The woman Sab­rina Why­att is

The Compass - - OPINION - Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at bur­tonj@nfld.net

Sab­rina Why­att is a Jackie of all trades and, ev­i­dently, mas­ter of all. Na­tive to St. Carol’s, on the Great North­ern Penin­sula, she has left her dis­tinc­tive mark in ven­tures as varied as crab fish­ing, real es­tate, TV broad­cast­ing, mu­sic pro­duc­tion and song­writ­ing.

Did I men­tion she has also scaled Mount Kil­i­man­jaro?

Ac­cord­ing to Jim Well­man, him­self a for­mer broad­caster, Sab­rina the Trail­blazer “has made a habit of tak­ing the road least trav­eled.” Now, she has added to her cur­ricu­lum vi­tae with the pub­li­ca­tion of her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, “The Woman I Am.” Not bad for a 30-some­thing. She is in­tent on ris­ing to her full po­ten­tial and pur­su­ing self-dis­cov­ery and in­ner sanc­tu­ary.

Read­ers will be drawn to dif­fer­ent parts of her story. I am per­son­ally im­pacted by her courageous and un­flinch­ing, not to men­tion painful, trans­parency.

“I have many fun sto­ries from my teen years,” she says. “But it was also a time in my life when I strug­gled daily with some­thing many peo­ple, even those close to me, knew noth­ing about ... I was lost at times and I started fall­ing into bouts of de­pres­sion, and some­where along the way I be­gan a rit­ual that even­tu­ally con­trolled my ev­ery wak­ing mo­ment.”

She is re­fer­ring to an eat­ing dis­or­der.

“The worse it grew,” she re­calls. “The more de­pressed I be­came. It was a never-end­ing cy­cle of self­de­struc­tion and self-loathing that started with a sim­ple weight-loss goal.” She bot­tom out in 2001.

The can­did­ness with which she writes about her ad­dic­tion and ob­ses­sion is both sober­ing and re­fresh­ing. Which is why, she ex­plains, writ­ing her life story has “been very chal­leng­ing, yet equally re­ward­ing.” Pain and joy in­ter­sect in her book.

I asked Sab­rina for any en­cour­age­ment she would give read­ers who them­selves suf fer from de­pres­sion and bu­limia and, per­haps, other chal­lenges.

“To any­one suf fer­ing from de­pres­sion or bu­limia or any men­tal ill­ness, I say please know you are not alone and you have no rea­son to be em­bar­rassed or ashamed. Use your voice; it’s very pow­er­ful.”

In her ex­pe­ri­ence, “si­lence fu­els th­ese things and, as scary and un­com­fort­able as it may be to reach out and ask for help or to share your strug­gles with some­one, it helps. Just to say the words can start to lift that dark cloud.

“For me , t a lk­ing about my strug­gles with de­pres­sion and an eat­ing dis­or­der and hear­ing that other peo­ple strug­gle with sim­i­lar things has helped me start to let go of the shame I felt for years. Shar­ing my story has been ex­tremely heal­ing for me.”

As in­tense as parts of her story are, she com­ple­ments them with f l a s h e s o f h u m o u r w hi c h , un­doubt­edly, help her deal with her own sit­u­a­tion.

As I read “The Woman I Am,” I was struck by what I con­sider to be an over­sight. There are photographs of her pet as a baby, re­ceiv­ing his first bath, play­ing peek­a­boo, be­ing sooky, and wear­ing a crown em­bla­zoned with “Birth­day Prince.” His name is Willy Nel­son; he’s a pig.

“This may seem like a strange com­ment,” I said to Sab­rina in an email, “but I feel that some­thing’s miss­ing from your book ... some­thing about your pet pig! I, as an an­i­mal lover, am in­trigued by Willy Nel­son’s own story.”

Sab­rina re­sponded to my ques­tion with alacrity.

“I’m al­ler­gic to cats and dogs,” she says, “but I’ve wanted a pet for a few years now. I read some­where that it’s rare to be al­ler­gic to pigs be­cause their hair is so sim­i­lar to hu­man hair. I did some re­search, found a breeder in Texas who was sell­ing ‘mi­cro-mini’ pigs.

“Willy Nel­son came with a full money-back guar­an­tee that he’d be no more than 20 pounds. Ha! He’s about 150 or more now. And I wouldn’t trade him for the world.

“He’s ex­tremely smart, clean and cud­dly. He goes out­side to go to the bath­room. He washes his face in a bowl of warm wa­ter af­ter ev­ery meal. And he re­fuses to go to sleep un­til I tuck him in and cover him up with his favourite blan­ket. Yup, Willy Nel­son is a diva!”

Sab­rina says she is “most at peace when I’m on the ocean. In rag­ing seas there’s a calm within me that feels al­most spir­i­tual.” To­day, she is “healthy and happy and con­tent with my­self: body, mind and spirit. I’ll see how I am tomorrow once tomorrow comes.”

“The Woman I Am” is pub­lished by Flanker Press of St. John’s.

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