For the last 13 years I have lived at the top of Heartbreak Hill, the hardest part and halfway point of the City 2 Surf course. Every year my family have a party on race day as we watch all those poor suckers running or walking the 14km go by, all whilst we eat and drink to our heart’s content. However, for the first time ever, this year I will be one of those poor suckers walking the City 2 Surf as part of Team Soli.
You see in April this year a friend of mine took his own life. His name was Daniel Solomons and I had known him since I was a baby. Whilst I can’t pretend he and I were best friends or super close, I still very much considered him a mate, had known him forever and saw him through mutual friends pretty regularly. My parents also grew up with his parents and losing him hit my entire family, as well as our community very hard.
Even though he wasn’t one of my closest friends, the loss hit very close to home for me. For starters, for all my advocating and preaching about mental health and education on mental illness in society, I had actually never had to deal with someone in my life taking their own. It is obviously an awful experience, to know a friend was here one day and gone the next and to know how much they must have been suffering. Also to see the pain their family are going through as they try to come to terms with the loss.
For that first week or so it honestly felt like life wasn’t real and that all of it was some sort of nightmare from which we would all awaken eventually. I think that feeling is a defence mechanism by our brains to protect us from fully having to deal with such an awful tragedy, by preventing us from totally accepting it as real.
Another reason it hit so close to home for me was this unmistakable feeling that it could have been me instead of him. You see, he and I had a lot in common. We were the same age, had the same name, grew up a street away from each other, knew a lot of the same people, and went to the same school (at first). In fact, when I left one school for another after Year 10, Daniel replaced me at my old school. Of course the other reason it felt like it could have been me was how close I came to actually being the one to do what he ended up doing. He and I both had to struggle with the pain of mental illness and unfortunately the illness eventually became too much for him.
After he passed, everyone was left asking themselves the same questions. Why didn’t he tell me how bad it was? What was he going through and what pushed him over the edge? Could I have done anything? Unfortunately those are questions without answers and usually the answer to the last one is ‘no’.
Daniel’s story is all too common and it is awful to think of such a wonderful person as a statistic, but he now does represent another young male life, taken too soon by mental illness.
So in his honour and memory a group of his family and friends will be doing the City 2 Surf as part of Team Soli, raising money for Lifeline Australia.
Lifeline is one of several organisations doing great work in the area of mental health and it is an honour to walk for them. I normally wouldn’t use this platform to ask for money from those reading, but this is a special case and I would like to ask for your support. There are links at the top and bottom of this article where you can donate to Team Soli and raise much needed money for Lifeline Australia.
In terms of the actual City 2 Surf, I must admit I am scared for Sunday. I have been trying to do a bit of preparation by hitting the treadmill and going for longer walks with my dog, but all I have to show for it is the agony that are my thighs. I am hopeful I can complete the 14km all the way to Bondi Beach, but I am lucky to have a pit-stop at the top of Heartbreak Hill where I can take a breather and use the bathroom. And if I happen to pass out and not continue during that breather, well at least I’ll already be home.
The City 2 Surf is a great event because it promotes health and fitness, gives people the opportunity to wear costumes in public and most importantly raises so much money for various causes. Mental health has always been a cause close to my heart and this year it is even more so.
So once again, please take the time to donate to Team Soli and honour the memory of Daniel Solomons.