What is a Role Model? Not too long ago, we decided that it wasn't enough to cast fashion models based on height and comp cards. We wanted to showcase the stories of real people, who are brave enough to wear their label. Emma is one of those Role Models.
WYL: Tell us a bit about yourself
E: My name is Emma. Those closest to me call me Em. I am currently completing my Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at the University of Maine, Presque Isle. I was born in Fredericton, N.B and raised in Quispamsis, N.B. I am an aspiring fashion designer. From a young age I have been snipping seams and sewing together daily ensembles. This has continued into my adulthood as I often pick up piles of fabric and embark on a multitude of sewing projects. I am an avid supporter of conscious consumerism and have used my artwork over the past year to bring to light the horrific global conditions of sweatshops. I am always considering how I can connect my creativity into advocating for important issues such as sweatshops, equal gender rights, and now mental health. On a more personal note: I am a sucker for espresso, a good conversation, and fresh mint leaves. I am moving to the beautiful city of Boston this summer to intern at the Museum of Fine Arts in their Fashion & Textile Arts Department. Life is really exciting right now.
WYL: What's your connection to mental illness? Why is it important for you to share your story?
E: When I was around the age of 13, I began to fall into a really dark place. I chose to channel my emotions and struggles through self-abuse. I resorted to “cutting” and really compressed my struggle within myself, not opening up to anyone around me. I had a hard time grasping the idea of self-love. I was consumed by trying to be more physically beautiful and drained myself trying to achieve a body weight that was completely unrealistic. I resorted to self-abuse to express my frustrations with not being “perfect” or meeting my obscene personal expectations. My addictive personality and anxieties, led me to continue this habit for a few years. While I was surrounded by the love of family and friends, I could not come to terms with who I was and my place in the world. I found it really difficult to be settled within myself and to find an inner peace. As I grew with age, I experienced many things in my life that allowed me to love myself enough to stop the self-harm. It no longer felt like a necessity to me when I realized that I was okay with who I was and my place here in this world.
WYL: How have you overcome your struggles?
E: With time, love, friends, deep breathes, and new surroundings I came to be (and stay) in a really positive place. I was able to embrace self-love and self-appreciation. Once you can appreciate yourself, flaws and all, things will fall into place. It was a beautiful time when the fresh cuts became faded scars. I began waking up each morning and feeling so incredibly lucky to be alive, surrounded by love, and in a world full of opportunities. To keep myself in this positive place I try and do things that simply make me feel happy. Things like volunteering on the weekends, making lists and checking all the boxes off, taking part in a yoga class, or starting a new creative project. While I still struggle at times, like we all do, I keep myself busy with uplifting hobbies and by surrounding myself with positive people.
WYL: How do you help others overcome a mental health challenge they might be facing?
E: By having an open conversation and letting them know that it’s okay to feel the way they do. Being human can be hard. We are feelers. We have such a complex system of emotions and to balance it all can prove to be challenging. Feeling out of balance, is a completely normal thing. I believe the best way that we can help one another is opening up and having honest conversation, with emphasis on the love and support aspect. Simply knowing someone who is willing to listen can be such a comfort. Having that human connection is of the utmost importance. We were placed here to love another and are all experiencing this crazy thing called life. Why not support each other along the way? The more we help one another, the more we help ourselves. It feels good to uplift our fellow humans.
WYL: If you could describe your mental health struggle in one word what would it be?
E: Unpredictable. I find that mental health is a process of ups and downs. It is constantly in flux and trying to find the balance can be challenging. There are certainly moments where I feel that throughout this process I come out on top. While the occasional moments of feeling more towards the “bottom” do occur, I know that it will be okay in the end. The process is a process for a reason, to allow myself to go with the flow and come to terms with the fact that it will not always be okay and THAT is okay. I know I can make it through the unpredictable process, and most of the time, I am better for it.
WYL: Why is ending the stigma important to you?
E: I want to end the stigma so that people no longer fear speaking up about their stories. These stories, whether they be that of success or failure, happiness or sadness, are SO important. By encouraging conversation about mental health, we abolish the feelings of shame that people may have. By opening up, there is a huge opportunity to relate to one another and form this amazing community of humans loving one another.