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Recovery blog

Making Messes and Embracing Imperfection

By: Kayla O., Renfrew Alumna

Posted on September 30, 2019



I was wrapping up my final undergraduate semester in December 2016: academically successful, surrounded by great family and friends, and was just hired as a 3rd grade teacher before I even graduated. On the inside, however, I was suffocating. My story prior to treatment isn't unique, romantic, or out of a movie. I had a perfectionistic and avoidant personality, years of unaddressed disordered habits, and a debilitating desire to change everything about myself. Combine those components one of the most stressful transitions thus far, and I had myself a perfect storm.

Fast forward to the present: I'm a little over a year into recovery, and it's messy and imperfect. It's also rewarding, humbling, and beautiful. When I got asked to contribute to this addition of Connections, I was honored because it gave me a chance to shine light on one of my favorite coping techniques post treatment: art.

I've always considered myself a "creative," but it wasn't until my eight-month stint at Renfrew where I truly began to explore how I could use that part of me – the creative part of me, the one part that I lost when I was sick and was able to find again – to propel me towards healing.

Art at Renfrew helped me challenge my perfectionistic tendencies, and allowed me to express myself in a way that felt right. I whole heartedly appreciated that during my treatment - being able to express myself and heal in a way that felt meaningful.

The piece I am sharing here is a painting I made for my therapist who I had the pleasure of having in treatment. When I was asked to send an image of my art, I instantly thought of this. It perfectly encapsulates my gratitude to her and my team at Bethesda Renfrew: I showed up damaged and hurt in some places, and felt pretty hopeless and angry too. They gave me a safe and compassionate place to land until I was able to heal.

I use art now to explore, express, and connect with others. The same thing I say about art is the same thing I would tell someone about recovery: it's not about the final product, it's about the process.



Kayla O. is a twenty-somethin' from Annapolis, MD who spends her days bettering her recovery, directing a local before and after school program, snuggling her pets, and painting stuff. Her keys are usually lost and she is very interested in conversations about bagels. She plans on going back to school to get her Master's degree in Child Psychology because helping kids is a huge passion of hers. You can follow her on Instagram for more art inspo and cute animals at @itsmekaylaohbe.
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