At some point during our lives we are all effected directly or indirectly by bullying in some way, shape, or form. Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health, physical health, and even suicide. In a lot of instances, the victim and bystanders are too scared or embarrassed to stand up or ask for help.
In my case I was the same, I was being bullied by my former employer. Not realizing the effects it was having on both my physical and mental health I felt that pretending it wasn’t happening was working for me, I felt that I was mentally strong and that I could handle it. Little did I know what would unfold next, and the impact it would have on not only me, but also my family.
I became ill late July 2017 and began to deteriorate rapidly. The stress and anxiety that I now lived with had taken over my life and I was having frequent panic attacks to the point of losing consciousness. I developed stress induced gastritis and my body was rejecting everything from food to fluid. My body became unrecognizable, I had become frail and weak. At this point I had been diagnosed as being anorexic and could no longer even walk. I had become wheelchair bound as my organs started shutting down.
My whole world had come crashing down around me. I had gone from training 5 days a week, playing netball, working full-time, being an active mum – to being completely bed ridden, constantly vomiting, having to be fed, bathed, etc.
I constantly asked myself how did I end up here? Where did I go wrong? Why me? However, those were all unhelpful thoughts. The answers to those questions became irrelevant, as the answers would not have changed the outcome.
I was now unable to take care of my family or be active and involved. I was also unable to train or do the things that made me happy. Also due to me not working, our family was under extreme financial pressure. Things felt pointless, I felt as if I had failed myself and my family. I had lost all purpose, no matter what we did there was no improvement. I was still fading away and the financial burden was still there with no resolution in sight.
My mental health spiraled out of control. I became suicidal and genuinely believed that I had become worthless and a burden to my family. I felt that there was no way out. I began hiding myself away from the world. I withdrew from all of my friends and family, even my children, as I hated them seeing me in this state,and constantly in tears. I hit the lowest of lows after going to my daughter’s school concert where my worse fears had become a reality.
My daughter Tnaya was approached by some children at school, these children were asking her if I was a drug addict, that was the only logical explanation they could come up with for my sudden change in appearance. Later that night, once we returned home, Tnaya told us what was said by her peers at the concert Tears streamed down her face and mine too as James and I reassured her that things were going to be ok.
It was at that point that I realized I had to really fight to take my life back, not only for myself but for my children and my fiancé too. I had to find the strength to keep going and the only way I could do that was to be open, honest, and upfront. I had to stop worrying about what people thought and about all the things that I couldn’t change. It was time to stop feeling sorry for myself. I was the one holding myself back from being able to progress forward. I began the process by accepting what had happened, reaching out for help, and surrounding myself with positive people.
As hard as it was to show the world my situation in the flesh, I put a post up on the OCRWC Athletes page, and also one on my own personal page, to explain my story and hopefully raise awareness in order to help others through their own battles against bullying. The process in turn became a journey of self-discovery. I found my purpose again, gained self-worth, and even confidence.
OCR and the OCR community definitely played a massive part in my recovery and in some ways also helped save my life.
The beautiful acts of generosity and kindness from athletes all over the world restored my faith in humanity. I allowed one person to change the way I looked at myself, the way I looked at society as a whole, and I allowed the situation to define me as a person. No one is worth that!
Over several months I continued to fight my way back to health. A full investigation was conducted and my employer was dealt with accordingly.
My experience has given me the courage to follow my heart and do what I love. It has also inspired the little people in my life (Shylah 8 yrs, Lilly 7 yrs, and Tnaya 12 yrs) to reach for the stars and follow their dreams too. It has taught them the impact our actions can have on others as well as the adverse effects of bullying. It just goes to show how much your children are watching, and how important it is to lead by example. Now they are all kicking goals and striving for big things.
I started back racing again in March this year with my eldest daughter, Tnaya, by my side at every race. It started off as her supporting me as I was a little anxious about coming back, as I was unsure if my body and mind were ready. She was the friendly face I needed to keep pushing. My first Spartan Race back I qualified for the OCRWC finishing 5th in my age group, which was a huge surprise as I thought I was still a little while off being competitive. Tnaya managed to Win her under 18 age group, which gave her a shiny medal that she was ecstatic with.
We later found out that, unfortunately, she was the only under 18 female running so therefore she didn’t qualify. Tnaya was extremely disappointed with the outcome but we continued to encourage her and found a way to get her to the next Spartan Race in Picton, Sydney so her dream was still alive. To ensure the same issue didn’t happen again, we had no choice but to enter her in the elite category. Going by her times thus far we knew she was capable she just needed to believe in herself.
I knew going into this race that I had to be her friendly face and that I needed to run the elites with her. She ended up finishing 12th in Elite woman qualifying her for worlds. Finally, her dreams had become a reality, she did exceptionally well. We are extremely proud of Tnaya for reaching for the stars, she has become a strong, independent, and inspirational young lady – we couldn’t ask for anything more. Anything is possible when you believe in yourself.
We are both very excited and extremely blessed to be able to compete for Australia at the OCR world championships, but the real gift is that we get to compete and experience this together. It is an opportunity of a lifetime and one that many do not get to experience.
I will be forever grateful for this chapter of my life, although difficult, it was well worth the struggle.
Be kind to others! Speak up, its OK to ask for help! Lead by example!