Jana, an example of real resilience

Jana Pitttman speaking at the 2019 Health Beyond Research and Innovation Showcase.
Jana Pitttman speaking at the 2019 Health Beyond Research and Innovation Showcase.

A day. Not a week or a month or even 72 hours.

A day before final year medical student Jana Pittman was about to sit her final exam she took to the stage at South Western Sydney Local Health District's Health Beyond Research and Innovation Showcase on Thursday and talked about health, sport and the environment.

Pittman is the former world champion 400m hurdler who switched to bobsleigh making her the only woman to represent Australia at both Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

She is also the girl that has had to deal with a mirage of personal and professional setbacks including divorce, eating disorders, suicide, injury and not winning an Olympic gold medal which is what she wanted "more than anything".

Winter dreams: Astrid Radjenovic, right, and Jana Pittman of Australia start for a training session for the women's bobsleigh at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Picture: AP

Winter dreams: Astrid Radjenovic, right, and Jana Pittman of Australia start for a training session for the women's bobsleigh at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Picture: AP

The mother-of-three spoke about how the environment she grew up in - the one where home time was when the lights came on - is completely different to that of today and something she says medicine has to look at going forward.

"Kids are on computer games all day and not getting enough exercise," said Pittman, who opened up her address by taking the audience on a journey of her 2003 World Championship success.

"These days we share on social media, shop online and we don't even have coffees with our friends anymore to express what we are going through."

A key message of her speech was resilience and one phrase: "It's OK to just be OK".

She spoke about how for 15 years when she was asked to give a speech her message was all about fighting negativity and daring too dream.

Just like her tattoo on her abdomen which she explains is of a bumble bee because they shouldn't be able to fly, but not knowing, they go on flying anyway.

"Everyday we get bombarded by these beautiful messages on social media about overcoming, overcoming, overcoming and stop being so negative. It's fantastic. But is it reality," she said.

"Two years ago I finished second in my class, so I should have been pretty happy and I was pregnant with my third child and I had a beautiful house, a fantastic family and my heart felt yucky.

"And I felt sad and I felt guilty and I felt jealous. I had all these emotions going through and I thought how is that possible when you had such a great life.

"And then I realised it's just normal human emotions. It's my guilt and those feelings around my emotions that are causing the problems.

Track star: Australia's gold medal winning 4 x 400M relay team at the Manchester Commnwealth Games: Tamsyn Lewis, Jana Pittman Lauren Hewitt and Cathy Freeman. Picture: AAP

Track star: Australia's gold medal winning 4 x 400M relay team at the Manchester Commnwealth Games: Tamsyn Lewis, Jana Pittman Lauren Hewitt and Cathy Freeman. Picture: AAP

"Maybe the self-help books have got it a little bit wrong and perhaps we need to be comfortable that it's OK to be human, to be normal, to feel sad, jealous, angry, proud.

"Sometimes it's just OK to not be OK and that is how we are going to build resilience in my eyes. When we finally accept that being OK is just OK and that some days are not always going to work."

Pittman was one of several keynote speakers at the two-day showcase at The William Inglis - MGallery by Sofitel, Warwick Farm which put the spotlight on south-west Sydney as a centre of innovation, collaboration and medical advancement.

Other speakers included Professor Iain McGregor, of the University of Sydney, who spoke about the future of medicinal cannabis.

The showcase also included information stalls and presentations from doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and high school students.