Celebrating Resilience: the project
This is a project I have been planning and developing for the last two of years. Recently, I partnered with Alongside You - a local comprehensive counselling services centre - to help me execute it. Our goal is to create space for individuals to share personal stories of struggles with various life challenges. We hope to empower those sharing, and at the same time help reduce stigma and inspire others who are struggling to open up and seek help. This project combines photography and storytelling to help people celebrate the resilience they have built over time through their learning and working through life’s challenges.
We are in the process of working with selected participants and are excited to share the results with the community - both online and through a physical exhibition sometime early in the new year. Until then, I will share a small handful of stories with you, to let you get an inside look into the project as we continue working on it.
Today, I am proud to share Denise’s story. She embodies the concept of resilience, and is an endless source of inspiration and wisdom. It was an honour to create Denise’s conceptual portrait and to learn more about her personal journey. In her own words:
What does this portrait help you celebrate?
This portrait helps me celebrate my divine feminine strength and the gentle warrior whom I have found within myself throughout this ongoing battle. It reflects and celebrates not only my resiliency but also the healer that I have - that we all have - within ourselves, if only we do the work to find her.
Tell us about the major struggles you have encountered in your life - how did they manifest, and how did they impact your life?
As a youth I struggled significantly with issues of low self-worth, depression, anxiety, panic disorder and ptsd. What I didn't understand at the time was that this was my body's way of telling me that I wasn't embracing my true self or processing emotions or trauma in a healthy way. Throughout those same years I was diagnosed with endometriosis and later vestibulodynia, both conditions include severe chronic pain. Later, in my early twenties my body was overtaken by more severe chronic pain and debilitating, disabling symptoms that later, after several misdiagnoses I learned were caused by Lyme disease - which may or may not have been the root cause of both my mental and physical health issues as a youth as well.
Was there an “a-ha” moment that guided you towards a path to take charge and create change for yourself?
Not so much one moment but a series of moments, or decisions really, to find out what small steps compounded together would create large change for me, and then making the decision to take charge of my life and my health and to do these small things every day in whatever way I can, in order to create a life that I love and that I feel is worth living.
What steps did you take to create change in your life?
Personal development reading, exercise, nutrition, proper sleep habits, removing the people who aren't good for me from my life, focusing my energy on healing rather than what is ailing me, meditation, hydration, and energy work have made significant differences in my quality of life and my healing. I also created my home space into a space that feels good to me, is calming, positive, and conducive to healing. I have also filled my home with reminders of positive affirmations to keep my mindset on gratitude and healing.
What are some of your coping tools to help you navigate through life’s challenges?
Meditation is a huge one for me but I have also found art, energy work, and positive affirmations to be significantly helpful. One of the most significant things that I have done for myself is turned my home into a zen-like healing space that feels good to be in.
What advice do you have for someone going through a similar journey?
Educate yourself on your challenges and how you can retrain your brain in a positive and healthy way. Surround yourself with whatever makes you feel good. If it doesn't bring you joy, get rid of it. If it isn't conductive to healing, change it. If someone doesn't make you feel good inside, they aren't your people. Find a safe space to learn to get comfortable with the uncomfortable because healing and growth do not happen in your comfort zone. If the life you're living isn't working for you, don't be afraid to change it. Tell yourself every single day how absolutely beautiful and worthy you are until you begin to believe it - no matter how long that may take.
Denise is a powerful writer and courageously allows herself to be vulnerable through sharing her journey with us on her blog: Out of the Rabbit Hole.