Buderim nursing student Calin Manuela Darling has not had an easy life.
Six years ago, at the age of 19, she hit such a low point she threw herself in front of a truck.
When it narrowly missed her, she was forced to re-examine her life.
“I’d been volunteering in Thailand, came home and struggled to find work for a very long time and I got heavily depressed,” she says.
“I struggled with that for a few years and that’s what led me to a suicidal place.
“I had been sitting at train stations at night, contemplating throwing myself in front of a train.
I’m embarrassed that I was in that state. Then one night, I was walking in a dark street and a truck came past.
“I was in a completely different mindset. It’s something that overtakes you.
“I just lunged myself in front of the truck and it swerved and missed me.
“I was swearing at the heavens: ‘I just want to help people. If there’s ever a chance, give me a chance, give me something.’”
That something was the Silver Linings Project, a beautiful coffee table book of photos and stories Darling has produced to depict women’s struggles and triumphs over mental and physical illness.
Darling appears in the book along with 12 other models dressed in custom-made, bird-inspired dresses to symbolise their flight to freedom from pain.
Fashion designers including Cindy Vogels of the Devoted Milliner, Ana Pribylova of Ana Bella Millinery and Julia Rose got on board and the project has also been endorsed by iconic Australian actor Geoffrey Rush.
Darling pulled together 96 companies to lend their expertise to the project, with the aim of donating 10,000 copies to Australian hospitals, to keep in their waiting rooms for uplifting and inspiring reading.
“Looking back I think oh my god, how did I do that?
“Now that I’ve finished the book I’ve realised this Silver Linings book was my own silver lining. It was a healing journey for me.”
Darling was born in Romania in 1993, in the period immediately following dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s rule.
Darling’s parents gave her up at birth and she spent her first three-and-a-half years in an orphanage, before Sunshine Coast family Mark and Kym Darling adopted her.
She describes her childhood as tumultuous and says she struggled with school, self-esteem and family issues.
At 17, her Australian family sent an investigator to Romania to find her birth family.
Darling discovered she had four siblings but didn’t get an explanation as to why she was given away.
She’s now in touch with her Romanian family and even discovered an aunt living 10 minutes down the road.
“I see her every month – because she speaks fluent English we Skype to my parents.
“She’s wonderful. Romanians are very eccentric. They always think you need to eat.”
Darling is now on the lookout for a corporate sponsor to help with the book’s production and distribution costs.
She needs to raise $125,000 and while she’s had plenty of media coverage, the help she needs has not been forthcoming.
“I went on the Today Show and only four people donated,” she says.
““I spent a week deeply upset that I spent three years doing this book, living off baked beans, and only four people donated.
“I came out of that the day after my 25th birthday and thought, what is meant to be, will be.
“I’ve overcome so much and I feel like I’m blessed. It’s going to happen when it happens. Now I just trust I will get there.”
To donate, visit Darling’s Go Fund Me page: gofundme.com/silverliningsproject.
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing difficulty, contact Lifeline: 13 11 14.