This episode of 'Let's Talk' discusses mental health issues, drug use, self-harm, suicide and other material that some people might find distressing. For immediate support, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 to access a 24-hour hotline. You may also visit beyondblue.org.au or call the Beyond Blue Support Service on 1300 22 4636.
This is not intended to be medical advice. If you are concerned about your health, you should consider contacting a medical professional. The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer/interviewee and do not reflect the views of, and cannot be attributed to, AIA or any other party.
FORMER North Melbourne player and coach Dani Laidley has opened up on her long battle with gender dysphoria and how a "huge weight was lifted" when she finally received the diagnosis that changed her life.
Laidley, a champion player for West Coast and the Kangaroos who coached at four AFL clubs, announced publicly in 2020 that she had transitioned to female.
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In the latest episode of Let's Talk with Hamish McLachlan, Laidley remembers "feeling different" from as young as five and how the voices in her head from 'Little Danielle' developed into a roar as she entered her teenage years.
"It became unmanageable," she says. "I couldn't operate on a daily basis.
"Why do I feel the way I do? Why do I look in the mirror and not be happy in what I see?
"It progressively got much worse as I got older."
She also reflects on how she managed her playing and coaching careers, conceding she could be "volcanic and angry" as she tried to balance the requirements of professional sport and her off-field struggles.
And she recalls the elation she felt in late 2019 when she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
"I remember walking out of the clinic and skipping for about a kay and a half back to my car," she says. "It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
"It was like we'd unlocked the key and I could slowly start to move forward."
In Part II, which will be published at 5pm AEDT on Wednesday October 11, she reflects on the "firestorm" of being publicly exposed before she was able to tell her children, her brush with the law and issues with gambling and substance abuse.
And she remembers fondly how she was welcomed back into the AFL family and why she believes footy helped save her life.
Let's Talk follows the successful The Last Time I Cried series in 2020, where some of the biggest names in footy opened up to McLachlan in a raw and emotional series of interviews.