Katrina Bart, 53, from the Gold Coast, Qld, shares her inspiring story
My heart was pounding as I stared down at the huge canyon below me.
No turning back now, I thought.
Launching myself off a cliff and swinging 200m across a canyon from a rope was not how I wanted to spend my holiday in Queenstown, NZ.
But I’d had a lifelong fear of heights and knew I had to conquer this for good.
So I gripped the swing’s plastic chair as tightly as I could as the instructors strapped me in and held me off the cliff edge.
Seconds later, they let go of the rope and I was plummeting towards the river below.
It was terrifying, but I was determined to keep my eyes open and take in this amazing experience.
“I did it!” I cried, ecstatic.
The canyon swing was part of my new mission to do things I didn’t want to do.
After a couple of years of suffering from depression, I was desperate to find a way out of it.
My self-esteem was at an all-time low and I was absolutely exhausted from the constant barrage of negative thoughts running through my mind telling me I wasn’t good enough.
I decided it was time to shake things up and push myself out of my comfort zone.
I found myself face-to face with another big phobia during a boat tour in Vietnam I went on with my husband, Chris.
As we walked through a small village near the Mekong Delta, the tour guide led us towards a huge python living outside a local resident’s home.
“Who wants to hold the snake?” he asked.
“There’s no way I’m doing that,” Chris said.
My hand shot up before I had time to talk myself out of it.
“I’ll do it,” I replied.
Chris watched on in shock while I smiled for the camera as the guide draped the python’s long, heavy body around my neck.
I was scared but also in awe of the snake’s power as I felt its strong muscles rippling across my skin.
Being able to proudly say: “Look what I just did!” each time I faced a new fear gave my self-esteem a much-needed boost.
When I heard a local designer in Newcastle, NSW, was looking for models of all ages and sizes to model her clothing on the runway, I knew this was my next challenge.
Walking out in front of a crowd of strangers while wearing a black leather skirt and eight-inch heels was nerve-wracking.
But I just put on my best serious model face and went for it, and felt very relieved after I made it back from the runway without falling.
“How is she walking in those shoes?” I heard people in the crowd say.
My next challenge – pole dancing – was something I’d been tempted to try for years.
My grandma had osteoporosis, and I knew weight-bearing exercise was a good way to prevent my chances of inheriting the condition.
Pole dancing looked like a lot more fun than going to the gym, so I decided to give it a go after I saw an ad for a local studio pop up on my Facebook feed.
I guess that’s a sign, I thought.
Walking into my first class was daunting.
At 48, I was the oldest one there but I was pleasantly surprised to discover I had a natural flair for pole dancing.
“I must have been a stripper in a past life!” I joked to Chris afterwards.
Pole dancing turned out to be one of the best things I’d ever done.
I loved how strong it made me and the thrill I got each time I’d mastered a new move.
Five years later, I’m still pole dancing several times a week and have recently started teaching classes at a studio on the Gold Coast, Qld.
Looking back, I’m so proud of how far I’ve come.
In my darkest times, I couldn’t imagine how my life could ever get better.
But facing my fears not only helped me out of my depression, it also gave me the confidence to stop caring about what others think.
I used to be so self-conscious and worried about people thinking I looked like ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ but now, at 53, I can walk around in a micro bikini without a care in the world.