BADASS: HANNAH DURBIN

I can fully say that I am the most grateful that people like Hannah exist in this world. She is one of the most real, positive and inspirational people that I have ever come across. As someone that has struggled with their self image their whole lives, I am very connected with people looking to change the conversation surrounding ED. Thank you for all you do, Hannah - You are an ultimate #badass. 

Name: Hannah Durbin

Title: Student/Personal Trainer/Eating Disorder Recovery Advocate

Age: 21

Instagram: @healthy_happy_hannah

Website: www.healthyhappyhannah.com

How did you find your path?

From barely living to truly thriving, I am now confident in saying that I was put on this earth for a reason - to bring light, hope and faith to those who can no longer see through the darkness. My journey has been long and exhausting, but I am here today stronger than I ever imagined possible. I am a warrior, and I am forever proud of who I have become. My journey has its roots deeply planted in my high school years, when my mind and body turned against each other in hopes of satisfying the demon living in my head. This demon's name is ED - a term I've used for years to identify my eating disorder and recognize its presence in my thoughts. When I was 16, I lost sight of myself and the life I always knew. This was only the beginning of what would soon become a life-threatening battle, unaware that this illness would swallow me alive for the next 5 years of my life.
 To save myself thousands of words attempting to describe the living hell of an eating disorder, try to imagine a life where you have no control over your thoughts or behavior. Try to imagine living every single day alongside a physically and emotionally abusive partner with no possibility of escape, since this demon is dwelling inside of your own mind. Think back to a day when you felt unworthy, unwanted and terrified of what lies ahead - and now imagine repeating that 365 times every single year. ED continually tightened his grip on me into my freshman year of college, where I was then rushed to the hospital and admitted into an intensive treatment center in Princeton, New Jersey. I spent the following months in a hospital bed while a team of specialists attempted to save my body from the damage this demon had done. My liver was barely functioning, my heart was deteriorating, my bones were thinning - my body was literally consuming itself in an attempt to stay alive. And in those moments, the sick and twisted demon living inside of my own head had convinced me that this was what happiness looked like. I became addicted to this demon, and couldn't imagine my life without him. I felt as if he would keep me safe and sheltered from the world, when in actuality, he was the direct source of my demise. He lied to me, abused me and nearly killed me. And that's when I picked up my sword and started fighting for my life back. My discharge from the hospital marked only the beginning of my recovery, and will forever be something I must work for throughout my life. I have fought like hell to be where I am today - a place of contentment, happiness, love and acceptance.
The behind-the-scenes view of my recovery is full of tears and agonizing discomfort, but also full of ear piercing laughter and radiant smiles. It encompasses my lowest points and my highest peaks. My recovery is not linear in any sense of the word, but rather a dance of taking 2 steps forward and 1 step back. It is ongoing and forever changing, but that's what makes recovery so beautiful. I am sharing my journey with you in hopes of sparking the passion in your heart to fight for the life you deserve. Whether your journey involves similar struggles or not, I feel as if my experiences hold the possibility of igniting positive change for others. I am here as living proof that when the darkness has seemed to swallow you whole, always remember that you hold the fire within your heart to light the way to a happier and healthier life. You are a warrior. You are strong, capable and beautiful. You can do this.

What are some significant moments that put you on your path? 

My hospitalization was a truly life-changing experience. My story started very similarly to others I’ve heard – getting trapped by this abusive demon in hopes of discovering some tiny scrap of self-confidence and self-love. I learned throughout my battle for recovery that my experience is far too common, and that this life-threatening battle does not deserve a place in the lives of such incredibly beautiful people. My time in the hospital opened my eyes to the lies, deception and pain inflicted by this demon that lurked inside of me, and so many others. I came to finally understand that this illness is ruthless, with only one intention - to take my life away from me before it even had the chance to begin. It was during those few months when I came to see that I was not put on this earth only to be taken off of it 19 years later. I am worth so much more than that.

In the moments when I feel as if my words have truly touched the heart of someone who is going through this battle that I am far too familiar with. These moments are indescribable. It’s the moments when I can see the light in someone’s sick eyes return to the surface for just a moment, giving me hope that they will soon rediscover their strength. It is in the moments when I can prove that recovery is possible, solely by living my life with a happy heart and passionate soul. I am where I am today because of the flame I have within me to lift others up to reach their highest peaks – physically, mentally, and spiritually.

How did you find what makes you happy?

It took a lot of trial and error. A LOT. For years I depended on others for my happiness, or relied on external factors to bring me joy. I thought that my friends, family, sports, school and relationships could overpower my self-doubt and lead me to true happiness. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. It was around the time of my discharge from the hospital that I came to see what truly made my heart happy, and I discovered that I was no longer doing these things to please the demon living in my head, but rather for my own enjoyment and excitement. I was living for myself again. I was running again solely for the love of the run, not to complete a daily obligation. I was getting myself into the gym to gain strength and confidence, not to tear my body down. I was jumping back into my job as a personal trainer, one of my greatest joys. I was cooking, hiking, and spending carefree time with the ones I love the very most. It does not take much to make me happy, and I consider that a blessing.. 

Role Models: Jenni Schaefer – eating disorder & trauma advocate, author, and speaker 

Beauty Product You Can't Live Without: Dry Shampoo (my hair is held together with this stuff) 

What does authenticity mean to you?

To me, authenticity means being unapologetically yourself in every aspect. It means embracing the beautifully unique person you have been created to be, and allowing your light to shine so brightly that others want to be around your contagious energy. It means being proud of the person you have been, loving the person you hope to become, and accepting the person you are at this very moment. 

What is one piece of advice you would give to your middle school self?

Stop wasting your time and energy on things that you cannot change. It is one of life’s greatest challenges, but it will save you countless tears, broken hearts and sleepless nights. It is in these challenging moments where we discover our strength, and allow ourselves to see the beauty in letting go of all things we cannot control. 

What does a successful day look like for you?

A successful day is a day in which my mind is present in every moment, my heart is full with every new hour I face, and my smile is radiating from the love I feel for myself and for those around me. It is a day where I reward my body with movement, respect my body with moments of rest, and nourish my body with the fuel it is asking for. It is a day in which I elude happiness, pride and passion – and most importantly, it is any day that ends with The Office on repeat and a pint of peanut butter cup ice cream.
  Favorite quote: “I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me”

Favorite quote: “I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me”

What is the most challenging thing (personally or professionally) that you have had to face? And what have you learned from it?

My greatest struggle has been learning to love myself, while simultaneously loving those around me. It has been learning to accept that life is not a competition, but rather an opportunity to harmoniously work together with others to reach your highest peaks. For years, I felt as if I had to prove my superiority in order to be accepted by others and by myself. I felt as though perfectionism was the only path that would lead me to happiness. In learning to love myself for the passionate, outspoken, scatter brained gal that I am, I have come to appreciate myself while simultaneously appreciating the beauty I see in others. 

How do you handle tough days and situations?

I turn inward, and reflect on what brought me to this point. I remind myself that I have faced similar days before, and have never failed to make it through. I reflect on the challenges I have faced prior to that point, and call to mind the strength I have developed throughout the years. If I can make it through the hell I have been through, I can make it through this too. Keep going. 

What is a moment you are most proud of? 

When I was extremely sick and lost in the battle of my eating disorder, I lost sight of myself. My friends and family claimed that they could no longer recognize me. My spirit was nonexistent, and my passion was gone. My eyes were lifeless. On my most difficult days, my mom would grab my hands and beg for her daughter back. She would look me in the eyes and say, “I need my Hannah back.” These words shattered my heart into pieces, but I was unable to break free from the demon responsible for stealing my life away from me. About a year after my discharge from the hospital, my mom came to Elon to visit for the weekend. We laughed, ate, drank and spent time together that I will cherish forever. While on our way to dinner one night, I clearly remember laughing with my mom about something that had happened earlier in the day. I was happy, my eyes were bright and my energy was contagious. It was in that moment, my mom put her hand on my leg and said, “I finally have my Hannah back.” I have never been so proud. I finally found myself again, and I was never losing sight of her ever again. 

How do you handle societal pressures to be a certain way or do certain things? (ex: pressure to have sex, drink or dress/look a certain way)

I allow these pressures to hold a place in my mind, but not in my heart. While the pressures do cross my mind every now and again, I am able to look inward at my own priorities, and recall the things that make me the happiest. I do not need to fall in alignment with others in order to be accepted – that would be such a waste. By falling into alignment with others, I am neglecting to embrace my beautifully unique traits, skills and passions. I am proud of who I am, and do not need to fall to the pressure of society in order to keep it that way. I am my own person, and I always will be. 

If you have any questions you want to ask a badass, leave them in the comments or contact me directly!