So here’s the thing: a documentary is being made about me.
You know, the whole being-followed-around-by-cameras thing.
A woman I really respect and admire approached me with the idea for the film about a year ago, and it just felt right to me. The emphasis wasn’t on illness, wasn’t on lingering in the pain of my disorder, but in exploring my journey into lightness and recovery in a way that would, hopefully, inspire others along their own path. The movie doesn’t idolize me or make me out to be an all-knowing guru, it authentically represents both the dark and light parts of me in a way that I feel good about sharing with the world.
I’ve only recently started talking about it, for a few reasons. For one, at first it just didn’t feel real. There was a lot of time where the project was put on hold, stalled, or pushed off simply due to time and (no-) budget reasons. And once filming did start, I was pretty certain that everyone would quickly realize I’m not all that interesting and would abandon the idea altogether. And even once that fear wore off, I still didn’t talk about it unless it was necessary because I didn’t want to come across as self-centered or narcissistic.
It started to come up more when a woman with a camera was mysteriously behind me at important life events. When I presented my senior project, I checked in the documentarian, Laura Van Zee Taylor, at the office as a “guest” to film my presentation for vague and noncommittal reasons. At graduation I wore a mic under my gown and had a camera underneath the stage as I spoke and didn’t mention it to anyone. At Just Be Yoga’s anniversary party, Laura was there, filming the class and silently capturing one of my last chances to teach at my beloved studio before leaving for school.
As Laura began interviewing important people in my life for the film, I started getting questions.
“What is this about?”
“A documentary? Like a movie?”
“What’s it like being followed around by a camera?”
I always kind of blushed and shrugged away the attention. It’s not that I’m embarrassed by the project- I’m constantly humbled and honored to be a part of it- but I just didn’t want to come across as, well, self-indulgent. And to be honest, at first it was kind of weird to have a camera there, following me around and capturing my life. Laura was there as I got ready for graduation, and my visiting family members seemed kind of put-off by her presence. My peers seemed confused by her when she came to visit my school. I worried that I was appearing inauthentic or distracting from the important milestones of my life by doing something that is often warned against: living with an audience.
But I’ve come to realize that I’m passionate about sharing my story, and this is a powerful way to do it. I love to write, and this blog will always be an important project and tool for me, but if I can spread my message through another, attention-grabbing and beautiful medium, why would I turn down this opportunity?
If I have a purpose in life, it is to speak my truth, be honest about my struggles, and share the lessons I’ve learned along my journey so that I can be of service to others.
There is something about breaking down walls and sharing your life with no filter that makes you real and tangible to people in a way that makes inspiration effective. You can read a million success stories, see a million before-and-after photos, but if no one ever sits down and tells you “look, these are the ugly parts, the things I’ve struggled and still struggle with, the parts that won’t make the highlight reel,” you’re never going to feel empowered to change your life.
Almost exactly a year ago, a CNN article was published sharing my story with anorexia and yoga to teaching the practice and sharing my truth through writing. Before that publication, I was fairly quiet about my past and what I’d been through. I didn’t keep it a secret, but I didn’t go out of my way to discuss it, either. There was shame, embarrassment, and guilt around struggling with mental health while coming from a household with married parents who had stable jobs and good grades and a seemingly perfect life. Who was I to say I had been through hard times? Who was I to say I had overcome?
And beyond that, I worried that I wasn’t an “after” yet. I worried that I wasn’t “better enough” to deserve to share my story. I worried that I was still “the anorexic girl”, not the person you should be looking to for hope as you struggled with your own personal battle. I worried that I wasn’t perfect, because some days I still woke up feeling like shit about my appearance or my self-worth or my life’s direction. I wasn’t always filled with glowing positivity and perfect body image and never stressed about food or exercise or health. I was still learning, still growing, even years into what I would consider an active recovery.
So to “come out” about my story on a worldwide news site was kinda a big deal to me.
The response was overwhelmingly positive. But more than people applauded me for my recovery, they applauded me for talking about it.
Because there are so many people on this planet who felt and feel just like I did- like they don’t deserve to talk about their illnesses or struggles because their life is “so good.” Or because they don’t have it “bad enough.” Or because they will be judged for not “having it all figured out.” Or because they still aren’t recovered, healed, or in a healthy space mentally/physically. And when you’re forced to keep these burdens inside, with no one to help you carry them, life gets very draining very fast.
I share my story because I want to remove the stigma of talking about mental illness.
This is my mission in life: to be fearlessly authentic about where I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m headed. To prove that you can struggle with mental health without allowing it to define you. To help others learn the lessons I’ve had to learn and continue to learn as life goes on. I never want anyone to feel the way I used to- to feel like the path to healing is one you must walk alone.
This movie is a part of my mission. Writing is a medium I’ve chosen, and filmmaking is a medium that has come to me to help me along the way. If one person can watch this film and feel inspired to be open, inspired to recover, inspired to begin pursuing their own mission, then it is worth it. So beyond worth it.
I’m so honored to have this opportunity to share my story in a way I couldn’t do alone. Filmmaking is an art I simply don’t have experience or talent in, and it is a beautiful art form that engages the senses in a compelling and engaging way that, I believe, will breathe life into my message in a way my words can’t do alone sometimes. My writings and my practice and important moments in my life that aren’t always captured in my teachings or in my blog are going to be combined in a project that I will be proud to share with the world some day.
And so while the lights and the cameras and the recording studio may not seem “yogic” or like I’m “living in the present moment,” I believe in my heart that this is a way to share with people in this world a message that may not have reached them otherwise. I believe that this was meant to be a part of my path, a part of my mission. I believe that it will help me make a difference in this world.
I’m filled with gratitude for this opportunity, and for all the people who are pouring their heart and soul into making this a reality. This film is being made with no budget, and is only coming to life thanks to the belief others have in the power of this mission and the difference it can make in this world. Talented, talented creators are donating their creative abilities to help bring the writings of my blog into a new form. I see this film as my blog and my writing coming to life- and this process takes my breath away as it begins to shift into reality.
I have a mission. This is part of it.