Interviews / Mental Health

Rachel Slawson Nurtures Self-Love with Her Feelings Are Human Initiative

Rachel Slawson Nurtures Self-Love with Her Feelings Are Human Initiative

Rachel Slawson firmly believes that becoming the first openly bisexual Miss USA delegate was a case of divine destiny. “This was one of the greatest dreams of my life, and watching it come true after many years of hard work restored my faith that the things we desire are truly meant for us, if we can trust in God’s timing,” she says. “I truly believe this was a part of God’s plan for me, and the seven years I spent preparing, and more importantly learning about myself, my mental health, and my sexuality, were all a part of this greater plan. I’m sure it’s confusing for some who believe in God to understand how winning a beauty pageant, or coming out as queer, could be what God would want, but I know that I was made exactly the way God intended, and that anything can become used for the greater good and serving a message of love if we surrender it to a higher power. I always knew I wanted to be Miss Utah USA, but it took many years for me to learn that winning that title would represent more to myself, and to the queer community, than I could possibly imagine.” With her crown came an unanticipated beacon of connection for queer youth. Only then did Rachel understand her true purpose. “Winning Miss Utah USA started out as something I wanted for myself, but I learned the hard way that being a good leader actually has nothing to do with my own self-interest, and more to do with what others see in me and the impact I was able to have on their lives. After I was crowned, I met so many young queer people who had similar struggles to me. I realized that the opportunities I was given were not for me, but so that I could speak for them. Young queer people are some of the most at risk for suicide, and even if you don’t understand what it means to be queer, we can all agree that every human has the right to live a healthy and happy life.” Though she has left the Mormon faith behind, it provided a grounded path forward for the future. “I no longer practice the LDS (Mormon) religion, but I am grateful for that upbringing. It taught me to live a life of faith, which is something that has benefited me as a queer woman. Faith in a higher power has gotten me through my most difficult moments. I still believe in Jesus, and enjoy attending non-denominational Christian churches from time to time, but these days I mostly focus on my personal relationship with God. I have no doubt that I was created exactly the way that God intended, and there is nothing wrong in my design, including my sexuality.”

In the spirit of fostering connections and self-love, Rachel launched her own initiative to provide a safe haven for women and non-binary folks to discuss mental health and identity. “Feelings Are Human is a community for women and non-binary friends who struggle with chronic mental health challenges, self esteem issues, and self-care. This initiative includes a 2 month Group Coaching program and a 4 day retreat for individuals struggling with confidence, sexuality, chronic mental wellness challenges, who are ready to nurture their mental health, awaken their self-healing power, and reclaim inspired living. We heal in community, through connection and a willingness to be vulnerable.” Mental health has always cast a shadow over Rachel.Her journey has taught her to be gentle with herself. “I’ve struggled with chronic mental illness my whole life. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder around the age of 23 and I thought my life was over. I remember crying in my car for hours after I was told my diagnosis, because I believed that meant I was broken and my life was hopeless. The truth is that it certainly makes life, and some basic tasks, more difficult for myself than others. But having challenges doesn’t make me broken. I still experience great levels of success and joy, I just need a little more patience from myself and others. I chose to be vulnerable about this, so others could understand me better. And so that those who share the same struggles can be seen as human beings, and not an illness.” Anyone can have mental illness, regardless of background. The social bias towards the mentally ill is a huge impediment to receiving treatment. “I grew up in an extremely privileged upper middle class home, and I still ended up homeless, waiting in lines on the streets for free government healthcare. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, and no matter how much privilege you start out with, it is still possible to slip through the cracks in our broken mental health care system, particularly because of the shame and stigma that people who are mentally ill are facing. No one understood that I was struggling with a health issue, they just saw me as crazy and broken, and I saw myself that way too. It was so hard to get help, yet once I found proper medical care, it’s been so much easier to experience sustainable joy and healing.”

Ultimately, we are our own brightest guiding light – we just need to choose to believe in ourselves. “I believe we are our own best healer. I still believe in doctors and medicine, and I take medicine for my own brain health, but at the end of the day the person who knows what you need and can best advocate for yourself is you. It’s so hard to see your own power when you are struggling, but we are beyond powerful and capable of finding our healing. Feelings are Human is not about me, or having some perfect guru show you the way. It is a community where you can feel safe to show yourself the way.” The retreat eternally softens the way the participants view themselves. “I want them to feel like they are always welcome, but that they don’t need to come back. Meaning that they are equipped with tools to heal that they can take with them for the rest of their life. It is beyond inspiring to see how every single person who has come to these group programs has left with a new degree of self-love that can’t be lost.” Rachel recognizes the value of authenticity, even when your flaws feel painfully evident. “Just be honest. My journey was hard when I was straight up a disaster and extremely mentally unwell, but I have found it even more difficult in some ways after finding success and healing. Once you start to get your shit together, people expect a certain level of perfection. I am not a perfect person, I still have struggles. I still need patience and compassion from myself and others. If we can all be honest about the fact that life is hard, and sometimes things are hard for long stretches of time that are out of our control, we can all start to have a little more of that patience with ourselves and those around us.” Unconditional empathy is the essential element of a kinder world. 

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Rachel Slawson Nurtures Self-Love with Her Feelings Are Human Initiative. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Slawson.

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