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Brittnea Chambers

Hi my name is Brit (Brittnea, but since no one can say it right we will stick to the abbreviation).

I had an interesting start to life; I was born in Italy and moved to South Africa when I was 2 years old where our family stayed until moving to my current home and country New Zealand.

All I ever wanted in life was to go to the Olympics or become a professional at some sport or another (for years I thought it would be equestrian, funny how life changes and evolves).

During my early years I would not have described myself as sporty at all. I rode horses in one day events from the age of 5yrs and rode track in the early mornings when I was about 14 thinking maybe I would be a jockey one day. I love animals and growing up around horses taught me both responsibility, kindness, love and compassion which was always returned no matter what was occurring in other areas of my life. I did the standard little girl routine of ballet which I quit when I was confronted with the choice of ballet or riding my pony in the event I broke something before a recital. Obviously horses won hands down. I remember even back then feeling uncomfortable in a leotard and being very aware of having no one dancing behind me and thinking I was the ‘fat’ little girl.

Our family made the trek to New Zealand when I was 10years old where we were permanent residents before becoming citizens. The move was especially tough on me. I left a core group of friends I had had for years and had to start a new school with a funny accent. I was teased mersislly every day and struggled to make the friends like I had before. I was bullied very badly and hated every moment of being there. I avoided all sporting endeavours at school and was not one for team sports or anything requiring a bit of co ordination. Needless to say anything with a ball was my idea of hell as was swimming and having to get in my swimming costume feeling self conscious even though looking back now I can see I was a normal to smaller little girl.

When I went to high school 12yrs I still hadn’t made that group of friends I was so desperately after and changed schools within a term in the hope I would be able to change that. The new school was even worse and I would run away in the early mornings and was ‘sick’ all the time so I didn’t have to attend. This was the first time I consciously made the decision that if I was just smaller and prettier and more perfect I would fit in. I started throwing out my lunch and making breakfast and feeding it to my horses or throwing it out for the birds or even to the extreme of turning the and shaking the toaster onto a plate and dipping a knife in the spreads to make it look like I had had something to eat. Obviously dinner was harder but ‘eating’ in my room allowed me to throw the food away and hide it in my wardrobe or making myself sick so that I wouldn’t put on weight with the added benefit of my parents thinking I was too ill to attend school. By this point I was an extremely anxious and depressed young person.

I was taken to a psychiatrist to try and see what was wrong with me. I was diagnosed with social phobia and pulled out of school where I started homeschooling instead. This worked well for me as it meant I could hide away and keep working and feeding that what was later diagnosed as anorexia and bulimia.

At 13 I went away for a competition with my pony and mum went to tidy out my closet. This is when the uneaten food was discovered. On my return I was taken to the doctor where I was told I needed to ‘eat more’. I went home ate a pizza and was left alone about it for about another year. At 14 it

was hard to ignore the fact that I was very depressed would get anxious at the smallest thing and any change to anything at all would send me off the edge. Not to mention my weight at dropped to a dangerous 35kg. I was taken too and put under the public mental health system being diagnosed with a server eating disorder, depression and anxiety. It took me to drop to 33kg (and being 165cm) to be admitted to hospital on bed rest and being tube fed as well as forced to eat as the risk of a heart attack or my kidneys giving in were a very real possibility as well as blacking out most times I had to stand. When I reached 40kg I was discharged and proceeded to carry on with my best friends and allies’ anorexia and bulimia. Hiding away again and being filled with panic, anxiety and depression most of the time. I did not sleep. I would run every day, hideaway and do at least 1000 sit ups. It got to the point where I had to go into a residential treatment facility to try and rid me of this problem once and for all. I was there for 6 months and saw a lot of people come and go. I put on and remained a constant 43kg while making myself right at home becoming friends with all the nurses and staff and getting away with more than I should have. When it came time to leave the real world was unbearable as I had become so institutionalised during this time.

At the age of 15 my parents did not know what to do with me anymore and it was decided I would be better off somewhere else and was asked to leave home. I was lucky and had a boyfriend whose family had previously taken in young adults to help them and so I moved in there. During this time I was helped tremendously, I saw a dietician and a physiatrist and put on a bit of weight. I was weight restored by the age of 20 although still struggled with the eating disorder voices the depression and anxiety. There were times it was less apparent but it was something I didn’t over come (and still struggle with immensely on a day to day basis).

During this time I was introduced to cycling. The family all did it and so I started and got a coach. By the age of 20 I had secured a professional UCI contract with a womens Italian team called Team CMax . I went over and did the best I could but with language barriers and constant pressure from the sports directors, competition amongst the girls and management of our weight and food intake I left a very broken person.

Returning to New Zealand i hung up my bike and decided I needed to become a grown up and do something with my life I attended AUT and graduated with a Diploma of fitness training at the end of 2008. Realising this would not get me far I carried on at Massey University finishing a conjoint degree with a Bachelor of Business (marketing) and a Bachelor of Science (human nutrition) at the end of 2012. Being a perfectionist and a high achiever I put a lot of pressure on myself to keep an A grade average whilst also working 20hours a week as a nanny and deciding to take down my bike, start running and doing duathlon and therefore training about 20years a week too. I decided to take I need take on a challenge and so learnt to swim in 2012. A massive fear in more ways than just one. This lead me to triathlon which today is my chosen sport and something I hope to achieve well in at a professional level at some point. It seemed if I kept busy enough I was unable to worry about my lack of friends or personal life as I was always busy and never had a spare moment to stop. I decided to carry on with my uni ‘career’ and did my masters in Human Nutrition and Dietetics, finishing at the end of 2014 and graduating in April 2015.

Although this time was not easy. In December of 2013 I was finally diagnosed with glandular fever. I was struggling for months to get through days without needing to sleep and it took a long time for the doctors to come to this conclusion as I was deemed to old to have an illness like that. During the

year to follow was probably one of the hardest I have ever been through. I put on weight with not being able to train. My eating disorder went into overdrive, I was extremely depressed and couldn’t leave the house without major anxiety and a panic attack, making finishing my masters and carrying on with work a major challenge. In October of that year I had a massive breakdown. I was unable to do anything and didn’t leave the house for about 4 weeks straight. I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t see people, I couldn’t get through a day. The anorexia, bulimia and binge eating were out of control. I was very sick and I couldn’t see it. I was put on a lot of pills. Anti depressants, sleeping tablets, anxiety medication all to try and get me through a day (most of this medication I am still currently on to help with the anxiety and depression).

This last year has been one of big changes and personal growth. Although I am still currently fighting hard and find some days unbearable where getting out of bed and having a shower is all I can manage. I am still fighting the demons, guilt and voices of my eating disorder and have let it get me to a place where coupled with the depression, anxiety and inability to get through a day more times than I care to admit has seen the weight fall off (where the eating disorder is jumping for joy!). This is something I have to constantly work on. Making sure I fuel enough for the sport I am so passionate about. Make sure I get enough for recovery so I don’t wake up the next day tired, drained, exhausted and depressed making me extremely anxious and it often leaves to change in training and having to take a rest day which I struggle immensely with even though I know ‘rest is best’. Sometimes these feelings of depression and extreme anxiety can last for half a day sometimes a day and sometimes days at a time. I just go to bed with the hope that tomorrow will feel better. Assessing each day as it comes, despite the guilt, worry and stress attached to that. I know this is what I have to do for now no matter how hard it is to accept and deal with.

Yes I am Brit Chambers and I struggle with depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. My dream is to become a professional triathlete despite the adversity I face. I know it is something I can achieve with the right tools and help. I want mental health to be something that people aren’t ashamed of and are able to talk about despite it being a taboo subject especially amongst elite athletes. I want to help and inspire people and show them it is possible despite everything you can achieve your goals. I want to promote awareness of these issues and show people it does not define a person, they can still reach for the stars and achieve everything they ever wanted and more. I want my journey to help and inspire people. I will be a professional triathlete and show people even though you may struggle dreams are possible. Everything will be ok, if you can just believe.

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