I'm Connie, a 37-year-old female living in Melbourne. Professionally, I am a Counsellor and Youth Worker of over 15 years’ experience and most recently I published my first book - “Once Upon a Feeling”. My book is a foundation level tool, for ages four upwards, to help children express their emotions with the adults in their life. This book was my healing, my soul food to offer the children of our world, not only because it is what I do for work, but it is also who I am - an advocate for mental health wellness.
So that was surface Connie, the one everyone knows. But a few years ago, if you asked me who I was, I didn't really know who I was to anyone. In 2014 I met the love of my life, Jesse Bird- my life changed forever. Together we became lost in an emotional battle to save him – he was a returned Afghanistan Veteran whose mental battle struggled to transition into civilian life. It was then that the war came into our home, our relationship - and I didn't realise...me. For two years we tried our hardest to save him and our relationship and get on with life. I fell pregnant but miscarried at 9 weeks- Another notch on the belt of failure for Jesse and our relationship, as we tried to battle through all the hurt that entered our life.
I Lost Myself In All The Pain
I was grieving the loss of our baby, our future, our relationship. I just couldn't help Jesse anymore - I had failed in my mind. I felt so alone, my lowest point being in a shower looking at my wrists and wondering what the sharpest object was in the room to ease my darkest thoughts. We took a break, I still loved Jesse and I had hoped we would come back together again one day. A year on Jesse had pushed me away and taken his life. The war had won. I had lost everything – again.
This Is Where i Found Connie
I used my grief as my voice to speak my truth, to tell my story and raise the profile of veterans and their partners. I went to so many meetings in Canberra to discuss what Jesse and I didn't have, the support we lacked in dealing with his mental health and how policies and legislation could improve so that no one ever goes through what we did. We now have over $800 million dollars towards an improved Department of Veterans Affairs, and better rehabilitation and transition processes for veterans and their families. Through this advocacy I was able to let go of my anger and use my voice to heal myself and others.
What I Now Know
It's ok to let yourself feel the highs and the lows. Own it, talk about it, ask for help and sit with the fact that it is all ok. I took my loss and I focused all my energy on what I could control - which was advocacy, self-care and the parts of me that still brought me joy. I found my journal which had my book Once Upon a Feeling written inside- So I brought it to life. In between work I made time for self-care and looked within - meditation and manifestation - connecting with my soul.
Today, I am stronger because of my lived experience and I hope it can help others to heal from theirs. My heart is opening up to love again and that is a sign I’m on the right track.