Tag Archives: Skin Deep Project

For the Mother I Sometimes Meet

Words: Alysha Herrmann

As long as I can remember, my mother has always been overweight. Hovering usually in an Australian dress size of 22-26, she’s had to shop at plus size stores or generic department stores with their shapeless, blocky and unflattering designs. And it was always clear, without always being spoken, that she hated her body and by extension often herself.  There were many times she’d ask  ‘How can you love me, when I’m so fat and ugly?’ or “Do you think I’m ugly?’ or just state ‘I look horrible. Horrible and fat.’ Questions and statements that came from a deep and hurting place inside of her.

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Role models and mentors and coaches, oh my!

If you’re a driven, passionate person and you know what your goals are, that’s great.

Even when you have that clarity, the road to achieving them can feel scary, lonely and overwhelming.

You will need special people in your life who are leading the way in your field, or who have overcome their own adversity to succeed or who you just think are awesome people. A role model.

Lauren was lucky enough to spend the last week in Canberra with the ABC Heywire 2014 crew, mentoring a group of young world changers. From what I’ve heard, inspiration flowed both ways. Watch this space for a blog!

Get out there and meet like-minded people. Talk to them about your ideas, cheer each other on. Soak it up.

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What does your aura look like?

It’s December, which inevitably means you will have some time and space to reflect on your challenges and achievements this year. You will see some content in the coming weeks from Skin Deep about the year that was 2013 for us. It’s been a big one!

When you take some time to reflect and celebrate (which we encourage you to do) on your own 2013, keep in mind not only your tangible achievements, but also the intangible footprint, or aura you have created in the last 12 months.

You know, your aura! It’s that colourful field around you when a psychic takes your picture right? Yes, that’s true. But regardless of where you sit on auras, The Secret and karma, there’s definitely something we can take from it all.

What would people around you say if we were to ask them what kind of energy you put out into the universe? How are your interactions impacting on yourself and others?

Change your thoughts. [From: http://fc02.deviantart.net/fs71/i/2012/267/2/9/change_your_thoughts_poster_by_its_meeee-d5fqtrh.png]

Change your thoughts. [From: http://fc02.deviantart.net]

Despite everything going on around us – and sometimes it is chaotic – we still maintain control on how we interact with other people and our environment.

So, what does your aura look like?

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Dance (like everyone is watching)!

Skin Deep is lucky to have connected with many youth leaders over the past 4 years. Isobel Cammarano is no exception. At just 16, she blew us away with her community project for Youth Round Table in 2012, which culminated in the formation of a dance workshop program called Dance 21. Dance 21, with Isobel at the helm, runs dance workshops for young people with disability, including ballet, yoga and Zumba. Her story was featured in Dolly magazine – a very well deserved recognition of her hard work and dedication! Now 17, Isobel continues to run these dance workshops (whilst attending school!) and is a shining example of a young Territorian doing amazing things.

Isobel Cammarano

Isobel Cammarano

Over to you, Isobel!

I think body image issues seem a lot more important when you have a disability.  Everything in life becomes a big deal, even the things that most people would take for granted. For example, one night at ballet I pointed to the back without loosing my balance for the first time in my 11 years of dancing and it was such a big deal for me, I was so excited! A big achievement! But anyone else who does ballet even just once can do that.  The same thing goes with body image.  Some of the people with Down syndrome I work with look different because of their disability.  They notice this and compare themselves to everyone else because all they want is to be “normal”. They don’t see that they are perfect just the way they are.

I would like the community to realise that a disability doesn’t define someone. Most people don’t notice my disability because it is mild and it’s my goal to make sure that people don’t notice. But as soon as I tell someone about it, everything they thought of me changes. It’s like cerebral palsy has changed who I am. That I now have to be spoken to like a child or told publicly to slow down.  This is not the case for people with Down syndrome. They don’t have the choice to hide their disability, everyone notices. Their personalities don’t change because they have a disability – yes you have to walk at their speed but they are beautiful people and I think that society needs to learn to look past a disability and see who is behind it.

Dance 21 workshops for young people with a disability.

Dance 21 workshops for young people with a disability.

Dance helps my body image because when I’m dancing I disconnect from the rest of the world, nothing else matters.  I forget about everything else going on and it’s just me in my own little world.  I couldn’t care less what other people thought about how I looked.  I think everyone should find something that makes them so happy that they can disconnect because it gives you time to just be with yourself and not worry about what society thinks.

I hope that my dance students realise that they can do anything that they set their mind to, despite their disability and that they can find that place to disconnect from the world and not care what anyone else thinks.

Dance 21

Dance 21

Dance 21 workshops are run in collaboration and with the support of Down Syndrome Association of the Northern Territory (DSANT). Workshops are held during school holidays. More information can be found on the DSANT Facebook page.

December 3 is International Day of People with a Disability. Sanctioned by the United Nations, it is a day to celebrate the achievements and contributions of people with a disability whilst increasing awareness and understanding of disability.

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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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Work it out: let’s get rid of fat talk in the workplace!

Our workplaces. Many of us spend close to forty hours a week in them, whether it’s an office, a site, the outdoors or else where. We spend over seven hours of our waking day with our colleagues. Often we share war stories with them, celebrate achievements, and the odd morning tea, lunch or cake. For some, the latter can strike fear in the heart of even the strongest.

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What does kindness even mean anyway? (Jess Phillips)

Yes. So…What does kindness mean? Well, I suppose it depends on many things.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on what kindness was.

Oh yeah, Kindness.

I’m kind. Kinda??

I’m kind when I apologise for knocking you in a crowd, agree with you or reach for the salt before offering it to you; oh yeah, and I’m kind when I say that I’ve had enough, even though I’m wishing… damn it, that you would retreat to the kitchen so I could grab an extra baked potato and eat it. FAST. While your back is turned, so as I don’t appear, heavens, not…rude or even, forgive me…GREEDY.

Oh yes, and I’m super kind when I hold back my tears, anger and frustration, so as I don’t spoil, soil or ruin this day we are having together, out here… yes, together.

So… as I began, I did feel that I knew kindness inside out and back-the front.

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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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Skin Deep Snippets, Issue 3

The lowdown on what’s going on in the media concerning body image! Continue reading

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Skin Deep Snippets, Issue 2

The low down on what’s going on in the media concerning body image! Continue reading
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