Ausnew Home Care | Noongar musician Phil Walleystack shares story of recovery from anxiety and depression

Noongar musician Phil Walleystack shares story of recovery from anxiety and depression

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In 2018, Noongar musician Phil Walleystack was due to board a plane to perform at the Commonwealth Games in Queensland.

Readers are advised this article refers to psychological and emotional trauma that may be triggering for some.

The trip had been 18 months coming and Mr Walleystack was supposed to join the Four Winds Didgeridoo Orchestra after much planning and rehearsing.

But when he went to get on the plane he realised something was wrong.

"I felt like this brick wall just got put right in front of me and I couldn't step any further," said Mr Walleystack, who lives in Perth's southern suburbs.

"I started shaking and crying and I didn't know what was going on."

Phil Walleystack rehearses with the orchestra.
Phil Walleystack was scheduled to perform at the Commonwealth Games in Queensland during 2018.()

Putting it down to tiredness, Mr Walleystack and his wife Mel went home, rescheduling their flight for the following day.

But the next day, the same thing happened.

"It happened three or four times," Mr Walleystack said.

"I didn't do anything about it, and it got worse and worse. I ended up in a very bad place."

He did not make it to the Commonwealth Games.

Mr Walleystack said he was having a mental breakdown, although he did not realise it at the time.

"I was the chairperson for Noongar Radio here in Perth. I was also performing a lot, travelling a lot," he said.

"We were renovating the house, we were working on a lot of things, a lot of productions, a lot of big events around the city.

"I took on way too much. I didn't rest when I should have rested, and I just burnt out.

"It's like my mind and body said, 'Stop', and I sunk into depression."

Hourly panic attacks

Mr Walleystack said things eventually became so bad he was having hourly panic attacks and could not leave his bedroom.

"Some days, I just couldn't remember what I did yesterday because my mind was just messed up," he said.

"I don't know how many gigs and shows that I put off because I just couldn't get in the car and go.

"I got to the point where I wanted to die."

A family of four stand in front of a fire in their backyard. A man and woman, and two children aged 9 and 11
Phil Walleystack with his wife Mel and children Cara and Jarra.()

During this time, it was his wife who kept the family functioning.

"He wasn't able to walk into a shopping centre or pick the kids up from school without getting overwhelmed and feeling like he's going to have a panic attack," Ms Walleystack said.

"We had to reorganise our lives to try and avoid trigger points."

 A woman with warm blonde hair and a cream blazer on looks at the camera
Mel Walleystack says it is also important to look after yourself while supporting someone with depression.()

Ms Walleystack said it was very hard to get help for her husband during this time.

"We drove all the way to the city to see a psychiatrist, and she just couldn't accommodate that he couldn't walk into the clinic to see her," she said.

"We had tried to get professional help, but there wasn't anything suited towards the obstacles he was facing."

Past trauma catching up

Mr Walleystack said trauma from his past had been catching up with him.

"Things like my parents breaking up when I was young, and I remember, you know, just my mum and sister drove off down the road," he said.

"I lost two younger brothers — one died in a car accident and the other was stabbed in the heart.

"These were young people, dying too soon."

Mr Walleystack said in an attempt to stay strong for his family, he had never allowed himself to grieve.

Seeing that Mr Walleystack was having a hard time, a friend suggested he try hypnotherapy.

"I was really unsure about it … I thought I was gonna bark like a chicken or something," Mr Walleystack said.

But he attributed the hypnotherapy sessions he did with mindset coach Sally Barker as "the thing that got him back on track".

Readers suffering from depression or other mental health issues are advised to seek professional help as a first port of call.

Finding a trance-like state

Ms Barker said her trade was nothing like the "magical" depiction of performance-based hypnotherapy, and that she is often referred clients from doctors and psychologists.

A woman with dark hair and a pink blazer smiles at the camera
Peak Performance mindset coach Sally Barker trains athletes and performers.()

"Stage hypnosis is pure entertainment. This is very, very different," she said.

Ms Barker said hypnotherapy worked on the subconscious mind to process a "backlog" of emotions by getting to their roots and "clearing it".

"Then, if you do have to access the normal emotion of say, anxiety, it's because the situation wants it, not because you're reacting because of years old stuff," she said.

Ms Barker said hypnotherapy involved relaxing the mind and body to a trance-like state that Mr Walleystack likened to meditation.

"Your mind and body are completely relaxed and then you work through certain processes while you're in that state," he said.

"It's the same state you're in before you go to sleep, or when you're driving and you turn up and you're like, 'Oh, I'm here already'."

It helped him access memories and emotions from his childhood, so that he could move past them.

"The bad thoughts and memories that I had, the emotion was still connected to it," Mr Walleystack said.

"Hypnotherapy isn't wiping the slate clean. It's removing the emotion from your memory."

A 'lightness' returning

Ms Walleystack said she had noticed a "lightness" return to her husband.

"He's much happier, much calmer as well."

A framed wedding photo of a man and woman next to some flowers on a mantle
Phil Walleystack says his wife, Mel, kept him going during his depression.()

Mr Walleystack, who enjoys painting, said the content of his art changed during his healing journey.

"I was painting some really dark, messed up stuff — I just wanted to scribble and push paint around," he said.

"When I started with Sally, I started painting waterfalls."

The songs he wrote changed too.

"I didn't write much at all for the last three years … but this new song that I'm working on is a bloody love song."

A man in a white shirt and cap paints a waterfall on a canvas
Phil Walleystack's artwork changed as his mental health improved.()

Mr Walleystack acknowledged that mental health was a long, slow journey that he was only just beginning.

He wanted to share his story to prevent others from suffering in silence and urged them to talk to people, take care of the things in their mind, so they can "make that healthy".

"And automatically, you want to do healthier things for your life and your body," Mr Walleystack said.

"I used to sleep in until 10 in the morning, and then sit up all night.

"Now I wake up at sunrise. I want to get up and live."


Source: ABC

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