Category Archives: Help seeking

After cancer

By Kate Bickford – originally shared internally with ABC employees.
Kate Bickford went to hell and back when she was diagnosed with a rare form of cervical cancer. But the experience has galvanised her to help others, with a trip to Bhutan the next step in her journey. Why Skin Deep? A number of levels for us. You can’t necessarily judge a person’s health just by looking at them, nor do we always know the stories behind those we encounter each day. On another level, it’s also important that we take steps to look after the different aspects of our health and be thankful for each day.
KateTo look at me you wouldn’t know I’ve been battling cancer. You probably wouldn’t know that I take seven medications daily.
I still see doctors most weeks and I’m fighting back waves of nauseas and other side effects of the medication I take.
To look at me you wouldn’t know that my doctors have told me that if I had left my pap test for another 3 – 5 years my treatment would be very different: they would not be curing my cancer, they would only be prolonging my life.

Having a routine pap test saved my life.

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Skin Deep presents: InsideOut

Warm lights fill the centre of a dark room, where two young mums stand in front of an intimate audience, to talk about the dreams they hold for their children. Self love. Positive male role models. The confidence to shake off the increasing mountain of images of models, photoshopped within an inch of their lives.

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Fat Talk Free February is over. So, what now??

Last week Fat Talk Free February drew to a close, and some of us will be wondering – “what next?”.

Well we’re here to tell you that although marked formally once a year, Fat Talk can be banished all year round!

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How speaking up has helped me quiet the noise.

Words: Rachel Warland 

I was inspired to write this following the tragic passing of Charlotte Dawson and the need to get out there the importance of treating and educating people about mental illness.

About a year ago some alarm bells set off for me after completing a Mental Health First Aid course and I decided it was time for me to get help. A year later (almost) and I am a lot better and manage my anxiety as best I can. Receiving ongoing treatment was the best thing I ever did – it has done wonders in aiding me to live with anxiety. I want to share my experiences to help others who suffer from mental illness and give them hope that things will get better if you find that light within, or confide in those you love wanting to help you. And get the help you need and deserve.

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Who is Mr. Right? (2.0)

We love sharing with you the best body image pieces the interwebs have to offer. We have great pleasure in presenting this fantastic piece by Allan, originally posted on ajbisherenow.tumblr.com

We’ve touched on the impact of body image pressures for males before, and this piece is insightful, thought-provoking and eye-opening.

It’s long, but worth a read, so grab a comfy seat and get ready to have your mind blown!

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2013: the year that was (epic).

It has been a huge year at Skin Deep HQ, and we are big believers in reflecting on the achievements as well as what we can do bigger and better in the years to come.

First and foremost, we want to thank our incredible community who, online and off, engage in conversations with us and with the people around them. Creating a culture that is less focused on weight and shape, or a pressure to meet external ideals, cannot be achieved without more of us standing up for the fact that it doesn’t need to be that way. We really appreciate every little way you interact with Skin Deep and know that you are changing your worlds in ways we can’t even comprehend.

So what are our highlights? So many! This year we:

  • hosted the second Brunchfest for National Youth Week, bringing together approximately 40 young people and other community leaders to discuss all things leadership and self care;
  • covered the beautiful Fashion Show put together by Down Syndrome Association NT on our website
  • co-hosted a morning tea with Viva La Body for International No Diet Day, bringing people together to talk body image, acceptance, and seeing beauty everywhere;
  • contemplated going nude for a good cause;
  • were finalists in the Bupa Health Blog Awards in the Social Good category;
  • linked up with talented blogger Carly Findlay for Icthyosis Awareness Month;
  • had our first mention on Triple J Hack during a discussion about male body image, as well as a plethora of other media opportunities;
  • held a stall at a local organisation’s staff health and wellbeing day, discussing themes of self care and wellbeing;
  • shared the stories of a diverse group of wonderful people on a range of topics related to body image including disability, acne, anxiety, trauma, motherhood and (!) the Lingerie Football League;
  • shared our story of creating something from nothing at TEDxYouth;
  • consulted with the passionate and inspirational Chief Minister’s Round Table of Young Territorians;
  • once again joined the panel for the national Positive Body Image Awards;
  • co-wrote an open letter to the advertising industry to ask them to lift their game;
  • presented as part of the youth participation showcase at the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition Conference amongst incredible company (our first interstate conference presentation!!);
  • had the opportunity to participate in the Women of the World Festival in Katherine, where Jess joined a panel to talk about the pressures young women face;
  • held a morning tea with a diverse group for Body Image and Eating Disorder Awareness Week;
  • discussed body image with the American Ambassador; and
  • have the opportunity to grow the project through Lauren’s acceptance to the Young Social Pioneers Program (run by the Foundation of Young Australians).

Pretty epic, huh?!? And that is not including all of the beautiful connections and discussions we have had this year.

If you have read the Skin Deep Dream, then you will have a taste of what’s to come. Watch this space – we want to learn, we want to grow, and we want to continue linking up with Body Image Warriors across the world. As always, keep engaging with us. We would love to hear what you are doing to change the conversations around you.

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The Skin Deep dream

Our Skin Deep community is made up of people all over Australia, or overseas, and we love that we can share our vision with you all. Part of our dream (that you probably already know), is to continue to share positive messages about creating our own ideals, understanding people have a story, and embracing your own kind of beautiful. Thank you for being part of that story with us!

There is another important part of our dream though.

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Lauren’s Story

I get asked a lot “why Skin Deep?”. What have I experienced to lead me to want to start this conversation? So for the first time, on World Mental Health Day, I want to share my story but assert again that you don’t have to be an expert to start a conversation – you just have to care.

I remember playing in my English neighbourhood with my best friend, told to “go back to where you came from” and those at primary school who chose to bully me because I didn’t wear brand named clothes. Lucky for me my family, friends and school built me up to be stronger than they’ll ever be.

Lauren young

In younger more confident days!

At 12 years old the school nurse stuck me on some scales as part of a check up and told me I was slightly overweight for my height before sending me on my way. Thanks for that information, which I had no idea what to do with. It was probably the first time I’d thought about my weight like that.

Australia came…a quick, joyous leap into an exotic unknown. My accent was of great interest to everyone and I made fast friends with the kids at school. Darwin was up next; a multicultural haven with people I fell head over heels in love with, making high school a relatively blissful time, although I can trace back early stages of excessive anxiety to then.

I was healthy. A little bit of puppy fat perhaps, but happy, healthy and carefree – until I wasn’t. In year 10, I heard about some dangerous sub cultures on the internet about eating disorders, and decided THAT was what I was going to do my English oral presentation on. I delivered a passionate talk on why these pages should be permanently shut down, but will admit that I read more on them than I needed to for a three minute presentation, and at that stage of my life. My diaries started to reflect a different attitude toward my body.  Any little comment about my body or weight, now matter how well intentioned, became almost a challenge for me…I wanted to prove how much I didn’t care, even though I did.

18. Boys. Going out. New clothes. Alcohol. A strong group of friends meant that I made it through, body and self esteem mostly intact. I went on a weight loss program and sustainably lost weight over 12 months; something I was very proud of. Looking back, it’s funny how much your body and the focus of others upon it factors in for many of us.

I moved interstate with my then boyfriend. It started to fall apart. I distinctly remember days of calling my parents and friends in tears; hitting the gym to avoid home and dealing with my feelings; an incredibly kind colleague and friend who brought to work an extra sandwich to make sure I was eating, checking in and hanging out (I never did thank you enough). Around then it happened. The conflict between feeling strong in your decisions and yet so utterly broken. The surge of nausea; of anxiety and grief. The mental battle between logic; what I KNOW and the intense desire to control something. ANY THING. I purge.

It was not a regular occurrence but something that remained in the background for a while. It never made me feel any better; in fact it confused me, broke my heart and made me question what I knew about myself. At some point I made the decision to tell a couple of people around me. I needed to have people to be accountable to because I knew I was teetering on the edge of an incredibly slippery slope.

I had moved back to Darwin, maintaining my health kick of gym-ing, healthy food and growing a very large pile of health magazines. People complimented me while my ‘control’ mechanism, however irregular, had turned my thoughts about food into ones of guilt and control; my measure of success and achievement was whether I could fit in more incidental exercise. Tracking websites were king. Mum had cottoned on that there might be some thing going on, but deny, deny, deny. I didn’t want people to worry. I was very self-aware of losing interest and enjoyment from things I had before; I was exceptionally scared of failure (something I embrace now).

There came a point where I decided that I wanted to seek help for my anxiety. After many phone calls and google searches about how much it would cost (in some cases quite high), I took the plunge through a free appointment associated with the place I worked for at the time. “I’ll hint at the past control coping mechanisms and the little voice that tells me it will help” I thought. It didn’t work. I was told that some young girls do it for attention before moving on to an electronic check list for my anxiety that I’d done myself previously on the internet. Needless to say, I never went back to him.

Lauren & Jake

Lauren & Jake now

I had started to do my own research and got involved with youth mental health services; their information helped me, and helping others helped me. Something else happened though…I met my partner Jake. Wow. When Jake and I started dating we hit up every beautiful place in town. We tried new things while we rapidly fell in love. I was falling in love with something else too. I was quickly regaining my love for food and the pleasure, the bonding that can come with a beautiful food experience. We would walk on the beach or trails, but it was just about hanging out, being ourselves and seeing some cool things. He wholeheartedly supported everything I did, and listened, even when he didn’t understand. I connected with an excellent psychologist about my anxiety who didn’t discount anything I raised and who gave me strategies and encouragement. I began to feel again like I am enough.

So when we encouraged others to do the Mission Australia Survey of Young Australians in 2010, and someone told me they felt guilty for putting body image down as their number one personal concern, as though it was too trivial, we had to do it. The Skin Deep conversation had to happen. About a year and a half ago I listened to a friend recount her eating disorder experience at a conference and while I never would profess to have had that experience, I left the room with tears in my eyes for all who have experienced that voice inside that defies all logic.

I’m still a little all or nothing. I have to exercise (no pun intended) restraint around buying health magazines and ‘tracking’ my activities. I don’t want to look at food as fuel, because I don’t think that’s good for me. Most importantly, I steer clear of making any one thing my crutch to cope when things get stressful and rely on a range of different things. Food is not good nor bad. It’s about balance, and feeling good. And hell. I love myself. There, I said it. And it feels good.

It is my wish that no other young person seeking help, is dismissed. It’s my wish that other young people who recognise the signs that things aren’t right for them get the support that they need and that those who are in places much, much worse than I ever was receive the care that they need from professionals with some understanding of what they are going through. It’s time.

Every day I reflect and I feel so completely, overwhelmingly grateful for my lot in life. My family, friends, mentors, experiences, the people who share their stories and thoughts with me, and the platforms to start something so important to me completely fills my heart and soul, and I’m so appreciative to share this with other people.

For help in relation to eating disorders you can call the Butterfly Foundation on 1800 ED HOPE / 1800 33 4673 Monday–Friday 8am to 9pm, or email them. There are fact sheets and help available for young people 12 – 25 years through headspace. For crisis support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. 

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