Meet Lily. She is Beauty Revived.
Lily Kiefer is a loving, beautiful, energetic, compassionate, funny, talented, intelligent, loyal, sensitive, creative, sincere, artistic, and passionate 14 year old young woman. She also happens to live with a mental illness. Lily was born into foster care, but from birth was placed in a loving family that eventually adopted her. From infancy it became clear that Lily suffered from Trichotillamania and she spent most of the first 10 years of her life nearly bald. As a baby and a young toddler she was not aware of the fact that she may have looked different from others, but the older she got the more aware she became of the fact that she didn’t have much hair and all of her peers did. She was always the only one that could not pull her hair back. People stared and asked questions. It was challenging to gauge what was really going on with her. Lily discovered dance as a very small girl and immediately fell in love. It was such an important outlet for her. She could not wait for class each week and lived for her recitals. However, every year, year after year, Lily was the only ballerina without a bun. Lily kept dancing though.
Lily’s childhood continued to have ups and downs with various behaviors and concerns. She often felt different and excluded. She was always aware of the fact that she struggled more than her peers to navigate friendships and day to day occurrences. Feeling “different” but not knowing or understanding why is not easy for anyone and certainly not easy for a child. But, Lily kept dancing.
At the end of 2015 something shifted with Lily. Initially it was something that she could not quite identify and neither could her family. She was more disconnected than ever before and began isolating herself from her family and friends. Even though her family was engaged and doing everything they could, they really were not fully aware of how much Lily was struggling just to function. In the spring of 2016 Lily’s parents became aware of the fact that she had attempted to take her own life. After a medical intervention Lily began to attempt to pick up the pieces and move forward, all the while…. she danced.
The attempts to move forward were not going as planned and Lily seemed stuck in a vicious cycle of extreme highs and lows. Although she had the full support of her family, she was often misunderstood by her peers. Most of them did their best to be patient with her and compassionate, but she became a target for others and was bullied and emotionally broken down. The social butterfly that everyone knew simply faded away into a frail and fragile girl who did not care to function or socialize at all. But, the one thing she would do is attend her dance rehearsals. Even if she had been in bed for days, she would get up and go to dance class, then come home and put herself right back to bed.
Then came the second attempt. On Easter Sunday night. Followed by hysterics, being rushed to the Emergency Room, being admitted to the hospital with guards posted outside of her door around the clock, and being transferred to a mental health facility. Eventually Lily was able to return home, though still fragile. She spent weeks in bed and trying to patiently wait for her doctors to find the right balance of medications to help her. She spent months trying to accept her new diagnosis and learn how to best function on a daily basis. Some days were good, but most days were not. And Lily still danced.
Today, she is engaged in life again. Hanging out with friends, taking vacations with family, sitting at the table for dinner time, even sometimes laughing. She was honored to be offered an invitation as a “student coach” through a community outreach program called “Girls on the Run.” She is enjoying being able to invest in the lives of elementary school girls in the realm of inner and outward health… body, mind, and spirit. It is a day by day process. Sometimes hour by hour. But, Lily is getting stronger each day; and simultaneously learning that she still has much to offer even though she has struggles and battles of her own. And she is still dancing.
Lily’s goal is to be a light and an example that other adolescents can look to for encouragement and support. She wants others to understand that life is worth living and you can accomplish your goals, even with a diagnosis that you never wanted.
About the Photographer
Jana Melinda Photography is a High School Senior Portrait Photographer who resides in Northern California. Loving the opportunity it creates to instill confidence, Jana began specializing in Senior Portraiture three years ago. While running her business and being a single mom keeps her busy, in her spare time you may find her exploring the coastal views and trails or hanging out at her favorite local coffee shop.