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.
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.
13 responses to “This I Believe: On Self Acceptance by Eleanor Gustavel”
Hey! I love your nose! And as someone who was anorexic around the same age you are, I am here to tell you that if you work on recovery, there can and will be a time in your life when anorexia seems like a far and distant past. Life can be full and rich again and food can become just plain old food again. One day at a time!
Eleanor is my daughter 5 years ago, and 6 years ago, and 7 years ago. Except my daughter didn’t have writing as an outlet. All that other stuff (except anorexia), was her life though. And her self harming was cutting rather than anorexia. It was hard. It was 3 years of therapy. 3 years of never knowing if she was going to be ok. She came out of it on the other side tho. Now she is a 20 year old young woman, about to be married to prince charming. I say she came out of it, but sometimes she slips back. The depression and anxiety grab hold of her and try to drag her back. So far she’s been successful and fighting it.
I read a quote, that I had sent to Beth, months ago and it’s been very relevant in my life of late. “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” -Lucius Annaeus Seneca. You have courage…
I too am humbled by your words. Your’s and Beth’s. I take comfort in them. I’m nearly 60 and have felt bad about myself forever. Self acceptance. Now that’s something I’ve never thought of. Because you shared your words, I’m now thinking about it. hahaha, there may be help for this old gal yet! thank you for sharing. You are not alone!
Love. Thank you Eleanor.
Eleanor, your words are a gift. The world is a tough place. We all must learn to fight to keep empathy and love in the forefront. Thanks for joining the fight. You’re not alone! I’m so inspired by your willingness to share your thoughts and feelings. When my daughters are a bit older, I’d love to share your words with them.
Self acceptance – what a hard lesson to learn and a beautiful gift to give yourself. Keep writing so the rest of us can benefit from your growth and wisdom, too.
Perfect. …. the words and you.
This is beautiful; YOU are beautiful. Don’t ever believe the little nagging voice in your head. I might share this with my high school psychology class (homeschool co-op.) If that’s ok.
Its totally okay to share this with your class!! Thank you!
My daughter’s name is Eleanor. I am so moved by your gift of words and bravery for sharing your stories. I know that she will grow to be brave and find a place for her gifts because there are people like you in the world. Thank you so much.
Oh sweet girl, I am sorry that you have suffered so much in your short life, though I am glad you have found ways towards acceptance and growth. Having people like Beth in your life can truly help you find that tunnel and the way out.
Eleanor, this is beautiful! You are miles ahead of most adults and have an amazing insight into what accepting ourselves truly means.