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Words cannot describe the emotions I felt when Carrie finally accepted the nomination to be an Everyday Beauty Participant! I was thrilled, nervous, anxious, honored.... Carrie has been my friend for literally as long as I can remember... She is in all of my childhood birthday party photos, I remember her as a little girl with a pony tail and braid, we played a lot when we were elementary age. As we went into High School we grew apart as I was a dancer and she was amazing at sports. Carrie has always been in my thoughts though as many of my classmates are. She has always been so sweet and always positive! I have never heard Carrie say a bad word about anyone! As Jenny, her friend that nominated her said, "Carrie is so kind and she always says that she hopes that when people think of her they think of kindness and integrity. She truly lives that way each day."

Carrie and I reconnected a few years ago after I had ran into her at the store. I tend to absorb the energy of everyone I meet. She stayed on my mind heavily for about 2 weeks, I really didn't know why... so I finally reached out to her and was astonished at what she had to say. She was struggling with severe depression. "What? Happy, positive, always smiling Carrie??" I thought, "How is this possible! How have so many people not known this?"

When Carrie said she would participate, I really was not sure how much or what she would be willing to share, simply because I know that depression and mental illness is such a hard thing to talk be open about. She brought me her story typed up and it was perfection! Everything I had hoped she would say. So I'm just going to share the whole thing:

"Three years ago, I was the most unhappy, miserable person you would ever meet. I was truly unhealthy, both emotionally and physically. I was morbidly obese and extremely depressed. Anxiety had taken over my life and it kept me from participating in the things I used to love. Between the inner struggles and strife within my heart and mind combined with extremely low self-esteem and feeling trapped in my battle with obesity, I saw no way out. There was no light at the end of a miserably endless tunnel. I needed some kind of relief and suicidal ideation set in with a vengeance. Darkness became a constant and I could not, as hard as I tried, climb out of the pit I had been pulled into.

After several failed plans and attempts to find peace and end my life, and from the constant encouragement and unconditional love of my family and friends, I sought and received professional assistance. As the result of this humbling intervention, I began the daunting task of, hand-over-hand, pulling myself up and out of the black hole I had been sucked into. I was now no longer able to defer to others. I had to look myself square in the face, strip back the protective layers I had placed over my heart, and delve into the scariest place of all, my mind. As scary as this was, improvement did come. For the first time in my life, I accepted that I was not a mistake and that I had a purpose. I learned the importance of human connection and just how much making healthy connections with others can improve my own quality of life. I slowly started to recognize the positive things in my life. Almost like someone had switched on a light in the darkness and my eyes were slowly starting to adjust. I could gradually recognize the positives that had been there all along. Good people and blessings had always been present, but were secretly hidden from me in the copious amounts of fog initiated by mental illness."

"I have to believe that there is always a lesson to be learned in each of the trials that come our way. For me, in this instance, I kicked to the curb the stigma associated with shame and having a mental illness. I am no longer plagued with humiliation over receiving counselling, or attending group therapy sessions, or filling a prescription or two or three, or taking time to manage my anxiety even when the timing is awkward. I have to take care of me. First and foremost, I have to see that my needs are met or I am unable to assist those I love in fulfilling their journeys and the reality of it is that it is impossible to help fill another person’s cup when mine is dry."

"While help and healing, over the years, has been a slow process, it has also been steady and constant. I have learned how to take back my life, both emotionally and physically. Accepting what is and living in the present has become something I strive for. Mindfulness is now something I focus on every hour of the day. While it is still a daily struggle, I have learned the vital importance of being happy with and loving myself for who I am, not for who I wish I could be or who others wish I were. Healing and growth are on-going processes and while I feel that, today, I am the best me I have ever been, I am hopeful for the future and the improvements and joys I will find there!"

What I have learned from Carrie is to pay attention and listen to those little feelings we get! People who need help are not always (or ever) asking for help. We need to pay attention to the small subconscious signs. Some people may seem just a little distant or quiet, and usually very subtly...maybe you're out together and in down times in conversations they just get a little serious looking. Other people may seem entirely happy and out going, but they can't seem to keep on top of the small things in life. Their houses are messier than usual, they are suddenly running late to everything, they don't seem interested in things they used to... The signs are small, but they are there I guarantee it!

So this photo series is a Poetic Artistic side to me. I wanted these photos to provoke emotion in each of us. I also wanted them to really speak to Carrie. I took the photos of the places she has been traveling since she has been freeing herself from the bonds of mental illness. She has been to some incredible places. They are a part of her and her healing. This photo series is to symbolize that. This type of art may not be for everyone, but as I thought of Carrie in preparing for this was all I could see in my mind! So even though I hope you all enjoy it... it was really for me I think! I need this outlet in my is my form of therapy. Working with beautiful people like Carrie is such an honor. I'm so blessed. Carrie is such a special person. Everyone who comes in contact with her feels it right away! We are so lucky to have her teaching our young people in our community! Give her a shout out, let her know how awesome she is for sharing her amazing story :-) As always, Comment, Like, Share!!

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