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Story Submission by Zac, Age 19

Growing up with a single mum left me struggling to figure out what it takes to be a man, what it looks like to have it all together, what it feels like to have a purpose. So I guess my story of depression started during that time. I fell into the wrong sort of crowd at an early age because all I wanted to do was belong and find my purpose. But it was always harmful to me and ended up making my life a lot harder.

Then my mum married my now ex-stepfather, who started out nice, but soon after the marriage turned abusive towards my mum and I. There were multiple attempts on both our lives, and that’s when my social anxiety and PTSD originated from, both of those disorders seeing my depression go crazy.

From about age 12-13, I never fit into any real group at school. My “friends” bullied me, the rest of the kids around me either hated me or just didn’t want to know me. I struggled all the way through high school, battling through what felt like my whole world collapsing every week. I tried to take my own life about 5 times. I was still searching for a purpose, for belonging, for something to identify who I am.

In grade 11, I met a couple of people who stood out from the crowd like I did, so I got along with them. Turns out they were into cars, and so as time progressed, we started working on their cars (I couldn’t afford my own car for a while). I felt a little more at ease, but I still felt empty when I got home because I had nothing to show for it.

Fast forward to the year after grade 12. I had nothing – no job, no uni application, no vision. I fell into a suicidal spiral that was unlike any I had gone through before. Mum forced me to sign up for a TAFE course to get me into a rhythm. So I picked an automotive course and braced myself for what I thought would be another year of standing out and being bullied.

But it wasn’t. Three weeks into the course, I found my calling. I found my purpose. Cars are my lifeblood. At the end of the year I got my P plates and got my first car – a ratty ’94 Toyota Hilux (2WD). Driving became my expression and working on my car became my meditation. This 2.4L carburettor-powered heap of junk became the reason I didn’t want to die any more.

Shortly afterwards, I had to move out of my family home. Mum wanted to move interstate but I didn’t. So for the last 12 months I have gone through everything life could have thrown my way – debt, broken relationships, a car crash, physical injury, huge suicidal spirals and PTSD flare-ups, moving house, finding a job, etc. All while dealing with the new responsibilities of living alone. I’ve had more suicidally depressed times in the past 12 months than I had in my 5 years of high school. Yet cars remained. My friends have often come over early in the morning to find me fast asleep in the garage, having spent all night working on my car in an attempt to stop myself from becoming overwhelmed. My car, and my passion for cars and motorsport, has saved my life. I’m now passionately chasing my vision of using cars and motorsport as a means to help other at-risk teenage guys, to help them find their purpose and to fit in. I might not be finished with my journey with depression and PTSD, but I don’t want to let my story get lost amongst many.

Cars save lives, and I’m living proof of that. I found my purpose in a ratty old car, and I love every moment of it.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety, self-harm or addiction, please reach out. Call 13 11 14 for Lifeline’s 24hr Telephone Crisis Support or contact a mental health professional. If you are looking for other mental health resources, browse our Find Help page.

If a life is in danger call 000 immediately.

Stories written by members of the Cars For Hope community. Find out how you can submit your story today.

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