TALK IS CHEAP

Art by Poppy

Art by Poppy

When I was 28 I was diagnosed with cancer. It was one of those life shattering moments that will forever permeate my existence. It all began with back pain, and what started as a dull ache quickly became unbearable. Agony. Pure, violent, scarlet red agony. I started smashing codeine like there was no tomorrow. Exhaustion took over and I would find myself napping at any available moment, on my lunch break, after work, on the tube. I lost all my strength and became so weak I couldn’t even unscrew a jar of Marmite. The night sweats and fevers came. On a bad night I’d need to change my pyjamas multiple times, as they’d be soaked through with sweat. The weight started to fall off me and my jeans that once made my bum look peachy now had a good 3 inches of extra material to pull at. People started to comment – “You’ve lost weight”. Had I? I wasn’t convinced, for some reason it wasn’t computing with me that I was ill, very ill. I was frightened to talk to anyone about it, especially a doctor. Eventually it all got too much and I was admitted to hospital for a five-day stint. At this point I was pretty much bed bound and my body was working overtime to keep me going. After lots of tests and biopsies I was diagnosed with Stage 4b Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a rare type of blood cancer. I will never forget my doctor first uttering the words ‘You have cancer’ to me as I lay in my hospital bed. It felt as though my world had literally fallen away from me. The corners of my reality blurred, my hearing warped and I was plunged down into a deep, dark hole; a nightmare. There were so many questions, so many things I didn’t understand. Medical jargon and complex terminology filled my conversations. Anxiety and fear ate away at my brain. 

Then came the chemo. It destroyed my body from the inside out and I was left feeling like a shell of a woman, a relic of my former self. Diarrhea, mouth sores, neutropenia, bone aches, migraines, exhaustion, mental fatigue, constipation, muscle cramps, anxiety, shivers, insomnia, piles, tooth infections, acne, weight loss, weight gain, stomach cramps, raised heart rate, infections, viruses, hospital admissions, hot flushes, nausea, joint aches, dizziness, chest pain, hair loss, water retention, swollen ankles, acid reflux, sun spots, trapped wind, fevers, anemia, breathlessness, paranoia and loss of energy were all part of the process. It was a tough fucking slog. It was an assault on my physical and mental self, a barrage of feelings thrown at me from all angles. 

But there was one thing that got me through the pain, the chemo, the side effects, the risk of infertility, the anxiety and the fear. One simple thing that most humans are blessed with the ability to do. That one simple thing was talking; about anything and everything I was going through. Talking became my medicine, a saviour in the madness. 

I’ve always been a talker. My Mum is from Belfast so talking’s in my blood, it’s not easy for me to shut up. I started talking at the ripe old age of 14 months. My first word was apple. At school I was often chucked out of lessons for it, I was that annoying girl who teachers hated because she just couldn’t keep her gob shut. My school reports always read “She’d achieve much better grades if only she’d stop talking so much”. But we shouldn’t stop talking and we shouldn’t be encouraging children and young people to talk less. In fact, we need to do the opposite, humanity needs to talk more. Give me a bottle of wine, some good company and I could easily talk for at least 8 hours straight, even on subjects I literally know nothing about. I love talking. It is definitely, without question, my most favourite past time. 

So for a woman who loves talking so much there were times in my cancer journey (God I hate using that term!) when I struggled to talk, to tell people how I was feeling. People don’t like to talk about illness and death. I can’t blame them, it’s hardly a cheery subject that we want to bring up at the pub on a Friday night. But the thing is cancer is still a taboo and it hides behind fear. Maybe this is why initially, when I started to feel ill, I didn’t go to a doctor sooner and is partly blame for such a late stage diagnosis. I was scared, deeply frightened of what they might say, what fate I might be dealt. With cancer, it’s simple - not talking creates fear, fear leads to people not going to the doctors, not going to the doctors leads to late diagnoses, late diagnosis leads to a more likely death. That is the cold, hard, brutal reality. The reality of our time is that 1 in 2 people will get cancer, that’s half of everyone you know, isn’t it time we started talking about it in a more honest way? 

We’ve come to a place in society where everything is imaged based, bite sized, hash tagged and captioned. Slogan after slogan plasters my Instagram feed, every next person is donning a t-shirt with a neat, easy to read caption sprawled across their chests. Where has the big conversation gone? Where is the depth? We need to talk more; more openly, more honestly and more candidly about the big things. And it’s not just cancer that we struggle to talk about, there are so many big issues that we shy away from discussing. Rape, child sexual abuse, abortion, mental health, depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism, transgenderism; the list is endless and varied. 

Talking helps, for a moment, to make us feel like we are less alone, that we are understood, that we are not bat-shit crazy but in fact human, and vulnerable, and at times maybe even a little messed up. It reminds us that we are not the only person in the world who hurts, who is ill, who is oppressed or struggling, but that there are lots of other people out there experiencing the same. Most importantly it creates awareness, and with awareness comes understanding and slowly, slowly (at times desperately slowly) comes change. Talk is not just cheap, it’s free. It is the one thing on this planet that (almost) all humans can do that doesn’t cost any money but that can engender change. Take it from me; chatting shit is good for the soul. Talk more. 

Embellished talk x Gurls Talk x Nicole

GURLS TALK has teamed up with Embellished Talk, an online platform that explores the different works of textiles designers. Founded by Rebeckah Kemi Apara, she has picked four other designers and hand embroidered 20 t-shirts in various sizes. 100% of the proceeds from the t-shirts will go to the Baytree Centre; a women's and girls charity that supports social inclusion through educational programmes and activities.

Simran

Gi

Ola

Baiba

Nicole Chui

 

Embroidery Artist and Founder of Fem Zine

Growing up in a family of four sisters, I've always known that having a group of supportive females is important. Naturally, this project hit very close to home. I love that Gurls Talk is that safe space where girls of all backgrounds can support each other without judgement, and I love fact that Adwoa uses her influential status to open more discussions about mental health for girls. It's brilliant that this exists because mental health is something everyone encounters every day, regardless of your identity. Gurls Talk needs to be around the world —especially in Asia where mental health is still extremely stigmatised. The shirts I stitched express deep issues in a loud and humorous way. They are definitely shirts that would make someone want to stop and ask questions, which is good because it creates open discussions and hopefully bring more people to Gurls Talk!

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Embroidery InstagramPersonal Instagram

Fem Zine Instagram

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Nicole has an embroidery workshop and exhibition coming up this week.  - workshop

exhibition

Embellished talk x Gurls Talk x Rebeckah

GURLS TALK has teamed up with Embellished Talk, an online platform that explores the different works of textiles designers. Founded by Rebeckah Kemi Apara, she has picked four other designers and hand embroidered 20 t-shirts in various sizes. 100% of the proceeds from the t-shirts will go to the Baytree Centre; a women's and girls charity that supports social inclusion through educational programmes and activities.

Bella

Debbie

Nadine

Rebeckah Kemi Apara

 

 

Textiles Designer, Founder of Embellished Talk and Creative Director of the Embellished Gurls Talk collaboration.

Hand embroidery is always therapeutic for me. It allows me to calm down and breath, as much as I love Instagram I need a break from staring at a screen. Being able to create a piece of textiles boosts my confidence and gives me self-esteem. Every time I finish working on fabric I feel a sense of accomplishment which makes me want to do more. I love the fact that I've been in control of my own confidence and haven't relied on validation or praise from anyone else. Embroidering the Gurls Talk t-shirts has been incredibly surreal. I’ve had a girl crush on Adwoa for a long time. When I was growing up, being from Africa wasn’t considered attractive or “cool”. Whenever I told people that I was half Ghanaian and Nigerian they would be surprised and say “oh, you don’t look African”. The first time I saw Adwoa in a magazine I felt so happy, the moment I knew her name was Adwoa I knew she was Ghanaian because it’s a typical Ghanaian name. Whenever I see different people of African descent accomplishing things I feel so proud and it makes me think, eff you to all the people that thought Africans weren’t attractive or worthy.

I wish Gurls Talk existed when I was a teenager growing up. I had so many questions, curiosities and insecurities that I couldn't articulate. One big curiosity was about boys and sex. I strongly believe women and girls should talk about sex on a daily basis. It's a weird thing and we need to know more about it. Gurls Talk is a place where girls feel comfortable to talk about any issues without being judged; from uncomfortable sex, being shy, to growing up with a strict father. Our spectrum of emotions and feelings are wide and we're allowed to express them. I think men and boys should read Gurls Talk so they have an understanding on how we feel; maybe there’s a dad, boyfriend or brother who wants to understand the girl in his life much better.


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If you’re interested in learning more about hand sewing and textiles Rebeckah’s running a clutch bag decorating workshop on Thursday 18 May at WAH Nails London. You can book a ticket here.

Bernice Mulenga

Photographer and Assistant Creative Director of the Embellished Gurls Talk shoot.

Gurls Talk to me is freeing. It's not planned. It's unscripted. It's raw. It's a way to bond and connect with your girls on different levels. Gurls Talk is a chance to get things off my chest, no matter how big or small. Gurls Talk is the best talk to exist, it's between mother and daughter, sis to sis, woman to woman.

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Nwaka Okparaeke

Photographer and Creative Director of the Embellished Gurls Talk shoot.

Gurls Talk for me is the route to free all the thoughts and feelings created by suppression. In this, comes a chance to open people's minds to other people's experiences as well as our own in order to grow stronger and create positive changes. This is extremely important to me as someone who has felt unable (and still does at times) to say what's on my mind without the fear of being attacked because apparently, it "shouldn't" be coming from a "lovely girl" like me. Or it's apparently too vivid, sensitive, disgusting etc. for some to accept me discussing it confidently.

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Mom

Collage by: Vasiliki Agathokleous

Collage by: Vasiliki Agathokleous

I know you're tired. I know you've fought so hard to be right where you are. You have come so far yet you feel you have so much left to go. Every day comes with a new batch of worries that you carry heavily on your back alone. You put your own sorrows aside to tend to everyone else. Motherhood changed you in ways you never predicted. Having children is your biggest joy, but many times, it is also your biggest heartbreak. Life is not streamlined to be one way or another. One moment everything is beautiful, and the next you feel like you are crumbling to the dirt. I know you have wounds that have yet to be healed. Some fresh, some as old as me. Some from before my lifetime. I know they hurt you continually, and that you try your best to ignore them. Because you feel you have to. Because you are so used to taking care of everyone except for yourself.

I know you're tired, mom. But I want you to see that all you have done was not in vain. You are the reason for my existence. You are the reason for my internal strength. The reason I did not feel alone when I fell into darkness. You are the only one who has consistently held my hand my entire life. You are the reason I stand so tall and fight so hard to earn my rightful position in this world. Because of your dedication to me, I am on my way to giving my help to hundreds, potentially thousands of people that need it. By holding me up my entire life, you indirectly helped so many others. You are a gift to this entire world. A real-life angel.

I know you're tired, mom, but you need to know that you accomplished so much by getting to where you are now. I need you to rest easy knowing that you are enough. That you did everything right. You are exactly where you need to be. All the marks and changes in your body are beautiful because they represent everything you have struggled through. All of your victories, losses, battles. They are all part of you, and they are what make you magnificent.

I know you're tired. But it is time that you take a breath and relax, now knowing everything I have just told you. Sleep a little lighter knowing that you are the biggest blessing in my life, simply by existing. Tend to those wounds that you so often neglect. Drop those loads of worry off your back. Breathe easier, smile through your heart. Your existence is valid, important, beautiful, significant.

I know you're tired, but I also know you are so much more than that. You are a source of life. You are the foundation of our family. You are a pillar of strength for so many people. You are my mother.

I Am Grateful for My Sadness

I am grateful for my sadness whenever it visits me. I am honored to be able to feel the emotion of sadness, in the same way I am grateful when I feel happiness. I am grateful because I know what it is like to be without any and all emotions. To feel complete numbness, to wake up every morning with a fog over my head, a fog that never allowed me to see or feel or think clearly. To only want to return to sleep every morning, to sleep frequently throughout each day because the overwhelming numbness scared me to my core. If I cannot feel, then what am I? Isn't it the human experience to feel things, to have emotions? If I am numb, do I cease to be human?

The overwhelming anxiety the numbness would bring could take my breath away. When I was able to have moments of wakefulness in between my bits of sleep, I was left with the gut-wrenching, chest-tightening realization that I felt nothing. I felt like a tiny being inside an empty shell, nothing inside but the absolute emptiness that I was sinking into. I could see emotions in others, but not as often as I did before the emptiness took its residency within me; I felt like a spectator, but felt no empathy towards those I viewed. I had absolutely no appetite. I would solely consume coffee- even though I was aware that too much of it on my frequently empty stomach would trigger my anxiety. I had lost impulse control. I had lost myself.

This happened to me on more than one occasion, and I have recovered many times over. But each time I recovered, I came back as a fuller, more vibrant self. I felt every emotion in a way that I had never felt before; in a vibrant, beautifully colorful way that became more vibrant, more beautiful, and more colorful with each recovery. Today, after months of fighting the numbness away and the fresh new feeling that the Persian New Year has brought to me, I feel extreme gratitude for the emotions that visit me every day. Even sadness. The feeling of sadness has a stigma attached to it which causes many Americans to try to avoid it at all costs. We are told to only feel happiness, to only want happiness, to only celebrate happiness. But you actually cannot feel true happiness without knowing true sorrow. Without feeling and embracing sadness, you will never be able to fully welcome happiness. In Sri Lanka, sadness and grief are seen as an important part of life that each person must experience in order to continue their journey to enlightenment. They do not avoid it or ignore it. They acknowledge it, grow through it, and recognize its importance. I embrace this belief, which lead me to have an immense gratitude for all emotions, not just the obvious ones such as happiness and joy. I even began writing daily lists of gratitude in order to exercise and to grow the propensity I have for giving it out to the universe. I believe this will allow me to be rooted firmly to the present, to avoid wanting more and more all while already having so much. To be grateful for the things I have today is a wonderful feeling. It brings me peace. It brings me satisfaction. It brings me a feeling of warmth that can only be compared to the sun engulfing my entire body on a perfect spring day.

Begin practicing gratitude, and see the change it brings to your life. Start each morning by saying (out loud or in your head) what you are grateful for today. I urge all of you to at least try.

Anxiety

I’ve decided to write in rather than video simply for the fact that ironically my anxiety is too much to bare a camera capturing my raw thoughts and feelings. I find writing a way of expressing a thousand words more than what my mouth and voice could ever do. I believe I suffer from anxiety that also being social anxiety. I also get random spouts of sadness where I cannot for the life of me understand or explain why I’m sad, I simply just feel a sense of worthlessness. Being the youngest of four as well as having parents who are very much traditional and conservative as they get (no sleeping in the same bed as your partner unless you’re married!) has never really helped me in any way, my immediate family is quite close but having four perfect older siblings as well as being the only one who is adopted I have truly never felt adequate. I have never expressed this entirely to my family so it has pretty much built up over the years and I have sort of just repressed all my feelings. I think this is why at the age of 22 I succumb so much to anxiety because I’ve ever - to bluntly put it - stuck up for myself, expressed how I’m truly feeling or been confident enough to really say my opinion when it came to discussions with my parents. I think, as much as your family may say they love you and y’know you’re part of the family and although they don’t treat you any different to your other siblings, deep in my gut I can never shake the sadness of not really feeling apart of this family. I’ve struggled with this my whole life, and I think it’s this inadequacy that my anxiety has stemmed from. I don’t think I could ever really discuss it with my parents because I think mental health is so stigmatised and anxiety itself I feel is never really taken seriously. there have been times where I’ve literally ripped the skin from my nails to the point of blood shed because I am so anxious it’s my go to habit. I literally start to shake when I’m in social settings to the point where I start to tell myself I need confidence enhancing substances just to take the edge of my awkwardness. I put on a happy face and smile and laugh a lot of the time, but deep down I really am suffering and I just wanted a space where I could express this and I’ve found it, so thank you :) 

Sincerely,

Cece 

I Was Torn

By: Amanda Maciel Antunes

“(…) And I a smiling women, I am only thirty. And like the cat I have nine times to die.” - Sylvia Plath I was torn.

I didn’t know what was wrong with me, it didn't even matter back then. I found comfort in remembering my fifteen year old episode of self-harm. And again at twenty two. And once more at twenty nine. Those versions of myself were my untrustable traitors. Never again, I thought. Never again. It is an entertained thought when the house is empty and only what remains of someone is left behind. You do not know when it's coming unless it vibrates like a drill about to explode. In me there’s always a slow awakening from my personal, my dream, creative life. But what first awakens is this resistance to outer destruction. Noise and light are amplified, so is dark and silence, until the senses become dulled. I’m always afraid it will do this while I’m asleep and that I'll vanish. I never tire of hearing about depression, and some of us seem to have a disguised opinion about it. “moved away”; “took drugs”; “found religion”; “met someone” —- It is something I’ve lived with for years. At times it is so deep that it’s useless to throw an anchor so you learn how to swim in emotional waters. Some would say they have been born there. Some discover the joy in excessive negligence associated with feeling at ease. Some will renounce it. Some will die a thousand times before they do. My internal conflicts with the creative, the content of my work, is the demon in me. The adventure-loving, and I do feel this adventurousness is a harm to my loves. I associate creation with ruthlessness and indifference to consequences. By being true to the woman, upon what the creative depends, an inevitable desertion makes you frequently feel a loss greater than the gain. Today it requires a more intensified shock to move us than it ever required before. The spirit of poetry is practically falling into turgid bankruptcy. The process of analyzing the world is unavoidably the difference between empathy suffering and personal suffering diluted by our aspirations. The consciousness of sensations seem to be dictated by ultra-expensive dining experiences in vapid and sterile environments issuing austerity and lifelong annuities stablished by one’s own good luck. We invite these sensations merely as a one-off festive entertainment. A type of lottery organized by communities for the relief and support of those who desire to obtain for themselves the pleasant and convenient means of reliable and substantial life. Then when depression cracks you open, everything is kind, cordial, without the warmth. You pretend in your mind that all you want is to sleep in the darkest depths of yourself. You don’t want to change your mind, you want rather to be encouraged. You seem not to see what was there in reality. There’s no need to oppose this inability to act, this personal reaction to cut out the umbilical chord between the real and the imaginable. For they never thought this misery had a practical solution. I Was Torn Amanda Maciel Antunes If you manage to get back to the surface from it you know what an absence of sense is. You know the grin with which you’re invited to battle. You know how indebted you are with having to say yes to being rescued. You weep because you should fight. You do not want any friendship that does not demand equal hardness. You want to be able to trust this connection you have with danger. You think that nobody but you who has felt it can conceive what a plaguing thing it is to have your mind torn. And you want, most of all, joy at the realization that you’re completing a work in secrecy. You want to uncover the mundane so you can begin to understand the horizon like the edge of a saw. Yet it isn’t your ethics or the quality of your years in therapy that will presumably dare you to mind this feeling, that in some small or real way, betrays you. It’s a job in which obstacles, sentimental attachments and uncool soft spots become serious personal liabilities. People can kid about “peaceful feelings”, but there’s nothing redeeming about your milestones. They are like forest fires. Out of necessity, fires come and fires go. If you walk into those burned scars, you’ll find some new underbrush and you’ll wait for a new fire to come to your doorstep. There’s a pervasive and toxic quality to them as they burn unprotected acre after acre. But you’ve seen them grow, and darken, and some day for the first time your fires will smell like no other kind. But such is the effect of obstacles that you become familiar with the exposure of the worthless laws and you begin to wonder where there would seem to be virtually no escaping this time. Except, that’s not true to us mortals and reckless uncaring children. As far as we know, we are utterly alone in a floating rock, doomed for extinction. And our momentary reality, however fleeting, tracks the distance between an unhappy mix of betting and the sight of a breathtaking investment in magical thinking.

Depression

My name is Kimbra Audrey, I’m an american photographer living in Paris. I take only self-portraits and shoot exclusively on film which I develop myself at home. I relate to gurls talk alot. I worked as a model for almost 10 years, I just quit last year after becoming severely depressed and developing an extremely unhealthy relationship with my body. I started modeling when I was 15 after growing up in a troubled home and suffered with depression my entire life as well as numerous suicide attempts. 

I now focus my photography on documenting my depression as well as using it as an outlet for feelings that I have trouble articulating. I find it easier to translate my thoughts into photographs. Not only that by my self-portraiture has helped me build back my self-esteem and confidence which was completely shattered after modeling for so long. 

Mental Health Awareness Week

By: Gurls Talk

Mental health affects 1 in 4 people worldwide, we at Gurls Talk want to let you know we are hear for you. If you feel like you are alone, a lot of people are struggling and by creating a community and raising awareness we can help each other. If you are in a dark place and need help email us! WE ARE HERE FOR YOU!  

 

If you are struggling with depression, anxiety or any other mental health issues please send us a 1 minute long video between
May 9 - May 11, we want to feature you to help raise awareness about Mental Health this week! Send here. We look forward to hearing from you, thank you for helping raise awareness with us!

Lands by Jemima Khalli

Lands is a soft collection about understanding the lands we come, the people that brought us here but also about landing softly where we are within ourselves. 

It's my personal reflection on being a young, woman of colour. 

I'm a 24 years old mixed heritage / black british writer

I wanted Lands to be accessible to everyone. It's a very honest and unrefined collection.

To find out more visit https://www.jemimakhalli.com/ or here

Relationships

Relationships. 

When you’ve got you, they’re great. When you don’t, they can be distracting as hell. 

DISCLAIMER: 

I DON’T do relationship or marital therapy. EVER. The reason: I LOVE what I DO so much. It’s not only what I do. It’s more than that. I’m on a mission to do whatever the hell I can, using my experiences, training, vignettes, breath, poems, dances, headstands, whatever it takes to help individuals to #GetHere, show up, feel their value, meet their potential. I’ve lived both ways—knowing my value & looking for it in all the wrong places. Knowing it makes life a hell of a lot easier. And so, I’ll be damned if I don’t give everyone of you all I’ve got. Don’t let me fool you. I’m not selfless. AT ALL. There’s truly nothin’ like being a part of another’s process & seeing Stella, Sally, Lola (—and YOU, too!) get her groove back. Nothing like it, and couples work is no exception.

I didn’t always steer clear of couples, but I learned quickly—NOT my thing. I had a really hard time with it. My goal ALWAYS is to help individuals to meet their goals. For couples, it was weird. You see—when couples come in for therapy, the identified client is the couple, not either of the individuals in the relationship. When I attempted couples work, I always ended up referring the couple to another clinician. Always. I couldn’t bring myself to teach one or both of the amazing human-beings in front of me to dumb-down, sell out, and potentially lose themselves to keep the unhealthy significant other feeling okay and secure in the relationship. I couldn’t do it. 

Healthy individuals don’t typically have relationship problems that warrant therapy. In my limited experience with couples, the work involved people who were seeking themselves in another person or a relationship status. Couples work wasn’t their answer. They needed individual therapy first! And, I would have been willing to bet that at the conclusion of their individual work, neither would have chosen the other. So, it always felt icky and like I was a part of something toxic. I LOVED the individuals, so I HATED the work. 

So, if you’re struggling in your relationship. Either your “picker” is off, or you need to nurture your relationship with you. Regardless, it all comes back to YOU. 

Here’s the deal. There are three MUSTS for relationship success. 

1.) Increasing self-esteem, so that you can live your value by setting boundaries and NEVER accepting unacceptable behavior.

2.) Engaging in a solid self-love regimen, so that your partner is always a compliment and NEVER a supplement to you and your life. 

3.) Having a good solid understanding of your attachment style or your manner of attaching to a significant other, so you can respond and NOT react to your partner. 

A quick note: your attachment style today mimics your attachment style to your early childhood caregiver. There are four different types of attachment: secure, anxious/preoccupied, dismissing or fearful-avoidant. They’re determined by how your needs were met by your attachment figure in infancy. It’s relevant NOW, because research tells us that only the securely attached can connect to another in a meaningful way. The rest of us are playing games—clinging on for dear life or managing our own abandonment by giving our partner a good shove every now and again. 

Of course, the three MUSTS are correlated. To begin to increase esteem, self-love, and your ability to connect in a meaningful way, learn to self-soothe by treating yourself like you would treat the one you love the very most. 

#APersonalNote to illustrate.

My daughter, Ava, is the one I love the most. Several years ago, after I’d had many a personal growth spurt, I STILL struggled with esteem, self-love, and in relationships. It seemed that no matter how balanced my lifestyle pattern and mood, no matter how much confidence I had in various skill-sets, I continued to feel desperate in relationships. There was something oddly romantic about desperation, honestly. So, my intimate relationships were always destructive, rather than promoting. I didn’t know how to fix ‘em, but I had the insight to know it was an inside job. You see, I had always done a lot of things and done them very well, thinking that doing so would make me feel better about myself. Because that’s all I knew how to do, I kept doing more & better—still, at a loss about how to feel more & better, though. That is, until I had Ava. My love for Ava taught me how to love myself. Wholeheartedly. Let me explain.

Ava came pure value. 100% value. Her value was so much bigger than she was and honestly, she didn't do a whole lot. She ate, slept, and shit. Oh, and she cried, too. Today, at age 13, Ava does a ton of amazing things. She can teach herself an Adele song on the piano within a couple of hours. She crushes her academics. She's a great runner. She's beautiful and kind. The interesting part is that she has no more value to me or to the world today than she did when all she did was breathe and be human. She was pure value then. She's pure value now. The best part is that her value has nothing to do with her skill-sets, successes, appearance, or even personality. She is value, because she is here. Period. 

Recognizing this made me think because even when feeling desperate, I was reasonable. My seemingly incurable lack of self-esteem and self-love that led to feeling so damn desperate in relationships started to make no logical sense. I got to thinking, “If Ava came pure value, I must have, too. If breathing is enough for Ava, then breathing must be enough for me, too. And hey! If Ava is lovable and pure value added, then…Wow, same! I am value, too.” Knowing that was a huge deal, but the next part of the process was even bigger. Knowing wasn’t enough. I had to feel it. I went as far as to think that if I started to treat myself like I treated Ava, I just might be able to love myself like I love Ava.

Next came the experiment. Everything I did for Ava, I did for me. From the start, it was interesting. It became apparent that most things I had previously thought were acts of self-love were very different from how I loved the one I love the most. For example, my former attempt at “self-love” looked like manicures and handbags, while loving Ava felt like time, attention, and connection. For the experiment, the way I set aside time to read to Ava, I set aside time for me to read to me. The way that the world stopped when Ava needed time to relax, eat, bathe, breathe, the world stopped for me, too. When I set Ava up for a playdate, guess what? Dinner with friends, regardless of deadlines, dirty laundry, or my to-do list. The results were amazing. I was right. In treating me like I treated Ava, I began to love me like I love Ava. 

The best part—with self-love came esteem, and with esteem came healthier relationship patterns. 

So, what are you to do? 

1.) Treat yourself like I treat Ava or like the one you love the very most. Start your own experiment today.

2.) Every time, you catch yourself saying, “If HE would only______________, I’d feel so much better” change the HE to I to make it, “If I would only_________________, I’d feel so much better.” STOP telling him how to love you, and you love you instead.

Once you’ve got you, healthy connection is just a matter of time, my dear. You’ll see!

Talk soon,

xo Lauren

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let's Love Ourselves

By: Phoebe

Illustration By: Venus Libido

Illustration By: Venus Libido

A friend's dick-ish boss once announced to her office that there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. His yelled out instruction to his assembled employees?: 'Walk! That! Line!'. Doesn't that sound like such a guy thing to say?

Ladies, gurls, sisters; I have a manifesto. Let's ignore the arrogance part, but can we breathe in that self-secure, entitled, hitherto macho confidence? In place of the arrogance, can we encourage ourselves to be kind to ourselves and others? Can we force the voice in our head that criticises our bodies, our capabilities, our personalities to shut the fuck up? 

Women feeling shit about themselves is just another cog in the machinery of patriarchy, and as we rightfully demand equality, we really need to stop wasting our energy on feeling like we aren't pretty enough, thin enough, fit enough, attractive enough, smart enough. We are all, without exception, enough of everything.

Ok, maybe manifesto is the wrong word. I don't have the answers. The most I can offer is a signpost. I can tell you about me. I do not suffer from self doubt.

I wish I could trace back what happened in my head in my early 20s. I can't honestly say when I realised that I loved my body. Not that it's “perfect” (as if such a thing even existed), and I can crack jokes all day about my flat as a pancake ass and wonky teeth. But I honestly love the rest. Hell, I even love my sad sack butt. I don't know where this 'OMG my body is great' revelation came from, though I wish I could bottle this shit and pass it out.

To me, feeling happy in my body was the first component of feeling capable of achieving my dreams. Ditching an academic university course to train as a designer, moving to a new country alone to find a job, learn a language and build a career in a competitive industry, all felt possible because my sense of self was rock solid. Loving my body turned into loving myself, being my own cheerleader, believing myself able to do whatever I put my mind to. I can't even tell you what power this gives me, that I don't need approval or validation from anyone.

I wasn't always this way. Teenage years are tough for most of us. Either you grow weird – in my case a painful couple of inches a year, with a nose that overtook my face for a while there. Or you have acne, or greasy hair, or some other affliction. Maybe something as ridiculous as a body type that isn't currently in fashion. The girls around you all seem so pretty, you feel gross. But the shyness you feel about your body in the locker room at school – pretty understandable since you are only just getting used to the new hair and boobs and all – can so easily turn into a shame that never lifts. Be vigilant, don't allow that shame to settle.

Young women can be really hard on each other. We are all trying to figure out who we are, and we can damage each other without even realising it. I know from when I was a teenager, a truly scrawny teenager, how insidious a casual comment can be. It went like this:

My best friend (competitive, a tinge of jealousy); 'You have massive hips'.

Me; 'Really?'.

Back home I start looking at my hips. I really examine my reflection. She's right, the hips are huge. Every time I look in the mirror they look larger, the more I look, the more hideous I appear. That year I spend a summer flirting with anorexia, enjoying the control over my body that I only need precisely one bagel, one orange and a packet of cigarettes to get through the day. I'm not consciously trying to shrink away my hated hips, but I do get pleasure from punishing my body. It makes me feel sad, it deserves to suffer.

One day, I buy a cardigan which is cropped and boxy, I look again in my mirror. Suddenly the silhouette I am used to seeing is switched up. The bulk of the cardigan makes my hips look strangely narrow. The spell is broken. I could never think of myself in the same way again. And in that wake-up moment, I learnt about the weird and scary tricks our eyes play on us, how we can convince ourselves of pretty much anything when it comes to our appearance. Body dysmorphia doesn't just affect dangerously thin anorexic girls, who see imaginary rolls of fat reflected back at them. In my head, my hips looked like something from a fairground hall of mirrors, when in reality, after a summer of eating almost nothing, I looked scarily skeletal.

But if we can convince ourselves that we are ugly, fat, or grotesque so easily, why can't it work the other way around? Can we look in the mirror and convince ourselves to feel beautiful, confident and ready to take on the world?

No answers, then. But some ideas:

  • You never want to be the girl who says the critical thing that someone else carries with them. I'm talking the snide little sneer, the backhanded compliment ('wow, you don't look fat at all in that!'), the off-hand comment that you know will sting. This stuff usually comes out when you're feeling bad about yourself, though it will in no way help your self love cause. Actually, if you harm someone else's self esteem you should feel properly ashamed. I know that I paid back my teenage best friend's massive hip comment with some other slight, and that makes me feel bad even now.

  • Seek out gurls who will cheerlead you, and who you can cheerlead. As much as women can fuck each other up, we can also be the strength that supports you, the positive voices that help you feel strength in yourself. Finding loving and supportive friendships is the best thing you can do to improve your self esteem and quality of life. Those girls who make you feel bad about yourself, they need to go.

  • Comparing yourself to others is a fast way to feel like crap. Social media will destroy your self esteem if you let it.
     
  • Try, (and ok, this is going to sound like a self help book, but consider giving it a go) to look in the mirror and see beauty. Imagine your body is someone else's, and think how you would see her if she were your friend. Don't concentrate on looking at what you consider your less than perfect parts, try and regard your body with love and admiration. Use those weird mind tricks to see good things.

I'm in my thirties now, and one thing that women my age and older tend to agree on is that they spent way too much of their earlier lives feeling inadequate and/or unattractive. Most of us get there in the end, accepting ourselves flaws and all, and loving ourselves nonetheless. I guess what I'm advocating is that you cut to the chase, and get to that part now. 'Cause it's sweet :)

Finding Self Worth

By: Millie Nyeman

Illustration by: Ella Strickland de Souza

Illustration by: Ella Strickland de Souza

I struggled with an eating disorder/ and still do since I was 13- that’s half my life.

As I entered recovery finally, age 24, I expected myself to pull my shit together, and recover perfectly, quickly, and completely. I had this idea that if I beat myself into it enough I would succeed and I would have this “happy, perfect life”. I wanted to recover in my mind, but not in my body. The idea of “self love” made me feel sick and squirmy inside and the idea of letting go of this control I was fighting for over my body was out of the question.

Through being in recovery- showing up, everyday- well most days…! I slowly began to understand what I had been through, through no fault of my own/ The messages I had introjected as a young child, the challenging role I was put in in my family, the sexual abuse I experienced as a child outside my family and had shrugged off as just “Weird” and never spoken about.

I looked back on the pain of entering puberty having no idea what was to happen, and feeling huge shame around my family about my body changing- about becoming a woman-, which to me felt uncomfortable and undesirable.

I started with anorexia. I very quickly became terribly thin- so thin my body began to shut down and I was unable to actually engage in life or school or friends.

As isolating as it was. A part of me felt whole, it felt innocent, -it felt SAFE.

I had always believed I was inherently bad, and this starvation thing, made me feel pure and whole, and innocent. Looking back, it makes me so sad to know this, because I never was bad- at all. I was a young child, with overwhelming emotions and stresses and did not get my needs met.

My eating disorder was a huge cry for help, but by that time, my mind was so unwell, I fought any kind of support tooth and nail. I was told I would be put in hospital if I didn’t start eating. So I did, because no way would anyone have control over me. So I started eating, and with in a few weeks, I discovered making myself sick. And then it spiraled. I got such a sense of relief from it, and it made me feel whole and loved. I was searching for control- but I have never felt more out of control in my life. I hated myself, and I wanted to die- a slow painful death, while everyone watched.

My family did not understand how to help, they tried, they really did, but there was no part of me that believed I could get well so why try.

I very soon started to use drugs to try and control my eating disorder- which then turned into a severe drug addiction.

At age 16 I was kicked out of my home, because my binging and purging and drug taking became too painful for my family to watch.

I ended up living on the street, in a squat, and in a young persons hostel-, which was even scarier than being on the street.

I shoplifted constantly, food, alcohol, clothes, anything- I didn’t care. I was on drugs constantly, often staying awake for days and days. One more score, one more score.

I had no self worth- I would wander in front of cars, fall of buildings, and pass out in the freezing cold months outside.

I was arrested countless times for theft, possession of drugs, skipping bail, over and over etc. etc.

I slept with friends, mostly half past out- I just let them do what they wanted to me, as it seemed their needs were more important than mine.

I was raped, after overdosing on ketamine- I came too- and froze.

Again- I was so ashamed by it, and who would I tell anyway.

All this shit went on and on- I moved to London and did modeling- that was a not helpful lifestyle in anyway.

I moved to Denmark to try and start fresh there-, which was amazing for a while, but slowly my demons, crept in again.

After spending 3 months inside, completely isolated on prescription drugs with just my poor younger brother to check up on me- I made a decision to come home and recover.

My idea of how I would do this was the whole “heal my dirty body” thing. Green smoothies, detoxing, wheatgrass, blah blah blah.

I felt impure, bad, disgusting, greedy, and shameful.

I realize now this was just my eating disorder talking.

What my body needed, what my soul craved, was love. So simple, but so unfamiliar.

Slowly, over the last year and a half, I have learnt to forgive myself, to treat myself as I would a child or a friend.

To be kind, and to be compassionate.

For so many years I was looking for love in the wrong places. And when I found it, if I ever did, it was not in my control, it could be taken away, and it could be conditional.

Little did I know that all along, there was a place in me, where a kind voice flows from.

It started small, but as a seed needs watering, to grow, a tiny voice needs a lot of encouragement and practice, and reassurance from kind people.

I used to feel crippled in my own body. I could always find something wrong with it, and I never believed I would ever make peace with it.

I can now say that I can call my body home, and my heart, my closest friend.

I still struggle at times with old behaviors, but it doesn’t seem to matter anymore- because no matter what, I will pick myself up, comfort myself, sooth my body with kind words and kept trying, keep faith, and keep walking forwards towards myself.

Everyday I feel I am reborn, it is the small things that count, and by holding these words “this too shall pass”, and “I rise, I rise”. I will.

(Aforementioned Sentiments)

Gurls Talk's Jean Estene has put together some of her work to share with the world. A note from her: Through my observations, thoughts and musings, I have developed this collection of fictional poems + anecdotes. The works are centered around relationships and personal reflections, centering around the perspectives of different women. All pieces are derived and rooted from a specific color and are intended to be read aloud. All works have been handwritten or initially voice recorded and transcribed by me. 

 

There is so much to be said about so much that we want to say but don’t want to say because we’re afraid to say that we’re afraid of (feel.ing)...

Sometimes we think much more than we say and say much more than we mean and it all transcends into meaninglessness; still our thoughts intervene and trick us into thinking that thinking is wrong and it would all be better if we didn’t think at all.

 

 

 

See the full book here: http://jeanestene.com/aforementionedsentiments/

 

 

Tackling Anxiety WITH HEY LAUREN

Anxiety can be such a bitch. It’s become quite commonplace for us to state, “I have anxiety” in the face of discomfort, but there’s a big difference between nervous or uncomfortable and an anxiety disorder. Having experienced both, I can tell you that the difference between nervous or uncomfortable and a full-blown anxiety disorder is NOT a matter of how bad it feels in the moment. It’s more so a difference in level of insight, how capable you are of walking through the worry, fear, and panic, and how much in both quantity and quality it’s affecting your life. Regardless of where you fall on the continuum, the feelings are super-normal and treatable.

In our email exchanges, many of you say things like, “I want to A, but I’m afraid. What should I do?” or, “I’m supposed to B, but what if C happens?”. The most common is, “I keep putting off D because it stresses me out, but I’m getting more and more overwhelmed as D piles up. I’m a nervous wreck!” I hear you! Been there, done that, that, and yup—that, too. You’re not alone. We all experience these things. Seriously. Research tells us that there are an estimated 40 million adults (—women are 60% more likely to be diagnosed than men) , who suffer from an anxiety disorder. The rest of us get nervous, too. I’ve found that an intellectual understanding of what’s going on can be super-helpful as you muster the energy to hop into the solution.

#TheFacts

There are several different anxiety disorders. For example, Specific Phobia, Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder are most common. Their close (but different) counterparts Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders and Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders feel super-scary, too, but most of you are expressing concerns about what looks like straight-up anxiety. So, let’s start with understanding what’s going on and what’s NOT.

#InOtherWords

Specific Phobia is like, “Shit, I’m terrified by spiders.” Your anxiety is specific to one isolated thing. In this example, that thing is spiders, but it could be heights, driving in wintery weather, whatever.

Panic Disorder means that you get panic attacks—a conglomeration of physiological symptoms (shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, to name a few) secondary to your fight or flight system kicking into high gear. You may even change plans or adapt your lifestyle for fear of having another.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder means you worry LOTS.

Social Anxiety Disorder describes those of us who get nervous in social situations and, in turn, avoid ‘em AT ALL COSTS.

#TheFeels

Sometimes our discomfort doesn’t seem to fit into any of these categories, but it, certainly, feels like anxiety. Here’s the deal. Many of us, women, (—including me!) feel nervous and anxious secondary to other stuff like low self-esteem, dependency, body image concerns, and other results of the garbage that society tells us from the day we’re born. We, unknowingly, internalize this shit. Buying into what society feeds us is an anxiety-trap. The act of trying to be all that we’re seemingly supposed to be (—and expected not to be!) in this society we live in would make any normal human-being nervous as hell. Society says, “Be yourself!! Oh no. Not like that, though.” It’s like, “Damn. Then, like what?!” Enter the confusion, uncertainty, and the fear…of being seen, of not being liked, of being a failure, of not being enough, etc. Then, to make it worse, when we are experiencing anxiety secondary to the internalized messaging, society says, “Damn. You’re nuts! There’s something wrong with you. RELAX.” We, then, internalize that, and it has the potential to become a vicious cycle with no beginning, middle, or end.

#LetsGetPersonal

Until I learned how to manage my anxiety and stand in my own power—a decades long process—I struggled with all types of nervous energy, anxiety, and panic attacks. For me, what I feared changed with each age and stage but the underlying problem was always low self-esteem. At the time, I thought my anxiety and panic attacks stemmed first from academics, then from appearance, weight & shape, then some dude cheating on me. The apparent trigger morphed and changed, but the feeling was always the same. I worried about everything and nothing, and it took me years to realize that what I thought was the problem of the time was actually never the problem at all.

Here’s a true story to illustrate just how random & detrimental anxiety can be.

When I was in graduate school, I lived approximately 10 miles away from my school. Grad school was a super-stressful time in my life. I was ridiculously perfectionistic, trying to be all things to all people, and had tremendous difficulty with setting boundaries. I never said “NO”, so I was overwhelmed much of the time. Part of my daily routine was to run home to take my dog outside in between classes.

#TheFear

I worried that if I drove away from my garage before the garage was completely down after letting my dog out, the wind might blow swiftly and trigger the garage sensor without my knowledge. In that case, the garage door would remain open, my dog would get out, run into the road, get hit by a car and die. I would be heartbroken. My boyfriend would never forgive me and, in turn, breakup with me. I would be alone for life.

So, to manage my anxiety, I HAD to make damn sure that the garage door closed and stayed closed before driving away. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? Wrong. Especially on exam or presentation days ( high-stress days), my brain played serious tricks on me. I would “make sure” the garage was closed, drive 10 miles to school, second-guess myself, convince myself that there was a possibility that the garage went back up after I drove away, drive back 10 miles, look at the closed garage, drive back to school, repeat, repeat, repeat. No joke. Many times, I’d be late to class or not make it at all. I HAD to do something.

My solution at the time was to leave myself a voicemail that I could listen to, when my brain started playing tricks. I would watch the door close, sit for a second to make damn sure, call my voicemail and say, “THE GARAGE DOOR IS CLOSED.” After arriving in the school parking lot, my brain would inevitably play tricks. Instead of driving back to check, I’d listen to my message for reassurance and walk into class on time, feeling somewhat anxious but okay enough to walk through the fear. After a couple of weeks, that fear subsided. I actually forgot about the whole garage door thing, until a couple of years ago when my dad passed away.

On my first Monday back to work after the wake and funeral, my mom called me and asked if there was anything she could do to make my day a bit easier. Without thinking or remembering my grad school days, I said, “Yep. After you go to the gym, just drive by my house and make sure I closed the garage door.” She agreed to do so. I went on with my day. Within a couple of hours, my mom texted me, “THE GARAGE DOOR IS CLOSED.” I read the text aloud. Hearing my voice say those words immediately reminded me of the voicemail I had left for myself 15 years earlier. OMG. When feeling stressed, my brain seemingly chooses to focus on the f@ckin’ garage door. Kinda weird, but it makes sense. I can’t control unmanageability in grad school or family members dying, but I can try my damnedest to control the garage door. So, that’s just what I did!

My conclusion—It never had anything to do with the garage door, the academics, the body weight and shape, the relationships. It all had to do with me—with my inability to see the big picture, with me not knowing how to handle stress in a healthy way, with me not having the skill-sets to walk through the anxiety, so that I could handle life on life’s terms, not my own. The common denominator in all of the anxiety-provoking situations was that I felt threatened or in danger. My brain and my body didn’t know the difference between real and imagined danger, so my fight or flight system kicked in for survival’s sake.

 

#HeyLauren skill-sets to manage anxiety.

 

Here’s what to do to decrease your anxiety in the moment:

Thoughts lead to feelings and feelings lead to behavior. Each of us has many thoughts, up to 70,000 per day! The goal is to get so familiar with your thoughts that you can instantly recognize the thoughts making you feel scared or worried. Once you know which thought patterns cause the unwanted feelings, you can change them! If you change how you think, you can change how you feel and how you behave.

Your body cannot be anxious and relaxed at the same time. So, consciously relax your muscles. Taking a couple of minutes to stop, breathe and get present can reduce stress, increase mood and decrease anxiety in an instant. Focus your attention on your breathing, exhale slowly. Scan your body for tension. Loosen the cramped body parts, letting go of anything you’re holding too tightly. Recall a good memory, favorite place or event. Continue to breathe, exhaling slowly. Repeat, as needed.

If you're afraid of it, you need to do it. It's as simple as that.You cannot will yourself to courage. You have to exercise the emotional muscles that flex, when you walk through the fear to overcome it. Avoidance adds to the anxiety by reinforcing it. There's no easier, softer way. You don't need it to be easy and soft. You need it to work and exposure does work. Promise.

And, remember, I’m here to walk through this with you. So email me with any questions you have as you give these skill-sets a try this week.

Talk soon!

xo, Lauren


 

 





 



 

Gurls Talk x Arts Not Parts

Recently a law enacted by Obama allowing transgender people use whatever bathroom they self identify with was repealed. This is extremely problematic, it really starts to feel like we’re going about all of this the wrong way. We’re still enforcing the gender binary, along with perpetuating the violent and unnecessary gendering of pretty much everything, and at the end of the day, that’s just as transphobic as any attempt to force trans women to choose between facing violence in the men’s room or facing prison just to pee.

We teamed up with @artsnotparts and are asking everyone to make a pledge poster, hang it in a bathroom and share it on Instagram. 

Getting Started:

Print out our template, draw, paint, create, decorate an original positive poster (no pics of trump)

Send us high res photo of it.  Minimum dimensions 8 1/2 x 11" and maximum 11x17" (standard printer size)

We will select the top 2-3 to be featured on our special collaborators site

Send us a high res of your poster at submissions@gurlstalk.com with your name and instagram handle by April 24

Tag #gurlstalk and #artsnotparts

Adwoa + Camilla for Heads Together #oktosay

The Heads Together campaign is spearheaded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to end the stigma around mental health. Adwoa Aboah and Camilla Lowther speak openly about mental health. 

Help us change the conversation on mental health using #oktosay.

For more information including what support is available if you need it visit: http://www.headstogether.org.uk/oktosay

Growing Pains: Dealing with Asperger's as an Adult

By: Michelle Varinata

Illustrated by: Jessica Vaughan - www.jessicavaughan.co.uk

Illustrated by: Jessica Vaughan - www.jessicavaughan.co.uk

My name is Michelle (or if you are my friend/sister/cousin, I go by Missy) and I am 23 years old. My favorite wardrobe staples are my vintage cheetah faux fur coat, a pair of white Miista ankle boots, houndstooth Vivienne Westwood backpack, custom-made PVC leggings and worn-in vintage gray Motley Crue shirt. You’ll never catch me without a pair of John Lennon style sunglasses, lashings of red lipstick, topknot or rings. Optional accessory: a cup of piping hot matcha latte with almond milk. While I may look like “one of those girls who works in fashion”, you’d never suspect that I have Asperger’s Syndrome. 

So, what exactly is Asperger’s? It’s a mild form of autism where one is blessed with intellectual capabilities and talents, but cursed with bad social skills. Alongside my Asperger’s diagnosis I also struggled with ADD. I had a hard time staying still, talk too fast and/or get easily distracted. These things might be a boy’s problem, but it’s girls like myself who also get affected by it too.

When I was a little girl my mom sent me to see a therapist for almost everything. While going to therapy seemed like it was an after-school activity, I also had to see one mid-day whether it be once or three times per week. A special schedule was created for me, which involved me having to skip portions of class. The teachers knew that it was something that they had to accommodate, but my peers kind of looked at me as if I had a disease. If going to therapy was a deal-breaker for everyone, the biggest problem I had was the struggle to express myself. 

When you think of someone with this condition it is always that A) they’re obsessed with science like Sheldon and co. in Big Bang Theory, B) talk like they’re writing an SAT, C) go on a Kanye-style rant when mad, or D) have a deep understanding of abstract concepts like the circumference of Pi. The biggest misrepresentation, to me, is the fact that regardless of any gender Aspies are always poorly dressed. Fashion may not be a subject that Aspies dig but the reason I fell in love with it was to hide my diagnosis. 

In middle school, I had a hard time making friends due to my shyness. Even when I said a word in class my peers thought that I was weird. One male classmate went as far to take away my monkey pencil case (which I dubbed “Anakin Skywalker”) and hid it - thankfully, I was able to retrieve it! Girls taunted me for having short hair and if they were kind enough, few wanted to befriend me for sympathy points. No one really understood what the hell I had but if there was any way to silence my haters without saying anything, it was to dress up. 

Growing up, I dug my nose into pages of Teen Vogue and Seventeen. Between the covers I couldn’t get my eyes away from seeing mouth-watering designer names, beautiful clothes and bold hairstyles. Given that both magazines had a totally different way of marketing what I always looked forward to were the celebrity fashions. If a celebrity like Lindsay Lohan wore a pair of liquid leggings with ballet flats I’d go out and get a pair too. If Mary-Kate Olsen or Nicole Richie had a pair of oversized sunglasses, I’d purchase some. Seeing a public figure dress up in the streets was an inspiration since I saw that as a way for them to deal with being seen without saying anything to hungry tabloid reporters. From then on I decided that the best way to silence my haters was to make them like my outfits - but to like my outfits I had to make sure that each one was better than the previous, to make the bullies forget about my social awkwardness. 

Packed with “Best Dressed” nominations, a fashion/beauty blog, an Instagram account and countless articles, the one thing I felt shy to dish out was my diagnosis. No longer do I feel the need to hide myself. Today I stand taller, braver and stronger.  

Through the Vineyard

By: Quasia Elle

Illustration by: Ella Strickland de Souza

Illustration by: Ella Strickland de Souza

I’ve taken a seat with a transfer of habit.  Where your soul-igniting kiss would land, cheers to numb all senses.  Melanin deep, layered in complexity, showing the world your victories as I cradled the fears… now, a red river floweth, somber thoughts forcefully rising with the tide.  Roll on.  Freedom was the warmth in your embrace.  We would lie next to one another, and then rise within ourselves. The highest high seems to knock me low; so fill my glass please, I’m having Merlot.

I once dreamt of wildcats in gardens I could smell, and tell, the difference between the passion in a rose and the hope of a sunflower.  Eyes closed, but a third peeked releasing a flow of uncontrollable emotions, followed by a calm that silenced my thoughts into complete unconsciousness.  I was physically awakened by the sunrise between your lips and the reassurance spoken by your presence.  You never opted against a chance to honor my being; never a loss for words when narrating your love; gifted in tracing my divine femininity with roots crafted by our glory and just when I thought I’d had enough, when more than just feelings start to rush… I peeled miserably from your company.  Focus was hard to come by that workday.  

We trusted to be taken wherever the other would lead.

… And then you left.  

I know you’re battling some things, and I would never stand by perfection, but I didn’t in any moment; believe this was an option, without notice, and especially without her highness’ input.  A king’s rare movement.

You’ve created a different entity; a new, now tainted version of the admiration I’ve held with you for close to a decade.  You made a decision without my involvement, and without respect for how it would affect my productivity, while I stood to be what enhanced yours.  You’ve witnessed exhaustion in central parts of my, me, still show up, unaffected, in your wants and needs.  Because that was easy.  While I do not doubt the superiority of energy we exchanged, I now doubt your knowledge of the one you evoked.  What you do not know is not by my lack of expression, but by your lack of comprehension.  I hope for your clarity, my love.

I am not proud of this reality, this anxiety, this new, beside-ness of me.  We are alike in that way-transferring habits as our minds can manage the impact and yet here I am… after fighting to gain vision through waterfalls of abandonment and empty bottles of resentment, here I am… praying that my King makes it through the battle because I, will be okay.  And I pray that you can catch me, listening.