By Olivia Amourgis | Images by Dallas Olsen | Hair and make-up by Lisa Lee
Do you remember when you were young? When a stick was a magic wand, a tiara made us a real life princess… and our mum’s heels made us all grown up. We waved our wands and our wishes came true, donned our tiaras and our prince charming appeared, and grown-up heels meant a grown-up life – life’s possibilities were limitless! And then we got older. A stick became kindling, prince charmings became few and far between, grown-up heels meant blisters, and somewhere along the line we limited those limitless possibilities.
It’s a process that we’re all familiar with: the transition from childhood to adulthood. Some of us steamed through it with confidence and surety, but for most of us – including cover girl and new Oxygen ambassador Sharna Bender – the road was a little less smooth. Like so many of us in our younger years, Sharna’s health took a back seat while her social life and partying took centre stage. Amidst the alcohol, junk food and midnight dancing, Sharna was silently searching for who she was and what she wanted to be.
“In this process I got a little lost in life,” Sharna says, “searching for acceptance in all the wrong places and from all the wrong people. I used to look at everything in a negative way and I overthought everything.”
To avoid disappointment Sharna learnt to expect the worst from everything and everyone, and with those negative thoughts came low expectations. She had unknowingly put a limit on her life’s possibilities and was slowly venturing toward self-destruction.
A typical day began with a couple of coffees at work and lunch (when she remembered). She arrived home irritable and drained, overindulging at dinner and satisfying her cravings with something sweet before spending every weekend binge drinking and partying the nights away. Sharna was the “typical skinny girl that could eat anything and everything without gaining weight.” While some of you may envy such a body type, the consequence of her naturally slim figure was not looking after her health. But in 2009, Sharna received a diagnosis that finally forced her to stop and pay attention – this social and beautiful young woman was suffering from depression.
“I realised I needed to get my life in order and that my lifestyle wasn’t making me any better,” Sharna says. “It was leading me down a path of self-destruction.”
With Australian use of anti-depressants doubling over the last decade, Sharna’s GP did what most of ours would do: prescribed medication to ease the emotional pain. But the anti-depressants only numbed some of her symptoms, they couldn’t fix the cause. Fuelling the depression was a bulging disc causing her severe back pain, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) resulting in her being virtually bedridden for one week of every month, and a fructose intolerance she was struggling to pinpoint – it was all getting to be too much.
“I had pretty much locked myself in the house and didn’t come out,” Sharna says. “I was made redundant, my relationship was falling apart and my friendships were fading quickly. I hit rock bottom and decided something needed to change.”
For the full cover girl article, weekly workout and nutrition plan, check out the latest issue of Oxygen in all good newsagents, or you can click here to subscribe.
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