Cashmere Covered Comforts

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This post is written by Florence Tagilght, Project HEAL’s International Ambassador UK. Follow her on Instagram at @florencetag and her blog www.findingflo.co.uk.

pabloComfort to me is onomatopoeic; When we are in school we are taught that onomatopoeia’s are words such as plop, splash, bang and gurgle, words that literally sound like what they mean, however recently I have been thinking more and more about comfort and how comforting it is to feel comfortable. And how for the past two to three years all I have craved is comfort.

Comfort is my go to. Whether that means a pair of old Nikes instead of literally any other shoes, trackies instead of jeans (ALWAYS, and if I have to wear jeans, it will always be boyfriend jeans, as baggy as possible), no bra – ever, M&S granny pants beat victoria secret’s every morning and probably the most comforting of all – cosy nights in, swaddled in cashmere from socks to blanket watching Ellen as opposed to cocktail accompanied nights on the dance floor.

So you get the picture, I’m a sucker for comfort, it wins every time. But sometimes maybe the best thing isn’t to win? (If you know how competitive I am, I bet you never would have thought I’d say that!!!) Maybe sometimes stepping out of the cotton wool cosiness is what its all about. Even if it is just one toe, or two, or maybe even a whole foot. The other day I fully emerged myself out of my Zen Zone and into a place of sheer unfamiliarity. An experience which to me felt as foreign as being not just out of the country, but cross continent, perhaps even planet. A place so external to my being that preparation was in action well ahead of time. And although anxiety ridden, the feeling afterwards, even if I didn’t ‘win’ was more rewarding than any gold medal or trophy, even if it was not obvious to the outside, it was visible to me and those who wanted to see it, who care enough to try and see it (you know who you are – big love!!! Seriously HUGE).

14753840_10154623671014402_1189703120371673117_oSo I wanted to share a few insights that I found from this experience: Firstly, I felt as though I was leaving my cashmere covered comfort cave FOREVER.

The voice in my head kept saying you can’t go, if you go you can’t come back. You can’t come back to this place filled with safety, serenity, and this fear-free zone. The voice in my head constantly told me ‘’ What are you doing? Where are you going? Why are you leaving, are you crazy (and believe me I often think I am)? You feel safe here? It wont be the same when you come back?’’ but you know what that was?

It was a lie. A voice of good intention filled with ignorance and naivety. One big lie, the type that a three year old says after stealing a cookie evidently from the plate and you say did you steal the cookie? And they say no. Okay so maybe that wasn’t the best example, but it was such an evident lie that I have no idea how half of me believed it, and it has for years. Yes I may have been cannonballed and catapulted from comfort, but sure enough it was there when I returned. In fact, it was even MORE nourishing than before.

Secondly, just because one, or two, or maybe even three things are different, it doesn’t mean they all need to be. You don’t strip away a dummy (pacifier for all my American friends out there), a blanky, a teddy bear and a teething toy from a baby all at once (in fact, most people still have at least one or two of those things, and just because its not hanging from there fist 24/7 anymore doesn’t mean its not there offering the same support it did at age 3). You do it bit by bit; just like how you climb a ladder rung by rung it is the same with new experiences. Don’t think you have to do it ALL AT ONCE. You don’t. In fact, I advise you DON’T. Keep something close, something there, and this is exactly what I did. My situation was filled with elements that were new to me, from the time, the day, the faces and the conversation. The clothes, the drinks and at times it even felt like the air but I made sure that around me where people I trusted, people who supported me, and people who got me. The people who afterwards saw the trophy despite its intangibility, who recognized the triumph despite the announcement, and who see a victory despite the fact to any one else it would merely be called a success. And this isn’t being a BABY. This ISNT weak or bad and this is something you SHOULD NOT feel guilty about. This is self-care, something we don’t practice nearly enough.

Thirdly, and perhaps the most cliché is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. You will be scared, you’re meant to be. A bit like a haunted house. You will be frightened, and you will feel shaky, perhaps terrified, and sorry this may not be what you want to hear but it won’t go away, however the more you feel it, the better it feels (maybe not ‘better’ but less concerning). I can’t tell you if it’s AS scary the second time or third or fourth, because that hasn’t happened just yet, but one day I will be able too. – You can keep me to that, I promise, pinky promise!

And remember, however far you get, whether it is out of your cashmere socks and into cotton ones – You have succeeded, you have won, each time you reach outside the chalk lines that surrounds you, the little box you have stayed safe in for so long. Give yourself a mental medal. Or if you want too a physical one that’s fine too, whatever works. But remember – That it IS worth it. YOU ARE worth it.

14958182_10154629804858582_907249897_o-300x300And for me, the most important thing to remember was that just because I was leaving my bubble it did not mean it wasn’t there to return too. In fact Missy and Nell (my adorable dogs pictured to the right) were somehow EVEN more calming, reassuring and soothing after. I knew they knew what I had done, the internal battle I had fought and I had won.

P.S You might even enjoy yourself, after all I did.

No Victory Is Too Small to Celebrate

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A lot of us who suffer, or have suffered from an eating disorder, are very familiar with the tendency to make comparisons. We tend to have a high perfectionistic drive and if we see someone doing something well, there is a feeling that we need to do it as well (which would merely be “acceptable”) OR better, so we feel that we’re doing a good job too.
The same goes for recovery.
When I first started my recovery journey, I was always comparing myself to other people who were also in recovery, and I started to feel like I wasn’t doing it well enough.
There were many times that I achieved something that felt like a monumental accomplishment but I wouldn’t even share it in group because other people were so much further along on their journey and accomplishing bigger and better things. I worried that they would think my accomplishment was stupid or trivial – so, I shamed myself into silence.
Unfortunately, by not celebrating those small victories, I was not giving myself enough credit, which affected my motivation and confidence to keep going.
After all, what boosts confidence better than success? When I failed to honor those early successes, I had no foundation to build my inner strength upon. I began to not trust myself in recovery similar to how I had not trusted myself in my eating disorder.
I had many false starts in recovery, and the one major difference between all of those times and the time I finally DID get better was building an unshakable foundation. A foundation combined with an immense amount of inner strength, eventually taught me how to trust myself.
What changed was that I celebrated everything and I congratulated the heck out of myself for even the tiniest things. Even one less purge in a day…or just not completely finishing a planned binge, was a big deal because it was excruciatingly difficult. And I celebrated that. I thought about it, and how hard it was, I journaled about how proud I was of myself, or sent a message to my therapist, whatever I had to do to honor my accomplishment.
Eventually, the things that were once impossibly challenging will become a part of your everyday life. There will come a point where days and weeks, or even years, go by where you don’t even need to fight your eating disorder anymore, where that voice is so far gone from your head, it would feel like a foreign language if you ever did hear it again. Still, that doesn’t make whatever you achieve today any less significant.
It might not feel like a big deal to you now because you know you are capable of bigger and better things – and you will get there, but as someone who has experienced both minuscule and massive victories in recovery, I promise you that each and every single one is worth being celebrated.
When people build buildings or great monuments, there are many different pieces and many different sizes that make up the completed work. Without the smaller pieces, especially the ones nearest to the foundation, the entire structure would crumble.
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So, every time you place a new stone into what will become your recovery monument, congratulate yourself for adding another piece (no matter how big or small) to the incredible, ever-changing, ever-evolving ~ sometimes totally abstract ~ work of art that is your recovery.
And if others around you are building their recovery sculptures, too, realize that each one will be as unique as each of you are. Some will crumble and need to be rebuilt again, some will need bigger stones in certain places where yours will only require smaller stones…and vice versa.
Just honor yourself for every single building block you add to that structure. Some days there will be very large boulders and sometimes just tiny specs of dust, but when you see the finished product, each big, medium-sized and small building block will become part of one large, beautiful structure that YOU built – piece by piece.
This post was written by Jeanette Batur

Want to submit a post to Project HEAL’s blog? Email blog@theprojectheal.org! 

Shifting Perspectives: An Improviser’s Look Into Eating Disorder Recovery

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This post was written by Molly Kiernan

Molly Kiernan is a Brooklyn-based writer and performer. She writes sketch comedy and improvises at the Magnet Theater in New York City, and can also be seen performing with independent teams all over the city. Molly is the host of the upcoming comedy variety show, Molly’s Guilt-Free Comedy and Ice Cream Social on November 13th at the Magnet Theater, which will benefit Project Heal- New York City Chapter. For more information and to reserve tickets, visit www.magnettheater.com

 

 

2-3 minutes is about the length of an average scene in longform improvisational comedy. When I was at the height of my eating disorder, that would have been enough time to have 20-30 different thoughts about how disgusting I was, but not do anything else. I am an eating disorder survivor and an improv comedian, two aspects of my life that while separate, sometimes seem to have everything to do with each other.

Improv means making it up on the spot. It’s not really important where you are. You can be on a theater stage in front of hundreds of people, or in the back of a bar basement in front of only your mom, who is probably too distracted looking for Lysol wipes for her seat (It was nice of her to come, though.). You get up there and you work with partners and teammates to connect with and understand each other, with the goal of creating characters and worlds that the audience will relate to. That relating part of it is key, because that’s what makes people laugh, and if you do your job well enough, even your mom will put away her lysol wipes and laugh, too.

Recovery from anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder has meant different things to me over time. It’s meant putting my life on hold to simply restore my body and think straight again. For a while it was having to remind myself every couple of hours that negative thoughts I hold about me and my body don’t necessitate negative eating behaviors. It always means accepting that recovery doesn’t happen in a straight line. But right now, recovery means being able to view the world from a different lens–the lens of a full person and not the lens of a “girl with an eating disorder.”

Entering an improv scene invites the performer into a unique opportunity: the opportunity to see the world from the perspective of a character outside themselves. When the improviser makes a strong decision about what their character does, thinks and feels, everything changes: the things they say and the ways they say them, the feelings they have and the things they believe, and even the way they hold their body. All of a sudden, the improviser begins to discover new things that wouldn’t have been possible without this shift in perspective. I’ve seen a young male teenager transform into a completely believable nervous mom teaching her son how to drive, and a mother of three jump into the chair next to him to play that son who is more passionate about legalizing marijuana than driving. This happens in a matter of mere moments. The improvisers don’t have trouble figuring out what to say, because their minds are open to other perspectives.

Humans are stubborn. Rarely do we allow ourselves the time and energy to think in the way I’ve just described, which is why improv is really hard. But so is recovery. And I want to do both well.  By shifting the lens in improv scenes, I am able to create a new world for the character I’ve invented. By shifting the lens in recovery, I am able to create a new and better life for myself.

In my eating disorder and depression, everything I did was filtered through a lens that was inherently ill:

I am out of control if I eat that.

My phone’s ringing. I don’t have the energy to pick it up, so I won’t.

I should walk instead of take the elevator.

I’ll just lie and say I already ate lunch.

It’s not worth getting out of bed today because I’m not worth the effort.

That fight was my fault.

Everything is too hard.

Today, my lens sounds a little different.

Ice cream? Oh hell yeah.

I already ignored this person’s phone calls three times. I guess I can show up for people and actually pick up the phone.

Elevators are a great invention because I can safely text and fix my makeup while traveling.

I’m never again going to miss out an opportunity to be with people I love just so I don’t have to eat lunch.

I’ll give myself a little bit more time in bed. I’m not a piece of shit. I’m tired and maybe sad and that’s fine.

That’s what a healthy fight looks like? Oh, cool.

Things are hard but not out of my control.

I’ve had to shift my perspective entirely in recovery, but in this case I’m not adopting that of a character outside of me, but rather returning to my authentic self.

A bold move in an improv scene is a risk. It takes vulnerability and you don’t always know how it’s going to go. You say something crazy or decide that your character is going to do something unexpected, like start crying or dancing. In the split second before, you’re pretty much like, “this could end up being awful.” And then you make the move anyways and you wait for another split second of awful silence that feels like an eternity. If it’s a good move, the silence erupts into insane laughter, and it’s the best feeling in the world. Recovery’s pretty much the same I guess, except that split second of awkward, unbearable silence can end up being something like twenty years of awkward, unbearable insecurity. But just like that laugh, the result is oh so sweet, baby.

I am an eating disorder survivor and an improv comedian, two aspects of my life that while separate, sometimes seem to have everything to do with each other. I think it is important to note that my recovery is not in and of itself due to improv. Not at all. Recovery has taken me years of therapy and hard work in every moment, and there is no replacement for that. But improv is my passion, and I am lucky that it happens to constantly reaffirm to me the idea that shifting my perspective towards recovery is both a bold and a good move.

This fall marked two years in full and active recovery from my eating disorder, two years living a pretty great life.  As a celebration, I am hosting an event on November 13th at the Magnet Theater in New York City that combines two of my favorite things: ice cream and comedy. Half of the proceeds benefit Project Heal- New York City Chapter, and you’re all invited. Visit the link below for more information on location, time and ticket reservations, and I hope if you’re able, you’ll come celebrate the hell out of life with me.

http://www.magnettheater.com/shows/48303-Molly-s-Guilt-Free-Comedy-and-Ice-Cream-Social

Who Do You Want to Show Up as Today?

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who-do-youIn the early morning hours, before darkness lifts and the pace picks up, I tip toe downstairs, shower, and quietly prepare for the day. I love this time, before my husband and children wake and my various responsibilities kick in. I can hear my thoughts, my breath, and the stillness.

I dress and approach the mirror. I stand before it, meet my eyes, and instead of asking who is the fairest of them all, I ask: Who do you want to show up as today?

For years and years, I stood before the mirror frantically checking my body. Do I look anorexic enough? Do I look sick enough from the side, front, and back? Of course, the answer was always no, and in an instant, the calm morning hours turned day into a raging hell. Can you relate?

That single moment in front of the mirror determined my attitude for the entire day. And because of that, recovery felt like a big fat inconvenience. An uphill battle. A never ending source of agony. I was always on the defensive, running against the natural flow of life for the sake of a measly moment in the mirror.

I’m 22 years into my healing path now, and I’ve given myself permission to play offense instead of defense. It’s taken time and many leaps of faith to test what would happen if I asked myself a different question in front of the mirror, one that celebrates instead of berates, empowers instead of belittles, raises up versus ridicules.

The idea of asking myself questions that weren’t traps for misery came from learning about the philosophical concept in yoga called the koshas. The idea is that we are all made of five layers: body, breath, mind (emotions), intellect, and spirit. In my experience, recovery is so heavily focused on food and feeding our bodies (because it has to be!) that we often don’t pause and notice how we are feeding our minds. You and I both know how difficult it is to get a grip on spinning eating disorder beliefs, thoughts, and rules! Gruelingly hard work, yes?

The reality I had to face was that unless I started feeding my mind different questions about myself, I would never have an opportunity to respond differently or feel happier or believe I was more than an eating disorder. My experience of life would forever be dictated by a mirror.

Little by little, I started asking different questions, the most pivotal one being: Who do you want to show up as today? I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes my answer to that question is related to body size. The difference now, though, is that I don’t allow that thought to stick. I consciously choose to ask myself the question again until the answer that comes is one that feeds my mind with positivity so that I start my day with an attitude of “Look out world, I am ready for you!”

So, I ask you: Who do you want to show up as today? How can you begin to feed your mind differently so that you have the opportunity to create new thoughts about yourself, your body, and your place in your world, in this world?

If you are unsure, just start with one simple question similar to what I ask myself, and don’t let yourself off the hook until your answer is about who you are at your core. We all deserve to draw out these beautiful parts of ourselves, and it begins with feeding our minds new words and thoughts about our whole sense of self.

jennifer_yoga-9076Written by Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, the founder of Chime Yoga Therapy, is a yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders. In recovery herself, Jennifer is exceedingly passionate about helping others connect with their natural gift of resilience through yoga. She works with individuals one on one and leads yoga therapy groups and seminars. Jennifer is also a yoga therapist at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia, and she teaches yoga at Verge Yoga in Wayne, PA. Her ultimate goals in life are to be a positive role model for her daughters and to teach them that anything is possible when we ring true (Chime) with who we are at our core and live with strong intention. Learn more about Jennifer: www.ChimeYogaTherapy.com.

No One Wins in Hide and Shrink

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By: Alexis Sears

About Alexis: A few years ago, Alexis graduated from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. Currently, she is a Master of Social Work candidate at the University of Michigan. She is passionate about sharing her story of full recovery from food and body image challenges. Her hope is that others are inspired and empowered to experience the same sweet freedom from disordered eating and negative body image.


no-one-winsI know that I am not alone in loving summer. Warmer weather, longer days, BBQs, time on the water, it’s almost impossible not to enjoy this glorious season. But, for me, summer has always had one little catch – that it is synonymous with ‘swimsuit season’. Those two words alone make me want to hide and/or shrink. And so each summer, I spend significant time and energy attempting to do both.

But this summer was different. I made no attempt to be a smaller version of myself. No cleansing, no detoxing, no “low carb, no carb”, no exercise plan, none of that. No hiding, no shrinking.

Instead, I listened closely to my body’s needs and followed its cues to eat, sleep, and move. I chose to trust my body’s inherent wisdom, in spite of any pressure to do otherwise.

I was also intentional about finding a swimsuit that fit me, instead of trying to change my body to fit into a swimsuit. (Because, I have to say, the latter is downright backwards… clothes are meant to fit you, not for you to fit them, ok?)

And as a result, this summer, I spent more time relaxing, swimming, laughing, reading, chatting, running, enjoying, and embracing, than any summer prior. And as the summer season changes to fall, I am grateful & content, rather than relieved that ‘swimsuit season’ is over.

I want to share this because I believe that summers, friends, vacations, family, and the world, need YOU, in your entirety and in your wholeness. No one wins when you play hide & shrink. Your purpose is not to try and take up less space. Not during this season, not during the next swimsuit season, not ever. There is room for you to embrace & enjoy too. Please take as much space as you need.

 

 

Feature Friday: Poetry To Move You

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Project HEAL is lucky to have the most amazing, talented and inspiring people involved as volunteers. Today we wanted to share some of the beautiful poetry from our National Instagram Manager, Vanessa Frances Poulson! (P.S. you can follow our Instagram at @projectheal) screenshot-2016-10-07-13-40-06

She has published her first book, Laundry, (Go girl!) which is a collection of poetry, prose, and essays, touching on triumph and tragedy, overcoming one’s own demons, abuse, as well as the bittersweetness of first love and first loss. The title was inspired by the idea that with dirty clothes, humans are given the chance to wash, rinse, dry, and fold themselves over and over again. With every cycle, we gain more of our own wear and tear, adding to our own individuality.

Below is samples of her work to inspire you and remind you that you can overcome any battle!

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If you want to read more and immerse yourself into this beautiful poetry, you can purchase Vanessa’s book here!

 

 

I Am More

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by Julia Gari Weiss

I use the mirror’s edge to chop blurry images of photo shopped pages,
slice numbers out of collars
to ward off rashes
caused by tag toxicity.
I am more than a label. More than
a beach body. I am more than plus sized, straight sized, or thin. I am more than
losing 10 pounds to love the body I am in.
I am a woman. Several sizes dress my closet to display the array of lives I’ve lived,
to encompass all that this body has held.
Oh, how I’ve grown
into power that spreads from my fingertips to the kick drum roar inside my ribs.
“You are beautiful” isn’t sold
I no longer buy
into flat abs, toned legs, I flex
my sizeable brain like a muscle, fuel it –
I was not born to diet,
to purchase fat-free, gluten-free, or diuretics. Sell me beauty agenda-free.
Invest in risk-free, cost-free
not sold at Target or Duane Reade
not on newsstands or the cover of
(insert standardized beauty magazine)
until vision becomes reality
say it loudly, “I love”
and this ends with “me.”

Julia Gari Weiss is the author of the poetry collection “Being Human,” published by Thought Catalog Books. She received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is the recipient of the Academy of American Poet’s John B. Santoianni Award for Excellence in Poetry. Julia has been published in The Huffington Post, The Australian Women’s Weekly, Thought Catalog, Old Red Kimono, 3Elements Review, Image Curve, and The Santa Monica Star. She is proudly from Santa Monica, California, and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. You can follow her on Instagram at @JuliaGari and visit her website at www.JuliaGari.com.

 

 

Why the Jeans Struggle is (Still) Real (And Why This Gives Me Hope)

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Ask me what my top ten likes and dislikes are. Go on. Ask me. If you did, I might tell you all about my love for coffee, memoirs, bangs, and dogs. I might tell you about my distaste for traffic and slapstick comedy. I know I would tell you about jeans. Yup. Jeans.

This seemingly innocent article of clothing has crested the top of my “dislike” list for years and years. Why? I’m not so sure that there is a simple answer. But let me try to explain:

I struggled with an eating disorder for over ten years of my life. When I think about my late teen and early adult years, my most stark memories are not falling in love, getting into college, or landing that great job. Rather, I recall me-obsessively calorie counting, me-running in rain/snow/excessive heat, me-losing friends as I slipped more and more into my own little world- you get the picture. My eating disorder happened gradually and then all at once. What started out as a simple diet slowly but surely became an all-consuming illness, one that would take me years to disentangle myself from. And while much treatment has brought me to the realization that this was about a lot more than weight, poor body image was and continued to be a decidedly strong symptom of my illness for quite some time.

Flash forward to present day. I am recovered. I am a wife. I am a friend to many. I am an advocate for those who struggle with eating disorders. I am a psychologist. Meaning I not only pulled myself out of my own personal hell and demise, but I kicked ED’s ass long enough and hard enough for me to feel comfortable pursuing a career empowering others to do the same. And while I do not disclose my history of an eating disorder to all of my patients, the times that I choose to, I inevitably get asked the same question: Are you completely recovered and how did you do it?

I feel comfortable answering that yes, I am completely recovered, because I can be authentic and genuine when saying so. I am and have been behavior free, I accept my emotions, and the thoughts that once dominated every second of my day now come so infrequently that I can spot them a mile away. This is what full recovery means for me.

In terms of body image, I have worked long and hard to accept and cherish my body. Now does that mean that I LOVE everything that I see in the mirror every day? No. I’m human, and I was born and raised in a society that celebrates the thin ideal and promotes diet culture aggressively. Enter-Jeans.

Jeans are my Achilles Heel. Try as I may, I despise shopping for them. They just never feel like they were created with my body-type in mind. They are always too tight or too loose. I always find myself irritated when shopping for them, muttering to myself like a cantankerous old man- “Why are there so many damn washes? What even are jeggings? High waisted or low? How the hell should I know?”

This happened recently, and it got me to thinking- why do these stubborn feelings persist about this stupid article of clothing when I left my eating disorder in the dust long ago? After much contemplation- this is what I came up with:

I’M HUMAN! A recovered human, yes. But also a highly sensitive, introspective, and perfectionistic human. These are some of the personality attributes that made me vulnerable to the development of an ED in the first place. These things don’t just go away. I just learn how to work them. Years of progress in recovery allowed me to understand how to make my personality work for me, rather than against me. Like I previously stated, to me, full recovery doesn’t necessarily mean that you never have a disordered thought. It just means that they have no power over you anymore. A fully-recovered individual becomes a ninja at challenging and deflecting those thoughts. Yet even ninjas have Achilles Heels.

So rather than let this terrify me or make me question myself, I celebrate the fact that I still have a bit of work to do. Why? Because it is a great opportunity to catch myself getting a little too sure, or compliant. My jeans light-bulb moment allows me to continue to work on my own progress. I hope the day never comes when I decide I have done enough self-reflection and stop striving for more progress. Because there is always room for more. And the more progress that I make, the more personal mountains that I move, the more I can help to empower others to do the same. How great is it that I have such a clear understanding of what still gets under my skin?

So jeans, consider yourself my next Everest. I am comin for ya.

 

 

 

Monday Mantra: Stay Edgy

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By Christina Grasso

“You will always be too much of something for someone: too big, too loud, too soft, too edgy. If you round out your edges, you lose your edge. Apologize for mistakes. Apologize for unintentionally hurting someone profusely. But don’t apologize for being who you are.” – Danielle LaPorte

When I moved to New York from the Midwest nearly 5 years ago, I was willing to more or less do anything to work in fashion. (True story: I may or may not have applied to be a security guard at a certain magazine hub because, gotta start somewhere, right? For the record I have zero experience and/or interest in law enforcement, and shocker, didn’t get the job.) Despite having internship experience with some of the top names in the industry, I didn’t feel fully confident in my skillset, and more importantly, in my sense of self. Not because I intrinsically felt insecure, but because a few people I encountered left me feeling as though I should.

During my second week as a burgeoning New Yorker, I landed an interview with a successful designer who wanted to meet with me one-on-one. I brought with me a few crisp copies of my resume, subtle nerves, and my smile.

After we discussed my experience and goals, we mutually agreed that the particular role was a little too senior for me at that time. But she went on to say that she, quite frankly, felt I might want to reconsider a career in fashion as I might simply be “too nice” to succeed.

Fair enough, I thought. The fashion industry isn’t necessarily celebrated for its warmth and approachability, but I knew what I was getting myself into all along. And at that point, appearing tougher, at least in interviews, was a small price to pay (in my impressionable mind) for something I had worked for my entire life.

So for a while, I rounded out my edges, so to speak. I hardened, I smiled less, said “sorry” more, and tried to mold myself into whatever shape someone wanted on a particular day. I am a firm believer in “faking it until you make it,” but only when the “it” isn’t a forced and untenable façade.

Thankfully, the more stoic persona I had adopted didn’t last long because as difficult as it can be to be oneself in this world, it’s anything but empowering to try and be someone else. It was also brutally boring.

It took me a while to really figure out that being true to oneself – whatever that might look like for you – is truly the most effective process of elimination in finding work, prospective husbands, true friends, glass slippers, mattresses, you name it. There have been opportunities and relationships (and bedding) that have not worked out and, often, it’s heartbreaking. But anything worthwhile will never make you sacrifice your values. By keeping your edges and following your true north, the right people, work, etc. will come. True story – the most cherished people and things in my life have come through being open, honest, kind, and a little bizarre, because that’s who I am. What’s meant to be will find a way – and stay.

Over time, I have learned that, yes, even in the fashion industry, we attract what we are. Kindness begets kindness. And trying to shove oneself into a shoe that is ill-fitting does neither you nor said shoe any favors, nor does it leave room for growth. Find better shoes and thank yourself later. I promise you won’t turn into a pumpkin.

Christina Grasso is a writer, activist, and social media consultant.  In addition to her work in fashion and beauty, she serves on Project HEAL’s Advisory Board and founded its New York City chapter in 2012.  She lives in Manhattan.

Fearless Friday Feature: “Rescue Me”

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ShannonHi, I’m Shannon. I’m 32 years old and have suffered from the hell and prison of anorexia for 10 years. I am FINALLY in recovery as of January 2016. It took me losing my job, my income, almost my marriage and almost my life for me to (reluctantly) accept the help I needed.

When my husband and I decided to relocate from Washington D.C. to Cleveland before our wedding… I tanked. It was a steady decline for 2 years. Looking back, it was a slow suicide. Not just a physical death, it was a mental death, an emotional death, a spiritual death. ED literally stole my soul. I lost my joy, my carefree and bubbly personality, and I lost my sanity. I literally almost lost everything I cared most about. I loathed myself, I was a walking zombie, I was a monster to my own family, no weight or pant size was ever good enough… I was NEVER good enough.

So, last summer, I ran myself into the ground. I was a wedding planner under major pressure and I was working another event job during the week. I was restricting more than I already had been, and I started compulsively exercising. I had lost ALL sense of reality. My purpose was to keep losing and achieve this unattainable perfection. I was incredibly proud of my withering body; my sickness was my accomplishment. But my body finally made the decision for me. In every way, it was showing me, “I’m shutting down. I simply can’t do this anymore.” My hair was falling out, I couldn’t remember a damn thing, I felt incredibly weak, my husband would find claw marks, scratches and bruises all over my body, I barely had the energy to get out of bed in the morning, working was becoming unbearable, and worse, I started having severe chest pains. Then, I had fainting spells at work and almost in the car while I was driving home. After a much needed EKG, my doctor told me I had gone into bradycardia. I was petrified. For the first time, I was terrified of dying. But still, I couldn’t stop.

Thank God my family decided to rescue me! At the beginning of November, they took me to a residential treatment center in Florida. I was so sick that I still argued passionately with my husband up until they dropped me off. It was unbelievably surreal; I felt like I was being dropped off on an island and would be stranded. I felt defeated and betrayed. These people were trying to take this away from me and turn me into someone I hated even more. There I was, sobbing, thinking my life was over… when in fact, it had just begun.

They literally saved my life! The place I dreaded most became my happy place; my safe bubble. I actually didn’t want to leave. I had the best therapists I’ve ever had, met the most amazing women I have ever met; it was a life altering experience. Everyone there became my army, and the dining room table was my battlefield. Every morning when I didn’t want to get up to eat, and was so homesick it physically hurt, I fought with every fiber of my being to do this for my loved ones. A picture of them sat right next to my plate and that is what got me through every single meal.

It was nothing short of a miracle! When you hit rock bottom, sometimes you just have to surrender. My obsessive need to control everything had come to a tragic end. I couldn’t manage my life anymore, and clearly when I (and my “false god”) steered the ship, look where it got me! I came home a few days before Christmas, and felt like a completely different person. I had a new brain, a new set of eyes, a clear mind, a clean heart, a restored soul. I could really smile again! My marriage is repairing, my muscles are repairing, my organs are repairing, my friendships are repairing, my family is repairing, my faith is repairing, my spirit is repairing. I have energy, I can remember things, I’m kinder, less anxious, less judgmental, less irritable, more loving, more fun, more open, more present. I’m medically stable, following my meal plan, conquering fear foods, have color back in my face and light in my eyes! I am able to do things I couldn’t have possibly done before: hikes with my dog, yoga, going out to dinner with my family talking and chewing freely, laughing out loud with my sister, really feeling hugging my husband, not taking hours to get ready, actually tasting the food I’m consuming. I refuse to fail at my marriage and my second chance at life! The truth is, the enemy does not stand a chance when its victim decides to survive.

Recovery has become my full-time job and the thing I hated most has become my medicine. There is a quote I recently found that seems to beautifully sum it up, “She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.” Although my actual weight when I was sick was low, the weight I carried around with me was by the ton. You see, anorexia doesn’t just affect eating (like so many think)… it affects everything. Let me repeat, everything. It is not a fad, it is not a diet, and it so not glamorous. Is recovery utterly exhausting? Yeah. Does it feel like I’m mourning a death? Yes. Are mirrors still painful to look in? Yep! Do I often still feel shameful for eating? Yeah. Do I fully love and accept myself yet?? Heck no! But am I actively and vigilantly choosing light over darkness and recovery over my illness? You better believe it!!

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I’m choosing my husband’s kisses over calorie counting, a homemade dessert over hiding and compulsively exercising. I’m choosing sunsets over scales, self-care over self-harm. I’m choosing bare feet and dirty paws, less makeup and messy hair, late nights looking at the stars, actually being a wife, feeling like we’re a family again! While the pain is far from over and I’m unfortunately not “relapse-proof”, I am choosing joy, love, freedom, and LIFE day by day, hour by hour, step by step, bite by bite.

Connect with Shannon on Instagram at @feedyoursoulonebiteatatime