Daniel Merza, of ElizabethHills, inspires young professionals on a daily basis as a mentor, speaker and author.
He’s just published the book Get the Monkeys Off Your Back.
He’s not a psychologist and he’s not a teacher. For 15 years he worked as a corporate accountant.
In this interview Daniel explained how his book was inspired by something much deeper than a degree or a piece of paper.
“I was bullied for more than a decade,” he said. “I was diagnosed with a mental illness at 13 and labelled a student with no hope by several teachers. In those years I was just hanging in there, it was a matter of survival.
“This book was written from my own struggles and difficulties growing up. It’s specifically written for teenagers who are 15 to 18.
“There are five monkeys in this book and each monkey has a name that represents something that holds them back in their life.”
The author, 34, said he’d been bullied since grade 2.
“I attempted to climb a tree in the school playground and one of the kids screamed out ‘hey, monkey’.
“They began to call me ‘monkey Merza’ and it was a domino effect from there.
“Soon I was teased, taunted and targeted by people. It was distressing because it was constant.
“By grade 5 it became physical. I’d get into fights almost every day trying to defend myself.
“It continued until I was in year 10. Problems of negative self-talk and low self-esteem were on my back.”
He said it got to the point where he reached an all-time low.
“Just imagine not feeling like you’re part of anything. Eventually I did make friends but they weren’t healthy people to be around. When someone I thought was a friend betrayed me, I put my foot down. Since then I’ve only invested in empowering relationships.
“Many teenagers put on a mask to fit in. I made a decision to be true to myself. I built my resilience and character, which translated to good grades.
“I went from being an average student to achieving top marks in the HSC.
“I was in the top 10 per cent across the state!
“Once I became aware of the monkeys on my back, that led to change. It allowed me to carry through tough times in my adult years and I’ve become thick-skinned.”
His book also addresses problems such as cyberbullying.
“Mental health is a serious problem today and I think social media has made bullying more prevalent.
“I also provide tools and strategies and it’s not just my story that I share, there are 16 other people who have stories of resilience.”