Sharni, thank you for helping to open up the conversation about supporting mental wellbeing. You took some time in early 2018 to reset and look after yourself. What made you decide to do that?
I got to the point where I couldn’t give my authentic self to my family, friends, supporters and teammates. I wasn’t living true to my values, so something had to change.
My body and mind forced me to listen. I got to the point where I couldn’t get through the days without breaking down. Sometimes crying, sometimes not being able to leave the house or answer phone calls. For me, this wasn’t how I wanted to live my life out. I wanted to be a good family member and friend, not be the one they were constantly worried about.
I thought I was mentally strong enough to get myself out of it, but after over a year of struggling I had to accept I wasn’t which was the toughest part.
Coming to the realisation that I was the one that got myself into that state I was in. Then I knew and accepted I didn’t have the skills or resilience to get myself out of it.
What steps did you take to address your own wellbeing?
My very first step was calling Angie Bain (Australian Diamonds Wellbeing Manager) and telling her I wasn’t okay, and I needed help ASAP. I was extremely lucky. Angie and my manager Kath took care of all my commitments for the following months.
Angie got me in touch with a psychiatrist and psychologist who I saw weekly at the start and still do regularly.
The first four months were the hardest. I learnt tools from my psychiatrist to help keep me in the moment and focused on the now, as future thoughts are what created the anxiety.
Eating healthy and regularly (I had a very little to no appetite) and getting a lot of sleep were key for me in recovery. I had no idea how draining recovery and re-training of the brain was. So much harder than any physical exercise I had ever done.
Meditation was key. Mindfulness doesn’t have to be sitting still – that was actually worse for me as it gave me too much time to think. So, mindfulness for me was spending time on the couch at my sister’s house with her company and also exercise. I loved all kinds from boxing, yoga, Pilates, jogging and gym. It was the first time in my career I could train for fun without smashing myself. It took me months to figure out what worked for me. For the first three months I did what I thought “should” work (i.e. sitting down meditating, being alone in nature, out with friends) but all of these ended up being more stresses than relaxes.
How do you Celebrate Life Every Day now?
I look after my body with good food and sleep. This is most important for me. I then lock in time for me. Whether it’s a 10 minute bath, an hour with my phone off, reading in a café, a chat to someone in my inner sanctum, a conversation about something bigger than myself, time with my cats, trail riding on my horse, jogging outside, boxing/yoga/Pilates or simply allowing myself two or three episodes on Netflix or sleeping a whole day away once a week. All of the above bring me back to me with no guilt whatsoever. I need minimum one day to me a week and then I can handle whatever the rest of the week throws at me.
As women, we’re expected to nurture others, which often means putting our own needs aside. What are your thoughts on that?
Ridiculous. You can’t look after others if you don’t look after yourself. You are so important. You need to be your own best friend. You deserve to look after yourself first and you need to believe that you deserve it too.
Unfortunately, especially in Australia, we have tall poppy syndrome as well as the nurturing pressure on us, which is BS.
Don’t get me wrong, helping people makes us feel good which is why we do it. But we need to be good first, to help others second.
No matter what:
- You deserve to be happy.
- You deserve to do what makes you happy without copping criticism from others.
- You deserve to spend time by yourself.
- You deserve to spend time with people who light you up and bring the best out of you.
In turn, when you look after yourself first you will the glow bright, which will in turn bring out the best out of those around you.
If people try to dull your light, slowly and subtly (or abruptly – up to you) remove them from your day-to-day life.
You do you, Sister.
What would you say to someone who feels that they would like to reach out and seek help?
Bite the bullet and just do it. You can get a mental health plan from your local GP and source psych recommendations. Keep searching until you find the person that is right for you. You might be lucky and find someone first go, but if you don’t that’s okay. Keep searching. I have seen 10 psychologists in my time and connected with three of them, and they have changed my life for the better.
Don’t. Give. Up.
Sharni, it’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you, and we are so grateful to you for opening up and sharing your inspiring story with us. Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to add?
Don’t wait for things to get bad to see someone. We all have bad days. That’s a part of life and that’s okay. However, if you don’t feel yourself or your bad days are over taking your good days speak to a professional. Friends and family are great – but everyone has an opinion but only experts have the tools to help you improve.
If you hurt your hamstring you wouldn’t ask your friend to rub your leg (that would be weird) I would assume you would see a physio.
So, if you’re mentally struggling see a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist who can help you get back on track.
You got this.