Earlier this year, Emma moved to Hobart to start her new role in the Graduate Program for the Tasmanian Department of Premier and Cabinet. During this time, a global pandemic was unfolding, and very quickly we saw state borders shut down for an indefinite amount of time. She's been a Melbourne girl her whole life, but since the lockdown Emma has been unable to see her family and friends back home due to these restrictions. Managing a mental health condition at the best of times can have its ups and downs, but how do you manage a mental health condition when a global pandemic has changed your everyday way of living?
For Emma, it’s all about sticking to a normal routine as much as possible. This includes walking every day and doing a few yoga sessions each week. It’s simple things like meal prepping every weekend, so that Emma has healthy lunches and dinners ready for the working week ahead, making a conscious effort to stay connected with family and friends - talking on the phone or Skyping and enjoying the fun things, like reading a good book or watching her favourite TV show while drinking lots of cups of tea. These have all made a positive difference to her mental health.
Emma has faced many challenges with her health since the age of 13, including experiencing chronic pain, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder.
Throughout her life Emma has been through some really dark times. However something that helped her get through these periods was the idea that if she survived, she would be able to use her experience to help others. Emma soon realised that becoming a Beyond Blue Speaker would be a great way to achieve this.
“At times, things have seemed truly hopeless. But a part of me, however tiny, has always held on to the idea that there is hope.”
This strong message of hope is what Emma wants her audience to take with them: that hope does exist.
“Being completely vulnerable and honest, while scary, is also extremely powerful. In fact, the willingness to be vulnerable and honest commands an audience’s attention like nothing else… they are always grateful to you for having the guts to do so.”
Despite the fact it has taken 10 years to get to where she is now – and understanding that the journey is far from over – Emma can wholeheartedly accept that she is finally at a point in her life where she feels happy.
After almost six years in the Speakers Program, Emma knows that some events can be more emotionally intense or challenging at times, and because of this she understands the importance of having a self-care plan on event days. Before or after every event, Emma will treat herself to a coffee and a sweat treat as it forces her to have some “me” time – not to mention it’s a great way to try out new cafes in areas she wouldn’t normally visit! She also enjoys debriefing with a family member or friend – whether that’s in person or over the phone. Emma allows herself permission to be kind and gentle to herself and she does so by deliberately blocking out time after the event to process any thoughts and emotions that her talk may have brought up.
Emma has found, during her time as a speaker, that meaningful memories can come from unexpected places. A few years ago, after sharing her story with a secondary collage, a Year 9 male student raised his hand and, respectfully and sincerely, asked Emma how she felt when she looked at her body in the mirror when she was experience Anorexia Nervosa.
“I was really amazed that a Year 9 boy, who I wasn’t even sure had been paying attention to my presentation, had the depth of reflection and emotional intelligence to ask such an insightful question.”
Like so many of us, Emma is really looking forward to interstate travel opening up again so she can fly back to Melbourne and give her family and friends a big hug. And to also have her family and friends visit her new home in Hobart.