Becoming Emily

Session at Duluth Boudoir Photography by Mad Chicken Studio #duluthboudoirphotography #madchickenstudio #madchickenstudioboudoir #duluthboudoir

2018 was one the hardest years I've mentally and emotionally experienced. At 27 years old, being a woman hit harder then it ever had before and let me tell you why.

In the past few years I have experienced some major shifts in my life which lead to drastic changes with the people closest to me. The end result left my family very broken and disconnected and I was left feeling very alone from it all. And let’s just say It FUCKED ME UP. That is the honest truth. From this, I spiraled and spiraled down deeper then I've ever gone. I became depressed and my anxiety went through the roof causing me to have a hard time functioning day to day and my stress level was at at an all time high.

I would go to work, do my job, have the best time, and then get in my car to drive home and cry all the way home more times then I can count. There was no rhyme or reason to it and that is the maddening thing when you’re suffering from anxiety and depression - you just spontaneously com-bust into tears or rage or whatever even though an hour ago you were perfectly fine and quite content. What came next was the weight I gained over those few years that drastically changed how my body looked. No clothes fit me, I was lumpy and squishy and rolling out over my jeans and my bra. I would get dressed every morning and look at myself in the mirror, grab my stomach and send myself into a panic of WHY! Why is this happening to me! I'm fat, I'm ugly, I hate myself. These were actual things I said to myself. As my weight was going up along with my stress level, I developed eczema.. and it starting popping up in patches all over my body.. then came the rosacea and honestly that put me over the edge. All I could focus on was what was happening to my body and how much I hated it. Right there is proof of what stress can do to you. It can physically change things in your body, That is some crazy shit to think about! When your head isn't in a good place it alters your body.

One of the hardest things for me was that I felt like the biggest hypocrite ever. I go to work everyday and tell woman that none of these things matter and that you are perfect in the skin you’re in meanwhile I don't even know the skin I’m in. On the inside I felt like a fraud and the only person who knew I was feeling this way was my husband. I hadn't really told Jes the severity of what I was feeling or any of my close friends. I hated my body... I hated me. My husband is an incredible person and he did everything he could to help me through this. He would listen to me and let me cry but he knew he couldn't fix anything and that was the worst part for him.. seeing me like this and knowing there was nothing he could do to help me get out of it. It was up to me and it was something only I could figure out.

One of the reasons why it was so hard to talk about it with other people was because my mentality was like… you could have it so much worse... you’re lucky to have what you have... there are people with real problems out there. Here’s the thing, that was bullshit because pain is pain and everyone has the right to feel it no matter what the circumstance. My pain is valid and no one has the right to tell me it isn't. They aren't in my body or my mind or my heart. I have learned over this year that pain is something that everyone has the right to feel and that no one can tell you your pain isn't worthy.

In July, Jes and I went to a Every-bodies workshop. We learned about different shooting techniques and the importance of nudity and going nude in a session. Our second to last day we were in Dallas staying in this beautiful hotel room that had this incredible glass shower. We had gone to dinner and had a few beers and decided that we were going to shoot each other in that shower... nude. This was the first time I would be nude in front of someone who was taking my picture and I was both excited and terrified. Here are the things I learned after that session. Being nude around someone is not that terrifying. We’re both woman and we both have bodies, big deal. And having nude portraits taken of yourself is one of the best things you can do and I whole heartily believe this. It is incredible vulnerable and healing and I honestly think everyone should see their bodies that way especially when you're feeling completely disconnected from your body. When Jes showed me the pictures she took me of, I think every emotion came over me - the good and the bad. I was actually physically shaking because as I was looking at them, I finally opened up to her about how I had been feeling about my body this past year and how mean I had been to it. I'm not going to lie, looking at those photos for the first time was HARD!! I was instantly judging how my body looked in them. My stomach was lumpier than I thought, my boobs were way bigger than I thought and then I kept looking at them and the more times I flipped through them the better I felt about them. It was the start of a very important step for me in learning to be in this new body.

Fast forward a few months and it takes us to October - the month Jes and I ventured to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to participate in Teri Hofford’s Body Image Bootcamp. I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into but at this point I was desperate for anything that would make me feel like myself again. That week was hard. It was sad, amazing, draining, fun and life changing. I was reading through my journal and it is amazing to see how I started the week versus how I ended it.

This is how I started the week. I wrote these things about myself and they are hard to look at.

I hate you

you’re ugly

you’re pathetic

no one likes you

you’re alone

you’re invisible

you’re stupid

you’re not good enough

you mess everything up

you’re crazy

you’re skin is red and ugly

you’re stomach is disgusting

Those are words I hope to never say about myself again. Because words are too powerful and they can do too much harm.

That week changed me. It gave me so much perspective on my body and everyone’s bodies. It made me realize that my body is a body and my soul is what defines me not my body or how it looks or the size it is. I am ok and I can honestly say I am more content in my body. I don’t have to love everything about it but I now know that I don’t have to spend all my energy and time constantly thinking about it and judging and worrying about how it looks. I have my moments of doubt, but I don’t let them linger. I think it, feel it, and move on. In the first time in a long time my mind has stopped the all consuming thoughts of thinking about how my body looks and I was able to reconnect with me. And I can’t even tell you how good that feels. I get emotional talking about this specifically because I lost myself. I had no idea who I was or what I was doing and if I would ever feel like me again and that is a terrifying feeling. I started reading again and listening to podcasts and creating things with my hands. I have my wonder back. I have the urge to learn and grow and create and be a better human being and that is so much more important than a number on a scale. If I am remembered for my body, then I didn’t do something right. I let my body consume all of me and that would be so heartbreaking. I have so much to do and say and I’ve realized that I’m important, I have the ability to use my voice and tell my story and help others tell theirs and that matters. I matter. Because in a world that’s constantly working against me for being female I want to create change, stir the pot, give women power to use their voice. I want to give myself power for the world we’re going to make.

This is a letter I wrote to myself at the end of that week.

Dear Emily,

Thank you for what you do for others, especially other woman who need light and love in their lives. Thank you for working on yourself and trying to get to know yourself in this new body and this new stage of life. Thank you for not giving up on all the beautiful parts that make you, you. Thank you for wanting to learn and grown and love every part of yourself even when it’s hard and you don’t feel like yourself. Thank you for being unique and loving and wonderful. And lastly thank you for being a beautiful unicorn!

So here it is the never ending journey of becoming Emily. Baring it all. Because in the words of Brene Brown “being vulnerable is our greatest measure of courage.” And I think that by being vulnerable we are truly able to breathe change into the world.

These women are forever my soul sisters and I wouldn’t be where I am today without going through this with all of them.