It all started when three women decided to get together to create one single photo that would speak more than a 1000 words and do their part to end the Stigma surrounding mental health.
Especially during times like we are experiencing now.
Times like we are experiencing, now, a time when we more than ever need to pay even closer attention to our Mental Health.
"If only we could take out our brains"
I'm fairly certain that every one who reads this, that has struggled or is struggling with any form of mental health struggle, can say at one point in their lives they wished we had the option to take the brain out of our heads when needed.
If only there was a little latch on the back of our necks where we can crack it open and just pop out that nagging brain whenever we felt we needed to turn it off, shut it down, shut it up.
Or! Maybe even we have spare ones set aside for those super rough days.
You can take out the one that's causing you trouble, put in a little jar and plug it into something so it recharges and corrects and resets itself and then when it's good to go, you can tradesies!
For now the one you've got is the only one your gonna get, so do what ever you can to keep it healthy.
Because it is (Ir)replaceable just like YOU are.
- Jennifer McCready ~ Owner and Photographer for Lady Luck Photography Studio
Jessica Misner - Owner of Mirror Mirror Hair Artistry and JessicArt
I am fortunate to only have to deal with every day stress and worry. I am usually able to "force" myself out of my own head.
But not everyone can.
I've seen people I love struggle daily with severe anxiety, depression and addiction. I've lost friends and family to their battles. I've seen pain that no one should ever have to go through alone.
IT CAN GET BETTER.
I can't say it enough. No matter what your mind is telling there is ALWAYS someone there for you. Someone willing to talk or cry with you. Someone willing to hug you and just listen. Someone who's life would never be the same without you.
I hope that one day the stigma around mental illness is gone. That nothing will hold someone back from seeking help they deserve. From knowing they aren't the only one and that they are stronger than their mental illness. That there are people who love and care about them.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Brianna Schwenker - Registered Massage Therapist
Making a physical, visual representation of anxiety has been a passion project for Jen and I for so long. One day while chatting she said “don’t you just wish some days you could claw your brain out of your head” it’s was like lightning struck! Somedays that is EXACTLY how anxiety feels. Sometimes your brain JUST WONT STOP.
It keeps you up at night, leaving you exhausted the next day. It paralyzes you with fear when the phone rings. Somedays you feel cold and blank, someways you think and feel way too much and through all of it you put on a mask, you cover up the invisible hurt so you can appear a little more normal, feel a little less “crazy” or “irrational.” Some days the incomparable Liz Taylor’s worlds are all you have to get through the day “I’m a survivor-a living example of what people can go through and survive"
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call COAST.
Toll free 1-866-550-5205 ext 1
#mentalhealthawareness #endthestigma #mentalhealthmatters9
Why I wanted to do this photo has more then one answer. I am always the first one to put myself down even though I know none of those feeling are true.
I have amazing friends and a husband that supports me in every way. I have come to realize the size in my clothes is just a size. Also if I am surrounded by friends that all support each other, the better we all are.
I put together a girls day out and sent to all my friends that I knew complimented me on my couples shoot with Jen back in July 2019. I knew all of them seen how much my confidence was up with myself after I had done it. I knew each of them needed something like this for themselves for all different reasons. The 5 of us left early in the morning with 1 goal in mind. To have an amazing day out.
I did all of the girls hair and we all had our makeup done by Brooke from Callisto Beauty Studio. The smiles I seen on each of their faces and the confidence that radiated from all of them was worth the hard work organizing.
Our group photo was just one of the things we enjoyed doing that day.
Secondly the reason for this photo was to encourage women to be more body positive. We all have different body shapes and we are all beautiful. We choose to all wear SweetLegs leggings, so that no matter your size we all can feel comfortable in our own skin.
SweetLegs in a company who's main goal is to help women from a size 0-30 be confident.
I started with the company 3 years ago because of their beliefs and goals as a company. I use to think I was to big to wear leggings or they just wouldn’t fit me. I put a pair on and I haven’t looked back. I just wish more women would see their true beauty.
Thanks Jen for helping women with this everyday.
Chantel's Facebook Page: https://m.facebook.com/pages/category/Clothing--Brand-/SweetLegs-London-with-Chantel-160840881112702/
Instagram - Sweetlegs_london_chantel
Learning Self Love with Gently Being
A couple of weekends ago 9 people joined together at the Lady Luck studio for a beautiful, self-love workshop held by Gently Being.
Both myself and Kim (Owner of Gently Being) decided we would like to share a little bit of how we felt after this awesome workshop.
Here is a message from Kim:
"For over a year now, I have had the idea to create a workshop that focused on self-love that included a photo session.
When I would hold meditation sessions, I could visibly see how peoples faces and bodies changed when they gave themselves permission to relax and bring their awareness to themselves.
The change was especially evident when the meditation session had to do with generating, and focusing on, love. When we feel love, we radiate love..
When I finally felt ready to share the idea with someone who could co-host the workshop, I knew there was no other person who could do it than Jennifer from Lady Luck Photography Studio. Jen's kindness and dedication to showcasing every body's beauty was exactly what this workshop idea needed to truly come to life.
I am so grateful for each person who bravely walked into the Lady Luck Studio to share their stories with us. There was laughter and tears and a true sense of love in the room.
I truly believe we learn and grow when we gather together to share. I mean, just look at all those beautiful portraits!They say more than any words I type could.
I would like to take this moment to thank every one who joined together to celebrate love. And huge special thanks to Jennifer for opening her studio and her heart to all of us who enter Lady Luck Studios."
A message from Jennifer:
Our workshop started off by introducing ourselves, going around in a circle, sharing who we are, what we are and some of us talked about what makes our world go around.
There has been a few workshops at the Lady Luck studio, but we had a couple firsts at this one in particular.
For the very first time we had a man join us!
I want to see more of this! I'm quite sure that he was unsure of what he was getting himself into, but I can tell you by the end of the day he was very happy that he came. I say that because I could see by his reactions and his sharing that he found it very beneficial. And often times I think that men don't realize that these things can help them too. Often times I bet you they just assume that they aren't able to go to these workshops. That is a whole other story in itself!
After we introduced ourselves, we wrote down, on a specially designed paper, created by Kim, things that we love about ourselves. Those who felt like sharing were invited to share a few of the things that they had written down.
After everybody sharing from their heart, we moved to another room where Kim guided us in a beautiful meditation.
Following our meditation each participant individually came into my studio and I had the opportunity to photograph them. This was the very first Workshop that we included photos at the end of the day. And it was incredible!
As you can see for yourselves by looking at these photos, there is a glow on everybody's faces and I encouraged everybody to be themselves. Some were nervous, some were excited and some just let it all go, but over all, we ALL had a blast!
Every single person that stepped in front of my camera literally, rocked it! I encourage everyone to be themselves, whether that was serious, silly, professional, or casual. I am so proud of everybody for letting go and for not only stepping up to do the workshop but for allowing me to photograph them. Because honestly, I would say eight out of 10 people are scared poopless to have their photos taken, so it's a big deal when somebody builds up the courage to finally do it.
What happens at the Lady Luck Studio, stays at the Lady Luck studio is what we all said that day. We all spoke from the heart that day. We shared lots of laughter, tears, hugs and I know we all gained some new friends. So much so that we all spoke about getting together again next year the catch up with each other!
My heart, was full. I know this is a saying that's used quite often but literally it was bigger and brighter and happier after that day. Not only for my own personal good but seeing everybody else open up and have relations and learn new ways to love themselves, through this workshop was beautiful. Sitting down to write this is tough because there's really no way to put into words how incredible this Workshop was.
The next self-love Workshop held at the studio by Kim and Gently Being, will either be in late April or May, so keep an eye out and please join us!
Now have a look at these beautiful humans!
You can learn more about Gently Being here:
Taken from her recent article in HWS magazine, Alyssa says
"As women we are inundated with images of how the female body is supposed to look. If we don't like our body, we can nip it, tuck it, inject it and change it. So that's what I did"
In 2009 Alyssa chose to have breast augmentation. In 2018 she learned that breast implant - associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) cancer can be associated with textured implants.
It was shortly after hearing this horrible news, she sent the following message to all of her female friends and family.
This is not a chain email. Please consider this information I am about to share.
I am sending you this message because you are my friend. You are female. You may be going through what I’m about to share, or know someone who is. And I am genuinely concerned for your health and well being regarding a topic you may not be aware of. I would like to emphasize that I am not telling you this information, to gain sympathy. And I am certainly not sharing this information to be judged or criticized.
It was after much deliberation and discussion with women who should be informed about this matter, and weren’t, that I decided I should share my story to the women who are near and dear to me and who may be unaware of this ailment.
So here goes..... I have Allergan 410 textured Breast implants. This is important, because they are the current model of implant that is most associated with Breast Implant Associated-Anapolastic Large Cell Lymphoma or BIA-ALCL. This is a Lymphatic Cancer that grows within the scar tissue capsule that is created by the body, and forms around the implant, shortly after the implant is placed. Someone with these implants may experience swelling, pain, itch and rash around the breast area, as well as breast firmness, or unexplained weight loss and night sweats. Symptoms of this particular lymphoma, generally present themselves after several years of placement. My implants were inserted in 2009.
My first occurrence of signs and symptoms was in September of 2017, and have intensified since. My implants will be removed on May 1, 2019, by way of an En Bloc/ total capsulectomy procedure. This is a rather invasive method, and comes with many risks. So many, the procedure cannot be guaranteed to be performed correctly by most physicians. Once the implants are removed, they will then be sent off for pathology and be biopsied by way of a CD30 test, which is given to determine whether or not I have BIA-ALCL. This is not a breast cancer. It is a lymphatic cancer that forms within the capsule. It is difficult to diagnose through diagnostic imaging, such as ultrasound, MRI or mammogram.
Many women go many years with this in their bodies unaware of having this cancer until it is removed, along with their implants and implant capsules. I was not told by my original plastic surgeon in 2009, when I got my implants, that I could develop this rare cancer. I was not given proper informed consent. I was not told of the heavy metal chemical make up of these particular implants, and the autoimmune ailments that go along with heavy metal exposure.
I was not shown any warning labels or given any cautionary direction. Instead I was told the Allergan Textured Implant were safe and long lasting. I was told, aside from regular breast screening, I would not have to worry about these implants for the next 20-30 years. I was misled. I was not warned by my Plastic Surgeon or the manufacturer (Allergan) in 2011 when the first case of BIA-ALCL presented itself. I was not notified by Health Canada or my GP or the ultrasound tech or the thermography tech or my nurse practitioner, in 2017, when I first presented with signs and symptoms of BIA-ALCL. Even though there were 700 cases world wide, 12 deaths and 38 countries had banned the use and sale of this particular implant. I was never warned.
No one had brought this particular Breast Implant Associated Cancer to my attention. No one in the medical field knew what to look for or what my problem was or how to treat it. In fact it wasn’t until I did my own research did I begin to get answers. It was a conversation with a good friend of mine, in November if 2018 that lead me to a CTV news report featuring the first diagnosed patient in Canada who had ALCL and Allergan Textured implants. The very same implant that sits upon my chest wall. From there I have joined numerous Facebook support groups to help guide me to the right surgeon, the right testing and the right procedures to follow, to ensure proper testing and care. This has been a challenge for me and for my general practitioner, due to the lack of information made available to her. However, with the help of the ladies who have gone through this and who have become advocates for care in this matter, I have been directed to the right path. I am not telling you this to scare you. That is not my intention. BIA-ALCL is a curable lymphoma. It is rare and it is associated with textured implants only (at this time).
I am telling you this, because maybe no one has and maybe you know someone who needs to know.
I’d like to close with this personal, opinionated message. If you have ever thought that you might like to have breast implants, please reconsider. No cosmetic procedure is worth the risk of your health. If you have breast implants, please listen to your body and seek proper medical attention if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. Please feel free to personal message me, if you wish to seek more information on this matter. Please feel free to share this information with other females. Know that I am here to support and listen and guide you in the right direction. I do so only in kindness and love and without judgement and because I care about you and your health.
Thank you Love & kindness Alyssa
THANK YOU Alyssa for sharing your story. THANK YOU for being the wonderful human you are and for doing all you can to help other women and THANK YOU for going the extra mile to help protect others.
Read Alyssa's article in HWS magazine on page 14 here:
Alyssa is the owner and operator of the Ridgeway Massage Therapy Clinic right here in beautiful Ridgeway, Ontario.
I strongly believe that every woman and girl in their life at some point looks at their body and thinks they are not enough. Whether it be their complexion, their weight, curves, hair colour or anything in between. We all strive for perfection in our own eyes and it hurts to realize that sometimes it isn’t possible. But the most powerful realization is when you finally understand that you are enough and no one can tell you otherwise.
I have been raised by incredibly strong women as well as a close and supportive family. No matter what happened at school or work, I always knew I could come home and be loved. High School was fairly standard in the way that I was never the “popular pretty” type but I enjoyed learning and took pride in my work. I knew from early on that I wanted to be in the Health Sciences field and help the community and people around me but wasn’t sure which direction to take career wise. Completely by accident, I stumbled across the Funeral Directing path, started my High School COOP and moved to big city Toronto to attend College. I loved my goals and I wouldn’t change my job for the world.
I met Jennifer for the first real time when she was assigned to take my work head shots. While there, I immediately felt comfortable and empowered, especially since this is something I had never done before. I mentioned that I had seen her work before and admired her and every person that came through her door for photos, but that I wasn’t sure I could do something like that.
Long story short, her “why wait?” Comment hit home and I booked my session that same day.
Choosing my photo shoot themes was difficult but my two themes, Girl Guides and The 80’s meant a lot to me and I am very glad I choose them!
The Girl guides have always been a huge part of my life, this year I am celebrating 15 years with the organization and I am now a leader for some wonderful young ladies!
My Mom, Grandma and Aunt were all involved as well and with always being interested in a more vintage style, the theme turned out amazingly! The scarf from the photos turned out to be one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had to obtain something like that. When I was a Brownie (7-8 years old) I had a friend whom I attended meetings with. She sadly passed away a few years back but when I moved back to the original church I was a part of as a girl ,to be a leader, we needed to do some spring cleaning.
During the cleaning, I found a time capsule that my friend, among others, had signed and decorated. The box had been worn with age and moisture so upon opening it, I found the scarf. The same scarf that I wore in the photos.
The 80’s in general has always meant a lot to me. The first 80’s song I remember downloading was “Strange Animal” by Gowan, after hearing my Dad play it from our old laptop. From there, 90% of my playlist is 80’s music oriented. We have now made it a family affair to play records on our player, sing to 80’s on 8 and go to various concerts together and just rock out!
In the end, this experience has been incredible. I have always struggled with my weight and it’s been difficult to see myself as beautiful.
Seeing these photos and having as amazing of an experience as I did, it’s really brought my beauty to light for me.
I pride myself on being a loyal, kind hearted person but to see the outside match my internal beauty was eye opening. It took some getting used to to realize that this was me but I am fully embracing it now.
Thank you Jennifer and her team for making me understand my full self and to feel loved in my own skin.
Girl interrupted - Trina's Story
“Why do we feel that you’re pushing us out of your life?” someone said to me the other day.
I sat stunned for a minute and thought about this deeply. November 2018, I lost everything. My home, my stability, my love, my self confidence, and my ability to cope with any given issue. Maybe I’m just afraid everyone will abandon me, so I try to act blasé faire and unwavering in my thoughts and feelings? Maybe I’m starting to choose people who make me feel safe and when I feel unsafe I go into defense mode? Maybe, just maybe, I’m taking my power back?
This is just one of the psychological effects of Betrayal Trauma. The term “betrayal trauma” refers to the damage that is caused when you experience a betrayal in your relationship that damages the trust, safety, and security of the bond you have with a significant person in your life. While I still question the safety of many, I am also shedding that caregiving personality I had in my previous life. The life that ended on November 14, 2018.
Why am I wearing a wedding dress in this photo shoot? Well, at first I was going to do a rendition of Truth Hurts and showing that I’m “100% that bitch.” But, I’m not. I’m a wonderful woman with so much love and compassion. Yes, I have a story is tragic, but no more tragic than anyone else suffering from betrayal trauma. For myself, a wedding dress is symbolic to family, innocence and new beginnings. Innocence doesn’t end on your wedding night. If you trust, love and have faith in yourself and your family, your innocence continues….until it doesn’t.
Loss of Stability
Whether you’re a family of two or a family of eight, a wedding is the beginning of a new adventure in creating your own family.
Prior to August 2018, I had everything a woman could ever want. A husband I adored. Two grown children that I was so proud of. A successful to me business. Great friends who I loved dearly. My life was complete and what was to follow was a fulfilled dream of a new “empty nester” adventure.
I sold my home and moved to Ottawa Ontario for a new adventure because of a new business opportunity. I closed my business (not hard, just phoned the gov’t), packed the truck and kissed my kids and friends goodbye. It was a bittersweet moment.
From September to November 2018, I had one fantastic weekend filled with happiness and many memories. The rest of my time in Ottawa, life as I knew it was completely destroyed. I can’t get into the details. Unfortunately, had someone stole my car, my money, or my life, it would be public knowledge and I could speak freely. No, someone stole my heart, soul, and erased thirty years of my life and, for that, I’m silenced. This is part and parcel why society doesn’t understand the mental health component of betrayal trauma. We’re silenced….I don’t understand why because, to this day, I’d much rather someone steal my car then experience the heart wrenching pain and mental suffering that I experienced.
Loss of Innocence
November 14, 2018 was the day that the old Trina died. In fact, I’ve had numerous sessions with my psychiatrist about the sequence of events leading me to pick up that Leveno tablet that day. I tumbled down as quickly as the World Trade Towers on September 11th.
It took 3 emergency trips to the hospital, one failed attempt of counselling, having all my belongings in my car and stolen, and the realization that I gave up my whole life for me to decide that it was time to leave Ottawa. I left with the invitation that they could follow me to work on things, but I had enough of what this city delivered to me. My parent’s 57 wedding anniversary was the day I left. I really wanted it to work, in fact I thought it would be the gobsmack that would put humpty dumpty back together again. Unfortunately, I wasn’t enough and that hurt a lot. In fact, it tore me apart after giving away thirty years of my life.
So here I was, a 46-year-old woman who was lost in life. I should have taken stocks in Canadian Club whiskey in 2019 because I did a ton of drinking. Until I woke up.
I then asked myself a serious question. “Trina, how long has it been that you’ve undervalued your worth?” Not only to the person who hurt me, but to those who viewed me, used me in the past, and those who I aspired to work for? By allowing anyone and everyone an open door into my heart and constantly having it slammed it in my face timeless times, I was undervaluing my existence, my greatness and my future. So many women do this and become paralyzed, insecure and needy. Not only was I suffering from betrayal trauma, I was suffering far worse than that. It was then, I started taking my power back. I was no longer going to ask for what I needed, dreamed of or wanted from this broken relationship. That had to stop that nonsense. I was going to demand what I deserved.
It’s been almost a year since I left. I have transformed my mindset from victim to survivor. A survivor who wanted to share my experience to help others. I’ve blogged about my whole experience on my site. The blood, sweat and tears of betrayal trauma. I wanted to write about it real-time because I couldn’t find the real-time version of it when I was at my worse. I didn’t want to hear that things would get better in time. I wanted to know that I wasn’t bat shit crazy. I am very proud of my transparency and extremely proud of my blog’s effect. It gives me a great sense of value to help and console others during one of their most life altering experiences. Now, I don’t know where it’s going to go because of the silence. Quite frankly, I’m OK with that as I will find a new form of expression into my newly created life.
I’m trying to figure out this new dynamic, which is very difficult for me. I have been assured that there will be bumps in the road, but I have to balance out my old personality, rituals, and routines with the new exciting changes within me.
I have grouped with friends who also have been betrayed. It gives me perspective on how to heal, grow and define my life. We ask each other a lot of questions; feeling questions. We cry on each other’s shoulders. We laugh, we share and we do coffee.
We have been told to “get over it” numerous times, however, we know that it’s not as cut and dry as it may seem. Hell, a few years ago I was one of those, and here I am now, crying and apologizing to my friend because I didn’t understand the severe mental and physical effects of betrayal trauma.
I am finally at my point of healing where I’m taking my power back. No one will control my future and my thoughts.
Something in Red
I decided that I was being bullied by so many people while I was healing to settle on my future. I was told that it was expected of me to find a job that didn’t inspire or make me feel, at the very least, human. I was expected to take what I could get and shut up. I met this amazing employment counselor that helped me with retaining a little of myself and dispute that expectation.
What many don’t understand is this. I’m not the norm. I never conform. I’m alone on this new life journey where I’ve decided that I want to be as artistic and creative as I can possibly be. I want to help people. I want to laugh and be just as free and carefree as I was in my past life. I’m a half assed writer. I like photography. I’m a dreamer, who has to recreate a new beginning for myself.
I realized over this past year that my family was my dream, until my views of family and innocence was murdered and destroyed. So what did I do? I called the shots in my life.
I’m also thankful for this betrayal. Yes, I can finally say that because I would have never found my voice, my power, and my magnificence.
As of January 2020, I am a full time student studying photography. I have created goals that focuses on ME! That’s one thing I haven’t done in over a year and it feels great!
I want to open a marketing firm in the future because I have great business savvy and I communicate well with the younger generation. I am a leader who has had so much trouble competing for a job because of the younger generation, so why not bring their world into mine?
I get out nightly. I sit at a local coffee shop and people watch. I spend time with friends. I am really digging deep into my heart and figuring out what I want, what I need and what I deserve. None of this was my fault and I intend on creating an amazing ending to this story of my life.
I’m fearless. I’m getting there. At times I still cry and wonder what could have been. However, I’m taking my power back so no one can judge or hurt me again. I am red and I survived it.
Please head over to Trina's blog and read some of her other fantastic, inspiring and empowering stories!
You can find them here: lifesablog.ca
When I first set foot on this journey of transitioning into my actual, true gender (that being (mostly) binarily male), the hate and contempt I held for my body grew and grew. Trying to pass as the person I saw and felt within myself was very frustrating as a newly out transgender person. The aching despair at being perceived as one thing when trying so hard to be seen as I truly am inside before I started my hormone replacement treatment (or even when I had just started) festered and roiled within me.
For a good two years I was hyper aware of everything wrong about my body and it’s mannerisms - how high my voice was before it dropped with testosterone, how feminine and round my face was, the way my chest looked even when I would bind it tight with sports bras and the like. I would worry about crossing my legs in public, speaking to people and having them hear the feminine lilt of my voice. The anxiety that consumed me in public continued in private, my breasts and hips taunting me, my body merely existing only adding to my mounting anger and disgust for it in my gut.
But suddenly it was a year and a bit on hormones and my pronouns were automatically "he/him" to perfect strangers, my breasts small enough to hide under a shirt (or two) without the constraint of fabric tying them down. My voice and new facial hair helped in making my body a home, soothing my social dysphoria as others embraced me as a man.
Even further into my journey of self love and acceptance now, all of this turmoil and self loathing smoothed out and quieted in my head. For the first time since I stepped out as my true self I could hear above the din of that chaos and I could see through the shroud of my dysphoria.
Through the beautiful communities and friends within that swath of folks like me that lie outside the gender binary - I found myself coming to a few realizations, all very important. One, that my self hate and admonishments were all done in order to fit into a binary I never wanted to. I felt shoved into this so that the public and other trans folks would deem me to be "truly trans"; a pitfall many young and fresh faced trans individuals fall into in the beginning of their transitions.
Secondly, that I don't hate every part of my body and that that fact does not negate my transness. Many people believe that to be transgender you must hate every part of your body, to wholly hate yourself for not fitting the cookie cutter definition of the two roles society gives us: man or woman. What this idea conveniently leaves out is that there are and have been countless trans individuals that exist beyond that binary and do not necessarily despise their bodies but instead experience dysphoria in many other ways. That simply existing as transgender we will never be deemed cisgender (a term for a non-transgender person) by society.
The idea that I had to perfectly mirror society's view of what a cisgender man physically and mentally should be wrought more pain and needless suffering on me then my dysphoria ever did. That same idea has forced babies born outside of the norm as intersex to have surgeries foisted upon them, sometimes even without the parents full knowledge, to conform to this rigid binary.
As I delved deeper into myself, discovering and exploring my sexuality in further detail, I came to the realization that that rigid view of what a man is is a cage I do not subscribe to. I wear these ropes in my photos with Lady Luck Photography as an ode to my body and rebellion to the sexual and gender norms of our world; as an acknowledgement that even if these breasts have me appear visibly trans rather than as cis - it does not bother me. Neither does having my bottom parts; as when delving into the waters of my sexuality I came to realize that the norms of a strictly monogamous and heterosexual society where a straight cisgender man will be with an equally as straight cisgender woman do not apply to me. That I am not a pariah in the pool of dating and intimate relationship because of my body, a body I once thought of as defective or unworthy of love. That there are many individuals in the realm sexuality I am interested in - that of kink and BDSM - who fully embrace the diversity that exists in trans and non-normative communities. That I am worthy of the kind of love and devotion I crave. The idea that any sexual and non-vanilla relationship is sinful or disgusting dissipated as I found myself deep down inside.
Overall it comes down to me not being made to conform to the stereotypical mold in mind or body to that of a cisgender man. I exist beyond the binary, as many cultures and peoples around the world have done for centuries before me, and I exist calmly and boldly in that space. These colours, those of the transgender pride flag, are strewn up and down my body as a war paint against those toxic ideals that trample me and other gender nonconforming people, especially those not born with the privilege of a paler skin tone.
As a dear friend of mine, Ivy (@cisturbed on Instagram), put it simply - "[I'm] beautiful because I'm trans, not despite it."
I’ve read all the blogs on Lady Luck’s website. I would be lying if I said I did not identify with much of what each of these models have already beautifully written. I highly suggest you take a few moments to read them. Each entry is so relevant (along with the end product of such awesome creative talent and so much fun)! You are likely to see a bit of yourself in the beautiful people who have been brave enough to take a good look at themselves and show the parts that either can’t be seen or have previously been too painful to risk exposing. Naming a life-shaping event, displaying a quirk, a talent, an interest that makes us unique or, a part of ourselves that previously was hidden out of misunderstanding, fear or loathing. Physical and emotional, Jennifer and company turn it all into a thing of beauty and celebration. A pivotal experience, a motivational piece.
I was the short, overweight, four-eyed, in-her-imagination kid and teen who never felt they belonged anywhere. Friendships and loyalties, even strong family bonds have been fleeting and fragile all my life, but not for lack of wanting or trying. It turns out it was a lack of understanding. Understanding how the mistakes of my earliest caregivers and mentors set me off looking for something that I wouldn’t ultimately find in someone else. The understanding of how hurt people can hurt people, and no two people come from the same place or journey the same way at the same time. The understanding that some people are truly special because they are conscientiously kind to others, even though they have themselves been hurt. This something was much closer and easier to obtain than I could have imagined until recently.
A very special person came into my life under the simplest, non-suspecting circumstances for a period that to me seemed far too short. They helped me with so much awareness of myself and what it means to love unconditionally. I would have never suspected that such people exist who could, without knowing and without really trying, heal such a variety of emotional wounds, from many people and situations that I had allowed to shape me and my self-concept so dishearteningly. For years I had wondered if I was ready to or had in fact, accomplished forgiveness of certain people for hurting me. I was already aware that I wanted healing but until I met this special person, the process felt incomplete and the sadness or anger would return in degrees and certain relationships never seemed to improve.
A perfect stranger turned into a friend and loved into me an awareness that I was beautiful inside and out. I was in awe that this perfect love I had chased and struggled with and never received was now mine. I began to forgive and reframe many old hurts from a place of unconditional love, like the one that was now being given to me. I began to take care of myself and feel truly beautiful, smart and appreciated. I trusted so implicitly and thought so highly of this person, who cared so beautifully for me, how could I not think highly of the person they thought highly of...myself? Part of my journey was learning about co-dependency and uncovering its roots in my story and changing toxic scenarios and relationships not just for my sake, from a space of unconditional love and a recognition that hurt people hurt people. I played a role that I hadn’t realized I was cast in and accepted only to become the most convincing actress; a willing participant of manipulative conditioning. One that I will never stop trying to defeat for the sake of mine and my children’s health and happiness.
As had been my guess based on the powerful feelings and changes taking place from this special person’s active presence and love in my life, our physical connection was only temporary. It has been difficult, as a truth seeker, to not have such a loving and illuminating presence with me. I cherish the memories and more so the knowledge that the relationship instilled in me. The wonderful thing is that love, and the things done in love, never really go away. There are times when I want to let myself slip…back to old ways of not being loving to myself…days when I struggle to respect the lesson that I do not need to give care to or save people from their own choices or equate having certain people in my life as a sign that I am valuable. Robbing someone of an opportunity to learn a genuine lesson…to prevent them from a journey, possibly like my own, goes against everything I’ve been through and stand for.
This experience has inspired me to dig deep and think about who I’ve been, who I am and who I will be. It is an opportunity for me to see myself both through my own eyes and the eyes of the one(s) who love me. It has shown me that it is not the opinion of others that makes my beauty, talents, strengths and gifts true…they just are.
The fact that I don’t celebrate them nearly often enough does not erase them. Having just turned 40 I feel that it is time to put focus onto my inner and outer beauty, in individuality, and celebrating the strength and courage that it takes to keep moving through a tough journey. I keep going and try to reflect this hope that so much beauty lies ahead and there are amazing people in the world who love despite weaknesses, flaws and hurts. I had the experience of one. I am one.
By caring for myself I am honouring the special person who helped me realize my beauty and unlimited potential, who asked nothing in return and never hesitated to forgive when I acted out of old beliefs instead of new and better knowing. This creative and collaborative process is a record of how far I have come, which will help me journey forward, not backward, just because I had previously been unable to see and feel my worth. Every time I see these pictures I will know the truth.
I am Brenda. My name means flaming sword. I am a healer. I am a recovering co-dependent. I am a diabetic and depressed individual who has been through a lot of emotional trauma in my life. My past doesn’t define me. I now define myself with truth and kindness. I actively choose to break cycles that hurt me and others. I am a sister, daughter, aunt, cousin, wife and most importantly mother of 3 amazing children. I am a special needs teacher and therapist to my son and an autism and special needs advocate. I am a Registered Nurse. I have welcomed life into the world, prevented sickness, healed the sick, helped save lives and been there to support those going home. I have made a difference in the lives of many patients and individuals.
I am highly principled and highly spirited. I have beautiful eyes and lips and a beautiful mind. I seek truth and justice in all I do. I love to sing with all my heart. I am intelligent, warm, compassionate and sensual. I have intuition and empathy in spades which I desire to help seekers and travelers by. I have dreams that I am still fulfilling. I enjoy reading, writing, history and learning languages. I long to travel within and without. I never want to stop learning. I am capable and strong. I lead when called to do so, without fear. I love people, all kinds of people.
I have many lovable and desirable qualities. I no longer need to focus on proofs of being unloved. No part of me is unlovable. I inherently believe there were and are and will be more moments that I am given love and respect than I allow myself to see. I am love…loving and lovable…and I am grateful.
I’ve sat down and stared at a blinking cursor, trying to write this piece for months.
It’s not that I don’t want the words to come out, it’s that for a long time, they’ve remained locked inside me. As someone who used to make a living writing (that should be in quotation marks, because ain’t nobody living on a part-time freelance writer’s income), having the inability to express myself has been uncomfortable.
Reading the stories that I curate for ShowMeYourBrave both inspires and deflates me, because I’ve been so amazed by the bravery of others that it feels silly sometimes to allow myself to crumble when life could be so much worse. But for years, I’ve felt like I am barely treading water. I’m not going to tell you I’ve suffered with anxiety all my life, because the truth is that for most of my years, I had no idea that’s what it was. This panic is normal, isn’t it? It didn’t feel like suffering, just coping.
As a kid, I was paralyzed by random feelings that my heart was going to fall into my stomach, that I couldn’t take a deep breath, that something was chasing me, despite sitting safely in a classroom. I lived in fear that someone was about to die. Me? My parents? Who knew. My palms would sweat, I had a nervous stomach, and I compensated well. Tiring, sure, but as an only child, I found ways to manage my feelings that usually involved retreating to my bedroom alone. Even through adulthood, I managed my anxiety by retreating. It became a sticking point when I was married, despite it being the way I was keeping myself afloat.
Whenever I felt a crack form, I’d plaster over it and move along. I remember the feelings like whispers from around a corner: something is wrong. I’d become a parent, and lost all sight of who I was; my own needs flew out the window. I’d spent my life with a partner who felt more like another child I had to hold together: managing their challenges, holding them together, coddling and mothering them daily. I’d spent my life caring for others’ needs because fixating on others felt easier than fixing myself. I’d suffered postpartum depression, birthed a still baby, had another child with life threatening health issues, and one day, I found myself single. Suddenly, all the putty I’d applied over my cracks crumbled. For three months, I couldn’t eat or sleep. You laugh and think it’s hyperbole, but for three months, I had to force drops of water into my body, because I feared I may die otherwise. I ran on adrenaline and caffeine when the coffee wasn’t rotting my stomach.
One day, I screwed up the courage to drag myself into my doctor’s office and begged for help. I’d been there before… when my baby had died halfway through my pregnancy, I went to him for medication and he said, “I can’t prescribe you anything. You’re depressed, and rightly so. You’re going to feel like this for awhile.” I don’t know if his choice to let me suffer through that was a good one (it sure didn’t feel that way at the time), but I knew this time, I couldn’t handle this on my own. He conceded to prescribing me a drug to help me cope: Clonazepam. After a week of taking it, I felt like I’d never felt in my life: like everything was going to be ok.
With therapy (oh god, a lot of therapy) and a whole lot of work, I crawled out of that place, and it terrifies me to think I could slip back there any time. Therapy was simultaneously taking me apart and gluing me back together. I loved and loathed my sessions, and because I’ve always had a little bit of a thing for pain, I kept going back. I liked the woman I was becoming, but as my therapist said: it wasn’t who I was becoming, it was who I was uncovering.
There were years when the idea of picking up a phone to call someone would paralyze me. Some days, I couldn’t find the bravery to go out in public and grocery shop. Sometimes, someone would ask if they could come to my home to visit, and I would break out in a nervous sweat contemplating all the reasons why that would be an unmitigated disaster. I’d built walls so high to protect myself, but in the process, I’d isolated and destroyed myself. It was that breaking point that lead me here: to a place of contentment like I’ve never known before.
I know my faults – too many to list. But I also know my strengths. I know that my brave is different from yours, but that it’s no less brave. These days, anxiety and depression feel like wolves just beyond a back fence. Or like someone staring in my home’s windows, waiting for the moment I am vulnerable. They’re in my peripheral vision instead of sitting upon my chest. I made it out of the dark, and yes, the darkness still exists, but I’m too busy enjoying the sunshine to worry about that today.
I had originally wrote a much different story for this blog, but a friend told me that it focused too much on 'him' and not enough about me. The truth is, I came to Lady Luck to feel something I hadn't felt in years: Beautiful. Pretty. Exceptional. Sexy.
It has been so long since I did something for me, to make me feel good. I couldn't say no for even one more day, it had to be done. Call me selfish if you want to, but I damned well deserve this. EVERYONE deserves a chance to feel this amazing!
I came to the studio newly single...feeling defeated, broken, and worthless. By the end of the shoot I was literally walking around the studio in nothing but a thong and a smile because Jen made me feel that comfortable in my own skin. I felt like I owned myself for the first time in a long time, and wow! what a feeling that is!
I have a new lease on life, honestly. I came in feeling like I was shattered into a million pieces, and left knowing that I wasn't broken at all, just a little bent. - Amie
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