Monday, April 22, 2024

THIS IS ME

Interview with Geraldine Ellul Magri

They say, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” But there are moments in life when there is no lemonade squeezer handy and yet you must somehow rise from the ashes. That is pretty much the story of Geraldine Ellul Magri a 42-year-old teacher and the mother of three young children. Despite suffering from mental health challenges and obesity problems, she managed to not only lose weight, but even model and win a beauty contest. Geraldine shared her story with Atelier.

American psychologist. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, once noted, ’The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths.’ To what extent do you agree?

I definitely agree. In fact, I believe beautiful people do not just happen. Their struggles in life have made them become warriors and built inside them that strength to never give up on themselves, their lives, their loved ones and what is most important to them. No matter what, they get up again, keep going and continue to shine.  

You recently spoke about how you managed to overcome your mental health challenges and obesity problems. How did you manage to fight depression and at the same time cope with work and raising your children?

As from an early age, life has not been easy for me. My brother, being disabled from birth, has always taken a lot of my parents’ attention and this always left me struggling to manage independently. Teenage years were threatened by bullying and obesity.  I was not strong enough to get up and fight as I had developed low self-esteem and was extremely shy. Unfortunately, when depression hits you, it makes life even harder. You have no energy to move on and everything seems hard and impossible. After giving birth to my sons, Jake and Dayle, I faced post-natal depression. I found it hard to take care of myself, to eat, to go out and the days seemed so long. I couldn’t even look at the mirror as everything seemed so bad. I never opened up to anyone since everyone seemed to believe that whatever I was going through was normal. Unfortunately, this was followed by two miscarriages, an ectopic pregnancy which nearly cost me my life, and then appendix a few months after. Hospital ended up to being my second home.  It all seemed like a dull tunnel with no way out. Fortunately, I was helped by the bereavement clinic to face my daily challenges. Two kids, home, my state of mind and work were chaos in my mind. However, what really kept me going were my kids. I struggled every day to stay positive for them. Knowing my kids were reliant on me, urged me to be more present in their everyday life.

Geraldine Ellul Magri
Geraldine Ellul Magri

Whilst recounting your story, you noted that, ‘When loneliness strikes, you feel alone and everything you do seems pointless.’ Can you elaborate?

Loneliness is such a bad feeling! Many times, after experiencing so many struggles you find it hard to trust, you also feel that nobody can understand you. This creates insecurity and it seems that whatever you do is not noticed, let alone appreciated. 

How did you find the way through the tunnel and how did your Mrs Malta adventure help you in the process?

When on 16th September 2017 I held my daughter in my arms, I felt my

life needed to change. I needed to feel better. It was now even more difficult to look after the three kids. I decided it was time to find some time for myself and I started training and walking a few hours a week.  It had always been my wish to take part in a modelling competition and the opportunity came unexpectedly. Although some people thought I was crazy to try modelling and fashion shoots at my age, I followed my instinct and took on the challenge. I wanted to feel proud of myself and I worked hard to achieve my childhood dreams. When I met Ivan Gaffiero for the first time and he asked me to take part in Mrs Malta, I couldn’t believe he had seen something beautiful in me. I accepted the challenge and this beautiful journey started. All this gave me a positive vibe, I used to plan, dream and most of all look forward to every little opportunity that arose. I had a beautiful soul to encourage me and help me throughout, Sue Rossi, a real treasure, a mentor and now a close friend. Although it was very tiring, it still made me smile, I started taking care of myself as well as appreciating myself more. My first time on the catwalk during Mrs Malta 2019 was magic…I placed 5th and that gave me more energy to keep trying, maybe one day the dream of that little girl would come true. The following year I worked harder and was determined to do better.  I still recall the moment Ivan called my name as the winner…Mrs Malta 2020…I did it! My heart was beating fast, I had tears of joy and hugged my kids tightly…dreams do come true, and I felt so proud of myself! It’s good to believe that after the rain, a rainbow is always there waiting for you!

What does happiness mean to you?

Happiness is enjoying the simple things in life starting from a cappuccino or a glass of wine, receiving a message from a friend who thought of you, a chat, a walk by the sea or finding some me time after a busy day. Happiness is most of all receiving a hug and hearing the words ‘mummy… I love you!!”

Do you feel depression is still an underestimated illness?

Depression is still underestimated by many. However, the increase in the number of people going through depression is quite worrying and by time it is becoming a worldwide pandemic. It can affect anyone! It seems to still be a stigma to seek help and take the necessary treatment. It is important that whoever feels any sign of depression, speaks up and looks for help as hiding this type of illness can trigger bad feelings making it worse. 

Geraldine Ellul Magri
Geraldine Ellul Magri

Are we living in an insensitive society?

Unfortunately, yes. Everyone seems to be too busy to empathise. People experience different struggles in life, and this is where their loved ones need to show compassion and encourage them to seek help. It doesn’t take much to show them that they have someone they can count on. As Renford Reese says, ’Insensitivity makes arrogance ugly. Empathy is what makes humility beautiful.’

In what way do you feel your story can give hope to women, mothers and all those who feel alone in their suffering?

As women and mothers, we all go through different situations which perhaps change our life and make it quite hard. Dealing with work, raising kids, housework, tiredness, insecurities, lost friendships, a failed marriage, health issues… having to deal with these is no piece of cake! They cause great suffering which seems to be never ending and with no way out. However, no matter how hard it gets, keeping strong and try to stay positive. Looking ahead will ease the pain and perhaps give you a ray of hope!

How can a good word save lives?

I always believed in that… the people around us go through different situations every day. However, what we carry inside cannot always be told or perhaps understood. So, a good word, perhaps even a smile, can help change the mood of someone around you. With a little more effort and sensitivity from us all, the world we live in would surely be a better and safer place.

What word of advice would you give to your children?

As a mother and their friend, I would tell them to believe in themselves and in their abilities, to have faith in God and to always strive to be better. Giving up should never be an option, no matter what! Life is full of ups and downs but its a beautiful ride, so count the blessings, learn from mistakes and appreciate anything good that comes along. Most importantly, love and be there for each other as it is such a nice feeling to have someone close on whom you can count!

Photographer: Claire Farrugia

Aqra Wkoll