STRONG

No joke, on Monday morning, before Robin Williams suicide was announced, I was watering the plants on my patio and thinking about the movie Good Will Hunting #Seriously. I was remembering this line in the movie when Robin Williams character, Sean, tells the character Will about his wife, 

“Those are the things I miss the most Will- the little idiosyncrasies that only I knew about, that’s what made her my wife. She had the goods on me too, she knew all of my little peccadillo’s. People call these things imperfections- they’re not, they’re the good stuff… Your’e not perfect sport and let me save you the suspense, this girl you met, she’s not perfect either. “ 

True that, right?

Oddly enough, suicidal thoughts are the Mac Daddy “idiosyncrasies”, “peccadillos” and “imperfections” that we do not share with anyone. Our culture doesn’t make it easy either when our co-worker makes a joke about needing therapy and when pop-stars poke fun about bipolar disorder. Personally, when I hear someone laugh about mental health, it just sounds like projection. Remember, one in four Americans struggle with depression #JustSayin #ISeeYou.

In my own struggle with depression and an eating disorder, I have learned to share my story and to "get comfortable making people uncomfortable.” Despite the fear of being exposed, I know the end goal of someones life being saved far exceeds my discomfort for a few moments. I try to candidly share my own battles in order to remove the tabooness of it. In the beginning it wasn’t easy, and since I do it on such a public level in the Rewrite Beautiful school programs, it’s really hard to turn off the dialogue. Yet, I keep sharing. Why? Because I know that unless more people start sharing their struggles and stories of survival the people in the thick of that depression are not going to know that there TRULY IS a light at the end of that very dark tunnel. 

The tragedy of suicidal thoughts is that the thought that runs rampant over and over in the person says, “This pain…this struggle…it’s ALWAYS going to be this way. NOTHING can change this.” … And when you’re in it, you believe it. I know this to be true because I’ve experienced it. 

While I went through that very dark time I held on to the stories of those who made it through - I held on for dear LIFE. This is why I tell my story, so that the Adam Lanza’s, the boy who took a gun through the streets of Santa Barbra, the young woman in my young professionals networking circle and the Robin Williams among us stop taking their lives and the lives of others. So that they have some hope to hold on to. 

They say, “No amount of darkness can diminish the smallest amount of light.” The story of how another person got through the pain of depression is the light at the end of that dark tunnel for a person struggling. If you have thrown punches with depression, an eating disorder or any other mental battle, please speak up for Robin and all the other people trapped in pain - PLEASE SHARE YOUR STORY. Don’t shy away from that dark chapter. Someone else needs to know that their own dark chapter isn’t the end of the book. You wouldn't be ashamed of surviving cancer. Equally don't be ashamed of surviving a mental illness. I think we can all agree that they are both equal to rockstar status. 

When you feel the whisper to share, BE STRONG - bring it up in conversations, tell your friends what it was like and the resources you used to get through it. You have no idea who might be struggling. For me, It seems that the moment to share arises more often than not. The last three times I shared was on the beach, at a dinner party and in a yoga studio- that was just in the past two weeks. And you know what, none of the people I told asked to switch their seats. In fact, you’d be shocked how many people scooted closer to me and said, 

"Me too." 

"For real?! I like you even more now!”

“Really? Girlfriend, you’re a survivor! Can I hug you?!”

#KeepItReal #SaveLives

Ya know what else? Sharing our stories WORKS. There are people who I have spoken to through Rewrite Beautiful school programs who recognized that their struggle was lethal and then sought help because of it. When I met these people they were depressed, sick and dying. They are now thriving and pursuing their dreams. Your story too can save a life. 

If you loved Robin Williams art, if you're saddened by the loss of him, if depression, mental illness or eating disorders are apart of your own story, use that story to turn a light on at the end of the tunnel for someone. Those idiosyncrasies, those peccadillos, your imperfections those are the things that make you relatable, bring you deeper connection and prove that you're a strong human being. PLEASE SPEAK UP FOR ROBIN. When you do, you will turn on a LIGHT for countless other people. 

You’re Beautiful, 

Irvina

Irvina Kanarek is the Founder and Rewriter-In-Chief of Rewrite Beautiful, a non-profit organization that creatively changes how girls see beauty in themselves, for eating disorder prevention through education. Irvina is also the author of How To: Rewrite Beautiful- You Can Be A Hot Mess Today And A World Changer Tomorrow. She is a writer on mental health and addiction for CRC Health Care where she previously worked as a support staff counselor in a women’s rehab. You can find Irvina making up hashtag's on Instagram @IrvinaKanarek

 
Posted: Aug 12, 2014
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Over the past year my inbox on Facebook, Twitter and Email has piled up with questions from girls all over the world (World meaning, United Kingdom , Australia and Brazil wink ) Half of them want to start their own business, non-profit, magazine, writing career and want some advice from none other than Cest Moi! I’m flattered. But, often times I have found myself answering the same questions over and over again, so cue Lightbulb Moment!enlightened I decided to start a blog series called, Beautiful Courage about what it takes to have a beautiful vision and execute it. Debuting in the next couple weeks (here or procrastination there. )

The other half of girls who reach out to me are struggling. They are battling an eating disorder, depression, low self-esteem and sometimes are suicidal – never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have the suicide hotline on speed dial next to my best friends. These girls are at their wits end going to therapists, counselors, acupuncturists and God, yet they’re still in pain. They don’t know what to do, so they reach out to me, the crazy Street Artist lady – Might as well give it a shot right? This weekend, I received one message through Facebook that I have seen many times before; a girl who didn’t feel beautiful and was in severe pain. With her permission she has allowed me to share our convo with you, in the hopes that maybe you can benefit from it and understand why Beauty Does Not Always Feel Beautiful. Our Facebook messages to each other are below:

Hi sweet Irvina,

This might sound weird but I need to share my truth with someone. And you were the only person that comes to my mind. I’m extremely sad and have a really low self-esteem. I feel ugly and not good enough for my boyfriend. I love him and no one’s perfect but he has said a lot of things to put me down. I feel terrible. I’m focusing so hard on trying to make myself feel beautiful that I think I’ve forgotten what it means to be and feel beautiful. Help! I f eel sad and want to be happy again. I guess this is my way of reaching out!  I don’t feel good enough period.

Love,

Anonymous

 

Hello Beautiful Girl,

Let me start with first off saying thank you so much for reaching out to me.  I know it takes a whole lot of courage to speak up when we’re not feeling so hot. It inspires me when I see girls like you being brave enough to seek a healthy way out of pain- so many girls don’t. Sadly, over the past couple years I have received several messages like yours. A lot of girls are struggling in the same way-You’re not alone in your thinking, but the problem IS in your thinking.

The more I reflected on how I would reply to you, I kept thinking about this marriage series by Tim Keller that I’ve been listening to (nope, not even close to marriage, homegirl  just has issues ;) ) The thing that made me think of you is when he said,

“We marry people because we like the FEELING of being in love. We like how they make us FEEL. But, the funny things is nowhere in the marriage vows does it talk about even being in love with the other person. The marriage vows are all about promises that say,

I PROMISE to be faithful,

I PROMISE to be there when you’re healthy and sick,

I PROMISE to be there in the good and bad times,

I PROMISE to be there in your joy and your sorrow

I PROMISE to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals, to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you, and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.

These marriage vows are promising to do these acts of love even when the person DOESN’T feel loving.“

This reminds me so much of beauty because a lot of the time I don’t feel beautiful either. I’m lucky because, I actually don’t need to FEEL beautiful because I KNOW I am beautiful. Feeling and knowing are two different things. I disregard how I feel about beauty, because I get the benefit of falling back on the FACT that I KNOW I’m beautiful. How do I know?

Here’s the thing, I know I didn’t get to choose how I got on this planet. I didn’t get to choose who my parents are, the country I live in, the color of my eyes or the size of my shoes. Just like the colors in a piece of art, the circumstances and the body parts I was born into are completely out of my control and in the hands of some crazy painter. I stand under the belief that the chances that I have an eating disorder, divorced parents, a loud voice, a flare for writing and was born a brunette with green eyes, in Orange County, California are all paint strokes on a canvas that go together for a reason. I didn’t get to choose which paint strokes put me together, but I’m here and I have faith that all the parts that put me together ARE BEAUTIFUL, therefore I AM BEAUTIFUL. I understand that the dark parts of my life are just as significant as the bright parts. I appreciate that all of me is a work of art and I wouldn’t change any of it. When you can embrace your weaknesses and your strengths you can see your beauty and eventually KNOW it.

You don’t feel beautiful, because feelings are so fickle ( I love that word! Rhymes with pickle!) feelings don’t last. Just like how a marriage won’t last if two people base their relationship on how they feel. You can’t base your beauty on how you feel or you’ll be at the mercy of the weather.

Something I have found to be very effective in helping me to KNOW my beauty has been through my actions. Rewrite Beautiful says beauty is an action of creativity, kindness and strength. I’ll tell you when I am creative; I write, I get to know my beauty. When I am kind; help one of the girls I mentor, I get to know my beauty. When I am strong; tell people when they have hurt my feelings; I get to know my beauty. You said that you have really low self-esteem right now. I used to have low self-esteem too. A really wise and amazing women named Jenny J. once told me, “If you want self-esteem you have to do estimable things.” I can promise you that if you do estimable things like acting out one creative, kind and strong thing a day your self-esteem will rise. I guarantee it.

One STRONG thing you could start with is by sticking up for yourself and  telling your boyfriend that he has hurt your feelings. I’m guessing you haven’t told him that he’s hurting your feelings because most guys I know would stop if they knew they were hurting me. Sometimes we’re too scared to tell them though. You might try saying, “When you say X,Y,Z. I feel hurt and sad.” See how he responds. In my experience, most guys want to be good to their girlfriend, help her, protect her, but if we don’t show them how to help and protect us they’re left in the dark.”

I think you would benefit from our next Street Art Workshop on Sunday, May 6th from Noon to 2pm. It’s free and has lunch provided. We’ll be helping people find their own creativity, kindness and strength and then giving them the opportunity to share that message with others. You can sign-up HERE: http://www.rewritebeautiful.org/get-involved

In the meantime, remember the marriage vows. Even though two people don’t feel in love, they know they have to act in love. It doesn’t matter if you feel beautiful, remember what you know makes you beautiful. I challenge you to find your creativity, kindness and strength this week, those are the things that make you beautiful. Let me know how it goes. BTW: I’m thinking of sharing this email with you on the Rewrite Beautiful blog ( I would keep your name anonymous of course.) Your pain and willingness to be vulnerable right now could actually help a lot of girls going through the same thing. 

You’re BEautiful,

Irvina

What do you think?

Do you understand why beauty can’t be a FEELING? What do you KNOW makes you beautiful?

Join the conversation below.

Posted: Apr 23, 2012
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I most recently turned 29 years old and I wasn’t the least bit freaked out until my little sisters asked me on the  eve of my 29th year on earth “are you freaked out about turning 29?” Oh little sisters, their ability to innocently challenge, annoy and remind us of our mortality has oppressed the Princess ego of older sisters everywhere.  Alas, I was instantly dethroned of the simple pleasures of a stress free 29th birthday.

Before I dive into the dramatic thoughts that went along with the change in moons on my 29th birthday  I think we need to establish a few things. For one, I’m going to take the liberty to assume that if you are the Rewrite Beautiful blog reading type you are fully aware of the rumored plague that is called: female aging. From what I gather aging is accompanied by a few fears:

1.)    Everyone is looking– The fear that everyone is looking at you and saying, “Oh, she’s that nice, pretty woman who was brilliant, but she never really accomplished anything significant.”

2.)    Clothing – The fear that at any minute the 21 year old fairies from Forever 21will come knocking at your door and repossess all of your clothing. In exchange you will be left with nice wool cardigans, penny loafers and mom jeans.

3.)    Sex – The fear that the opposite sex does not find you suitably attractive enough to have sex with. Leaving you horny and alone to fend for yourself pulling out your own gray hairs on Saturday nights.

4.)    Babies – That your reproductive organs will start to curdle like spoiled milk and you will not be able to bake a nice healthy baby that resembles you and your non-existent lover in your womb.

I have heard all of these fears from women and some of them I have thought up all by myself (I’m such a big girl!) The funny thing about all of these fears though is whether you are 25 years old, 29 years old or 63 years old, every single one of us at one time or another will come across these fears. I think it’s up to us on how we react with to them. It may sound clique, but I think fears are kind of like the rain. We see rain outside and we have a couple of choices, we can either walk out of the house in our pajamas and get drenched or we can put a jacket on and grab an umbrella and stay dry. Like the rain, fears are inevitable, but we have the ability to shelter ourselves from their downpour. Let me paint you a picture….

So I’m having my 29 year old freak out. It’s a combination of sweating and feeling like I’m gonna cry, faint, throw up all at the same time. All the fears about everyone looking, the Forever 21 fairies, the desert void of sex and the babies I will never hold is running like a hamster wheel in my head.  I remember a question a friend asked me a few weeks back, “What is your greatest fear.” I answered, “Not having my own family.” I realize prior to crying that I am 29 years old, coming to the end of prime child bearing years and without a primate to knock boots with . Then I hear the voice of my pessimistic father who calls me at 4 am just to say, “You do know that if you don’t have children before the age of 30 you’re more likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer…just wanted to make sure you were aware of that.” So to add to my list of fears, I’m pretty sure I’m dying as well. In the words of Irishgobeen : FML!

In the midst of the freak out I realize something kind of interesting, my alleged biggest fear has already come true. The truth is that I don’t have a family of my own right now and as much as that pains me to feel (and type)  the fact of the matter is that my life isn’t all that bad. I have friends, family, passions and creativity that greatly inspires me. Though, my life is predominantly been void of romantic partnerships or children I have been able to enjoy the life of an unattached, free, not a care in the world,  single woman who has not had to clean up anyone else's poop on a regular basis for the past 29 years.  Sure there are things we all long for, but do we really need to drench ourselves in the rain and hyperventilate in the process? Or might it be a better choice to appreciate the place were in at the moment?  I’ve done lots of  wasting moments and I think it’s not only exhausting, but depressing. Instead I plan to take advantage of my 29th year on earth. I’m going to be writing more, working on publishing some of my work, continue working on Rewrite Beautiful projects, learning more about art therapy and possibly going to Grad School. I’m a busy gal focussing on projects that fulfill my soul and help coach the souls of others. Maybe helping yourself, others and taking an inventory of the things we have to be grateful for is the trick to getting rid of those monsters in the closet aka Forever 21 fairies? What do YOU think? 

Posted: Dec 15, 2011
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