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Article: I'm Not OK.

I'm Not OK. - Nobody's Princess

I'm Not OK.

If you ever decided to google depression and anxiety and its connection to skiers and snowboarders, you’ll be overwhelmed with high ranking articles that relate to the lowered risks that we’re meant to have. You’ll be told how having an active snow lifestyle can lower your depression and that you’ll be less prone to anxiety.

Or maybe you’ll be shown an array of articles that show you ’11 ways to get over your anxiety on the snow’ like its something so easy to remedy and move on from.

The reality is, while any form of movement, exercise, or activity is inherently going to be good for producing a bit of dopamine, disrupting negative thoughts, or creating a big release of endorphins and serotonin, there is still a very real discussion around mental health, anxiety, and depression surrounding snow sports.

Having recently attended a women’s networking evening at Mt. Buller, I got to experience first hand the amazing community at that mountain. The women who showed up to support, the women who took the stage to answer questions about the industry, the discussions around equality, and the hype around progression on the snow.

But as the evening progressed and we became inherently more comfortable with each other, the questions started to evolve and there was some pretty clear topics of concern that surfaced. Anxiety, fear, exclusion, and depression. There were questions from women that were in their early twenties, to women in their late forties around how to ‘solve’ the issues they had that seemed to stem from performance pressure and social pressures.

With today being R U OK? Day (which should be every damn day), I really wanted to talk about my experiences on the snow, because in my opinion, there are no quick fixes, there are no magical ’11 steps’ to overcome what we feel, and the biggest way we can tackle these issues is to speak about them.

I’ve done a lot of personal development over the past 4 or 5 years. Being someone who has ADHD there is a big portion of masking that happens in my day to day life, and a lot of that includes my need to feel successful, put together, productive, and well… normal. And a part of that masking is to have some pretty big walls put up about how I’m feeling, how I’m going with my work or social loads, and not really acknowledging when I’m not OK, because in my socially awkward brain, people don’t want to know, and people don’t care.

What I’ve learnt over the past few years is that wall has probably been my (and other’s) biggest down fall in connecting with others, and also in helping others. Not sharing, not expressing, and not being vulnerable held me back. And if there is anything I practise and preach more than anything these days, it’s about being vulnerable. I wouldn’t have even written that sentence 5 or 6 years ago, but now I’m here telling you it’s changed my life, and those around me. And that seems like a pretty ego-centric thing to say… but let me explain.

Being vulnerable, being real, not hiding the ups and the downs, the lows, the good, the bad, the ugly – it helps you connect. And connecting has this huge power. It makes us feel human. It makes us feel normal. It helps us feel OK. And when you’re asking, ‘R U OK?’, you can’t expect an answer if you aren’t even willing to truthfully answer it yourself. Being vulnerable is the best thing I can be, to support all the women and men in my close circle. And I support them by leading by example, by sharing and showing them it’s OK to do so, and in hopes they will feel safe enough to share back if they need to.

So how does this relate to the snow? How does this come back to skiing and snowboarding? Well, those questions that were getting thrown at the panel that night at Mt. Buller started to become a bit deep as I mentioned. Questions around “how do I keep my anxiety at bay when I’m out riding with people more advanced than me?” or “What can I do to make myself perform more when I’m skiing and not have a breakdown?”. And two things became really apparent really quickly in my mind. 1) we’re all going through this shit together, and 2) we still don’t share enough, we aren’t supporting each other enough.

One question stood out to me in particular…. and while I can’t remember the exact phrasing, it was along the lines of “how can I pep myself up when I’m out with people who are doing more advanced stuff?”. And this one got me in the feels because it’s something I go through every single time I hop onto a chair lift. I’ve been riding for 8(?) years now, and can tackle some decent stuff – but every time I ride with someone new, or get ready for a run that is a little challenging, or know there are people watching….. actually, pretty much ANY RUN I’m about to do, there is anxiety sitting in the back of my head.

Am I going to fall over?

Should I take the harder run?

Can I actually do this?

What if I catch an edge?

What are people thinking of me?

Does everyone think I suck?

Do I have the right gear/board/skis/clothes for this?

Etc, etc, etc.

So I answered that question, as truthfully as I could.

“Have you seen that video that went viral of the little girl riding in a dinosaur costume, where her dad has captured her audio?” Most had, thankfully. (and if you haven’t, please watch it)

“Well, the way that little girl speaks to herself throughout the whole video, cheers herself when she’s doing well, peps herself up when she falls over…. that’s me. Every. Single. Run.”

So, I began to explain... despite have done SO MUCH snowboarding over the last almost-decade, every time my snowboard hits the ground off the chair lift, the inner monologue begins. And when I’m at the top of the run strapped in and ready to go, it’s already going. And when I’m halfway down a run, it’s at its loudest.

“Ok, you can do this, you’ve done it before, you’ll do it again.”

“Don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop.”

“Use your edges, use your edges.”

“Just keep going, the worst you can do is fall.”

“It’s ok, you’ve got friends around you.”

“You’re going to be so happy at the bottom!”

“This is the besssst feeling.”

“Its just a bump, bend your knees, bend your knees.”

To be honest, the list goes on and on and there are usually a few more expletives involved also. But, the point I’m getting at is that we ALL still have this anxiety. Every one of us. And if you honestly don’t that’s amazing, not going to bring you down – but for the rest of us, pretending like it isn’t normal, and it isn’t consuming, and that we aren’t all feeling like we are alone is absolute bullshit.

We are participating in an extreme sport where we throw ourselves down a mountain on nothing more than a mere plank or two of wood…. how is there not to be any fear or anxiety? The bigger issue is though, how are we not sharing this with each other more to normalise it? How amazing would it feel to know that the other person next to you, despite being someone you look up to, or you know is an amazing skier/snowboarder, is still wetting their pants juuuuuust a little too, or has fears.

Maybe it’s not about the run they are about to do, but maybe they have an ongoing injury they are worrying about, or maybe they stacked it on the last run and now are worried about doing it again. Reality is, we don’t know what others are going through and what their minds are focusing on, but until we decide to be vulnerable and share ourselves, we never will know – and herein lies the issue.

We’re really bad at making assumptions. We assume everyone else is leading the perfect life, we assume everyone has their shit together, we assume everyone else can hit a run or the park or do backcountry with absolutely ZERO fear or worry. We assume SO MUCH and the result is those assumptions DO cause our own anxieties and fears, and I’m a huge believer that it comes down to not being vulnerable and sharing.

Imagine going to the snow, siting on a chairlift, and having an honest conversation about your fears, discomforts, worries. Being open and letting your walls down just a bit, so that others may also share their same feelings. Knowing that we aren’t all invincible, knowing we are all human…. and knowing we all belong there together because we are the same, and we’re going through the same emotions, and that we can support each other because we have empathy and understanding.

I’m sharing this because I’m not perfect. I have my hangups about my riding, about my place in the snow community, as a small business owner, and, as a woman in our society. And I wanted to let you know too, because the façades we see on social media, they are just that.

As a woman who started snowboarding at age 30, who is considered mid-sized or overweight, who has no prior connection to the snow, the skate or surf scene, nor the ski community, I feel alone some days.

As a woman who has to ride men’s boards, and wear men’s boots because I have a large foot and am tall, I feel scared that I will be judged by other women some days, and that I am judged by men, too.

As a woman at the snow, I feel sometimes my worth is only measured by my ability on the snow, not my personality, or my willingness to have fun, or my acceptance to befriend almost anyone.

As a woman who is starting her own business, solely aimed at trying to improve the experiences of other women who love the snow and help build their own confidence through the comfort of some amazing gear, I am sometimes ostracised because I am viewed in a different light.

And even right now writing this blog that was started to empower and share in order to help others, even I am feeling a little scared of the perception of putting my feelings out to the world. Because even though I know that being vulnerable and honest is the best way forward, there will still be people who might laugh or use it against me.

As a woman who has a platform to reach the snow community though, I am speaking out to let you know that some days I’m not OK. Some days I am far from it. But it is OK to not be OK because most people, if they were honest with you, would tell you the same thing.

And through this honesty, this vulnerability, this openness, and this acknowledgement, this is how we help each other. We share, we normalise, we talk. We build support networks and safe spaces, we create a ‘new normal’ where we don’t have to hide our feelings, our fears, our anxieties, and our depressions. We share that there are no quick fixes, and there are no miraculous steps to feeling amazing… but we can start to have the conversations that DO help, made easier by sharing.

And it starts not by asking R U OK?.

It starts by me telling you I’M NOT OK, so that if U R NOT OK, that you can feel safe to say so, too.

Chief Pant Splitter.


Hey Maria,
Thanks for sharing this, I feel it too and have from my first day on a board in 1993! It was a man’s world but I have come a looong way with my confidence and backing myself. My friend wrote a book called The Loudest Guest – Amy Silver, with techniques on how to try and silence those thoughts, it helps.
I’ll ride with you anyday and can’t wait for those overalls that will soften the blow on my menopause belly. Keep doing you becuase you and what you are doing rocks. 🤘


Cracking message! Skiing for me, is my self care. There is nothing else that changes daily, challenges me constantly, has so many variables and just when you think you have it, some wanker zooms past close enough to feel their breeze on your face!
I started in earnest at about age 49-50, after a hiatus, initially learning at age 20years, before Defence career, kids, broken marriage and much loss, resulting in more walls than the average could climb, more baggage than I could carry, and a self esteem lower than a snakes belly. I took up snowboarding mid 20s, for something different and went back to skis.
What started as…let’s give this a crack again, and a way to bond over an activity with my children, has now become my thing. Every run is different and no 2 days are the same.
I’m mindfully present on the hill, I’m aware, of every action, has a reaction. My mind is clear, and my internal dialogue is also ever present. I no longer care, what others think, as I’m constantly reminded, we all started somewhere. Stay kind n all is sweet…

Anna Sutcliffe

Wow … go you! I learnt to ski at 30, became a qualified ski instructor at 54 . Taught for 6 years . I still
Have anxiety about challenging runs and sometimes just going up the mountain causes me discomfort. I have noticed this often exists when my daily life is stressful . I
Love skiing it’s moving meditation , it’s life affirming , it’s being surrounded by the beauty of the mountains . But sometimes I have to force myself to embrace it .
Thankyou for sharing in this blog it’s helpful to hear others experience this and it’s not just me! I’m going to embrace that little girls inner monologue more not just on snow but I think it’s going to become my go to for daily life !

Nicole Meldrum

Oh Maria!
I could have written this myself!! I had so much anxiety this year because of the injuries (yes plural) from last season, I talked the ear off my instructor and snapped at a lifty who told me just to “get on with 2 snowboarders and I was a skier”. I proceeded to ask the lifty did he ever get a concussion from falling off a chairlift? No he hadn’t.

We are not alone but we do need to normalise these feelings so more people can talk openly about their struggles. I love this sport and the people you meet each day on the slopes, so many people offer encouragement which can make all the difference.

We all need to be kind to ourselves, as we have totally got this!!

Laura Magill

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