BOBBY Whybrow’s confident and outgoing personality might seem at odds with a person who struggles with panic attacks.
But by finding comfort in his best friend, he is better able to release his feelings and thoughts that trigger such events.
Bobby, 32, Albury, is a proud Wiradjuri First Nations gay man who lives with anxiety and depression.
He regularly emcees at community events, was a co-cordinator with Black Border Theatre, co-wrote the play Hacting, and has won awards for services to Aboriginal people.
He is an Aboriginal population health trainee and hopes to be accepted into a masters in public health with the University of Sydney.
His sister lives two doors down and his 17-year-old nephew, who lives with autism, lives with him.
Bobby’s grandmother comes from Wiradjuri country, near Tumut, and his grandfather is from Kamilaroi country at Coonabarabran.
Bobby started to feel as though something wasn’t right with him when he was 12.
“I was coming to terms with the fact I was different to other people, and I lived in a Christian household,” he said.
“I had a lot of negative thoughts coming to terms with all of that.”
Bobby has struggled with panic attacks and being unable to get out of bed through his adult life.
He has taken sick leave when the symptoms have made him unable to work.
To help him manage the symptoms, his best friends allow Bobby to call, message or catch up in person, let him vent, and offer coaching.
“I don’t want to burden them, but they know I struggle sometimes. I am very grateful for them,” Bobby said.
He also meditates and tries to pull himself out of a panic attack when he feels anxious.
He speaks about trying to self-medicate at one time, but found that only exacerbated the symptoms – it didn’t suppress or mask them, and the underlying causes went unresolved and it would all happen again.
Many of the triggers come from insensitivity to Aboriginal and LGBTI cultures – and the blending of the two.
“I live in four separate worlds; black, white, gay and straight,” Bobby said.
“Living in all those worlds can be difficult.
“People might say ‘you’re too white’ - and those comments come from people of Aboriginal descent, or ‘you’re too black’ - and that comes from other cultures, including white.
“In the gay community, people often ask me what my cultural background is and when I tell them, some say ‘you’re too pretty to be Aboriginal’.”
He also feels a responsibility to educate people about both cultures.
“People will ask ‘what percentage (of Aboriginal descent) are you?’
“That comes from ignorance; the majority of it is not from a place or anger or hate.
“And then I have to re-educate that person. It’s exhausting.”
He encouraged people to educate themselves on Aboriginal and LGBTI issues.
At home, Bobby can seek help from Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service for his mental and physical health, and found them friendly and supportive of Aboriginal and LGBTI issues.
Bobby offered the following advice to people in his position.
“I say this to my niece; you have got to force yourself to be uncomfortable to be comfortable,” he said.
“If you put yourself out there, you will realise the world is not such a bad place, and you will realise how much easier it is when you have issues off your chest. You have got to keep going.”
Positive living in regional NSW
ACON is NSW’s leading HIV prevention, HIV support and LGBTI health organisation.
ACON has physical offi ces located in Lismore, Coffs Harbour, Newcastle and Sydney, and delivers outreach to regional areas of NSW to extend the reach of its services, campaigns and health messages.
They seek to provide a regular connection and build relationships with regional LGBTI communities and people with HIV.
The outreach teams visit people in regional areas regularly to:
Promote HIV and sexual health testing, treatment and care
Provide safe sex information and resources
Promote a positive experience of sexual health
Deliver information and education about HIV, sexual health, the LGBTI experience and LGBTI health
Support referrals to appropriate services within ACON and locally, and
Advocate for an informed, healthy, resilient and inclusive LGBTI community.
ACON’s LGBTI health priority issues include:
Mental health and suicide prevention
HIV and sexual health
Alcohol and drugs
Safety and inclusion
Domestic and family violence
An ACON spokesman said LGBTI people are:
Twice as likely to experience anxiety disorders
Three times as likely to experience affective disorders such as depression and social phobias
Five times more likely to experience major depressive episodes.
Need to talk?
QLife phone and online counselling (3pm- midnight): 1800 184 527 and https://qlife.org.au/
NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511
Beyond Blue: 1300 224636
Kids Helpline: 1800 551800
ACON: 1800 063 060 or www.acon.org.au