It’s not uncommon that tears flow in my downtown Spokane boudoir studio. It actually happens quite often with the most common reason being that my client has recently overcome an emotional life obstacle. Of course, we have also shed tears in result of laughter at my lack of eloquence, but mostly we share an emotional moment when she realizes how much she has grown. Reviewing images on the back of my camera and seeing herself in beautiful angles and stunning light, triggers a sense of pride, admiration and empowerment. Not only for physical accomplishments, but also emotional and mental. We typically share stories of heartache and triumph through our tears and remind each other that we aren’t alone. We tell each other that we are no longer our pasts. That the size of our waistlines don’t define our sexuality. That our mental illness doesn’t limit us. We are two completely different women who don’t have the answers to life, but we both hold unlimited power on this earth.
Which brings me to Boudoir Babe Miss M. As you will read in her self-written story below, we shot together a few years ago. Her most popular image loved by my social media followers is the American flag with her silhouette.
I remembered Miss M as a young, strong, vibrant, and fun young woman. Her mom actually stopped by as support, which I found kickass cool…a mom supporting and encouraging her young daughter to embrace her sexuality and to find confidence in it. Right on Miss M’s mom!!
Fast forward to the summer of Covid-19 where inquiries aren’t flying at rapid speed into my inbox any longer and considerations of finding part-time jobs were present. I get an email from Miss M. I immediately feel joy in my heart as fond memories of her brilliant smile and laughter flood my mind. Even better feelings pop up when I read that she wants to shoot a boudoir session again. It was quickly arranged that she would be back in the boudoir studio on her birthday which was only one month away.
During our email correspondence, Miss M let me know that something awful had happened in her life within the past three years. An event turned her life upside down and she was finally at a point where she needed to show herself how much she had grown and how far she had come. I love this. I live for this. This is my why. I was looking forward to her shoot even more now.
On the day of our boudoir shoot, I walked into the studio after The Beauty Team had worked their expertise and said good morning to our still young and vibrant Miss M. There was something different about her presence three years later. She had matured. She had life experiences under her belt and I could feel it. As she laid her outfit choices out for us to discuss, she explained that there was a country song she had used as inspiration for her shoot and a particular outfit. One of the lines speaks “I always knew she had a set of wings underneath that blue jean jacket.” This resonated with her and gave her a sense of empowerment, which in turned inspired me to help her create this vision of overcoming.
Now to the tear-shedding part. We were only moments away from beginning our session when Miss M looks in the mirror with her jean jacket on, hair perfectly curled, and makeup expertly applied…and she starts crying. I’m pretty sure my heart sank and I screeched “Ohhhh noooo, what’s wrong!?!?” Her reply shocked the shit out of me, “I look so beautiful.” And my tears immediately started to fall. Of course she looked beautiful, she IS beautiful. Where did this woman get the idea she wasn’t beautiful? “We need to stop this right now or you’re going to ruin your makeup,” I told her after discussing why she was getting emotional. I grabbed us tissues, we dabbed our eyes, and we made magic.
From Miss M herself:
“Three years ago, I did my first boudoir shoot with Crystal. So incredibly much has happened in the last three years. So much hurt. So much hate. So much heartache. So much learning. And finally, so much love.
First and foremost, my past is hard for me to accept. I have been struggling with depression for the last 8 years of my life. However, God loves me. ALL OF ME. He knows every piece of my past, yet He still chooses me. I am not my past, and neither are you. Please remember that if nothing else from reading this.
The hardest part of my life to date has been the last eleven months. Eleven months ago, from today, August 1st, the person I knew with my whole heart I was going to spend the rest of my life with finally asked me to be his girlfriend. This wasn’t just an infatuation or a whole lotta love for someone, this was a God feeling. There was absolutely no way He could’ve picked a better person for me. I KNEW that with every ounce of me.
A few days later, after spending a week with him at the beach for the first time, I was in the hospital. I had had a fever of over 104 several nights in a row but figured it would still go away on its own. Finally, after worsening symptoms while on an antibiotic, I went back to the doctor. She diagnosed me with meningitis. This part of my story is incredibly difficult for me. I hope to have the confidence in myself someday to share more about it, and I know that I will, I am just not there yet.
The recovery from the meningitis was awful, and honestly, I never did feel like me again after. In fact, I completely hated myself, and even hate seems like a light term to use here. But my boyfriend still loved me and that was really all I cared about. I hid the feelings toward myself the very best I could. I did a great job unfortunately. I was suffering and nobody knew it, not even myself yet.
Moving forward, December came around. After several months of traveling back and forth from Alabama (where he lives), I was so incredibly excited to have him here for Christmas. I am from Leavenworth, WA so living in a place that shoves Christmas down your throat for five months a year has taken all of the joy out of it for me. That December was finally different. It was the best Christmas I had ever had. Even further proof in my mind that this was the person God chose for me.
Christmas came and went, and at the end of the week he had to fly back to Huntsville, but not before we had made a huge decision together – I would be quitting my job at my family business and moving to Huntsville two weeks later. Something we had been talking about for ten months at that point.
Back to the meningitis recovery – after being pumped full of antibiotics and antivirals in the hospital, and medications afterwards, my immune system was shot. I got so sick every other week for four months. My joints and muscles hurt all the time. I just could not feel like myself for the life of me. That was a huge deal for me. Fitness is my passion. I have been training for ten years now and became a certified personal trainer last spring. So, for my body to be in so much pain and unable to perform the way I wanted it to took a toll on me. This added to a depression I knew I had, but again, hid it well.
I finally got to fly down to Huntsville, and this time I was staying. For good. I was beyond thankful that God had given me this opportunity, and that it had fallen into place so perfectly for us. It was the best day in my life to that point. We started to build our life together. We actually had agreed on our wedding date in 2021. We found property we wanted to buy together and build on. And he spoke about our future babies, by name, every single day. More proof that this was God’s pick for me.
While I was in Huntsville, I started looking for jobs. I was invited to a group interview for a part-time position at Lululemon (if you know me, you know that’s a perfect part-time gig haha). At the end of the interview, one of the leaders leading parts of the group discussion approached me. He heard of my certification in training, and that eventually I would like to do that full time while maintaining my part-time position at Lulu. Come to find out he was now managing a brand-new gym in Huntsville. Godspeed. He wanted me to be a trainer at their gym. Someone who knew very little about me and had only heard what I had to say at the interview, was confident that I was the right addition. I could NOT believe it. Again, a little more God showing up in my life encouraging me that this was it.
I told my boyfriend about it. He was not enthused. In fact, it was like pulling teeth to have him drive me out to the gym (my truck was in WA still) to meet the owner’s wife and tour the facility. That was hurtful for me. I am an extremely loyal and supportive human. I want to encourage you in your dreams because you deserve to achieve them! I believe that with my whole heart. However, I could not get the same support and encouragement from him in my dream coaching position. I chose to look past it.
After two months of being in Alabama, I was scheduled to fly back to Washington to get my truck and my dog and drive back home to Huntsville. My depression had been worsening at that point, but I still tried my hardest to hide it. My relationship seemed to be a bit off, but I just knew that the timing of the drive back wasn’t great, but it HAD to happen. I was supposed to start my coaching job and needed my truck to get to and from the facility.
I flew home. A few days later I got a text asking if we could postpone my final drive down to Huntsville for a few weeks. I lost my coaching position, and any shot at the part-time job at Lulu. My depression started spiraling. I went into defense mode immediately. I had no idea why he would postpone the drive, especially because I had my jobs lined up and was ready for real life with him in Huntsville.
Over the next three weeks he continued to hurt me. In the worst ways possible. If you are someone who knows what the five love languages are, I am a words of affirmation person. And for three weeks he refused to talk to me on the phone. He said hurtful things. He did hurtful things on social media. Every single day I was spiraling more and more into my depression. I hated myself more and more. And I felt more and more out of control of what was going on. I was losing the whole life that we had been speaking into existence together. The whole life that God was putting together for us. I had no idea what to do because there was nothing I could do.
On March 19th, two days before the Washington stay at home order went into effect, he broke up with me – over a text. Little explanation other than my past hurt him and it was his decision. He drew-out the breakup over months. He refused to send my things back. He still hasn’t sent them all back. I even found out that he had been pursuing someone else. I shattered. Into more pieces than I thought possible. My depression was crushing me. I didn’t want to go to sleep at night because I would dream about him hurting me, and then I didn’t want to wake up the next morning because I didn’t want to live with the hurt another day. The Marissa that I thought I was, was gone in her entirety.
After fighting daily for what felt like my life for a few weeks, I was finally exhausted. I set aside my pride. I have been so against medications and refused to take any. I saw medication as weakness. I saw help as weakness. I never would have guessed that the same thing I saw as weakness, would allow me to become my strongest. I was put on a low dose antidepressant.
I began putting my pieces back together. I began putting MY life back together. I started pursing some extremely large goals. I started training at home again. I know the pandemic has hurt a lot of people, but I am thankful for the extended period of time that has MADE ME figure out who I am, what I want, how I am going to get there, and that I will never again give up my life for someone else. I began to love myself again during quarantine. And it all started when I dropped my pride and asked for help.
I contacted Crystal on a whim to see if she, by chance, had any availability for a boudoir shoot this summer. I had very little intention of booking quite yet considering I was hit extremely hard financially, but Crystal got back to me saying that her next available date was July 7th. I booked it on the spot. That was my 25th birthday.
To me, that was God saying that He still has my back. That He still loves me. That He is still proud of me. All of me. That He has given me this story to impact and encourage women. To be a light in the darkness. That I deserved to be celebrated. That I deserve to love myself in my entirety. That I am beautiful. That I am kind. That I am strong. That I am powerful. That I am His. That I have wings meant for soaring. I did this shoot because I am an entirely different person than I was ten months ago, even four months ago. I did this shoot because I love myself.
You are not your past. You are incredible. If God decided the world needed one of you, that’s a pretty damn big deal. Treat it as such. Do not be complacent or settle for a small life. You are worthy of so much more than that.
God saved me from a life of insignificance not meant for me. I outgrew what I thought I wanted tenfold in only a few months. It’s hard. It hurts. But my gosh, I have never done something more worth it. I am still fighting through my depression, but my depression has not dimmed my light. In fact, it has made it stronger – my light will change the world, because God.
“I always knew she had a set of wings underneath that blue jean jacket.”
– Free Chris Bandi“
Again, this is my why. Everyone has their own why and reason for shooting a boudoir session.
“Always sexy. Always classy. Always beautiful.”