The long and winding road to recovery
THEY say a rising sun shall dawn on days of triumph and tragedy alike.
While founder of suicide prevention and support group the Heavy Hiterz Foundation Brent Simpson will tackle the gruelling Tweed Coast Enduro at Pottsville today, it's the road travelled and not the destination that will carry him through.
"I have bipolar and I'm 133kg but I'm doing it to inspire others and show people that mental health won't prevent them from trying to do great things,” MrSimpson said.
"It's full-on but self-belief is a massive thing and I know what I'm capable of. I'm educated enough about bipolar, so with my training I'm able to use it as a positive rather than a negative.
"I can embrace it and use it to my advantage. It's amazing what we can do if we believe in ourselves.”
Mr Simpson's belief and commitment is intertwined with his story of redemption from a once seemingly impossible point of no return.
Coming from a broken home in western Sydney, Mr Simpson was placed in foster care at 12, before turning to life on the streets.
A life of drugs, crime and mental demons took him to the brink but also provided the vehicle for turning his life around.
Now 40, Mr Simpson is married with kids and uses his condition to inspire and help others through Heavy Hiterz.
Last year Mr Simpson's self-belief was pushed to the point where most would give up, in a 4564km ride across Australia to raise money and awareness for mental illness.
Setting off on June 1, Mr Simpson crashed on his second day, tearing his elbow and knee apart and cracking his helmet.
While he knew he had a big problem, Mr Simpson continued on for another 2500km, before his condition worsened eight hours west of Adelaide.
"I got really unwell at Ceduna on the cusp of the Nullarbor, so they rushed me to Adelaide Hospital,” Mr Simpson said.
With the onset of septicaemia and a fractured elbow, Mr Simpson was operated on and spent more than a week lying in a bed at Royal Adelaide Hospital.
"I had 36 internal and external stitches and they told me the ride was over,” Mr Simpson said.
"But I wasn't happy with that, so I signed all the indemnities and checked myself out eight days later and flew back to get started again.”
Restarting in Ceduna, Mr Simpson found the strength to push on and cycled the final 2000km to Perth to complete his world-first east-to-west journey.
"For two years I'd trained so hard and I swore that if I didn't lose both my legs, I'd finish it,” Mr Simpson said
"I did it under the 50-day target and on day 45, on July 15, I arrived at Cottlesloe Beach, WA.”
While Mr Simpson's pursuits help keep his mental health in check, the highs can just as quickly come crashing down, as he found after returning from Perth.
"You need support in place as you will come down and I was in a hole for six to seven weeks after that ride,” Mr Simpson said.
"I curled up in a ball but that's life with an illness and that's life full stop.”
Working towards gruelling fitness goals requires a sharp focus that Mr Simpson uses to keep his bipolar on track.
"I was medicated for 20 years and I haven't touched one (pill) for four years,” he said.
"I wanted to find ways to manage my illness and if I don't train for three to four days, I go down real quick.
"I set tasks and they're helping me with my own mental health and that's the part I want people to understand.”
Throwing himself into conquering the Tweed Coast Enduro, Mr Simpson has trained in a gruelling program of cycling, running and swimming.
He said it's amazing what can be achieved.
"If you asked me if I could have ridden across Australia 10 years ago, I would have said 'no chance',” he said.
"But when you become so headstrong and focused, that commitment becomes an everyday part of your life and you get positive results.”
Mr Simpson knows when the dust settles he faces further challenges until he plots his next big fitness goal.
But through his work with Heavy Hiterz, 4000-odd members and providing the community with support, Mr Simpson knows there's still many more pages to be added to his story.
Heavy Hiterz has established a GoFundme page to support Mr Simpson's Tweed Coast Enduro quest.
The 'five to survive' motto is calling for $5 donations to establish a survival hotline for people reaching out in a time of need.
To date, the fund has raised $970 of a $2000 goal. To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/3ez3u2g