Name: Colleen Werner
City: Long Island, NY
Fav thing about your city: I love that I live so close to the beach, but I'm also only a short trip from NYC!
Tell us a fun fact about yourself!
I still sleep with my baby blanket! It has been in my family for over 30 years, and it was passed down to me by my two older brothers. I sleep with it every night.
Why is ending the stigma important to you?
Ending the stigma is important to me because the stigma surrounding mental illness is part of what caused me to wait so long to seek treatment for my eating disorder and anxiety disorder. I was miserable for so long, and I really wish I would've sought help sooner. Stigma isolates people and risks lives. By ending the stigma, we are allowing people to seek the help they so desperately need in order to live fulfilling lives.
I work every day to help end the stigma so that we can live in a world where mental health is spoken about and valued just as much as physical health, a world where when I say "I have therapy today" people react the same way as when I say "I have a doctors appointment today", and a world where people don't have to fear being ostracized for their struggles.
What does your every day look like?
Since it's the summer, my everyday varies a bit!
It usually includes some amount of work for the non-profits I work with (Youth Protection Advocates in Dance and Project HEAL). Volunteering my time to organizations close to my heart is incredibly fulfilling.
I also spend a lot of time taking care of my two yorkies Tidbit and Zen! They are both super sassy and need lots of attention.
I enjoy watching Food Network in my down time, and I also love cooking! I just got a grill, and I can't wait to try out new recipes on it. Healing my relationship with food is giving me so much freedom to try new dishes.
In addition, a good chunk of my time is spent working on DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) homework. I have a therapy session once a week, so the rest of the week is spent preparing for the next session based on whatever skills I'm working on or whatever is going on in my life. My everyday also includes implementing DBT skills in general, one of these being mindfulness!
I also devote a lot of time to writing (I'm a contributor for a few websites, one being Dance.com) and to running my body-positive Instagram account, @leenahlovesherself! Lastly, my day ALWAYS includes some sort of dancing because I'm a #BopoBallerina ;)
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell my younger self that "perfection" is impossible and striving for it can be incredibly dangerous. I spent so much of my teenage years hating myself and manipulating myself to try to attain the unrealistic standards that I learned through growing up in today's world. It saddens me so much to look back on my younger self and realize how much help I truly needed.
I would tell my younger self that all emotions are important, including negative ones. It's been so hard for me to accept my emotions, but it's been crucial to my healing and recovery.
I would tell my younger self that there's so much more to life than being consumed by numbers – whether it's the number on a scale, on a clothing tag, or a follower count. I chose to define myself by these things for so long and didn't really even stop to think about why these things mattered so much. Even at a young age, I had so much more to offer to this world than being another number.
Lastly, I would tell my younger self that changing the world will always be more fulfilling than changing my body. Over the past year since committing to recovery, I've been making a huge impact on the world around me. Changing the world has given me more joy than changing my body ever did.
Who is a Role Model to you?
My Role Model is my mom. We often argue because we are extremely similar (and both have fierce, strong personalities), but we also have so much fun together. My mom has taught me so much. She works incredibly hard to support me and the rest of my family, and is always pushing, despite her struggles with pain. She always tries her best to help others, and her desire to always keep learning (she got her Masters degree at 58 years old, while working full time and taking care of my family!) is so inspiring. She has always supported me and my dreams, and I am so grateful for her. We may not always see eye to eye, and we definitely have our moments, but I love my mom so much.
How do you spend your Self-Care Sunday?
I spend my Self-Care Sunday doing a number of things! I usually do something with my family, like go out to lunch, or take a ride to the bay or ocean with my mom. I also like to take a long, hot, mindful shower since I'm often very rushed during the week. In addition, I always make time to journal – I find it very therapeutic. I actually also just started to learn hand lettering, so I'm excited to add that into my self-care routine!
I also try to devote time to "boring self care" like putting away laundry and cleaning. Even though it isn't always fun, it's important!
Lastly, I always love to spend a few hours watching TV with my mom – it's nice to just have time to lay on the couch and unwind while watching some good shows.
Photos by Ashley Jacklyn