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Home & Away’s rising star Courtney Miller on the one big thing she’s learnt from heartbreak

"There will be no more disappointment, I look forward to that."
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Trigger warning: This story touches on topics concerning mental health and suicide. If you, or someone you know, would like to have a free, confidential chat with someone they can trust, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit their website here.

They say youth is wasted on the young, but this saying fails to capture the burden of youth and how confusing it can be to navigate adult situations when you aren’t quite grown yet.

WATCH: TV WEEK LOGIE AWARDS 2019 Red Carpet Courtney Miller. 

Home & Away actor Courtney Miller understands this battle to adulthood and she has used those experiences to understand her character Bella Nixon, who is struggling with young love woes, social media confusion and body image. 

At 23 years old Courtney has indeed learned a thing or two about life.

It is likely a mix of her experience working on Home & Away, her degrees in counselling and psychology and life experiences that have undoubtedly provided her with a unique understanding of people.

On the show, her character Bella is set to experience a raft of new challenges as she navigates her relationship with boyfriend Nikau Parata, played by Kawakawa Fox Reo, a budding modelling career and trying to crack the fashion industry.  

Although Bella is doing her best to be a supportive girlfriend, Courtney tells Girlfriend in an exclusive interview that the couple is struggling because Bella doesn’t want to lose Nikau.

“They are going through their own emotional journey but lying to each other and sometimes we pretend things are okay just to keep moving forward,” said Courtney. 

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“They are going through their own emotional journey.” (Credit: Instagram)

Courtney has had to navigate many challenging topics through playing Bella, like self-harm, sexual abuse, death and grief.

As an actor, it’s important to empathise with your character without judgement, so Courtney draws on her degrees and experience working for the mental health helpline Lifeline to tap into Bella’s head.

“I feel really lucky as an actor to be able to tackle these topics and bring life to them; she [Bella] has been through self-harm, a victim of sexual abuse, gone through death and grief, it’s a real journey as an actor.

“But having a background in counselling and psychology has helped me understand why Bella is reacting in certain ways and to kind of solidify her feelings. Because some of the story lines are so big and I have never been through them as a person myself, so its allowed me to understand how she will be feeling and that her feelings are legitimate,” Courtney says.

Beyond the complexities of young love, both the character’s Bella and her boyfriend Nikau are learning to manage social media and body image.

Everyone can relate to finding themselves in a comparison hole as they scroll into oblivion until our understanding of healthy body image has gone out the window.

It is a tricky place to be in, and even more so if you are trying to break into the fashion industry like Nikau and Bella.

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Courtney with her co-star Kawa. (Credit: Instagram)

Perhaps it is because she is a little bit older or because of her ability to draw on perspective through her psychology training, but Courtney has cultivated a primarily healthy relationship with social media. 

“I really try not to make it my life. I don’t really check it in the morning I do other things,” the actress tells us. 

But this doesn’t mean that she doesn’t feel overwhelmed at times by the “propaganda” of Instagram. 

When we asked if she ever catches herself comparing, she says, “All the time, all the time, it is like propaganda, and you can’t get away from it.”

Tackling body image on Home And Away is territory that isn’t too far away from Courtney’s lived experiences. 

Because, like most people, she has had moments of negative thought cycles, but she once again uses perspective to nurture herself out of those mindsets. 

“I think as a little kid I have always been watching my body, and I don’t know where it comes from. I always had little tiny issues, but it has never ruled my life.”

“And most of the time, I say to myself, this is what you look like, so stop caring,” the 23-year-old admits. 

This type of thinking shows that Courtney focuses on healthy thinking processes to handle tricky situations, which are qualities that would have helped during her role at Lifeline. 

Courtney worked for Lifeline during her second degree in counselling to get real-life experience. 

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“I really try not to make it my life.” (Credit: Supplied)

“People use to ring me up and say they don’t know what to say, and I would say that you don’t have to know,” she explains of the kind of phone calls she would receive. 

“And people are very aware that this service is for people who are in dire circumstances, which is totally not what it is about, it is for any crisis, it is a supporting helpline for any kind of issues you are having,” Courtney shares. 

As for her personal mental health journey she has been lucky that she can lean on her mum to help her through tricky situations. 

“I am really lucky I have a good relationship with mum, I can go to her for anything and she taught me how to deal with things on my own. As in, if I am getting stressed I will go for a walk, I will eat well to keep my whole body system in check, I’ll talk it out and I will not push things down.”

“She taught me communication and communication is my go to,” the star notes. 

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Courtney and Kawa on the set of Home & Away. (Credit: Supplied)

For relationships to work, it’s important to have strong communication skills, but when someone young is working out the rules of love, issues are bound to come up.

On Home And Away Bella and her relationship with Nikau is brought to life with a level of maturity that comes from Courtney and her co-star Kawa.

Chatting with Girlfriend, Kawa speaks highly of Courtney and how they used communication and character analysis to shape their characters.

“We had lots of conversations with Courtney and about what we think, she is really awesome she is really easy to work with,” Kawa tells us. 

Courtney explains that she is grateful they were able to act with this approach because it helped their character’s foster an equal and supportive relationship that is powerful for viewers to witness.

“Most young girls have had had tumultuous relationships where the power dynamic is off or you’re not your best self in the relationship… But I think Bella and Nikau have an equal and supportive relationship which doesn’t happen often,” Courtney says.

Courtney has had to face heartbreak in her own life, but through overcoming that incredibly raw hurdle, she has learned one essential and undeniably true lesson.

“I think I am always going through little self-crises, I think probably learning to be a strong woman in this world, especially in the past three years I have been heartbroken I’ve been going for men who don’t really treat me well.”

“Finding myself worth within that and talking about those topics with my therapist. Which is, for me, boys,” she says. 

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Courtney making art. (Credit: Instagram)

In the aftermath of learning this life lesson Courtney believes that by picking herself up and healing she will find her equal. 

“But I think learning my worth and finding someone who is equal and treats me well, and waiting for that in my life.”

“It is all disappointment but eventually there will be no more disappointment, I look forward to that,” she smiles. 

To see Courtney and Kawa in action, Home and Away airs Monday-Thursday 7pm on Channel 7 or catch up any time at https://7plus.com.au/home-and-away

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