Slay Girl Society Review of Washed Away: From Darkness to Light

If you are looking for a story about a remarkable human being, with perseverance and resilience, who describes her horrifying and haunting life story with candor and courage, than I highly recommend Washed Away: From Darkness To Light, a memoir by Nikki DuBose with James Johanson. It is definitely not a light read – so be forewarned now. Washed Away is emotionally wrenching, compelling and brutally honest, truly providing insight into the mind of someone with mental illness and allowing the reader to understand her deepest and darkest thoughts.

Read the full review at Slay Girl Society.

Novella Magazine: NIKKI DUBOSE ON MODELING, MENTAL HEALTH, AND POLITICS

Nikki DuBose is a former model turned author who is nothing short of a superhero. Nikki released her memoir Washed Away: From Darkness to Light in September of 2016 in which she reveals her journey to self-care. As an advocate for mental health, Nikki is a Celebrity Ambassador for The Shaw Mind Foundation, and has worked with assembly members such as Marc Levine on addressing the need for updated workplace protections within the modeling industry.

We had the opportunity to speak with Nikki about some of the work she has been doing, her journey to get there, and what is next to come.

Read the full interview online at Novella Magazine.

Cherise Shaddix: An Interview with Nikki DuBose

Today I’m announcing my first guest blogger, Nikki DuBose! Nikki is a friend, model, and actress turned author, speaker, and mental health advocate. Nikki and I have been working together recently with the common interests such as education about eating disorders, and have been teaming up to find ways to encourage girls in their desire to find acceptance in that the answer is only in Christ. You can find out more about Nikki at her website at http://nikkidubose.com.

I interviewed Nikki and asked her questions about her eating disorder in the modeling industry, and she was refreshingly open in her responses:

Read more on CheriseShaddix.com

VLOG Episode 6: Models, Financial Exploitation & Eating Disorders

How You Can Get Involved with AB 2539

UPDATE! On April 6th, 2016, Assembly Bill 2539 passed the Labor Committee!! We are so excited and are looking for more Letters of Support. Please see below for instructions on how to submit yours.

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I am honored to be working as an advocate on AB 2539. Harvard STRIPED, the National Eating Disorders Association, the Model Alliance and Assemblymember Marc Levine have been working hard to  introduce the Bill, which may be the first in the United States to see that the health standards in the modeling industry are changed and that the labor rights of models are finally exercised. From my own experiences as a former model, I can attest to the poor regulations in the modeling industry, and therefore this Bill is something that is greatly needed. Below is my official Letter of Support addressed to Assemblymember Marc Levine.

Nikki DuBose Letter of Support Bill AB 2539 Mar 10 2016

Here are more resources for AB 2539: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/striped/policy-translation/california-ab-2539/

Tips for writing letters of support for AB 2539: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/striped/how-to-write-a-letter-of-support-for-ca-ab-2539/

Resources for Advocates AB 2539: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/striped/resources-for-advocates-california-ab-2539/

 

 

On the NEDA Blog: The Modeling Industry is Changing. It’s About Time.

“As a former model, commercial actress and host, I enjoyed my share of success within the fashion and entertainment industries. I also suffered from binge eating disorder, bulimia and anorexia nervosa for the length of my career—although the behaviors didn’t begin in the industry, they were exacerbated by things I heard, saw and experienced: things like sexual harassment, trauma, bullying, exposure to wild parties, drinking, drugs and the daily pressure to lose weight. At the beginning of my career I was curvy and healthy—but by the time I left the business, I was unrecognizable even to my agents. Eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder had ravaged my mind, body and spirit, and thus, in 2012 I decided to leave; it was the greatest decision of my life. I’ve been sober for over four years, free from my eating disorders for almost three, written a book about my recovery and the modeling business,* currently speak about mental health and am a supporter of Assemblymember Marc Levine’s AB 2539.** Here’s why I’m so passionate about the bill.”

Read more on The National Eating Disorders Association.

Find out the untold story of Nikki DuBose

Real Women Real Stories Trailer

Fashioning Change: An Interview with Model-Turned-Activist Nikki DuBose

“Escaping and conquering adversity is hard enough, but working towards eliminating the same adversity for others seems to be the work of heroes.

Somehow, superhero Nikki DuBose found a way to do both. After an early start as a model at the tender age of 15, DuBose faced body shaming, an eating disorder and drug and alcohol abuse, all propagated by the hands of the fashion industry.”

Read more on Proud2bme.

 

Support the Artist Initiative & Scoop Up Clothing From Lucid Designs!

Support my team, the LA Artist Initiative, for the 2016 NEDA walk, and help save lives for those struggling with deadly eating disorders! 
Now through the first week of April purchase any Conscious Apparel Piece from Lucid Designs, and they will donate 40% to our team, the LA Artist Initiative, which all goes towards the National Eating Disorders Association. To find out more about the LA Artist Initiative, please visit our team page on the walk site!




 

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Prices are as follows:

40% of proceeds for Conscious Apparel goes to the LA Artist Initiative
Hoodies – 85.00
Sweat tops – 70.00
Jogging Pants – 70.00
Tshirts – 60.00
Long Sleeve T- 65.00
Denim long sleeve – 60.00
Apron – 50.00
Baseball caps – 45.00
Tank tops – 50.00

Baseball caps and tanks will be available in March!

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News Release: Honored to Announce AB 2539 with California Assemblyman Marc Levine!

Read the press release here.

I am thrilled to announce my involvement alongside Assemblymember Marc Levine, his Chief of Staff Michael Miiller, Legislative Assistant Naomi Padron, CEO of NEDA Claire Mysko, NEDA STAR Program Manager Kerry Dolan, Founder of the Model Alliance Sara Ziff and Harvard STRIPED director Dr. Bryn Austin, in this new legislation that will create healthy standards for California models and in return, set a healthier example for the nation. I am fully confident that this is just the beginning and from here we will create change for the industry in ways we can’t even imagine.

God Bless,

Nikki DuBose

Today Kicks Off NEDAwareness Week 2016!

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This year NEDA’s theme is 3 Minutes Can Save a Life. Get Screened. Get Helped. Get Healthy.

For over seventeen years I battled with not only an eating disorder, but a plethora of mental health conditions that held me prisoner in my own mind and body. If only I would have trusted someone outside of myself I would have experienced the help much sooner. It really only takes three minutes to get access to critical, life-saving information. Isn’t it the most amazing feeling to know that there are people out there who understand you, who are just waiting to love you?

Visit NEDA’s Awareness site to get screened and find out more information.

In regards to my own recovery, it was thanks to a combination of spirituality, mentorship, the twelve-step program, therapy, medication, family and friends, great organizations like NEDA and leaving my modeling career behind. After falling many times and never giving up I was able to regain my mental, physical and spiritual health, and have been going strong for the past three years. Writing and speaking have been incredible tools of healing for me because they have helped me to find my voice during times when I thought that I had none. But we all have voices and often they can be heard the loudest when our lives feel the darkest. 

Don’t give up, ever. You, more than anyone else in the world, are worthy of self-love, care and recovery.

Here’s my schedule for #NEDAwareness 2016:

Feb. 23 10am PST: Twitter Chat – “Getting Healthy: The Many Faces of Eating Disorders Recovery” with @NEDAstaff @EDHope @GenderSpectrum @MentalHealthAm @EricC_Official @TheNikkiDuBose

Feb. 23 7pm PST/ CSU San Marcos: Screening of The Illusionists and Panel Discussion. I will be speaking on a panel at CSU San Marcos, discussing the documentary The Illusionists and talking about the globalization of beauty. All are welcome to attend.

Feb. 25 7pm PST/ CSU San Marcos: Keynote Speaker. I will be telling my personal story of recovery and then holding a Q & A session afterwards.

 

Speak2Heal Episode 7: Eating Disorders & Ambivalence

Ever feel like you are stuck in an unhealthy relationship with someone or something but you just can’t seem to get out of it for some reason or another? On today’s episode I talk to returning guest, Adrianna Robles, about this very topic. Adrianna is a graduate from Purdue University and currently works for an HR Software company in downtown Chicago. Her passions are writing, volunteering for organizations like the National Eating Disorders Association and speaking about eating disorders at places like Mental Health America in Lafayette, Indiana.

Connect with Adrianna on Facebook:

Visit here to find out how you can get involved with NEDAwareness Week.

I love these books on mindfulness:

  1. Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays, MD
  2. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

Twitter Chat for NEDAwareness Week!

Join Nikki, NEDA, and many other awesome advocates for a Twitter chat on February 23, 2016!

Recovery Tweet Chat 2.23.16

Speak2Heal Episode 3 with Birdie McNeal: Loving Yourself Through Food

Hi everyone! So I’ve decided to convert the Speak2Heal episodes to a podcast format. I just feel that it’s easier and more effective that way! I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I do.

In this Episode I talk to health coach Birdie McNeal about her recovery from anorexia nervosa and how she uses self-love to help others eat intuitively and love themselves mind, body and spirit. You can find out more about Birdie on her website, on Facebook & her Facebook Coaching Page, and on Twitter @TheEatingCoach.

On another note, look for my new book, Washed Away, coming out next year! I recently wrote a blog about it on the National Eating Disorders Association.

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

8 Ways Your Struggle Brings Gifts

8 Ways Your Struggle Brings Gifts

  • They make us stronger. That’s right — after recovering from a lifetime of abuse, eating disorders, drug addiction and alcoholism, one thing is for certain, I am a stronger person. I don’t see my former addictions and mental health issues as a downside, rather as things that have made me more powerful, able to tackle anything life brings my way.
  • They help shape our character. Of course we are all born with character, but I believe that my struggles have sharpened mine. With every challenge we face, our character is being built, so we can choose to see troubles as a blessing.”

Read more on Recovery Warriors.

 

Los Angeles NEDA Walk, Captured In Time

March 7, 2015 was an inspiring day in sunny Santa Monica! I am so proud of my team, the LA Artist Initiative, and each and every person that came out and supported the National Eating Disorders Association’s cause! Every step taken is a move in the right direction!

To find out how you can get in involved in one of NEDA’s many walks around the nation, please visit their walk website.

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God Bless,
Nikki DuBose
Captain of the LA Artist Initiative Team

 

Paint Me A Soul — Part Four

Over the next week for NEDAwareness I will detail raw, personal accounts of my time in the modeling and entertainment industries. These stories serve to inform and educate the masses about eating disorders, mental health issues, drug and alcohol addictions, and what really lies behind the doors of the fashion world.

Only a couple weeks had passed since I had first walked into the doors of the agency, but it felt as though I had journeyed through an entire lifetime. My universe consisted of photo shoots, blind contracts, and meeting person after person in castings all over town, although hardly ever eye-to-eye. Most just wanted to evaluate my face and body, not look into my eyes…that required a sincere connection and I was quickly learning that I was in the wrong place for that.

 There was a sort of bitter flow that just…worked. It only took a couple of days before I understood certain protocols and ideals. Show up, on time. Do as you’re asked. Dress to show off your body, and, work hard to maintain certain measurements. The thinner, the better. Always, always appear immaculate. Practice, practice, practice your walk. Be the best. Once you complete a job, don’t ask questions as to when you will get paid. If I had a question about something, I asked, but many times I was shot down and ignored. The tactics seemed…familiar. It was a reflection of my childhood, and one that I was willing to give up everything for. It was a family that I wanted desperately to call my own.

November 2008

Pinching the skin between my forehead repeatedly, I fell off into space. Darkness ran in all directions as the world ceased to exist. My body tingled and my brain throbbed. Suddenly I was sorry for the massive purging session that had just taken place in the bathroom of the downstairs cafe. I couldn’t really think, I was numb. Numb to it all.

Get it together. You have to take new polaroids!

I forced my eyes open to splotches and grey floaters. Sitting on the toilet, clothed, in the agency bathroom I gathered the strength to stand. Dizzy, my stomach churned with anticipation. I walked over to the sink and brushed my teeth. As I spit and raised my head, I came face-to-face with a reflection that was not my own. The glazed eyes, puffy cheeks and red lips didn’t belong to me. Who was I?

I didn’t have much time to contemplate because the door swung open and a fellow model rushed in. She glanced at me and my swollen face, suspiciously.

My gaze went from her, to myself, and back to her again. I watched her walk into a stall and shut the door.

I bet she doesn’t throw up. Why can’t you get yourself together stupid? Why can’t you just be…normal?

I packed my items away in my bag and scrutinized my body in the mirror. I just had to observe it from all angles. The fear of being rejected and criticized by my agents loomed largely. I smoothed my stomach over and over, as I moved from side to side. I checked my back, legs, everywhere. Then I fixed my hair and re-fixed it. I wanted to smash my face into the glass as I morphed into a giant swine.

God Nikki you look like a fat pig. Ugly!

After the polaroids were updated, I was asked to stay longer. Besides the negative comments that were made about my thighs, I was unsure as to why I was asked to stay behind. I wanted to leave, but I patiently agreed and sat down in an empty chair that was normally occupied by the men’s agent. I sat for an eternal time, hot and anxious.

I bet they’re going to tell you about your weight! That’s what happens when you eat right before! You better starve!

I drifted off to the wall of cards that showed off all of the women the agency kept on roster. There I was, on the bottom right. All around me were the most beautiful of the beautiful. I was still on a paper card and didn’t even have my permanent card yet.

You’ll never be like them. Never. Look at their beautiful faces.

I sunk into a bottomless pit of depression, and I couldn’t see the light. Pile after pile of dirt was thrown on top of me. I was suffocating.

Nikki?”

I snapped to my senses, but only for show.

Yes, I-I’m ready. What is it you wanted to see me for?”

My agent came over to me and firmly placed her hand on my shoulder.

Helena wants to see you in her office.” With that she motioned for me to go upstairs.

Upstairs. It was a place that few ever ventured. The owner of the agency practically lived there. Many days as I passed through the main entrance, she was always aware, yet somehow engrossed in her affairs. She intimidated the hell out of me, and she knew it too. A well-known figure, she had guided the careers of some of the world’s most recognizable faces. For a brief second, I wondered if she wanted to help me, too. Adrenaline exploded throughout my body.

As I crept up to the door I adjusted my clothes for a solid five minutes. I closed my eyes and exhaled heavily.

Finally I rapped lightly on the door. I was afraid to disturb her.

Come in and sit down please.”

Pushing the door slightly, I quietly walked in and sat in the chair across from her. The office was even more elaborate than what little bits I had noticed from downstairs. Fur rugs were strewn across a dark hardwood floor. Animal prints and jewel tones were highlighted by fancy candles and framed pictures of articles that boasted of her years of accomplishments. Her massive desk was coated with photographs of famous faces. I felt as big and important as a discarded peanut shell.

She took in a long, heavy breathe and searched me up and down with a neutral expression. Her eyes, however, were piercing. Then she unfolded.

It has come to my attention that, that there is a – a problem darling with some things. Some things that need – attention.” As she spoke she twitched her hand in the air and rolled her eyes to either side.

Attention? Oh my God. What is wrong with me?

I was transported back to my childhood. All at once I was nine years old again, waiting to show my mom my report card. Perspiration trickled between my legs and behind my neck.

It’s, it’s your nose, darling. It’s the shape. And the width. It’s too big. One of the agents brought it to my attention in the polaroids that you took. At first I didn’t notice and I thought that you could cover it up with makeup, but really, it is going to be a problem for clients.”

It took me a while to recover from the massive punch in the face I had just received.

What had she said? It took all my strength not to melt into a puddle of tears.

O-OK,” I stammered. “I understand. You are just looking out for my best.”

I have a wonderful plastic surgeon that I have sent other girls to, he’s the best in Miami, you’ll really love him. Think of it as an investment in your career, and in your life.”

Yes ma’m, thank you for telling me.”

Ok, that’s really about all I needed to tell you.” She stared blankly out her window and motioned me out the door with her crimson fingernails.

I turned, dejected and hopeless. My dreams were shattered. Change my face? Change my life. As I shuffled out of the room I felt the heat from the blistering flames, threatening to singe me.

Paint Me A Soul — Part Two

Over the next week for NEDAwareness I will detail raw, personal accounts of my time in the modeling and entertainment industries. These stories serve to inform and educate the masses about eating disorders, mental health issues, drug and alcohol addictions, and what really lies behind the doors of the fashion world.

My remaining weeks in Los Angeles had been spent in sheer agony. In order to conform myself to the size that the esteemed modeling agency had asked, I had dropped to even more desperate measures than normal. Day after grueling day, I lived in hell. A blistering inferno that I couldn’t get out of.

Inside my mental blazes, I ran around in circles, unable to escape my insanities.

Every day I exercised for hours, binged, purged and locked myself in the bathroom to scrutinize my face and body. The only times I left my house were to get more supplies to fuel my obsessions. I took photograph after photograph of myself to see how much weight I had lost. In my mind, the more weight I lost, the more I achieved, and the more I achieved, the more valuable I was, to myself and to the modeling agency. My self worth was determined by people who only cared about my appearance and how much money I could rake in, but I didn’t care, I had no real love for myself.

October, 2008.

Christmas was only a couple of months away but the Miami weather raged on as if the summer had no end. As soon as I stepped off the plane in the sweltering Florida sun I sensed adventure, mixed with a feeling I couldn’t quite place. This undertaking would turn out to be one that I wouldn’t necessarily want to take.

I was instructed by the agents to come in the following day and sign my paperwork. I was overwhelmed by the move, the excitement of being in a new city and the fact that I was going to be a bona fide model! No longer would I just fantasize about being a model, I was actually going to be one. Pride washed over me and all at once I wanted to soar through the clouds and gaze at all the commoners in Florida. They would soon be seeing me on the billboards…I was a star!

The scenery the next afternoon on the way to the agency was quite a change from my safe house in Los Angeles. Girls and guys buzzed about on the white sanded beaches in barely-there bathing suits, rollerblading and confidently participating in a variety of sports. It was not going to be so easy to hide here. I pulled down my form-fitting skirt and withdrew my face as I passed through a dozen restaurants. The agents had informed me that I should wear something body-hugging, but now I was regretting it. I could feel a thousand unwanted eyes ripping off my clothes. I walked faster. As I entered into the sleek, two-story agency that faced the crystal ocean, I quietly took a seat and soaked in the moment.

I was the only person in the waiting area. All around me were large framed photographs of supermodels I recognized from the eighties and nineties. I was in awe. Did that mean I would be a supermodel, too? In my heart, I hoped so. I held my portfolio tightly and noticed a tall wall of composite cards. Rows of models that belonged to the agency were on display. I observed each and every one.

Wow, I thought. I wish I could look like her. I wonder what it’s like to be her, to be like that.

I became lost in the sea of faces and felt myself drowning.

Had I lost enough weight? Would they accept me?

I nervously tapped my foot but tried to appear calm and collected. My jittery eyes led to a second level that wrapped around to a glass enclosure. Inside a few agents stayed glued to their computers and telephones. They didn’t acknowledge my presence. I checked my phone; 2:49. The appointment was at 2:30. I bit my breath and quietly sat. In my stillness I was sorely reminded of one thing: how much I missed mom. In that moment I contemplated about what it would be like for her to be there with me, sitting beside me and cheering me on. I wanted her to be proud of me. I couldn’t wait to tell her about this opportunity, but most of all, I was tired of being…alone.

 

Paint Me A Soul-Part One

In honor of NEDAwareness 2015, I will be writing about some of my experiences in the modeling business. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, we are fooled into believing the mirages created by the media I cannot even begin to tell you how many times my images were manipulated to make me look thinner to the point that it was destructive for my mental health and the health of so many others.

Over the next week I will detail raw, personal accounts of my time in the modeling and entertainment industries. These stories serve to inform and educate the masses about eating disorders, mental health issues, drug and alcohol addictions, and what really lies behind the doors of the fashion world. 

     It was the beginning of the fall of 2008. The changing air in Los Angeles signaled a shift in the direction of my life yet again. I was tired of running, tired of moving but deep within I felt that something better was on the horizon. I could have dreamed at least. After a couple of weeks of waiting to hear whether or not I would be accepted into modeling agencies in South Florida, I received emails from a few. Some of the most prestigious ones had responded. Nearly besides myself, I spotted their names in my inbox.

This is it! I’ve made it now! I’m going to be somebody, I thought.

Dizzying scenes of parading down glamorous runways filled my mind. I was overwhelmed with the prospect of my new life. My new life that was at the tip of my fingertips.

My sweaty fingers slipped on the keyboard as I clicked on the first message. However, my eyes melted with the lines as I recognized the all-to familiar response. Rejection.

Dear Ms. DuBose,

Thank you for contacting us. After reviewing your images we are sorry to say that we do not think that you would be a good fit for us at this time.

Damnit.” After reading a few more of those I shut off my computer and rolled over onto my messy bed. Crumbs from weeks worth of binges stuck to my clothes and skin and the disgusting feeling brought me back to my harsh reality.

What is wrong with me?

I pondered that question over and over again, so much, that it kept me in the pits of my destructive behaviors. I was trapped in bulimia, without a way out. Rejections from agencies fed my insecurities and mental instabilities. In turn, I cycled through binge eating and bulimia multiple times a day.

About a week later, I heard from an agency and management in South Florida. The feedback was different…sort of.

Dear Ms. DuBose

We would like to meet you. When are you coming?

Also, there are some areas that need attention on your body. The thighs and hips in particular need to be reduced. Competition here is intense!

My mind raced. Ok! I was accepted. But…I needed to change. Again. Change my body, but how much? I could handle it. I was determined to be who they wanted me to be. God knows I didn’t like who I saw when I looked in the mirror constantly throughout the day.

You stupid idiot. Look at yourself. Fat thighs. Big nose! No chest. Ugly, ugly, ugly! Worthless. Of course they won’t accept you. You’ll never be like them. Never. Get to work!

The voices I heard in my head dictated my life. Demeaning, yes, but familiar. The voices were what soothed me just as much as they belittled and controlled every single area. I was captive to them.

I succumbed to the voices that told me to starve myself in preparation for my new life as a model in South Florida that fall of 2008. I also prepared myself to listen to the voices of the people in the fashion industry. I never once thought about listening to my own voice, my heart, or my soul. I had no idea who that voice belonged to.

To be continued…

 

Baked Apple Pancake with Cinnamon and Agave

Pancake with a twist! Baked in the oven with cinnamon and nutmeg, and topped with butter and agave.

You will need:

1 cup of flax milk (or whatever milk you prefer)

4 eggs

3 tablespoons of Organic turbinado sugar/monk fruit sweetner/honey/agave nectar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

*2/3 cup all purpose flour

*(Note: If you have a gluten allergy, here is a wonderul gluten-free mix from Bob’s Red Mill) http://www.bobsredmill.com/gluten-free-all-purpose-baking-flour.html

1/2 stick of unsalted butter (half for cooking apples, half for melting over finished pancake)

2 apples, any kind, cored and thinly sliced

3 tablespoons brown sugar

agave nectar to top

 

To make: 

Preheat the oven to 425°F. While the oven is warming melt some butter in a pan on the stove and cook the apple slices until they are a golden brown, about five minutes. Whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl until thouroughly combined.  Add in the flour and stir until it is smooth. Pour the apple slices with the butter into a baking dish that is 13 x 9. Rearrange the apple slices so that they overlap and then cover with the batter. Cover with a touch of brown sugar. Bake the pancake until it is slightly brown, around 20 minutes, then remove and serve with agave, butter and any other toppings you prefer.

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God Bless,

Nikki DuBose

Vanity

This painting was created by my friend Travid Teate with Travis T Photography

206892_504056869295_5131_nMany years ago before I got into modeling I had periods where I was addicted to drugs and alcohol on top of dealing with bulimia. I was dancing at a dance club (not to be confused with a strip club) on some nights and Travis saw me from across the room with what he called, “crazy, wild energy.” The colors he portrayed in this painting were a manifestation, I believe, of some the pain and sadness I was dealing with. This was the first night he had ever saw me, and from there he went home and created this painting entitled, “Vanity.” Quite frankly, I was incredibly superficial and lost in my delusions for a long time.

Thank God for recovery so that I can live in reality now and do not have to give my life over to drugs, alcohol or eating disorders. I like to look at this painting from time to time as a reminder of what addictions can turn me into if I let them. A nightmare.

Love Song

We went swimming

on those distant shores

azure waves

carried our love

to the birds

Every morning

we returned to the birds

a love song birthed

captured in time.

Now you are in the sky

with the birds

still I return to the

distant shores

azure waves

carry my heart

to your soul

as we play

in a kingdom come

mother and daughter

a love song birthed.

©2015 Nikki DuBose

Happy 48th Birthday to our beautiful mommy in Heaven, Sandy Cargile. This poem is dedicated to you. We love and miss you more than you can ever know. We take comfort in the times we had together, and knowing that one day we will all be together again. Thank you for all of the memories.

Artwork by my mother, Sandy Cargile.

 

The Golden Letter

The Golden Letter to My Mind_Nikki_DuBose_Poetry_2015

Late one winter’s eve

as the wind mocked and moaned

I uncovered a golden letter

and here is what it read:

‘O, Frankly my mind

I am no respecter of your thoughts

No longer your slave

A prisoner of your delusions

I am not.

You wail in the night

singing for my soul,

and whisper quietly in the stills of the day

concealing your intentions

But I,

I am free

Frankly my mind

I am me.’

©2015 Nikki DuBose

Never Let Them Stop You

Je Suis Charlie Emma_Beauty_Project_Nikki_DuBose

Emma believes that “you shouldn’t kill because of art. People should be allowed to make any art they want. (Creating art) doesn’t mean (individuals) should purposely make something for no (reason), offend… and hurt (people). But by
no means should people kill becuse of art even if it is disrespectful.”

Have a B.E.A.U.T.Y submission of your own?

Email me nikki@nikkidubose.com

 

Nutella Hot Chocolate

Nikki_DuBose_Recovery_Recipes_Nutella_Hot_Chocolate

Need I really say more? Nutella hot chocolate. I think the name pretty much speaks for itself. This spin on the classic hot chocolate is incredible when paired with warm croissants.

You will need: 

1 cup of milk

1/2 cup of half and half or heavy cream

1/3 cup of Nutella

Whipped cream to top

To make: 

Mix the milk, cream and nutella together in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Whisk until everything is smooth and has a creamy consistency. Be careful to not burn the milk. Pour into mugs, top with whipped cream and sprinkle with dark chocolate cocoa if desired.

God Bless,

Nikki DuBose

 

 

Eating Disorder Hope– “Anorexia Recovery — A New Normal In Your Life”

“I love rewriting my history. As the days unfold I gaze upon the New Year with hopeful eyes, and expect favor for my life and for my continuing recovery. I have to admit, I wasn’t always optimistic in regards to my health.

An enormous part of me never dreamed that I would be here…healthy, energetic, and most of all, freed from the most toxic relationship I have ever known…my anorexic image.”

Read more on Eating Disorder Hope.

It All Starts With Love

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Sapan Karecha is an artist, photographer and musician living in New York City. He has personally seen the harmful effects that eating disorders can have, as a couple of people in his family have been affected. Sapan is a proud supporter of our Artist Initiative Team for the Los Angeles NEDA Walk, and has even created a special art piece to be printed on T-shirts for the walk! We are honored to share his story and find out what his artwork represents.

The art piece I created for (The LA Artist Initiative Team) features four words written on the iris and pupil of an eye: hope, healing, happiness, and central to it all, love. Finding harmony in our personal lives and contributing to harmony as members of a greater community comes from non-judgmental love and compassion. We must always look at ourselves and others with loving, compassionate eyes, because this is how the seeds of hope, healing, and happiness are sown. It all begins with love.

I decided to become involved with (The National Eating Disorders Association) because the two women whom I love most are survivors of eating disorders. Having seen first-hand what eating disorders can do—the physical and emotional ravages they wreak—this is an issue close to my heart. NEDA provides valuable resources and education to those who seek help, and is a beacon of positivity, awareness, and prevention. I support NEDA, and I thank NEDA.”

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

 

 

Eating Disorder Hope — “Eating Disorders and Holidays: Giving Back”

“I cherish the array of feelings I receive when I send family and loved ones cards or presents in the mail. Just imagining their bright, beaming faces puts warmth in my heart.

Nothing sets my soul afire and brings me peace quite like knowing that the holiday season has arrived. As a little girl this magical time brought my family together and allowed me to feel safe and secure.”

Read more on Eating Disorder Hope.

Be*YOU*tiful by Susana Fernandez

Be*YOU*tiful by Susana Fernandez
Be*YOU*tiful by Susana Fernandez

I am honored to share this kid’s art diorama by fellow teammate and recovery warrior, Susana Fernandez. Susana uses her artistic talents every day in her personal life and in her profession as a teacher. She inspires countless young people to hone their energy into pieces that can change the world for the better, and Susana continues to motivate me, too! I had the pleasure of meeting her and her wonderful family last year at the NEDA walk, and I was touched by their passion for recovery and helping others heal as well. Susana believes that art is an incredible tool to bring about social change, and that is what she hopes to achieve with the LA Artist Initiative Team.

NEDAwareness Week is February 22 – 28, 2015!

2015 NEDAwareness February 22-28, 2015
2015 NEDAwareness February 22-28, 2015

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) awareness week is Feb 22-28th! Please visit NEDA’s Awareness site to learn more and to find how how you can get involved. ♡

The seemingly “perfect” images we see in magazines, billboards, on television, movies, and on social media, are an illusion, meant to make us feel bad for the sake of making advertisers and powerhouses wealthy. Please do not believe what you are seeing. The models behind the images have to resort to unhealthy measures to maintain their appearances and adhere to strict rules in order to keep their jobs. The environment that the modeling industry imposes at large is a breeding ground for eating disorders, and while they have made an effort to diversify and celebrate all body types and sizes, there is still much work to be done.

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

“When Walking Away…Leads to Recovery”

“Somewhere in our online travels, we met Nikki Dubose, who is currently writing, volunteering and advocating for this world to be a better place by promoting a healthy relationship with food and our bodies. We read her story, of once being a thriving actress and international model who walked away from her career so she could recover from an eating disorder. It got us thinking of just how many of you have already made this kind of choice, or are on the cusp of needing to do so.”

Read more on The Be Program.

 

 

Holiday Eggnog French Toast

A fabulous meal to serve for brunch or anytime you like, this french toast is taken to a whole ‘nother level with the use of pure eggnog! Nothin’ says the holidays quite like the taste of eggnog, and this recipe is sure to be a hit with everyone.

I was introduced to this special french toast by Cynthia Tassell, from Camano Island, Washington, and she learned of it from a friend she went to school with. Isn’t it funny how life is? We never know how we will discover our greatest treasures sometimes, and I am grateful these sweet ladies shared this gem with me, so now I can pass it on to you!

God Bless,

You will need:

Large glass pan

Butter/oil/non-fat spray

2 eggs

1/2 cup of eggnog

Four slices of at least a day old, old-fashioned buttermilk bread or similar, thick bread

Topping Options:

A couple of bananas, sliced any way you like ’em

Whipped Cream

Powdered Sugar

Hazelnut Syrup, Sugar-Free

Pumpkin Pie Spice

To make:

Whip the eggs with the eggnog and pour into the glass pan. Soak the bread into the eggnog mixture. Slice your bananas, and prepare your powdered sugar in a bowl as you wish and set aside. Heat the griddle to a medium-high temperature and add your desired butter/oil/non-fat spray. Transfer the bread onto the griddle, and cook for a few minutes on each side, until all parts are golden brown. Be mindful to observe the bread during the cooking process so that it doesn’t burn. Once the bread is golden and finished, you are done! Place each slice onto a plate and add your desired toppings! I love mine with all of the fixins’! Remember to practice mindful eating. Be in the moment, eat at the table, and enjoy every bite calmly.

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Raw Reflections of Self Esteem From a Thirteen Year Old

*Note: B.E.A.U.T.Y is meant to serve as a tool to release feelings and to build confidence in an otherwise damaged society. Our perception of beauty today has been lost and many times we feel ugly inside, instead of the perfectly created souls we are. The content submitted is raw and unedited, as every individual has the right to express their perceptions that have led them to where they are today.  The sole intended purpose of B.E.A.U.T.Y and all content therein is to bring healing and the message that full recovery from all eating disorders, mental health issues, abuse, and negative situations is possible.

When we hear the word “self-image,” what comes to mind? The mental pictures we form about our identities may be a reflection of  the positive and negative experiences we have encountered over a lifetime. Sometimes the manners by which we perceive ourselves is consistent, while other times we are capable of changing our mirror formations radically in the blink of an eye. Whatever the case may be, our self-image is critical in how we interact with ourselves and the world around us. Our image is a mere representation of what we show to outsiders; are we giving a correct portrayl of who we are to those around us? Are we honest in our spirits first, and letting that flow to our physical image?  So often in life we wear many masks to various associations and crowds of people; we desire our image to be one thing to one group, and another thing to another. The problem with this is that we can never be anyone but our true selves, and if we don’t know who we really are, we will never live fulfilled. We musn’t live life for others because truly no one is going to be approving of us all of the time. We must connect with a self-image that is peaceful and content at our core, and be satisfied with the image that is projected for all of the universe to see.

How and What I feel about Image

by Jacaila, age 13

 Image to me is a bunch of crap society makes up to make us feel bad. I mean I didn’t receive proper care when I was five years old! Don’t get me wrong, I care about image too. Whenever I think I look good, somebody always has to tell me I look horrible. It brings my self esteem to an all time low. I’ve always tried to figure out how girls can be “ana” or “mia.” I tried to be like that once but food is just too good! When I say, “I tried,” I meant it. I purged and starved myself, tried diet pills without eating anything after words. In fifth grade things were changing for me, just because of someone’s opinion of me. The boy called my “ugly.” It took me awhile but in my mind I thought he was right. Every time I looked in the mirror, all I saw was ugliness. My whole attitude changed, grades slipped and relationships slowly disappeared. In sixth grade, self-harm played its way into my life. I couldn’t stop, therapy wasn’t helping at all and life wasn’t getting better. So I feel that self esteem, image and what we think about it is restricting us from thinking better about ourselves. In conclusion, image is just society’s way of keeping us down.

*Jacaila is now fourteen years old, and has a more positive view of herself through working recovery.

Mondays at the Mission Four Year Anniversary–A Celebration to Remember

About six years ago I had the pleasure of meeting entrepreneur and author Christopher Kai, who became my friend and inspired me to continue writing and working with young people.  Christopher Kai founded the wonderful program Mondays at the Mission at Union Rescue Mission, and on September 8, 2014, I had the privilege of celebrating the four year anniversary with the mentors, staff, and inspirational young people. Christopher works incredibly hard to uplift and instill worth and value in others, and that is life-changing for countless young people that go in and out of those doors at the Mission every year.

My tumultuous past gave me a sense of a connection with Christopher, the team, and the children. In June, I told my life story, and taught a B.E.A.U.T.Y. art class, where I had the students paint a picture that reflected what inner beauty meant to them. After that day, I couldn’t stop coming! I felt privileged to be able to give of myself every Monday night to young people, to help them grow and to see in themselves what was already there. I have so much respect for everyone at Mondays at the Mission and at Union Rescue Mission, and will never be the same because of their dedication and support to helping others transform their lives. I thank you all for letting me be apart of such a phenomenal program with devoted volunteers. You guys are remarkable in every sense of the word!

Thank you to Andy Bales, Matthew Bennett, Christopher Kai, Kiersten Brown, Jason Kwon, Darin Leach, Ariel Yarrish, Kelly Gluckman, Vani Murthy, Antonio Spears, Justine Sophia-Rabia, Lisa Nola, Adam Marks, Marco Curreli, Cindy Ghali, Kevin Lee, Tim Mudd, Cheri Hodge, Rozzi Crane, all of the inspirational mentors, speakers, staff, and of course, the reason why I kept coming back and will live a life of passion–the leaders of NOW–the young people at Mondays at the Mission!! You all are more talented than you will ever know.

Here are some highlights and a video from the night, made by Darin Leach, one of the Mission’s motivating mentors! Also I would like to share some memories at MATM and with my mentor friends 🙂

 

Mondays at the Mission 4 Year Anniversary Photo :)
Mondays at the Mission 4 Year Anniversary Photo 🙂
MATM 4 Year Anniversary Banner I made, and everyone signed :)
MATM 4 Year Anniversary Banner I made, and everyone signed 🙂
A Poem I wrote for the students :)
A Poem I wrote for the students 🙂 Thank you to the team for all of your help in putting the composition books together 🙂
Most of the students at the 4 Year Anniversary Party with Christopher Kai :)
Most of the students at the 4 Year Anniversary Party with Christopher Kai 🙂
With Vani Murthy, fellow mentor and talented writer, see my resources page :)
With Vani Murthy, fellow mentor and talented writer, see my resources page 🙂
Receiving the biggest hug at my inner beauty art class :)
Receiving the biggest hug at my inner beauty art class 🙂
inspiring students creating inner beauty art :)
inspiring students creating inner beauty art 🙂
Students working on the Inner Beauty Art Project for B.E.A.U.T.Y :)
Students working on the Inner Beauty Art Project for B.E.A.U.T.Y 🙂
with Maggie and our precious students, on a class discussing how to develop their life's passions :)
with Maggie and our precious students, on a class discussing how to develop their life’s passions taught by Kiersten Brown 🙂
Kiersten Brown, the fabulous Associate Director of MATM :)
Kiersten Brown, the fabulous Associate Director of MATM 🙂
Lisa Nola teaching a fascinating class at MATM. Lisa and Adam not only mentor at the Mission, but they took a family into their own home and helped them get back on their feet, and helped the children through school. I just can't say enough about Lisa and Adam! :)
Lisa Nola teaching a fascinating class at MATM. Lisa and Adam not only mentor at the Mission, but they took a family into their own home and helped them get back on their feet, and helped the children through school. I just can’t say enough about Lisa and Adam! 🙂
Dance skills with Adam, one of the awesome mentors :)
Dance skills with Adam, one of the awesome mentors 🙂
Nikki DuBose and Antonio Spears for the Young Literati Social with the Library Foundation of Los Angeles
With Antonio Spears for the Young Literati Social with the Library Foundation of Los Angeles
Antonio Spears is one amazing person. He is a true friend, and dedicates his time to inspiring and helping others. I am proud to know you, Antonio! Christopher Kai is the founder of MATM, and has a heart full of compassion to see others succeed. Thank you Christopher for being my friend all of these years!
Antonio Spears is one amazing person. He is a true friend, and dedicates his time to inspiring and helping others. I am proud to know you, Antonio! Christopher Kai is the founder of MATM, and has a heart full of compassion to see others succeed. Thank you Christopher for being my friend all of these years!
With singer Rozzi Crane!
With singer Rozzi Crane!
Kelly Gluckman and Darin Leach, two of MATM's dedicated mentors :)
Kelly Gluckman and Darin Leach, two of MATM’s dedicated mentors 🙂
Inner beauty art by Sanivvia for the B.E.A.U.T.Y Project :)
Inner beauty art by Sanivvia for the B.E.A.U.T.Y Project 🙂
Max and Damien, two leaders in the making :)
Max and Damien, two leaders in the making 🙂
A funny bunch, with Pascal from France! :)
A funny bunch, with Pascal from France! 🙂
with Vani Murthy and leaders of today :)
with Vani Murthy and leaders of today 🙂
With Justine Rabia and Anastasia from Russia. Justine and I mentored at MATM, and Justine and Anastasia are both talented ballet dancers! :)
With Justine Rabia and Anastasia from Russia. Justine and I mentored at MATM, and Justine and Anastasia are both talented ballet dancers! 🙂

B.E.A.U.T.Y is in Your Heart by Emma

This precious drawing comes to us from my sweet and talented neighbor Emma. She explains that this cat sees life in a very different way than most of the other cats in her world, for although her body iB.E.A.U.T.Y_Project_beauty_is_in_your_heart_Emmas filled with scars and bruises, she has a kind and gentle soul. Many of the other cats cannot see past her outward appearance, and fail to be her friend. She doesn’t let life get her down though, for she knows that her in
ner beauty shines and defeats all of the negative attitudes that the other cats have. Her positive attitude builds a world where love is all she sees, and therefore, she can never be sad or lonely.

Thank you Emma, for your endless light and love for the world.

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

 

Chia Seed Banana Bread! :D

There’s nothing like warm, fresh bread out of the oven! This bread is special because it combines organic whole wheat, bananas, and chia seeds which fill your tummy and make your heart happy. 🙂 And the smell…come on now, who doesn’t love the enticing smell of freshly baked bread in the oven? You know when I was a little girl my mom made all of the breads homemade, so I try to carry that tradition on as often as I can.  I can’t always make the bread at home, but when I can, I am transported to holiday times with my mom, peering over the counter and watching her make the most delicious whole wheat and pumpernickel breads from scratch.  I think that the memories and habits we carry through from generation to generation are so special, and I hope you enjoy this delightful Chia Seed Banana Bread as much as I did.

God Bless,

<3 Nikki DuBose

You will need:

3 TBS melted unsalted butter, plus some extra for softening the pan

3 bananas

1 egg

3/4 cup stevia/monk fruit equiv.

2 cups organic whole wheat flour

1 TSP baking soda

1 TSP baking powder

2 TBS chia seeds

10″ x 3″ round pan or 5″ by 9″ loaf pan

To make: 

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Use some of the butter to slick the pan and set aside. Peel the bananas, mash them well in a large mixing bowl, and then stir in the stevia/monk fruit and egg. Mix completely and then add the melted butter. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and chia seeds. Gently combine the dry ingredients into the wet and blend well but do not over-mix.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for forty-five minutes. You will know it is done when a toothpick is placed in the middle and comes out clean. The bread should be golden brown, and the sides should fold away from the pan easily without breaking.

Let the bread cool in the pan for at least five minutes before removing.

Relax and remember to enjoy your creation! Eating mindfully is the key to a healthy and happy mind, body, and spirit. 🙂

Chia_Seed_Banana_Bread_Nikki_DuBose

 

 

 

 

Transformation

The butterfly starts out as a worm. It must go through a transformation process unlike any other. It is trapped inside a cocoon and unable to free itself or it will die.
As humans we go through many situations where we are unable to be free and we wonder why we are there to begin with. The situations are never there to harm us, but to mold us, to teach us, to make us better. Only when we surrender to our Higher Power, to God, will we learn the lessons we are supposed to be learning to work out our inner kinks, so that we can become the beautiful butterflies we were meant to be.
Transformation is inspiring, beautiful, and freeing, but it is never easy; in fact, it is one of the most intense, rigorous and painful processes we will ever encounter in our lives. If we fail to recognize the process as one to make us into a butterfly, we will wither away and die, falling short of all that God has created us to be.

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

High Above This Tree

From high above this tree mom
I can do anything
I can soar with the birds
Sing their melodies
I am one with nature.
From high above this tree mom
I am able to conquer
my deepest fears.
From high above this tree mom
I am exactly where
I want to be
In your arms
protected.

©2014 Nikki DuBose

We love and miss you mom.

Love,
Nikki and Anthony.

B.E.A.U.T.Y Project Story–Self Esteem: A Long and Winding Road

“Self Esteem: A Long and Winding Road”

by Sam, from New Jersey

When I was growing up, you might not have noticed there was something wrong with me. I was a healthy-looking, fit, active boy. You could have asked me about it, but I wasn’t aware anything was wrong. The problem was subtle and invisible: the face and body everyone saw was not the face and body I saw in the mirror with my own eyes. Where you might see a nose that was proportionate to the rest of my face, perhaps a handsome nose, I saw a weighty, unwieldy, shapeless thing. Some people would compliment my broad shoulders, and I would focus on my imperceptibly protruding belly.

If you’d asked me who I wanted to look like, I would’ve said Superman. As child of the 1980s, I specifically wanted to look like Christopher Reeve as Superman. The fact that I didn’t look like him didn’t make me feel sad or depressed. I believed that if I exercised and did enough push ups, I would build a strong physique. It didn’t bother me that I couldn’t have his face.

There were things about my face and my appearance that did cause me distress, however. Both of my parents had difficult childhoods, and less than loving parents. My mother and father were both regarded as good-looking people; though I inherited their features, my parents would make offhanded comments about my appearance which hurt. These comments were not intended to be hurtful, and I couldn’t have known at the time that some of the things they’d say stemmed from insecurities they had about themselves. My mother didn’t like her nose. She wished I had my father’s nose. In fact, my father didn’t like my nose either. He developed a routine where he’d clench my nose between his thumb and forefinger and hold it tightly until I managed to wriggle away. He thought it was funny. Having a swollen and red nose for the rest of the day wasn’t funny. “Like Rudolph,” my mother would joke. I began to wonder if I had inherited any of my parents’ preferred parts. Were any of my features the right ones? Still, my appearance wasn’t something I thought about every day. Not until I reached high school.

In high school, it seemed like everyone was dating or socially active except me. Other boys would get attention from girls and I wondered why they didn’t seem to notice me. I questioned my looks, I questioned my personality. Most families in town were upper-middle class, and there were periods where we didn’t have much money. Was it my lack of designer clothing?

I wondered about race, too. I’m an American-born East Indian. Around this time, the demographics of my hometown and neighboring towns were changing. East Indians were moving into the area in droves, yet my school’s population remained nearly all White. I got teased a lot for looking different. I was bullied over my religious differences, mocked because I developed a beard and chest hair before the other boys. Some White adults in town were quietly unhappy about Indians buying up homes, businesses, with little to no cultural integration. You could feel something was simmering underneath the surface of tolerance. Walking to school or walking home, the threat of violence from other kids always existed. Having a healthy sense of humor helped me diffuse a number of intense encounters, but jokes didn’t save me every time.

I remember getting caught in a sudden, heavy rainstorm with a friend. His house was a few blocks away, so we ran for it. It was futile, we were soaked in seconds. When we reached the front door, sloshing clothes hanging off our frames, his mother swiftly opened up. “Get inside!” she yelled. My friend ran in first. When I stepped forward, his mother shut the door in my face. How could she not see me? I rang the bell and knocked. Through the hard crackle of rain I heard the muffled sounds of an argument inside. They never let me in.

I was surprised, and yet, not surprised. In all the years we’d been friends, his parents had never allowed me inside their home. All of our mutual friends had been inside. I wasn’t a troublemaker, I got good grades in school. What made me unfit to enter?

It didn’t take much more before I developed a full-blown self-esteem crisis. I returned home from the barbershop one summer day with a crew cut. My mother told me I looked ugly. Looking back on it, she probably meant, “I don’t like that hairstyle on you.” English was not her native tongue. Nevertheless, her actual words were, “You look so ugly. Your face looks too long. And with that beard you look even worse.”

I wasn’t aware that I had a beard. I’d been so busy with activities that I’d forgotten to shave for a couple of days and had some stubble. I was a sensitive kid who wanted to please his mother, and those words injured me deeply. A subtle dig here or there might not have fazed me, yet a lifetime of them can wear down all but the most self-assured. The next time I looked in the mirror, the gap between reality and my own perception had become a chasm. I felt trapped inside an ugly thing, an ugly thing that was not a part of me, not who I wanted to be.

My mother had been injured this way too. Despite being a beautiful young girl, her brothers and sisters constantly teased her about her weight. They didn’t call her by her given name. At home, “Chubby” was her name. She wasn’t chubby. She was a standout athlete and as strong as the boys in school. Her physique reflected that. Sadly, the criticism didn’t end with her childhood. My father criticised her weight as well. She had never been overweight, but he expected a model-thin wife and expressed his desires plainly. I was 4 years old when I realized something was wrong with my mother: she wasn’t eating. What could a little kid do, except wonder why his mother was always sad, why his mother was always feeling sick, always coughing, always throwing up?

The catalyst for her recovery from eating disorder was not one she could have predicted. My father died of Leukemia. Her recovery began not so much with relief, merely the removal of her most outspoken critic. Years of starving herself left her with severe asthma, a significant loss of smell and taste, and lots of weight gain due to metabolic changes and medications. As time passed, I’d tell her that her weight didn’t matter. I’d tell her that her size didn’t matter. All that mattered was that she ate enough of the right things to make her feel strong. That’s all. Some 25 years after she’d married my father, I think she finally came to accept her appearance. I’m very happy for her.

My wounds would close, for a time. When I got to university, I was part of a diverse population. I wasn’t a weirdo or a social outcast. Many of us began university with a clean slate, and I felt liberated. Girls spoke to me, I went out on dates. I made better friends than I’d known in years prior. For a long time, all I wanted to feel was normalcy, a peace inside my own skin, and not some great desire to wriggle out of it and hide. It was a good time for me.

Then something hit me, hard. I came down with a bad case of the chicken pox. I never had it as a child, and for some adults it can be quite serious. My body looked ravaged, and I was covered in scars despite my dedication to proper skin care. The fit body I’d build up over the years shrunk down by 40lb. in a month, and my overall health in the following years would be poor. Infections, fevers, body aches, sharp muscle pain, tiredness, allergies, they became constant. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Best to keep working, I thought. I’ll eat healthy food, I’ll exercise, I’ll do whatever I can to stay functional. Nothing helped. My muscle pains became worse and worse. Then migraines started. Weekly, then daily, then my life was a big migraine. A doctor prescribed a drug called Neurontin. He said, “Take this, you’ll feel better. Don’t worry about side effects, you should be able to tolerate it. It seems to work for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I believe this will help you.”

Neurontin significantly reduced my pain while introducing new problems. My hair fell out in handfuls, I was constantly tired, and my weight ballooned. Every month I’d need new, bigger clothes. The image I saw in the mirror—an image I’d sculpted through hard work and healthy habits, an image I’d finally made peace with—was getting away from me. I saw a face and body that felt like my own melt away into something else. What I saw in the mirror was far worse than what anyone else saw. Some of my friends noted the weight gain, but they never said anything unkind. My hard-won confidence turned out to be quite fragile, and it crumbled. Any compliments about my looks were disregarded as insincere, or I deflected them with self-deprecating humor. I stopped socializing and buried myself in work, all because I couldn’t stand how I looked. I mused, “How crazy am I being? Why can’t I accept how I look and move on? I look like a normal person.”

The self-affirming ideas I had on an intellectual level didn’t sink in emotionally. Therapy didn’t help. I just couldn’t believe that I looked like a normal man to everyone on the street when my eyes saw a distorted mess. I became deeply depressed. I fell into a hole so relentlessly bleak that I didn’t feel like I was supposed to be there. Is this really how I feel, or is it the drug? My doctor and I suspected the drug, so I tapered off the Neurontin.

Within a few weeks, the darkness faded but I hated how I looked and felt. Despair gave way to malcontent. I was overweight, and all of the physical pain I’d compartmentalized was back up front. The pain was more acute than I’d remembered it. We tried other medicines, but nothing helped. I gave up on pharmaceuticals and tried meditation and alternative medicine. Nothing helped.

The stress of dealing with my health problems, work, family responsibilities, and damaged social life became too much for me to handle. My doctor advised me to take a long vacation if I could. I could, and I did. On the second day of my vacation, I felt a searing pain on the right side of my face. When I looked in the mirror, I saw lines of red bumps. An allergic reaction to something, perhaps? I saw a doctor, and he didn’t need too long to give me a diagnosis. “Yep, it’s shingles.” He gave me anti-viral tablets and a topical cream before sending me on my way.

Shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus. Once you’ve had the chickenpox, the virus never leaves your body; it simply goes dormant. In people who have compromised immune systems, the elderly, or the seriously stressed out, the virus can wake up and cause all sorts of damage.

Doctors became worried about nerve damage when I lost hearing in my right ear. Soon after, my sense of taste disappeared and my eyes became extremely light sensitive. And then, things got worse. At some point during my shingles ordeal, I picked up a very serious bacterial infection.

The regime of anti-virals and anti-biotics that saved my senses didn’t come without a price. First, all the undesired weight I’d gained on Neurontin dropped. I was happy about that. Soon, a couple dozen extra pounds dropped too. We realized I was having problems digesting food. The good bacteria which live in healthy intestines, helping us extract nutrients from what we eat and lending balance to our immune systems, were wiped out and replaced by bad bacteria.

Two years after the shingles, the waves of bacterial infections and immune issues left my face scarred and discolored. The skin that grew back on my forehead was fragile and unhealthy. The look was familiar, I suffered some small but deep burns on my body a few years prior. Only this time, I couldn’t cover up. I looked at myself in the mirror, and saw a face like pizza. Skin dark brown and yellow, mottled and rough, striations of bloody red and moistureless white: this was not the face I’d known. It wasn’t the face I’d come to accept during the good times. It wasn’t the chubby face I’d come to hate, unjustly, in the difficult times. This face cracked and bled when touched, it split when I moved my eyebrows. It burned when I cleaned it. It burned with every gentle breeze that kissed it. It was so sensitive and vulnerable that it easily became reinfected, and it often did. Months passed, and the scarring seemed to set itself in stone.

I could have fallen into despair, but I didn’t. There was a specific turning point: one day I looked into the mirror, sulking, and my cheerlessness, my indulgent self-seriousness became comical. A small laugh ascended into a laughing fit. Had there been a witness, they’d probably describe the scene as a psychotic break. It wasn’t. This was a break of clarity. I experienced one calamity after another. It was amazing that I hadn’t lost my eyesight, I could still look at myself in the mirror. It was amazing my hearing was returning, I could hear myself laugh. Yes, I was unlucky to have fallen so ill, but I was so lucky to have survived largely intact.

Suddenly, the smoke of self-hatred was clearing. For so long, things I didn’t like about my appearance overshadowed things people liked. The distorted view of myself was one I believed everyone else could plainly see. The distortions were phantoms of my mind. Now, everyone could see my scars. There was no hiding them.

I made a decision. I control how I feel about myself, no one else does. Why do I have to look like anyone else but me? And who decides what the best version of me is? I don’t have to look like my friends, I don’t have to look like people on TV. And most importantly, it is not how I look that matters, it is who I am. Taking care of myself physically and emotionally is my goal. If looking good to others is a side-effect of this, so be it. If it isn’t, why should I care? Those who are good, those with values I respect, those who truly care about me will accept me scars and all.

With healthy eating, plenty of water, exercise, and gentle natural skin care, I have begun to reverse the damage my body endured. Every day I feel a little bit stronger, a little bit healthier. The chronic pain and migraines are fading, even my skin is recovering against the odds.

When I go out, people rarely notice my scars. When they do, I don’t take offense, and understand it is usually benign curiosity. If it isn’t, it’s not my problem. It’s strange that my appearance had to become worse before I could learn to accept it. Pain can be a swift and merciless teacher, but I respect its power. I don’t know how long I will carry my scars, but they remind me that I have a life to live, and I can’t allow a negative mindset or hang ups about appearance prevent me from living the kind of life I want to live. Our time in this world is limited, and time is an arrow pointing in one direction. Forward.

Black Bean Brownies with Sweet Avocado Frosting

Generally everyone like brownies, and never does this theory hold true more than with young people, right? While it is important for kids to enjoy dessert, I like to bake treats that are healthy and delicious!

Last night for Mondays at the Mission, I made these black bean brownies with a sweet avocado sauce for the youth! No sooner had I placed them on the table than they were gone 😀

I couldn’t believe they were made out of BEANS because of how scrumptious they were! I am curious to see if you agree with me 🙂

I made two batches of these and both came out fluffy yet moist because of the baking powder. If the idea of the avocado frosting turns you off, I understand, but just think of all of the health benefits balanced with the sweet taste! It’s a win-win 🙂

God Bless,

You will need:

Black Bean Brownies

1 (15 oz). can of low sodium black beans, drained
3 eggs
3 TBS coconut oil
1/2 cup of wondercocoa powder
3 TSP of bourbon vanilla extract
1 TSP baking powder
equ. of 1/2 cup of monk fruit in the raw/stevia/agave

Sweet Avocado Frosting

1 avocado, ripe
1 TBS canola/coconut oil
1/2 TSP bourbon vanilla extract
4 packets of Stevia
1 cup of arrowroot
1 cup of powdered milk

To make:

First, let’s make the brownies. Preheat the oven to 350°. Blend the black beans, eggs, coconut oil, wondercocoa powder, vanilla extract, baking powder, and sweetener of choice until smooth in a blender. Spray an 8×8 baking pan with fat-free cooking spray and pour the brownie mix into the pan. Bake in the oven for about twenty-five minutes. Let the brownies cool in the pan before cutting into even squares, which will make about twelve.

Now for the avocado frosting! With a high-powered whisk, beat together the oil and avocado until smooth. Then carefully add the vanilla. Blend the stevia, arrowroot, and powdered milk in a blender well to imitate powdered sugar, then mix that in with the avocado until everything is properly combined.

Now here’s the best part! You can and the kids can sit down and take quality time to enjoy the incredible brownies you have spent making. What better way to bond than over a meal as a family?

B.E.A.U.T.Y Art Project by Justine Sophia

Beauty Project by Justine SophiaJustine Sohpia, one of the dedicated mentors at Mondays at the Mission, created this drawing for the Beauty Project. She said that the “fingers in the picture are the engergy points where we reach out to all the things in the world, and in that way there is a lot of power in the hand. The hand of action, which allows us to search out beauty, earn beauty and create beauty. The pictures are just examples of things inside the universe that are unbelievable. Yet here we are. And we exist.”

Thank you, Justine, for your powerful perception on inner beauty!

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

Pineapple Pancakes

These are the ultimate treat for me!  Pancakes are something that terrified me for years because of my struggles.  I am grateful for eating pancakes as it is a marker of overcoming and letting go.

This recipe uses two kinds of flour: almond and organic whole wheat.  I like to combine the two because it gives the pancakes a more consistent feeling rather than a cakey turnout.

I hope you enjoy my pineapple pancakes!

God Bless,

Nikki DuBose

You will need: 

1 cup of almond meal/flour

1 cup of organic whole wheat flour

2 TBS stevia/monk fruit/agave/organic raw cane sugar

1 TBS baking powder

1/4 TSP baking soda

2 eggs, beaten

1 can of freshly crushed pineapple (I bought a package of fresh pineapple and crushed them myself)

3/4 cup of coconut almond milk

1/4 cup of canola oil

Light whip cream and sugar-free caramel syrup to top (or top with apple butter)

To make: 

In a large mixing bowl combine the almond and whole wheat flour together. Next, add the stevia, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate medium bowl mix well the eggs, freshly crushed pineapple, almond milk, and canola oil.  Now pour the pineapple mixture in with the flour, and stir until everything is slightly lumpy, but smooth.

Place a pancake skillet or pan on the stove and raise the heat to about medium.  Cook about 1/4 of a cup of batter at a time, and let it sit for about three minutes on each side, turning when the bubbles form and the edges start to dry. The pancake should be golden and crispy on each side…but if you “mess up”…don’t worry, it’s all about progress, not perfection right?

Serve immediately and place a dollop of light whip cream on top. Pour  caramel syrup over the top (I got mine from Starbucks!), or get more creative and make your own delicious sauce 🙂

 

 

 

B.E.A.U.T.Y Project Art by Orlando

Beauty Project by OrlandoOrlando drew a peace sign, an angel heart with wings, and a happy/sad mask for the Beauty Project!

Orlando’s artwork is a fine example of the emotions in life we all go through.  Emotions should be welcomed and felt, as they help us experience life in a greater way! 🙂

Thank you, Orlando, for your positive drawing on inner beauty!

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose