A woman sitting on a long log, legs out.  Blue dress and blue hair, looking off into the distance.

Rells and I have moved in some similar circles for a few years now, and she’s always come across as an incredibly thoughtful, kind and warm soul, smart, open minded, fun.

I’d seen parts of her journey through social media and had hoped that I’d get a chance to shoot her and learn more about her story, so have felt so incredibly privileged, as I do with all The Courageous Project, to be trusted. In our short time interacting, I’ve grown fond of this beautiful person.

Rells wanted to do this wanted to do the shoot to share her story as she thought it would be a cathartic way for her to reminisce on the road she’s traveled, the good, bad and ugly, to celebrate and be proud of where she is. She believes sharing her vulnerability can help others in huge ways – “my story may just help someone leave a bad relationship or get help with their addiction”.

I was incredible excited as her ideas were different and beautiful and creative…. I even got crafty made the mirror to make her concept even more special.

Tell us a little about you, what do you enjoy, where do you live, where did you grow up?

I grew up in Reddish. Near Manchester, where I grew up was known as ‘bandit town’ it was really rough but I’m grateful for all the awesome memories I have from my childhood with my father.  

I am a lover of nature, adventure, water, I love to get creative whether it’s drawing, writing or crafting. I am an avid lover of BDSM and it’s shaped a lot of who I am today. I live in Beechboro now but lived mainly around the Joondalup/Wanneroo area since arriving in Australia in 2018. 

What do you feel like has held you back, what limiting beliefs in your world have stopped you?

This is a difficult one because growing up I was the ‘fat ging’ and it really played a massive part on my confidence.  Growing up with a mum that left I always felt I ruined things and it’s been a perpetual cycle since then but I’m getting much better at recognising my toxic cycle and nipping it in the bud. My biggest things are I’m going to ruin it (failure), I’ll get abandoned and I’ll never amount to anything but this I know is not true, my negative narrative no longer rules my life.  

Note from Laine Maria: “Each Shoot I will bring a different prop, activity, as a surprise, something relevant or important to the participant that we can get creative with. I chose a bunch of flowers to add to the overall theme of the shoot that had developed with Rells, and to signify growth and blossoming”.

What was the lowest point in your journey, at what point did you realise something had to change and what was your first step?

I’ve had so many highs and lows, I suffer with PTSD, OCD, anxiety and depression, I have lived with suicidal ideation for a very long time and it has very nearly taken me out a few times. 

I have been sexually assaulted by people I trusted, I was in a domestically violent relationship and I stayed for a long time because I couldn’t see how it was affecting me until I was a shell of my old self.  I would take the physical abuse over the emotional abuse, and still struggle to recognise when someone is struggling with their own emotions and not angry at me.

This relationship started me down the path of overuse of drugs, when it became a need to survive and hide from my life, wanting to die but not leave behind my precious daughter.  Even though I got a job as a heavy duty diesel mechanic and quit the drugs, my mental health deteriorated so rapidly at the job I had a massive panic attack and passed out, was so embarrassed I never went back.

As the drugs got heavier and so did the abuse, I couldn’t leave though because they were the only person who knew. I didn’t want to lose my daughter through this but little did I know my daughter was terrified too, eventually her dad took her from me on August 26 2019 because she had witnessed some of the domestic violence going on and then her Dad found out I was on drugs.  I’m so grateful for him as he kept my precious girl safe when I no longer could.

I started to get clean again but on November 2nd I attempted my life and the police arrived to DNR (do not resuscitate) written all over my body in permanent marker. I woke up in a hospital the next day and less that 72 hours after admission I was leaving the mental health unit in two hospital gowns a bag full of clothes and blankets with sick all over them and no shoes balling my eyes out unsure on whether I would make it through the night.

I ended back on the drugs, while this was all going on I was waiting for a placement in a rehab. I could write so much more but this has been the hardest and most heart wrenching year of my life, without my baby by my side I’ve wanted to give up so many times but I refused to and now I’m here and I’m 8 months clean completely abstinent from all drugs and alcohol.

What modality/form of therapy/activity has helped?

I went to 3 residential rehabs, now I attend meetings for addicts, peer support and still see the councillor I had at the rehab.  I’ve re-engaged with the domestic violence services and I am awaiting trauma therapy with S.A.R.C.  I also meditate, spend time with other recovering addicts and get creative as often as possible.

If you could say a sentence to your younger self, what would you say?

Do life for you, help others but help yourself first, you can’t keep up with life when your cup is always empty from filling others up. 

Do you have a song that gets you going, help puts a spring in your step?

I have such a range of music I like to listen to, not really a specific song but one of my favourite albums when I need to just belt out all my feelings is London Grammar – “If you wait”- I sing it out loud and let my feelings flow. My favourites are Sniffle party – “Cavalier”  and Nathaniel Merriweather – “To Catch a Thief”…and “Stoker Ace”. 

What is your deepest fear today?

That I have done irreversible damage to my daughter and I won’t ever be able to fix it. That my addiction could creep back in but I’m going to work so damn hard for it not to. 

What has been the most amazing/happiest/best memory-type-thing that you’ve achieved?

Giving birth to my beautiful baby girl, watching her grow and being the primary carer. Raising a daughter who’s heart is big and love is wide.  Overcoming my addiction to drugs. 

Final statement from Rells:

I have been a working girl since 2013 and love it, and I stopped due to my drug use but I want to say SUPPORT SEX WORKERS.  I have also been in the BDSM industry for over 14 years professionally as a dominatrix and a submissive, active in the scene here in Perth which I love.

I am still fighting for rights for my daughter but I am seeing her and I video call her regularly, everything will come when it is meant to but I am grateful I have a connection to her still and our bond is as strong as it have always been. 

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Photographer: Laine Maria @lainemariahealing

Model: Rells – @quiteparadoxical

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