My Journey to Limbr

In September 2015 I was catching the train home from San Francisco to Oakland when I got an email that I’d been waiting on for weeks. It demanded a reply (which included signing a bunch of contracts) by close of business but was sent from Melbourne, Australia. I looked at the time. It was approaching midnight, which meant it was approaching 5pm Melbourne time – and I started to freak out.

I was in the process of leaving the company I had started with a friend two years earlier and this was the final act. As the half empty train moved over the Bay Bridge I went into this digital MacGyver mode and using just my phone, I managed to get everything signed and sent by midnight my time. I let out a huge sigh of relief.

I had two friends with me and they asked if I was ok. I started to answer, but then I just broke down. I sobbed uncontrollably the rest of the way home. For half an hour they held me as my body shook and the tears streamed out of me and I had to keep being reminded to breathe.

It had been the toughest year of my life. I started the year with a growing company that was on a mission to reinvent the way we work, a loving relationship and two fully intact achilles heels. By September all of that had changed and I wasn’t coping. Painful breakups, major surgery and 6 months of rehab was just what I needed on top of building a startup – the most out-of-my-depth, what-the-hell-am-I-doing experience of my life.

We had unwittingly gotten our startup into a power struggle with some formidable characters. Threats, intimidation, manipulation - the psychological warfare of hostile takeovers was not something I was excited to learn about in 2015. We survived through luck and tenacity, and I was proud of that - but the ordeal was traumatic.

It’s scary opening up and talking about things that guilt and shame want you to keep silent about - but it’s exactly what was needed. I had been trying to shield the team from the pressure we were under, but visible attacks on our leadership meant that was never really possible. So when I opened up and metaphorically collapsed a bit, having the team lift me back up on my feet was heartwarming and strengthening.

That vulnerability was the magic ingredient to us getting through the ordeal. Vulnerability is infectious in this really touching way - once you open up, it helps other people open up, it becomes so much easier and you wonder why you ever felt you had to stay silent. That vulnerability can spread beautifully and widely if it’s nurtured - and so arrived the inspiration for Limbr!

Using technology, intention and design we can nurture that beautiful spread of vulnerability to a scale that can reach a tipping point. Silence and shame feed stigma, stigma in turn feeds silence and shame, and so to break the cycle we need to scale sharing and empathy to a critical mass, a new normal.

So Limbr is a peer support network where you can open up about mental health issues with a safe and supportive community. Because the more we share, the more we realise how normal and treatable these struggles are. That community is linked to online support which you can access anywhere and any time through your Limbr app.

We want to live in a world where we talk about mental health as casually and treat it as fiercely as we do the flu. That starts with providing a community to have these conversations. It continues with sustainable growth, clinical governance and translating social capital into political capital. It ends with a new ubiquitous platform that is the destination for mental health and wellness. This is what we’re aiming for with Limbr, and I can’t wait to show you all what we’re building.