Fitness vital for dealing with depression

By Rebecca Cawston


Peter Wyper recalls a horrific childhood dogged with anxiety and depression. As a young man, he discovered that physical activity improved his mental health - and now in his golden years he works out four times a week.

Even as a preschooler Peter Wyper had anxiety and extreme depression.

It's a feeling that's always been with him - anxiety, incredibly low self esteem and depression.

"It's like a cat chasing its tail ... depression and anxiety always follow each other," he says.

Now he's older, he is finally at ease with himself. He knows that physical exercise plays a huge role in the upkeep of his mental health.

Mr Wyper, from Matua, was a bonny wee boy until, at the age of three, a motorcyclist hit him and ran over his head.

His stay in hospital was brief - it was the 1950s and his diagnosis was inadequate.

He was never the same again.

Mr Wyper became anxious, deeply depressed and was convinced he was ugly. School was hard as his head injury affected his learning. He described his youth as "horrific", made harder by a difficult relationship with his father.

Unfortunately, Mr Wyper was not diagnosed with post concussion syndrome until some 20 years ago. The head injury was responsible for his depression, it was suspected - but the connection was never made.

Mr Wyper also gained strength when he became a born-again Christian as a young man, gaining the confidence to join the fire service in Auckland. He transferred to Tauranga and his fire service career lasted 33 years.

Mr Wyper loved his vocation and calls it the fulfillment of a boyhood dream.

"I still found it hard though, there was always the low self esteem but the staff were very supportive of me. I enjoyed the comradeship of it."

Another strength came from his wife Jill. "She is an amazing person, my wife has put up with a lot from me. Can you imagine having someone in the house who is down-in-the-mouth all the time? It's hard."

As a fireman he had to keep fit. The station had a gym where Mr Wyper worked out. He started to see the benefits keeping fit had on his mental health and now works out four days a week at The Gym Tauranga.

If he doesn't go the gym for any reason (like a heavy cold last week), feelings of insecurity start creeping back.

These days he works for a private training establishment teaching fire safety courses. He's also a part time cleaner at The Gym.

Physical activity has been his "magic bullet", as well as his supportive wife and God. Mr and Mrs Wyper have three children and eight grandchildren.

Know a senior citizen who stands out? Email rebecca.cawston@bayofplentytimes.co.nz

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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