The concept of strength has many different shades of grey and, while it may represent one thing to a person, it can mean something vastly different to another. For 19-year-old Kristine Lio-Willie, the label of ‘strong woman’ isn’t one she associated herself with in her younger years. In fact, quite the opposite. It may come as a shock if you met the accomplished and driven woman she is in 2018 to know that a mere five years ago she nearly took her own life.
Born into a huge family, and with a hearing impairment, Kristine struggled to speak and didn’t develop a voice until she was 10. In fact, her family would not discover she was deaf until she was 8, after a phone call from her primary school revealed her impairment. Reading, spelling and school, in general, were consequently a daily struggle and she became the subject of bullies at her primary school in Queensland.
“I was put in the special unit for those who had a disability and needed extra help,” Kristine says, “I was embarrassed and ashamed that I didn’t fit in with the popular groups. And not just at school but everywhere I went and everything I participated in, I was always different.”
Confused and unsure of herself and her abilities, Kristine would listen to every word the bullies spoke.
At a loss for what to do to help, her parents would use food as a comfort for her because at the time it seemed the only thing to bring her happiness. Yet, it would only bring temporary relief and at the age of 14, she made a life-altering decision.
“People doubted me and looked down on me all throughout my school days. I had such low self esteem and no confidence that it led me to self-harm. I felt like I was a waste of air and space on earth and that someone else could live my life better,” she says. “I fell into a depression and nearly put an end to my pain at the age of 14,” she says.
“As I took one last look at myself in the mirror, out of nowhere I heard a voice in my head saying, ‘I’m sure there is one thing you could be good at’, and at that very moment I didn’t care what it was. All I knew at the time was I wanted to be good at one thing,” she says.
“I was looking for hope.”
Gathering the strength to trust her own voice was one of the most difficult moments in her life - but she knew she had to begin to listen.
“Before this moment I hadn’t listened to or had any trust in my own voice,” she says. “Now I believe the most important part of living and overcoming obstacles is that only your voice, thoughts and actions matter. You know yourself better than anything.”
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