Conversations on the Couch with Maddison Wittmann

Maddison, a Psychology student of Swinburne University, is striving to breakdown the stigma in mental health and promote the importance of wellbeing using her own experiences of anxiety and depression management. Maddison lives for each and every day, the good and the bad, as her gratitude and purpose shine through. Today, she joins us for a beautiful Conversation on the Couch.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

I’m not sure I could compress all I am most grateful for into one answer, there is simply too much! If I had to name a few though I would say I’m most grateful for like-minded souls, love, health, sunshine, the ocean, and new experiences. I could go on but I’ll leave it there. I’m a big believer in regular gratitude practice, you can read more about how I like to practice gratitude here.

Has your greatest fear ever come true?

The joys of anxiety quite often have you believing your greatest fear is just around the corner, but for some reason, the fear I can spend hour upon hour fretting upon, isn’t as bad as I imagined or never happens. Funny that?
Most recently I have become quite fascinated by the notion of fear. It affects everyone in such different ways and occurs for so many different concepts. Some of us thrive off of it, and others can be debilitated by it. However, I believe everyone has the power to use it to their advantage, fear can assist us to uncover our true desires, be an aid in our understanding if we truly want to do something or not, and it can make situations more exciting. I’m striving to be in the position where I can recognise the fear, decide if this is something I truly desire, and if it is, feel the fear and still do it anyway. However I think this is just the beginning of my understanding and work with fear, check back in with me in 12 months and I may have more to share.

Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset? Does it really matter now?

This time five years ago... my oh my, how things have changed! The beginning of 2014 was (unknown to me at the time) the catalyst in which my passion for mental health and wellbeing developed. I had spent the previous year on horrible medication for acne, that crippled me with horrendous side effects including crying spells and sore joints, and is thought to be perhaps a trigger for my depression and anxiety. ‘That time 5 years ago’ when I was ‘ extremely upset’ was unfortunately majority of the time. Fortunately, the beginning of 2014 was the time in which I acknowledged the fact that I needed professional help and was open to seeing a psychologist. And that’s where the journey began! I was a self-loathing 15-year-old, so unsure of myself, striving to please others in order to maintain ‘friendships’ and was trapped by the negative programming in which my mind thought. It has been through constant learning and maintenance of my health and wellbeing have I been able to get to where I am today. I believe everything in life truly is connected and its taken work in every area to become the happy, healthy and thriving person I am today. Seeing a psychologist regularly has equipped me with the skills to make the changes I needed to make in order to get to where I wanted to be.
So looking back now, the things I was upset about don’t really matter now, however, it was because of those feelings that I was directed down a path of understanding around looking after your health and wellbeing in order to make the most of everyday. There is a silver lining to every experience.

Why are you, you?

I’ve come to learn that everything in life is interrelated and it is a combination of all of these different factors (physical, social and mental health, childhood experiences, work, education, family / friends etc.) that make us who we are. I think some of the major factors that have contributed to who I am today have been a mix of both positive and negative experiences - my supportive and loving family, continual access to medical professionals due to a range of medical conditions I’ve endured, the highs and lows of high school including some wonderful friends and opportunities and some not so wonderful, and the beautiful country town in which I grew up in.
Each and every day I am growing and developing into the person I am meant to be.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

Hands down I would retain the body of a 30-year-old and not because of the physical benefits - but because I would want what comes with the mind of a 90-year-old - the wisdom, character, and knowledge of a life well lived. My gratitude grows every day as I notice myself becoming wiser and more knowledgeable of the world but most importantly myself. Through life experience we learn many important lessons, some of the most important lessons I’ve learnt so far are: from adversity comes growth, everything in life stems from love, and "people won’t always support you, but you can always support you, and that’s enough" (Sam Laura Brown).

At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?

I had a lovely catch up with a close friend recently, we had a nourishing meal on a picnic rug in a park, talking about life - our dreams, goals, fears and everything in between. We then allowed our inner child to be - we were doing cartwheels, handstands, and playing on a swing set, it was so much fun! With owls sitting above us in the trees, we lay on the grass, and felt the warmth and energy of the earth. That evening really filled my cup as you would say Jodie!

Other times I feel most passionate and alive is when I’m in the ocean, doing yoga, or writing. I’ve been spending some time journalling at the beach and I’ve found it incredibly therapeutic, a couple of days ago I was so focused and in the moment with my writing, with the wind blowing and the waves rolling, it wasn’t until 45 minutes later did I come back to my surroundings and realise how sunburnt I was!

Do you find yourself influencing your world, or it influencing you?

I think the answer to this question is about finding balance. I believe you need to be influenced by what’s going on in the world in both a negative and positive way in order to find your purpose and joy in life. I think it is then through your purpose and joy that you begin to influence your world. I think the world has a significant influence on us throughout our childhood and teenage years, and it is once you reach adulthood that you decide if you're going to continue to let the world influence you or if you're going to influence it. I’ve taken the path of being an influence in my world, I have dreams and aspirations and I will lead with purpose and gratitude to achieve them.

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