The year I scared away the dark

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LogoJPGI have a favourite musical artist and his name is Mike or Passenger to be exact. I love his lyrics, his voice and his being dearly. I don’t obsess over his social media channels or chase him around the world at concerts and yet I have, over the years, still managed to introduce many people to his warm music and because of that my friends now think of me when they hear his songs. That’s a beautiful connection to hold.

In December 2013, it was a warm Summer’s day in Sydney but my world felt dark. I had spent weeks since arriving pouring money down the drain attempting to make my ‘dream of Sydney’ a reality after my breakdown at home, I was physically sick with symptoms of my yet-diagnosed liver illness and I was in tears on an almost daily basis wondering why I had made the decision to move to the other side of the world.

But on a random Tuesday that Summer, everything changed. I lost out on a shift at work and therefore money and was upset; until I checked Facebook that morning.

Passenger announced he would be busking in Martin Place later that day and before I even realised what I was doing, I was running around my apartment getting ready unable to comprehend that I was about to see my favourite artist for free.

And in the middle of a busy lunchtime metropolis, something insanely beautiful occurred. Mike stood on stage and shone from the moment he said ‘hello’, making us feel like friends and neighbours. He spoke of his love for Martin Place, impromptu gigs and for the fans who had helped him reach success and then he sang a song called Scare Away the Dark that hit me in the heart like a lightning bolt.

I sat on stage not 4ft from a man whose lyrics never failed to stir my emotions and as I sat there tears began to pour down my face. I have never heard a song that resonated so strongly and my emotions spilled out uncontrollably.

His lyrics sounded like a call to revolution. That we needed to live our lives instead of exist and see the beauty around us instead of getting caught up with the superficial. That we needed to run wild and free instead of being chained to our desks and too hungover for the weekend.

I was in tears because despite attempting to live the lyrics he was so passionately singing, I was failing miserably no matter my efforts. I had fallen in love with the song but it was painful to listen to.

Little did I know on that Tuesday just how much things would change over the next few weeks…

Two months after that day and my symptoms had become so serious I flew home as an emergency to receive the life-changing diagnosis of my liver and though I was scared and upset going to hospital and doctor appointments, I treasured the unexpected time with my family. I got a part-time job, spent my days in the sun and launched this website.

The acute symptoms of my illness came under control quicker than expected and I flew back out to Australia managing to get my second year visa work completed with days before the expiration of my original one. There was something that told me, despite reservations of others, that this time, Sydney would work out for me. I had no idea, at that time, just how well it would.

Sadly, just days after returning, everything overwhelmed me and I attempted to end my life walking into the surf at Bondi. I never believed I would be happy or live the life I wanted. But the Universe came to my rescue. It sent me so many signs and people that allowed me to realise that I would be okay; that everything would work out and it did.

Within a couple of weeks I had a stress-free full time job and a beautiful room with Bondi Beach at the end of my road. Dreams were becoming a reality.

And achieving mental peace meant I could work on the physical scars the last few months of steroids had left my body with and I began to run. Half a kilometre the first time but I was soon running 4-6km 5 times a week up and down the coastal path between Bondi and Coogee with the blue sea and setting sun allowing me to smile.

I was scaring away the dark one day, one running step at a time.

And, once again, on a random day in Summer, Passenger announced on Facebook that it was ‘first come, first served’ to an email address for tickets to a secret gig in Sydney. 2.5 hours later I got the news I had received tickets and was overwhelmed with happiness.

It felt as though the Universe was rewarding me for persevering; for returning to Sydney when so many told me not to.

There were just 300 of us in the crowd and when he asked for requests, there was only one I wanted to hear him sing. Emotionally and mentally I had come full circle since the last time I had seen him perform that song. I was severely depressed in the Summer of 2013 but here I was, back despite everything, in the Summer of 2014 and I couldn’t have been more happy and content if I tried.

And as his private gig ended and he sang the song I was living, tears stained my cheeks. Tears of contentment. Tears of pride to know I was right to listen to my inner voice and give Sydney another go because I was now living the life he was singing.

Ever since I launched this website last June, we have all been helping each other to scare away the dark by lighting each other up instead of tearing each other down.

It’s been almost 18 months since I first saw Mike sing his song and in that time I have set many personal goals and achieved every single one of them. I have swam naked swim with strangers, ran in thunderstorms, held my own personal development workshop and spoke in front of hundreds, walked and ran miles in the beautiful sunshine, laughed until I cried, met friends that made me feel whole, seen more humpback whales in a year than some have in their lives, faced my fears, stared at the stars, can now comfortably run 14km, made the most of my weekends and allowed my heart and soul to heal.

If his song was a call to revolution, I answered because I haven’t just existed for the past year, I have LIVED despite my depression and liver!

Dear Passenger,

You brought love to my heart,

tears to my eyes and

peace to my soul.

I scared away my dark.

Thank you.

  • Liz Derry


    Hey Toni!

    Sorry this is random but it’s Liz the English dark haired girl who shared a hostel with you in ubud (I was above you!). Anyway, your blog popped into my head tonight and I read your story above. Just wanted to say how inspirational it is! Having met you, I’d never have guessed you had been to such dark places. I think everyone can relate to your story to a certain extent and its great to read about such positive outcomes. What do you plan to do when you go back to Devon and when you back?

    Liz x

    • Toni

      Liz – hi there lovely! So nice to hear from you 🙂 Thank you for your lovely words; they mean a lot! I got back a couple of days ago so I’m still trying to get over my jet lag and just enjoy the little things like rain on my window and the comfort of familiar things around me. I’ll try and get a job and then take it from there! Keep in touch girly!!! x

  • Jean-philippe


    Thank you!
    I stumbled upon your website because I have lost the will to live. So I google and Learned your story. I was so impressed! I was touched by your struggle and honesty. We are all both angels and demons. We are creatures of love+hate. And we chose our course. Thank you for reminding me about passenger. My karma is love and I need to “let her go”. Please keep writing, you are beautiful.

    • Toni

      Jean-philippe – thank you so much for your kind words; they mean so much to me (especially when I continue to struggle). I’m so glad I could remind you of Passenger too; he really is an incredible artist!

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