In 2015, Erin Deering had everything she ever dreamed of.
The co-founder of the wildly successful swimwear company Triangl, her bikinis were being worn by the likes of Beyonce and Kendall Jenner, she was making $200,000 a day in sales, she had a beautiful home, a handsome husband and an adorable new baby.
And yet, she was the unhappiest she had ever been.
“I think I felt a lot of shame about not being happy because I was so successful,” Erin tells Hugh in this episode of The Imperfects. “I had a beautiful son and I had a business making more money than I could ever imagine. I had my health, I had everything — except for connection.”
When Triangl began to take off, Erin and her now ex-husband and business partner, Craig, moved to Hong Kong to manage the business. Suddenly, she found herself cut off from her friends, her family and the life that she knew and loved.
“We lived very isolated lives,” Erin says, “I really just lost touch with everyone. I just didn’t talk or connect with anybody … And I put a lot of it on Craig, I put a lot of my sadness on that relationship not working … we were so tightly bound because of the business and it was very, ‘We should be happy, look at our lives!’”
Things got so bad for Erin that she says she lost almost 5kg in two weeks and even lost her sense of smell.
“I was so numb,” she says. “I wouldn’t say I was suicidal but I really just wanted to close off. I used to dream of just not existing anymore.”
In the episode, Hugh talks about the ‘if-then model of happiness’ — where people think ‘if I just buy this, then I’ll feel happy; if I just get this promotion, then I’ll feel fulfilled’ and how flawed the model it is. As he says, there is always going to be something else to aim for, another goal to chase and having this mindset can mean we’re never truly happy.
This was something Erin says resonated strongly for her during this period of her life.
“I was like a hamster in a wheel,” she says. “I just kept buying things because I thought surely this makes me feel good. Luckily, it was just clothes, it wasn’t anything too expensive but I was just wanting that hit.
“I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling I was going to have a heart attack.”
At last, Erin and Craig made the decision to separate and move back home to Australia.
“I thought, ‘If I don’t do something, I’m going to die’,” Erin says. “I thought I’d get some kind of disease because my body is so depleted and that terrified me, so I took the boys back to Melbourne in September last year and I haven’t really left.”
While Erin says it’s still early days in her healing journey, she is feeling optimistic about the future now that she’s able to reconnect with family and friends.
“I’ve started doing things that I know felt good for me and not feeling bad about it. So working out is a big thing for me… I’m listening to music again and I’m being very social with people that I want to be around. I’m just being really connected again.
“Something I still struggle with is how dare I be so sad during that time, when nothing bad happened. Some people have really tragic things happen to them and mine was just because I couldn’t process was going on well in my head. But then I guess that’s a good thing to talk about because it just shows you that these feelings and this unhappiness can happen to anybody, at any time.
“I smell everything now!”
A love / hate relationship with social media
Social media played a big role in Triangl’s success. Yet in her darkest moments, it wasn’t enough to fill the void of real connection.
So how does Erin use apps like Instagram today?
“If I look at my page now, there’s a few photos that are like events and they’re fine, they’re separate … but if I post the boys it’s because I’m missing them. It tells me that I’m lacking connection. I feel like it’s when I’m missing something that I post because if I’m out having an amazing time, I’m not posting.
“I’m on it way too often still … but I know it’s a show reel. People’s brains aren’t clever enough to look at a photo of a beautiful girl and think about the 100 shots it took to get that picture. They’re just computing that she’s so beautiful, I want to look like her.
“Now I try to treat social media the way I do having a glass of wine — if I’m not feeling good, I’m not going to go there because I know it will only make me feel worse.”