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About Here's to Strength

The Story

Elise's journey from victim to victor

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"I survived and you can too"

After 30 years experiencing first hand how society at times can treat those with invisible illnesses differently, Elise Riannen Murphy the Founder and CEO of two organisations, the Here's to Strength Self Care Directory and Here's to Strength Community Wellness Hub was absolutely fed up. Elise had worked in the healthcare setting since she was 17 years of age, starting out as a volunteer receptionist, working her way up quickly to become a practice manager, business development manager and finally government manager specialising in improving the mental health and primary health sector. This meant she understood how the health system worked inside and out and dedicated her early career to helping over 2000 GP's improve their medical practice's with aim to provide better patient outcomes across the state. Elise started her career as a junior medical receptionist and worked her way up very quickly into practice management in both primary and mental health care settings, eventually managing state-wide accreditation responsibilities and working directly with practices assessing where they could do better. Although she was able to work, when Elise started experiencing sudden onset widespread pain as a young person who looked fine on the outside, everything changed.

 

The medical system she had supported for 10 years turned it's back on her with statement's like "it's all in your head" "lose weight, exercise and you will be fine". She felt broken as her entire body was in agony day in, day out flaring like it was on fire and bruised. After surviving extensive childhood trauma watching her parent's struggle with family violence, alcoholism and suicide, then surviving recurrent domestic, physical, emotional, sexual and financial violence as a young adult in her relationships, it was enough for her to want to her end her life completely. She was tired. It wasn't that she necessarily wanted to die, it was that the feeling of being so burnt out by recurrent never ending trauma outweighed her desire to keep fighting another day. She was always the bubbly, kind and loving person to everyone she knew, but she no longer felt anything, let alone wanted to feel the pain she was unable to process. She wanted to numb it all away.

 

Elise, a struggling single mum to a young daughter chose to end her pain by overdosing on high dependent sleeping tablet's, the ambulance was called and when she woke up the security guard on suicide watch explained that she coded and almost lost her life. She couldn't understand why as a young woman and mum, she so desperately wanted her life to end, especially knowing what it felt like as a child to watch her own mum go through the same thing when she had to revive her own mum at 7 years old to the same cause - overdose. All she knew was that the world as it existed was not a world she felt able or willing to bare.

"I felt like I was never enough. Everything was hard. I was absolutely exhausted and felt as though the violence and hardship in my life would never end. I lost who I was completely..."

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This surprisingly wasn't the epiphany she was looking for though with her chronic pain and domestic violence journey continuing for another 3 years with countless medical professionals discounting her pain and her employer's and fellow community members discriminating against her because she looked perfectly healthy on the outside. The amount of times she was abused for using her disability parking permit because she looked able and well externally was relentless and soul crushing.

Elise was left with no choice but to find the fight within and take on the health system completely alone having to advocate for her experiences quite loudly after doctors refused to look for a diagnosis, eventually receiving confirmed diagnosis by scans that she was living with over 20 different invisible but very painful conditions. Condition's that were way more than just "in her head" and were proven by scans that doctors had previously refused to run due to the assumption it was all in her head.

By her mid 20's Elise was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Fibromyalgia, Spinal Sclerosis, Bilateral Sacroiliac Arthropathy, Bilateral Bone Marrow Edema, Vasculitis, Costochondritis, Joint Narrowing Disease, Joint Dysfunction, Obesity, Sacroiliitis, Osteoarthritis, CSF Leak (caused by a negligently performed lumbar puncture which left her paralysed for 7 days), Chronic Migraines, Bilateral Sciatica, Bilateral Bursitis, Meniere's Disease, Endometriosis, Adenomyosis, Cervical Lesions, PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) and ADHD which affects young girls and women very differently than the disorder is typically known for.

"I had to stand my ground and find the strength to keep advocating for myself against all the odds. My life revolved around pain killers and weekly doctors appointments and I couldn't continue living my life that way"

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It was during the peak of her pain when she was sitting on the couch crying at how hard it was to take care of herself and frustrated with the fact she had to go to multiple doctor's multiple times a week and multiple shops to find the products that she needed that she realised it should all just be in one place. A one stop comfort experience.

"Why does it have to be so difficult to take care of yourself?" It was that day that Elise made a promise to herself that she was going to make it easier not just for her but for everyone she knew who was suffering the same existence and she held her glass of wine in her hand and said a cheers "Here's to Strength".

She worked hard every day to figure out what Here's to Strength meant, she started designing custom comfort products like heat packs and motivational clothing/giftware and began building the vision of what Here's to Strength would offer invisible illness sufferers.

"Suicide reared its head again when Elise received a goodbye letter from her mum"

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However Elise's world turned completely upside down again when her mum who had also suffered invisible illness her entire life including recurrent physical, sexual, emotional and financial trauma, mental health, recurrent suicide attempts, chronic pain, complete neuropathy of the feet, liver failure, kidney failure and regular pseudo non epileptic seizures, chose to successfully end her life in August of 2021. 

Her mum's final words were "I feel like I can be a better mum to you on the other side. Here's to Strength is your motto - live and breathe it." a sentence which Elise has held onto everyday since.

Elise's father who has also suffered ongoing trauma since childhood is another reason Elise set her mission to change the way self care is managed, with his diagnosis of Early Onset Parkinson's Disease in his early 50's, among many other challenges he now lives with that has prevented him from enjoying the rest of his life that he worked so hard to survive.

Both parents have been and continue to be incredible inspirations for Elise to keep fighting. Although due to the trauma's both parents were facing, her childhood was very unpredictable, she looks back at how lucky she was to have been loved by two strong individuals that taught her every skill she now uses today.

"Medicinal Cannabis saved my life and allowed me to regain control,slow down the constant fight or flight response and find balance again"

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Elise's recovery didn't really start until she finally met her new GP in the South of Adelaide that introduced her to Medicinal Cannabis which ultimately turned her life completely around including not only her physical health but her mental health as well. 

Elise went from experiencing immense daily pain, disabled, unable to move, 160kg, administering over 12 high dependent prescription drugs of addiction all day every single day to completely functional, minimal to no pain, 60kg lighter and eventually able to start and solely run her own business working 7 days a week and 14 hour a day's on her feet all without pain. 

So after a few years of personal growth and self initiated healing, Elise finally felt ready to launch her first Community Wellness Hub. A community safe space dedicated to both her mum and dad's invisible illness journey, her own journey, her partner and daughter's journey and to those in the community who are longing to be seen, heard and validated. 

The Here's to Strength - Community Wellness Hub is an Australian first with everything you need in one place acting as a one stop shop for all of your self care needs with an all day healing and comfort foods organic café offering affordable and nutritious food, a self care retail store with products from local businesses including flowers, books, motivational giftware, plants and comfort products, an animal therapy zone (rabbits and ducks to spend time with), a community pantry filled with free food and self care items for the community and consultation rooms as well as a workshop space for independent service providers to work including allied health, mental health professionals,  beauty and massage therapists, disability workers, community providers, breathwork facilitators, alternative healers and more with a team of GP's joining the mission very soon. 

"Australia's first one stop self care experience"

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At the hubs you immediately feel at home, safe, heard and validated with features of the space designed to comfort you when you are feeling at your most vulnerable including calming music, their plus size mannequin with invisible illnesses written on her body, motivational quotes and affirmations written around the hub walls, an Honesty Project community pantry and a support fund being established where client's who are in need of self care but are unable to afford the consultation fee's can be sponsored through the funds they have raised to give back to the community.

Working alongside the physical spaces, Here's to Strength also consists online with the launch of Australia's First Self Care Directory, a global first of its kind where you can access all of your self care needs in one place no matter where the practitioner is located. Bridging the gap of access to onsite, offsite, online and mobile self care services Australia wide.

Here's to Strength is designed to hold space and create access for individuals who need help but don't know where to start. As comfort and self care is different for everyone, this is why there are so many modalities and activities to support mental wellbeing is accessible in one place.

A genuine small business journey with absolutely no money in her pocket, paying expenses week to week but a drive and passion for change so that she could leave a legacy for her children and the generations to come that healing is possible and there is always a reason to keep fighting. 

"Once I learned how to prioritise my self care, I found not only myself again but realised my whole life had different possibilities. I was living with purpose, following my dreams, met the love of my life and conceived another child after 8 years of infertility. I discovered the impossible was possible and every minute was worth living."

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Elise realised in her dream for Here's to Strength that every single trauma and difficulty she had survived was for a reason so she could fulfil this purpose and very quickly understood living in gratitude was the ultimate manifestation power. Her trauma is what she calls her superpower now. She understands life at a realistic level which equips her to tackle the obstacles we face in society to ultimately end the stigma around self care, invisible illness, positive body advocacy and suicide prevention. Because of this mission, Elise's work was recognised when Here's to Strength won the award of Best Health and Wellness Company in Australia for 2023 by APAC Insider in the Business Enterprise Awards recognising entrepreneurs doing things differently. 

With a vision to open 100 hub's around Australia, Elise and her partner/co-director Braden are only just at the beginning of their journey to end the stigma around mental health and wellbeing, knowing that with time the conversation's which are now starting to ignite will save countless individuals from the desperation so many close to them have felt first hand. Elise is now what she calls in remission from suicide and has now dedicated her life to setting up a new way forward for those who are still suffering and need self care skills to empower and work through their own healing journey.

Here's to YOUR Strength...

In support of her mission to end the stigma, Elise has been invited to speak about her journey at various public community events, schools and workplaces in hope that self care is prioritised and understood on a real level for generations to come. To invite Elise to speak at your event, please contact Here's to Strength below

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Book a speaker event with Elise

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