Firstly, tell us a little bit about yourself!
I’m a country girl originally from the Hunter Valley. I moved to Melbourne to do my actor training at the VCA about 16 years ago and found a new home here. I work freelance as a performer, director, teacher, and a whole bunch of random gigs that keep the lights on and my membership to 23W paid. I’m also the proud cat mother to a gorgeous tabby called Bette Davis who I adopted in April 2020. I’m a proud member of the actors union and volunteer a lot of my time and energy on various committees and campaigns including The Equity Wellness Committee. Workers in the performing arts suffer from significant episodes of mental health issues at twice the rate of the Australian average.
There is such a stigma around being open about mental health and it is fantastic you are willing to be open about yours – tell us a bit about it.
Firstly, it’s so nice to be invited to be open about my mental health here so, thank you! I manage depression and have had episodes of it since my late 20’s. I recognized I was struggling pretty badly in Feb 2020 and saw my GP. We decided it was finally time to try some medication. This was really, really scary for me. It made the diagnosis feel more real, more … serious this time. And then the pandemic hit…. In a way, it was a total blessing. I was so very tired of holding it together and all I wanted to do was run away and hide how dark and twisted I felt. Then the entire world shut down and I got my wish. Sorry world, the universe clearly only responded to my letter in 2020.
My particular brand of depression displays itself through mental and physical fatigue coupled with a pretty mean voice in my head that tells me I’m lazy, among other things, when I’m struggling to move. I’ve named this voice Melanie – apologies to any nice Melanies out there! – after a dumb mole who used to pick on me in high school. I take great delight in saying “Fuck off Melanie!” when trying to quiet that voice. It’s a pretty exhausting cycle to be stuck in and this particular relapse had been brewing for a really long time so I was down in that hole pretty deeply by the time I sought help.
You first joined us during an 8 week challenge, was improving your mental health a driving force behind the decision to come to 23W?
Yes it was! I had this lovely window of relief in early Feb this year where I was feeling like I had just enough energy to get back into exercise. I 100% need to be accountable to a program and find it almost impossible to stick to something at home by myself so when I saw the ad I got in touch with Ange. My main concern was “will you make me run”. As soon as she said I didn’t have to run, I was in.
I’ve always had a really difficult relationship with my body. I’ve been self conscious about being fat since I was about 9 years old. I was a chubby kid and teenager and never felt confident moving my body to exercise. Also being a perfectionist doesn’t help. If I can’t be great at it first go… yada yada yada.
I got really fit in my mid 30’s and it was a revelation to me. I loved strength based training and feeling the power in my body. I wanted to feel that again. The weight I’d put on from the depression and the antidepressants I was taking wasn’t really a focus. I just wanted to get back into a routine of moving again and hopefully build some strength of body and mind. Fitting back into my old clothes would have to take a back seat or it would be my undoing.
What challenges did you face when you started with us?
Just getting there.
And then staying there.
I wanted to quit every single minute for the first few weeks. It was torture.
What have you unlocked within yourself since joining 23W?
I’m learning (and relearning) to truly listen to what my body is saying and to respect that – even when it’s inconvenient. In the beginning I just wanted to see results and improvement quickly. Once I did start to see improvement, I wanted to have no bad days – just endless improvement with rainbows and unicorns and sunshine – oh my!
I have to remind myself that each day is different and I’m different each day and that has got to be ok or I’m simply going to implode. I’m not always great with this but I’ll never forget what Asha first said to me “Just turn up and we will put the weights into your hands”. It’s been such a powerful phrase that has gotten me out the door and it’s helped me unlock the most empowering thing inside me which is to ask for help and say when I’m not at my best. I cannot begin to tell you how difficult it is to ask for help or admit when I’m not getting something, but it’s the only way I can allow myself to move forward with my depression rather than trying to push it down and pretend it’s not there. Weirdly, by honoring Melanie and all her bitchy comments, it’s making her a little less overbearing. She actually fucks off when I tell her to. Sometimes… and even if she doesn’t, I’m strong enough to roll out of bed and know that someone will be there to put the weights in my hands and get me to move.