Insecurities. Everyone complains about them. Everyone talks about them. Everyone hurts because of them. Whether we grew up around faith or not, I’m sure we’ve all heard something along the lines of, “You’re beautiful the way you are,” or “You’re perfect the way you were made.” However, if I had to take a wild guess, I’d say that very few people actually believe those things to be true. It is almost comical how I try desperately to convince those I care for that they are gorgeous inside and out, yet I can’t accept that for myself. If I had to guess again, I’d say that many of you reading this can agree with that statement in some fashion. Recently, I reached a point of irritation and anger with this reality. My face broke out the worstit had since high school. This brought back a personal insecurity that I thought I had conquered, kicked to the dust, and buried. Boy was I wrong. Night after night, I felt awful about my appearance and was in a constant state of frustration over something I had no control over. Because I was discontent and fed up with the common encouragements, I worked to find another remedy. Here’s what I came up with.

Picture this.

The one who created you is on the other side of that mirror. He sees all of you, knows your full potential, and absolutely adores the way that you laugh (even when you snort). Then he starts to notice your sadness when you look into the mirror. You are upset with your weight. You hate the texture of your hair. You are disgusted by the quality of your skin. You wish you weren’tso pale. You wish you weren’t so dark. You begin to think, “How could anyone ever find me attractive?” This negative feeling spirals quickly and you reach the point of asking yourself, “How could anyone ever love me?” The one who created you sits on the other side of that mirror and hears you. He sees and knows you. He wants to shout back, “I can! I do!” Yet your ears are overwhelmed by the lies you have heard and told yourself. Your mind is convinced that those lies are truth. You sit hopeless in what you believe to be lonely silence.

But he hurts with you.

You are not alone in your insecurities. You are not alone in love. There is a perfect father named Jesus that thinks the world of you. Only through these truths am I able to fight through my insecurities. His love is the reason that I can look past my acne (along with whatever else) and love who I am. Are the remedies to your insecurities working, or are you too at a place of searching for something more than the common encouragement?






Invisible scars

At the beginning of June last year, I had my wrist and arm operated on. Basically, one of my arm bones was too long, making it rub on my wrist, so they shortened the bone and fixed the soft tissue in my wrist. Now, I have a large metal plate and seven screws in my arm. When I explain this to the inquirers, they’re pretty horrified. I think that many of them regret asking because, well, it’s not the nicest thing to think about. Honestly, the five inch long scar confirms their fears. When I tell them that I haven’t had any lasting pain, they don’t believe me. The scar is too big, and the story is too scary, apparently.


In comparison, I got my shoulder operated on around four years ago. There was no metal involved, and I only have two small scars. I usually have to point them out. In fact, they’re almost unnoticeable. Sure, the scars are small, but the pain was one hundred times worse than my recent operation. I wouldn’t wish shoulder surgery on my greatest enemy-seriously. This less invasive surgery was extremely painful, but you would never know by looking at the size of the scars.

A little over three years ago, my boyfriend of almost three years decided to leave me. I have no scar to show anyone. There is nothing visible about me to show the pain and depression that I went through grieving someone who was still alive and happier without me. I asked God to operate on my shoulder again rather than lose my best friend. I knew that I could endure all of the physical pain, but the pain that no one could see or understand was too great to bear on my own.

Through all of this, God has reminded me that scars tell only a portion of the story. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your scars aren’t big enough. The “someone always has it worse” line is a lie to keep you from healing. No one can look at you and accurately tell what hurt the most, what kept you up at night, what made you not want to live another day, and kept you from eating. It would take time for someone to sit down and care before they truly knew you, scars and all.

I’m so thankful that He’s continuing to heal my scars as He helps me through unexpected pain-which ultimately pushes me towards growth. Let me tell you friends, even in the worst circumstances, there is an abounding hope when you know that you serve a God who comes down into the valley with you. These years have taught me that Jesus died to heal, and in my case, healing was of the upmost importance from a scar that no one could see.





Some Encouragement

Goodness gracious. Isn't it hard to live our daily lives now that social media consumes our world? I know that over the past few years I have started to see my mind shift on a daily basis because of the temptation to compare myself to other people on the Internet. "I wish I had her body...I wish I had as much money as him...they look like they have a perfect life." These thoughts run in our heads every time we scroll through our Instagram feed. This leads to discontentment, insecurity, and essentially an unhappy life. It makes us feel uncomfortable in our skin. Something that I learned recently is that no matter how much someone has, or how perfect their life looks they are doing the exact same thing. We are human and all we do is compare. I have had to look inward in my life and look at the foundation of my life. I have had to look at what I have been given and find what I am grateful for. Gratitude will always show us that discontentment is a lie in our lives. My personal belief is in a relationship with God. I find purpose, confidence, and my identity in him. I have to look at what he has given me and how I can be content with the way I look, the gifts I have been given, and the life he has given me. That is how I become comfortable in my own skin through the daily struggle of feeling pressure from social media. I hope I can encourage you to look inwardly at your life. You have been given so much, and you are on this earth to make an impact! Don't let the temptation of comparison take over the influence you can have.

Hope this encouraged you today!

- Madison Watkins





"I was always nervous as a child but I didn't think anything of it. The nerves got progressively worse to the point where I was forcing myself to stay awake at night and checking the locks on the doors multiple times a night. I was being controlled, like a puppet, by the anxiety. The controlling pushed so much that I quickly started to get depressed. I would go home everyday from school and I just would lay in bed and watch Netflix. Time would go by and I could just lay in bed and do nothing. Then I moved into high school the transition was terrible. I was having full panic attacks multiple times a week and was coming home everyday and just would take a nap because I was exhausted from staying up in the night to lock and relock the doors. Finally I had a terrible mental break down and finally told my mom I wanted to kill myself. I started going to therapy and did months of intensive therapy and my therapist said she could see a difference and wanted to also put on medication. I am a year out from starting therapy I am still struggle some days. I want to help everyone know that mental illness is real and needs true representation. I hope everyone can hold on and truly realize you matter!"

Sarah Whitehead, Senior in High School / Photos taken by, Rachel Cole



My Journey

It’s hard to pinpoint when a mental illness starts exactly, but my earliest memory of self hatred dates back to when I was six. I was in my dance class, being measured for costumes, and hating on every inch of my body, staring at my reflection in the mirror, shame filling my interior. Nearly every day since then I’ve looked in the mirror disgusted with my body. And as I transitioned into my teenage years, that simple hatred grew and my only way to cope was to alter it. I thought if I decreased the calories I ate it would decrease my self hatred. If I ran one more mile it would rid me of the anxiety that kept me up late into the night and woke me up early the next morning. That if I took a knife one more time to my wrist, my depression would be gone. All of that, and it none of it worked. 

I grew up in a very typical suburban family, and thus grew up believing that nothing horrible enough happened to me to justify being anxious and depressed. I wasn’t worthy of suffering from mental illness. Unfortunately, my depression only exaggerated that lack of worthiness, and I hid every negative thought that ran through my head from every single person I knew.

For 4 years through high school and college  I mastered the art of people pleasing and stuffing down emotions. I wore a mask so well, that I even convinced myself I was okay. I sobbed while in the shower so no one would hear me. I self harmed late at night in my room so no one would see me sneak back into the kitchen with a knife. I snuck off to the gym and said I was at class, and I used the line “no thanks I already ate” too many times to count. I tried diet after diet, calorie counting app after app, I went vegetarian, then vegan, and decreased my caloric intake by the hundreds daily. Inside, I was dying. Literally and figuratively. But on the outside I was the straight A student living in the city with her friends.

Finally, in the spring of my sophomore year of college, I slowly began unraveling the torture I was feeling to my doctor and soon therapist. I went into treatment for my eating disorder for two years, and have finally come out of the other side a little bruised but one thousand times stronger. It was by no means easy, and some days I wanted nothing else but to give up. In fact, I spent the first year of treatment simply going through the motions. Show up. Eat the food. Get through the night without doing anything too self destructive. Show up the next time. For months this was my life, and although I was restoring weight and learning skills, I was so deeply depressed that I couldn’t look a day into the future. Nearly everyday the therapists and I would safety plan how to keep me alive until the next day of programming. At one point, I did give up. I saved all of my leftover medication for months, took them, and hoped I’d never wake up.

Thank goodness I did. And now I’m here, restored with hope. Some days I lose that hope, and I have to be reminded by my therapists and support team that they’re holding the hope for me, but that in itself is enough. “Because if you keep hope alive, it will keep you alive.” And that’s all that matters. That, and it’s okay not to always be okay. 




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Navigating Through College


College – it’s a time/place/subject filled with much excitement and confusion. But maybe it’s even more confusing for you. And maybe that is due to chronic depression. Hi, I’m your fellow college student who also happens to have chronic depression/anxiety.

Having a chronic mental disorder is no fun, but having a chronic mental disorder in college is a beast of its own.

Maybe you’ve been in college for a while, or perhaps you’ve got a countdown on your phone until you finally get to leave for college. Either way, if you are battling a mental disorder, I have some encouragement/advice/things-no-one-says for you. College does not have to make everything worse. In some ways, it has actually helped my mental state. So here are some pointers on things that have helped me and others navigate these waters:

1. Go to class. I know, I know. Depression and anxiety take away a lot of the desire to do anything besides lay in your bed all day. I get it, because I’ve had days where I’ve stayed in bed and slept to avoid my mind. However, there are serious benefits to going to class. For starters, it keeps your mind busy and productive. Sometimes, your brain needs a break from itself, and learning about random subjects is a great distraction. Secondly, going to class helps establish a routine. I cannot stress how helpful this is! Routine keeps you going, no matter how you’re feeling that day. It keeps you moving. It keeps you from being overwhelmed by your mind. Routine is great.

2. Plug in. This keeps you from being isolated, which is going to be one of your biggest enemies in college. Isolation will only increase the darkness going on in your mind, and will make you feel excruciating lonely in this foreign environment. So plug in on campus – a choir, an outdoors club, video game enthusiast club, media fanatic club, mental health awareness club, Greek life, Res life. I go to a relatively small private university, and I have honestly lost count of the various clubs on campus. Wherever you go, there is somewhere that will fit you. I personally have gotten involved with Res life and a mental health advocacy club on campus and it has been great. It has given me an outlet outside of mundane classes where I feel accepted and understood. Being surrounded by people who hold common interests has a healing power.

3. Find your spot.There’s this scene from Gilmore Girls when Rory goes to Yale for her first semester, and she ends up finding this perfect tree to sit under. She loves that tree for the solitude and strange sense of comfort it provides, and loves it more than she loved any of the various dudes she played (sorry, just a little bitter because #TeamJess). Anways. Just like Rory, you need to find your spot. Whether that’s the tree down by the Arts building, the bench next to the Science department, or the patio outside of the Student Union, find your spot. My spot is a table in the shade near the Subway on our campus. It’s where I can go to study, read, and write without being bothered. Because let’s be real – having a mental disorder on a busy campus is exhausting. Sometimes you need a place to be by yourself outside of your dorm room.

4. Go to counseling. “But I don’t want people thinking I’m a freak” – every college student ever who was told to go to counseling. If you’re worried about being seen as a freak, I’m going to be honest with you – you need to get over the stigma. I go to counseling every Friday at 3:15 (routine, remember?). It’s a place I can vent, receive constructive coping/life advice, cry, and talk. The counselors understand and seek to help, no matter what you are dealing with. Getting a counselor has been one of the most helpful things I have done since moving to college. Every time I sit in the waiting room for my appointment, I see other students who are there. They don’t look like freaks. They look like any other college student you see on the sidewalk. The stigma surrounding counseling is false. You aren’t a freak for seeking help/advice – you’re wise. Seeking counsel is always a great idea. (Also, everything is kept anonymous. Like no one finds out anything. And I think that’s awesome.)

My college, as well as a bazillion other colleges, offers counseling services for free to all students, so the chances are that you will be able to easily access your school’s counseling center.

5. Avoid the parties. There are so any reasons for this, but let me tell you something backed by years of research: alcohol and drugs are terrible for your mental health. They are a temporary means of coping, but eventually only add to your slump. You are in a new place. You have classes to study for and pass, you have a life to succeed in, and you have a lot you need to be able to process. Dulling your senses will only make that harder, and it will add to your mental frustrations. It’s nice to be distracted, but find healthier means: go to the gym, get a Netflix subscription, read, explore the area. But avoid the parties. Those things are not worth it in the end.

6. Talk to someone. Find someone that you can talk to about whatever you’re fighting. My person is my roommate. I don’t tell her everything, but she knows at least when I’m having a hard mental day. She checks on me, asks if I need anything, and keeps others from bothering me if the need be. Find someone who you can talk to and someone who will have your back. You live on a campus with a whole bunch of people – there are many people out there who you can trust. Don’t lose heart. If you haven’t fully plugged in yet and don’t know many people, talk to your RA. They usually know what to do/say, or will be willing to listen. And they’ll usually check in on you. Also, they’re under a strict code of anonymity, so that’s pretty great too.

7. Don’t be afraid.It can be scary living in a new environment, surrounded by strangers and different places. But don’t worry – you will adjust. Don’t be afraid to explore the area, try new things, and meet new people. Don’t be afraid of your mental illness. Even though it doesn’t always feel like it, you’re still in control. You can walk, you can breathe, you can talk, you can live. Take the strength you have and grow it. Don’t be afraid of yourself. You can still have an incredible experience.

Hi, I’m your fellow college student. I have a daily fight with chronic depression and a generalized anxiety disorder. I am also an honors student. I am going to be an RA next year. I am happy. I love my life. When I moved to college, I knew the odds were stacked against me. But here’s the beautiful thing – the odds are beatable. I still have my dark days. I still don’t feel like moving on some days. But I have refused to let my mental disorders hijack my college life; they’ve taken enough as it is.

All of this to say, college is doable. And not just doable – it’s realistically possible to have a great college career. Start now. Learn more about how you tick. Learn more about your mental illness. Get help. Talk to people. And live your life. You’ve got this, friend.

- Anna Mayfield  

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Q&A with Jenna Rose Simon


Jenna Rose Simon is an artist who's channeled what she has battled internally and found a therapeutic outlet by drawing sketches that are raw and vulnerable. Many relating to it and others being more aware of what it is to struggle with an eating disorder. We got the pleasure with interviewing Jenna and this is what we talked about. 

1. When did drawing/art become something that gave you peace during your most difficult days? And when did you realize what you drew out of struggle and pain could be turned into something bigger than a drawing that helped you and became therapeutic? When did you or what moment occurred when you decided to show your sketches publicly to show others they're not alone?

The whole thing was kind of one big accident. I started drawing concept pieces one weekend when I felt really alone. I was already pretty involved in therapy, but there were moments where I was frustrated and couldn't convey what I needed to say. I believe I drew a couple of pieces in just one weekend, and when I brought them in to therapy the following Monday, my therapist said she thought they were great and that people would relate to them. I didn't really believe her. I thought who could care about this? But when my parenting sketch went viral on Facebook, I kind of decided she could be right. People were sharing it left and right and so many were relating to it that I wondered if drawing could help both convey my own messages and help other people through their struggles. I decided to create an Instagram and Facebook account for my art so that there would be a place for me to post things, and a place where people could share them from.


2. When you hear the word recovery, what comes to mind?

Recovery is such a big concept. With some of the successes that have happened recently in my life, people sometimes ask me if I'm "all better" or if I still have bad days. Recovery to me means that you're in a place where you are free of eating disorder behaviors. I think my therapist calls that being symptom free. But being recovered is a whole different thing to me. Being recovered means you've fought off all the demons that created the eating disorder in the first place and are less likely to relapse. For me, that's the challenge to continue to work on, and the "recovered" word is what I see myself trying to look forward to during the difficult moments now.


3. May we ask, how are you as of right now? How are things with you?

Things are better than they were before in some ways, and worse in others. When you're spending so much energy being self destructive, you're in physical danger, but I feel like the emotions get numb. I really wasn't feeling as much as I am now that I don't have those behaviors as a clutch. Physically I am much healthier than I think I've ever been in my entire life. My heart is still very fragile, however. While trying to put it back together in a new way, I try to remember that in this moment, being able to feel pain means that I'm still in recovery... and being in recovery means that I'm doing something right.

4. Our organization is called Free And Above as you know. In your words what does freedom look like to you? And for anyone diagnosed with an eating disorder do you have any advice on how to reach freedom or how to begin the healing process?

To me, freedom looks like a person who FEELS free... someone who in their own mind and body is at peace... whatever being at peace means to them. My therapist once had my draw what freedom looks like, and I drew a girl with wings, looking up to the sky while her hair blew all around her in the wind. She hadn't a care in the world for anything except for the beautiful feeling of flying up through the wind.


5. Who inspires you or has helped you through your recovery?

I started the process of recovery feeling like I had no one. I was actually abandoned by one of my closest friends right before I entered my hospital treatment, and when I got there, I wasn't so keen to open up to anybody. As time went on, I was able to stay close with a friend named Dexter and I took comfort from being inspired by people who are successful and doing good in the world like Sophia Bush and Amanda Schull (both actors who give a lot back to society.) I eventually developed a connection with my therapist, and even though the sessions are rough sometimes, there is so very much I owe to her. I'd seen so many before her and nothing worked. It's such a difficult relationship. You're there for treatment, but to talk about all the difficult things you really have to trust someone and feel close to them... it can't just be about it being a job to them. I don't think Allison has ever seen therapy as just a job, and it definitely shows. In a heart where I didn't think I'd ever open up again or be willing to feel anything, she somehow helped me make room... both for her and for my feelings, and I continue to try to make more and more room the best I can. I also watch a baby most days of the week who really inspires happiness in me. Just watching her innocence and love of life grow with every passing day gives me hope when I feel there isn't any.






Washed Away: From Darkness to Light

Nikki DuBose

We recently got to ask Nikki DuBose -  A former model turned author, speaker, and mental health advocate a few questions.

Here's what we got to talk about. 

1) Do you have any advice for young teens and young adults battling with an eating disorder who want to get better and start their road to recovery but don't know where to begin or don't think they're strong enough to make that commitment of an everyday fight to recover and start the healing process?

I've been there, and I understand how scary it is to take that next step. What I want you to understand is that I'm with you, rooting for you. You are strong enough, you just don't know it yet. The thing about eating disorders is that they are illnesses of the mind, and they want you to think that you are not good enough to get better, or that you will never have the strength, etc. But every negative thought they feed you is a lie. You are more than good enough, and you have everything it takes to overcome your eating disorder. I am a living testament to that.

Just the fact that you want to get better is a tremendous start, so give yourself a big pat on the back. Reach out to anyone you know, that's why you have people in your life; they are there to help you. Disclose your struggles to a trusted friend, therapist, family member and so forth. Eating disorders thrive in secrecy, so the sooner you tell someone, the better. You will not have to fight this illness alone, it's a team effort. Most of all, have compassion for yourself. You didn't get where you are in a day, and it's going to take time to get better.


2) Why did you decide to be a mental health advocate and ambassador? When did you decide you wanted to use your voice to speak up about mental health?

Becoming an advocate was a natural progression as I began my recovery. My passion for helping others in recovery led to working with various mental health organizations, which opened up the door for advocation and working on legislation. The first time I worked on a bill, I felt so alive and exactly in my element; I never expected it, it just happened. I was offered to be a mental health ambassador for the Shaw Mind Foundation last year when my memoir came out, and I accepted it because its a way to broaden my advocacy efforts and help people across the globe.

I made the decision to speak up about mental health when I left the modeling industry and began to recover. I realized that in order to truly start the healing process, I had to be open and vulnerable about what had happened to me, and changed my modeling website to a blogging website. I wrote about abuse, eating disorders, and more. From that moment on (about six years ago), there was no going back.


3) Your memoir Washed Away: From Darkness to Light. What do you hope readers take away from it after reading it?

It's a tough read. It's brutal, really. But I wanted it to be because mental health issues are no walk in the park. At the same time that my memoir is raw and hard to swallow, I hope that readers are inspired, knowing that they can overcome anything that life throws their way. God is always with us, especially when we least feel it.


More about Nikki DuBose

Nikki DuBose is a former model turned author, speaker, and mental health advocate. She recently released her memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light. In Washed Away, Nikki recounts her experiences navigating the dark side of the modeling industry, while battling abuse, addiction, and various mental health issues (sexual victimization, eating disorders, alcoholism, drugs, depression, suicide attempts, body dysmorphic disorder, PTSD, psychosis). She recently appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Network on the TD Jakes Show to speak about her recovery from Body Dysmorphic Disorder and eating disorders, and how the pressure to "fit into" the modeling industry nearly killed her.


“By my early twenties, I was modeling professionally and appeared on the covers of and in editorials for magazines such as Maxim, Glamour, Vogue, FHM, and Vanity Fair. But while my career was going exceptionally well, my private life was falling apart. My mental and emotional health were in shambles. I went from one extreme to the other to meet weight requirements for photo shoots, and quickly fell into anorexia nervosa. At times I struggled to survive, beginning to abuse diet pills as a way to achieve the figure that my agents were pushing me to have for fashion shoots,” says DuBose.


Because of the lack of laws and protections, models have long been subjected to sexual and financial abuse, bullying from agents, and have been pressured to lose so much weight that many have developed devastating, even fatal eating disorders.


Nikki’s recovery from a nearly lifelong struggle with PTSD, psychosis, addictions and eating disorders has left her with a passionate longing to help others who are also suffering. Although the modeling industry has made strides towards body diversity in the past couple of years, there is a lack of education and awareness surrounding eating disorders and other mental health issues. Washed Away: From Darkness to Light serves as a testimony to others to let them know that they are not alone in their fears, doubts, and frustrations, and that through recovery all things are possible.




"A compelling and educational read about the dark side of the fashion business and its effect on mental health. Nikki draws upon her experiences of overcoming a life-threatening eating disorder as she navigates through the industry, all while wrestling with a broken home life and struggling to discover her inner voice.  Nikki's story is truly remarkable and will serve as a beacon to anyone who has ever doubted their own intrinsic value. I highly recommend Washed Away: From Darkness to Light.” - Brian Cuban, Attorney, Author (Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder), Activist


“I was truly amazed by her determination to live life. I saw a woman that had every reason to quit and remain silent, but she chose to break through every obstacle that challenged her. I am very grateful that she has taken on the challenge to not only speak about her experience, but to fight for change in laws that will empower children and survivors to protect themselves. We all need to learn from Nikki and use our voices to create positive change. It is no longer okay for the silence to outweigh the tough discussion. Ignorance will not stop child sex

predators from harming our children.” - Matthew Sandusky, Founder & Executive Director of Peaceful Hearts Foundation, Author (Undaunted: Breaking My Silence to Overcome the Trauma of Child Sexual Abuse), Speaker


“To endure what DuBose has within her first decade proves more than most could handle in a lifetime, yet she looks back at her life with grace and a rare honesty. As she takes us through the overly sexualized fashion industry as an international top model, she gives the no-holds barred account on mental illness, rape, and eating disorders that our society so desperately needs.” - Neesha Arter, Journalist & Author (Controlled)


"Washed Away: From Darkness to Light is an incredible story of one brave woman's perseverance in the face of daunting life circumstances. Nikki DuBose details her chilling experiences with an eating disorder, childhood sexual abuse, alcoholism and drug abuse - and how she found the strength to rise above and find recovery.  This powerful read will inspire those in their own recovery journeys." - Kristina Saffran, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director at Project HEAL


About the Author:


Nikki lives in Los Angeles. She recently worked alongside Assembly member Marc Levine on California Assembly Bill 2539, which addressed the need for workplace protections and health standards in the modeling industry.


She is currently working on The Omnibus Child Victims Act, a bill that will help protect New York's children from the trauma of sexual abuse. “I was sexually abused by my mother and a male figure. In my book, I talk about how that led to mental illnesses, and my recovery from that, which is why this bill is so important to me,” says Nikki.


Nikki gives talks regularly on her recovery at universities and treatment centers. Her advocacy work and recovery story has been profiled on CBS Los Angeles, People, Vogue UK, Esquire, India Times, Inquisitr, and many others. She also writes extensively on mental health, political issues, and exposes the truth about the modeling industry on The Huffington Post, the National Eating Disorders Association, Eating Disorder Hope, Clinical Recovery Institute, and Recovery Warriors. She also recently contributed as an expert reviewer for Harvard University's STRIPED program (Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders), helping craft their lesson for this new semester, which focuses on modeling and eating disorders. 


To learn more, go to


Book Trailer:








Tattoos With A Story

People matter. Mental health matters.

The story behind the person and the mind matter. Recently, we had the opportunity to collaborate with Texas-based photographer Autumn Dorrough, owner of Keta Photographs. She got real and personal with a few folks from her state about heaviness and hope, and captured it all on camera. 

Here are those people. And here are their stories.

"I used to be a real mess. I used to cry at any given time. I used to find myself in the shower with a leg razor pressed against my left wrist, but my left wrist wasn't enough. The back of my legs and under my breasts would have to do too. I used to flinch any time a man walked behind me, because I just knew he'd be the next one to assault me. I used to wake up screaming from night terrors. I used to think the world was an ugly, dirty, scary place. But then Jesus. Yahweh. Abba Father. And that's why I USED to be a real mess.Everyday just gets better and better. The depression didn't win. The borderline personality disorder didn't win. The PTSD didn't win. I did. I won and I continue to win every day that I continue to breathe." - Kendra Cook


"When I was 16 I self-harmed quite a bit and struggled with depression and anxiety. My 17th year was filled with low mental-health days, including the day I came out. When I was 18 I got this tattoo to remind me that even when things get tough, 'Carry On,' because maybe tomorrow will be better. To this day it's my daily reminder to help me keep those problems in check." - Haley Collette


"My struggle with anxiety began in middle school. As if being a 13-14 year old girl wasn’t hard enough, both students and teachers bullied me, which I believe were the largest contributors to my low self-esteem and lack of confidence. The bullying led me into a journey through depression and social anxiety. I no longer enjoyed activities I once loved. I also stopped maintaining friendships and avoided making new ones. Before high school began, I had quit piano, saxophone, gymnastics, cheerleading, ballroom dancing, and my Web Design/HTML class - all of my hobbies. My closest relatives told me to “just snap out of your funk”, but it wasn’t that easy. I hit rock bottom 7 years later when I attempted suicide and landed in the psych ward for 3 weeks.  The doctors helped me realize I was suffering from an “invisible” illness – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  I realized if other essential bodily organs are capable of failing (kidneys, liver, heart, lungs), then why not the brain? I did CBT Therapy for over a year, but recently began treating my OCD with medication. After filling my first prescription on November 4th, I got a Henna tattoo of the words “Just Breathe” along my collarbone, inspired by Anna Nalick’s song. I maintain it in between sessions with Sharpie marker. This morning routine serves as a daily reminder that while I’m unsure about my future, I will just breathe and take it one day at a time. #dermatophagia" - Kristin


"I've struggled with depression and anxiety for a while now. It's never something someone really gets used to, or at least I haven't. When I got to college though, things for worse. For the first few years, I had an extremely controlling and mentally abusive boyfriend. I thought all boyfriends were like this so I never put much emphasis on this being a problem. 

Coming to the end of the relationship I realized how much it was affecting my day to day happiness and mood so we broke it off which is really when I hit my downward spiral. I was constantly worrying if whether or not we did the right thing and if he was the one that got away or not. 

Luckily, I met a few great friends who pushed me to go to church and get to know Christ. The weight on my shoulders was immediately lifted and I felt like I could finally deal with my anxiety. After this life reform of becoming a Christian and committing my life to Christ, I got this tattoo to represent all that I overcame, and will continue to overcome. 

All that being said, don't let a condition like depression, anxiety, or anything else that may be holding you back get you down. Life is too short." - Kailey Corpman


"In addition to an affinity for tattoos representing the Southwest US, I really identify with cacti. Just like people who believe that a song or a piece of literature is an accurate representation of their life, or their thoughts, I believe that a cactus is a good rendition of mine. 

Cacti, from twenty yards away, can appear pretty attractive, especially when they're blooming. It isn't until someone is in closer proximity that they recognize the potential for getting stuck by its thorns. When they finally do get too close and get stuck, they're frustrated to discover that it's both painful and difficult to extract all of the thorns. That's when they decide to distance themselves, and make a note to steer clear of cacti in the future. 

Upon initially meeting me, most people would find me friendly, somewhat charming, maybe a little arrogant at times, but overall someone that's enjoyable to be around. If I'm in a particularly healthy state of mind and body, blooming if you will, I attract a lot of would be friends. When they start to spend more time with me, in more personal settings, they probably start to recognize that I carry around some baggage. They find out about my depression, about my drug history, about my tendency to self-destruct. Some people, perhaps wisely, bail at this point. The ones who stick around long enough though, will eventually get too close and inadvertently get hurt. They often stay hurt, unable to remove the thorns hidden in their side. I say inadvertent because, like the hurt inflicted by the thorns of a cactus, it is typically my defense mechanisms of withdrawal, isolation, and using drugs that hurts those close to me. Those are my thorns." - Brendan Mcgrth 



Seek Light | Kylee Schmuck

I always thought I was alone. Or that no one could understand. Or that no one would care. I thought that I was doomed to sit alone in my excruciating pain because I wasn’t worth anything more than that. I didn’t deserve happiness, or even contentment, I deserved the pain I was in.

Over the years my coping methods have varied. I often blame my body for its brokenness; so the pain has been played out on it. Unable to open up to anyone about the intense pain I was in, I tried to find ways to cope.

My body is not perfect, that may be true. After years of being in physical pain, at the age of 18 I was diagnosed with Femoral Acetabular Impingment (FAI) a birth defect which can cause labral tears and a slew of other complications. I have since had three hip surgeries and been diagnosed with chronic pain. I so often feel betrayed by my body. I have clear things to point to where I can say, “See? I’m broken, flawed. My body isn’t worth it; I’m not worth it”.

I used those moments as excuses; excuses to self-destruct. My injuries led to years long battles with an eating disorder, self-harm, and depression. I tried every way imaginable to punish my body for its perceived betrayal. I couldn’t accept that even if it was flawed, it deserved care and nourishment. I didn’t yet believe that my body and I were worth it.

It has taken a lot to work on radically accepting my body, radically accepting that yes, my body is flawed but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve to be treated with respect and care. Radical acceptance of your body can be the most difficult thing on the planet, it’s also not something you only do once. In recovery from an eating disorder you often have to radically accept your body, and the care it requires, each day. You have to accept that you cannot use food, or lack of nutrition thereof, to punish your body. You cannot let any perceived, or legitimate flaws or injuries, as an excuse to inflict pain.

It will be hard to accept, but it’s true. You’re body isn’t perfect and that’s okay. You are perfectly imperfect just as you are. You are enough just as you are. Your body deserves love and respect and care no matter what. You are beautiful and so worthy of self-love.

When you’re swallowed by pain, look around and reach out. Don’t stay silent. You’re not alone even though in the darkest moments of your pain it feels as you are. There are so many people who struggle similarly to you; reach out and do not be afraid to give voice to your pain and struggle.

Eating disorders, self-harm, addiction, depression: they all thrive in darkness. Seek light and be light to diminish and expose them.

Kylee Schmuck