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Amazing Woman of the Suncoast: Heather Messenger

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Meet the 2016 Miss Bikini Universe, Sarasota's own Heather Messenger. She's been an athlete since the age of 3.

"I played college volleyball at FIU in Miami. Unfortunately, I had some heart issues that cut my career short."

So she found another career.

"I became an elementary education teacher in Sarasota county and I did that for six years, and after that I had my second daughter. I went through a pretty dark time."

Everything was going her way. She married the man of her dreams, had one beautiful daughter and two and a half years later, another one. Then something went terribly wrong.

"I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with postpartum depression."

And it got worse.

"I woke up one night and swore that I was hearing voices and my oldest ended up waking up and I was afraid to go upstairs to be with her. I was afraid I would hurt her."

She and her husband moved in with her mom.

"I didn't want to be alone. I was hearing voices voices telling me to hurt my children."

She was then diagnosed with postpartum psychosis.

"I was put on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety. Unfortunately, my body didn't react well to it and it made some of the symptoms worst."

She and her husband started running. She found a doctor who helped wean her off the medication and she found a fitness program.

"I joined a group called 'Kathy Savage Fitness' and her whole thing is about empowering women and doing it by nourishing your body instead of depriving it."

To give her a goal to work toward, she entered the Miss Fitness Universe Competition in South Beach. With her husband and children cheering her on, walked away with the title. Now she's working on a new project.

"It's going to focus on finesses, health, nurture; any body who wants a physical transformation I'll help with that. But my main passion is empowering women, inspiring women and becoming a role model for women and letting them know even if they are going through a hard time they will get through it."

And her life lesson?

"Never underestimate your abilities. Life is going to throw so many things at you, people are going to throw their opinions at you and if you have a mind set on something and a goal set, you can really accomplish anything."