by Scott Walker
The old saying of you can't judge a book by its cover is quite true today. This is one story where you may look at the photo and later have second thoughts after hearing the message.
Ericia Baggett was bullied throughout her school years due to her weight. "People would mistreat me," she said. Nevertheless, she found an escape in artwork. During middle school and high school she won numerous awards for her talent. One of her pictures was even hung in the Governor's Mansion. But, the art would only take her so far and the other children likely failed to notice her talent.
Due to her weight she stated that she "developed" at a young age. That early development lead to additional problems on the daily school bus ride home. "I would get harassed on the school bus and held down and boys would..." she paused and took a breath. She then talked about how such behavior was not handled the same way as it is today. In the 1980's, such behavior received a slap on the wrist. Today, that same behavior ends with an arrest.
At age 20 she got married and soon found herself with a newborn baby. Her artwork was on the backburner while depression took over along with more weight gain. Baggett said that she ate for comfort, "The only way I knew how to deal with things was by eating." She then continued to describe what was later learned to be destructive behavior, "As long as I was eating I was taking care of myself, stuffing those emotions down."
In an effort to feel better about herself, Baggett said that she received surgery to reduce her weight, which had risen to 349 pounds. The art was picked back up and the idea of becoming a tattoo artist was something that was growing for her. However, more problems followed shortly after the operation.
"When I had the surgery it took that feeling away," she said in describing how food once comforted her. After the operation she didn't feel like eating as much. When Baggett ran away from her addiction to food, she turned to alcohol. When the alcohol didn't work for her, she turned to meth, cocaine and crack. Her once healthy escape with art seemed to have disappeared.
Finally, Baggett decided that she needed to fix whatever was hurting. So, she spent time recovering at Cumberland Heights while realizing that the hole she needed to fill lacked God. The 40 year old Nashville native said, "Once I quit doing drugs I was like - What's gonna' fill this spot?" With a pause she finished... "Then I ran to God."
Road blocks were not completely fixed for Baggett. She later practiced in "Cutting" to deal with anxiety and depression. Her upper thigh hidden by her clothing, was marred with multiple small cuts and scars. During that time she started to be bullied again, this time by adults. Of course this time around she knew about healthy verses unhealthy habits which is why she decided to get help right away for the cutting and once again start focusing on art. She also understood that hurting people - hurt people... so the bullying directed at her was because others around her had issues of their own.
Today, her dream is to continue moving forward with artwork and to open her own tattoo studio. Someday, she wants to operate a tattoo studio on a level that is not usually expected in such places... She wants to tell people who look like her, yet are different on the inside, that they too can turn to God as opposed to running from one addiction to another.
To hear the entire 19 MIN and 48 SEC Interview, listen below:
CONNECT: Find her on FaceBook under her tattoo artist name of Alayna Devine at https://www.facebook.com/alayna.devine.79
"When you encourage others, you in the process are encouraged because you're making a commitment and difference in that person's life. Encouragement really does make a difference."- Zig Ziglar, Motivational Speaker (1926-2012)