When the King came to PaperKite

Mental Health Advocate, comedian, Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year 2019 and all-round nice guy Mike King humbled us by speaking at our #fridaysession and it was a session in #realtalk.

“It is impossible to be happy every day.”
“Having a conversation with yourself is just thinking.”
“The biggest fear in humans is isolation.”

These are some of the thoughts Mike shared when he allowed us to go on a personal journey with him. He was open about there being things in his story that may resonate with some of us, or maybe we’ve observed them in people we know; our friends, our whanau – our colleagues. And so he began.

He talked about his childhood, being at school, being bullied and becoming the bully. He spoke about his father, a typical staunch Kiwi man who was good with his hands. And how he wasn’t like that at all. He talked about himself and the elation he felt when he figured out he could make people laugh. And his inner critic, there and still there today; reminding him that even after going through the fire, doing the mahi and coming out the other side, that he is still just like me – a human.

As someone who has experienced the sore-cheeks-belly-laughing pleasure of seeing Mike King perform stand-up back in the day, I was surprised at his serious tone but within the first few minutes, that special comedy craft was still there, but this time his jokes landed with empathy. There was that classic Kiwi thing of self-deprecation, yes but jokes came from a place of ‘it’s funny because it’s true’. It connected.

He spoke of vulnerability, of trying to understand us humans behave the way we do. Mike asked us questions, telling us to put our hands up if we’d experienced a certain thing in our lives or if we’d felt a certain way before. He asked us to look around the room to see whose hands were up and whose were not – it turns out that a lot of us have been through something. He looked at each of us in the eyes as he delivered his important messages.

Here are 3 things (of many) that stayed with me: someone who constantly wears a mask, has an overbearing inner critic and experiences depression in and around her person on the regular:

Mike King sharing his story with PaperKite at #fridaysession

Booze, food, drugs — what’s your lid?

1. What’s your lid? And why is your pot boiling over?

Mike talked about how at the height of his own struggles with depression he was using alcohol and drugs to cover his despair. That feeling of using anything to mask whatever was really going on for him. He’d stop at nothing for what he called, “the relentless pursuit of temporary happiness”.

We talked about how our insides can be like a pot of boiling water with a lid. We all have different ‘lids’ to keep that water boiling at bay, but if we don’t take off the lid and address what we’re masking that the water will boil over –it’s only a matter of time.

It made me think about my vices and what I was using as various lids, and whether i was doing a good enough job at addressing the water in my life.

2. Life can be ordinary or extraordinary. Just wait.

We are all going to experience amazing highs, but inevitably there will be low’s and challenges. Mike called it ‘life’. He asked us to put up our hands if any of us was pretty much happy with the state of our lives in that moment. Half of PaperKite raised their hands, half of PaperKite didn’t.

Mike gave it a name – that those who were happy right now, were ‘extraordinary’. Those who weren’t super stoked with life as it manifested right now, he called ‘ordinary’. But here’s the plot twist: give it 6 months or so, and the hands that were down, would most likely be up and vice versa. There will always be another thing. We all know that the only constant is change.

Mike said that no one person can be happy all of the time. But if you find yourself at a time in your life where you have more light than dark, he suggested, we give ‘the extra’ away.

3. I can’t take on your stuff. But you can reach me any time.

Mike was really open about how his own kids don’t speak to him about their mental health. And he was okay with this – because he knows the people in his children’s lives that they can open up to. To know who to have a conversation with is what you want.

I appreciated that, and I appreciate that the ‘I Am Hope’ movement is not about saying that I have all the answers or that I can fix you. It’s about acknowledging that we support this kaupapa; that we have to talk about the heavy stuff. We have to ask, ‘are you ok?’ and while I’m not a trained professional, I have the power to say, ‘I value you’.

With warmth, Mike used members of our wonderful team as human props to exemplify the situations he found himself in and finds himself in today. At one stage he was talking about why people in distress push others away as he comforted our Technical Director Patrick’s new baby! And I’m pretty sure our Mobile Developer, Farlei was on the receiving end of at least 4 hugs from the guy. Forget NZ’er of the Year, he should be getting Person of the Millennium!

Mike provided us with resources on depression in men and women, and made it clear that his personal number and email address was on the back. He had been up till 4am responding to the 457 text messages he’d received.

Mike said that he couldn’t fix your situation, or take it on, but I’d say that he’d be pretty good at being at the end of that phone.

He’s the real deal, and this was #realtalk about real topics that affect all of Aotearoa. I know that we don’t talk about how we feel enough so Mike being here gave us all permission to think, feel and understand some of the things we might have felt in the past, observed in others, or might be feeling right now.

“Be a soldier for change”, Mike said.
It’s a challenge I personally accept.

“It’s not our intention that counts, it’s how it’s received”

Mike King, Educator & Advocate, The Key To Life Charitable Trust

Mike King, Baby Jacob and Farlei being used as a real-life example of empathy