“My original plan for my 50th birthday was to make a 3rd and final attempt on my life. And I ended up celebrating my half century on stage in a bikini declaring to the world I was FULLY recovered from clinical depression!
I transformed myself from a drunken, suicidal, pill-popping party girl at 45 years old to a vibrant, healthy, energetic, and LOVING-my-life fitness model at 50 years young.
Pinch me! How did I get here?!
My entire adult life (up until now!) has been littered with depression, anxiety, addictions, eating disorders, substance abuse, broken relationships, heartache, and insecurities. I felt miserable, lonely, ashamed, unworthy, unlovable, dumb, like I had failed at life.
I was first ‘sent’ to therapy at the tender age of 16. With my parents’ bitter divorce when I was 6, losing my full-time Nanny not long after, changing schools thrice, and a move interstate at 14, I was not exactly the happy, straight A student that was expected of me.
I therefore learned from a very early age that there was something ‘wrong’ with me.
I managed to finish school but did not go to college, despite intense parental pressure to do so, opting instead to leave home and get married at 19. Part rebellion, part desperation for the love I never felt growing up and certainly did not feel from within.
Marrying for all the wrong reasons, I found myself divorced by 21… relationships were then difficult for me and I sorted out my own therapy through psychologists in my 20s to attempt to fix whatever was broken within me that I could never quite articulate. I felt a sense of urgency and pressure to be married by 30 and start ticking off my shopping list of life.
With a deep-seated belief that I was dumb and would not amount to anything career wise due to my lack of college degree, I felt I needed the white picket fence dream in order to succeed at life.
I married at 32 (once more for all the wrong reasons) and once again I was separated and divorced within 12 months. I felt even more of a failure. My unhappiness with myself and my life escalated and I was diagnosed with clinical depression, prescribed medication, and sent to psychiatrists for therapy.
From this point on, I got worse. Now I had the official ‘label’ that I was mentally ill and it served as proof that I was indeed broken and needed medication to correct what was ‘wrong’ with me. I was consumed with misery, despair, loneliness, humiliation, embarrassment, and heartache.
But I am only 32, so I still have plenty of time to ‘get’ the man, right? Or so I thought…
Having not done the partying thing through my 20s, I dived headfirst into the bar scene, binge drinking/eating every weekend. Desperate for love (and looking in all the wrong places!), I attempted relationships with the wrong kind of men which left me with a broken heart over and over. Through my 30s, I was either the single, desperate, drunk girl at the bar or in an on again, off again relationship which became my signature.
On one of the off again occasions, I felt the desperate need to escape from the ache in my heart and the ongoing emotional pain of emptiness I had felt for too long. Sleep was always difficult for me with the constant stream of criticism in my head. Depression is like living with an enemy inside you that you can never escape from. Accept when you are asleep… so I decided I just wanted to sleep the weekend away.
My motivation was innocent enough (?) but of course it was not viewed that way. I notched up my first attempt on my life, resulting in hospitalization at the age of 35. At this point, my medication is changed and I am now placed on an SSRI.
I stumble through my late 30s continuing with the partying and binging as well as my inappropriate choice of relationships and repeated heart break, too often by the same man! I found myself approaching 40, single, childless. The pressure I now felt was all consuming. My biological clock was now DEAFENING in my ears and my shopping list of life didn’t have one tick on it!
I felt an incredible burden and need to ‘do’ life in the right order by the right age. To follow society’s ‘rules,’ to live life according to what others expected, what everyone else was doing, the ‘norm.’ School, college, career, man, marry, house, kids and then live happily ever after. I was trying to fit in and believed that obtaining these pre-set milestones was the key to happiness.
At the age of 38, I once again found myself in another on again off again relationship and again during an off period decided I needed help managing the suicidal thoughts. I checked myself into a private depression clinic with the hope that I would finally find the answers to my misery.
I immediately felt uncomfortable in this environment. Maybe I was not as bad as I think I am? Or maybe I was not actually mentally ill….? But everyone tells me I am? Don’t I belong here? I decided I wanted to go home and advised the nurse I wanted to check out, not realizing the paperwork I signed when I checked in actually waived my rights to make such a decision.
I was sitting quietly in my room reading, I hadn’t even packed up my things, so although I had made this request I was not making any physical attempts to leave. Two paramedics then appeared at my door advising me they are here to transport me to a public psychiatric ward. Say what?!?!
I lose 3 days of my life in this public facility, drugged into an incoherent daze, and despite attempts from my ex-husband and brother to have me released, the only way out was via parental consent. My father had to fly from interstate to secure my release!
I vowed never again to turn to the medical profession for help.
And my depression, partying, drug abuse, binge drinking and eating escalated further as the shame and humiliation became suffocating.
By 41, I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. F#ck finding a man, I’ll become a mother on my own! I attempt 4 IVF cycles, 3 fresh, 1 frozen. I conceived with all 3 fresh cycles, but they only lasted a few weeks before I lost them all. The emotional roller coaster that comes with IVF, with the excessive amounts of hormones needed for a woman my age, fed and increased my depressed and suicidal thoughts.
With the 4th and final round a failure, I was now deadly serious about exiting this life. I felt there was no hope and no reason to go on. I was drowning in shame, guilt, failure, and devastation. I felt unlovable, abandoned, lonely, and worthless.
Clearly, I failed at this exit thanks to a dear old friend who found me. I notched up my 2nd suicide attempt and 3rd hospitalization at the age of 41. And thankfully it would be the last!
I spend the next 5 odd years partying harder than ever. Losing myself further in a drunken blur. Doing anything conceivable to escape myself and my misery. I was either drunk, stoned, partying, watching TV, shopping, barely eating through the week, and then bingeing all weekend.
In 2012, at the age of 45, my journey of recovery began. Enter bodybuilding.
Another one of my addictions was cardio group exercise. Yes, despite all the alcohol and drug abuse, barely eating, you would still find me at the gym jumping up and down like a crazy woman 3-5 times a week fueled by my vanity and low self-esteem. I didn’t have the career, man, house, kids but by God I was going to hang on to what I believed was the only thing I had going for me, my skinny body and long blonde hair!
In the midst of this destructive way of living, I suffered an injury that sees me having to completely change my gym routine. An injury that resulted in the elimination of cardio and my reaction is that of an addict! How am I going to remain slim and fuel my dependence on my appearance to source my worth if I can’t exercise?
The only form of exercise left available to me was weightlifting or swimming, neither of which I cared for nor did I believe would burn the calories I needed to combat the excessive alcohol and food intake.
After the tears and shock subsided, I started doing a bit of research on this weight training business. Isn’t that what fitness models do?! And they have a division for old girls?! And so I find another avenue to reinforce my need to derive happiness from my body and appearance, only this time I get to show it off on stage?! And obtain adoration and attention of everyone! Surely then I will FINALLY be happy…?!
So, driven by low self-esteem, and at the tender age of 45, I threw myself into this new bodybuilding regime. As with so many things I took on back then, and given how self-focused depression actually is, I was completely naïve as to what was involved. A blessing in disguise!
It wasn’t until I was well past the point of no return and a lot of my savings had been invested when I realized I had completely over committed myself. What was I thinking??!! With all my issues, I was very shy and introverted despite mastering the art of covering it up. How was I going to get up on stage and fool the world, like I always had, of how broken I really was?
It’s amazing how far low self-worth, poor body image, vanity, fear of aging, and the ego will take you. Is there no end to what we women will do?
A funny thing happens when you start to feed your body with nutritious whole, organic food, drink lots of water, take premium supplementation, get enough sleep, and lift heavy weights. All for the sake of achieving the perfect female form, I had to treat my body with respect; like the temple it actually is. Not abuse it and take it for granted!
After a lifetime of self-neglect, being under-weight and under nourished, my body began firing on all cylinders! And although I was allowed a cheat night once a week (where for the first few years I was a hypocrite and would return to my parting and binge drinking/eating ways one night a week), these overindulgences became less and less. I now don’t drink alcohol at all!
And while absolutely changing my diet, the physical strength gained from weightlifting, the positive influence of my mentors/coaches, and the discipline of this lifestyle were huge contributors to my recovery, at the core of all suffering and achievements is the mind.
To get my shy, depressed, broken ass on stage when I knew I didn’t have self-confidence, I had to work on my mindset. I was TERRIFIED about being on stage. I would wake up at night in a state of panic and dread!
I started seeing a hypnotist as I really wanted to be hypnotized on stage! Hypnotism is really just guided mediation. I had heard about all these hooey mindset techniques before, read about them in books, and had been advised by some of the natural healers, but I always thought they were a load of hooey! They won’t work for me!
But I had backed myself into a corner. I was DESPERATE to get up on stage as I believed it would FINALLY resolve all my issues and I would find happiness. I had also made a commitment to my coach at the time. A man I deeply respected and who supported me in a way I never had before. I could not let him down.
I would see the hypnotist once a week but I also started my own nightly routine. I also added in affirmations, visualizations, and many other mindset techniques to work on my confidence. All these mindset techniques I was using to overcome my fear of getting up on stage were also teaching me skills that were going to serve me well past my completion. And I didn’t even know it yet.
I started down this road for all the wrong reasons and ended up curing myself of lifelong misery.
After my first competition, I was absolutely devastated that I got all the way to stage, had the body, but still hated myself and my life. OMG. I really was broken. Nothing I ever did was good enough. I sunk back into deep depression.
My coach was not even aware of my darkness (I was way too ashamed and embarrassed to tell him). Within weeks, he told me I should compete again later that year. Eager to please him, I agreed. Maybe if I hadn’t made this decision, I may not have recovered like I have.
I had to continue with all these new mindset habits, and a few more, in order to get on stage again. So, I have now clocked up nearly 9 months straight of not only this new clean living lifestyle but of daily mindset techniques. Like I said, my recovery had begun and I didn’t even know it.
I don’t think my full recovery came into my awareness until preparing for my competition in 2016 for my 50th. I can remember being so certain that I would not even be alive for my 50th and here I was, not only excited and proud to turn 50 but I was going to celebrate on stage. I also published my book that year which was part of my healing journey. I was not only owning my demons, facing my darkness, but I was declaring it publicly for the first time!
After my competition in 2016, I looked back on my achievements of the previous 3 years. I had endured many non-fitness challenges over that time that also reinforced the need for mindset work. I had not only endured and survived, but I was thriving! Thoughts of despair, suicide, and depression were the furthest from my mind.
I declared myself fully recovered in October of 2016.
Too many of us accept mental illness, eating disorders, anxiety, and addictions as a life sentence. We are conditioned to seek one avenue of support through medication and traditional therapy. Which may work well for some but for many of us it leaves us worse.
I have now dedicated my life to supporting women who suffer like I did. My life mission has been born out of my misery and recovery to motivate, support, and inspire as many women as possible who suffer as I used to. I share my journey and darkness openly and honestly to spread hope to those still battling their inner demons too often in silence.”
[If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help is out there. You are not alone.]
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jane Curnow. You can follow her journey on Facebook, Instagram, and her website. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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