Nicole Leishman

Nicole’s Lived Experience Story

People have always fascinated me – their relationships, behaviour, what motivates them – and when I reflect on my life so far, I appear to have subconsciously incorporated my passion into my journey.

At college, I excelled in my Behavioural Studies and Legal Studies courses, my early ‘work life’ was in various units of the then known Department of Health and Human Services and for the past (nearly!) thirty years, I’ve been responsible for human resources and injury management within our family’s commercial roofing and cladding business.

I am also the proud wife of a ‘tradie’ and mum of two wonderful adult sons, Jakob (an apprentice plumber) and Blake (studying engineering).

I am fortunate to be wrapped in love, support and positive guidance but life has not been without drama and adversity.  A few key events being:

  • At 17, I left home on bad terms, after what I now know as being a misunderstanding
  • At 24 my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer (she was only 47 at the time)
  • At 32, I had a cancer scare of my own resulting in a third of my bowel being removed
  • At 34, my mother-in-law passed away of bowel cancer
  • At 36, at one point, we only had $11 to our name after a builder collapsed leaving us with well over $500,000 worth of unpaid works, double that in legal costs and a five year legal battle
  • At 38, I learnt that my mum’s cancer had returned ten-fold which ultimately took her from me at 41

During these turbulent times, ‘life’ did not care how I was feeling, nor did it slow down or put other affairs on hold.  There were countless times that I felt so low and lost, questioning how I could go on.

Once upon a time, I didn’t speak openly about the finer details of my life.  As far as I was concerned, I was a mother and business owner and suppose to role model strength and control.  Throughout my life, I have been ‘accused’ of talking too much and that I am a confident ‘happy person’ (whatever that means!)  The downside is that these characteristics imply that you have all the answers.

When things got really tough and I was struggling to keep up the façade, I found it liberating (rather than debilitating) when I finally revealed my vulnerabilities to my family and work colleagues.  Yeah, they weren’t sure how to manage me initially, but it did get me the help and support I needed at a time I needed it the most.

My mental health journey continues.  I don’t always ‘reach out’ in time but when I do, it helps put things into perspective, reminds me that the world is a good place and that people care.

I now use my own experiences and leadership position to assist others with their struggles, to recognise and ‘name’ their emotions and behaviours and seek appropriate help when needed.  I’ve noticed a lot of people disregard their issues as they feel that they are not ‘big enough’ to worry about (me included!)  I’ve learnt that it does not matter the size of the issue – if its important to you, it is important to address.

I once read a quote that ‘if its mentionable, its manageable’.  How true but so hard for some.

Given this, I am drawn to the OzHelp Foundation mission to raise awareness, identify signs of distress and offer support for ‘hard to reach’ groups – the construction industry being one of them.

I am honoured to be a part of OzHelp’s Reference Group to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues and promote and increase accessibility to early intervention programs with the aim to building a more resilient community.