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Self -Mutilation: Local Model Speaks up!

4BBy Judy H. Fitzpatrick

A 13-year-old girl sits in the corner of her room in her parents' home in French St. Martin with a sharp razor blade in her hand. She slashes the inner part of her wrists to bleed, pops several sleeping pills then goes to sleep. She repeats the action several times that day, sometimes also using anti-depressants. Her intention is to numb her emotional pain. She is going through some teenage issues that she thinks are too much to bear.

The first time St. Martin-born, international nude-model Isabelle A. Lake, now 26, first mutilated herself and popped too many sleeping pills, she thought it was the only way to deal with her problems. She had no idea at the time that it would have led to years of a serious addiction; her torching a hotel room in France, being incarcerated and dragged to court to face arson charges and hurt her family. It would take years; the suicide of her best friend; an arrest and a few days in jail before Lake would muster the willpower to undergo treatment and take steps to turn her life around. She has been clean for about four years now and says she has never felt better about herself or her life. She shares her story with the hope of inspiring others not to make the same mistakes she did. "I did these things because I felt very unhappy at that stage in my life," Lake tells Health and Beauty in a candid interview about her addiction. "My best friend was mutilating herself, popping pills and taking drugs and I was under the influence and believed everything would get better."

Looking at the long-legged, raven haired model, who is currently in St. Martin, one would never assume that she had such a troubled past. "I was living in St. Martin when I first started pills and continued when I moved away. We were in a situation where things let up and I got my first taste of pills. I was about 13 at the time and I underestimated myself. I was bad in my skin and I started self-mutilation. I cut myself in places where no one would see. I wanted to do something to ease my physical pain. "I never did anything hardcore. My late best friend used drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy. I just got hooked on sleeping pills and anti-depressants. I used them daily and sometimes even hourly. So I was always in a cool and 'I don't care' state of mind.

Sometimes it made me hyperactive and sometimes it drained me out. "Sometimes I would cut myself and swallow a pill right after so I wouldn't really feel anything. And I kept cutting up myself. Sometimes I would just take a few pills to not be aggressive towards other people or just to sleep my day off . I used to sleep a lot." Lake said she does not smoke as she "never really liked that idea" and she is a social drinker. During her years as an addict; she tried to do something positive with her life, but nothing worked out as her addiction always got in the way. She started studies in law and psychology, but stopped both as she did not like them. Later she started to study criminology and liked it; but due to her addiction, she stopped after three years. "I hurt myself so much that I couldn't even stand up straight or see straight. I didn't want anyone to see that so I stepped away from friends. I stopped my studies. No one saw me. I wouldn't even open the door to go get my mail. "Pills became part of my everyday life. I would wake up and take a pill. Do what I got to do; come back home, cut myself and take another pill. It was like this every day when I left school. It became a habit when I was alone during my first college year." Lake said during her addiction, the sleeping pills and antidepressants were given to her, sometimes by her best friend, who later committed suicide. "The pills made me paranoiac, weird and defensive. Physically, I was also very tired, weak." She said for years, her family had no clue about her addiction because she "hid" the signs well. "They did not know at the beginning or when I went to school in France. I hid stuff very well. I could have been lying dead under my sheet and no one would know. That's how well I hid my addiction.

They only knew about it when I was arrested for burning down my hotel room after a breakdown in France." Lake said she did not have the willpower to stop mutilating herself or overdosing on sleeping pills and antidepressants. It was only after her friend committed suicide by slashing her veins with a razor blade in 2009 that Lake came to her senses. But it took several more years before she would stop completely. "When she died, I really tried to stop, but I couldn't stop immediately. She opened her veins in her room and died alone while I was in another city. Drugs made her believe that she was better off dead. She mutilated herself and used cocaine and pills so much that she couldn't even remember her name or if she was a girl or a boy. She was off her brains badly. She never really spoke about her past.

When I met her, she was already on drugs." Lake took the death of her friend hard. A few months after, she torched her hotel room. "I had just turned 20 and was fed up with my life, tired of faking being happy and was just tired. I started crying like a baby because my ex at that time was far away and I felt lonely. I flipped out, went across the street to buy matches, wrote on the walls what mean people had said to me up until then, tossed chairs and tables upside down, broke all the mirrors and lit a fire, then I ran away." "The day I was in the court room for arson, I think it hit me that I should stop everything. I could have killed people and children because of that fire. It hit me when the judge told me: 'Life wouldn't give you a chance, but I will.' I took that chance and prayed and prayed, then took treatment to get off. I've been clean for three to four years now."

Her treatment under a medical psychologist from Guadeloupe lasted for about a year. During the time, the support from her immediate family helped her through the tough times. "The process was hard. I had to convince myself that if I did it again, I would either be dead or in jail. I had to let out my sadness, my fear and anger in other ways other than suppressing them with pills. When I first stopped mutilating, I took more pills. It helped to drive the stress and pressure away. But I learned to manage it. I cried a lot and freaked out a lot, but I made it. I love myself a lot and I realized that I am the only person who will have my own back. Sometimes I do get the urge, but I just say no. Willpower is a powerful thing."

When she overcame her addiction, things started to go well in her life. A year after she completed her treatment; Lake launched her modeling career. In the few short years, she has made significant inroads in the industry as a nude model. She says working gives her something tostay busy and keep focused. Solis Magazine called her the queen of glam. She has her eyes set on elevating nudity for black models. "Black models who pose nude are often defined as whorish vixens. In their pictures, they're usually squatting and humping on 10-inch heels with candy in their mouth. TV and magazines have taught people to see black models as sex. That's why people won't and will not accept that a black model can be artistic because that's all you see on TV. I decided to pose nude to show them that black is also artistic."

Asked what's the best part of being addiction-free, Lake said: "I am literally free. I no longer have to rush home to swallow something or hide behind a wall to do it. I feel more beautiful. I feel fresh. It's a great and nice feeling." Her advice to others who are battling an addiction: "I can't say not to use something, because that would be hypocritical. I would say that if you do use something, try not to do it a second time because you will not be spared. It will hurt you, your friends and your family. If you are not willing to lose these things, stay off addictive substances. The joy you feel while doing these things is a false emotion. Life is not worth messing yourself up. It's not going to be easy to stop; but it will pass away with time. Love is the cure and the inner you will do everything to protect you."

Get help If you or someone you know is battling an addiction, seek help. Check with your house doctor. In Dutch St. Maarten, you can also visit Turning Point Foundation at Soualiga Road in Philipsburg or call 522-4747 or 522-7247. For alcohol addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous meets at St. Maarten Red Cross Building on Airport Road Mondays-Sundays 6:00-7:00pm and at Mullet Bay Beach next to the restaurant on Saturday and Sundays 8:30-9:30am. Call 581-1875 or 544-3203.

Feedback: fitzpatrickjudy@ gmail.com

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