The Time I ... Paid the Price of Fame

Fame is like Rumpelstiltskin, like making a deal with the devil, be careful what you wish for because it comes at a cost. For me the cost was high. Was it worth it? probably not. You may or may not know that I was a contestant on The Bachelor Australia in 2016 where I met and eventually fell in love with another female contestant from the show. While that story is an amazing one and maybe I will share it one day; this story is about how it all came crumbling down.

In October 2016, literally overnight, my relationship became the interest of media outlets worldwide. I was inundated with emails and phone calls from journalists and ‘fans’ asking to share my story. At the time, I had been dating my ex for around 4 months having moved to her home town of Geraldton, where we had been able to establish a relationship outside of the spotlight. Now that all eyes were on us we had to decide how we would approach things. For the first few weeks we ignored the media requests but there was more and more fan mail coming in, heart wrenching stories from woman who had found love with another woman in unexpected places or had left their male partners for a woman and it dawned on us that we were giving hope and inspiration to many. We made the decision (mistake) at that point to share our relationship with the public mostly via our Instagram accounts. This, i believe, would eventually cost us our relationship.

We had the best of intentions to inspire and help normalise same sex relationships, to show that love is love, to remove labels and stigma, to just BE. For a while it felt like we were on the right path, we were fulfilling a purpose, we were on the same page and we were happy. Side by side we fought back at the critics, we stood up for equal rights, we unashamedly and unapologetically put our relationship out to the world and felt we were making a difference.

I couldn’t say exactly when things started to unravel, maybe around Christmas/New Year. We were going to a tonne of events and I was finding it more and more difficult to enjoy myself now that we were more recognisable to the public. Strangers grabbing at us for pictures, not even introducing themselves or talking to us, men asking for threesomes, people accusing us of faking our relationship. First Polo in the City, then Southbound, then Cuban Club – my patience was starting to wear thin and I started to become a bit reclusive. I was beginning to pay the price of being so public with my personal life and started to realise the down side of sharing so openly. We also had the added pressure of an impending relocation to Bali where we would be living together for the first time and I felt myself struggling to keep it all together. Can you remember how difficult it was to navigate your first relationship? Now put that relationship under a microscope with the whole world watching and that is how I felt. It was my first relationship with a woman and it was hard enough trying to find my way through that, let alone with the constant onslaught from media, fans and haters.

I have never shared this publicly before, and maybe I am making another mistake by choosing to do so now, but I have struggled with depression for the better part of my adult life. I hope in sharing this it may help some of the critics to understand just how hard all this has been and encourage those struggling to hang in there. I manage my depression with medication, with keeping fit and healthy, with meditation, with seeing a psychologist and with a good support network (I have written a seperate blog about my depression if you want to have a read). I don’t see depression as a weakness, in fact I see it as my greatest strength. I have HAD to learn to know myself extremely well and I have proved myself stronger than I thought possible time and time again. I have learned that my depression is brought on by ongoing anxiety. That is, situations that make me anxious which I am unable to resolve in a relatively short amount of time. I can handle stress, but when that stress is unrelenting and my anxiety builds, I start to lose my grip and this can lead to a very fast downward spiral. This is exactly what happened to me about 2 months ago.

I was due to fly out to Bali. I had my bags packed, ticket booked, passport ready. I had been excited. But as the date approached I felt more and more unsettled. I became so anxious I was physically ill. I couldn’t hold down food, couldn’t focus on anything, cried a lot, slept a lot, took a lot of valium. Crying hysterically I could not get myself into the car to go to the airport so I postponed my flight. I shared a post on Instagram that I was unwell and would head to Bali soon, but I chose not to share exactly what was wrong. I didn’t have the strength at the time to open up about my mental health issues as much as I knew it could help others, I really just needed to first help myself. Some serious mental regrouping and support from loved ones, I was able to head to Bali a few days later.

The first week or so in Bali, I was doing ok, one foot in front of the other. It felt good to be somewhere that people didn’t recognise us and we could just go out and do our thing. We were working on some exciting projects that kept me hopeful and distracted. We were in discussions with Ratpak to have our own TV series with the aim of educating people on same sex relationships and sexual fluidity, we were writing up a book proposal to share the intimate details of our story, we were creating an underwear line called Miffties…it was all a grand distraction from what was really going on. With the focus being more and more on business, our relationship became secondary and we spent more and more time doing things separately. Everyone handles stress differently and in my case it was at a point where I couldn’t handle it. It’s hard to know how to help someone who is having severe anxiety and/or depression. The person really has to find the strength to want to help themselves. I know that, for me personally, if I don’t want to get out of bed then nothing anyone can say or do will make me, and the more I’m pressured, the more I withdraw. This can be an extremely difficult thing for people who love me to witness, which only makes me feel worse. It got to a point that I was spending day after day laying in bed, trying to just be asleep because I’d rather be in my dreams than be in the real world.

Around this time a fresh influx of media attention came when fellow contestants from the Bachelor accused us of faking our relationship. This was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. I vented some of my feelings in a letter I penned for Popsugar titled ‘Let me set the record straight‘ and then I took a massive step back from all social media. I stopped posting on my Insta Stories and only posted what I had to on my Instagram Feed (paid collaborations). I was tired of the scrutiny, tired of defending myself, tired of the negative attention and tired of pretending to be happy and smiling for the camera when inside I was empty. I remember sitting at the beach one day and feeling my chest tighten, I couldn’t get oxygen into my lungs, couldn’t remember how to breath, I was in the midst of a panic attack, something I hadn’t experienced since I was 17 and I knew I was in a very dangerous mental space. I made the decision to fly back home to Australia to be with my family and friends who have supported me through some rough patches over the years.

Trying to support someone who is struggling to stay afloat is tough, trying to support someone who is struggling when you are also struggling is near impossible. Realising that we were both very unhappy, that we hadn’t been happy for a while, and that we had lost our sense of self, we made the mutual decision to part ways; we had paid the ultimate price for sharing our relationship so publicly and putting so much pressure on it. Ending things then rather than waiting until they fell apart means that we have the chance of one day getting back the amazing friendship that we once had after some time and space allow us both to heal and find our selves again. We also agreed that we would not make any statements that we had split until we both felt ready to face the inevitable media frenzy that would happened.

Having learnt from our mistake of making our relationship so public we wanted to handle our break up privately. This was only met by more accusations of faking a relationship and constant pestering to confirm the split, like we owed it to everyone or some nonsense. When it comes to ‘fame’ you really are damned if you do and damned if you don’t in most decisions you make. Every message I received or comment I got about my relationship was a constant reminder that it was over and was upsetting and frustrating and it’s taken time to be able to just block it out, to grow a thicker skin, to not snap back at people even though I so want to. The decision to split was about 4 weeks ago now and around 7 weeks since I started spiralling downwards into depression.

Coming back from the dark dwelling I had settled in has been slow. Some days are better than others, every 2 steps forward I take one back, I still have days where I just don’t want to get out of my bed but those are happening less and less. My recent trip to Rottnest was my first proper outing in weeks and even that took a lot of effort. I was meant to go over 2 days before I actually did but when I went to catch the ferry I had another panic attack and I couldn’t muster the confidence to go. Two days later when I did make it to Rottnest, I felt like I broke through a sort of invisible barrier, I felt a weight lift and I started to remember who I am and what it feels like to be happy. Exploring and adventure is what I do, it’s what I’ve always loved to do, my passion and purpose. I felt hopeful, which is such a crucial part of overcoming depression.

I started this blog in April last year but due to contractual obligation with The Bachelor and then all the other plans and things I had going on over the past months I never got the opportunity to launch it. Now that I am back to focusing on just me and what I want to do, I am overwhelmingly excited to finally launch it and start sharing in more detail the experiences I have had, the lessons I have learned and the adventures I go on. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and I am sure to cop a whole new bunch of criticism and judgement but I know I am extremely resilient, and every time I get knocked down, I get up stronger and more determined than before. So for those of you who do want to follow my story,

Until Next Time