Daddy

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BY: ANONYMOUS AUTHOR

It’s play time on the bed. Me and my sister are hiding under the covers, trying not to breathe. To make a single sound. Thinking we can hide from Daddy. Our hearts are racing with excitement.
The smell of mom’s perfume on the sheets is comforting and strong.

We feel SAFE. We feel LOVED.

All of sudden we hear Daddy’s footsteps coming from around the bed. We squeal with laughter. How did he find us?

Daddy is the best.
Playtime is our favorite time before bed. Wrestling, tickle wars. We are gasping for air from laughter. Faces red.

It’s bedtime now. Me and my sister fight over whose in the middle. Who gets to sleep next to Daddy tonight. We hug him tight, finish our bedtime story and sing….

“Now it’s time to go to sleep S-L-E-E-P spells sleep goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite….goodnight.”

It is reflecting on those moments that get me through the dark ones. Right now I’m sitting in a stale, frigid hospital waiting room.
We are nothing but a number.
Mama’s eyebrows are frowned. Eyes look drained. It’s 3 a.m. and they’re telling us there’s “no room” for Daddy here.
We cry to the social worker… “Do you understand us?”
No. They don’t.
We are exhausted, empty. Young children explaining medical terms we barely comprehend. Daddy has been sick lately.
He told us this would happen. 
We look into his eyes and it’s as if we are looking into a strangers. We just want Daddy back. We beg to the nurses to take him in. To fix Daddy.

We miss play time, we miss laughs.

I close my eyes, drained from long nights watching over him. Babysitting. Making sure he didn’t leave the house. We don’t want people starring at Daddy. Thinking he’s crazy…
We need to protect him. Like he protected us.
Mama promises us it will all be over soon. But just for now. She looks us in the eyes and tells us to be STRONG. To not be AFRAID . We look back at her wondering how she ever did this without us.

We are Daddy’s fighters.

I close my eyes after finally getting home. They finally took him in.  I go to lay down in my room. Picture myself back in my Daddy’s arms. Listening to bed time stories. drifting asleep
Daddy has been away now for almost a month now. We visit him, but sometimes it’s scary. He’s NEVER scary. But it’s a frightening place. Honestly, it’s a nice break for Mom. But we miss him home.
Family and friends are starting to wonder.We are good at making up stories, excuses. No matter what…we protect our Daddy.

His ideas are less GRAND. His eyes are becoming more recognizable. Finally he can come home.

We re-set the clock for ‘the next time’ – it’s only a matter of time. Days and years pass. Routine continues.
Check his pills. Look deep into his eyes. Is Daddy still there?

We’re on our toes.

I’m older now, so this time I’m more prepared. I know how this works. This damn system ONCE AGAIN denying him a bed. Is he suicidal? NO. But he is sick. How can you deny care?

Why can’t you help my Dad? I want to SCREAM.

We continue to fight this battle, this routine of life. But whenever we end up in the same damn frigged room, fighting to protect our Daddy…I take myself back to my happy place. Where Daddy is just Daddy. Where life is normal.
And I rest my head on my Mama’s lap, close my eyes and repeat..
“Now it’s time to go to sleep. S-L-E-E-P spells sleep goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite…goodnight.“——

You are not alone. For family support of the mentally ill please visit
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A Year Without Robin Williams

By: Alicia M. Blanco

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On August 11th, 2014 I was flying home from a weekend in Arizona. When I landed and connected back to social media, the first thing I saw was “RIP Robin Williams”.. “actor commits suicide” all over my Facebook and Instagram feed. My body went numb. I was in total shock and disbelief.

Like many of you, I felt like I lost a close friend. I grew up watching and loving him and all the beloved characters he brought to life. It was devastating news to come home to, to say the least. Equally devastating is how mental health and suicide is treated and talked about in society. It isn’t until a celebrity commits suicide that society gives this topic any real attention. This needs to change.

It was on that day last year as I was driving home from the airport that I knew I wanted (and needed) to start my blog and dedicate it entirely to mental health, research, awareness and advocacy. I wanted all of the Robin Williamses of the world to know that they were not alone. It was my hope that by reading stories and articles from other people who have similar FEELINGS and experiences with depression (either personally or within their families) that people could begin to feel a sense of community and belonging. I want them to feel acknowledged, seen and heard. I desired my blog to be a place of hope where people could relate, with no filters, no stories of perfection – just pure and raw honesty.

I could sit here and list off all of the numerical statistics that show you how much suicide has increased over the years. But let me just cut to the chase. IT’S BAD. And every year it’s getting worse. Suicide has no specific victim- no group is “safe” from the impulse.  What’s worse, is that although many people give subtle “signs” that they are contemplating suicide, many people leave no sign at all.

The death of Robin Williams greatly impacted us because on the outside it would seem like he was a relatively happy person. (With a sense of humor like his, it seemed impossible not to be happy.) He also had a dream career, lots of money, fame and the respect and admiration of his fans around the world. This is the part that scares me the most – the amount of people living today who seem like happy people on the outside, but who are really deeply in serious trouble. Earlier in the year I reposted the story about Madison Holleran, a girl who appeared to have it all, (based on her social media, that is.) She ended up committing suicide, despite the utterly happily filtered Instagram life she portrayed to the world.

Depression is a silent killer. Unlike other illnesses that are physically visible, depression is something that builds up on the inside of a person’s mind and body and takes over control. It’s manipulative and even has the power to give off the illusion that everything is fine on the outside. It can also trick its victim into being insecure about sharing how they are feeling with someone.

It’s so heartbreaking, even one year later on the anniversary of his death, to accept that he was suffering so deeply, and quietly…And that’s what breaks my heart: Suicide is preventable – and the responsibility is entirely ours. Together we can each participate in changing these statistics. Enough is enough. Suicidal thoughts and attempts wreck the lives of millions every single day, and over 40,000 die from suicide every single year! Robin Williams’ death was just one of the hundreds who took their own lives on that day. What have we done since then?

We need to take a good hard look at the way we treat people. Our actions and our words matter. When we ask someone “how are you doing?” how many of us are genuinely interested in the response? Do we really care how someone is really, truly doing? Do we really believe someone is as happy as their Facebook or Instagram feed suggests? Are we participating in random acts of kindness for our family, friends and even strangers? Are we ourselves slipping into episodes of depression because of how much we compare ourselves to the “picture perfect” lives of others?

We are so “plugged-in” to our phones and computers these days that we have completely disconnected from community and heartfelt communication.

The way we talk about depression and mental health research & advocacy can re-shape the future. It can be as simple as changing the way we use our words; The words we use to talk about suicide; The words used in media to broadcast it; The words used to build someone up, or tear them down; The amount of time we spend using words of affirmation and encouragement. Bullying. Cyber bullying. Racism. Hate. Addressing depression. Make no mistake about it – the words we use matter.

“Our words are the ground note. Words are the least expensive, most valuable tool we have to educate, to turn the tides of public opinion, to affect real change. Let’s stop conversations that destroy lives, start conversations that save lives, and redirect conversations that distract us from what really matters.” – Dese’Rae Stage

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If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-784-2433 or visit save.org

Mental Illness Doesn’t Have To Be A Terrible Thing

by: Anonymous Author

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A few months ago I read the article “Living With Bipolar Disorder” and it hit so close to home. It encouraged me to write this and share my own story. It has taken me a few months to write it (well, more like 28 years and a few months) but, I am finally ready.

I grew up without a dad. It’s not that he died or anything, but he just never really existed in my life. I have no memory of him other than that I hated him for not being there. I hated him for not being normal. Dad has suffered with alcohol and substance abuse since before I was even born.

It has consumed his entire life. There were stints of “sobriety” here and there, but never long enough for me to remember any positive memories.  My only memories are of my mom crying so much when I was little. She was so alone and angry with him but she never put him down. She would only ever say things like, “he’s really sick” or “he’s not well” and her favorite “mental illness is a terrible thing.”

And it was a terrible thing. It was terrible not knowing if he was roaming the streets or if he was even alive. It was terrible not having any traditions with him. It was terrible feeling anger and resentment for someone I hardly knew. But most of all, it was terrible whenever the phone rang from the mental hospital letting us know dad was there. I never wanted to go see him.

Every birthday and every holiday gone by was another reason to hate him even more. I hated the excuse of mental illness – because thats all it was to me, an excuse.

I made it a point to roll my eyes at my mom every time she said the words “mental illness”. We would have fights about it because I couldn’t believe it was an illness. To me it was a choice to pick drugs and alcohol over me and my mom.

I spent the majority of my life with this unwavering opinion. This opinion and this hatred was like an illness in itself. I was sick of feeling so trapped by these feelings of bitterness, so the last time we got the call, I decided to go see him— and it changed everything for me.

I walked into the Behavioral Institute or “mental hospital” where dad was currently residing. I brought a list with me of things to say while I was there. Questions, complaints, regrets. But when I saw him, the list disappeared. He looked so sad and lost amongst his peers of mentally ill patients in the room. He looked so ashamed and embarrassed to be there. But most of all, he looked helpless. I knew the last thing he needed was a list of topics to discuss. I don’t know what came over my heart in the moment but I just declared to show him love. I was kind, loving, patient, interested in everything he had to say, I listened to him, smiled with him, and started to create memories – our first.  I acted as though we were the best of friends and not strangers. I realized that I didn’t know if this could possibly be the last time I saw him, and if it was, I didn’t want it to be a terrible thing.   I had had enough terrible things. This meeting wasn’t going to be one of them.

Instead, I wanted this to be a good thing – and it was.

Once I made the choice to be kind and loving instead of bitter and angry, I was set free. I only wished he could have the feeling of being set free too. Mental illness can hold you captive and hostage for years until you seek recovery…and sometimes even then you’re still never fully free from your addictions and demons.

The look on his face was of light and also of shock. I’ll bet he was ready for me to scold him and cry about my lifetime without a dad. And so when I didn’t, something wonderful happened inside of him.

It was the greatest gift I could ever give to this perfect stranger. And I’m thankful I have at least this one good memory with my father.

As of today, I don’t know where my dad is. He checked himself out of the hospital (because the mental healthcare system is f%$ked up and it happens everyday) so there is no way of knowing where he is. I have to wait for the call from the hospital the next time he surfaces.

But while I wait, (like I waited all my life)… at least now I can say I have a happy memory with him. It’s as much of a healing process for me as the one he needs to experience for himself on a deeper level. I just have to keep the faith that someday, he will.

8 Things I Learned From Bruce Jenner

by: Alicia M. Blanco

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17 million people watched the two hour interview with Diane Sawyer – many with fascination and curiosity, others with disgust and confusion. I’m know I’m late, but I just watched it myself and I wanted to share my thoughts.  As most of you know, I am a Christian woman, however, my thoughts on this matter may not align with Christianity at all. In fact, most of my opinions on controversial issues don’t really line up with Christianity, but thats a different topic for a different day.

Here are 8 things I learned from the Bruce Jenner interview:

1. ) God makes no mistakes. –  I realize how controversial this statement is, concerning his big reveal, (and en lieu of Christianity and all) but I firmly believe Bruce was designed by our creator for this VERY unique and specific purpose. We all are. I think his purpose was to open our hearts and minds. It’s to shock us. Can we still be the loving and accepting human beings we claim to be to someone if they live a completely different lifestyle than we are ‘comfortable’ with? Will we gossip and complain behind the backs of others who live differently than us? God is very intentional and we are all placed in this world with tremendous purpose. Even the tough stuff is meant to shape us and inspire others.

2.) This interview was bigger than the Olympics. – “I was very proud of you when you stood at that podium in Montreal. I never thought I could be more proud of you, but I’m learning I can be.” These are the words of Bruce’s mother following the news of his decision to come out with his secret. His son Brandon was quoted saying, “I saw a sense of bravery that, for all your previous accomplishments, I think far exceeds all of them.” He was referencing his fathers Olympic success in 1976 but made it clear that it’s his bravery to be honest that deserves our respect and admiration even more. He was America’s superhero then, and i’m hoping he can be treated just the same today.

3.) Kanye West doesn’t suck all the time. – Let’s face it. Kanye isn’t exactly everybody’s cup of tea. But I caught myself smiling with his thoughts on the matter. “He said to Kim, ‘Look, I can be married to the most beautiful woman in the world, and I am. I can have the most beautiful little daughter in the world; I have that. But I’m nothing if I can’t be me.” FACT. WE ARE NOTHING IF WE CAN’T BE TRUE TO OURSELVES- no matter how annoying or controversial that person might be. Cough.

4.) Suicide is a very REAL consideration for many… and that’s scary as hell. – As he looked back at his many encounters with the paparazzi he revealed how he contemplated suicide very recently. We live in a world where suicide seems like the only way out of humiliation, insecurity, confusion, anger, pain and everything else in between. This is why it’s SO imperative to always be kind to everyone you encounter. You never know what someone is going through and how one more thing can push them over the edge and trigger suicide.  “Fix society, please.” These were the closing words in an transgender teen’s suicide note she left just before taking her life.

5.) Being a transgender does not mean you have a mental illness. –  Many people link homosexuality, bisexuality, and the entire trans-community with mental illness. I find this incredibly ignorant and offensive. I can’t stand it when people try to belittle or disesteem different lifestyles as an illness.

6.) Be yourself – and do it ASAP. – Bruce spent six decades covering up his secret because he didn’t want to disappoint anyone. Imagine how miserable that must’ve been! To live a dark, private and tortured life is not really living at all. I am happy for him now that he can start living his life as he truly desires, but mannnnnn, (no pun intended)… I can’t imagine spending over sixty years with such a consuming secret- and all out of fear of what others will think. I think that says a lot about the judgmental world we live in- that someone would rather spend most of their life in secrecy and misery than to be themselves out of fear of being judged. That’s tragic. How can we change that?

7.) Open hearts and open minds can change lives. – Bruce asked that people have “open minds and open hearts” as they hear his story. Have compassion and embrace change with an open and receptive spirit.  Ex-wife, Linda Thompson Instagrammed images of her ex-husband after the interview premiere along with the caption, “Once a champion of Olympian magnitude…now a champion for those who share the struggle to just be who they are. #compassion #acceptance #tolerance #education #evolution #kindness #inclusion #freedom #peace.” It’s incredibly admirable and courageous to open up on such a large stage and equally admirable and courageous to have an open heart and open mind in a world full of haterade.

8.) Kindness is vital for one’s health. –  Being kind to yourself is just as important as it is to exhibit kindness onto others. Bruce’s story proves that by not being kind to yourself, it’s basically like slowly killing yourself. I truly feel that kindness has tremendous power. It’s like magic. It can make things disappear, like hatred, insecurity, and even suicide. I believe good energy can also help cancel out problems in medical statistics too. The kinder we are, the better this world will be..and the healthier this world will be, too. I envision a world where people are living their authentic lives. Happier people. Less fear, more courage. Less lying, more honesty. Less judgement, more acceptance.  Physically I just feel better when I am being a better person and contributing to society. And I know for damn sure that I feel like a million bucks when people are kind to me, too. Life is just so much more pleasant and runs more smoothly as I attract and manifest this goodness. I have so much more energy to do things (like work out) and it doesn’t feel like I have to force myself to get going everyday. It’s pretty amazing how much kindness can truly change everything.

Congrats Bruzer! In all my years of watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians (guilty pleasure) I never knew it was you who had the best “reality TV” story of them all. You go girl.

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Living with Bipolar Disorder

by: Anonymous author

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I was 8 years old when my mom first sat me down and told me she had bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. It’s when a person experiences grandiose delusions, restlessness, hallucinations, fits of rage and paranoia. i didn’t fully understand everything she said but over time I experienced it all. I was 10 when I started helping my dad take care of her when she had her episodes and needed to stay in a mental hospital because she kept throwing away her medicine and running away from home. I was fifteen the first time she had to stay in the hospital for over two months while they tried to balance out her meds and protect her from committing suicide. My mom became her illness for so long, so I was quite literally living with bipolar disorder.

Today I’m a 29 year old woman and I still feel like I have so much more to learn about mental illness, despite having so much first hand experience with my mom’s severe case.

She missed my high school graduation, was sick during my sweet sixteen, was heavily medicated when my fiancé organized his proposal to me, and got sick when I went into labor with my first child.  So many milestones in my life have been ruined because of this disorder and I grew up resentful. I hated bipolar disorder. I hated my mom.

And then there are the rumors. The secrets. The lies. The threats of divorce and separation when I was a teenager because their marriage was falling apart. The whispers as my mom walks by at a family function. There is so much ignorance about the illness that I’ve had to stop myself from getting into fights with relatives who were talking poorly about my mom, even though I hated living with bipolar disorder, aka my mom.

The thing about her illness, is that most of the time she is perfectly fine. In fact, a lot of people don’t even know she’s sick because we’ve done such a good job of covering it up, as if we are ashamed of it or something. Even now I know I can’t say her name, or even my name within the context of this article because “they’re not ready” to talk about it. That makes me sick. I’m not ready to talk about it either but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t. This is a release for me to open up and share my personal story about mental illness-  the topic no one wants to talk about unless it’s behind someone’s back.

It’s in the news all the time whenever a celebrity “goes crazy” or commits suicide. Those are the stories that hit way too close to home for me. It’s headlining news when it happens and the world stops in shock because they didn’t see it coming. Family and friends will cry about how they had no idea he or she was suffering in that way because they seemed so happy on the outside.

Makes me think of my mom. To the people who have no idea of her chemical imbalance, my mom seems 100% “normal” – whatever that means. She smiles, interacts with others, has a full time job, does normal mom things. But when she starts to slip into an episode every few years, she becomes an entirely different human being. She secretly spends money, talks about things that make absolutely no sense, slips into her depression, disappears and even talks about suicide.

It’s scary as shit. And we’re expected to keep it between us. We don’t want “the wrong people to find out and cause us more problems.”  Because that’s what’s happened before. Mom almost lost her job because her “friend” at work started talking about how weird my mom was.

But thats the world we live in.  Shame, gossip, fear, illness, stereotypes. Where is the kindness we should be pouring out instead? I’m guilty of not being as kind and compassionate as I should’ve been to my mom all those years. The bitterness and resentment took over my life for so long. The only thing that made it better was talking about it more instead of keeping it inside. There is so much power in opening up and not pretending like everything is ok.  I hate the filters people put over their lives these days. Perfection is not relatable. There are so many people who try to portray perfection and happiness to the world when in reality they are in pain and suffering. Fuck filters! Be real! You’d be surprised with how many people can actually relate to the truth.

I don’t know why some people are born with mental illnesses but I do know we need to talk about it more often. There are way too many silent sufferers in the world and I’m so tired of seeing the topic go ignored. I used to feel like I could snap at any moment with how alone and afraid I felt. But once I stopped pretending everything was okay, I began finding friends who could relate to me. And I began to heal.

My mom can’t help what she was born with but we as a society can help by showing more compassion and kindness to perfect strangers. You just never know what can trigger someone to hurt themselves or slip deeper into their illness. “We should always be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.”

Why Traveling Is Good For Your Mental Health

by: Alicia M. Blanco

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Recently I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel. It started back in September when I traveled to Israel.  Soon thereafter I was in Puerto Rico for a week. And, as I sit here finishing up all my packing for my second trip to Dubai this month, I can’t help but to recognize how much healthier I feel on the inside.

When you travel, you get away from the comfort of your routine. You disconnect. You un-plug. You checkout of everything; schedules, diets, drama, gossip, heartbreak, work, stress, work-related stress, and social media. You marvel in newness, freshness, different foods, cultures, people and beyond… it’s one of the greatest gifts you can ever give yourself in this life.

Several years ago, I was envisioning myself in this space. I very clearly saw myself disconnected from my comfort zones of Arizona and LA, and entirely consumed with the freedom and fullness that comes with traveling. I dreamt of collecting stamps on my then very empty passport and I even dreamt of singing around the world for beautiful and diverse audiences.  So, last year I put this vision into action when I created my vision board, complete with pictures and images of sandy beaches, tiki huts, and water so clear and blue that you felt like you were in a dream just looking at it. Besides all the pictures of traveling (as well as my dream home, husband, wedding and engagement ring), my vision board also includes images of music, singing, and even a Grammy. It’s the first thing I see in the morning everyday and at one point I didn’t even realize how much it consumed such a large portion of my life. I see these images constantly and frequently throughout the day, without even realizing it.

When I found myself at the airport recently looking down at my passport, I realized how many of those stamps I had actually acquired over the last six months alone. As I found myself on the Sea of Galilee back in September, I realized I had this very image on my vision board with water so blue and beautiful that I felt like I was dreaming. Of course, this was way better. When I walked the streets of Old San Juan in Puerto Rico just after sunset and listened to the live salsa music, I felt completely at home. (The monfongo and arroz con gandules was mouthwatering. If you’re a foodie like me, traveling is good for your taste buds too.)  And when I checked into my beautiful hotel room in Dubai, I felt like I had seen that very space before in my mind. It was overwhelming.

To make all of this even more beautiful, I get to sing on my latest traveling adventures! I can honestly say that the very first time that the curtains were drawn and I sang the first note of “The Voice Within”, it was a surreal experience- nearly out of body. I knew I had been there before in my mind. That moment affirmed what I already knew: what you think about, you bring about. If you see it in your head, you will hold it in your hand. It’s the law of attraction.

Life will present moments where it feels like the stars have aligned and you can’t wipe the smile and simultaneous tears from your face even if you tried. It’s in those moments, at least for me, that I feel totally and completely balanced and whole. I feel a sense of health (both physically and MENTALLY), and an inner peace that’s truly indescribable.

“Let yourself go.” – Eat, Pray, Love.

Traveling has given me so much more than I was expecting. When I made my vision board over a year ago I never knew that the real thing would feel quite like this. Complete and utter bliss is when you find the thrill of running to your gate at an international airport. It’s looking out the window as your plane is about to land and seeing buildings you’ve only ever dreamt about. Its forcing yourself to learn different languages in order to communicate and expand your mind. Its making connections with people who may not speak the same language as you, but you feel as though you share so much in common because of the matching tags on your suitcases at baggage claim. It’s in the quiet moments in the morning inside your hotel room when you realize you’re waking up in an entirely different time zone – and world for that matter. Its in the space where you feel like the world is so much bigger, yet smaller than you thought it was. It’s in the discomfort and the unknown. It’s even in the jet lag. To travel is to live and grow into a better human being.

If you’ve been waiting for a sign to finally travel, consider this blog post your sign. There will always be a reason why you shouldn’t do it now. Money, timing, your job, your family… what’s your reason? No matter what it is, I hope you realize two things from my blog. 1) there is no perfect timing to do anything. Now is the time. And 2) your world and your life will be so much more fascinating when you get home from your travels. You’ll be more well-rounded, have more life experience, and you’ll see things differently than you ever did before. People included. Lastly, 3) you need to start envisioning what you want in life and believe with all your heart that it can indeed manifest when it’s time. God, the universe, your thoughts, all of these will serve you when you live your life with a plan and with wholehearted intention, day in and day out.

So please, pack your suitcase and just let go. Everything will still be here when you get back – only better.

P.S. Here’s an article I came across a few days ago that I feel says it perfectly and inspired me to write this post. It’s 6 Reasons Why Not Quitting Your Job to Travel is a Waste of Your Life

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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