bipolar disorder.

I struggled with the diagnosis due to the fact that I mainly thought that the highs and lows I was experiencing were predominately a result of the life experiences I was going through.

The feelings of inadequacy, in combination with this diagnosis led me to some incredibly dark thoughts and places. After a tumultuous year, on Christmas day I decided to do something that i shouldn't have done:

I tried taking my life.

After detoxing from the suicide attempt, I spent another stint in a mental health hospital and came out determined to be a new man. My one thought was "life was worth living and what do I need to do to live a balanced, fulfilling life". Apart from motorsport, I was essentially starting with a blank canvas.

Initially I picked up a tennis racquet, which was a positive start, not that I fully appreciated the good effect it had. Next was a bicycle, which brought joy for a while, but wasn't developed into a genuine passion. I then did some volunteering and travelling and found both those experiences to be an enriching part of my life.

It sounds like I was doing all the right things to live a mentally healthily life. However, I was still depressed. I wasn't where I wanted to be career wise, and despite having all these little activities I enjoyed, none of them evolved into a strong passion that would bring me happiness on a consistent basis.

Then came 2015. The year started off with a wish to simply leave the world of public practise accounting behind and pursue work in the not for profit sector.

I started working as an employment consultant. But I was still lost. I found I had a lot of free time & didn't know what to do with it. I felt stupid, lost and idiotic for not having a hobby that I could whole heartedly drive my energy towards.

In a late night conversation with a friend I shared my feelings. He asked me what I liked. After thinking hard about it, I said: Photography. The reason that I'd never properly considered it before is that it seemed too expensive to get into. You have to remember that I am an accountant by heart and don't like to spend out of a tightly controlled personal budget.

I agreed it would be worth the plunge. So I popped into a camera shop and spent my well earned savings on an Olympus camera.

At first the camera wasn't used much at all, as I was waiting for lessons. However, I soon found the hang of it and took off. Trips to places like Kings Park, South Perth Foreshore, Como Jetty and other picturesque places in Perth soon ensured. There was so much variety I could shoot with this camera.

Later I discovered Facebook groups and Meetup of photographers. which brought a new element to my work, I could connect with people who shared my passion. This has lead to new friendships & photography skills acquired, and has made me extremely happy.

Just after buying my camera I achieved another lifelong goal, I ended up working as a not for profit accountant for the same organisation that hired me as an employment consultant. My world had turned a full 180 degrees. A dream career, a life filled with multiple interests & a driving ambition in photography that let me be connected to both people and nature, at the same time.

Success is a journey, not a destination. My journey has been one filled with many ups and downs, but overall it has lead me to a successful place. Now, let the journey continue...

Ways to stay in touch

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Email: Rahul.Seth@me.com

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