I DNF'd my LiA (and that's okay).

I was supposed to spend six weeks in Fiji for my Leadership in Action period, but I ended up coming home after a week. (Which is okay).
I DNF'd my LiA (and that's okay).

This is a (somewhat) short reflection on why I left my LiA early due to my mental health, reconciling that with fixed notions of a successful leader, and breaking the stigma. 


It's hard to realise that your mental health is important. Hussle culture, the notion of working 'hard', and the many versions of leadership perpetuated online make us think that burning out is a worthy sacrifice to make; that our mental health is secondary. Because of this, coming home early from my Leadership in Action project because of my mental health felt very hard to reconcile myself with. 

Like many many people, I am somebody who struggles with my mental health. I have only recently found myself able to talk about this on a public level. For years, the whole thing has felt laced through with a sense of shame; that to be a successful, cheerful, outgoing, or hardworking person was utterly incompatible with mental illness. Of course, these things are totally untrue. I have to think to myself that I wouldn't feel anything like the same level of embarrassment if I'd broken my arm.  But these things are hard to understand and consistently apply to your own outlook. 

When I arrived in Fiji, I swiftly realised that I wasn't really in a good place. It had been like that for a while already, but the anxiety of travel and a new environment wheeled me beyond the realm of exciting discomfort and into a new realm of stress on my mental health. The decision to come home was something I wrestled with. I felt an enormous internal pressure to weather 'it' out and I felt bound by this guilt that I never knew I would be there in Fiji again. But I also knew that I was ill and that I needed to be in a safe, known space. 

So, I guess my decision to come home against these pressures is empowering in a different way. Through that choice, I prioritised myself and my personal needs over a fixed vision of a successful person or leader. I have started to learn that people have different personal boundaries, but that these may also be restricted by very immediate and tangible things such as their mental and physical health. Listening to and appreciating your needs is an essential skill, and more important than the hard-working, hustling ones we are taught to revere ( and subsequently beat ourselves with). Perhaps I have still managed to get something out of this leadership period after all! 


Despite only having a short time in the village, I still managed to make some great friends and memories. Here are some of my pictures. 

In this last picture, you might see that my arms are signed. This is a nod to my idea that you'd get your mates to sign your cast and show support if you'd broken your arm, so why not if you're feeling mentally a bit ill as well? A figurative-brain-arm-cast. 

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Go to the profile of Victoria Lynn
over 1 year ago

This is so brave and well-written, thank-you for sharing and continuing to break down the stigma surrounding MH!

Go to the profile of Kimberley Guy
over 1 year ago

This is such a brave thing to do Mia, I am beyond proud of you for putting yourself and your health first! Setting a great example as a true leader would. 

Go to the profile of Asha Scaria Vettoor
over 1 year ago

Beautifully written. Hope you're well rested now.

Go to the profile of Oran O'Neill
over 1 year ago

Thank you for sharing your experience and being open about it all. I enjoyed reading your reflections. (Metaphorically signing your metaphorical cast!) 

Go to the profile of Rebecca Shaw
over 1 year ago

This is such a brave thing to do Mia, we are very proud of you! :-)