" I stared through my computer screen like it was a translucent mirror, watching a young man tell his story, as if it were my own. The webcam image was grainy & the audio unsteady – but to this day, no message has ever been so clear. So, this is what it feels like to be understood. I often wonder what life my life would be like if I didn’t watch that YouTube clip. Would there be a life at all? As someone who has struggled with debilitating anxiety my entire life, I’ve often felt like an alien. A perpetuating sense that I don’t belong here –on planet earth, or in my own body. My outside life has always been so “normal”. Born and raised in a life of privilege. After graduating with a Commerce degree, I joined the technology industry as the youngest intern at Microsoft. I worked there for 7 years, quickly climbing the ranks to Global Product Marketing Manager – leading some of the company’s biggest launches. I spent 2 of those years in Seattle, USA –traveling around the world between Italy, New York and Asia –mixing with the world of fashion, sport and media. I had plenty of money, a nice car, great social life and my body was in good shape... but my mind was not. On the inside my life was foreign, messy and intrusive. Since I was a small child, I remember feeling that I was different to other kids. I often felt sad & unsettled for seemingly no reason, and would ruminate on things for days. By 9 years old, I had developed acute OCD and it would take me half hour to simply leave my bedroom. In my late teen years, I started to have random panic attacks and bouts of depression. Things kept getting worse, and I would continue to apply emotional band-aids to stop the flow of blood. Mum was the only person I could talk to. My angel and my rock. But she couldn’t take these feelings away, and every time we went to a doctor they would tell me I needed to relax! So, I stopped trying to work it out, and just get on with it.

Until it all came crumbling down. I broke, to what I thought was ‘the point of no return’. I hit the ‘big red button’. My pride fell away and I finally put my hand up and said “I’m willing to do what it takes, I need to get better. I can’t keep going on like this”.That night I stumbled upon that video on YouTube. A random guy in his room telling the world about his battles with mental health. An incredible sense of relief came from not feeling alone for the first time in my life. It made me realise that most of the pain I felt was in the judgement surrounding the experience, not the experience itself. The second layer that fuelled the fire was the guilt about being abnormal, the shame about the anxiety, the thoughts of “what will people think of me if they find out… who will I let down?”. It was time to let myself be vulnerable – not only with others, but also with myself. I needed to stop running away, and walk through the fire. The path toward self-love & wellness has not been an easy one. Nor has the path toward trusting that I can be helped. On many occasions, I thought it was too painful and too hopeless to continue. But the one thing that has kept me going is my commitment to letting myself be me. Authenticity has been the thing that has bought me home and got me to where I am today.  At any stage of our journey, even when things are bad, we have the opportunity to be real and be present with who we are, and where we are at. Self-acceptance doesn’t take the problem away, but it gives us the room we need to deal with it, so that it no longer feels like a problem. I was so inspired by what one man’s courage and wisdom could do for my life that I became set on sharing a glimmer of that with other people. This is why I launched The Heart On My Sleeve Movement – to show what is possible when we lean into a lifetime of pain and turn it into meaning by telling our story with strength & vulnerability. We don't have to feel strange or crazy, and we definitely don't have to do it by ourselves. It’s quite a profound moment when you let someone inside to see the broken pieces within you, and they see a beautiful mosaic… when all we could see was a faint reflection in a shattered mirror."