This past Friday night Circles of Change was honored to be a part of The Commit Campaign Fashion Show.
The Commit Campaign is a photo-based campaign across social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook that encourages everyone to contribute to ending the stigmas around mental illness.
In May I met Audree Lopez, a fantastic style blogger who so graciously met me for coffee and posted about our shirts, and through Audree I was introduced to Kelsey and Christina, the founders of The Commit Campaign. As soon as I met them and heard their story I fell in love with their passion, purpose, vision, and their hearts in regard to such an important issue.
Depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, and suicidal thoughts are all a part of my story. For a long time I have felt the need to openly share my journey with these issues. My hope is that in doing so I can reduce the shame associated with this topic by bringing to light the experience of living with these disorders.
I started a blog about a year ago where I began to talk about my story, though not to the degree that I wanted. It is so difficult to share such personal things without knowing if any of it is actually being heard. I named it “Unsmothered” because I felt smothered and suffocated by the issues associated with mental illness, but finally experienced a breakthrough where the majority of the weight lifted.
One night, after many years of struggle and pain, it all became too much and I was overcome with the need to end it all. I use the word “need” there because it felt like the only option. My brain, my body, my soul all felt like they were betraying me and when I could no longer trust any part of myself I couldn’t see how I could possibly live on.
I wish I could say that I fought for my kids, or my husband, or my family or friends, or God, but that’s not what got me through.
I am awful at making decisions or committing to anything, or treating anything as “final”. I am extremely obsessive in my thoughts, leading to difficulty in deciding what to pack for a trip, let alone a life or death moment.
The moment came when I was l lying in bed and I opened my eyes and saw my husband, and I got out those crucial life saving words, “I need help.”
To this day that night haunts me. I hurt over what that night did to my husband, family, and friends. I feel shame in even surviving that night. It’s all too easy to think, “Why should I survive? I am no one special.”
But from that night on I vowed to trust my tribe, my community. My body was failing me, and I couldn’t trust myself, so I decided to trust the ones who could see hope even when I couldn’t. This is why I am so grateful to the people that are willing to be a voice for those who are still learning to find their own. I have had years of therapy, a supportive family who never shamed me, and friends who stood by me, even if they didn’t understand they were teachable and embraced learning.
That is what saved my life.
And that is what I mean when I repeat again and again that community saves.
My heart hurts for those who are afraid to ask for help, afraid to be judged, afraid that they will look weak. I know first hand that finding a community can help you overcome these fears.
By simply writing “commit” on your hand and snapping a picture, you can save lives. That pic- ture is worth a thousand words; words full of support that can provide the potential for another thousand days with a loved one.
I am so passionate about this not only because it lines up with my own heart, but because the change that Kelsey and Christina are initiating can make it possible for my own children to grow up in a world where if they struggle there is a greater understanding and better support already in place. They too, will be able to use their voices and ask for help without shame and judgement, and they will always know that they won’t suffer alone.
Being a part of the fashion show Friday night impacted me in so many ways. Seeing people openly supporting the issue was inspiring. Stores like Kendra Scott, five2three, Shop Olive You, and State Forty-Eight were all so gracious in styling the models and provided a sense of em- powerment. When I walked in the show I walked with depression and all the hurts I carry, but I also walked with hope, purpose, passion and love. This community came together and proved that change can happen. I love finding people who aren’t okay accepting the way things are: they get things done. They are warriors!
Now I invite you to join the campaign as well.
By posting a photo with the phrase “I Commit” with #CommitCampaign you are pledging to do the following:
• I commit to breaking the stigma associated with mental health and mental illness by openly talking about it on a daily basis.
• I commit to take responsibility for the words I speak and know that they have an impact on people around me.
• I commit to stop using the phrase ‘committed suicide’ and replace it with ‘died by suicide.’
• I commit to educating others on how to properly communicate on these topics in politically correct manners.
• I commit to being an ally for those with mental illness. I commit to stand up and educate others who believe that living with a mental illness is not a choice.
The Commit Campaign gave me an incredible gift when they asked me to be in the show. They gave me a greater opportunity to be more vocal about my path in a more public way than I had ever dreamed of, and in an amazing outfit no less.
I was proud to contribute my voice in saying, “I commit to ending the stigma associated with mental illness.”
About the author: Holli Zehring shared her vision for what is now Ophelia’s Place many years ago, after her first round of treatment for an eating disorder. She has influenced and supports the groups that the non-profit now runs. She is currently working to grow an “Ophelia’s Place West.” Along with chasing her passion for changing the culture around health, beauty, and body image, as well as sharing her journey with mental illness, she is married to psychiatry resident and works hard to raise two kids. She further fills her cup with great books, friends, restaurants, and dabbles in fashion and thrifting.