Thank you for reading my latest blog post, “Part 9: Updates and Looking to the future”. This post will cover my transition from working as Head Coach at The Fit Project (see the featured image above – that was taken on one of the first days after picking up the keys to TFP!) to securing a professional role at beyondblue as the National Engagement Manager in the Police and Emergency Services Program. It will also cover training updates and my headspace and overall mental health leading up to the ‘Fire and Ice’ Ultra Marathon in Iceland late next month.
Before I begin, thank you so much those who have pledged a donation (including the most recent June 2018 donations) on the ‘mycause’ page to either myself or Phoenix Australia – the national centre of excellence in posttraumatic mental health, as the donation recipients. I feel so proud that your generosity and the physical and mental duress that I’ll be putting my body under during this 250km ultra-marathon will be going to such an incredible cause. Your support means the world to millions of Australians (myself included) who endure mental health difficulties and mental health conditions each and every day. I look forward to fulfilling the tasks including shoutouts, recorded footage, song nominations and burpees associated with the relevant donations that I promised in the recent funding drive last month. For those who still wish to donate (only $250 away from the fundraising target!) you can do so here: https://www.mycause.com.au/page/162984/james-maskeys-250-km-ultra-marathon-for-ptsd-awareness
This is a bittersweet announcement. Many of you will know that last month I made the difficult decision to resign from my role as Head Coach at The Fit Project to take a mental health advocacy and relationship management role with beyondblue in the Police and Emergency Services Program. As I have written extensively through blogs 1 – 8, I am a retired Police Officer with a mental health diagnosis in my history. With this history in mind, I made the decision to embark upon a new chapter in my professional journey to change the stigma that surrounds mental health and assist in creating meaningful and purposeful policy change in the Emergency Services sector.
Reflecting on what it means to resign from TFP, I feel proud to have been a contributing member of such an exceptional purpose-built functional training facility with the inspired mission of empowering people to reclaim their health, understand more about their bodies and ultimately improve their quality of life.
I also feel so fortunate and so incredibly humbled to have worked alongside each member of the TFP Tribe as they continue their journey towards their individual health and wellness goals. I am constantly inspired by the level of dedication that each of the members display during classes and the energy that they bring to each workout. By far and large, what I will miss the most about The Fit Project is being surrounded by powerful messages of support and positive, uplifting people. The kind hearts of each member and the sense of community that they all foster amongst each other is why The Fit Project feels like home to so many. So, with this being said – thank you. Thank you for being incredible humans and for giving me a reason to leap out of bed each morning. With the support of each other, passionate and knowledgeable coaches Jerome, Jordie, Mel, Jo, Mark and Tessa and the leadership of Roy, I know you will all continue to achieve incredible results.
Transitioning to bb
My new role as the National Engagement Manager for beyondblue’s Police and Emergency Service Program focuses on building relationships with Emergency Service Organisations to ultimately create mentally healthy workplaces. The program aims to promote the positive mental health of emergency service personnel across Australia and reduce their risk of suicide and mental illness through collaboration between agencies, unions, peak bodies and government departments. This collaboration is informed by the research conducted from 2014 through to 2018 by beyondblue and a number of research bodies including The University of Western Australia, in consultation with PES Agencies, into the mental health of emergency service workers.
“There is nothing more important than the mental health and wellbeing of the people who serve and protect our communities every day. This is a landmark piece of research beyondblue is undertaking, and I am delighted that almost every police and emergency services agency in Australia is participating. The information we generate will enable us to improve and strengthen our approach to protecting those who protect us, to make a real difference to people’s lives.”
– Ken Lay AO APM, Chair of the Advisory Group of the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Study of Police and Emergency Services
It is such a privilege and an exceptional honour to work in this program and to assist in providing much needed mental health literacy, stigma reduction and well-informed policy change to 400,000 emergency service employees and volunteers, who provide valuable assistance to the community. This research will be publicly launched in late 2018 and will make a meaningful and dramatic difference to those who protect and serve us and aims to bolster their ability to survive and thrive whilst performing this essential work.
I have been busy putting my body through its paces in the lead up to the ‘Fire and Ice’ 250KM ultra-marathon in Iceland next month. Balancing the training load, nutritional intake, rest and recovery has been tricky of late with a significant increase in training volume and intensity. This came to a head with several recent overuse injuries including Iliotibial band syndrome, a tear in my glute medius/glute min, a broken toe and a sprained ankle. During this time and after each sustained injury, it was difficult not to entertain thoughts of doubt and fear about this overwhelming task of running 250km across the undulating and challenging terrain. Regular and timely psychologist appointments have assisted in silencing this self-talk and remaining grounded in the present.
Just as prevalent are the challenges of running an endurance event with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Up until training for Iceland, I have been unable to sit for long periods of time in my own thoughts. For it’s in this quiet or reflection that thoughts, feelings, and memories associated with traumatic incidents generally occur. Historically, I have been terrified at the thought of enduring these nightmares for a sustained period. That’s why I’m doing this thing though, to challenge the thoughts, flashbacks and re-experiencing symptoms and to promote just how incredibly resilient and capable people who live with mental health conditions are. I now look forward to this event with a healthy balance of fear and confidence.
Training with injuries is more about what you CAN do instead of what you CAN’T do. I learned to adapt training methodologies with regressions, props/aids and alternative methods of movement to ultimately overcome the injuries and continue training Each week. Regardless of injury, I feel just as fast, just as strong and just as ready, as though I was never injured. This was not always easy, with a number of frustrating and humbling moments. But my ultimate reason for doing this lofty endurance challenge kept me motivated, centred and determined – to raise awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, assist in changing the stigma that surrounds mental health, raise the profile of PTSD and to empower those who suffer from the debilitating disorder to seek the support of professionals who can help them recover.
With this in mind a few quick training highlights and updates:
-Two weeks ago I competed in the ‘Tan Ultra’ 50KM ultra-marathon event, with a 2nd place age group finish and 13th overall. It was a brutal yet empowering event.
-Last weekend I was fortunate to take part in The Fit Project’s ‘Ultimate Spartan Transformation Retreat’, with 36 hours of endurance gym workouts, trail runs, hikes and yoga. It was an absolute honour to train alongside such dedicated, athletic and compassionate humans.
-Effective next week until early-August I will be completing AT LEAST 120km (with 200+ KMS planned for key weeks) worth of running per week, as well as 2 strength based training sessions and 1 – 2 yoga sessions at The Fit Project. This is designed to provide challenging training stimulus before the required taper period in the lead up to the ultra-marathon event. I’m already exhausted at the prospect of this, but it’s the work required to not only survive the Fire and Ice ultra-marathon but to flourish under very challenging conditions.
-I am looking to also compete in the You Youngs ultra-marathon trail race (either 50 or 100KM) later this month.
Plenty of exciting training opportunities ahead with only 53 days to go until the main event!
Final note and a huge thank you to Harvey Norman Melbourne City for providing an incredible piece of kit (and something that will help pull me out of any powerful and negative thought patterns), a pair of Jabra branded elite sport wireless earbuds. Your support is greatly appreciated!
Seeking Help for PTSD
If your life is in danger call emergency services:
- Australia – 000
- New Zealand – 111
Lifeline Counselling (24 /7)
- Australia – 13 1114
- New Zealand – 0800 543 354
beyondblue Support Service – 1300 22 4636
Men’s Line Australia – 1300 78 99 78
Kids Help Line – 1800 55 1800
Suicide call back service – 1300 659 467
You can also: talk to someone you trust, visit a hospital emergency department, contact your GP, a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
How To Show Your Support
If you are reading this blog and engaging with the content I’m sharing, thank you. Your subscription to this forum is incredibly humbling and I definitely appreciate your time and energy. If you feel inclined to do so, I ask that you continue to support this forum by one of the options below.
- Help me in my goal of raising awareness of PTSD and support options and my journey by subscribing to this blog, sharing it with your friends and social media platforms.
- If you know of someone who is going through a tough time, have the empathy and the courage to start a meaningful conversation that could truly change or save their life.
- If you wish to support my participation in my ultra-marathon event you can do so by making a donation through my ‘mycause’ page www.mycause.com.au/page/162984 until 1 August 2018. Funds raised through this platform will help to offset the significant preparation costs in representing Australia on the world stage as I run to raise the profile of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Pledge a donation to Phoenix Australia: Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health via my ‘mycause’ page www.mycause.com.au/page/162984 as well. Your support means more than you realise, not only myself but to others who endure Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Thank you for reading and for being an integral part of changing the face of mental health.
Yours in health,