To My Younger Self

Written by: Morgan Blair, Founder and Creative Director of Unpolished Journey.

In honor of NEDAwareness week, the team of Unpolished Journey decided to write letters to our younger selves.  After completing the letter and rereading it, I was caught off guard by how kind the words were. I wasn’t expecting the compassion and empathy I felt towards that little girl. Though I feel racked with self-loathing and critical thoughts, exercises like this help show me there is some love interwoven among the lies of my eating disorder.  So, without further ado, here is my letter to my younger self:

To my younger self,

There is so much that I want to teach you about acceptance, heartbreak, loss, and patience. I want to warn you about the trials to come – in school, in relationships, in life. I want to make you promise never to pick up the diet pills or tape measurer. I want to make you look in the mirror and say the words, “I love myself”. I want you to never, ever feel like too much.

But I know I can’t.

I can’t because those things – the trials and pain, the insecurities and illnesses – they will teach you more than any conversation ever could. Even if I could sit you down and pour a breathless monologue overtop of you, it wouldn’t do the trick. Words sometimes fail us. Especially when God knows we need our experiences to shape us.

The trials and pain are part of your journey. I wish that I could steal you away from the darkness or at least tell you the darkness won’t hurt. But I won’t lie to you. You whisper enough lies to yourself. It is going to hurt. The years ahead will be hard and stressful and confusing, but they will also be filled with some of the most fulfilling moments – moments of deep connection, true friendship, pure joy, childlike wonder.

Morgan, the road ahead is adventurous. So, as with any worthwhile adventure, there is going to be hard moments, easy moments, joyful moments, moments when you just want to quit. Never give up. That’s my greatest form of advice. No matter what you are feeling – hopeless, worthless, fat, ugly  – NEVER give up because the moments of darkness are what allow us to appreciate the light.

You have so much worth. You have so much purpose. Over the years you are going to meet so many amazing people and do so many amazing things. You’re young now. You haven’t felt the intense hunger pains. You don’t know yet how it feels to run on weak and tired legs. But as you get older, as you go through the years, you will learn so much about the power of will, the power of self, the power of faith.  You, my friend, are going to be shaped into a deeply wise woman who understands the depths this life has to offer simply because you have lived it. The ups and downs, light and dark, pain and relief- you know it. You lived it. You are living it. And that makes you one of the bravest people I have ever met.

Keep your chin up, Morgan, you have no idea what you are capable of.

With peace and blessings,

Your future self

The Power of Sharing Your Story

Written by: Taylor Waidanz, a friend of those here at Unpolished and a fellow warrior

For those of you who know me it is very unlikely that you know my story. For those of you that don’t know me it is even less likely that you know my story. Yet whichever category you fall into, it is not unlikely that you or someone you know understands what I have been through. I am one of the many; one of the countless survivors of sexual assault. We live in a society in which we are often told that we are at fault, taught that our bodies are here for the pleasure of others, and shamed into keeping it a secret because no justice will be served even if we do seek help.

I went out on a Friday night just like many other college students. To a Halloween party where I had a few too many drinks and quickly lost track of names, the friends who I came with, and soon, consciousness. Led into a dark basement by someone I didn’t know, who forced himself upon me. Dragged up the stairs by another stranger like an object void of feelings, without a loving family, goals, or meaning. I woke up on my living room floor, knowing what had happened but unable to remember a name, a face, or call it what it really was.

Sobbing while washing him off of me, pulling the covers over my head, and letting sleep sober me up. I let Sunday pass in bed and Monday, finally said the words out loud to my best friend. I had been raped. Telling my mom was the most difficult thing I have done; it felt as if I shattered her idea of holding her baby girl the day I was born and ruined every idea she had of me. I felt dirty and overwhelmed. Unable to cope, I went home for a week to seek help. With the help of sexual assault services in my hometown, I received counseling and legal advocacy to decide which steps to take and I am forever grateful for those around me in the difficult days after the incident. They treated me as a person, a survivor, someone beaten but not broken. In their eyes, and soon, mine too, I was not a victim any longer.

I have good days, I have rough days, I have “I can’t get out of bed” days. I have days where I almost forget, days surrounded by friends, and days where I long to travel and see the world. Everyday is something new, I could be triggered by someone wearing a similar shirt or someone sitting too close on the train. Often I feel like few understand. This does not make any of this my fault I have come to understand. What one person chose to do to me whether I was intoxicated or sober will never be my fault. I am learning to forgive myself, to be okay with who I am after that night, and to use this experience in the future to help other women feel that they are never alone. I am learning to live my life in a way that shows I am not sorry for what I have been through because I survived and am taking my life one minute at a time.

To my fellow survivors, know that you are not alone. You will have days where it feels like it is too much, but what you have to give the world is way more than the bad that the world can ever give you. You must believe that what you have been through is something you can handle and that asking for help will never make you weak. You are no longer a victim, you are now a survivor and that is a powerful thing.

And to those who fail to understand, I am not sorry for the words I have written here, for my truth, for living my life to the best of my ability. I will not apologize for drinking that night or the clothes I wore or my choice not to seek legal action. The choices I have made are my own and I stand by them as I heal and become a better, stronger woman. We are no longer victims. We are survivors. We are powerful.

Honestly, How are you?

Written by: Gracie Mayer, Facebook Manager and Contributing Writer of Unpolished Journey

“How are you?’

“I’m Great!!”

“How is your job?”

“Fantastic!”

“How is your family?”

“Everyone is smiling, succeeding and our fence is the whitest it has ever been!”

How are you really? How are you when you are alone? How are you when you are not tilting your head to get the perfect angle for the perfect picture of your perfect vacation to post on Instagram?

I remember when Morgan first told me about Unpolished Journey. We were having our weekly breakfast meet-up and she was sharing a new and exciting idea of creating a small Instagram account that she hoped would eventually grow into an recovery community of individuals seeking truth, vulnerability and connection. We dreamed of the possibilities for Unpolished Journey and the growth it might create. I have been reflecting on some of the main goals of Unpolished Journey.

  1. Unpolished Journey is a community that helps illuminate the reality of mental health and its impact on so many lives.
  1. Unpolished Journey raises awareness around Eating Disorders and reveals what it is like to live daily with an eating disorder and the struggles in fighting for recovery.
  1. Unpolished Journey is also an organization that looks to expose the damaging culture of beauty standards in our society today and the false, distorted, photoshopped images that help fuel these damaging standards.

All of this is well and good. However, when also reflecting on Unpolished Journey’s theme of honesty for the month of February I wondered about the 3rd goal of Unpolished. Sometimes it is much easier to blame media, blame unrealistic standards, and blame falsified images influences as the main culprit of our pain. Yes, we confront damaging images of beauty in the media every day, but what about those images, those ideals and those illusions of perfection that we perpetuate in our own lives every day?  We are all guilty of the:

“I’m Great?”

“It’s fantastic!”

“Everyone is smiling, succeeding and our fence is the whitest it has ever been!”

I think everyone, especially myself, is guilty of posting the old “picture that makes it looks like I am having the time of my life at the party that I felt obligated to go to so that I could post it on Facebook”. What are these images doing for our friends, our families and our own self-image? Why is it that we feel our experience isn’t enough just the way it is? Why do we feel the need to put on the face that it’s all ok all of the time?

This brings me to honesty. Why is honesty so scary? Why is falling, failing, frowning, crying, trying, struggling and sharing so frightening? What doors might open if you responded to a “how are you doing?” with an honest response of: “I’m actually really stressed and confused at where my life is going.” How might we invite others to honesty if we are in fact honest ourselves. I think of the times when I have really connected with other people and many times I connect the most when the other person reveals their humanity. The month of February is also well-known for a certain day to tell someone you love them. This month I am challenging myself to love others through my honesty. I am choosing to show love by posting real pictures, sharing real life event no matter how messy, and inviting others to trust me with their honest experience. I think the greatest love is an unconditional love, a love that places no standards, constraints, rules, or expectations. You do not have to earn unconditional love—it is freely and openly given. When you live in unconditional love, you have the freedom to live in honesty and share with honesty the fullness of your human experience.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Written by: Florence Taglight, new contributing writer at Unpolished Journey and founder of her own blog (findingflo.co.uk)

Hi, I just wanted to introduce myself as a new contributing writer and also thank both Morgan and Emily for allowing me this platform to share my voice and for all that they do in this community.

When Emily and Morgan told me that this month’s topic was Honesty, what immediately came to my mind was hearing parents tell their children ‘Honesty is always the Best Policy’. I’m sure you were told it as a child a thousand and one times, by teachers, parents and/or family members. If there were a manual to parenting, I’m sure this would come along side, ‘always say please and thank you’, ‘don’t put your elbows on the table’ and ‘always wait for the green man before crossing the street’. Because after-all lying is wrong, right?

Right.

But not if you are on the side of your demons. If you are hand in hand with your demons then lying is right and honesty is wrong; After all, honesty would be being true to yourself, choosing those you love over them (the demons), being brave and being courageous. Being honest would mean stepping into life not into death. Well No, no, no – that is simply unacceptable to a demon. Hence honesty becomes wrong. Very wrong. Punishable in fact.

Although now I see how manipulative this is, there was a time when I could not; I could see the distortion. It was a time where honesty was, in my eyes a terrible policy, the worst policy to ever be created. When someone is in the depths of their disorder, wrong and right can (and are likely to) get muddled. This doesn’t just relate to honesty but other characteristics also that tend to crop up when our demons grow. It is hard to separate the two voices in our heads, our own and theirs. Unfortunately, much like the food habits and ritual, the thought processes and body critiques these backward, upside down and confused views don’t go away over night, or the day you decide to choose recovery. They demand daily practice and repetition (Yes, it is exhausting!). But it is also worth it, I promise.

It seems scary, the thought of betraying the demon and speaking your truth. I can assure you though, the more you do it, the easier it gets. A bit like going down the huge slide at the playground when you are little, the first time is the hardest. When you are honest in your recovery, whether that is about a piece of food, a thought, or even just about your feelings you are metaphorically speaking “kicking the demon in the balls’’.
Committing to recovery has to be done whole-heartedly which means pledging to integrity in every aspect. I am not saying you need to go confess everything you’ve ever done wrong and every white lie to everyone you have ever known by making it your Facebook status (FYI – I actually suggest NOT doing this). But what you should do, I propose is start with yourself. Start by realizing that the lies are the demons not yours, and that they do not align with your morals. After all the most important relationship you’re ever going to have, is the one with yourself.