Former professional AFL player, and one half of electric duo, Kayex, musician Tom Derickx has seen and felt the pressures of life throughout every industry he’s been a part of, and knows that the inevitable ups and downs of life do not discriminate.
On a mission to encourage others to reach out and kick off conversations around mental health, Derickx joined R U OK? as an ambassador in April 2019. “I believe vulnerability is a huge sign of strength and I hope to break down the stigma associated with mental illness,” he said.
Right now, when the world is working through the turbulence of social distancing restrictions and fears around the COVID-19 pandemic, Tom is focused on bringing joy through music, and wants to reiterate that while being productive can be a great way for some to find comfort, it’s totally okay to give yourself a break, too.
We sat down with Derickx to find out how he’s coping in the current climate, and discuss the ways he’s checking in with loved ones.
Katie Skelly: This is a tough time for many people at the moment. Tell me, how are you going?
Tom Derickx: I’m doing really well, but I’m absolutely feeling for those people who are struggling with job loss and mental health concerns. My close friends and family in Western Australia; we’re all taking care of each other via regular FaceTimes, and that gives me peace of mind right now.
I was living a fast-paced life pre-coronavirus, but I feel like this time has really forced me to slow down, take stock, and get back to the hobbies that bring me joy. I live with my best bud Palassi Kailis, who is the other half of Kayex. We’ve been spending a lot of time together, making music, cooking, and hanging out.
KS: Have you been working on any new music together?
TD: Yes! Our new song I’ll Do What U Want drops today, and we’ve been kept busy trying to make a virtual music video, involving as many friends as we can. We’ve got The Inspired Unemployed boys on it, a few Sydney Swans players, and some Richmond players, one of which shaved their head in the video!
The song was originally thought out as a party track, but right now it’s a way for us to bring friends together and lift spirits.
KS: That’s so fun! What are some other ways that you’ve been taking care of your mental health?
TD: I do meditation every morning and right before bed, which really helps me to hone in my thoughts and slow my mind down. Staying connected with family and friends has been hugely important, and I try to keep learning to keep my mind busy.
I’ve also been cooking a lot! I bought a slow-cooker a few weeks ago and I think I use it every night. It’s been quite therapeutic to engage in cooking again, which is a hobby I’ve always loved, but never felt like I had the time for. I cook for my housemate and I every night, and while he’s appreciative of that, it’s more of a joy for me and a way to keep my mind occupied.
KS: How are you checking in with people around you, like friends, family and neighbours?
TD: The way I’ve been communicating with friends and family has definitely evolved. I’d say our isolation chats started with conversations around the news and how we’re all doing, but now that we’re so far into isolation, I’m trying to get creative with the way I check in and lift spirits.
I sent a roll of toilet paper to a mate the other day; I sent some bottles of wine to another friend, and while these gestures make my friends happy, it also brings me joy too, to look after them.
When I can, I drop food over to the elderly residents in my building and every evening at around 5.00pm my neighbours and I enjoy a drink from afar and a chat.
TD: You’ve been keeping busy which is so awesome. But is it okay for people not to be quite so productive during isolation?
TD: 100%! It’s important to remember that you have nothing to prove during this time, and if it’s what’s going to make you feel good, you can absolutely use this time to relax and slow down. It’s all about prioritising what makes you feel happy, and what eases your own anxiety. You’re not wasting time by switching off and giving yourself a break.
This might well be the last time we get a ‘break’ like this, and I know I don’t want to come out the other side and wish I made better use of the time to just relax and prioritise down time.
KS: I couldn’t agree more. It’s absolutely fine to want to just relax, and your time is not better spent “keeping busy” if it means you’re not looking after yourself and your needs. Tell me, do you think the world may be changed after this pandemic?
TD: In a funny way, it almost felt as if the world was social distancing already. People were buying things online, studying online, talking online, and while these are great tools to have, I do think this time has taught us the value of human connection.
I know that moving on, I will feel more grateful for human interaction after this. I won’t ever take for granted the ability to hang out with my friends and family again, but on the flip side, I’ve really learnt how important it is to slow down.
“Moving on, I will feel more grateful for human interaction after this.”
KS: What’s your advice for ways that people can take care of their mental health right now?
TD: Help is just a phone call away, and R U OK? has a range of resources on its website to help people find connection and support if they’re feeling like they want or need it. It can be challenging to accept that you’re struggling a bit, but we can all find support in our family and friends and those resources.
The whole world is going through a time of change, and it’s totally normal to be feeling anxious and uncertain. Be proud of how you’re feeling and don’t shy away from it.
R U OK? Day is a national day of action, held on the second Thursday of September each year (September 10, 2020). But every day is the day to start a conversation. Conversation tips and crisis numbers can be found at www.ruok.org.au.