For most of my life I felt like I needed to chase “wholeness.” Always feeling like there were parts of me that were broken or missing because I didn’t think or feel like other people, and that made me feel like something was wrong with me. I always seemed to have bigger emotions than my friends or overthink more than those in my family. For years I thought these parts of me were damaged or broken, and in hopes of fixing that, I became a “shapeshifter.” Not in the amazing capacities of Marvel superheroes, rather, shifting my feelings and the person I presented to the world based on the situation I was in, even if it wasn’t true to me.
I am proud to say that years of therapy, medication, and intensive treatment later, I live my life in my truest form. However it can certainly be easy to fall into the traps and old ways. Being in long term eating disorder recovery and struggling with anxiety fueled OCD and major depressive disorder, I continue to think and feel in ways that many do not understand. And I know that for me, this struggle is life long. However, I try not to get weighed down by that fact and instead have become an outspoken mental health advocate and activist. Years of harboring shame and fear left me feeling I was better off not being here, and I know the pain and desperation of that place. So, at my deepest core, I have committed to living authentically in hopes of modeling vulnerability and ultimately, hope. And this includes all of the pieces, even the ones that I feel are not complete or whole.
I have been on this journey of authentic modeling since the beginning of my own recovery process. Over the years this has looked different, from community events to storytelling through video–both on YouTube and through documentary making, just like me, my work is always fluid and evolving.
Right now, advocacy in its truest element comes in the form of Bake it Till You Make it LLC. A community based organization that uses food and baking to inspire mental health conversation in the kitchen, around the table, and beyond. Through mental health cookbooks, presentations, and community events, I have led this organization with the goal of normalizing mental health alongside something nourishing and normal–what I truly hope to see mental health conversation become.
Through this work and constant questioning of the ways in which each piece of me fits into the larger world, I have found peace in poetry. I have always loved to write but poetry always seemed a little intimidating; I always imagined it to be too graceful of a way to represent how I stumble through the world. However, when I quieted that voice and began to write, I couldn’t stop–which has proudly led me here: ready to publish, Watch Me Rise: Recipes for Bread, Poems for Growth. This collection of poems and recipes are ordered intentionally to represent the way in which bread is created through breaking down, building and rising…all things I have also done in order to find my purpose and my voice.
One of the main themes of my poetry is this idea of wholeness and finding beauty in the idea that we are all just a sum of experiences, relationships: pieces.
I exist not in one place
But in thousands
There are pieces of me everywhere
And yet my whole life, I have wondered where I fit.
My tears have touched surfaces
That know, no bounds
Every coffee shop napkin I have crumpled
Every seat belt buckled
On a train, car
Every time I have fallen and picked up myself up again,
I am scattered.
Every microphone I have touched,
To tell my story,
The words I have heard,
the ones I have said,
The ones repurposed as platforms
To talk about things that matter.
The things that harm us that we can’t see,
Things that scare us,
The things that we can’t control.
I feel most alive on those stages
And in those spaces,
Where my words illustrate the mosaic of experiences that
The years of
doubting my worth
And fighting for a place on this earth,
This mosaic is now a window, for others like me
One where we can clearly see it was never really
About fitting in.
For every person that doubted you
Every experience that scarred you,
That left you wondering where you fit,
You exist not in one places but in thousands
And in every place,
To preorder, Watch Me Rise: Poems for Bread, Recipes for Growth or to earn more about Dayna Altman or Bake it Till You make it LLC checkout: www.bakeittillyoumakeit.co