“It’s okay to not be okay”: Elliott Lovejoy on struggling to adapt to life in the UAE
About 12 months ago I packed my bags and departed on a one way flight to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
I had no knowledge of the area, of the culture or of the importance that religion plays in the UAE. As I sit here and tell you my story, I wonder if I made the wrong choice.
I LOVE radio and have lived and breathed it since starting at an indigenous community radio station in Cairns called BBM, nearly eight years ago. I’ve been lucky to work in places across Australia such as Broken Hill, Berri and Cairns as well as Niagara Falls in Canada, to name a few. Through all the ups and downs, I never lost passion for what I was doing, that was until about eight months ago.
After a few months into my tenure at Radio 1 (a station broadcasting across the UAE), I was struggling big time. We’d relaunched the station and unfortunately there were difficulties with local Emirati management and those at the top of the chain didn’t have a lot of experience or clue as to what they were doing. In fact at one point they hired a woman as an announcer that had a radiology degree and I’m fairly convinced they genuinely believed that she’d studied radio. Baffling.
We didn’t have a website, had only the bare bones of staff and I was living in an apartment barely big enough to twerk in. It was lonely as f**k and a 15 hour flight from home. I wasn’t getting the rush that radio always gave me. We were very restricted on what we could do or say on air and I felt like an alien on a foreign planet. Mentally, I felt beaten.
In radio, particularly for those of us who move away from home, we tend to feel at times that struggling mentally is the “norm”. However, what became apparent for me is that not enough of us ask for help when we are hurting. I am a big advocate and spokesperson for mental health. I have lost good friends in the past to battles with depression.
What became obvious late last year is that I myself needed to talk to someone, so I reached out. Speaking to family and friends made a difference, but something I failed to realize, is that I had family in radio too. I spoke to people like Shad Wicka (Hit Cairns) Ryan Jon (Hit 92.9) Amanda Catalano (Fox FM) and even heads of content such as Mickey Maher and Blair Woodcock. Although these guys are incredibly busy people, they still went out of their way to make time for me and more than that, they sympathised and played a large part in me getting out of a funk.
Now, in mid May 2018, we still have our struggles, including still having a non-existent website at a station that broadcasts across the nation, however, I am learning to put less pressure on myself and enjoy it for what it is. Chatting with people and getting help from friends in the industry genuinely made a positive difference.
I’ve met a wonderful girl, who is yet to realise that I have a face like a half chewed Mintie, and I’m enjoying being on air again. My contract in the UAE finishes at the end of the year and I look forward dearly to being able to eat bacon again, get my dadbod out in public and create good stuff on air in Oz from December.
I really do hope this helps others out there in radio. Whether you’re in Dubbo, Darwin, Sydney or Somalia, there are ALWAYS people who will listen if you are struggling. This industry is so tight knit and it’s almost like one big extended family.
I myself would be more than happy to speak to anyone out there who’s gone through something similar or just needs a chat. Please feel free to reach out at any time and remember, no matter where you are in the world, no matter what you are going through, in radio, you are never short of a friend.