Turning trials into triumphs
The early years …
From the outside, my childhood in Melbourne seemed privileged and charmed. I attended private schools, lived in a beautiful home, had a closet full of the latest clothes and everything I needed. There was no shortage of after school activities from gymnastics, drama, tennis, girl guides, marching bands, piano lessons, and concerts. However, behind closed doors, family life was not as it seemed.
Anxiety was ever-present in our home, and it escalated every afternoon when my father arrived home from work. He had zero impulse control, and if something annoyed him, he would fly into uncontrolled fits of rage that could last for hours. His moods were unpredictable and terrifying. Under siege, my brother and I would try to avoid becoming the target of his anger and verbal attacks. He was volatile, so there was always a sense of being on guard. (Unfortunately, my father’s mental health issues were never diagnosed).
Chronic bullying throughout primary school made my anxiety worse. I struggled with being overweight so that made me a target. Every day at school I would hear “look out here comes tank”. I lost my confidence. I didn’t belong – and I hated it! Bullying leaves its scars. Like many others who have been victimised in childhood, self-esteem issues impacted me for a long time, making it hard to trust others. By the end of high school, I had gone from being a hard-working student to a depressed, insecure, and reckless teen.
From triumph to tragedy …
Although my childhood was turbulent, fortunately, I inherited my father’s entrepreneurial spirit and drive. I was determined to make something of my life. I quickly progressed from a junior to management roles in Melbourne’s fashion industry. It ultimately led to a two-year relocation to London, working in management for a global retailer. I had a brilliant job regularly travelling around England. But the winds of change were beginning to blow.
One afternoon, on a beautiful sunny day, on a narrow country lane in England, my anxiety moved to a whole new level. After enjoying our favourite Sunday roast at the local pub, my friend and I drove off into the countryside. With no warning, a pedestrian stepped onto the road in front of the car. The shock of this fatal accident haunted me for years in ways I could not have imagined; flashbacks, panic attacks, and constant fear of being a passenger in a car. I knew it was time to return home.
The turning point…
By the time I arrived in Melbourne, I was miserable. I lived with constant anxiety, always on high alert, waiting for the worst to happen, and an inner critic on repeat. I was fragile on the inside, and I didn’t want others to see that I was not OK. I felt controlled by a fear of failure and not being good enough. Then one day, I decided that I’d had enough.
The first time I saw a psychologist, I realised the ‘normal’ of my everyday life was anything but that. Finding the courage to seek help and deal with my anxiety and trauma issues was the most significant step I could have taken. It was a catalyst for healing and growth that has changed my life – and I’m sure, will change yours too (or that of your child).
The desire to make a positive and meaningful difference in the world began to grow. I had always been curious about human behaviour and fascinated by my father’s books on psychology, astrology, and eastern philosophy. I knew in my heart that psychology was my true passion. I took a ‘leap of faith’ and completed six years of study to become a psychologist. It was tough leaving a successful career. There were sacrifices (like studying till the early hours while my two daughters slept), but I was determined.
Positive new beginnings …
In 2008, driven by my entrepreneurial spirit, I established Positive Families Psychology to fulfill my vision of creating a positive psychology clinic. Our vision is to shift the focus in psychology from problems and what is wrong to one of strengths, resilience, and wellbeing. We help clients uncover strengths and learn new skills that will allow them to deal with the challenges that arise in life. Research and experience show that we make more progress by building upon our strengths than merely seeking to ‘fix our weaknesses.’
Why am I sharing this with you? – Because I want you to know you’re not alone.
Like many others (maybe even you), I’ve experienced common fears that prevented me from fulfilling my dreams. I know first-hand how debilitating fear can be – whether it’s a fear of failure, success, inadequacy, or rejection. I’ve lived with anxiety, felt the devastation of depression, the fear of not being good enough, not belonging, and feeling different from others.
Having experienced mental health issues myself, I know how feeling heard and supported by a skilled psychologist can lead to insight, growth, and change. Transformation, of the most miraculous kind, is possible for you too. We can’t always do this on our own; we need guidance, support, and a range of tools.
What I do now…
I now have the privilege of helping people every day make positive and meaningful change. Through intentional practice, I have nurtured the ability to stay positive, persevere, and bounce back from difficult situations and experiences, like a boss super-woman. I am committed to personal growth (recovering perfectionist!) and daily mindfulness meditation for the past 20 years. Although I was raised catholic, I was greatly influenced by my father’s passion for eastern philosophy, zen Buddhism and martial arts (aka Bruce Lee). I respect everyone’s path and way of deepening their own experiences.
My greatest joy, as well as my greatest challenge, is my family. As a mum to two teen daughters, I understand the struggles and joys of parenting.
I would love to support you on your journey, too.
Positive Families Director