Inspiring role model
CUMBALUM woman Marylin Schirmer is publicly telling her tragic story of a life filled with violence, to give others in similar situations hope they can turn their lives around - just as she has done.
Marylin - who refers to herself by her nickname Maz - has written the 188-page book, The MAZ Factor, which also outlines strategies she used to change her life.
Her "old life" in North Queensland began with generational childhood sexual abuse, and became more tragic with bashings and rape - including at gunpoint six times.
She said the violence inflicted on her over 33 years eventually meant she was considered too high a risk to be taken into women's shelters, and she lived with her four children in hiding in places like caravan parks.
The stress she lived with took a toll on her health and emotional well-being.
She said she had little self-confidence or self-respect, and continually attracted violent men into her life.
It was after the now 48-year-old turned 33 that things changed.
She had blacked out in a telephone booth - later to learn that she had suffered an epileptic fit brought on by the stress in her life.
At that moment sitting on the floor of the phone booth, she looked out at her four children sitting in her car.
"I thought 'these children don't have anybody if I die'," she said.
She said to herself: "This is it - turn your life around".
"But I didn't know how to be confident," she said.
She said she spent time in shopping centres watching other women - how they dressed and how they held themselves physically - and copied them to try and gain her own confidence.
Then without qualifications or skills, she set out to find a job.
It was six months before an opportunity came up - and in the meantime, she said her children provided the motivation to keep going, despite setbacks.
She got a job as a direct sales consultant in a women-only company, and within six months began to be quite successful.
And she had to learn to deal with the respect that she began to be shown by her colleagues - "ethics, praise, recognition" were all new to her, she said.
"I began respecting myself and then I saw that good people were everywhere," she said.
She began sharing pieces of her personal story with her colleagues, only to learn that many had similar pasts.
After reaching a level in her work where she was training thousands of women internationally and using her story to inspire others, she decided to tell her full story for the first time to give hope to other women.
The book took 12 months to write. It is partly self-published, and part-published by Balboa Press.
It costs $29.95, and $3 for postage. See the website themazfactor.com/book.
Maz is looking to donate some of the proceeds to a local charity supporting women, and also is available for public speaking.