Reflections On Receiving The 2017 Persevere Scholarship
By Kendra Coleman
On Friday July 14th of last year, I received a phone call from the Looking Glass Foundation. I was on my way to an annual summer barbecue and was just leaving the store after equipping myself with some tasty appetizers that, in my opinion, were sure to be a hit.
On Cambie Street in Vancouver, amidst the background hum of rush hour traffic, I was informed that I was to be the recipient of the 2017 Persevere Scholarship & Elise Skoglund Bursary.
I began to cry.
I began to cry in public, which I must say, was both quite uncomfortable for me and oddly fitting. A key component in my own journey to health was re-evaluating my understanding of what it means to be vulnerable. As such, the irony of the moment was not lost on me and I could not help but smile.
I remember feeling overcome with seemingly incongruent emotions. For being recognized by a community that is so dear to me, I felt both happiness and immense gratitude. Simultaneously, I felt sadness in remembering an illness and experience that I once tried so desperately to hide and was now in part being recognized for overcoming.
Winning this scholarship made my experience with anorexia and bulimia feel like something more than a dark period of my life. It provided me with the courage I needed to speak more openly about my experience. It made me feel that the insight I gained during this time could itself be valuable in some way. It reinforced that dedicating myself wholeheartedly to recovery was worth every ounce of effort. It has made me a stronger person.
So, in thinking and feeling all of this, I cried when I received the phone call from the Looking Glass Scholarship Committee. I cried for my former self. I cried thinking about the years ED had taken from me, and I cried thinking about the connections, wisdom and resilience I had gained through recovery. I thought about how far I had come since first setting foot in the Looking Glass Residence and placing my faith and health in this community’s hands. I was reminded of the people in the Looking Glass community that changed my life only one year prior to the phone call I was receiving. And, though I never had the privilege of knowing her personally, I thought of Elise Skoglund and her family’s dedication to giving back to the eating disorder peer support community. I thought of how strong and compassionate she must have been. It was and always will be an honor to receive a bursary in her name.
At the end of May, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a BA in Psychology. This scholarship has been invaluable in facilitating my academic endeavors by affording me the time and space to focus my efforts on opportunities related to my field of study. This past year, I have been involved in a research assistant position with the UBC Sexual Health Laboratory and am currently involved in a research project exploring trauma, PTSD and sexual desire in women. I am very grateful to be a part of this team and have the opportunity to pursue areas of research for which I am passionate. I am also involved as a volunteer with the Options for Sexual Health clinic based out of BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver. Through these projects, I have gained invaluable experience that I hope to carry through to graduate school or medical school in the upcoming year. Additionally, these opportunities have provided me with a sense of excitement and direction in my studies by cultivating my interest in sexual health and psychological wellbeing.
While the Looking Glass Foundation has aided me in these academic pursuits, applying for this scholarship was more than an academic endeavour. Writing an essay for the Scholarship Committee was a chance for me to honestly share part of my story. It was an opportunity for me to make my struggle and myself visible in a way I had never done before.
While the Looking Glass Foundation has aided me in these academic pursuits, applying for this scholarship was more than an academic endeavour. Writing an essay for the Scholarship Committee was a chance for me to honestly share part of my story. It was an opportunity for me to make my struggle and myself visible in a way I had never done before. It allowed me to share my hopes for my life after illness and solidified the aspirations I had for myself in recovery. I felt recognized and encouraged to pursue these dreams by a community that saw me through the most challenging period of my life.
I have had the privilege of being a resident, scholarship recipient and, perhaps most meaningfully to me today, a volunteer and advocate in the Looking Glass community. It feels both strange and wonderful to be writing this today and reflecting on my connection to this community, a relationship that has been invaluable in my own recovery and in my ability to share my insight with others. I am eternally grateful to the Looking Glass Foundation for awarding me this scholarship, reinforcing both the progress I have made and the hopes I have for the future.
To the outstanding scholarship applicants of 2018: It takes an extraordinary amount of time, effort and determination to live with an eating disorder. It is a rigid, ruthless and unforgiving kind of life. It is exhausting, and time consuming. I believe it takes insurmountably more courage, heart and perseverance to strive for health and recovery. Your commitment to applying for these scholarships in pursuit of your own aspirations and helping others beyond ED is incredibly brave and inspiring. I wish you love, happiness and of course the best of luck!
LGF is accepting applications for 2018 Scholarships until July 6th. Visit our Scholarship Page for more information.
Kendra holds a BA in psychology at the University of British Columbia, and is a research assistant with the UBC Sexual Health Laboratory. She is a past resident of the Looking Glass Residence and is passionate about sharing her insight and experience with others. Now in recovery, Kendra is open about her struggle battling anorexia and bulimia. She hopes to be a support and ally to those who are suffering while also working to reduce the stigma around mental illness. Her passions include violin, spin class, academics, beach walks with her dog, and chatting over coffee with close friends.