A FARMER who suffered a physical disorder so painful it is sometimes known as “suicide disease” gave a motivational talk in Inverell event on Saturday.
International keynote speaker Alan Hannaford’s messages to his listeners included looking after their health and filling their "karma bowl".
The event was organised by Frame Rural Industries for their clients on the land – a sector known for high rates of depression and suicide.
Co-director Philip Frame said he put on the event because: “I reckoned it had been a pretty hard last six months in rural industries, with drought and low prices.”
About 150 people, aged between 18 and 77, attended the talk at Riverside Function Centre.
Alan’s story is that until about eight years ago, he was "a pretty tough sort of bugger - a farmer, footballer, rodeo rider, I was in the army".
Then he started experie-ncing severe pain in his head and face.
It was so bad he couldn't tolerate even a breeze on his skin.
"It was like having a cattle prodder in the centre of my head going off with every beat of my heart," he said.
Alan suffered like this for five years, unable to get a diagnosis.
“I got depressed because of the pain,” he said.
“Not one doctor had ever asked me, ‘How are you doing? How are you feeling about all this?’
“I was drinking one-and-a-half to two bottles of Scotch per day and I was on morphine.”
His two “incredible daugh-ters” cared for him until, about five years after first having the symptoms, Alan faked a collapse at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital in a desperate attempt to get help.
He was referred to a specialist and was diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, where an artery compresses a nerve at the back of the neck.
Within days he was booked for an operation – but was told there was a 40 per cent chance he would die.
“I woke up in intensive care, rubbed my face, said, ‘It’s all gone’ and went back to sleep,” Alan said. “I now have a big scar down the back of my head that I call my ‘gratitude scar’.”
Alan urged his listeners to fill up their “karma bowl”.
“As long as you’re giving something, it’s amazing how quickly your karma bowl fills up and starts giving something back,” he said.
“Don’t be afraid to do the nice thing first.”
Alan is now a successful cattle and horse breeder, speaker and campdrafter.
Philip said he’d received such positive feedback he would probably invite Alan back later this year.