Crippling anxiety and depression had driven one woman to almost end her life on three occasions but found refuge through fitness.
Disclaimer: Please take caution when reading this article as it discusses sensitive issues regarding depression and suicide.
By the age of 18, Courtney Lorking, a personal trainer from Australia, had already attempted suicide three times in the span of four weeks. Courtney was admitted to the psychiatric ward where she stayed for three days to receive professional mental health support.
“I was going through a definite horrible relationship that ended really terribly and he was very manipulative and abusive which put me in a very bad mental state,” she says.
Adolescence can be an overwhelming and turbulent time in a person’s life.
For Courtney, high school was when her anxiety and depression became more severe.
“School just wasn’t for me. I ended up dropping out in year 10.”
She saw that the other girls she went to school with were more “girly.”
“I didn’t really fit in,” Courtney says.
The anxiety from not fitting in led to her being prescribed medication. It was something that she “hated and was definitely super against.”
Prior to receiving professional mental health support Courtney was unaware of ways to manage her anxiety and depression.
“Obviously being young, I didn’t really know there was anything that I could do.”
There were days when within the first three seconds of waking up Courtney found it challenging to find joy in being presented with another day.
“As a young person, I think society kind of made it seem like depression and anxiety are totally normal and it’s almost a fad and it’s kind of cool to have it. And it’s totally not.”
The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has had polarising responses amongst viewers and mental health professionals since it premiered in 2017.
“I saw the first season, a couple episodes, and honestly, I didn’t enjoy it,” Courtney says.
She continues by saying, “I think it kind of glorified mental health and it kind of triggered me quite a lot, which I believe it would trigger quite a lot of young women.”
Executive producer Selena Gomez has expressed her passion for the hit show by saying, “We wanted to do it in a way where it was honest and we wanted to make something that can, hopefully, help people because suicide should never ever be an option.”
I asked Courtney how different the show is to real life.
“I think it’s completely different,” she says.
“I was getting so upset and it was just bringing back a lot of memories for me. I kind of didn’t want to bring that up for myself.”
“I think it totally glorifies mental health and it’s kind of casting the blame on other people.”
A safer and more resourceful alternative is to speak to friends, family, teachers or health professionals about mental health.
Other young social media influencers have spoken up about their experience with mental health.
In 2016 Alexa Losey, actress and social media influencer, broke down on YouTube as she revealed that she requested her parents admit her to an “adolescent mental rehabilitation center” for anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia, an eating disorder and suicidal thoughts.
I highly commend the courageousness of Courtney and Alexa to speak up about an issue that is deeply personal to both of them particularly since these are issues affecting 20 percent of youth aged 13-18.
A message Alexa shares with her YouTube audience is:
“You need to give a chance for all the people you will meet in the future to love you” – Alexa Losey, actress and social media influencer.
There is no shame in opening up about your mental health. It is simply you having your own best interest in mind—no matter what you are struggling with.
Over time Courtney began making changes to improve her own health and wellbeing. She realised what she needed to change in her life.
“I’m not going back on drugs. I’m not doing that.”
That was the first change.
The second change she made was incorporating fitness into her life.
Courtney started exercising back when she was completing her mechanics apprenticeship.
“I had to keep asking my work colleagues to help. And it made me feel horrible. I can’t even lift a damn tyre.”
Whilst her initial fitness goal was to become physically stronger, Courtney began to discover the benefits exercise had on her mental health.
“I definitely owe a lot to my old personal trainer, because she is amazing!”
Her personal trainer Lauren was more than just someone that told her what exercises to do. She became an important figure in Courtney’s life in whom she could confide in.
The training sessions became just as therapeutic as any counselling session could be.
“She’s definitely all about mindfulness and all of that.”
Courtney continues by saying:
“Go to the gym, get a personal trainer and hash it out.”
September in Australia coincides with Liptember — a national campaign dedicated to:
- Educating the community about women’s mental health and
- Raising funds for research and support programs.
Courtney now operates her own wellness and personal training business with a focus on women’s mental health.
During the month of September, Courtney’s business focused on skincare that enables women and girls to look and feel more confident within themselves.
I asked Courtney if, hypothetically, she was given $1 million, what would she do with that?
To which she responded:
“I’ve always thought about this, because it’s obviously on my vision board to be earning that much money.
But what I want to do is I want to create a rehab centre for people with mental health because when I was in the hospital I was in something called PECC unit and it was horrible.
And I still, to this day, I suffer immense post-traumatic stress from that, because, look, the staff were lovely and everyone was lovely, but it was just, you’re confined.
It’s like a mental asylum like in the movies. There’s no getting through it.
You’re literally just put there so you don’t kill yourself. There’s no positive reinforcement.
There’s no kind of teaching you what to do when you get out kind of thing. Whereas I want to create a place where people can come in for the day and just learn about working out, learn about nutrition, learn about reading a book and sitting out in the sun and just getting back to nature and kind of proving that there’s ways than just isolating people.
That’s not going to help them get better. I want to create a space that is a safe haven for people with mental health issues, basically.”
So many rewarding things have happened in Courtney’s life since she made the decision to keep on living at the age of 18.
The message Courtney has for her 18-year-old self is:
Tweet: “This pain isn’t forever. There’s so many people out there that love you and that want to help you. So ask for help, accept the help and stop thinking that you have to do it by yourself”
In 2019 Courtney and her partner Mitchell are expecting their first baby.
Be one of the first to know about the arrival of their new baby by following Courtney on Instagram @courtneylorking.
If you or someone you know needs immediate assistance or is having suicidal thoughts, please reach out to mental health support in your country.
- Crisis Text Line (US): at 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255
- Samaritans (UK): 116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call).
- Lifeline (Australia): 13 11 14
- Lifeline (New Zealand): 0800 543 354
- CVV Sao Paulo – National Association (Brazil): 55 11 31514109
- Tell Chat (Japan): 03 5774 0992
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Connect and/or work with Courtney
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