James Macpherson

James’ Lived Experience Story

In late 2018, my business was on the verge of bankruptcy. I had to borrow $10,000 from my grandparents so I could make the payroll over the 2018-19 Christmas break. After an emergency meeting with my accountant in early January 2019, I made the decision to try and rescue the business. I owed the ATO $80,000 and was on a strict payment plan with them. I had to pay them $5000 a month and if I missed one, I was done. I had to sell equipment for the cash and lay-off staff to get the company as lean as possible.

In addition, my second child was born in January 2019. I already had a three-year-oldat home. My wife was on maternity leave and my business was on its knees. We went months with zero income coming into the house, we had to survive on savings. Every day felt like the day the company was going to be dealt a fatal blow. Small businesses face setbacks all the time and even small bumps felt like they were catastrophic events.

During 2019 my mental health completely disintegrated. I had unwittingly adopted awful habits in my attempt to manage the workload I had to take on and to cope with the pressure of a new baby in the house and being broke. I was sleeping 4-6 hours per night, eating a poor diet, not exercising and drinking heavily. At my worst, I was drinking two boxes of full-strengthbeer per week (approx. 67 standard drinks).

Slowly but surely, the company’s financial position was improving but the mountain summit seemed impossible to reach. I felt like a failure and a poor excuse of a man. I wasn’t providing for my family. The stress levels in my house were unbearable. The pressure, pain and shame became so bad that I started having suicidal ideations.

I didn’t seek help during this time. Ishould have. It was the hardest time of my life but slowly but surely,I got the business back in the black. At the same time, I started putting myself back together. I was kind of hoping that once the business was profitable that my mental health would magically fix itself but that wasn’t the case. I was making progress,but it was slow and in the end,I reached out to a counsellor and had some sessions.

The sessions with the counsellor were helpful but ultimately it was the work I did on my own that made the difference. Over the past couple of years,I have learned a lot about myself, about accountability, leadership, responsibility, and the importance of taking care of yourself, especially when you’re under the pump.

I am pleased to say I am in a completely different place nowadays. Iam borderline evangelical about the importance of having a healthy mental state at all times. Waiting until the shit is hitting the fan is not a good time to start. I have empathy for those suffering with poor mental health and have become very attuned to the signs in others. I have referred two employees to OzHelp as I saw warning signs that I was familiar with.