Content warning: the following piece discusses personal experiences of an eating disorder. If you or anyone you know is experiencing an eating disorder or have mental health concerns, we recommend contacting your doctor.
In Australia, it’s estimated that 25 percent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.
We sat down with Simone Brick, a trail runner who has inspired many others by sharing her own mental health journey, including her road to recovery, finding freedom in running and her advice to young women around Australia.
Tell us a bit about your story
I grew up as the second youngest of seven kids in a lovingly chaotic home. I was an extremely keen observer as a child, and always felt somewhat on the outskirts everywhere I went. This trait turned into a battle against depression and anxiety from the age of 14 onwards, as I struggled to take in my life experience.
When I left school, I thought everything would open up for me and improve, but unfortunately, I instead developed a severe eating disorder as I tried to cope with my newfound freedom. Since then, I have endured and overcome a battle with many mental and physical illnesses, including Anorexia Nervosa, Dissociative Disorder, Psychosis, Gastroparesis and multiple bouts of Major Depression.
Now at the age of 25, after getting my life on track, I am studying Biomedicine at The University of Melbourne, and I compete internationally as a Mountain Runner for Australia. I get to travel to places I could never have dreamed of and am again able to engage in the learning that I love.
How has running got you through hardship?
Running came to me as a form of freedom and therapy at the height of my mental battles. I started to find team sports hard to engage in. However, I still needed the boost that comes from a sport that I have relied on heavily throughout life. This is where running came in. It was something I didn’t need anyone else to do with, and where I could fight my internal battles while feeling free, strong and capable. As I improved in running I slowly learned that I was capable of more than I thought.
You’re very transparent about everything you’ve been through. How has sharing your journey openly with the world impacted your life?
Initially, sharing my journey openly was extremely hard, and some days it still is. But when I was in the depths of my illnesses, it was other people’s stories of hope and overcoming what I was going through that helped me get through many of my darkest days, so now I feel absolutely privileged to be in a position where I might be able to provide the same hint of hope to others.
What’s a mantra you live by?
The hardest decisions and most uncomfortable paths are the most worthwhile to explore.
What do you tell yourself when you’re having a bad day?
That so far, I have a 100% track record of making it through bad days, weeks, months or years; so I have everything I need to ride this one out too.
What advice would you give to the young women of Australia?
Be yourself and follow your own path in life, no matter what obstacles stand in your way. The only thing you can ever truly be the best in the world at is being you, so the biggest gift you can give the world is using your unique gifts and doing just that – no matter what it looks like.
What’s the best thing someone can do when someone they love is going through a difficult time?
Many times, it is not about the saying but the doing. Be there. Listen and ask about their struggles. Ask what may help them in that moment, because it will always change, and be prepared to not be able to do anything to help other than sit in silence with them so they aren’t alone in their battle. It’s not always advice that is needed, and often the words we say to try and help can belittle the difficulties. Being there and taking actions to show that your loved one is a valued priority on your life speaks volumes more than words ever could.
Do you have any new year’s resolutions?
I believe we should be able to make positive changes in our lives at any point we see the need, be that the beginning of the year, in the middle of a random week or end of a single day. I live by the philosophy that I am succeeding as long as I am doing the best I can in each moment with the knowledge I currently have; but then as soon as I know better, it’s time to do better.
Who are three women who inspire you and why?
I mostly find inspiration in the daily movements of the incredible female role models I have around me, so first and foremost my biggest inspiration is my mum. She not only raised 7 children in a loving home but will do anything he can to make the world a better place for those around her.
I was also deeply touched in my early life and again throughout my recovery by the story of Helen Keller and how she overcame immense obstacles to still have such success in life.
Beyond that, I am inspired by every woman whose story I read that dedicated their life to helping shape our world in science, even though most of their names are lost in the history books; and equally by every incredible woman who is a pioneer in their field, from Amelia Earheart to Lydia Lassilla and beyond.
If you would like to find out more about eating disorders and body image issues, you can visit the Butterfly Foundation website.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing an eating disorder or body image concerns, we encourage you to reach out for support. You can call the Butterfly Foundation Toll Free National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 or visit their website http://www.thebutterflyfoundation.org.au for more information.