(And literally EVERY other aspect of my life)
I started modelling in 2014, it is something that completely lights me up from the inside out. Before I discovered modelling I had severe body image issues. A friend of a friend wanted to use me as a model for some photography practice, I didn’t think I was model material at all and very self-conscious of my body. But when I got that first set of photos back my whole perspective changed. I fell in love with myself and my body, I learned to love my imperfections, I felt so empowered, I could see beauty in myself through this art work we’d created together that I’d never seen before. I was addicted after my first shoot, I was doing them every chance I got, expanding my portfolio and improving with each session. A lovely friend of mine encouraged me to start a model mayhem account and it all blossomed rapidly from there. I was in commercials, magazines, I did everything from promotional to glamour to art nude. I loved sharing photos to inspire other girls just like me to love and accept themselves unconditionally. Modelling was so good for my soul. So why would I give up something I loved so much? Well you see, it was due to something I feel that is not often recognised enough for the damages it causes… Mental illness.
February 2017. I sat in the doctors waiting room, crying, shaking, and holding on to my best friends hand as tight as I was holding on to my will to live.
I’d lost 8kg in just over two weeks off my already tiny 55kg frame. My mental health had been deteriorating since mid-2016, I’d gone on hiatus from modelling and lost interest in everything I loved. Food no longer had taste. I had insomnia. Every day I fought the urge to run my car in front of a truck on my way to work. I wanted to die, but I didn’t know why. I’d wanted to die for a while, but my rational voice in my head was loud enough to convince me to stay here. That voice was now so quiet I didn’t know if I’d still be able to hear it tomorrow. I needed help.
Bipolar Disorder. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Severe Generalised Anxiety.
Congratulations, you’re a certified fruit-loop, a whack-job, a looney-tune.
I walked out of the doctor’s office, all the colour had drained from my body, clutching on to a pathology request form and a plethora of prescriptions. I was numb. I was one of “those” people they talk about. I felt like shit, but I knew finding the strength to admit I was struggling was the biggest step I’d ever make for my own wellbeing, no matter how much it sucked right now. But still, no one could know about this.
Someone who is thankfully no longer part of my life, had me convinced it was in my best interests to keep all this “psycho” stuff private. I was discouraged from starting medications and constantly reminded I had a “problem”. I was convinced he was right about me. My anxiety was right about me.
I am unpredictable, defective, unworthy of love, too embarrassing to take anywhere, a bad reflection on his reputation. And… we’ll come back to this part later.
So, contrary to that shitty advice, I started antidepressants, I was high as a kite for a few days, I didn’t eat, I felt an overwhelming, albeit false, sense of happiness and security, and for the first time in years - I could hear myself think (when you have OCD, you don’t really get to hear yourself think), life was amazing… for 3 whole days.
Then it was all downhill from there, I didn’t know it yet, but I was about to enter the biggest downward spiral of my life. I’d call in sick to work at least once or twice on a weekly basis for the simple fact I could not get out of my bed. Physically could not stand. Couldn’t shower. Couldn’t eat. Couldn’t cope. I can imagine how hard this already would have been for my family seeing just the little parts of my illness I couldn’t hide from them.
A couple of weeks later I started on Lithium. All (I thought) I knew about lithium was that it was “that drug that crazy people take to stop them going on mass murders”. Which I now know couldn’t be further from the truth, but the sad reality is that this is what the general public think about drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders. I was devastated it had gotten to this, but I was determined to try anything to keep myself alive. While I was waiting to see if lithium would work for me, I struggled. I started cutting myself, it just gave me such an incredible release. I felt so numb, and inflicting pain on myself was a way of reminding myself I was in fact alive and breathing. It felt strangely good, but I was so ashamed I was doing this. I was convinced no one would understand and I tried to keep so much of it to myself as I was made to feel guilty for speaking about it.
So I put on the bravest face, I just wanted it all to go away, but it wouldn’t.
I felt as if I was driving a car, but the car had no brakes. And it just keeps getting faster and faster and you can’t slow down, and there are people all over the road and you’re trying to swerve because you don’t want to hit them. But you can’t dodge everyone. You keep crying out “SORRY!” but no one can hear you, you’re screaming for help but still – no one hears you. They’ll look at you confused, some are angry, upset and disappointed. You’re trying with every atom of your being to change this but how do you stop a car with no brakes? You just want to jump out, but you’re made to feel guilty, they say they’d rather you stay in the car. That’s easy to say, they aren’t in it.
My life was “perfect” from the outside looking in. I drive a nice car, I’ve got a great job, I’m studying a medical science degree, my grades were good, I was in a long term relationship with someone I really loved (and thought loved me too), I’ve got my own house, a great family, a dog and a cat, and wonderful friends. What could Tyler, that pretty model girl, who drives the Mercedes, is always out having fun, posting pictures of her friends and relationship on Facebook, possibly have to stress about? Why on earth is that girl who has everything, having a meltdown over “nothing”? She’s crying again. Why is she being such a bitch? She chucked a sickie from work yesterday, but now she’s out partying tonight, dancing on a table and getting kicked out of the venue. She’s unpredictable, ungrateful, up herself, stay away.
Little did people know, I was a broken and tortured soul. Almost two decades of repressed emotions and unhealthy coping mechanisms stemming back from events that occurred mainly during my early childhood (turns out, not bipolar) had culminated into a storm I could no longer contain. I hid it so well that my own family didn’t have a clue I was mentally ill. Hell, I didn’t even tell my doctor the whole of what was going on, or my psychologist, so they all thought I was bipolar when in fact I was suffering from complex traumatic stress disorder which resulted in the development of severe anxiety and OCD as a way for my brain to cope. I was ashamed. I didn’t want anyone to know, I wanted to be perceived as strong and successful. I wanted to my family to be proud of me, not to have people snigger about their “nut-job” relative.
Despite the setbacks, I struggled through, I was a shell of myself. I hadn’t been completely open about my issues so therefore I was wrongly medicated and heading down hill fast. On Easter Sunday, my partner at the time broke up with me. This was it, I was waiting for ONE more thing, one more let down to end it all. Just one more thing to confirm I was useless and I had no business remaining on this Earth. Heartbreak. The perfect thing to send an already suicidal person right over the edge.
I attempted suicide by lithium overdose that night.
My mum had to see that, and that is something I will never forgive myself for. I woke up the next morning disappointed I hadn’t died. And the next morning, and the morning after that. There were lots of mornings I woke up disappointed I didn’t die. Sitting in a hospital room on the suicide prevention list didn’t help my will to live either. I knew I’d hurt everyone who loved me beyond belief. But when you’re in that mind state you don’t think of your loved ones, it’s impossible to see a way out of the darkness, if it was you’d have never attempted it in the first place. I had to move back in with my mum after I was discharged and I wasn’t allowed access to my medications for my own safety, I had to have a signed dispensary (thanks mum). To say the road to recovery was tough is an understatement.
Two weeks passed, I’d finally gone back to work, I was still living with mum and it was pretty hard to cope day to day. My co-workers were so supportive and really helped me to get back on my feet. Lots of nasty rumours went around, that was the last thing I needed. People had the strange misconception that “I tried to kill myself over a boy”, those people clearly do not understand mental illness. I could’ve killed myself over spilt milk. Once you’re in that mind state, you’re in it for good and it’s very hard to convince a truly suicidal person otherwise.
So, I started to think maybe one day things would get better, then my dog died. Yep, when it rains for me – it bloody pours. The loss of my precious girl Bindi set back any progress I had made. I was way more devastated about her death than I was about being dumped! I didn’t know how the hell I was supposed to get through this. My medication got upped, I’m now taking both anti-depressants and anti-psychotics and this is the only reason I have not attempted to take my life again. I cannot stress enough how vital medications are especially in the short term as therapy does not work over night. The right medications can give you enough strength to just survive.
I felt as if I’d lost everything I loved. I was truly at rock bottom. But then, something incredible happened. I single-handedly proved to myself just how incredibly resilient humans are. I dragged myself up through the hell I was in and I felt I was finally able to breathe again. A couple of months have passed now, I’ve been getting therapy and taking my meds, each passing day gets a little more bearable. I don’t know how, but I’ve regained a will to live. Some days I’m even happy the whole day! I’d lost track of the last time I’d felt at peace with myself and not like a stranger in my own body. Some days I still have panic attacks, I still have break downs and I still get depressed. But I have learned to cope with them. I’ve accepted this is a part of me and no matter what I am doing in my life I’m still going to be an uncomfortable ball of anxiousness, so may as well be an emotional wreck over something that’s worth it.
So I didn’t quit university, I persisted. I got up every day and went to work. I started eating properly. I gained 5kg and returned to a healthy BMI. I started modelling again. I launched a website. I rekindled old friendships I’d neglected and was also blessed with some new ones.
And much to my surprise, I even met someone new, someone who accepts me for me, someone I’m not “too much” for. I stopped trying to change, I embraced my “crazy”. Once I truly accepted the fact I was dealing with these issues, in my mind they no longer defined me. No matter how terrible things get, no matter what tricks your brain tries to play on you – there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You may need a search party to come in and find you, so call put to them! Don’t be ashamed, we are ALL mad anyway. You can be your own worst enemy if you allow it, take it from a former self-sabotaging loon.
Now I have made it my mission to speak out. Speak out unfiltered and unedited, shout your mental illness! I got through the most horrible darkness I’d ever experienced and then the stars just aligned for me. You can too! I guess the moral of the story is – don’t give up on the things that light you up, be kind as hell to yourself, be loud and be heard! Getting this all out there has been daunting for me but it is an important step I wanted to take in both my personal journey and my journey of raising awareness for psychiatric disorders. Also as a big f*** you to the stigma because I refuse to be ashamed. If my story can help just one person speak out and begin their journey of recovery, then I have achieved what I set out to do. You CAN achieve wonderful things despite your mental illness. Now I feel empowered and I am back with a vengeance. I’m inspired and I am POWERFUL!
Watch this space!
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts please call lifeline on 13 11 14
If you think you may be suffering with a mental illness please tell a relative or trusted friend and make an appointment with your GP.