Matthew is a 28-year old from Rangiora, North Canterbury. With two younger sisters, he is part of a NZ-European family with Dutch heritage. Home-schooled until the age of 15, Matthew worked in arable farming for an Ashburton-based company and went on to become a salesman for a large farm machinery corporation. A keen hunter and outdoorsman, he lives with his fiance, Kate, in Ashburton, where he now works in farm machinery transport.

Opening up and showing vulnerability seems to go against the typical Kiwi farming way of ‘toughing it out’ and ‘getting on with the job’ but I’ve come to understand how important it is to speak up. For me, sharing my thoughts and feelings is number one. After realising this, I decided to create a pivot of support around me. I find it really helpful to have a couple of people I can openly talk to.

I first learnt to apply these lessons in a work environment, then found they translate to my personal life too. In business, whether I liked it or not, I found that it was often ‘who you know’, rather than ‘what you know’ which influenced things. As a result, I’ve tried to surround myself with a few trusted people I can go to for advice or to openly express my thoughts and feelings. I’ve found it to be a real asset and the communication between us is great. This network makes me feel like I’m not in it alone and that I have the support I need to achieve my goals.

I realised the same lessons could be applied to building support and connection in my personal life with a goal to stay well. Having a couple of close, trusted people who I can open to and get things off my chest with, is a real asset. It feels good to be able to be really open and express the stuff I’m feeling inside.

I’m a fan of medication. Although medication itself doesn’t solve any of my problems, it gives me enough of a level playing field to figure them out myself, and that is the key. I tried 2 different types of medication before finding the right one and since then I have been able to lower the dose as I gained control back.

After realising that my working life really makes up a big part of what I do and what I am, I started to believe my work should be something that I love. I decided to step away from the high pressure, high stress, corporate job. I had in favour of something healthier. It was difficult choice because at the time I was still of the opinion that corporate aspiration was the definition of success. In the end, I found that the high-stress of corporate life caused a bunch of other negative flow-on effects I didn’t think were healthy or sustainable.

Leaving my office job and going back to driving machinery was a big breath of fresh air. I am so much happier being in an environment that I know suits the ‘real’ me. I love driving trucks, the peace and quiet, and the beautiful locations I get to go to. It’s me to a tee. The change in headspace that accompanied the change in job was pretty noticeable. When it comes to work, I think it’s essential to be true to myself.

I am a work-a-holic. I like the adrenaline that comes with pushing hard, it gives me a real buzz. Knowing this, I have to force myself to take time off and take a bit of breather. That usually means hunting, tramping, or water skiing. Even if it’s bad timing or I’ve got too much to do, I’ll still make the effort to get away.

I find it important to break the working cycle, to give my mind some variety. I listen to what I’m craving. If it’s been a busy week with phone calls and people, then I go out alone, tramping. One foot after the other I can escape all of that noise and be submerged by the peacefulness of nature. On the other hand, if I’ve had a quiet week in the truck and haven’t talked to anyone, I go socializing, which generally means water-skiing with the lads. I find that sort of work-life balance is key, and keeps me from getting burnt out at work.

Weekends are my chance to recharge so I always try to have an adventure on the horizon. I have a great group of lads who I hang out with and together we’ve found water-skiing as a collective outlet to unwind. We all love it. There’s extreme satisfaction in feeling and seeing improvements, we actually get very competitive with each other, creating good thrills. Good banter with the lads is always a given too; we put up a tent at the end of the evening, crack open some beers and stay the night. In the morning we watch the sunrise, have breakfast on the barby and get out on the lake for another blat. It’s that perfect morning glory time when the water is glass. It’s pure bliss. I don’t seem to hear or think of anything when I’m out there. I simply float across the water.

If I have a tough day I’ve discovered blasting out an hour on the cross trainer is a great way to get it all out. It’s great physically, as it gets my blood pumping and it wears me out. This also leads to a good nights sleep, which I know is very important! Another good benefit of exercise is that it helps to break any unhelpful trains of thought. Instead of coming home after a hard day and repeating the negatives to my partner - and in doing so, potentially creating a negative mood - I mentally “release” them on the cross trainer.

Throughout the day, if I notice myself in my “stress out mode”, I often make myself take the time to stop; to recognise and reorganise my thought patterns. I pay attention to whether I’ve been dwelling on anything negative and pinpoint what’s making me stressed. I have an active, aggressive mind that I find can be unnecessarily stewing. Taking notice of my thoughts - like a by-stander who is simply observing - I’ve learnt to accept them and let them go without reacting to them. I find it to be a good tool to help become calm. It’s become a big thing that I work on.

There are so many factors in life that I can’t control but what I do have control over is how I react to them. I always have the opportunity to take control of my reactions. I now actively look for opportunities in the negatives and create something encouraging or constructive from them.

I have a little trick up my sleeve when I find my mind racing. I literally stop what I’m doing at the time, look around at the beautiful world, clear my head and think, “do I need to be thinking about that?” I then focus on something positive, and this brings me control over my thought pattern. I put myself in a happy memory, such as a beautiful morning on the lake, or skiing that crystal water when the sun is coming up. When I really sense the feeling and allow it to flow through me, it generally brightens the moment instantly. If I tap into the memory and really feel that sense of pure happiness, it flips the negative thoughts on their head. That’s what it’s about, enjoying the good times, to get me through the bad.

I’m really passionate about giving, and in particular, giving my most valuable thing; my time. Helping others is really important to me, it gives me satisfaction and growth. I’ve found giving help and advice to people to be nothing but positive. I give without seeking a reward but I inevitably get one. It could be as simple as learning something from that person. I’ve also got to be willing to receive help too. It’s the whole give and receive idea; it’s important to remember to receive. I find it’s often easy to be selfless and don’t think I need help or advice, but I find there’s always an opportunity to grow myself and my own knowledge of life.

I think back to where I’ve come from, I got through that, I am unstoppable. I’ve got pure passion, I’m here, alive and the world is so beautiful. Life is exciting. Life is what I make it. Life is what I create.

If it was possible to send a note back to yourself when you needed the most help, what would it look like?

Matthew experienced depression between the ages of 16-23. The death of a good friend to cancer at 16 years old was followed by the death of his grandmother a couple of years later.

How did it make you feel?
Self-destructive thought patterns which I couldn’t see a way out of.

Did you take prescribed medication?

Were there any triggers that exacerbated your feelings?
Work. The crop farming/harvest period - 3 months of 12-24 hour work days without days off caused exhaustion to set in.
Isolation due to being stuck to the farm with a lack of people to talk to.
Not able to recognise the damage my thought patterns were doing.

Was there a turning point when things started to get better?
Talking to my family and friends about how I was feeling.
Medication and support from a counsellor.
I began to learn about what depression and anxiety were and how they were affecting me.

With thanks to


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