2018's Biggest Inspiration: A Feature Story On Emily Torchiana

2018's Biggest Inspiration: A Feature Story On Emily Torchiana

"She makes you feel so at ease when you're around her."
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High school: some of the shortest but best years of a person’s life. Right? For Emily Torchiana she had it all – beauty, brains and big involvement. She played on the varsity tennis team, participated in her community service organization and was a member of the National Honor Society. On the outside, Emily looked content – happy, even. Successful.

It wasn’t her accomplishments in academics and extracurricular activities that she prominently remembers from high school, though. High school to her was many times considered more of a sad place than a happy one – a place full of struggles that were invisible to others, but clear as day to her. Every day turned into a battle with a vicious, stubborn fighter named depression. High school quickly turned from some of the shortest and best years to some of the longest and worst.

“I feel like I didn’t have really any resources of people that understood what I was going through,” Emily stated while sipping her latte in Black Tap Coffee. “Not necessarily that they had the same story as mine, but just the common theme of struggling. Flash forward to college, I finally realized that others struggled with in similar ways that I did.”

After spending a few years speaking about mental health, her senior at The College of Charleston, Emily sparked the idea of starting a non-profit to spread more awareness to mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, alcoholism and more. She named her organization, “The Invisible Illnesses.”

“The idea is to make people comfortable in sharing their stories on The Invisible Illnesses website,” she said adjusting her jean jacket. “For others to know that so many other people are struggling with the same types of situations could push them to get help, and could even help save a life.”

One of these story sharers and friend of Emily’s, Merilee Pierce, shared how The Invisible Illnesses has impacted her life. “So, I confided in Emily about my history and my story with my mental illness. After listening she said, ‘you know if you ever feel comfortable and want to share on The Invisible Illnesses website, you’re more than welcome. It’s no pressure, though.’” Merilee paused, took a deep breath, smiled, and continued: “That’s when I knew I wanted to share my story.”

People from all over the country have submitted their stories. Each story is completely different, but all have the common theme that hope is out there, even in the darkest of times. When asked what some of her favorite stories were, Emily pursed her lips, looked out the window, and crossed her legs – her worn Chuck Taylor’s swinging back in forth as she thought. “I guess I would have to say my favorite stories are the ones that contain uncommon mental illnesses. Obviously, I love reading about depression and anxiety because that’s what I struggle with, but having people come forward about their borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia or more of the uncommon ones, I think it sheds light on them because there can sometimes be bigger stigmas towards them. Like, if someone hears ‘bipolar disorder’ they’ll automatically think that person is crazy or violent.”

Specifically, though, her all-time favorite was with Chef Jamie Lynch, the chef of a restaurant called 5Church here in Charleston. “Jamie was on the show Top Chef, and he battled with heroin addiction, so that was really impactful to me. I also got to interview him, rather than just having him submit his story, so I got to have that one-on-one interaction.”

Emily’s bubbly and upbeat personality has allowed her to connect with people that have helped her creatively expand The Invisible Illnesses – and some of these people have become valuable friends.

“Emily and I met through a mutual friend at some event a little while back,” remembers The Invisible Illnesses headshot photographer, Jesse Volk. “So, she came to me and told me about this idea that she had about helping those with mental illnesses tell their stories, and she wanted photos to be a really big part of it.” Fidgeting with his camera he continued, “Photos of people can tell someone so much about them. When we take the storytellers’ pictures, we tell them to be relaxed and comfortable and to act natural. We want to capture their personality in the photo if that makes sense.”

It wasn’t always so easy in the beginning, though. While Emily had tons of supporters, there was one person in particular that tried to stop her idea in its tracks.

“So, an ex-boyfriend of mine reached out to me when I started public speaking about mental illnesses. He was always against mental health, and told me starting something like this would, ‘ruin my reputation.’ That didn’t stop me, though. I’m thankful today to have a boyfriend who is so extremely supportive. He’s actually the treasurer of The Invisible Illnesses. He started out as a friend and helped out with the non-profit before we starting dating, but then things kind of emerged from there. It’s great knowing that he’s been there supporting me since the beginning.”

Though The Invisible Illnesses is barely a year old, it has already received great local and national recognition.

When asked about awards for her impressive and hard work, Emily blushed and smiled softly, “This year, there were about 300 of us that were nominated for the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award at the Jefferson Awards Ceremony, and only five people actually won. I honestly was just honored to be there, because everyone got one minute to describe what their cause was, so that was just incredible in itself. I was so surprised that I actually won.”

Still ever-so humbly, she finished her thought with, “Sometimes with non-profits and causes you just sit there and think, ‘am I actually making a difference?’ Winning just kind of reaffirmed that, yes, my organization is helping people, and that’s what my goal was from the start.”

Even while she was busy creating her organization in college, Emily still made time for friends and involvement in other activities.

“Emily was the secretary of our Student Government Association,” remembered fellow SGA member, Chak Or. “Part of her position was approving new organizations that wanted to come on campus. Every time she met with organization leader, she was always so kind and willing to help them in the best way she could. One of my favorite things about her is her ability to take command in a room. She by no means is the loudest person in the room or takes all of the attention, but she has an aura that makes people want to talk and listen to her. She actually inspired me to run for secretary the following year.” And that’s just what Emily is – an inspiration. When her name is brought up, that’s exactly almost every person refers to her as. Even Dean Stephens from ABC News 4 used it to describe her: “Her words are courageous and she’s committed to her conviction…Torchiana is inspiring others to live.”

After traveling around the country giving talks at different universities from Widener University in Pennsylvania to Alpha Delta Pi Sorority (her fellow sisterhood) at LSU in Louisiana, Emily has finally landed back in Charleston where she has been planning her first annual The Invisible Illnesses banquet.

“Usually with benefits, people plan them like, a year in advance. It came up as an idea around February, but because of the support of the Charleston area, it’s honestly come together better and faster than expected,” Emily said still in awe of the successful turnout. “Some of the silent auction items are gift cards to restaurants like The Macintosh, and handbags from Kate Spade and Marc Jacobs. There is just so much support that I honestly didn’t expect.”

A common theme in Emily’s responses is that many things have happened that she, “didn’t expect.” She never once assumed that anyone would automatically do anything for her organization, just because it’s a non-profit. Still, she’s using the money earned from these silent auctions to continue to give back: “What we want is for people to come together to raise money for the mental health workshops that we do. This past year, we educated 700 plus students through these workshops, and 5,000 plus students through my presentations. The hope is just to really expand that and get our workshops out to further areas around the country.”

Emily has truly become a Charleston icon and is quickly moving to becoming a national one. Though she tirelessly works to continue improving her platform, she still makes time for the people that have helped her get where she is today.

After a jam-packed full week of traveling around and giving speeches across the country, she’s happily willing to sit down for a cup of coffee and chat about the thing she is most passionate about. Taking her last sip of coffee and with her big smile, Emily gave her final praise to all of those that helped her get to this point, “It’s crazy to think that I used to be bullied on social media, but now it’s become, my friend. I’ve been connected with so many mental illness advocates through our website and Instagram. Our community keeps growing, and even though I don’t get to meet everyone who shares their story, I’m thankful that they do. Us helping them is making them want to help others. It’s so cool to see.”

Emily’s positivity and willingness to help has encouraged so many people to speak out – even many people most wouldn’t think are struggling.

Cover Image Credit: The Invisible Illnesses

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What Your Hogwarts House Says About You

Get yourself sorted and find out where you belong in the world of witchcraft and wizardry.
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Sorting at Hogwarts is a big deal. Being sorted into a house is essentially being placed into a family while you are away from home learning about witchcraft and wizardry. Your house is made up of the people you will live with, go to classes with, play Quidditch with and everything in between. You basically spend 24/7 with them. Your Hogwarts house is your home away from home.

When you get sorted into a house, it is based on your personality traits. The people in your house are typically like-minded people who display the same characteristics as you.

When you’re a first year at Hogwarts, the minute you set foot in the castle you are swept into the Great Hall to have the ancient Sorting Hat placed on your head. This Sorting Hat decides which “family” you’ll be spending your seven years with.

For some, it is very obvious which house they will be in, due to certain personality traits they possess. For others, they may exemplify traits that fit a multitude of houses and are uncertain where they may end up.

To find out where you belong, you can take the official "Harry Potter" Sorting Hat quiz at Pottermore.com. For all you muggles out there, these are the characteristics that the houses possess and what your house says about you:

Gryffindor: The house of the brave, loyal, courageous, adventurous, daring and chivalrous. Those who stand up for others are typically Gryffindors. Brave-hearted is the most well-known Gryffindor characteristic, and Gryffindors are also known for having a lot of nerve.

Gryffindors are people who hold a multitude of qualities alongside the ones listed, making them a very well-rounded house. People who are Gryffindors are often people who could fit nicely into another house but choose to tell the sorting hat they want Gryffindor (there's that bravery). "Do what is right" is the motto Gryffindors go by.

Being a Gryffindor means that you're probably the adventurous and courageous friend, and you are usually known for doing what is right.

Ravenclaw: The house is known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Those who value brains over brawn can be found here. Ravenclaws often tend to be quite quirky as well. "Do what is wise" is the motto they strive to follow.

Though Ravenclaws can be know-it-alls sometimes, they most likely do know what the wisest decision is.

If you are known for being the quirky friend, the smartest in the group or just great at making wise decisions, you're definitely a Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff: This house values hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuff’s are known for being just and true. "Do what is nice" is their motto.

Hufflepuff is known as the “nice house” and believes strongly in sparing peoples feelings and being kind. This is not to say that Hufflepuffs aren't smart or courageous. Hufflepuffs just enjoy making others happy and tend to be more patient towards people.

If you ever find that you are too nice for your own good and cannot bear to hurt someone’s feelings, congratulations, you are a Hufflepuff.

Slytherin: This is the house of the cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherin's love to be in charge and crave leadership. "Do what is necessary" is the motto of this house.

Slytherin is a fairly well-rounded house, similar to the other houses. They are loyal to those that are loyal to them just as Gryffindors are and are intelligent as Ravenclaws.

Slytherin house as a whole is not evil, despite how many dark wizards come out of this house. That is merely based on the choices of those wizards (so if your friend is a Slytherin, don’t judge, it doesn’t mean they are mean people). Slytherins do, however, have a tendency to be arrogant or prideful. This is most likely due to the fact that everyone in Slytherin is exceedingly proud to be there.

What Hogwarts house you’re in says a lot about the person you are, the traits you possess and how you may act in some situations. But in the end, your house is really just your home that is always there for you. Always.


Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

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5 Reasons To Adopt A Black Cat

Don't listen to superstition, get a black kitten!

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Imagine you decided to get a cat and you go to your local shelter to find your next furry friend. You look at all the cats, all different shapes, sizes, ages, and colors. You are drawn to the charming calicoes and the handsome tabbies, but you notice how many black cats are in kennels. Their yellow and green eyes staring into your soul as they beg for a home. You have heard things about black cats all your life, but here are 5 reasons why you should get that black cat:

They're are not bad luck.

My 2-year-old Achilles

Achillesthebean Insta

Around 13% of Americans still believe that if a black cat crosses your path, you will be cursed with bad luck. Despite the lack of proof, people still refuse to adopt black cats. They are not unlucky; if anything, my black cat was one of the luckiest things to happen to me. They will be the luckiest thing to happen to you, too.

They are love-bugs, just like any other cat.

https://www.instagram.com/achillesthebean/

There is an assumption that all cats are standoff-ish and will hiss and scratch at any opportunity, but don't let this assumption deter you. Of the black cats I have met, they have all been the sweetest and most loving cats I have met. My Achilles, when he's not play-biting and being a turd, is the cuddliest baby and I melt every time he curls up in my lap or rubs against me.

They are photogenic.

https://www.instagram.com/achillesthebean/

The most likely type of cat to be adopted are white cats. They are gorgeous often with vibrant eyes that light up the room. They are easy to photograph, and you only worry about them blending in with the sunlight. Black cats, however, are often thought to be difficult to photograph because of their ability to be consumed by the shadows. This is not true, if you can find that perfect lighting, you can take beautiful pictures of these elegant creatures. My cell phone's full storage proves that.

If their hair gets on everything, no big deal!

https://www.instagram.com/achillesthebean/

White hair shows, black hair shows less. What more is there to say?

Halloween will be the best!

My roommate's cat Mildred

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Who doesn't want a cute black cat in their Halloween Instagram photos? I love taking pictures of Achilles every day of the year, but there is something amazing about taking Halloween photos and putting him into his own little costume! Although, just remember that these are still living beings and you should not just get a black cat just for Instagram. Get one just because they are beautiful and wonderful to be around.

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