My name is Marc Nieuwenhuys and I suffer from depression. In December 2019, I completed a solo 2400 kilometre expedition down Australia's longest river, the Mighty Murray River. I've spent the past seven years battling my illness. It's been a long and lonely journey, one that's kept me isolated from my family and the people closest to me. And I've never spoken openly about my experience — until now.
Earlier this year, something important occurred to me. I realised that I had a choice. I could spend another seven years at the bottom of a deep, dark hole. I could let my depression control every waking hour. Or I could do something drastic to turn my life around.
I've always been an adventurer at heart. So when I decided it was time for a change, there was only one thing for it. I bought a kayak, travelled to the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, and started paddling.
My journey began on the 24th August 2019. My goal was to paddle the entire 2,400km of the Murray River. Alone. Unassisted. No support crew, no teammates, no shortcuts. Just thousands of kilometres of empty river ahead of me.
The trip wasn't easy, but it's something I had to do. By pushing the limits of my own endurance, I am coming to terms with my depression. I am confronting my illness head on.
I am showing him that I'm stronger than he is.
This is a deeply personal journey, but it's not just about me. It's about everyone who's ever struggled with mental health. By talking openly about my own experience, I hope I can inspire others to do the same. Since I started this journey, I've been completely overwhelmed by the response. I've received messages of support and encouragement from people I've never met. Complete strangers have come to meet me on the banks of the river. They've opened up to me about their own struggles —things they've never discussed with anyone.
These experiences have changed my understanding of mental health. You often hear about the stigma surrounding depression and anxiety, but I now believe the stigma was created by me, actually, my depression. It makes sense now. Depression created the stigma, because depression doesn’t want you to talk about it. I believe people are ready to talk. We just need to start the conversation.
I've chosen an unconventional way to deal with my depression. Sitting alone in a kayak for months on end — that’s not everyone’s idea of a good time. But this is just my journey. How you start yours is up to you. You don't need to paddle a river or climb a mountain. You don't need to scream in anger or cry for help.
You just need to talk.