Can we know how to take care of ourselves when we don't listen to ourselves?
We met Julie Bourges, from the Instagram account Douze Février. Taking care of yourself means knowing how to listen to yourself and your body, knowing what it needs to feel good. Julie became aware of this, the day her life turned upside down on February 12, 2013, when her carnival costume caught fire while smoking a cigarette. She shares her story with us today, and how resilience, self-confidence and self-acceptance have allowed her to turn her accident and her difference into a strength for herself and for others.
How are you doing?
I am very well, I am better because I have been listening to myself a lot these last months. I left the French Riviera, where I am originally from, for the South West of France. A place in France was calling me, a hard choice to make, but necessary for my well-being. I am doing better with my work, I have managed to detach myself from what I cannot control, I am more in harmony now with what I share.
Can you tell me a little more about yourself, your story, the ordeal you went through?
"I define myself as Julie Bourges, and not as Twelve February."
Perhaps this is the basis of our exchange. February 12, that date has become a big part of my life, much more than I ever imagined. I had an accident on that date in 2013. My carnival costume caught fire on me, while smoking a cigarette outside of high school. I was in an induced coma for 3 months, 5 months in the hospital, and then followed a very long period of reconstruction, rehabilitation, as I lost a lot of weight. There were many phases: apprehending the look of people, going back to school, finding love again. You learn to rebuild yourself after an accident, it's really a second life that begins. In any case, it was the case for me. I like to call it a rebirth, more than an accident. Because that's really how I experience it. I started to share this on the networks, and that's why I'm here today.
Is there a before/after? If so, which one?
I have long said on my networks that the accident changed me. It's a fact, but there is still a part of who I was before that remains. It didn't change me radically. I just became aware of the reality of life between before and after. I was a teenager, there was this carefree side, that nothing could happen to me. The accident turned all that upside down and made me face reality. Life is not a long quiet river, there can be ups and downs that are more complicated to overcome, but when you get there, there is a beautiful story behind it. It's a realization about the world around us and life in general. I also realized that in order to feel accomplished after this accident, I had to pass on and help others. This is perhaps something that would have taken me a long time to understand if I had not had this accident. Basically, I think that being generous is part of me. Transmission too, but the accident has multiplied this desire. In my life, in order to be happy, I need to give to people, I might have learned this at 40 years old, but here, I learned it at 20 years old, which is pretty good!
At what point did you turn your story into a strength?
From the beginning, I made it a strength. The day I realized I made it a strength, maybe that's different, was when I started doing a lot of interviews and when my story went beyond myself and inspired other people, and helped other people. That's when I knew I had a way to do something different with it.
How do you like to take care of yourself?
I had big problems after my accident to take care of my skin. For me, the fact of applying creams or beauty products was associated with my accident, with a rather medical gesture. It took me a long time to touch up my skin, to appreciate it and to want to take care of it, to go beyond this medical procedure. My skin had suffered enough and it was nice to come and take care of it. Today, I am learning and I am finding a gesture again. Mostly, there is also sport. To be able to externalize when I surf, it's really my number 1 way of decompression, sport, in general.
"I learned to listen to myself. It is perhaps finally, the most beautiful way to take care of oneself because today we talk a lot about personal development, yoga, that it is essential to eat better. There are many things that can be seen as opposites when we could always learn to listen to ourselves. Can we know how to take care of ourselves when we don't listen to ourselves? I don't know!"
We recommend a lot of sports, a lot of yoga, but yoga is not going to have the same effect on me as on someone else, for example.
"That's why the foundation is to listen to ourselves and know what our bodies really need to be well."
Has your story changed your vision of femininity? What is your relationship with your body?
Totally! I have a grandmother who is Spanish, very attached to appearance. I grew up with this vision of femininity, being feminine meant being well-dressed, dressed up, etc. My accident was very hard, and maybe more difficult than other people and I had a very marked vision of femininity in my reconstruction. Typically, I didn't have hair anymore so for me, I wasn't a woman anymore and it took me a while to understand that my femininity wasn't all that but rather what I did with it. I was afraid I wouldn't find a sweetheart, a job and finally, you can be 1000 times more feminine without hair, but with a big smile!
"I think that femininity is very much about self-confidence. Femininity is just accepting who you are and defining yourself in many ways. There is no defined vision of femininity in my opinion."
Sports are a big part of your life. You practice surfing, yoga, meditation. How does this help you in your daily well-being?
Resilience will always be part of it. A real notion of well-being, of letting go, of refocusing on myself in all the benefits that we know from sport. Beyond that, sport has saved my life. Without this muscle memory, I might not be alive, quite simply. Gymnastics helped me a lot in my reconstruction after the coma. When you have a body that is athletic, the reconstruction and healing process is much faster. I practiced 12 hours of artistic gymnastics per week. The mental aspect also plays an important role. This spirit of competition with oneself brought me out of this rather long rehabilitation much more quickly. The bottom line is that when I play sports, there is a very conscious part of me that remembers when I couldn't play. I'm grateful to be able to move, to be alive. Not everyone is so lucky. I am lucky to have my four limbs. In my accident, in my misfortune, I was very lucky to be able to practice like I did before. I don't have any after-effects that prevent me from doing what I want to do.
I understand that the ocean has a big place in your heart. At Panier des Sens, we work daily to limit plastic consumption. If you had a word to say on this subject, for future generations, what would it be?
I was less aware of the consequences of plastic pollution before I moved next to the ocean. Here, with the tides, when it recedes it leaves a lot of plastic waste, especially microplastic. In the summer, when the tractors clean the beaches, it buries a majority of the waste. In the summer we are less aware of it. We are more aware of it in winter. The tractors do not pass. It's our home. I moved to the region of my dreams. It is not possible to see this. It was sure that it would not happen. What I want to pass on, for example, is that it is easy to go to the beach with a plastic bag, it doesn't cost anything, it's nice. To go further, we can limit our consumption of fish, check where it comes from. Opt for zero waste.
"Just a reminder that we can all make a difference on our own scale. We're not going to change the world in our small way, but we all can. Even if our trash isn't our own, we can still pick it up."
Following you on social networks, one could say that you suck the life out of it. What do you think about it?
When I had my accident, the firemen put out the fire that was on me, but unfortunately the fire that burns in me can never be put out. This love of life, this fire that burns within me, this positivity that I can't hide, today, I burn life, with envy. I could live 1000 lives if I had to. Life is worth living and so I follow that.
What is the thing that makes you happiest?
I celebrated my birthday with my family. We have a bit of a dream life, we make a good living. That can make you lose your sanity. What keeps me grounded and grateful, with sincerity, is my family. They know my dark moments, what I went through, my greatest happiness is my loved ones. To have them in good health with me. I blew my 26th birthday with my 4 grandparents. You know that life has its frailties and you know that everything can happen very, very quickly. You learn to be grateful for the simplest moments. I'm a big believer in what's going to be left at the end, it's the simple moments, more than anything else. That's what makes me happy!
If you were to talk to the Julie of 10 years ago, what would you tell her?
The Julie who just had her accident, I will tell her that if she doesn't feel represented by society, she can represent herself, because finally, that's what I did. Even if she doesn't see it yet, there is a real meaning to this accident. In fact, I say that, but I don't know if the Julie of 10 years ago didn't know it in her heart, because when I see the pictures, I smile. I will tell her not to lose hope. There is an aftermath to the accident, life doesn't stop with how she thinks she looks, that she will recover even more than she thinks she has lost.
Just for the last word: you were able to test our Fleur d'Oranger collection. What did you think of it?
I am originally from the South East. I was brought up on Orange Blossom. Scents and naturalness are very important to me. This is really what I found at Panier des Sens. I really feel like I'm with my mom, it's my childhood, it's a way to remember where I come from too. I knew the brand very well. Why Panier des Sens ? I enjoy the scents when I take care of my skin and Panier des Sens for that.