Depression & my own self-limiting beliefs from being a tomboy
The dark states we find ourselves in from time-to-time should be shared. Communication and openness is a wonderful healer & I’m incredibly grateful to have this platform to talk from. Inaccurately perceived as always strong, never vulnerable, and living a dream life, I wanted to share the dark place I’ve been in the last month in the hope that my openness may help someone else going through the same thing.
I have always been one of the boys. I distinctly remember my brother getting stink bombs in his Christmas stocking and me getting something from the Tesco beauty section. I felt incredibly short-changed and upset. The girlie stuff just didn’t interest me. Why did my brother get the cool stuff?
My first love and arguably the biggest love of my life, is snowboarding. It has been all-consuming from age 11. To this day, it shapes my identity, dictates where and what I spent my hard-earned money on, and to a certain extent, it styles my look: high performance, multi-use, sportswear, where comfort and practicality come before fashion. One might joke that I resemble a walking advert for an outdoor retailer!
Last weekend, on a night out, a good friend said to me, “Alexa, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you out of your high-performance outerwear”. Fuck. Really? Yeah, that’s probably true. Although we all laughed and it was delivered as a warm and loving compliment, it made me feel sad. The following week, I began to feel so lonely and isolated in my tomboy identity. I planned a personal re-brand, spent $500 on two Spell & The Gypsy items, and immersed my depression in the ocean, surfing 9 times in the week, around 9-5 work hours. I felt like a fish out of water. The fish being me, and the water being the image-conscious expectations of the fashion-focused beach town where I live. I wanted to run away. I think I wanted to drown.
Deep down, I feel that as a girl, doing my own thing, dressing in what makes me feel comfortable and strong, I am never going to be good enough. Thirty-four and single is enough evidence of that. Maybe these expensive feminine clothes will help? Maybe I’ll just stay in the ocean until past dark and never come in. It’s safer out here in the dark where I’m not being judged.
It’s all too easy to look at other people’s lives and think they’ve got it all sorted. Social media fuels that belief with the carefully curated imagery and empty, meaningless ‘spring has sprung’, and ‘rolling into Wednesday” commentary (seriously, what does that even mean?). It’s easy to assume when reading stories of perceived strong people with beautifully curated images and personal brands, that they also don’t feel insecure about their body, the way they look, or how their life is panning out. The toughest of us also feel vulnerable. I am no different. At the moment she chose to wear a man’s suit to a high-profile event to communicate her deep sadness and desire to “resist the standards of Hollywood…and the standards of dressing to impress”, Lady Gaga is no different. You are no different. This doctor who courageously published this letter to young doctors contemplating suicide like he once did, is no different (please read this letter and then read comment 30). Your guy friends are no different. We are all going through the same shit.
One of the motivations for starting Still Stoked was to show younger girls that it’s OK to be different. To celebrate the women that are paving the way and give them and all of us a voice, so the next generation can reside in a world which celebrates diversity and individuality. I wanted to create and curate the stories that I wished were available when I was a kid. Stories that told me it was OK to be a woman in the outdoors, a surfer, a female mountain guide, an explorer, a dreamer – not just a wife, a pawn in the game of 9-5, a commodity in a man’s world… a walking f**king uterus. But sometimes like this week, I feel small, worthless, and not good enough.
Not good enough for what? Well that’s the question, isn’t it?
From a young age, we are taught by society to be submissive. To be feminine. To not be too successful or you’ll make a man feel small. To seek a husband to ‘look after us’. That the norm is to give up a career to have children. That you can’t possibly have both or you are a bad mother. All of those things I have fought against. All of those things make anger surge up in my very bones and inspire me to action. These expectations pre-determine the path of a woman and take away her choice. Our choice.
This week, I was feeling the ultimate consequences of my choices. That I’ll be turning 35 next year, probably up a mountain, somewhere remote, or traveling alone. That my ambition to explore and play in remote locations, to become a strong female role model, create and live and breathe those same stories that I yearned for as a young girl, has meant that I will probably never have children. That if I want ‘it all’ – a home, a partner, a family, I’ll have to give up what I love most, ‘snowboarding’, at the high level to which I do it. That maybe if I was prettier, or girlier, quieter, or more feminine, I wouldn’t have to worry about these things because more options would be open to me. That if I was just a little more submissive, or visibly vulnerable, men wouldn’t be so intimidated by my independence and ambition. That if I wasn’t the authentic version of myself, that just might be enough.
So I did what I always do when these negative, debilitating thoughts enter my mind. I fall to my yoga mat. I meditate. I repeat my mantra of “I am enough” over and over with each breath in, and each breath out. I cry. I buy things I don’t need. I think, “it’s going to be OK”. I tell myself if it’s meant to be, it will all happen. I open myself up to the universe. I let it go.
Until next time.
So, I want anyone reading this, that may also feel this way from time-to-time, to know that the women you look up to, the girls I look up to, they all have days like this. That guys feel like this too. That it’s good to talk about these things with each other and together with this open communication, we can promote the change that society needs, to alter the cultural expectations that breed these feelings. We need to redefine exactly what ‘enough’ is and keep it open-ended so we can all be whatever we want to be. There are many different types of beauty and all of them have a place and should be celebrated.
Chasing a dream is never easy, but if you go far enough, it will set you free.
Today I’m doing much better. Writing this helped and so did perspective. So here are some of the women that inspire me. On days like today, their strength and vision for a world where everyone can freely be the most authentic version of themselves, helps me make sense of my own self-limiting beliefs.
Freestyle Snowboarding pioneer Tara Dakides – my biggest inspiration (thank you Tara)
Keala Kennelly hid her sexuality for the majority of her surfing career in fear she would lose endorsements. Now one of the world’s best big wave surfers, she beat all the men for the XXL barrel of the year award in 2016, Keala is a fierce advocate for women athletes & LGBT rights & a true badass. Forever blowing my mind.
Elissa Steamer – the only girl in the skate videos I watched growing up. A pioneer, she paved the way & would have inspired generations of both girls and boys. Respect.
Captain Liz Clarke – Liz has been sailing the world alone in search of surf since departing California in 2006. One of the world’s most committed surfers, she has been fearless in the pursuit of her dreams, at huge personal cost but also at an immense spiritual gain. She recently published a book Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening as a memoir. It is a wonderful, heart-warming read that I can not recommend enough.
Serena Williams needs no introduction. Serena has been called everything under the sun, too strong, too big, too black, too manly. She continues to blow our minds with what she is capable of. A mother with 23 grand slams, and counting. Queen.
Lacey Baker -one of the best female skaters in the world and an advocate for breaking down gender barriers.
Thank you for reading x