Marine veteran Amber Mills found herself sinking into depression when she could no longer work due to her Multiple Sclerosis. She was online one afternoon when she came across a national contest calling participants to make a wedding dress out of toilet paper. Mills decided to give it a shot, and she soon found that the process of challenging herself – even if just to make a dress out of toilet paper – gave her a distinct sense of purpose.
The Cheap Chic Weddings Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Contest that Mills entered is sponsored by Charmin and organized by Cheap-Chic-Weddings, a website devoted to finding ways for people to save money on wedding expenses. The premise of the contest is that each dress, along with an accompanying headpiece, must be made with nothing more than Charmin toilet paper, glue, tape, and needle/thread. This minimalist set of materials and tools allows the creativity of the contestants to really shine through – there are no fancy materials or beads to hide behind. The dresses that the contestants come up with are truly stunning, so much so that it’s hard to believe they’re made out of toilet paper. The message behind this contest completely falls in line with the ideals of Cheap-Chic-Wedding: something does not have to be expensive to be beautiful.
The video below highlights the dress that Mills was creating for the 2015 Cheap Chic Weddings Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Contest, for which she did not place in the finals (you can see the set of finalists on Cheap-Chic-Wedding’s site). This isn’t Mills’s first go at the competition, however. She entered in 2014, the contest’s 10th year, and she earned the third place spot for her remarkable blue dress design. Winning isn’t Mills’s main focus, however, and she makes that very clear during her interview in the video.
Mills openly admits that she struggles with her Multiple Sclerosis and her health in general, and that she had become emotionally defeated in her life. Sadly, this isn’t an unfamiliar story for American veterans. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans, studies have shown that anywhere from 3%-25% of returning veterans suffer from depression. When you consider that the projected veteran population determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans was 21,999,000 in September, 2014, it becomes clear that this is no small problem. Even if the percentage of returning veterans with depression is at 3%, the math comes out to almost 660,000 veterans suffering from depression. If the percentage actually falls on the higher end around 25%, that equates to almost 5.5 million veterans suffering from depression. Mills certainly isn’t alone in her struggle to find a sense of purpose and to achieve satisfaction in her day-to-day life post-service.
Mills was able to do something incredible by devoting herself to a challenge, and I don’t just mean creating a beautiful dress out of toilet paper. By challenging herself, Mills effectively gave herself a set of goals to work towards, and creating goals establishes a sense purpose. This method of creating challenges and setting goals can be effective for many people who feel they are in a slump, it’s just a matter of finding a challenge that you perceive to be engaging and then being motivated enough to follow-through. Perhaps it’s telling yourself that you will run for 20 minutes without stopping to walk, that you’ll make it through 10 of Bob Ross’s video painting tutorials, or that you’ll go back through your college reading list and actually read all the books that you skipped, but it truly doesn’t matter what task you choose as long as you’re pushing your limits. Often times, a sense of achievement can do wonders for a person’s mental state, even if the achievement is small. Mills is the perfect proof that accomplishing something you’ve set your mind to can create some stellar benefits in the way you perceive yourself and your life.
Watch the video below to hear Mills’ story and to catch a glimpse of the seriously impressive wedding dress!