Tuesday Tales: She won me with love – Donna Thistlethwaite

When was the last time that you heard something and instantly knew that you needed to know more? You might have sensed yourself learning in … perhaps your heart sped up … maybe you felt an excited energy coursing your body.

Around three and a half years ago I was seated in a packed ballroom at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. The 500 guests featured the who’s who of Brisbane Corporate. I sat at the very front table cushioned between the Lifeline Chairman and CEO. Had I not been their guest as a thank you for allowing my story to be featured in the charity’s tax appeal, I wouldn’t have been there because my entrepreneurship journey didn’t afford me such luxuries at that point.

The calibre of the speakers that afternoon was amazing. Current and past Olympians and other celebrities adorned the stage, sharing inspiring messages with a captivated audience. A little while in a new group wandered onto the stage.

I easily recognised Police Commissioner, Ian Stewart, and a couple of the sport stars but my eyes were drawn to a woman I had never seen before. Her ripped and faded blue jeans and wild hair had caught my attention. As someone who has unsuccessfully tried to tame my wild hair for decades I couldn’t help but admire someone who totally rocked theirs. While her packaging looked a little different to some of the others on stage there was nothing to suggest that she was uncomfortable or out of place, in fact I sensed the opposite.

Someone soon introduced the young woman as Nicole Gibson. Nicole went on to share her story of having lived with anorexia as a young person. While my memories of the talk may be a bit sketchy a few years on, it went something like this …

Nicole was troubled as a teenager. As a consequence she moved schools a bit as she and her parents sought out the right fit for her education. Nic shared that she’d ended up at a school for the performing arts.

One day, in the grips of anexoria, Nicole was called to the Principal’s office. She described him as “A middle-aged white guy”. She paused immediately after those words …

I imagine I wasn’t the only one who’s mind went to “Oh how did he F#@& this up?”. To my surprise Nicole went on to say that he said “I really want to help”. I felt my body soften and my curiosity picqued.

Nicole recounted how her Principal said “I can’t do this for you Nicole … you are the only one who can reach the milestones you need to achieve (I can’t remember if they were weight or energy related) but I want to help you … Every afternoon I like to have a beer and until you reach these targets I’m not going to have another beer.”

Nicole, and the rest of the room for that matter, couldn’t believe that someone was willing to make such a sacrifice for her. That he could see her … that he truly did care.

This became a pivotal moment for Nicole. She went on to recover from anorexia and after school found a sponsor to support a trip around Australia during which she facilitated ‘Circles’ (I’d describe these as a space where people talk about their stuff and work on their evolution) in rural pubs for more than a year.

She founded a mental health charity, was a finalist for Young Australian of the Year and at 21 Nicole was appointed as the Federal Mental Health Commissioner.

While I was blown away by Nicole’s impressive achievements, what truly had me wanting more that day was her statement that “Everyone wants to be seen, heard and loved”. She convinced me that love is the way. That when we show up in love for each other magic happens.

As soon as I got home that afternoon I logged onto Nicole’s website to buy the “Love Out Loud” book she had just published. As I soon as I realised I had accidentally purchased two copies I thought of the friend who I would be gifting it to.

Nicole’s book was awesome and to this day she continues to be someone whose message resonates strongly for me. I have been fortunate to experience a number of Love Out Loud trainings but I’ll keep that for a future TT ????

As we go about our festive season let’s sprinkle everyone and everywhere we go with love. Let’s see those around us … let’s hear them with our full attention … let’s meet them in love. Let’s create a ripple in the world.

I hope that your festive season is filled with love and that 2023 is your best year yet.

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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.

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