My name is Lavinia; I was a patient at ANJ (now Rosewood Santa Monica) during the summer of 2015. Today I am writing to you for the first time because today I went to Rosewood to turn in a painted canvas that was given to me by Lynne Biehl (Alumni Coordinator); an incredible woman who graciously took me under her wing when I was very scared and broken, after a year and a half of recovery. I never considered myself an outstanding member of recovery treatment, let alone an alumni. Really what it was, was that the steps towards healing were incredibly overwhelming and foreign to me. I was so in tune with my eating disorder I didn’t think there would ever be a world outside of that. Rosewood Santa Monica showed me the complete opposite. The thing is, from what I have gathered so far is that recovery…full recovery from the vicious cycles of an eating disorder is certainly not linear, and is unabashedly imperfect. Without remorse, without any sense of carefulness towards your spirit, life happens after recovery, and I mean really happens, in all forms shapes and sizes, and I’m not just speaking physically. I mean besides the many ripped jeans, and the torn shirts, or the tight fitted bras that were once loose, it’s all about accepting the life that you were so scared to live before the eating disorder. Living in life everyday takes an incredible amount of bravery because we are in fact venturing into the complete unknown, without any form of a security blanket we thought existed.
Today I have decided to write to you because I was encouraged to say a word or two about the painting. I have struggled with accepting myself every day, but creating was always something that came naturally to me. The only days when I was not creating, shockingly, was when I was fully immersed in my eating disorder and that became completely my life. So from age twenty one to age twenty four, I was in the complete dark, creatively speaking. I hadn’t produced one singular painting. Today, I am twenty six, and I have produced about twenty new pieces since I “recovered” with one relapse.
The first thing I did as a child was naturally dance which turned into figure skating that turned into musical theatre, and then when all those things didn’t pan out in the perfect way that I wanted it to, I managed to find my way in the world of teaching English to Italian speakers in the country I was born, Italy. Ironically being in the smallest little town imaginable in the outskirts of Umbria, I still found myself at my breaking point. I fell hard into bulimia and had a small but acute heart failure…I came back home and admitted myself into Rosewood.
For the longest time, I simply wanted to be seen as something more then I was because I was too scared to look deep within myself to find the truth that was there all along. My self-worth came from the incredible amount of love that surrounded me. It is an intense and beautifully powerful love that is indescribably distinct in its nature. It wasn’t until I decided to feel that love, each and every day, that things did start changing for me. I found that love in my church, but love is truly universal; it can be described in so many different ways so whatever that is for you, hold on to that. That is your lighthouse, and will always be what carries you to your truth. It will be what guides you throughout your days. It will be what brings an infinite abundance of peace in your heart and soul wherever it is your heart takes you. It will be your compass in life when you are lost at sea.
There are still days, even when I have all the work that I’ve produced, where I am at a complete loss with myself, it is very much part of the creative process to be lost, but when I am at a loss and I don’t know up from down…I come back to my intentions, to my positive affirmations and to the Love that is for me. Today, I am back at my community college, where I intend to continue my studies as an artist and creative healer. I found that with art, painting, writing, singing, dancing, my soul feels blessed and whole. I am not a simple person, I will sacrifice what needs to be sacrificed in order to constantly manifest the beauty that is my soul and spirit, and I can only hope that you are all with me on this incredibly fascinating journey that is in the spirit of life.
In the time since I’ve left, I have seen and done so many truly wonderful and enriching things. From spending time with the homeless for very long periods of time to attempting to heal the addicted, to learning to love food again, to learning to love my body again in it’s incredible shape and form, to learning to love and honor my spirit and soul as its own unique form. All of it has been such a beautiful and precious gift with an abundance of surprises…but I wouldn’t have been able to honor and cherish any of it, had it not been for the wonderful staff and fellow members of A New Journey (Rosewood Santa Monica). So really this message is to thank all of you. Seriously. I wouldn’t be who I am today without it. I can only hope that this piece and the few more to come hopefully, can be able to express that. Thank you for all that you are, for your bravery, for your truth, thank you for being you, it is truly the greatest gift you have given.
Lavinia, Rosewood Santa Monica Alumni