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    What If 2013: What If, I Stopped Wrestling the Demons In My Head

    Every once in a while we have to say “enough is enough” and start doing. This past week at the What If Conference 2013, I decided to do just that. It’s taken me several days to figure out how I was going to write about my experience. Can I do this? Should I do this? And then I thought…What If? What if I put it all out there, wasn’t afraid to tell my story, share my experience, maybe even help others on some level. This past week in Punta Cana I realized that I needed to stop wrestling with the demons in my head and make a change. Demons, the ones telling me I wasn’t good enough, strong enough or deserving enough to feel whole again. To take back a piece of me that was stolen long ago and say enough is enough. All my life I have been a people pleaser, a giver and the thought of doing something for myself has seemed just to selfish for me to bear, but not anymore! This time I need to start doing for myself. So, What If… I shared my story.

    Over 10 years ago I experienced something no woman or child should ever have to go through. I was a single mom unable to afford much, in a neighborhood I shouldn’t have been in and after only living there for about a month with my son Austin, six at the time. Was attacked in the shower of our apartment and Austin was witness to it all. Our upstairs neighbor, a teenage boy, had conned his way into our home and stole our sense of safety and instilled fear into our lives which changed the way I viewed myself forever. Doing what I think any mother would do, I was devastated at what Austin had seen and immediately got him in counseling. Being who I am, I was more concerned with making sure he was ok and never got help for myself. Fast forward a year and I found myself 100 lbs heavier and loving myself and my body less and less. I had discovered a new way to protect myself and have been fighting to lose weight ever since.

    My struggle is not one of vanity, I don’t need to be the prettiest or the best. I just want to feel good in my skin again. Carrying around this extra weight is a constant reminder of a time when part of me was taken without my permission. I just want to feel whole again. I want to be healthy and happy. I just want to be me.

    Ever since, I’ve battled with weight loss… knowing what needs to be done but telling myself “I Can’t,” feeling stuck, as though someone has poured concrete over my feet leaving me stuck with this shell. For the past 12 years I’ve felt like my insides don’t match the outside, like I’m trapped in this body I never wanted or asked for . Trapped and no one will let me out. I’m not living the life I was made to live.

    Why? Why am I so afraid to ask for help? Why am I so afraid to be happy? Why do I avoid moments in life because I’m embarrassed of my body? I’ll tell you why, fear. Ugly, debilitating fear. The fear that I’ll feel whole again, fear that I’ll gain it all back, the fear that I will fail. It wasn’t until I started shooting boudoir that I started to feel good about my body, it became therapy for me.  I want to practice what I preach, everyday I tell women to love themselves for who they are but yet I have been beating myself up for years…

    I’ve never really understood why I am so afraid to try? Until this week. I know in my heart I have so much to give, so much to offer and I now realize unless I take care of me, put myself at the forefront of this issue I can’t give myself wholeheartedly to anyone. And that in itself is truly a crime. I believe I have a gift to share and I can’t fully give it if I don’t take care of me.

    So after spending this past week at “What If” I feel as though I am ready to share my story and finally do something about it. This past week showed me just how much I was inside my own head and how damaging those thoughts can be. Besides the fear of having to wear a swimsuit, I ended up getting extremely burned the first day, a fever blister spread on my face, blisters on my feet and I got my period! The perfect storm to shake one’s confidence.

    I felt, for the first time ever, truly ugly on the outside and I let those feelings fester most of the week and it put me in a very dark place. I didn’t want to meet new people, or participate in anything. Which is completely out of my character, I tell you this because negative thoughts + insecurities= the perfect storm of self-destruction. Instead of letting go I let the feelings of inadequacy consume me over half the week until I broke down in to a flood of tears, I had had enough! And thank God for the wonderful support of my friends Rachel Buckley & Erin Hanson. I was in a place of feeling defeated, broken and with their love and support I was able to shake my demons. I decided right then and there I was going to enjoy the week, the people I had met and the experience I was having. Even though I was in pain and feeling at a never-before-felt low, I was going to get up and not let my thoughts or injuries ruin the amazing experience I was fortunate to be part of.

    And it was just that, amazing. I met some amazing people and we learned from one another and grew as people, as artists, as a community. I think everyone one who was at “What If” wanted something more, more than just making themselves better, making the world better. My only regret is I wasn’t able to feel stronger sooner, but we can’t live in the past. I believe it all happened because it needed to happen. I had to hit bottom before I could push-off the bottom of the pool to come up for some air. And I truly believe we all have that capability, I believe we can all make a difference if we just don’t let fear stop us. It is very clear that I need to take care of myself first so I can do what I do best and take care of others. So like Natalie Norton said

    1. Make a Plan
    2. Keep It Simple
    3. Work Your Plan

    So I’m doing just that. Today already I’ve joined the YMCA, made an appointment to see a counselor, and I’m being brave, putting this out there because if it helps just one person then it will be worth it. So I’m asking for help and making a plan to put into action. So many people touched my soul and my heart this past week that I’d like to say a…

    Special Thanks To:

    My husband for loving and supporting me no matter what. And helping me with spelling and grammar lol.

    There are so many things I took away from “What If” but these are the ones that resonated with me most…

    Natalie & Richie Norton for showing me that you can still triumph under the most difficult of circumstances. Jonas Peterson for helping me realize I need to stay true to who I am and not to give up what makes me happiest. To Jenny Solar for sharing your amazing story and being brave enough to tell it, you’ve inspired me to share mine. Tamara Lackey for teaching me to recognize the demons/thoughts that come into our heads and not to let them consume us but instead recognize them and move on. Brian Marrow of SharkPig, your passionate spirit is magnetic and inspiring! GFDA for keeping it real and being awesome in the process!

    Erin Hanson & Rachel Buckley for helping me get through one of the most emotionally challenging weeks of my life. I love you girls and couldn’t have gotten past the demons without your help and your dance moves.

    Jessica Neofotistos, Marsias Leigh Urban & Jennifer Sosa for lending an ear, making me smile and sharing laughter til I almost peed myself. I’m so excited and grateful for these new-found friendships and Marsias I’m totally in for the Color Fun Run!

    The amazing kids we got to meet and share an amazing experience with. You are a testament to the human spirit!

    Last but not least to Jen & Steve Bebb for bringing us all together, thank you for helping me see what needs to be done, for without you none of this would have happened.

    We can all change the world if we just asked ourselves… What If?

    What If 2013

    • You are incredible. And brave. And Beautiful – inside and out.

      I am SO proud of you. I know how hard this was, but you did it. You chose change…you have my heart forever!

      xoReplyCancel

    • Jessica

      Laurie: Thank you for sharing this! I am so proud of you! Just remember that I’m by your side every step of the way – for anything, anywhere, ANYTIME! You are beautiful! Love you!ReplyCancel

    • Morgan

      YOU DID IT! Mad props! I hope you find the release you were hoping for. You do have a gift to share and I’m one lucky biotch since you already shared your time and talents with me. Let me know if there’s anyway I can support you as you work your plan! Love, MorganReplyCancel

    • Natalie Nelson

      Great for you Laurie! We all battle our own ‘demons’ and how great is it to hear you are taking the steps to put yourself in the forefront! I think a lot of women battle with similar demons and lose sight that they need to put themselves first (this is not selfish, but essential for survival) in order to best serve and help others. It’s one of the hardest things to do, but also one of the most important things to do. I too have similar demons – good for you for putting it out there – you are inspiring others! :) Keep up the amazing work!ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Sosa

      Thanks so much for opening up and sharing this. I’m so excited that you are a few steps closer to change. That isn’t easy. I can’t wait to hear how much you’ve grown this year at the next what if. I’m rooting for you girl!ReplyCancel

    • Kathryn Denelle Stevens

      Laurie, thank you for sharing. You are so brave. So much love for you!!!ReplyCancel

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