Have you ever encountered bullying? Do you know what it feels like to have severe anxiety and depression due to other people’s actions and behaviour? This story is a heart breaking, challenging and important story for me to share. This is one of the reasons why I am on a mission to build courageous and kind people and leaders. I want to stop bullying, tall poppy syndrome and poor leadership.
This story is about the most courageous person I know, my daughter. The love you feel for a child is is truly courageous as well as overwhelming, powerful and scary all at once.
The most important leadership role is one of a parent. I remember being told in my early 20’s that it would be extremely unlikely I would have children. I was devastated so when I was told at the age of 29 shortly after I got married I was pregnant, I was shocked. My daughter Abby was born and it was the best day of my life. I never in a million years thought that a few years later I would be a full time solo mum.
Her dad had abandoned us when she was only 4 years old while we were living in Shanghai, China and left us with very little money. I remember the day we left China and I waited until she was asleep on the plane until I truly felt the ramifications of what had just happened. I sobbed the whole way home. I was so scared. However, I had stayed so courageous when it happened and I was careful to make sure she saw that I was determined to create a life where she could see how brave I was. I wanted to show her that anything was possible and I wanted to create a new life back home in Australia.
She was so little when it happened and she had to stay brave too as her mum was working long hours, putting her into before and after school care, balancing being a full time solo mum whilst running a business and household. It was tough for her. However, she became a kind and courageous child.
Then her world fell apart at age 14 due to severe bullying and cyber bullying at school. She didn’t know how to deal with the actions of others at school that were pulling her down. I didn’t either after several meetings with the school. I taught her the world of leadership and kind and courageous communication and it worked for a while but not for long.
No one knew how to deal with it – the school, police, other parents, and doctors. No one. It was at age 14 that she tried to commit suicide for the first time.
Then she had to leave school. It was dreadful. The actions of others have caused so much anxiety that she couldn’t finish school and she became terribly depressed.
There were so many times I wanted to leave. It was too much. I lost track of how many times we had visited the children’s hospital only to be told that we had to wait until our name was called. So we waited. Most times we waited and spoke with doctors for 10-12 hours each visit.
I think it was the 15th time I was sitting there after my daughter at age 15 told me she wanted to harm herself again. It was too overwhelming. She had been self-harming for years. I wanted to leave however as I did the 14 times prior, I showed up as I am her mother. Now that I think of it the total amount of visits was around 4o times. Only once did they admit her and the rest of the times they didn’t have room. They told us teenage mental health was an epidemic.
They say you can only handle what the universe gives you.
I didn’t think I would or could ever encounter such courage in all my life. I felt shame and that I was failing her as her mother. It impacted our lives greatly. I lost friends, clients and business as well as the impact on our health and well-being. I didn’t sleep for years, as I didn’t know about her state of mind and if she would hurt herself. We went to dozens of counsellors, doctors, psychologists and so forth.
Do you know how hard it is to see a specialist for teenage mental health today? I never gave up. Even though there were times I just wanted to give up and kick her out. I wanted to leave. I couldn’t as I am her mother and it’s the most important and courageous role in the world.
Regardless of everything that was happening I knew how courageous she was and how much I love her. Believe me there were times I didn’t love her. I was lost, angry, scared, frustrated and overwhelmed. I had lost myself so many times through what she was going through. Here I am a motivational speaker and coach making an impact and difference to the world of leadership and I couldn’t help her. I felt such shame and guilt.
It was a moment in time early last year when she saw me speak at my book launch Just Rock It!. A book of inspiration and motivation that I wrote for her and others to help them see greatness within. On the way home she said, mum I think I want to speak like you and make a difference to other teenagers. I was holding back the tears. I said to her, you can do anything you set your mind to and I know you can make a difference. She just needed a purpose. So I put the wheels in motion.
“Encourage and support your kids because children are apt to live up to what you believe of them.” — Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady of the United States
She spoke at two private schools here in Brisbane and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room of 300 students. She was remarkable. She was using her story and courage to make a difference. Her speech is here. It’s incredible.
Then she had the courage to go back to education and study at TAFE. She wanted to study community service and social justice. For a young girl who hasn’t finished school, she was getting amazing results and feedback. She even had the courage to volunteer at the community centre. She is now on her way to attending university she is incredibly passionate about social justice. I am just so incredibly proud of her. She has even launched her own website to speak at schools and help other teenagers. She had the courage to own this. I made sure I showed up and gave her lots of love and compassion.
She had the courage to move forward, many teenagers don’t.
Being a parent is the hardest job you will love. It takes so much courage to be a parent and the love you feel for a child is like no other.
This story and our experiences are not unique, as I now know of lots of parents who are dealing with bullying or children with mental health issues.
I wanted to share this story with you all, as I want to let you know that you are not alone. To let you know that you are courageous and brave. All they need is our love and compassion.
This is why I am on this mission regardless of whether it is a child or an adult. We need to stop bullying, tall poppy syndrome and poor leadership. How would you like it if your child was bullied at school or at work – so don’t do it yourself. We need to show everyone the love, respect, compassion and empathy they deserve. We are all unique and beautiful as human beings and we must be the change we want to see.
We lead our world and let’s show our future leaders and ourselves what being a courageous leader is all about. Let’s always be kind, compassion and courageous.
End of Story.
Thank you Sonia x
Sonia McDonald believes we should lead with kindness, from the heart, doing rather than telling and is known for her mantra ‘Just lead’. She leads by example in all these areas and through her one on one practical coaching, leadership training for teams and organisations encourages others to do the same. Sonia has helped hundreds of people on their leadership journey to become the best version of themselves and in turn, inspire and bring out the best in others.
For more than 25 years, Sonia has been on the front lines of HR. She has held leadership positions worldwide and through experience, research and study come to realise what it takes to be a truly great leader.
Sonia has an ability to speak bravely and authentically about her own development as a leader, personal and career challenges in a way which resonates with her audience. She is recognizsd as a LinkedIn influencer and has become an in-demand keynote speaker, starts important conversations.
She is an award-winning published author and writes regularly for publications such as The Australian, HRD Magazine, Smart Healthy Women and Women’s Business Media. Sonia has become recognised for her commentary around the topic of leadership, developing work-life balance, championing the up and coming leaders of tomorrow and advocating for women in business and male-dominated industries.
Sonia will give you peace of mind when booking a speaker. She is a proven world-class professional speaker with the skills to “rock an audience”. Her energy, empathy, kindness, sensitivity, and humour will enhance any event she appears.
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