Morgan Blair is the Founder and Creative Director of Unpolished Journey. Through her own recovery from an eating disorder, PTSD, and depression, she decided to build a community of survivors who could share their stories through creative expression.
Everyone faces obstacles in their life. I believe obstacle is a vague term, which could refer to anything from fighting the urge to call in sick to work to losing a limb and having to relearn basic tasks. Therefore, I think it is safe to say that we all face obstacles on a daily basis, leaving each one of us with a level of resiliency to cope with these challenges.
When I first was diagnosed with an eating disorder, I was in one of my most vulnerable positions. I was physically, mentally, and spiritually spent and I had little faith in my ability to recover from such a daunting disease. Denial filled my every thought in attempt to convince myself that I didn’t actually have to face the realities that accompany an eating disorder.
I didn't want to admit that I needed help. I didn't want to face doctors, nurses, treatment centers, and, certainly not, a therapist. The last thing I wanted was to be forced to look in the mirror at the shell left behind, showing me that my disease had, in fact, sucked all the life out of me.
Recovering from my eating disorder was perhaps my largest challenge so far because it encapsulated so much. Once my eating disorder behaviors were stripped away, I was left naked and vulnerable to the painful emotions and experiences I had been covering up. I had to face old traumas and suicidal thoughts while looking a therapist straight in the face and actually verbalizing these truths.
Once spoken these truths were out there - real, scary, staring at me and taunting me. At first, I ran away from the pain because I hadn’t built up enough resiliency to face my demons. My eating disorder had shielded my thoughts, keeping from thinking about nothing besides food. After years of struggling with the eating disorder, food was far more comforting and familiar. So, naturally I ran back to my addiction.
Relapse was a part of my story. Over and over again I found myself starting to get better, being faced with my emotions and past, panicking, and then running back to the eating disorder. I was stuck in this cycle for four years. While cycling through treatment stays and short periods of health, the only form of sanity I found was through creating.
No matter where I was mentally I always had my creative expression to fall back on. Whether that be painting, drawing, writing, filming, photographing, or dancing, there was always an outlet waiting at my fingertips. Now, I can look back on my journey and watch the cycles of relapse play out in my sketchbooks before my very eyes. My artwork would be lit up with colors and then slowly fall into dark black, grey, and red as my eating disorder took over once again.
The sketchbooks and journals I kept through my years of relapse proved priceless as they gave me a way to communicate my pain without having to use words. The more I created the more my story was put out for the world to see. As a result, the more resiliency I began to foster, allowing me to finally break the cycle.
Recovery brought me a newfound confidence to begin exploring outside of my sketchbooks and journals. My eating disorder forced me to experience the world through a numb and dissociated lens, but as I got healthier I started to become more connected with experiences around me. I began travelling around the world, meeting new people, trying new activities, and doing things I never dreamed possible.
From Mongolia to Costa Rica to Thailand to Cambodia, I began to taste life in its finest and purest form. This adventurous spirit that accompanied my recovery brought along an entirely new artistic process. Slowly, but naturally, all my artwork turned towards water.
I photographed water, filmed water, painted water. I felt inexplicably and unequivocally connected with this life-source. I was completely fascinated with its beauty. I began scuba diving to get closer to the water, to fully submerge myself in its power. Beneath the ocean’s surface was where I completed some of my proudest photographs as well as experienced my strongest moments of freedom.
Water is always moving, always changing, forever morphing before our very eyes. I say that to recover we must transform. I believe that through freezing moments of water’s constant fluidity in the closest we will get to witnessing a true transformation.
Morgan Blair is the Founder and Creative Director of Unpolished Journey. She is the older sister of Emily Blair, who is now Co-director at Unpolished. Morgan is a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she studied writing, video, and art therapy.
After struggling with an eating disorder for over a decade, Morgan created Unpolished Journey with the intention of forming a community where recovery and life could coexist. Through her own recovery journey, Morgan has learned that no matter what passions she pursues in life – whether that be her affinity for scuba diving, her love of art, or desire to help others – recovery must hold a firm presence in all her affairs. Morgan can be found on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.