What is a Role Model? Not too long ago, we decided that it wasn't enough to cast fashion models based on comp cards and height. We wanted every single person we worked with, to have a personal connection to mental health, and a story to share. Caitlin is one of those Role Models. We met last year while casting for Atlantic Fashion Week (except, she was there as a designer!). Here's her story:
My name is Caitlin. I currently live in Halifax. I first struggled with depression and self harm when I was a teenager. Learning to stop hurting myself was probably one of the most difficult lessons I ever had to teach myself, along with allowing myself to be happy. I didn’t think I deserved to be happy. I felt sick. I couldn’t understand what was “wrong” with me, especially when everyone told me to “Cheer up! You’re such a happy person. Nothing can be THAT bad!”
Transitioning into adulthood, I was plagued with anxiety. I still have a fear of large crowds and loud noises but I learned that my own happiness and mental stability is more important than the way anxiety affects me. In that vein, I was able to pack two suitcases, leave everything I knew behind in Toronto and start again in Halifax knowing absolutely no one.
I am strong enough to turn my struggle into my strength. Coping with depression gave me art. It gave me a way of taking all the ugly that I would have turned on myself and make the world around me beautiful.
When I was first diagnosed with depression I felt like there was so much ugly inside me, I felt trapped within myself and within the medications and self-medicating. Everyone kept asking me how I felt and there were no words I could find to express myself in a way that would make people understand. For the most part, everything got written off as teen angst and I needed a form of release that did not result in self harm. I started drawing. It was all doodles at first, scribbling over notes or decorating the pages of my agenda. It filled the parts of my day when I felt like I was choking on my inner turmoil and the nights that would have been filled with tears and blood. Before I knew it, I had enough pieces of me to fill a portfolio and audition for an arts school with a little encouragement from my parents and teachers.
My doctor told me: “I wish there was some magical wand I could wave to make it all go away, but there isn’t.”
It gave me a reason to exist again, to be proud of myself. It gave me the power to transform my trapped existance into something wonderous and surreal. I started designing and sewing as a way to transform me into, and make me feel, beautiful and magical because I deserved to be happy.
Art gave me a way of taking something that was ugly, painful and almost unbearable and make it into something unique and special. Keeping that coping outlet was one of the reason I founded my company Kaidain Ivy’s Sanctuary for Magical Misfits and it was at the first fashion show where I was showcasing my headpieces that I came to find Wear Your Label. There is such beauty in strength and in struggle and even more so in a community based on mutual respect and support through those times.
Photography by Tim Lingley, a photographer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.