The Tragedy That Saved My Life

by: Tiphany Adams

Imagine yourself growing up in the countryside of Northern California with every kind of farm animal possible, engaging in activities that emphasized more on union with family and the outdoors than exterior beauty.  But by the time I was 8 years old, my parents divorced & my father began raising my sister and I outside of our countryside comfort zone. Around the time I hit middle school I started to struggle with self-esteem issues especially because of a birth mark on my neck. I began to get painfully teased & ridiculed based on my appearance.  I begged to have it removed for every birthday & Christmas. I would hide myself in sweats & turtle necks even in 100 degree heat. I even went as far to try to scrap it off. I planned how to hide it on the day I would get asked to prom or the day I would eventually get engaged.

Major trauma had occurred around that time period that stripped me of every ounce of self-esteem I had left. It lead me down a destructive path and eventually I ended up with more emotional pain then I knew what to do with.

I began praying and asking for guidance and even chose to get myself baptized at the age of 15. But by the time I entered into my senior year of high school I had already attended 5 different schools while dealing with so many issues. I felt lost without anyone to turn to. My mother had gotten herself wrapped up into her own addictions during this time as well. It was a mess.

And then there was the moment that changed my life forever.

I was in the backseat of a car with a sober driver that was struck head on by a drunk driver causing a collision of 130 mph–all were pronounced dead on the scene. I remember asking God to please let me live through this… and He did. They air lifted me to the hospital with a 5% chance of survival & I was induced into a coma for 3 weeks. When I awoke I knew I was alive for a purpose & had a divine mission to fulfill. The tragedy left 3 lives taken because of one persons decision to drink & drive, but the blessing is that I am here to relay a message of truth.

The first day I got into my wheelchair was emotional- words could not begin to depict what I felt. When I looked in the mirror for the first time seeing the big medal wheels, I cried in disbelief as I felt tingling throughout my legs as if they were asleep…and would never wake up. And that’s when clarity came…I remembered back to the time when I wouldn’t wear my hair up in a ponytail because of a birth mark…and here I was now. How would I get over the reflection I see staring back at me? How will society treat me? Then I came to the realization that it all begins with self acceptance & self-love & I began a beautiful journey of self discovery.

From that day forward I continued to embrace myself with love, support,  & prayer.

Had this tragedy never happened, it is likely that I would’ve remained dead inside. So in a way, this tragedy saved my life and made me see the world differently.

What it comes down to is we all have obstacles & tragedies that can change our situations but when we remove the superficial and connect to every living being on a soul to soul level we know we are all here on this earthly place for a divine reason… to give love & receive love. I share my story with you in hopes to gift you with love & acceptance for where you are right in this very moment.

Embrace your life! Focus on your inner beauty now and always.

Yoga & Mental Health

by: Jackie Roberts

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First off I feel a little self indulgent writing this! Especially since self study (or as we call it in yoga swadhyay) is all about being more present in the moment letting go of past and future dialogue to be in the here and now! But I feel like I have come or am rather coming through something that is worth expressing or sharing. Maybe by telling the story of me I can help another. Maybe I’ll even help my self!

I am an addict! What I am an addict of really has no consequence other than to color the story line which of course I will divulge, but it is important to know that we addicts are all pre-disposed to the same flaw. We can’t let go! We hold on to whatever whomever we are experiencing. We want more and we fear when the more runs out. This clinging and fear  is a lack of self love. The “I’m ok right now in this moment” voice of self soothing that my kin all lack.  Who knows when we loose it. There are theories on personality archetypes or experiences as in nature vs. nurture but no one really knows. I choose food.  I was 88 lbs when I got help over 15 years ago. And it has been an extremely messy up and down battle. Finally I float somewhere in the middle. Knowing my tendencies and making choices to not deprive nor abuse anything. Now whether it’s drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, pills, self mutilation, or even love it really all falls under the same umbrella of two inner dialogues. I am not enough or I don’t deserve to take up space.

I had an eating disorder for more time than I desire to admit. Today the choice to be healthy is not dependent on my pants size but rather conscious decisions I will myself to make that now make up a healthy ego. I have found a purpose or my dharma in life we call our purusha(truth). My truth is I  a teacher. I’m not perfect. And I can teach that that’s ok. In fact my perceived imperfections have served my students and give me a connection and approachability.

The choice to eat a healthy balanced diet that involves foods that are good for my constitution and avoid emotional triggers. An exercise routine that is void of excess and leans towards an intuition of exactly what I need in the moment. Yoga taught me to find my inner voice and always trust it. I start each day with a simple five minute mediation to check in.

The most enjoyable question I get from fellow gym goers as I enter my health club is “what are you working on today.” My answer always remains the same. “I don’t know… Whatever my body needs.”

This simple philosophy is how I live and do everything in my life. Through trial and immense error I have come to realize that how you do one thing is how you do everything. Addiction as much as recovery is about changing the negative habits. These habits include a recording we have in our heads that we don’t deserve to take up space. For women we are taught to negate this voice. It’s still shocking to me when I hear a woman I perceive as strong and capable say “what should I do.” “Well,” I ask… “What do you need.” This is where yoga not asana(this mere physical practice or western yoga) comes into play.

There is nothing more difficult in life than the not knowing. We are ruled so heavily by our minds and the thirst for knowledge how do we let go? You can train endless hours for a marathon to prepare the physical bodies stamina and endurance, you can study countless hours for an exam, and you can pre heat an oven for a perfect cheesecake, but how do you begin a quest for equanimity of the heart? We begin to know that it takes a life time of trial and error to discover…we know nothing at all.  And when it comes to the human condition; fear, love, grief, regret, joy, lust, and longing we all have a metaphorical blindfold on. So why ask how? How can we just be. Meditation is said to help accept the unanswered questions and allows a beingness, but until that moment when the bomb of uncertainty goes off how do we surrender?

I find myself still going to that place of gripping tight instead of letting go. I am knew to meditation and yoga. And by new I mean about 10 years. I am certain it will take one or two lifetimes for me to fully embrace it and even begin to understand being in the moment.  I know it has made a significant difference on who I am both inside and out. That my internal temperature runs cooler now that I sit and just breathe into the nothingness  of the present moment.  I practice non attachment but still I feel detaching completely out of the sights.

Love for me is the most challenging of all attachments. It is the reason I have choose a sobriety so to speak from relationships since my last ended in divorce. I have limited my physical encounters as well and made loving intimate  friendships more my focus. But as I venture back out there I realize I am a hopeless romantic. I have tried many a times to maintain a practice of letting go in my relationships but in the end maintaining detachment when it is appropriate to let go is like a weapon of mass destruction.  It blows to bits any semblance of balance or inner harmony. I begin to fight and struggle to hold on to something that was never in my possession.

So I guess the question is…how do we let go of expectation and allow beginnings and endings to simply flow through our being. This is advanced yoga.   We can not control life or circumstance but merely remain neutral to its out come. Having gratitude for the mere sake of gratitude itself. Because it feels good. Yoga is a practice.  And we, no matter how we feel must practice anyway

Yoga is not designer 120 dollar pants on a 90 dollar mat in the trendiest studio with the hipist teacher with quasi famous patrons while drinking a green juice…yoga is just not that fancy or glamorous when it’s real…

It is the painstaking intimate dedicated study of the mind, the body, and their relationship to each other which affects the spirit. It is the study of the space inside or the lack there of metaphorically speaking and literally.

It is the stillness and movement of breathe and the pause in between. It is a deep connectedness to everything you are and what you observe. It is beyond the physical or external yet completely tied to the flesh, the skin, the bones, organs, and connective tissue.  It is our relationship to everything and everyone in our life.  It is our addictions, aversions, and how we define ourselves through those habits.  Yoga is acceptance. Yoga is this moment. Yoga is being present with what is. It is the frequency and the music of your heart beat. Everything that occupies matter vibrates at its own unique beat. Yoga is the harmony and symphony of that beat.  This is my story. My song, This is my yoga. Yoga is now…atta yoga anusasanam.

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@jonescrow photography

An Open Letter to Britt McHenry

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I’ve allowed myself to cool off a bit before writing this one. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a little insight. ESPN reporter Britt McHenry was caught on camera berating a towing company clerk. At one point she was even fully aware that she was on camera when she continued to belittle the clerk saying things like, “maybe if I was missing some teeth they would hire me here too, huh?” and “that’s why I have a degree and you don’t.” She went on and on degrading the clerk’s appearance, intelligence and dug so deep it made the woman seek such vengeance to expose the video. (Two wrongs don’t make a right, but this isn’t about the clerk’s part in this. I’ll address that later.)

For now, McHenry has since been suspended from ESPN for one week, and apologized soon after stating, “In an intense and stressful moment, I allowed my emotions to get the best of me and said some insulting and regrettable things. As frustrated as I was, I should always choose to be respectful and take the high road. I am so sorry for my actions and will learn from this mistake.”

So here’s an open letter to Britt Britt from my friend Jackie whose Facebook status about this issue hit right on the head of the matter…

Dear Miss McHenry,

My name is Jackie Tinsley. You don’t know who I am. I’m not on TV, but I do have all of my teeth and a Bachelor’s Degree so I’m hoping those credentials satisfy you enough to continue reading this.  Saw your video, along with the rest of the country and you know what’s coming. I will admit you’re gorgeous. You’re clearly a beauty queen or something. But after seeing the way you treated a stranger in her place of work, I was reminded that physical beauty is in no way associated with the beauty within a person’s heart.  We all have our bad days where we want to completely lose it at times, but it’s how we handle ourselves in those exact moments that speaks volumes about our character, integrity and overall inner beauty. I truly hope your younger viewers who may have looked up to you as a role model can clearly decipher between inner and outer beauty; having a pretty face or the perfect body is just a bonus to one’s own inner beauty; being a good person and knowing how to conduct yourself in moments of adversity is what matters most. Thank you for so clearly illustrating that point.

Sincerely,

Jackie Tinsley

Jackie’s thoughts really resonate with me, (and probably with millions of other women and men).  Look, no one, including myself, is sitting here pretending to never have had a meltdown. We have all said or done things that we are NOT proud of, and luckily for us it wasn’t all caught on camera. We all try to ‘choose the highroad’…but yeah, sometimes we do let our emotions get the best of us.

Surely there are always two sides to every story and it is indeed possible that the clerk herself was being difficult and inappropriate. But it doesn’t make it any better or worse to verbally attack someone by body slamming (haven’t we seen enough of this amongst women by now?) or poke fun at their level of education. You don’t know their story. Your words can hurt more than you think. And as someone in the public eye, you have a responsibility to use your status to be a leader. Scratch that, we ALL have a responsibility to be leaders. To have courage and be kind even when we don’t always feel like it – that’s a boss right there.

Regardless of the fact that McHenry twitter-apologizes for her actions, she never TRULY says sorry to the woman directly. She’s sorry she was caught on camera and embarrassed publicly, but not sorry for her actions or how she made the clerk feel. Kindness is a virtue. The kind and classy thing to do would be to apologize directly rather than publicly.

Likewise, the kind and classy thing to do now is to forgive you. So I want you to know that I forgive you. On behalf of “women on TV” everywhere, I forgive you for that statement.

And on that note, it’s all the more bothersome how you pulled out the whole “I’m on TV” thing anyway. Oh Britt, it’s not thaaat cool and probably not the best time to point that out either. It definitely doesn’t make you any better of a person. What a person does professionally does not factor in to the quality of their heart.

This instance made me look at beautiful women who appear to have it all…dream jobs, physical beauty, amazing experiences… it means NOTHING without a beautiful heart to back it up. No expensive college education or fancy car or amount of money in the world can mean more than a beautiful heart. How we love and serve others is what makes a person beautiful.

The Wave is all about starting something big. All it takes is one small idea, or concept or even a person to cause a wave of change in the world. As I am most certain you are familiar, Britt, in an arena, all it takes is one person to start the wave and before you know it, the entire room is participating. I hope the same thing happens here. I hope this experience propels you forward and you find yourself genuinely promoting inner beauty and spreading kindness onto perfect strangers, because you never truly know what others are battling. Oh, the power of words.

Practice kindness now. Change your thoughts and verbiage. “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” Matthew 15:18

Would you like your darkest moments to be captured on video forever? If not, rethink your words now before anyone has the chance to press record.

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips come to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3

Split Waves on THE DRESS

by: Lisa Blanco Matthews

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O.K. so this whole #TheDress debate, or whatever it is, actually really annoyed me at first. I apparently missed the entire thing due to a thrilling Phoenix Suns overtime win over Oklahoma City Thunder last night (that’s in other news).

Therefore, when my sister, Alicia, asked me to write something about it #ForTheBlog, I was completely lost to say the least. “A dress? The color? What about it? How did I miss something when you’re the one in Dubai with limited WiFi.” I digress.

After extensive research and digging deep…REAL DEEP… I found that there actually is a great message behind this entire white, gold, blue, black ‘debate.’ Yes my friends, there issomething worthwhile here. Let’s get philosophical.

You may be choosing a side or color here, and it may stir up a heated conversation amongst co-workers, friends or spouses. Maybe you just CAN’T AGREE because CLEARLY the dress is white and gold! AMIRIGHT?

Well, whatever color you may see it’s all about PERSPECTIVE to me. You see what you want to see. It’s your RETINA, your DEPICTION…it’s YOUR OPINION.

I believe YOU choose what to get out of it. You’re in control. If you see blue and black then that’s what it is…stand by it. That’s the beauty here. It’s not about finding the actual color out of this mystery dress, it’s about ACCEPTING if someone’s view is COMPLETELY different than yours. And that’s O.K.

So can we agree to disagree on this and continue our conversation about AZ’s finest…llamas?

Miss Universe 2015

by: Alicia M. Blanco

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I will never forget this past weekend attending the Miss Universe 2015 pageant in Doral, Miami. It was seriously so much fun watching not one, but TWO of my friends compete!! One of my very best friends Nia Sanchez (Miss USA 2014) nearly won the whole thing placing 1st runner up! It was incredible to watch her on stage that night and it has been even more incredible watching her in her overall journey.

Here are 3 things I’ve learned through my dear friend Nia over the years:

1.) Never give up! – Nia never gave up on her dream to go to Miss USA. As a result, she ended up on the stage at Miss Universe! Imagine if she had quit with the first “not yet” she received or surrendered to any discouragement that came her way.

It was a long road but Nia never lost her hope, joy, optimism or faith. In fact, those traits of hers seemed to only magnify and increase with each closed door. This is why it feels so damn good to see her kicking major butt in life these days!  She allowed any and all backlash, “haterade” and tough times that came her way in pageant land to serve and prepare her for her future.  Every disappointment she encountered ended up fueling and motivating her, increasing her confidence profoundly, and sharpening her into the poised, sophisticated and timeless beauty we now call our Miss USA 2014. She’s such a boss…

Chelsea Caswell celebrates with Nia on stage at the Miss Nevada USA 2014 pageant moments after Nia is announced as her successor.

Chelsea Caswell celebrates with Nia on stage at the Miss Nevada USA 2014 pageant moments after Nia is announced as her successor.

The night Nia was crowned as Miss Nevada USA 2014! It was only the beginning!

The night Nia was crowned as Miss Nevada USA 2014! It was only the beginning!

When my girlfriends and I sat in the audience on the night she was crowned Miss Nevada USA, it was tears galore. So many emotions were overflowing that night and I’ll never forget the look on her face when we all ran onto the stage to hug her. Deep in my heart, I knew it was only the beginning for her. Great things happen for people who persevere through all the doubts, insecurities, obstacles and naysayers.

Months later she stole the show at the Miss USA pageant in Baton Rouge and was crowned as our Miss USA 2014!! I could try explaining how intense and emotional that night was to watch, but this video says it all. (Note: It was just like this at Miss Universe. We are such an emotional group of girls lol)

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2.) Always be thankful and humble/ Never change – So just to recap: Nia won Miss Nevada USA in January 2014, won Miss USA in June 2014, got engaged to the love of her life Daniel Booko in October 2014 and placed first runner up at Miss Universe in January 2015.  As Miss USA, Nia has such an insanely busy schedule, especially in preparing for the Miss Universe pageant. On top of all the pageant prep, she also has a schedule jam-packed with photo shoots, appearances, charity events and so much more. Despite all the cameras flashing and opportunities coming her way, Nia has remained just as humble as ever. She’s still the same Nia I met years ago. She’s still incredibly thoughtful and sincere and puts so much effort into making others feel happy.

Immediately after the Miss Universe pageant, Nia wanted to go out to eat at BJ’s Brewhouse (priorities people!!), but unfortunately it closed at midnight. When we got there five minutes before they closed, the restaurant welcomed Nia and her friends and family in for an additional two hours after closing to the public. Nia was so thankful of course, that despite being incredibly tired, I found her sitting in a booth signing autographs and thank you notes to the entire staff who stayed late to serve us- and that’s the type of girl Nia is: humble and gracious. This was only an hour or so after coming off a nationally televised pageant where she was front and center! Yet, there she was, thinking of others and wanting to make people happy. I will never forget that about her. She hasn’t let the attention and glamour change her heart.  She’s a real inner beauty queen!

Post pageant pazookie!

Post pageant pazookie!

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Julia Dalton, me, Anastagia Pierre Friel, Alyssa Campanella, Nia Sanchez, Claire Schreiner, Meagan Tandy, Kristen Dalton after Miss Universe

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Nia aced every portion of the competition. She was flawless. Truly glowing from the inside out!

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3.) Trust in God’s timing. – When I think of Nia, I think of the scripture Esther 4:14 “And who knows but that you have come into your royal position for such a time as this?” Nia literally waited and waited until it was finally her turn to come into her position as a titleholder. The timing was so perfect because look at all that’s happened in her life under HIS timing. It’s stunning! Sometimes in life we think we know what’s best for us. We want what we want and we want it right away. When we don’t get the things we want in our timing, we grow weary and frustrated. I’ve learned to trust in God’s timing over my own because His plans for me are so much bigger and better than my own hopes and dreams. God clearly had a major plan in his timing for Nia’s amazing journey and it really taught me to fully surrender to God’s timing with all my heart.

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This is why when Nia wasn’t crowned as Miss Universe on Sunday night, we knew it was setting her up for something even bigger. “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12– and that’s the kind of crown a girl like Nia fights for every day.

Congratulations Nia Sanchez, Miss USA 2014 and 1RU Miss Universe! Your reign as a titleholder may only last for a year, but the legacy you are creating and leaving behind will last forever and ever.  And THAT is what I call a QUEEN.

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Barrett-Jackson 2015

by: Alicia M. Blanco

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I finally got back to LA on Monday after my week in Scottsdale, AZ working my 7th year as a “block model” for Barrett-Jackson. Barrett-Jackson is a luxurious auto auction known around the world for their grand production, classic cars, charities and big spending. Here are some pics from Barrett-Jackson past.

Throwback to Barrett-Jackson in 2009 - my first year!

Throwback to Barrett-Jackson in 2009 – my first year!

Nia Sanchez (Miss USA 2014), Nicole Smith, me, Rosalie Michaels (the boss mama!)

Nia Sanchez (Miss USA 2014), Nicole Smith, me, Rosalie Michaels (the boss mama!)

This year, over 1600 cars were sold for over $130 million dollars. It’s a huge event which is why being a block model is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. We are required to maintain a beaming smile all day long (sometimes 10 hours a day), walk back and forth with each and every single car on the block, interact with bidders and attendees and smile through the pain that we may feel in our necks, backs and feet. (I think this is why most of the models hired are pageant girls, because we know how to smile through all the butt glue, high heels and other major discomforts.) And although my feet and neck are indeed still numb and sore, my heart is overflowing with excitement for the story I’m about to tell.

We started off on Tuesday of last week and worked tirelessly until the final day which was Sunday. On Saturday I was asked by one of the auctioneers whom I adore, to attend chapel on Sunday morning in our break room before the auction got started. I agreed to attend even though it meant getting to work a few hours before I was scheduled.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling butterflies in my stomach. I had no idea why.  I was only asked to attend the small gathering. But I made sure I read my bible that morning to help me relax and get rid of those butterflies.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19

 I thought it was ironic that this was the scripture I stumbled upon considering I was working an event centered around spending massive amounts of money and collecting cars. I would like to point out that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having hobbies and passions such as these- I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t enjoy the heck out of wearing such lavish gowns and jewelry for the week and seeing stunning cars sell for millions of dollars. But it’s important not to lose focus on what’s more important in life.

The scripture stood out to me because I felt so blessed to be around the people who “got it”- the people who understood that none of those extravagant things matter if you have a rotten core. The people who, despite being physically drained and tired, still made time to honor God on Sunday morning because they knew that no matter how much money you have or how famous you are or how much beauty you see on the outside, is so insignificant without God. Inner beauty matters. Loving and serving others matters.

Once I got to the bible study, I felt confident, relaxed and was so humbled when I was actually asked to share my testimony about the importance of inner beauty and kindness that morning. Ironically, I was hired to be a model who smiles all day, dressed glamorously from head to toe in over $70K of sponsored jewelry, and yet there I was, standing in front of this family of mine, talking about inner beauty instead. It was SO awesome! Of course, I was crying. I spoke about my trip to Israel with all the beauty queens back in September, and how it felt like home for us to be there. I told them how we felt the most beautiful on that trip compared to the nights we all won our respective “worldly crowns”; I talked about how I never felt more beautiful than when I developed a real relationship with God; How even though as block models we are hired to be aesthetically beautiful and smile all day long, that I feel the most beautiful on the inside, which matters most.  I shared with them how four years prior when I worked the event, I was going through a painful and embarrassing break-up of my engagement and yet I still had to smile on stage as if everything was ok, just like many people in the world do every single day.

The best part was the rest of the day having people come up to thank me for sharing my story and askng to pray with me. It was such a high all day long and I felt compelled to share just a piece of it with you. My week at Barrett-Jackson 2015 was a healthy reminder of how important it is pay close attention to where your “treasure” is, because that’s also where your heart is too.

Barrett-Jackson 2014

Barrett-Jackson 2014

Nicole Smith and I //2015

Nicole Smith and I //2015

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Just hanging out with CeeLo Green

Just hanging out with CeeLo Green

The Inner Beauty of Healing

by: Zera McMahon

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Living with an eating disorder hardly qualifies as ‘living’ at all in my mind. It’s a torturous state of existence that torments your mind, body and soul. Anyone who is familiar with the agony of an ED, is very familiar with the privation of life surrounding them. Unfortunately it can be a lifelong battle fought only in private silence. At least that is what I have experienced during my struggle with anorexia, which began in the 7th grade.

I am now 27 years old, and sharing my story for the first time.

Before now, anorexia has been a part of my existence that I have greatly attempted to shield and draw a curtain over. It was an extremely dark and painful time in my life, and I was always so ashamed to ever reach out to anyone about it.  It wasn’t easy to admit that so much of my focus was on outer beauty and the way I wanted others to see me.

However, my experience with anorexia wasn’t JUST the desire to be skinny. Of course, I wanted to be thin…I wanted to be painfully thin,  yet the reasoning behind this disease went much deeper than the hunger to be thin, and ultimately I do feel that it could have been prevented. These deep-rooted issues encompass a range of concerns I believe many people are faced with on a daily basis, such as media, social and peer pressures. Additionally, the lack of kindness and compassion in this world also serves as a huge trigger for many.

I remember middle school being a very volatile stage growing up. School for me was never enjoyable, socially nor academically. One of my biggest struggles was feeling so inherently different from my peers. I was born with clubbed feet and musculature issues that prevented me from participating in school athletic programs, which gave students the motive to label me as ‘weird’. I desperately wanted to look beautiful, to be the A student, to be the girl who was asked to school dances, to compete in sports, etc. The list goes on. Middle school was a time when the cliques of friends were being established, girls got their periods, and school dances were unfortunately (for me) a reality! I did not have many friends and the few I did have I quickly lost to my eating disorder. Anorexia was after all, the only friend I had grown to want or need. At first, it was my little secret, and that was thrilling to me to have something no one else knew about or to my knowledge, had.

The first time I remember making the decision to restrict food was at school lunch. There was a girl who sat at the lunch table with me who thought she was doing me a favor by advising I lose just a few pounds. How kind. Since I was unable to compete in sports, I thought the quickest way for me to lose the weight I so clearly needed to lose, was to starve myself. When this vicious cycle began, I restricted my food intake to only one meal a day…dinner. I chose this one meal as dinner, because it was the one meal I ate in front of my family. Because this was my secret, it was imperative that no one find out. Mind you, while making the conscious decision to restrict my food intake, I never once considered myself anorexic. That is, until I decided to restrict my food intake even more. After a couple weeks of being on my new “diet” of eating only once a day, I had begun to lose a couple pounds. Not enough pounds, though, for anyone to take notice.

So, I ramped it up a bit and began going an entire day without any food. At home, I’d be completely panic stricken about the notion of eating dinner in front of my family. Hours in school that should have been spent studying, I spent obsessively fabricating excuses to avoid eating dinner. My family eventually caught on to my behaviors, and began using threats to get me to eat. Nonetheless, I refused my body of any food. This rapidly became my addiction, and I consistently wanted more and more. Fundamentally what I was really displaying was my desire to exist less and less. One day without food quickly doubled, and soon I was surviving off of a menial amount of food every three days. By the third day, I would feel incredibly weak and dehydrated, to the point where I would begin black out in class just sitting at my desk. This occurred more than once throughout middle school and high school. I’d have to feel my way out of the classroom and then lay on my back along the side of the hallway. When the bell would ring, it was if no one noticed me and students would rush around the hall to get to their classes, while I just laid there unable to stand up. Finally, a teacher came to get me with a wheel chair and took me to the office to phone my parents. Sometimes I wonder how different my story might have been if a random act of kindness was gifted to me on those dark days. It could’ve changed my direction and story completely.

Unfortunately, this mental and physical addition went on for years and years. I felt completely detached from my parents as they continuously buried their fears and avoided the major issue at hand. The family dynamics in my household were unbalanced, and mental abuse was a part of my day-to-day existence. I was left feeling inadequate, and without the tools to love and respect myself as an individual. Seeking constant fulfillment from my family and peers at school was my way of determining my own self-worth.

In the middle of the night during the summer of my 9th grade, by some miracle I had a sort of epiphany, and suddenly knew that if I continued to choose anorexia as the most important part of myself, then I would undoubtedly die. My life had become a pathetic state of existence, and it was in fact, really void of any life at all. Even though I was so incredibly ill both mentally and physically, I knew I had to put an end to this. I wanted anorexia to get the fuck out of me! In order to heal the fragile skeleton everyone saw me as, I had to work from the inside out, from the core of my being.

Anorexia has not only robbed five years of my life, taken my friends away when I needed them most, damaged my health to the point of near liver failure, but also robbed me of my identity. With the help of two incredible psychologists and a nutritionist, I have been able to recapture and embrace this gift of life. I feel truly blessed to have been able to separate my own mind from the death grip of the ED. Recovery from anorexia has been a long and challenging process, and will require a lifetime commitment from me. The ED is always lingering in the background, waiting to swoop in again…but I refuse to give it any power. It takes great courage to really own your life, without letting media and peer pressures dictate your self-worth.

A good friend once said to me, “acting with self-love is never selfish”. This is such a profound statement to me, because it signifies my evolution from violent self-hatred to self-love and fulfillment. This miraculous transformation has given me confidence to recognize and nurture the talent and beauty within myself rather than seeking OUTER BEAUTY.

As I’ve grown with such mindfulness, I have been able to cultivate my own passions instead of focusing on the perfect body image. As a result, I’ve learned aspects of fashion and design which I have embraced and evolved into my own business. ZERA Couture celebrates the inner beauty of women with luxurious headpieces and accessories, focusing on the adornment of the head-space inside and out. The creation of these headpieces was born from the realization that women should be revered as the strong and beautiful individuals that we positively are. This business is fueled and Inspired by my journey towards healing – and i’ve never felt more beautiful on the INSIDE because of it.

If I were to say just one thing to someone struggling with an ED, it would be this…FOCUS on your INNER BEAUTY – not on what you’ll wear or how your makeup matches up to all the tutorials you see online everyday or how your body compares to your friends. Focus on the things in this world that truly matter and offer fulfillment. If you do, you will be the most beautiful and powerful true self that you could ever hope for.

Lastly, if you know someone who is suffering with some form of addiction, don’t ignore them. Don’t allow them to sit in the hallways and feel unseen. A random act of kindness in showing that you give a damn can go a long way. Sometimes though, you don’t always know who is silently suffering with their own forms of depression and loneliness which is why being kind should become a way of life. If we all pay it forward when something kind happens for us, we have the chance to start a huge wave of change in the world. Make it part of your daily routine to do something kind for a stranger starting today. You never know what that person is going through. You may have just changed the direction of their story…

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