S2 Ep9: Tara Pitt

I first spoke with Australian Survivor runner-up Tara Pitt when she was slated to speak at an International Women’s Day function at Noosa in 2019. We had a great rapport and I truly connected to her passion and drive to raise awareness and funds for families coping with a loved one suffering from PTSD.

I first spoke with Australian Survivor runner-up Tara Pitt when she was slated to speak at an International Women’s Day function at Noosa in 2019. We had a great rapport and I truly connected to her passion and drive to raise awareness and funds for families coping with a loved one suffering from PTSD.

Tara experienced the extreme heartache of losing her father to suicide just nine months before she was on television screens across Australia as a contestant on the 2017 series of Australian Survivor. The mother-of-three battled her way through the series to become the runner-up, just losing out on the major cash prize at the end. But Tara says she gained much more than the money could ever have provided – she has found her calling as a keynote speaker for mental health and PTSD and is passionate about spreading hope to people around the country.

In this candid chat, Tara talks about Survivor, her father’s past, overcoming cyberbullying from online trolls and her big plans for the future.

Roxanne – Hello, everyone, and welcome to the final episode of The Phoenix Phenomenon, season two. So, all of this season, we’ve had some incredible chats with high profile Australians who have gone on some really intense journeys and overcome them, and now sharing their nuggets so far. Information and pearls of wisdom with all of you who have connected with us. So, thank you so much for continuing to watch these episodes. So, today, I have the lovely Tara Pitt joining us. Hi, Tara. So, Tara was the runner-up, 2017 runner-up of Australian Survivor. She really kicked some ass on that show. And really put herself out there and has, I guess, transformed your life, I think it would be safe to say, through that process. But it is actually what I found, from speaking with Tara, and getting to know Tara, is that it’s the journey she went on before getting onto Australian Survivor that has been the most powerful for her and for her family. So, while we will touch on a bit of Survivor today, I know you guys are probably itching to hear a bit about that experience, I would also love to give Tara the opportunity to share the personal journey that was really roaring and really powerful. So, without further ado, I will let you talk to her, because I’m rambling on. So, thank you so much for joining us today.

Tara – No worries, Roxy, you know, like I said, we sorta had that connection when we did that little interview for International Woman’s Day, and I was so excited to get onboard. I’ve been watching all the YouTube previous episodes, so, yeah, no, I’m very excited. And, I mean, yeah, who doesn’t wanna know the inside gossip of Survivor? I still get quite excited to know, you know, when the next episode is and the next series. And I know, for a fact, that a lot of the camera crew have already flown from Australia to go to Fiji, to start recording this season. So, yeah, I think on a TV show, like Survivor, that those sort of moments, where you wanna know everything about Survivor, it doesn’t go away. I met Jennah Ananita last Saturday, and they were from season three. And, oh, we just sat for four hours and talked about inside Survivor. And it was, like, mind, like, what producers they had, and did you really get this, and what was that. It was just, yeah, it’s sort of, I’ve always said Survivor’s. You know, I didn’t go on there for fame. I did go on there to find myself and help my family, but what I’ve got out of it is just, I just can’t put it in words. It’s just changed my life, probably for the better.

Roxanne – Yeah, absolutely, that’s incredible. And I wanted to see if we could start and maybe to a chronological. So, if you’re happy to start with what it was that even prompted you, in the first place, to apply for Australian Survivor.

Tara – Yeah, well, in 2016, August first, it was just a normal day for me. My mom and I ring quite often. As mother and daughters probably, you know, relationship. And it was about eight o’clock, and I just dropped the children off, and I remember her calling me. And I’m thinking, ah, she’ll be fine. You know, she’s probably, can’t figure out her phone or something. But it wasn’t until my husband actually came home, early from work, at about eight-thirty and said we’ve gotta go over to your mom and dad’s. You know, he couldn’t give me the words, but he just said dad’s gone. And I was quite confused, because I only saw him yesterday, like, the day before, at a horse event, which he used to always come to horse events with me. I do barrel racing, as my sport. So, he would come with me, because there’s actually scientific proof that equine therapy helps those that are suffering from depression and PTSD. So, my horse, Tum Tum, he bought for me 10 years ago. Well, sorry, he bought for himself, as a therapy horse, and I got on him one day and we went around some drums. And I said to my dad, uh, your old therapy horse has a bit of speed, I’m gonna use him. Yeah, so Tum Tum’s very special, he’s in my backyard right now. So, I got to mom and dad’s, and the first thing I saw was my mom and, you know, it’s one of those moments in time where I actually can’t remember everything that happened.

Roxanne – Hm.

Tara – But the feeling I got, straight away, was empty. Inside, I was empty. I felt so confused and empty that I didn’t know what to do. So, you know, long story short, my beautiful dad had committed suicide. What we had worked out is that it was with his medication that he would take to ease those depression demons that he had. He served in the army for 20 years. And, in 1993, he went Somalia, where he was there for Peace Corps, so he wasn’t doing any combat, there was nothing involved, he was just there to drop the rice off and the food for the Somalian people in the villages. But it did turn out that the rebels attacked. And, so, what my dad saw and went through was not what we were expecting. He came home, I was in grade three, so I would’ve been seven or eight, and that was when I knew that my dad has returned a different person. Now, I’m not saying he was an angry man. It was just that he was not the happy man that I remember. He would go to bed early, sleep most of the day. My teenage days, I spent a lot of my time angry at my dad because he wasn’t like a normal dad. And then, it wasn’t until I actually had my children, and my first child, I had at 22, Jet, and he took the role of being a poppy. I don’t wanna say more serious than being a dad, but definitely took that role. And this happened until the day he passed, all this stuff about life and, you know, if it had to skip me, that’s fine, because what my boys got out of that, with my dad, was just beautiful. And, you know, my youngest was only three at the time, and we still talk about poppy. So, I was watching this show, around August. I’m a very big reality TV fan. So, I watch pretty much anything reality TV. I don’t like horror movies, I don’t like drama, I don’t like those girly movies, I am a closet reality TV fan. So, I started watching this show called Survivor. And I remember mom, Mick, and I were sitting there, and they did these certain moves, or they were building alliances. And I kept saying, oh, I wouldn’t have done that, oh, I wouldn’t have done that, like, you know. And it went for 26 episodes. So, I was getting quite a bit of a pro at the end. Keep in mind, never watched Survivor in my life. I know there’s 36 seasons, I think, in America. I don’t watch it, I never watched any of them. So, I’m sitting there, and the last episode, it said apply now. And my husband’s like, well, you’ve been sitting here talking about it, you know. And I’m like, oh, I couldn’t, you know. Anyway, so, I secretly did it. I actually, my husband or my mom that I was going through the process. I actually filled out the 30 page intense questionnaire, online. And just submitted it around November. And didn’t hear anything. And then mom sorta went downhill. She was really good, and then she went downhill at Christmas time. And I though, oh, well, it’s obviously not meant to be. Because if I haven’t heard back from them by now, obviously I didn’t get chosen. And my mom is actually quite sick.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – She was suffering quite bad grief. And then it was around February I got a Skype call. And this lady and I were just talking like we are now, Roxy. And, yeah, she said, alright, we’ll see you later, talk soon, and then hung up. An I was like, okay, I have no idea how that went. And that’s when I thought I better start telling my husband and my mom. And my mom was so excited. I mean, it was something that changed in her. At this stage, I didn’t even get on the show. It was the fact that I was brave enough to apply and do all of this on my own, that mom thought, maybe I will be okay. Like, me, personally. And then I got the call to go to Brisbane. So, then that, again, my husband was sorta starting to get that, oh, my gosh, I think you’re gonna, like, go on a show. So, he wasn’t as excited as my mom, I must admit. So, then, yeah, he started to freak out a little bit. And then it was March the fifteenth, I got the call to say that I’ve beaten 25 thousand applicants.

Roxanne – Whoa.

Tara – And it just, mom and I ran around the house, and we were like, oh, my gosh, you know. And then I actually left on the 28th of April. I flew out of Samoa, I didn’t even have a passport. So, my timing of me going to Samoa was delayed, because I had to go through all this passport, you know. I’d never even left Australia.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – And we get into Samoa, for my season. And I was just sitting there, the whole time, on the international flight, going I still can’t believe what I’m doing. At the time, Michael was working two and two. So, he would do two weeks on and two weeks off. Which probably worked out really well, because mom got to have two weeks off when Mick got home from work. Mind you, Michael had to step up. So, he was mommy, he was daddy, he was dropping off the kids from school, he was taking them to soccer, he was doing the school lunches. Like, he really had to step up.

Roxanne – Did he have a fresh appreciation for you when you came back?

Tara – Absolutely. I mean, he’s a great husband. He’s never ever said you have to go to work. We both chose that, to raise our family, I wanted to stay home and be a stay at home mom. That’s just us.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – I’m not against anyone that does work. And we were able to, were were affordable that we could do that. But yeah, he definitely took. Because, at the time, Jet was 10, Zai was eight, and Nashi was three. So, yeah, they were still young, you know. And then, when I was on the show, the whole time, I cried. I cried so many times, Roxy, it was so embarrassing. And I’m not a pretty crier. But my heart was just so, I just couldn’t stop thinking about my family. And the producers, they were like, we can’t tell you anything, no news is good news. And then I’d start crying, and they’d go, zoom in on Tara, she’s about to cry. And, the whole time, mom and Mick and the three boys, they were getting daily phone calls from the producers. Daily.

Roxanne – Oh, you’re kidding!

Tara – And I got nothing. And my mom and my boys were like, oh, mom’s good, she’s doing the game, woo-hoo. I got nothing, I didn’t know anything. I had no idea if they were okay. Which is why Survivor is they way, what you see on TV, I’m not gonna sugarcoat, it is what it is, it’s raw. At day five, we couldn’t get the fire to work. Tarzan couldn’t get the two sticks to work. That’s when we went to that challenge and they gave us the flint. Otherwise, we didn’t have anything to eat for five days. And I just remember thinking, you know, oh, I’m sorry. I just remember thinking, like, this is just, this is so raw and real. Day one, we were walking up the beach. And all the contestants were so excited about, oh, we’re on Survivor, you know. And I’m like, oh, where’s the hut? You know, like, they had those little huts. And I remember it was Locky, he turned to me and he said, Tara, we’ve gotta build them, I’m like, what? What? So, that’s when it really hit me that, like, this is an actual, this is real.

Roxanne – Yeah. So, I guess it was a bit of a disconnect from, you know, what you were watching at home, and did you think maybe there was a lot more interference, and it was maybe a bit more staged than what it was? It wasn’t literally let’s plunk you in Samoa and see how you fend for yourself, and maybe pull you out every few days for a challenge or two?

Tara – That’s exactly what I thought. I mean, when I got the email saying you’ve only got five pieces of clothing, I was like, oh, okay. But I packed about two cases. Because I thought, if I get cold, or I need a jumper, like, surely that. No, no. My shirts are, the pink shirt, that’s at Samoa. What do you call it? What’s that place at the airport? They wouldn’t let me put it through.

– [Both] Customs.

Roxanne – Oh, really!

Tara – Yeah, they said it just was so, like there was too much smoke on it and there was too much dirt. The purple one, I do still have. It’s in a frame, with my BUFF. The BUFF, the black BUFF that was my last BUFF, the headpiece that I wore on the final night, it actually had to be dry cleaned and steamed. Because, otherwise, and I really wanted to take that home.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – My shoes all had to be left in Samoa because of the soil. It was just the most crazy experience, like I said, I’ve ever experienced. But what, you know, that was when I was on the show. What I got after the show was my three beautiful boys watching their mom on TV, like when you were all watching it. And my eight year old would turn around and go, go, mom. And that really made me feel like. Cause, to me, I always think dad’s the cool one. Because he rides the motorbikes. And he’s always the, ah, let the kids do that, Tara. And I’m a little bit like, you know, brush ya teeth.

Roxanne – Yeah. Were there many times that you did have to pull out little white lies and some, knowing that your kids were watching at home?

Tara – Oh, the whole show I lied. Half the time I couldn’t even remember if I told the right person that lie. And that’s what Survivor is. It is a game show, you know, you do have to manipulate, you do have to, it’s sad to say, but you have to back stab. And a little bit of me sort of enjoyed that side of it, because I don’t do that in real life.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – So, I was a little bit like, ah, I’m messing with people’s minds, you know. But it was really hard to try and tell my children what mommy’s doing is naughty, and it’s just a game. So, yeah, definitely felt that pressure of, you know, am I being a good role model for my children.

Roxanne – Yeah, and what was the feedback when you came home? I mean, obviously, it sounds like they were super proud of you. But did any of them ever call you out on anything after that?

Tara – Well, it’s funny because, in my household, there were all different teams. There was team Locky, which was my mom, only because she liked the look of him.

Roxanne – Oh, no.

Tara – My oldest son and my husband loved team Luke. So, obviously, when I got luckier and I got Luke out, they weren’t impressed. And then my two youngest were going for Jericho, because he was the Cookie Monster.

Roxanne – Oh, you’re kidding! You didn’t have a single supporter?

Tara – No, didn’t have a single supporter at home. So, that’s fine. But, yeah, they were still quite excited that they got to, because they, my boys actually got to go on the show.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – On day 51, they came for the family, so we got passports for them. And they flew them over and they spent five days in Samoa, while mommy’s on the island, starving, and, oh, they had the best time, you know. They still talk about their trip in Samoa. So, yeah, I sometimes forget that they were so involved in it, as well.

Roxanne – Tara, your journey on Australian Survivor was not only an amazing personal experience for you, but it also gave you a brand new platform to spread awareness about mental illness. And it was also the first time that you were able to publicly speak about your, you know, growing up with your father and his experience with PTSD, and what impact that had on the family. And I wanted to ask you, I think it was about day 24, or around the 20 mark, where you were actually able to share that story with your fellow survivors. And I imagine, you know, that’s not only a, you know, a personal thing to be able to open up and be vulnerable about, you know, letting people in on that part of your life. But to be able to do it on national television, as well, would’ve been a massive, massive step for you. And I wanted to bring, you know, for you to bring us back to that moment and I guess share a bit about what was going on in your mind and why you felt it was so important to share that part of your life with the whole of Australia.

Tara – Yeah, before you go on the show, you sign an information, like, a letter, stating what personal stories that we might share with others. Because you’re on camera 24/7. And I remember one of the producers said if you mention your dad in a suicide, are we allowed to air that? So, that was something I did have to talk to my mom about. I remember sitting down and telling her, look, we can just, I can just go on that show and just live life and just be normal stay at home mom. Or I can go on the show and talk about dad and the suicide and what we all have gone through, as a family unit. And mom said, straight away, let’s get the awareness out. I think growing up with someone with PTSD, it was my dad’s choice not to talk to me about it. And that was fine. I guess I was younger, my older sisters are nine and twelve years older than me. So, they obviously got a little bit more of understanding than what I did. And it was day 24. And people were generally just sharing a lot of personal stuff. And I thought it was one of those moments where, do I share this very personal moment that happened in my life to complete strangers? Or, and not let them in. Or do I just say that my life is, oh, I’m perfect, and everyone in my life’s great and there’s nothing wrong with me. So, at that moment, it was just, like, I get goosebumps, still. It was a moment where we were all sitting around the fire. And I remember it was, I think it was Jericho and Luke, they said, “What about you, Smiley?” Because, you know, apparently, when I wasn’t crying, I did smile.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – And I said, guys, like, you know, it’s been nine months since my dad committed suicide. And I think even the producers, I think the cameramen, I think it was just one of those moments where no one spoke. And they just let me pour out this story of what just happened nine months ago. Like, it didn’t happen 10 years ago. It happened nine months ago. And I just remember crying, and saying that my dad’s with me, and he’s here on the island. And everyone then, I don’t think they changed the way they felt about me. I think they just was like, wow. This girl is definitely real. A lot of people say, which really upsets me, that, like a lot of the fans of the show say that, you know, did I use it to get my way to runner-up. The answer to that is no. The only time I ever mentioned my dad’s death, of suicide, was that day.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – I didn’t use it on my pitch to win. I didn’t use it for anything. Like, I didn’t say please don’t vote me out, my dad committed suicide. You know, it was never like that. Once that moment on day 24 happened, nothing else was said about it. No one else mentioned it. And I guess it was for me to then, if I wanted to talk more about it. And then, obviously, it got aired. And my first response was from TV WEEK. And this is when I said to my mom, this is where it’s gonna get real, mom. Like, TV WEEK, a magazine, wants to put a photo of dad, you know, not just me, on Survivor. And that took mom a little bit, because even though we were trying to get the message out there, I think having my dad in a magazine, with us not having the power of how it’s gonna be written, or how it’s gonna come across. You know, we were putting a lot of trust in the journalist that spoke, and she did it to the T. I actually remember saying to her, like, I’ll come after you if you twist this. You know, like, I was pretty well, like, hey, I’ll do whatever you want, but if you twist it. You know, like, I’ll come at you. I remember Channel 10, we’re like, we will come, you know, with, like, little forks and we will sue TV WEEK. You know, it was very good to have Channel 10 backing me up for everything. So, Channel 10, you’re in a contract with them for a year. And, so, from that year, the moment I touch ground, the publicist there, Kate, was amazing. You know, there was a radio show that wanted me to talk about suicide. And, at that particular moment, I said no. And she was great. There was times when I did have to say no. It’s you’re talking about a very unpleasant day that happened in my life. And, after a while, it was consuming me to the stage where I was going downhill, because I was talking about my beautiful dad, in a very depressing way.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – So, that’s why I enjoyed the TV WEEK article. They did it in a way that was tasteful for the readers to know that I went on that show for that reason. They didn’t do it in a negative way. And, so, a lady approached me. Bonnie, I think her name was. Sorry, Bonnie, or Ronnie, I can’t remember. And said, would I be interested in coming to Oakey, which is out west, to discuss about mental health. She said you just need to put together a 40 minute talk. And I’m like. I mean, I can talk till the sun goes down. But I don’t know. You know, so then there was a lot of running around, trying to get me these right people to help me talk. So I’m not just up on stage freezing, frozen and not talking. So, then I went a did a little training day with a lady named Kim, in Brisbane, and it just took me to this, I’ve, like, named it Chapters of Surviving Life. It’s gone into this thing now, where every talk is different, as well. I recently talked at a high school. So, I didn’t use the word suicide. Just with that particular language of the young children. I used, he had passed away. So, my talks are very different in the circumstances that I get asked to talk about. Mind you, it’s all real. It’s just that I use different language at different, you know, events. So, it just went from there. And I actually grew more confident. Funny enough, I’m actually more confident now than when I was on a TV show with 50 thousand cameras in front of me. Because it’s something that I’m very personal. And it’s something that I don’t want to get out of it that you should go on a reality TV show if you’re depressed. Like, I’ve had a lot of comments on Instagram saying, I’m depressed, I think I need to go on a reality TV show. And I’m like, no, no, no, no, no! So, people out there can take my approach differently. I know every word that comes out of my mouth, my dad would be in the audience agreeing with what I’m saying. It’s nothing that I’m trying to get my five. Like, I went on Studio 10 on R U OK? Day, and said I’m using this five minutes of fame to get my message out. Like, that’s all, you know, looking back now, Survivor was probably a platform. This is what I’m supposed to do. This is where I’m supposed to be. I get a lot of information and a lot of chats from young girls who say, you know, thank you for going on a show where you did have a bit of a belly, and you don’t mind being who you are, because you’re not the perfect figure. And I’m like, for starters, I think I’m pretty good. But, secondly, one thing I have always been confident in is myself. And I did lose 11 kilos, which was massive. And I look at photos now on those last days, where my belly was just nothing, and I was just like, it wasn’t healthy weight loss. I don’t recommend eating rice and beans for 55 days straight. So, I definitely don’t encourage that body image whatsoever. I’m very confident in who I am, and I think that comes across in the game Survivor. There was that challenge where I had to tackle Sarah, the supermodel. You know, and my little belly just hugged her. And my little thighs were wrapping around her. And, you know, she was going nowhere. And even later on, she was like, damn, you’re strong. And it’s stuff like that where, if these little things come out of Survivor, to help people, then I feel like I have won more than what I actually won on Survivor.

Roxanne – Yeah, absolutely. And you can just see the passion really ignite in you when you talk about your speaking gigs, even. You’re traveling around all over the place to connect with not only veterans, but school children and lots of groups. You recently spoke at International Women’s Day. And your reach is just expanding and expanding. And I can just feel your passion is really there for getting this message out there. So, I wanted to ask, though, obviously the first time, you know, your first magazine interview, even speaking up on Survivor would’ve been really tough. Does it still continue to be hard for you to, I guess, to relive some of those emotions and feelings you were going through, while your dad was alive and after he passed?

Tara – Sometimes I get guilt. Where I’m actually using the death of my father to feel happy that I’m getting the message out there about suicide. So, I don’t know if that just made sense, Roxy. Like, sometimes I feel a little bit guilty that I feel blessed that I’m able to chat about the things that happened in my life. Which were quite dark and which are quite hard to talk about. But using a media platform, like Survivor, it definitely helped me try and work out if this is where I want to go in my life. I could have just went on a reality TV show and then no one would know about my dad. And, so, I do find, sometimes, phone interviews, I love face to face, I love seeing people’s expressions. So, face to face interviews are a lot better for me than, like, if I was on a radio. I sometimes freak out because I can’t see their reaction.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – And the word suicide is very raw. Some people don’t even, in my interviews, will say the passing of your dad. And I will actually say, well, he committed suicide.

Roxanne – I literally just did that, just then, didn’t I, I did.

Tara – Yeah, sorry. It’s that whole, they’re respecting me, which is great. But the word suicide, it needs to be said more than I think it does. I think if a child was feeling quite depressed, I think if she went up to, or he went up to her parents, and he went up to his parents and said, I’m feeling a lot of suicide thoughts, it wouldn’t be a shell shock, to be like, how do you know that word, don’t ever say that word, you’re not suicide. You know, I think it just. And the day that my dad passed, it was a terrible day. But it was a day that I had to accept that he’s in peace. He suffered 20 years of wanting to go to sleep all day, because he didn’t want to face the day. And, so, I have to live with the fact that my dad is in peace. And that, you know, he’s happy where he is now. And the brightest star in the sky is poppy’s star, and that’s what we talk about, as a family. And that will never change, you know. He’s inside of me, he’s inside my children, and we always talk about poppy’s star. Tum Tum’s still in the backyard. Look, I’m not sure what I’m gonna do when Tum Tum passes away. That.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – You know, I’m not just a crazy horse person. But he’s 14. My husband even doesn’t mind if I give him heaps of minerals and calcium, because we just want him to stay alive.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – So, I think moments like that, where I feel that life really is something that you can either make it or you can break it. And that’s what my Survivor experience came out of. I’ve made something, I’m hoping to get more work that I can talk, even if it’s not at an event. You know, someone’s having moments in their life where they need someone that knows what they’re going through. On a personal level, Roxy, in 2008, my middle son was born. And he was born eight weeks premi. And I left the hospital quite depressed. Because I felt that he wasn’t my son. Because he was in the ICU for eight weeks. So, I didn’t, you know, he was born at 32 weeks. And all these other people were looking after him. And I brought him home when he was healthy at 40 weeks. And I did go through two weeks of not wanting to be his mother. And, so, for a mother to feel that way, that’s not normal. So, I, you know, since then, have been on antidepressants. And I’ve tried to come off them, and it’s just not the environment that I want to be in. So, I stay on my antidepressants and I’m quite level. I just feel like, for me. You know, I still go to therapy if I feel that I’m going through those dark moments again. So, you know, that’s a different depression than what my dad went through. So, mental health, it effects so many different people, in so many different ways. And if someone comes to my talk and walks away with, wow, that really just hit me, then I think I’ve made the right choice in talking about mental health.

Roxanne – Absolutely, and I know already, you know, people, you say, walk away and are changed. But, already, you’re finding people that are feeling compelled to come up and connect with you, straight after your talks, and express how much that you’ve maybe flipped on a few switches. Or maybe changed their train of thought on some sorts of things. And how does that feel when you have that connection with the people that you are speaking to?

Tara – I mean, the Survivor crew still call me the country bumpkin. Because I have this country twang. And, so, they always say here she comes. You know, I grew up in the outback, so, you know. So, then, when I’m looking out at 400 people that are sometimes in a corporate world, and they’re nodding away, and I’m looking at. You know, because sometimes I go through the audience and if someone’s connecting with me, by just their face expressions, I sometimes just, like, attack them, like. You know. And, so, one thing I remember the lady, Kim, taught me was she was like, we might need to change your language. And I said we ain’t changing nothing. Because this is who I am. And if I wanna say it’s pretty shit, it’s shit, you know? So, it was very hard for her to accept that this is the language. And I wanna get on stage, and I have slideshows and I have photos, and it’s crazy. But the last thing I do leave my audience is what is your next chapter. And people come up to me and say, I’ve never been asked that. I don’t know what my next chapter is. And that’s okay, they don’t need to know. But I would think that if they left my talk, they’re more likely driving home, going what are we going to do. You know, like, it’s something that. I always allow myself five to 10 minutes after my talk for question time. Now, my four most common questions I get asked is, where was the toilet on Survivor? If you’re a female and it’s that time of month, what do you do? You know, are you still friends with the people that you got out on Survivor? And number four is, how has Survivor changed your children? And they are, literally, I would get asked every time I go to an event. And, at the end of the day, if that’s something that they have passion about, and they wanna know more about, then that’s still fine, as well. But if one person has left there and thought, I didn’t know this happy, bubbly person that was on stage, has gone through such a terrible time, and look where she is today, and maybe things can change for me, then that’s my job.

Roxanne – Mm mm, absolutely. And it’s so true, I mean, obviously, you are a very bubbly person, by nature. I know you wouldn’t even say an extrovert, that you would be a bubbling introvert, wouldn’t you, normally?

Roxanne – But I guess, you know. Yeah, it just shows how much can be going on behind the scenes, in someone’s life. And, you know, we put on a mask, we go out, everything’s great, everything’s fine, yes, I’m okay, don’t even worry. But, in the meantime, people everywhere are processing these things in their minds and behind closed doors. And you really just, I guess have to be. Well, what advice, let me ask you. What advice would you give to people to build better connections with the people that we meet? And to allow those conversations to happen, if and when the person is ready?

Tara – I think, for a personal point of view, especially going and watching someone like this hero that I had on this pedestal, and then, really deep down, he was actually quite a frail man, I think it’s give them time. Obviously, my dad never wanted to let me know what he went through. Maybe because it was too much for me. But I just wish I gave him more a chance to come out to me, and talk to me a bit more. It was day three or four when I got home with my son, Zai, and my husband said, are you, like, just cranky because you’re tired, or are you, like, what? And I was just like, of course I’m cranky, you know, I’ve just had a child! You know, I exploded, when I could’ve then said I’m actually really down. And that three days could’ve finished, instead of it went through two weeks of me keeping it bottled up. You know, it’s easier said than done to, say, speak up, and don’t talk. I think organizations out there, there’s a lot more than what we do our research. There’s always the big names of mental health organizations. But I think even if your having a support person that’s not a family member, I actually spoke more about my depression with not even a psychiatrist, she was waiting in the doctors surgery. And I was getting my script for my antidepressants. And me and her just started chatting. And she had a lot going on. And so I walked out going, Tara, you’ve got a loving husband, you have two healthy children, boom, you know. That poor girl had a lot going on. And I sometimes feel a little bit selfish, because I don’t want people not to talk to me, either, because they don’t want to bring up, they don’t want me to bring up all these emotions about my dad. And sometimes my friends, that I’ve known since I was in primary school, I will say I did not know that you were going through that. Oh, we didn’t want to talk to you about it. You know, it’s like, I need for people to know that if anyone you should talk to, it would be probably someone that you think might that has gone through that experience. Again, PTSD is something I can’t talk about, because I’ve never gone through something like that. But living with someone that has that sort of feeling of not knowing where their life is gonna lead, after the army services, I found a great organization called Mates4Mates, in Brisbane. I actually found them after my dad. I Googled how to grieve after your dad had committed suicide. I Googled that. And the first thing that came up were a bunch of organizations. And then, down at the bottom, there was one called Mates4Mates, and I started reading it. And it’s an organization that helps ex-servicemen and women, and even servicemen and women who are still in the service, to pick up their life after their defense jobs have finished. These guys, that are going to Afghanistan, they’re in their 20’s. My dad was in his 40’s when he got home. So, that’s still quite young. But these guys that are in their 20’s, they don’t know what to do now. They’ve done the war, they don’t know what to do. So, this organization, it gets them back into the workforce, it gets them into training, and finding what they wanna do, in an environment that they’re quite used to, in the defense and military backgrounds. So, yeah, I find when you find these things in your life at these certain times, you know, if only my dad found this, would he. They meet once a month, and would he change? But you just don’t know. I don’t know if anything could have helped my dad. I know my mom and him were married for 40 years. And, as any marriage, it was up and down and rocky. And he produced three, well, I think I’m the prettiest one, but he produced three good looking children. And I think, at the end of the day, yeah, he just did it, he did it for him. He didn’t do it to be selfish. Part of my talk, I do say that people that commit suicide are not selfish. I get quite upset when people say your dad was a bit selfish. Because you don’t know what he went through. You know, and, at the end of the day, if that’s being selfish, then my hats off to him. Because the day I did see my dad, on his bed, you know, he had a smile. And that smile has kept, that smile stayed in my heart. And that’s just something I’m gonna have to continue on knowing that he had that smile when he was passed away. So, it’s not selfish. And, yeah, I just, I think, at the end of the day, again, just suicide needs to be more aware than just brushed under the rug.

Roxanne – Mm, mm, absolutely. Okay.

Tara – Sorry, was that a bit deep?

Roxanne – No, it was, it was beautiful. I was actually trying not to cry. Halfway, I’m just like, mm. But, that’s the power of the message, isn’t it? It really is.

Tara – Yeah, yeah.

Roxanne – And there are so many amazing organizations. You know, you’re not scrounging around looking for anything. You know, there’s Mates4Mates, even the RSL for veterans. Lifeline, um. Trying to think of some.

Tara – Even at the hospital.

Roxanne – Beyond Blue, like, there’s so many.

Tara – Yeah, there’s women ones there, there’s women, there’s youth, there’s veterans, there’s PTSD, there’s, you know, ones for people that have been on a crazy reality TV set. No, there isn’t, but.

Roxanne – That could be your next chapter.

Tara – Maybe that’s my next chapter. You know, I don’t know, the Tara Pitt foundation. I’m not too sure, we could be just starting something out there.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – At the end of the day, I feel, deep in my heart, that he’s happy and that was the choice he made for him. And that’s just what me and mom, and my children all live with. Now, my children don’t quite understand. They just know that he was ill and then he passed away. I’m not keeping that from them. I’m just choosing not to tell them until they’re at that mature age where they can understand.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – Because the questions afterwords is what will effect them. Not the whole what happened to poppy. It will be the questions and how I handle it. But, can I just say, Survivor was great. And my message after Survivor was great, as well, but I got bullied myself, on Facebook.

Roxanne – I was going to lead into that when we were talking about.

Tara – Oh, sorry! Sorry!

Roxanne – No, you, no. We’re on the same wavelength, it’s fine. When you mentioned your foundation for realities pretty people, I thought, hang on, yeah, there’s the whole trolling side of things that we haven’t touched on yet, yeah. So, go, go ahead.

Tara – Yeah, well, because I was going to say, you know, after Survivor, I had to really dig deep to make sure I wasn’t going to fall through this depression of bullying and cyber bullying. Because it can really effect you, you know? I wasn’t allowed to be on Facebook during the time I was in contract with Channel 10.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – But that didn’t stop my mom and my best friend screenshotting. Because they just wanted me to know, and I really didn’t want to know. And, you know, my weight. Like, she shouldn’t stand next to the two younger girls, it makes her look fatter. Tara needs to wear a shirt. Tara, you know, has a weird voice.

Roxanne – Oh, okay.

Tara – Yeah, right. And then it got deeper when there was a couple of moms that got on there and said, as a mother, why would you leave your children. And I sometimes think, yes, why did I leave my children in a very familiar environment. And they went to school and they’re with their father, and they’re with their nana. And I sometimes think, you know, please call me, so we can chat about this. Because, most of the time, the cyber bullying, I would definitely like to have a chat with them. Because I would never yell at them. I may egg their house, but that ain’t playing. Just a little bit. There’s just sometimes I think, why can’t us women, and especially moms, stick together and be like pro-moms? Stay at home mom, you know, whatever. And, I must admit, I have over 5,000 followers on Instagram. I don’t know 5,000 people. But I’m actually one of the smaller amount of follows on Instagram. And Anneliese, who was on my show, rang me, and she was like, dude, you need to buy followers, so you’re like, you need to get more followers. And I’m like, Anneliese, that does not interest me one bit.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – The 5,000 followers that want to follow me actually, generally, want to know what I’m doing. I think that’s great. The less is best. Because then you don’t get trolled and you don’t get bullied. And the girls that go on those shows like Married at First Sight and Bachelor in Paradise, and all those shows, I think they are definitely, they’re putting themselves out there in a appearance way. In a different way than the Survivor, and, like, MasterChef, and those that want to prove themselves. You know, I think there is different reality TV shows out there for what you want in life.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – I don’t think I’d ever go, well, I don’t need to go on a dating show, but I would feel. Yeah, I’m pretty happy, sorry, fellas, if you’re out there. But I do feel that you’re putting yourself out there for sure. I knew, straight away, that there was gonna be people that like me, and there’s gonna be people that don’t like me. And the big AK thing, it was AK versus Tara, and people go crazy when me and AK catch up. And we always do selfies, because people are like, no, you two hate each other. And it’s like, no, we were on a show. And I didn’t like his gameplay and he didn’t like the way I was getting people to manipulate my vote to get him out. So, we were quite very good at our gameplay.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – And, so, it’s amazing that people are still shocked that you talked to AK, like, you know, he’s the villain. And it’s like, well, you know, he’s not, really.

Roxanne – Yeah.

Tara – Yeah, so, it’s just, it creates this world, reality TV, that you can either take away, what you take away is what you get out of it. And, so, would I do Survivor again? I think that was gonna be your next question.

Roxanne – It was in there somewhere, yes.

Tara – Sorry!

Roxanne – You’re like an interview pro. You, like, anticipate what’s on the computer.

Tara – Yep, this is the Tara show now and, with Roxy.

Roxanne – Yeah, totally.

Tara – I would definitely love to do Survivor again if I had the chance. But I’m pretty sure if you ask my mom and my husband, their answers won’t be the same. My husband likes the fact that we, he didn’t like the attention I was getting, he actually gets, he was quite protective of me. He didn’t like that sometimes a photo of me and Locky was on Daily Mail because now we’re having an affair.

Roxanne – Oh, right, yeah.

Tara – Have you seen Locky’s girlfriend, she’s a supermodel. So, I’m pretty sure that we’re safe. And there was times that, and I speak this a lot at school, that a lot of the bullying that goes on, on social media, behind the computers, it’s not necessary. It’s not making anyone a better or a worse person. Because I looked at most of those comments and just shrugged them off. Because it didn’t bother me. And they were trying to bother me, but it just didn’t bother me.

Roxanne – And I guess, you know, that speaks volumes to your inner strength and your confidence and belief in yourself. But, for those who maybe, you know, maybe aren’t as strong in some of those areas, I know it’s easy to say just switch it off, don’t look at it, but, you know, we’re in 2019. The world kind of, you know, a portion of the world revolves around the internet and social media. So, you can’t really just discount it from your life. So, what advice would you give to people who, you know, maybe have experienced some cyber bullying, or they’ve gotten some people niggling at them in the background, you know, that just won’t go away? Like, you know, what would you say to those people?

Tara – I think, deep down, that it comes back to jealousy. I think that if people that are getting bullied can somehow, deep down, think, why are they spending so much time on effecting my life? Why are these bullies making sure I feel bad, and I feel sad, why are they doing this? And I’m no expert at shrinking, or psychiatry, but I think it goes back to jealousy. And I think that it’s back to deep down in the bully, the bully is actually probably the one that’s hurting the most. I don’t have the time of day for bullies, don’t you worry about that. I’m not saying. But I think, deep down, bullies, there’s something going on in themselves. And they need to get help. And, so, they pick on the weak. Because then they feel strong, and they feel like they’re going, their day is successful. And, so, from my experience with the cyber bullying, I am a confident person, but there were sometimes I did look and go, oh, I’m getting into that, I’m getting into that trap where I’m double, you know, like, working myself out. Am I a fat person, you know, so, it is hard, because I get some beautiful students that come up to me and they’re stunning. And they’re like, I just don’t feel pretty in myself. And, you know, it’s easy for me to say just be pretty. But it’s something deeper than that. And sometimes you might have one thing that you’re good at, and I say stick to it. Like, my son, my oldest son, doesn’t like motorbike riding. And my husband was like, no, he needs to do motorbike riding. And I’m like, uh, no he doesn’t. So, I said what do you want to do, Jet? What fun activity do you want to do? And he said, I want to do acting. Oh, my gosh, like, I was proud. I was like, ah! Because that means that this kid is trying to get out of the. The other two love motorbike riding, mind you. But he doesn’t want to be a follower. He wants to do something on his own. So, me, as a parent, I’m like, let’s do this. You know, so now he has his own agent. Which he got all on his own. I changed my name to Susie, so the application doesn’t go back that it’s Tara from Survivor. That’s how far I want my kid to do this on his own. It goes back to parents. It goes back to the guardian of these kids. My son, Jet, has quite a bad, well, not bad, but he has quite a strong pigmentation. And it’s brown, and it goes right across his belly. And it was just that he was born with it. I thought it was dirt for so long. I used to scrub his little belly, but it’s not dirt. And, at grade four, he went to a swim carnival. And some little boy said it’s dog poo. And Jet turned around and said, no, it’s my special birthmark, and you don’t have one. And I was like. Because that, to me, that, then, that could have definitely made sure that Jet never took his shirt off again. And he walked off, and the teacher told me, and I’m like. Boom, you know. It’s what we’re bringing up, these kids. These kids are gonna grow up with social media. Jet wants social media now, and he’s 12. He is not getting social media. You know, they want social media. So, us parents have to step up, into this new technology world, and say, right, this is gonna happen, kids. And that if you put a photo out, of you in front of a mirror, that is on the internet forever. I think sometimes parents are a bit too relaxed with their social media on children. I don’t think children under 16 need to be on Instagram. I have people that are contacting me that are 10. And I’m like, where are your parents? Like, I could be a pedophile, you know. I could be anyone. My name might not be who I say I am. So, yeah, I do feel, sometimes, that parents, nowadays, we don’t need to worry about the strangers that are walking along the streets. Because they’re not there anymore. They’re behind the camera, they’re behind the keyboards. And we need to take more control. And if my son is walking around with a massive birthmark on his chest, and now he’s becoming a model and an actor, that, to me, is, again, I might be talking myself up, but I’ve done a good job on that one. I don’t know about the other two, I’m pretty great.

Roxanne – On that, yeah.

Tara – Yeah, like, I definitely put a lot of effort into the oldest, because the other two are a little bit, you know. We don’t know what they’re gonna do. They’re very wild boys, the last two. Yeah. I’ve only just started to like them. That’s how much.

Roxanne – Oh!

Tara – They’re definitely, they’re full on, Roxy. I don’t know what the sex of your children are. But the boys are boys. And these last two, they’re boys.

Roxanne – Okay. They can be dad’s territory then. You go, go hang out with your dad, do the motorbikes, do the crazy stuff.

Tara – I do love my children, by the way. That was a joke.

Roxanne – Oh, gosh. That’s incredible, okay.

Tara – I think I should be prime minister. I just feel, all of a sudden, I have this power now. And, like, vote me, vote one.

Roxanne – Why the hell not, why the hell not.

Tara – Sorry.

Roxanne – Perfect, no, that’s great. And, turning around, obviously, yeah, Tara wants to get out there, spread her messages about mental health and PTSD, and really, you know, just connect with people. I think you’re a people connector. So, the best way to, let people know the best way to reach you. Is it through your website?

Tara – I think I’m trying to get the right, anyway. It should be up and running soon. But definitely my Instagram is just Tara Pitt, and my Facebook page is Tara Pitt. And I’m also on, like, just Google Tara Pitt. I’ve pretty well. I share a lot of my Google engine, search engine, with Turia Pitt, the lady who. And a funny little story. Turia Pitt was the marathon runner model who got caught up in the fire.

Roxanne – Yes.

Tara – And, so, I’ve actually had a lady ring me and say we want you to talk. And I’m like, oh, that’s so good, yes, I’ll talk. And they’re like, about your time as a burn victim. And I’m like, I’m, what? So, I didn’t get that job because they wanted Turia. So, that’s fine, but, um, yeah. Just definitely reach out. I’m available, you know, well, I’m starting to get interstate now, so that’s good. I’m starting to travel a little bit further out west. West outback is a really special part in my heart, because I lived out at Roma for 10 years. And I’ve just done a couple of talks out there about depression, because it’s drought.

Roxanne – I know.

Tara – And the word depression isn’t just about, you know, what you’ve seen or things. It’s happening just with everyday farmers. And, so, oh, look, at the end of the day, sometimes. I say that a lot, at the end of the day. I sometimes come away from my talks, where I have to really just have a good couple of days, because I get so involved in the people I meet. And the business that do approach me, I talk to them prior and after. Because I feel like we all have to go through this journey together, you know, to bring this talk what it deserves. And sometimes I talk to the event organizers before I actually walk in, because I want them to know that this is what’s gonna be expected, and this is what’s gonna happen. Just to make sure the audience is the right audience. Because the word suicide is raw. And the last thing I want is to upset people, you know. I don’t want people to leave my talk sad. I want people to leave knowing that, yeah, there is people out there that might come across happy and bubbly, but have also lived the most horrific grief, apart from Sheryl, who will still be alive for a long time, I hope. But, you know, losing a parent, and, especially, the way I did, it definitely rocked my world. It shook it up, not rocked it, shook it up.

Roxanne – Mm hm. Yeah, perfect, alright. Well, thank you so, so much. We covered a full gamut of.

Tara – I’m so sorry.

Roxanne – Thank ya, no, it’s incredible. You know, you get, you know, some guests are very, they want to be down the line about they want to speak about but you’ve been very open and happy to chat anything and everything. So, I really appreciate that. Thank you so much for your time today, Tara.

Tara – No worries, I hope it all makes sense. Sometimes I go off in my own little world. And then I forget that there’s someone there watching me. Sorry, and I appreciate you, Roxy, too. It’s been, like you said at the start, it’s definitely one way to get myself out there. And for people to know that I’m available for talks, you know, with keynote speaking and just everyday events. I do get a little bit of a, you know, what’s the word. I get very excited when I get an email saying could you come to an event. Because that, to me, means someone’s interested. And, so, I appreciate what you’re doing. And thank you for having me on your program. I didn’t realize this is the last episode for season two. This is the finale!

Roxanne – Yeah, you’re up in our top. You’re doing it right now.

Tara – I know! So, yeah, so, this is all exciting. Because I’ve been watching. So, that’s why I’m very excited that I was asked to be on the show. So, yeah, you’re doing amazing by getting people me out there and able to get my voice across to other people, in this wide world of the internet.

Roxanne – Oh, well, thank you so much, that means a lot, thank you.

Tara – No worries.

Roxanne – Well, thanks. So, yeah, so The Phoenix Phenomenon will be parked for a little while, while we get the ball rolling on the next seasons. So, obviously, if you’re wanting to connect and maybe put your own story forward, as a potential interviewee, I would love to hear from you. Best to contact me on RoxanneWriter.com.au, or, also, through my Facebook, which is also Roxanne Writer. Gotta keep these things uniform. So, I’d love to hear from you. Because, you know, the more stories we can get out there, the more we can connect and educate, and inspire the people around us. So, thank you for joining us for another season. Thank you again, Tara, for being your amazing self, and giving us your time today.

Tara – Thank you, bye, Roxy, bye, everyone!

Roxanne – Yeah.