This I Believe: On Self Acceptance by Eleanor Gustavel

Dec 7 2017

Eleanor Gustavel is one of my heroes. She spins words like magic, she’s not afraid of the mess, and I hope to be like her when I grow up. Eleanor is also 16, and I’ve never met her in person — not that in person matters when we’ve met by heart.

Eleanor’s mama, Wendy, introduced us a while back. Two years ago, maybe? I remember it was Christmas time, and I remember Eleanor wasn’t OK. She wasn’t well. She was mired in the mud and the muck of which I’m far too familiar as her brain sucked her under, into the mental darkness. Her mama was wasn’t OK, either, as mamas never are when their children suffer and don’t know their way out of the dark. And so Wendy and Eleanor and I spent that Christmas texting and emailing, sitting figuratively together and waving in the dark, hoping dawn would come swiftly, but whispering to each other that we weren’t alone while we waited. 

And dawn came, like it always does. And then day. And then dusk. And then dark. And then dawn again. Eleanor lived. Then Eleanor thrived. Then Eleanor found her voice, which is brilliant. And her brain still betrays her. And she is still the Phoenix, rising from the ashes, again and again. 

I love Eleanor to the moon. And it’s with a tender heart, I share her words below with you, knowing you’ll love her like I do.

 

 

 


On Self Acceptance
by Eleanor Gustavel

I believe in self acceptance.

Self love is simply a stupid, fabricated, superficial idea. We never love ourselves 100 percent of the time, but we can learn to accept ourselves. We can learn to look at ourselves and accept what we see, even if we don’t love it.

As a child I loved who I was as a person, but as time passed ideas seeped into my brain like slow, black, cruel molasses saying I wasn’t good enough.

I started to notice how my hair doesn’t fall like a perfect silk curtain, and I grow out of my child sized jeans and suddenly I start to pay a lot more attention to those little embroidered numbers on the tags.

I start to measure my worth in the calories in an apple, slip smoke out of my nostrils and eat the ashes of who I used to be because they’re calorie free, and I’m not pretty unless I can fit in a size zero.

Zero.

Nothing.

I am nothing.

I drink my tears to drown my sorrows.

I start to notice my nose and how ugly and hook shaped it is. And I hate my cheekbones because Angelina Jolie wears them better.

I cover up my feelings with foundation and put glitter on my eyelids because I just want to shine like a crystal slipper, but I look more like a crystal pipe.

I live in a funhouse, full of carnival mirrors. Bending me, breaking me. I shatter.

Acceptance came when I decided to breathe in and out without the smoke, without the tears, without the calculator in my head.

Acceptance came when I decided to fight those monsters that snuck into my head.

Acceptance isn’t easy.

Acceptance is a tear streaked face. Acceptance is red puffy eyes. Acceptance is many hours of self hatred turned into determination.

Acceptance is messy, and beautiful, and scary, and necessary.

This I believe.


Beth told me to write a bio about myself. I was going to write it last night, but I’m a procrastinator. Oops. My name is Eleanor Gustavel. I am 16 years old and from Rhode Island. I enjoy dying my hair unnatural colors and playing as many instruments as I can teach myself. I’m a trapeze artist, an animal lover, and a free spirit. Oh, and I’m clinically depressed, suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and have Anorexia Nervosa. I have self harmed, attempted suicide, been in an abusive relationship, and been bullied. That is my icebreaker. I‘m laying it all out for you because my writing is my therapy, and those who read it are people I could be helping out of a dark place. I lay it all out because I want people to know they’re not alone and it’s okay to be not okay. My writing has helped me through my darkest moments. From being hospitalized, to being bullied in the halls at school, when I take pen to paper I feel a little bit better. I don’t write for sympathy, but for empathy. I hope for my writing to make people more empathetic, not towards me, but towards the rest of the world and the struggles people may be going through.

I Had It All Together

Dec 6 2017

I had it all together yesterday. I woke up early. I ate breakfast. I drank an entire cup of coffee. I wore clothes that weren’t pajamas. I put on makeup so I didn’t look like the living dead. OK, fine; I had to throw the hair into a bad braid because who has time to do hair after all the above? But still, I had it all together yesterday.

I had it all together yesterday because I had a Place to Be; an Appointment volunteering at the local high school which made me feel magnanimous. I was both dressed and volunteering which qualify me for at least a few hours of super hero status, yes? Yes. I’m glad we agree on the criteria. 

So I had it all together yesterday. I volunteered at a school, and then I had a break, and then — wait for it — I volunteered again

Now, I realize there are parents in this world who volunteer regularly, in all the schools, all the time. They are not super heroes. They are magical, mythical creatures of light and love, imbued with benevolence and grace. They are better than super heroes, is what I’m saying. Still, being a Sometime Super is nothing to sneeze at, and I was super, if only for a day.

I had it all together yesterday. I walked with confident strides and shoulders back and smiled at All the People, as one does when one has it All Together. And so, to celebrate, I took myself to the Fancy Restaurant in town for lunch. Just Me, who had it all together, ordering the Cheapest Thing on the menu so I could sit and soak in the atmosphere, look at the giant, expensive Christmas decorations, and enjoy being pristine a few more minutes before going home where there are rice crispies ground into the couch and our giantest decoration is the tumbleweed of dog hair and spilled sprinkles roaming from room to room.

I had it all together yesterday until I laid my napkin in my lap and thus glanced down at my Super Self… which is when I realized I had my sweater on backwards and also inside out… which is when I hightailed it to the ladies’ room to fix the sweater… which is when I saw the Giant Spot on my pants… which is when I remembered my son “blessing” them with a handful of cupcake frosting… which is when I remembered I’d meant to wash these jeans but had relegated them to the recesses of my mind where all the non-urgent things go. You know, all the non-urgent things that don’t have to do with stopping someone’s bleeding or telling the legions to TURN DOWN THE TV VOLUME OR I’M TURNING IT OFF or running to the store for emergency toilet paper because no one ever puts that on the shopping list.

I had it all together yesterday until my clothes were on backwards and inside out and decorated with a spot that looked like feces but smelled like chocolate frosting. And until, while standing at the Fancy Sink in the Fancy Restroom of the Fancy Restaurant, using their Fancy Cloth Hand Towels to try to scrub the icing from my pants, I glanced in the Fancy Mirror to see that my hair had fallen out of its braid — or rather, half of it had while the other half struggled valiantly but futilely to stay coiffed. Really, by the time I noticed that, I just felt the hair was trying to fit in with its peers. The sweater and the pants had jumped off the cliff, so, by God, the hair was going to jump, too, and damn the consequences. 

But I had it all together yesterday, and even though I didn’t — not really — it felt good while it lasted.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

P.S. We are officially in Christmas Christmas season now, as opposed to Halloween Christmas or Thanksgiving Christmas. This is FULL CHRISTMAS, friends. Thus we begin our Christmas Christmas posts on this blog.

P.P.S. Christmas Christmas posts on this blog are the regular mish-mash of posts that wreak havoc and have no overarching theme other than the usual magic and mess and bizarre, beautiful bits about being both human and divine. 

P.P.P.S. I have things Planned — thoughts on faith, thoughts on politics, easy peasy recipes to share, an Escapist Book Club book for December, a Gorgeous Piece on Authenticity and Grace and Mental Health by my friend Eleanor who is Wise and Beautiful and Amazing, and more. When I listen to my fears, I’m afraid I’m going to give you whiplash, diving as I do from the mundane to the meaningful in rapid succession. When I listen to Love, which drives out fear, I realize this jumble of shallow and deep is simply Real Life, and Real Life is worth sharing.