When suicide, murder and loss marred her childhood, Nicky Gallas turned to a friend she could always count on. That friend was food.
Food offered dependable comfort, year after year. With her 40th birthday nearing, she weighed a discouraging 212 kg. She had flirted with suicide, had tried dieting, and could not walk without crutches. She expected to be dead before she reached 41, the age her father was when he died.
The trigger for change is different for everyone. For Gallas it was twofold. She decided she did not want her family to go through what she had when her father died. And a friend told her about a strict diet that was working for people. Neither of those things was new to her, but this time the combination worked. With her family’s support she began losing weight and gradually lost 115 kg.
What she did not lose was her lifelong struggle with depression. She writes:
Today, I still struggle with my depression as unfortunately that was not the fix for me. I am focusing my life now on being an advocate for people who don’t believe in themselves or think they are not worth the hard work. The people who think they are not worth the effort or who think they do not deserve to be in this wonderful world because of their weight, depression and looks.
That’s what makes her a reason for hope to me. After the scare of a mild heart attack, and still grappling with despair, she stumbled onto the one thing that seems to work best in the face of depression or many of life’s reversals: extending a hand to other people. Knowing others experience the same challenges of depression and obesity, she decided to walk Australia’s Stuart Highway to draw attention to that lonely burden.
That is a trek of nearly 1600 km, from Alice Springs to Adelaide. Along the way and online, she is collecting donations for Australia’s Flying Doctor Service. An article about her work in Hospital & Aged Care says:
Ms Gallas says she is walking to Adelaide alone to demonstrate that depression is a solo disease and that while family and friends can help and offer encouragement, ultimately it is up to the person suffering the illness to make a positive change in their life.
Her proposed timeline is ambitious for a woman who walks with handicaps: extra weight, poor physical condition and the black cloud of depression. Her blog entries are candid about her struggle with the demons that have shadowed her life.
Will she make it to Adelaide by June 8? I believe she will. But Nicky Gallas has already succeeded in at least three ways: She has raised over $8,000 for the service that brings medical assistant to that vast country’s outback residents. She has lost a massive amount of weight in only 18 months. She has inspired others with her gumption and her willingness to go public with her struggle.
The longest walk Nicky Gallas is making is internal. I am cheering for her Alice Springs to Adelaide walk, but it is that inside journey that is even more inspiring. It is the hardest and the most hope-filled, for her and for all others who live with the black shadow of depression.
She gives me hope.