Amy McAuley’s taken hundreds of steps on her journey to recover from depression and bulimia and she’s just upped the ante by increasing her step count.

The 43-year-old ran the Queenstown Marathon and if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, the mother of three did a skydive the day before the 42km run.

“Over the last few years with building up my strength, confidence and self-belief I got to the stage where I really wanted to challenge myself and see if I could set my mind to it and do it,” she said.

For Amy, the marathon was a way to prove to herself that she can do anything if she sets her mind to it. But exercise and adventures haven’t always been Amy’s passion. She’s experienced depression, post-natal depression and bulimia.

Amy says she didn’t want to admit that there was “something wrong with her”.

“It was a mixture of shame, thoughts of ‘why can’t I just pull myself together, I’ve got everything I need’, all that sort of stuff.

“I didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t coping or grateful for all of the amazing things in my life. I also didn’t want to burden everybody.”

Asking for help is key

It took a long time for Amy to ask for help, but she found that once she did, she felt as if a huge load was taken off her shoulders.

She says counselling and medication, as well as exercise and a healthy diet, has helped her deal with her mental health issues. She also gave up alcohol eight years ago.

Exercise has become a way of life for Amy. She started with walks and then discovered powerhooping, a kind of hula-hooping with a thicker, cushioned and weighted hoop. She now teaches others how to powerhoop for a living.

As Amy’s built up her inner strength, she’s opened up to friends and family about her experiences.

“The reactions from people were incredible, they were only of support. The best thing I believe is for people to talk to somebody and reach out because a problem shared is a problem halved.

“The worst thing we can do is to hold onto it and not talk to someone.”

Amy’s passionate about sharing her experience as a way to help others experiencing mental illness. 

“I want to help lift the lid of shame towards mental illness, and help create a real public awareness to get people talking and realising that they’re not abnormal for going through what they’re going through, that they’re not evil or bad people, it’s just like having a broken arm but you can’t see it.”

With the marathon ticked off her bucket list, Amy’s not yet sure what her next challenge will be, but she’s determined to keep moving forward and to continue to grow in strength.