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  • Published: 12 September 2023
  • ISBN: 9780143777298
  • Imprint: Viking
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $34.99

Fearless

Finding the Power to Thrive – From the bestselling author of Unbreakable

Extract

CONTENT WARNING: Physical and verbal abuse


Don’t you dare say anything to anyone. Don’t you dare say anything because I will kill you.

These were the words repeated to me almost daily by my father. For decades I lived under his rules, even after I had escaped his physical and verbal abuse. And his number one rule was to be, and to stay, silent. I feared that I would lose my life if I spoke out.

Evil festers in the darkness, in the silence and in the secrets we are forced to keep by our abusers.

So for years I barely told a soul the truth. I lived in perpet­ual fear.

I am writing this book, my second, to talk about the power of truth-telling, the power of sharing your story, the power of speaking up. I am here for all of you who are yet to find your voice, and to give hope to those who have suffered or are going through difficult moments.

I am here to tell you, you are not alone.

When I was writing my first book, Unbreakable, I still had so much fear, shame and embarrassment around the abuse I had endured. There was – and I would say there still is – a stigma around talking about abuse. At that time, few had spoken up about the toxic culture of abuse that lies deep in the tennis world, even in sport and society in general.

There was also stigma and shame associated with talking about mental health, bullying, family violence, body issues (anything that does not resemble society’s idea of ideal).

Things have changed since then – not least there’s been the #MeToo movement – but at the same time I would say much more can be done and must be done to make a difference. This is why I am writing my second book.

This book is about finding your voice, your power, and thriving. It’s about normalising the conversation around many very important issues because that is where change starts – by sharing our stories and speaking up without shame.

This book is about surviving the pain of my childhood and finding hope.

In the following pages I am going to open up about some of my worst moments not only of the last five years, but also in parts of my life I had long buried and hadn’t dealt with until relatively recently.

In each chapter you will read about my deepest feelings and experiences; of moments I have never spoken about – and what I have learnt to get through my hardships and heal.

When I was going through some of these most difficult moments, I felt like there wasn’t really a person I could look to and think, yeah, they’ve been through what I have been through, but they are still fulfilling their dreams and goals. So I want to be a voice for women, men, boys and girls – anyone who is not living the life they deserve to live. It’s about not letting others silence us, take away our voice and happiness when these were never theirs to take.

It took me some time to get to this place, that is to know my purpose. To be honest, ten years ago I had no real idea what I was going to do with my life. When I first retired from tennis, I found myself in the pits of depression quickly and suddenly. I was, I can see in hindsight, a traumatised young woman with little to aspire to, having been forced to leave the game I loved, the career I loved.

I was wading through life with sadness. I struggled with friendships so my circle was small. My self-worth was shot. My eating became horribly disordered. I didn’t want to leave my apartment, and a feeling of hopelessness engulfed my life (not for the first time).

My dark secrets were deep. I had touched on the carnage of my youth with only a very few people. It was not until the spring of 2016, when I decided to write Unbreakable, that I started (and the emphasis is on ‘start’) to process for the first time the gravity of the abuse I’d lived with for many years.

I felt so much shame and I carried it in my body and soul. It was killing me on the inside.

But somewhere in me, I still had a flicker of fight and hence I found the bravery to tell my story.

I remember the morning I sat down in the meeting room of my Melbourne apartment block and started to talk and talk, cry, and talk some more to Jess, who was helping me write Unbreakable. I had never told my story in full, not even to my then long-time partner Tin.

Writing that book was tough. I would fall into bed exhausted most nights. But I had no idea at the time how therapeutic it would be for me. The interviews and writing unlocked a lot of difficult feelings, thoughts and stories I had kept firmly inside. Stirring up so many memories triggered panic attacks and terrible fear; for example, that I was being watched and stalked as I walked around Melbourne’s CBD.

I was utterly relieved when we submitted the final manu­script to Penguin. Then I felt fear. To be frank, I realised that a lot of shit was going to be put out in public, and I felt extremely vulnerable. I had a deep concern, too: I knew my story was inflammatory, on many levels. This was pre #MeToo – the world much less an environment where survivors’ stories were heard and believed. I wondered if people were going to understand me. And I have to make it clear that I wasn’t really conscious of the power that telling my story would have not only on my life but on other people’s. Did I hope it might help someone else? Absolutely. But as I was writing the book I would often wonder out loud if anyone would actually buy it.

The day Unbreakable came out was literally one of the best days of my life.


Fearless Jelena Dokic

Find your power to thrive with inspirational advice in Jelena’s own words.

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