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For commentator and writer Catherine McGregor, resilience is the ability to fall down eight times and get up nine. She sat down with Helen McCabe to discuss her life story, as told to the Future Women’s community in our new book Untold Resilience.
When asked what makes her happy, McGregor, says nowadays, it’s the simple things: listening to the thumping heartbeat of her dog laying on her chest, practising being mindful in a world that never seems to slow down and reciting poetry when in need of wisdom, she’s very good at that.
McGregor’s favourite poet, Robert Frost, once wrote:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
McGregor says that she often reminds herself of that poem, reflecting on many paths she has been presented with, and one she chose to take.
“I should never have lived to see the twentieth century. I am an alcoholic and a drug addict.”
She speaks of her recovery from addiction and her survival through a mental health crisis. When asked, ‘What made you tell this story now?’ she said “this year, being an extraordinary year that it is, I’ve had a lot of time alone and I spend a lot of time praying and meditating. I just made a pact with myself, that when the opportunity to tell my story presented, I would always tell the unvarnished version.”
In conversation with McCabe, McGregor said it was miraculous that she did not die from alcoholism and drug addiction. Resilience and survival is the only reason why she is still here today. She recounts her most vulnerable moments before her recovery from addiction, “I generally needed to drink in the morning to settle my nerves down. I was really sick. I prayed, I’d been raised to Catholic and I just said, ‘Please God, let me live.’”
“I should never have lived to see the twentieth century. I am an alcoholic and a drug addict. I took my last drink on 2 June 1990 and I have not tasted alcohol nor used an unprescribed drug since that night.”
McGregor successfully fought her addiction and won, with the 30th anniversary of her sobriety passing this year. Addiction, however, is just one of the many hurdles she has had to overcome. “When I found out I was invested with the Order of Australia… I had 200 sleeping tablets in my room. I was going to end my life that night because my gender dysphoria was absolutely killing me.” McGregor said. But something stopped her. She says “I went to dinner with a couple of guys who made me laugh, and I didn’t think I was capable of laughter…And the rest is history.” Those 200 tablets were flushed down the toilet, swirling around and around until they disappeared. A moment McGregor says she won’t forget.
Soon after, she began the process of transitioning. “In the end, I suppose I simply chose life over death. No matter the cost, I decided that I would live as some version of a woman. Anyone who has felt dysphoric knows that the choice, in the end, is that simple” McGregor said.
Her journey of survival and resilience is an on-going one, one that she grapples with every day. “To be able to grasp life as a precious gift, even when it dashes your dreams.”
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