OJ and CJ’s #imnotsorry Stories

A special treat!  Two #imnotsorry stories are being shared on this post.  Get excited my friends.

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Written by: OJ, recovery warrior and co-founder of the blog thirdwheelED, providing a queer perspective on eating disorder recovery (check it out at thirdwheelED.com).  

#imnotsorry for developing self-compassion after years of self-hatred and shame. For fifteen years I’ve struggled much of the time in secret with an eating disorder, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. For years I wished I had the strength to ask people for help but I didn’t know how to and I didn’t always feel worthy or deserving of help from others. I constantly berated myself and insisted that I “should” be okay, even when I wasn’t. As a queer woman who has experienced sexual assault, I became familiar with feeling insignificant and meaningless, and the power that this can have on one’s sense of self. It is dehumanizing and corrupts one’s identity.

Eating disorders are probably one of the least compassionate ways you can treat your body. There’s a convincing voice constantly yelling at you that you don’t deserve to eat. As I was trying to defy science, depriving myself of food made me feel powerful, hypnotic, and safe, but in reality I became essentially sub-human. I restricted as punishment because I blamed my body for being inherently “wrong”, and the only way to “fix” it was to make it disappear, so I thought.

Finally, I’ve reached a point in my recovery where #imnotsorry for not being okay. Admitting to struggling is incredibly hard, yet an admirable act of bravery and resilience, and I could not have done this without the help my partner, CJ. Accepting my pain as valid was a pivotal point that helped change my perspective from one of self-anger, hatred, and destruction to a perspective of curiosity, love, and self-compassion.

As self-compassion has become a larger part of my recovery, I have been able to hold myself during more challenging and potentially triggering moments, providing safety from within myself, which is where the true sense of power can be found.

Self-compassion is difficult to conjure. I used to equate it with selfishness and any act that I may have associated with self-compassion, made me feel ashamed for not putting other people’s needs first. I’ve learned that self-compassion is actually one of the more altruistic attributes you can develop. It’s not about loving and only caring about yourself, but rather it’s about choosing to be kind and gentle with ourselves, leaving more space to be authentically compassionate to others.

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Written by: CJ, supporter & partner of OJ, as well as the co-founder of the blog thirdwheelED, providing a queer perspective on eating disorder recovery (check it out at thirdwheelED.com).  

#imnotsorry for asking for support even when my partner (OJ) struggles in recovery. Throughout OJ’s recovery, it has been difficult for me to ask her for added emotional support because I know she is working so hard. It took me a while, though, to understand that by asking her for support, I’m actually helping her in her own recovery. By us resuming our relationship again it gives her eating disorder less space to take over, less control and provided my partner with an ability to look more into the future at what lays beyond her eating disorder.

When OJ was sick she wasn’t able to handle her own needs let alone mine. I took on the role of trying to figure out what the best treatment for OJ would be. We’ve been together for 5 years and not being able to make these important decisions together was difficult. Overtime as OJ finally received the treatment she needed and got healthier, I had to learn to trust that she would be okay if I asked for her support.

While learning to trust her ability to withstand difficult emotions, I was also learning more about myself. And as they say, there’s always good that comes with the bad. While I want nothing more than to get her eating disorder out of our lives, her process of recovery has in turn led to my own process of recovery as a caregiver. I’ve become more aware of my own emotional intelligence and mental health, typical things we tend to ignore in our society. I realized that I’m actually not all that great at telling OJ about my own feelings. I tend to pretend that everything is okay even though I pretty much wear my emotions on my sleeve, and she’s really good at calling me out on that. I realized that if I expect her to tell me how she’s feeling in order to get her eating disorder out of the shadows, I need to do the same.

As caregivers we don’t receive the same type of treatment that our loved ones do. This results in a somewhat slower recovery process as a caregiver. There are times when I finally understand a dialectal behavior therapy (DBT) skill that OJ has known about and has been utilizing for months. There are so many moments in which I wish I could turn back the clock and change the decision I made, but I’m learning to forgive myself and know that I did all that I could in that particular moment. Learning about myself, and asking for and getting the support that I need, has helped me to better understand and connect with what OJ is going through. Perhaps most importantly, it has improved our communication and made us more connected than ever. Never be afraid to ask for help or support, because in supporting each other, we create more connections and that is what healing is all about.

 

Kelly’s #imnotsorry Story

Written by Kelly – social worker, former LUC Rambler, and fan of Unpolished Journey.

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#imnotsorry I don’t wear makeup. #imnotsorry I don’t do my hair. #imnotsorry I don’t know how to contour or operate a curling iron. #imnotsorry that the last time I wore lipstick was on my wedding day – or at least the first half of the day. #imnotsorry my running pants, track jacket, sports bra, and Nike hat compile my favorite outfit. #imnotsorry I bite my nails and don’t paint them. #imnotsorry I haven’t touched hair dye in almost a decade. #imnotsorry you see my acne breakouts. #imnotsorry you see my hair wet when I go out right after showering. #imnotsorry you see my skin fade from tan to pale as winter comes. #imnotsorry you see me as I am.

I remember in middle school when I got my first stick of eyeliner. I also remember painting my eyes with it for the next 6 years. I remember spending over an hour getting ready for school in the morning and struggling to leave the house if my hair, make up, and outfit weren’t “just right.” I remember this wasn’t just a “typical” middle and high schooler thing. I remember this worry of how others viewed me creeping into all parts of my life and following me around well into adulthood and even today.

I’ll admit I still wear a little eyeliner and mascara during the week to brighten up tired eyes. Often, however, these eyes are tired from watching Hulu with my husband well past bedtime because there is always time for “just one more.” For me, spending quality time with my husband – sharing laughs, cuddles, and conversation – is more important than contouring my face in the morning for work. Running a comb through my hair after getting out of the shower is the extent of my styling abilities. I’ve made this choice because an extra half hour of sleep to charge my day of working with patients is more important than standing in my bathroom with a blow dryer. I haven’t stopped my nail-biting habit because how else do you react when the Blackhawks’ post-season arrives? My affinity for dressing for comfort over style derives from the pleasure I get in moving about my day freely and not being thrown off by the inconveniences of poking bra wires or tucked in shirts.

You see, my appearance isn’t laziness or a lack of femininity.  My appearance is intentional, comfortable, and practical. My appearance is my uniform for a life of living. Don’t get me wrong, though. I am not some superhero of self-confidence. I am often insecure and worry what others think of me. These insecurities and worries have and do contribute to hurtful self-image thoughts and actions. But much like my outsides, I strive to have my insides be just as intentional and authentic. This has required decision-making beyond the vanity mirror. I have made changes with work, hobbies, friends, family, and – most importantly – myself. Much like the curling iron, I have let go of those people, things, and thoughts that aren’t life-giving.

For me, life begets beauty – on both the outside and the inside. And for that, #imnotsorry.

 

Kate’s #imnotsorry Story

Kate is a advocate and recovery warrior on her personal blog, katespeer.com, and Instagram, @positively.kate. This post was originally posted on her blog and readers should take the time to check out her site. 

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#imnotsorry that…

For most people, today is just a Saturday. For me and many others who you don’t even know are going through this, it is National Survivors of Suicide Day.

Today is a day where my survivors guilt is usually so painful that I block out the world and get lost in mindless TV and binge eating. Everyday, I miss my friends terribly and yet today, I miss them even more. I have lost 9 spectacular humans to suicide and many more acquaintances that I made during my 21 psychiatric hospitalizations. They were my people. They are my people. They will always be my people. They just didn’t have the support I did and so today, I mourn them and I celebrate them and today, I am writing this to you.

Five years ago, I committed suicide. I was home alone in my childhood bedroom and the slices on my arms were not alleviating the extreme desperation I felt to escape my reality. The hallucinations, mood lability, isolation, confusion and physical toil were just too much for me to take any longer. I wanted out and I wanted out for good. I had wanted out for many years but for some reason, on that day, something inside me broke. I could not fight any longer. I just hurt too much.

In that moment, I turned to my pill box and swallowed as much as I could get my hands on. I swallowed anti-psychotics, lithium, ambien and clonapin. As the calm drifted over my entire being, I re-read my note. It was short and beautiful and perfect. I began to cry, to sob tears of relief. It was over. I was done. I didn’t have to fight anymore. I didn’t have to hide anymore. I didn’t have to pretend anymore. I didn’t have to hate myself anymore. I could just be gone and be free and be at peace, for once.

The drugs wooed me into a state of la-la land. And yet, in the peace, I found the first bit of hope I had discovered in years. I was breathing. I was alive and I was at peace. Peace in life was possible. My brain flicked on.

I stumbled up, drunkenly clutched the walls for support before falling to my knees. I crawled my way to my childhood bathroom while stuttering, ’Peace is possible. Peace is possible.’ I somehow got into the shower and turned on the cold water. I looked down to see blood everywhere, as the cuts on my arms turned the bathtub into a hue of blood red.

Pulsing with toxins, I began to purge in desperation. I repeated my words,
‘Peace is possible. Peace is possible.’ I had never been more grateful to be skilled at bulimic tendencies than at that moment for I knew how to purge my entire stomach. I purged and I drank water and I purged more. And I repeated the words, ‘Peace is possible. Peace is possible.’

After hours or purging, I very dangerously drove sedated to the Emergency Department. I walked in, hair wet, fog in my eyes and said the most powerful words we, as humans, possess.

‘I need help.’

I have never told anyone this story. My memory hid it from me until just last week. I think it knew I wasn’t ready to process it until recently. And yet, now, today, I need you all to know this story. I need you to hear it. I need you to remember it. I need you to see my face, my humanity and realize that anyone is possible of getting to this point. I need you to remember how important it is to love loudly and accept fully. In this time of divisive labels and hate speech, remember the humanity behind each face, the humanity deep within our cores that binds us not the characteristics that separate us.

May today, we all love each other loudly, not in spite of our differences or because of our differences. May we love each other loudly just as we are. And may we share that peace is possible – that with love and help and work, we can find it together.

Lizzy’s #imnotsorry Story

Written by: Lizzy who is a nurse, friend, and fellow recovery warrior alongside those here at Unpolished Journey.

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Hello World!

#imnotsorry for being me!

#imnotsorry for being different. I may not be your typical 25 year old according to my neighborhood and people my age and what they are doing with themselves. No, I am not employed full time at the moment, no I am not in a relationship, and no I am not married expecting my first child. And no, I am not out there every day destroying my body training for marathons anymore and I am not going to ashamed that instead I am taking care of my body. For awhile I was very ashamed of myself that I hadn’t met societal standards and I met “the ideal plan” I had for myself, of which were just societal standards imposed on me and me putting it up even one more notch to make things harder on myself.

I may not have those things going for myself, but not every 25 year old can say they went away to treatment for 6 months and had to put there life on pause and then had to come back and learn to relive in the world. Not every 25 year can say they went back to school to earn another bachelors degree in accelerated program all while continuing to see a therapist, dietitian, and psychiatrist. So, I’m done feeling sorry for myself for not meeting societal standards. I’m done being ashamed of my past, my past has shaped me into who I am today, it is has propelled me into a new career. It is allowing me to use my voice and grow in my spiritual journey, a spiritual path I did not have before and one that I love being on! #imnotsorry for my past! #imnotsorry for being a unique individual just learning to get by!

#imnotsorry for saying no and I am done explaining myself, from here on out in my life no means no. My voice matters, and just because I am a female doesn’t make me any less of a person, it doesn’t mean I can be walked over or that my voice can be dismissed. #imnotsorry for being who I am. Every part of me matters; it shapes me into who I am! Just because I am not a competing marathon runner anymore does not make me less of a person, just because I need more help in my day to day life than the next person does not mean I am weak and need to apologize for it! No, it means I am just trying my best and putting up a fight. #imnotsorry that I am not living the perfect recovery, I mess up, but I don’t give up. I get honest with my team and I try again to get back on track no matter how long it takes. I am working to become a new Lizzy, not one shaped by running and not one shaped by her eating disorder. #imnotosorry that I am feeding myself six times a days and saying no to things that make me uncomfortable!

I am learning to take care of myself and learning to accept myself for who I am, and society is not ok with that, then that is their issue not mine and I won’t apologize!

Brandilyn’s #imnotsorry Story

Brandilyn is not only a friend of those at Unpolished Journey, but she is also a transformational coach, speaker, writer, and retreat host.  Check her out at BrandilynTebo.com!

Disclaimer: This post is political in nature and its contents may be upsetting for some individuals. Never the less, here at Unpolished we believe it is important to make our authentic voices heard.

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Cried all the way on my drive into work today and #imnotsorry As a survivor of sexual assault, I feel extremely triggered by the fact that we have elected a predator to lead our country–someone whom I would not feel safe alone with. Someone whom I know sees me as an object for his control and pleasure.

As a survivor of an eating disorder, I feel triggered by the fact that we have chosen a leader who thinks that my body needs to look a certain way in order for me to be valuable.

As a white woman, I feel embarrassed that 53% of us who voted have internalized our oppression so much as to excuse such behavior.

As a friend and confidant to dozens of women who still struggle to heal from the trauma of abortions, I feel dismayed by the fact that he thinks you deserve to be punished. As a mentor of young people who are bullied, I feel crushed by the fact that you are now getting the message that bullies win.

As a close friend to Muslims, LGBTQ people, people of color and Mexicans, I feel so sorry that you are getting the message that you are unsafe and unwanted. You are wanted. You are loved. You are valued. You are allowed to be who you are.

As an American, I feel ashamed, disappointed and angry. But I think what’s underneath that anger is a deep sadness that much of our country still believes that some lives are more valuable than others. Sadness that we elected a president because he “tells it like it is,” meaning someone who is unafraid to put the racists, imperialist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, white supremacist world view of this country on loud speaker.

And yet, underneath all of it, from deep, deep down,–I feel grateful, confident and hopeful. Grateful that I was able to vote for a woman for president yesterday. Grateful that the glass ceiling may not be broken but that it is cracking. Confident that this is the wake up call that we need to catalyze lasting change. And hopeful that the fact that we elected Donald Trump for president simply means that old, violent, dominant ideologies sense that their demise is coming and therefore need to fight THIS hard in response. Hopeful that what we are seeing is the oppressive identity of America crying out in pain because of the holes that we have poked in it. Hopeful that a large dose of such blatant displays of discrimination will pull us out of denial and into committed action. And hopeful that this will be the mirror that our country needs in order to look itself in the face. The system is designed to pit us against each other.

Don’t let it.

Don’t let the anger and frustration and bitterness steal your ability to be compassionate and understanding to all, no matter whom they supported.Let the depth of our sadness help us grow roots so that we can grow taller and stronger. Let this cause us as a country to confront our shadow. Let this be an awakening. I know it is for me.

Love “Trumps” all.

Brandy’s #imnotsorry Story

Brandy Oswald is a Body Positive Activist, Writer, and Entrepreneur. She is the Founder of Body Love Tribe, an organization that empowers women to create more loving relationships to their bodies through letting go, feeling good, and having fun. Her written work has been featured on Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, Bad Yogi, and more. She has previously partnered with the National Eating Disorder Awareness Associate, Wanderlust Stratton, Health Warrior, and Burlington Yoga Conference.

To learn more about Brandy Oswald and her Body Love Tribe, visit: www.bodylovetribe.com .

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Dear Society,

#imnotsorry.

I’m not sorry for rocking that bikini on vacation in Mexico; my cellulite on full display. I’m not sorry that my belly rolls up when I sit down and my arms jiggle when I greet my friends with a vigorous wave. I’m also not sorry for my cancer scars and stretch marks. And, I don’t care what you say, I’m not at all sorry for my period.

I’m not sorry, nor will I ever be, for showing up to life in this beautifully, badass female body.

I am no longer afraid or ashamed of talking about the eating disorders, the anxiety attacks, the cancer, or my period. They are a part of my story.

You convinced me I was too fat, so I stopped eating. You and I, we weren’t satisfied. We convinced me that obsessing over all of the things that were out of my control would allow me to have more control over them. We were wrong. You convinced me that my cancer wasn’t bad enough to be considered real cancer. Damn, you are awful. You convinced me that my female body was something to be ashamed of. That hurt worst of all.

Look, here’s the deal – I refuse to ever again starve my body to make you like me. I refuse to hide my cancer scars because they make you uncomfortable. And, seriously, I refuse to be ashamed of my period because you think it’s icky – which, by the way, it is not.

I cannot be who you want me to be. I tried that. It didn’t work. In fact, it nearly killed me. Your path was riddled with eating disorders, panic attacks, cancer, guilt, and shame. So much shame.

I have chosen a new path. This time I hold the road map and call all of the shots. This is a path of love, compassion, and joy. Get on board, or get lost.

I am so totally, completely not sorry.

Loudly, Proudly, Lovely,

Brandy

 

Molly’s #imnotsorry Story

 

Written by: Molly who is a mental health advocate, traveler, and blogger (http://fullofpep.tumblr.com/mymentalhealth).  Unpolished Journey is blessed to have connected with her and have her contribute to our #imnotsorry campaign.

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I’m not sorry to break it to you, but running away from your eating disorder won’t work.
I’m in India in this photo, in case you can’t already tell. I’m 16 years old. Your eating disorder isn’t going to leave you, wherever you decide to go in this world. I understand, not eating when you have a mental illness like this doesn’t mean you don’t want to eat, it means you don’t want the anxiety-provoking thoughts in your mind to re-appear.

I know how terrifying they are, especially when no one else can hear how awfully the illness speaks to you. Not eating makes sense because it’s the not eating that kills those thoughts, I get it. But soon enough, not eating will kill you. There’s no two ways about it.
I’m not sorry for spilling the truth to you, exactly how it is, because if you suffer from an eating disorder you can either die trying to get better and succeed in recovery, or you die.

Stop kidding yourself.
3 years later and I’ve recently come back from another trip to Mongolia. A trip I took by myself. A trip that wouldn’t have happened had I still been ill.
This time, I didn’t have an eating disorder to manipulate the people around me and ruin my time.

This time, I reaped the benefits of recovery, because if I had allowed the eating disorder to take more away from my life, then I wouldn’t have experienced a life at all.
You deserve more than your eating disorder is allowing you to believe you do. So #Imnotsorry
Because this is the truth.
Kill your eating disorder, and in return, go get the life you deserve.

Emily’s #imnotsorry Story

Emily is currently studying to get her masters in Anthropology at the University of Denver. She is learning to live out the mission behind Unpolished while leaning on faith to bring her strength.

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#imnotsorry.

Change brings about the biggest of fears. Stepping into a new situation, whatever that is, always leaves us with questions of worth.

I recently left a supportive friend group + family in Chicago and moved to Denver for graduate school. My expectations of “rad” adventures and lots of activity met with the reality of loneliness.  Loneliness beyond just, I am hope watching “Stranger Things” on a Friday. Because, truly, I love being alone. My days in Chicago were filled with me walking from Avondale to Lincoln Park just observing. Nah, this is the kind of loneliness where you text friends and beg them to come so you can feel what a hug is like again. This loneliness regurgitated lies I’d believed for many years. Lies that good community and a growing faith had finally helped me to bury.

The question of being good enough has begun to haunt me again. As always, it manifests itself as a different Demogorgon (sticking with the Stranger Things theme) depending on the season of life I’m in.  This time the yucky questions include: Am I good enough for this Masters program, and by default, the PhD I want? Am I good enough to step into leadership at a new church? Am I good enough to hike that mountain, to run that trail, and climb that rock? Am I good (read: beautiful) enough to be loved in the way I desire?

You see, when I left Chicago I was loved more deeply than I knew I could be by none-family, and I was the most physically strong I’d ever been. I had gone a full four years without relapse into my eating disorder and I was rock climbing, and running, and dancing daily. And I was full of joy.

In Denver, my body proved weaker than expected (thanks lack o’ oxygen) and making friends harder than I remembered. So I started falling into old traps and old fears of being worth it.

But one day this week while I was doing my daily run/walk it hit me:

WHO THE HECK DEFINES GOOD ENOUGH???

Answer: My Abba, my Yahweh. He declares that his creation is GOOD. Period. I am repeating that to myself over and over and over and over. And #imnotsorry for being the ever growing and learning daughter I am.

With that in mind, I am making a promise to myself:

Instead of being sorry for not feeling enough and rather than feeling bitter that I am in a tough place for this season I choose to

Say thank you to Abba that though transitions are hard, he has divine timing.

Say thank you to Abba that the thoughts that bring me down are no more than  twisted lies.

Say thank you to Abba for each hike I complete, each pull-up I do, each climb I send, each mile I run, each  good meal I cook, or a relationship in this city I have.

Say thank you to Abba that I can reach out to Chicago friends for both laughter and the tough questions; continuing to learn and grow.

Say thank you to Abba for the BLESSING it is to live near the Rockies and to feel grounded in the majesty of one of God’s finest sculptures.

I have no doubt that I’ll be repeating these promises to myself day after day after day. Each day is a new day. Not simply because that’s a nice metaphor. Not even because the sun rises each day. But because each day we are truly wiped clean and allowed to be free in who we are.

So, I refuse to be sorry for not being perfect, because I am being molded each and every day by my Creator.

Morgan’s #imnotsorry Story

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

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I have thought long and hard about what my #imnotsorry post was going to be about.  I have watched others involved in Unpolished step out of their comfort zones and post their stories.  Here I was, the founder of the organization who started this campaign, the one who is helping to orchestrate and promote it, and still I have yet to participate.  Among other members of the Unpolished team it has become a running joke. “Go ahead and participate in your own god damn campaign already, Morgan.” Truth is I have wanted to participate this whole time and I knew I would eventually.  I just didn’t know what I wanted to publicly apologize for.

Originally I had written up an #imnotsorry post for being quiet.  That was the first thing that came to mind when thinking of what society tells me to change. It would have been a powerful post. It would have felt true, authentic, and real to my recovery experience, but sharing that doesn’t feel hard. Many people who know me know I am quiet. It took a long time, but I have come to accept this about myself. Though, I still struggle daily with thoughts of wishing to be more outgoing or extroverted, I don’t feel disabled by this insecurity. Therefore, I held off and didn’t post that #imnotsorry story.

Now, the past couple of weeks I have found myself in a slump. I have found recovery to be increasingly more difficult to justify. I have found my mind getting louder with unpleasant and self-deprecating thoughts. For the past couple of weeks, I have been fighting my eating disorder more intensely than I have in over a year. This struggle feels hard to admit. It feels real, authentic, true, and scary. But, that is how I know that this is what I am suppose to share as my #imnotsorry story. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the conquering of it– a continual theme for my recovery journey. I know that whatever scares me, but has the potential of reaping positive results is what needs to be done.

So here it is: #imnotsorry for struggling.

Yes, I am the founder of an organization that preaches recovery and a healthy relationship with your mind, body, and spirit. Yes, I am the one who posts inspirational quotes and stories every day on Instagram. Yes, I am the one creating a team at the NEDA walk and sharing the significant message behind the Embrace documentary. Yes, I believe every woman needs to love and accept themselves for the way they naturally are. And despite all of this outpouring of inspiration that I give, I also have an eating disorder. I am not separate from the recovery journey that I write and speak about. I am in it. I am it. The journey is my everyday battle. Morning, afternoon, and night. The struggle is there. The thoughts are deprecating. There are good days and bad and just because I preach a mindset of wholeness and acceptance that doesn’t mean that I am successful in living this out all the time.

I struggle too. I struggle just like all of the readers and followers of Unpolished Journey. I have an eating disorder and my recovery never has been or will be perfect. Sometimes my eating disorder makes it hard to get up in the morning, hard to choose what to have for breakfast, hard to go to sleep with a full belly, hard to make sense of my worth in the world. Sometimes my eating disorder still wins.  Sometimes I find myself feeling completely defeated at the end of the day. Other times the opposite is true and I fall into bed at night with a spirit full of strength and hope. But that’s recovery. Recovery is not a straight line, nor is it a narrow path.  Recovery takes many twists and turns. You run into countless obstacles along the way. Recovery is sticky, messy, gross, and wonderful all at once. But, above all recovery is not perfect.

I feel as though it would be a disservice to myself as well as anyone who finds inspiration behind Unpolished Journey’s mission not to speak about both the great and the hard times in recovery. The good/bad battle with food. The push/pull relationship with exercise. The body hatred/acceptance arguments in my head. I am not perfect. My recovery is certainly not perfect, but I am not going to apologize for my constant struggle. Because Unpolished Journey is not about this illusion that recovery is always a wonderful thing that I am happily choosing every day. No, here I will be straight up and real. Recovery is messy messy messy and it is probably the hardest thing I will ever do.

Kelly’s #imnotsorry Story

Kelly is a good friend of those at Unpolished Journey. In addition to this, she is also a mental health warrior.  In honor of Mental Health Awareness Week, Unpolished Journey wanted to share her story.  This post may be triggering for some readers, but I believe it is essential that we begin to share our stories: our true, authentic, and messy stories.  So be weary of content. Remember that mental illness is real and begins to be understood only when we are willing to hear each others stories.

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#imnotsorry for crying. I’m not sorry if I make you uncomfortable with my tears. I will not apologize to the people who think that I’m too sensitive or too emotional. When I was little, around the age of five or six, I remember whenever I would start to cry, people would tell me things like “Stop crying” or “There’s nothing to cry about.” This led to a future of constantly invalidating my own emotions because others often had before. This led to undiagnosed depression in high school that escalated during my first year of college. I grew up in an upper class neighborhood, I got good grades, and I was athletic.  I had good friends and an even better family. I thought I had no reason to feel the way I was feeling. There was no reason for me to want to kill myself, but mental illnesses don’t work that way. They do not discriminate. You can have a seemingly “perfect” life on the outside, but still feel completely broken on the inside. During my first year of college I cried alone, I cried to my roommate, and I cried over the phone to my parents.

I remember one night telling my mom over the phone that I just wanted to hurt myself. I wanted to feel anything except the emotions that were overwhelming me. I went to the counseling office at school and they referred me to an outside therapist because they felt that my problems were too overwhelming for them to handle. Still, I was not convinced that they were valid. I resisted following up with any of their referrals because I thought I could make it to the end of the semester. Then I would be home and things would be better. A couple weeks later, I realized if I wanted to finish my first year of school, I would need to address the issue at hand. So I began seeing a therapist in Boston. My mom flew out for a weekend and offered to stay until the end of the semester, but I didn’t want to be an inconvenience even though she said it wouldn’t be. Note to reader: Your feelings, your emotions, your tears, your illnesses—none of these are “inconveniences” to anyone that truly cares about you.

Fast forward about a year. I finished my first year of college by the skin of my teeth. I did not return to that school mostly because it was too far away from home. I was hospitalized a couple of times because of my suicidal ideation and I started to self-harm for a brief period of time. I was taking time off of school to figure things out. It was February 27th, 2013. I was feeling suicidal. Again. It was bad this time. I can’t explain it, but there are times when I just know I am in more danger to myself than others. It wasn’t a fleeting thought. I went to see my psychiatrist later that night. He wanted to keep me out of the hospital even though my thoughts were strong. He talked to my mom and she agreed to keep an eye on me, even though I am almost positive I told him “If I go home, I will try to kill myself.” My mom said, he didn’t tell her I said that.

#imnotsorry for crying because if there is anything worse than feeling overwhelmingly depressed to the point of tears, it is feeling nothing at all. When I attempted, I felt like I was a zombie or like I was sleepwalking. I went through the motions. I calmly told my mom I was going to take a shower and I took my pills to the bathroom. Shortly after, my mom called up to me asking if I had my pills. I had already taken them all. She knocked on the locked bathroom door. She asked what I did, and I began to cry. I woke up.

Things did not magically get better for me, but they have gotten better. Although I wish I could tell you that I have never had the thought “I want to kill myself” since my suicide attempt in 2013, or that I have not been hospitalized since then, I can tell you something that I am very proud of.  I have worked and talked and screamed and laughed and cried myself into the healthier person that is writing this post. I’ve learned how to express how I’m feeling, I’ve learned to validate myself, and in general I’ve learned to take better care of myself. I’m no longer afraid to feel. Rather I feel lucky to be someone that is able to feel the entire spectrum of emotions—even if it gets overwhelming at times.