Maris  Story

Santa Cruz, California USA

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"When I was 14, I was faced with a choice: face my fear of consumption or allow it to consume me. It was at this age that I was hospitalized for a severe eating disorder that was only the most recent chapter in a lifelong struggle with mental illness.

 

From a young age, I'd battled anxiety and depression, and the freshman year of high school brought with it the final wave of invisible pain that would force me to face my demons once and for all. I had a choice to make, one that was between many things- ignorance and honesty, the uncomfortable and the familiar, deception and reality- but was ultimately between life and death.

 

Thanks to strength I still am surprised I was able to find, I decided to tackle the long road to recovery. Little did I know that this pursuit would not only allow me to survive, but allow me to find the purpose for my presence in this lifetime. In an attempt to aid my healing, I turned to yoga, and at the age of 16, I completed my teacher training program.

 

Yoga had taught me so much, had gifted me so much, and I knew it would be the highest honor of my life to be able to share its lessons with others who struggled not only with mental illness, but with things we can all relate to. Things like low self-esteem, feeling lost, or perfectionism.

 

My junior year of high school, I began writing about my journey towards recovery and the role yoga played in it, and CNN Health got wind of my work. My life was changed forever in September of that year, when they released an article entitled 'Teen Overcomes Anorexia Through Yoga.' It was only then that I was able to take a step back and realize that I had done it. Truly done it. I'd proven to my disorder that it could not control me, that it could not drown out the light inside of me so desperate to shine.

 

I may not have it all figured out, but I've conquered an enemy that had once nearly cut my life short, and that's something I try to be proud of every day. Today, I'm completing work on a documentary about the intersection between self-love, authenticity, and healing from mental illness. I continue to be honored with the opportunity to share yoga with others through my asana classes and my writings, and my life has a sense of purpose that was fatally lacking when I was consumed by my disorder.

 

I'm so grateful to serve as a voice of hope for those believing there is no hope for their own recovery, an opportunity I will never take for granted or take lightly. It is an honor to serve my community in this way, even if I only touch a single person in this lifetime."

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