Good

It Really DOES Get Better

Take it from someone who has been there, it really does get better.

For those of you who don’t know the It Gets Better Project all started in 2010 when Dan Savage, in response to a rising number of suicides linked to bullying, made a youtube video with his partner to inspire hope for young people facing harassment.

The It Gets Better Project’s website says: “The It Gets Better Project’s mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.”

The idea is great, but I also believe it is universal.

It doesn’t just apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, nor victims of bullying or high school students.

Whoever finds this post and is struggling:  It really DOES get better.  I promise.

I’ve recently been following the heartbreaking story of Rehtaeh Parsons, a young woman who was raped, then bullied until she decided to take her own life.  I wish this message had found her.  Because it does get better, even for those of us who have lived through the most devastating, terrifying, and degrading form of violence there is.  Even for Rehtaeh, it could’ve gotten better.

I’m in tears as I write this, because I didn’t make it to this conclusion for lack of trying to kill myself.  I had two life-threatening attempts, but somehow lived to know that these things come out on the other side.

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the light at the end of the tunnel

Life isn’t as hopeless and painful as it can, at times, feel.  I know there is plenty of pain to be felt, and despair to be trudged through, but I know something else too.  I know that as dark as it can get, it can get that much brighter.  I know that these feelings that consume, even they will fade away and make place for new ways of feeling.

I used to be so certain that the darkness would last forever.  For me, it was a good 28 years or so before the clouds started to part and make way for light.  I can look at that time now and understand what growth came from it.  I know that I am that much stronger because I went through it.  And I see now how my experience can benefit others.

That’s everything this blog is about.

Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I had a twinge of hope that kept me alive, even when I wanted so badly to die.  My hope plagued me, because it seemed to work against all the hurt I knew in my life.  I just wanted to let go, and sometimes, I did.  But I know something about that nagging particle of hope still imbedded somewhere deep within.  It was a glimpse.  It was a glimpse at what could be.  And for me, what now is.

I wish Rehtaeh could’ve known this.  There are so many people out there right now, who I wish could know this.  I don’t even know your names.  I didn’t even know Rehtaeh, but right now, I cry for her like she was a dear friend.

If you’re looking for some shred of hope, a reason to stay alive, I pray the words of this stranger can be that for you.

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clouds parting, making way for light

I don’t believe suicide is selfish or wrong, because I know it is not an act entered into lightly.  I know the despair it takes to bring you to that decision.  But it cannot be an option, because your life has worth, and meaning, even if you don’t believe it.  The anguish doesn’t become extinct through your death, it is simply passed on to others.  To those you loved most.  No, the anguish is defeated only through living a meaningful life.  Through sharing your struggles with others.  Through finding your joy.

None of us are as alone as we sometimes feel.

It may feel like it is taking to forever to get there.  But you WILL get there.  It may feel like more than you can bear.  But you CAN bear it.  You may think no one understands, but I do. You may think this darkness is all you will ever know, but you will live your fair share of joy as well.

It really DOES get better.  I promise.

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 IF YOU ARE IN CRISIS, CALL: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for more resources.  

Plenty of people are waiting to help you at any time.

Beyond My Power

As adamant as I am about the issue of sexual violence, I feel that maybe my take on it can come off misleading.  See, because of my own history with sexual violence, it is hard for me to actually be a part of the fight.

In 2009, I had a therapist tell me to “stop watching the news.”  So, I did.  Around the time, I had become fixated on the Shanyia Davis story.  A mom sold her 5 year old daughter into sexual slavery.  The daughter was later found raped and murdered, then tossed on the side of the road, like trash.  I was dumbfounded and destroyed by this story.  It pretty much shattered my world, and I couldn’t stop following it.  How could someone do that to a child?  How could a mother do that to her own child?  I couldn’t understand it, and it made a frightening reality come to light for me: there is evil in this world, beyond my comprehension, and even with what I’ve been through, I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.

I wish I could tell you that when I stopped watching the news, everything got a little lighter for me.  And maybe it did, a wee bit.  Even to this day, I go online, and pick and choose headlines based on their triviality.  “Reality TV is going down the toilet–literally”  The more serious stories, I avoid.  I know enough just by the headlines.  “Police: Florida man linked to up to 1 million child porn videos, images”  The headline says enough.  I don’t need to read about this pig, and start to mull over the fact that those 1 million videos and images, mean that tens of thousands of children were forced to participate in sexual acts to make that stuff.  I know that already.  Although, maybe some people don’t.  Maybe a lot of people are completely desensitized to that stuff, and don’t even consider those children when they read a headline like that.   For them, I say: READ THE ARTICLE, and think about it.

For those of us who have survived similar experiences, I say: Don’t torture yourself.

No, I understand enough without subjecting myself to it.  I heard tidbits about the Steubenville rape case.  Enough to get a gist.  I cannot read an article about it.  I simply can’t.  Maybe this makes me a hypocrite, or maybe it makes me self-preserving, I don’t know.  All I know is, I just can’t stomach it and hold my world together.

Similarly, I write about the fight to end this stuff, because I cannot actually participate in the fight.  I’ve been on the front lines of the battle, and I know how hopeless it is there.  For those of you who can stay there and fight this battle, I thank you.  I know what it feels like to notice that the army is lacking in numbers, and that all the people at your side are survivors.  A lot of times, it is survivors like me, who cannot manage to stay and fight and hold their own lives in tact, but they fight anyway, their very livelihood falling by the wayside.  I understand that.

It feels like screaming endlessly in a sea of people, who know you’re there, but choose not to acknowledge you.

I cannot actively delve into the numerous cases of sexual violence and survive.  This is what I learned in recovery.  If I want to survive, I have to take a step back.  Sometimes, this makes me feel helpless and useless.  Most of the time, I know it is what keeps me breathing.

I learned that in recovery, but I also learned something from my relationship with God:  This battle isn’t just a physical one, or an emotional or mental one.  This is a spiritual battle too.

Now this is where my two worlds collide.  I know a lot of feminists working without God, and a lot of God-loving people, working without feminism.  For me, these two worlds are not mutually exclusive.

I cannot be out there fighting emotionally, mentally, physically, or judiciously, but I can fight like hell spiritually.

I’ve started praying feverishly on the subject of sexual violence.  I learned from my relationship with God, that the fight to end sexual violence isn’t hopeless, it just can’t be fought alone.  Human beings simply don’t have the power to end it based on the sure will of the fight.  We aren’t that powerful.  But I fully believe, that with God at our backs, this battle can be won.

I pray for the victims, that they find healing and wholeness despite their experiences.  And I pray for those who are on the front lines fighting, that they have the strength and ferocity to not back down, no matter what.  I pray for the un-listening, uncaring world, that their eyes and hearts are opened to this battle, and that they join in the fight.  I declare miracles over this battle, that it be won by the side that is good.  And I rebuke evil’s grasp on so many of us through such violence.  I declare victory against evil, and an end to sexual violence.

For those non-believers, you probably think this is useless.  But that’s ok, we all have our opinions.  Maybe prayer isn’t for you, but luckily, there are plenty of ways to join in the movement.

For those believers, I hope you’ll join me in prayer.

We have the power to end this battle.  We just have to claim it.

 

Lessons I Learned in 2012

I see a lot of blogs doing years in review.  I would do that for you, but I feel that, although I have learned a lot and accomplished a lot in 2012, I haven’t done anything exceptionally noteworthy.  I was looking back over my year, and what I realized is a year summed up in learning.  I have grown a lot this year, through experience and through trial and error.

In the spirit of a new year, I will share my top ten lessons from 2012.  I pray that the next year is full of new lessons, exciting growth, solid accomplishments, and exceptional love, for all of us.

Top Ten Lessons I Learned in 2012:

10.  Life is worth living.  I know this sounds like a pretty basic concept, but it is one I did not believe for a really long time.  I felt like every day was just a repeat of the one before, and every situation was going to end grimly.  Let me emphasize, every situation will end badly, if that is the intention you place upon it in the beginning.  Your world, your life, is what you make of it.  Keep deciding that you are cursed, and you will be.  Place positive intentions on your day-to-day life, and on your goals, and they will manifest before your very eyes.  This year, I took one of my business cards and on it, I wrote down what I want for myself in the next year.  I carry it around with me daily, and I believe these things will unfold in my life.  You can do the same with a dream board.  Take a poster and create what you want out of your next year.  Watch it happen.  I did this during my hospital stays, and I always conveyed stability, health, balance and love.  These things are now ever present in my life.  It is like magic.  Whatever you put your energy into, you will have.

9.  Doing what you’ve dreamed of is worth the experience.  I always dreamed of living in California.  I was just sure I’d feel at home there.  This year, after treatment, I had an opportunity to move out to California.  I took the opportunity and have been here since.  I love the weather, and having access to beautiful beaches and sunsets.  Living here does have its pros and cons, but I am so glad I took the opportunity to come here.  I’m acutally living out one of my wildest dreams.  How amazing is that?  I’ve also learned that this particular city isn’t somewhere I plan on settling down.  I wouldn’t have known that, if I had not tried.  I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here.

8.  Distance makes the heart grow fonder, but traveling is hard.   As a result of living out my dream, I’ve been transplanted a very long distance from a lot of people that I really love.  Being here has made me realize how much I truly appreciate these people, but it has also made me realize that I’d like to be closer to them.  Traveling is difficult, I’m sure most of us would agree.  And expensive.  I love my loved ones that much more, but the added cost and stress of being away… is it worth it?  I’ll keep you posted.  I have, in the meantime, made great friends out here on the left coast.  So, I have multiplied my love.  That’s always a good thing.

7.  Recovery is a lot of work, but I’ve never done anything this important and this necessary before.  My sponsor always reminds me that recovery has to come first, before everything else.  I know this is true.  I cannot have success in work, school, family, or life, if I do not work on the one thing that keeps me stable and keeps me sane.  Without recovery, all those other things are irrelevant because they aren’t even possible.

6.  Failure may not be an option, but neither is perfection.  I’ve always heard the cliché that failure isn’t an option.  I think it is this phrase alone that birthed perfectionism.  “I’ve got to do it,” turned into, “I’ve got to do it perfectly.”  I walk on a thin line between two extremes.  Balance is crucial for me.  I know I can have an “all or nothing” attitude, and I have to remind myself constantly that an accomplishment is an accomplishment, if I didn’t do it perfectly, at least I did it.  We are always our own worst critic.  Ease up on yourself a little.  Strive to do well, but don’t corner yourself into unforgivable expectations.  I see a lot of people in recovery around me either throwing their hands up, or striving to attain the unattainable.  Expecting perfection is like driving into a brick wall.  It doesn’t matter wether you do it quickly or slowly, eventually, you’ll hit that wall.  Eventually, you’ll be devestated by the fact that you messed up.  We all mess up, it is inevitable.  Learn to brush it off and keep moving.

5.  Doors will open, when you’re ready to see what’s on the other side.  God knows, timing is everything.  If you hold out and have faith, things will turn around and trials will end.  You may think that things are impossible, but I am here to tell you that the impossible is possible.  Lil’ Kim used to be a hero of mine, and now my music taste is almost completely faith-based.  I used to dread waking up in the morning, and now I’m grateful for each new day.  This year, I’ve reconnected with several people that I was certain I’d never hear from again.  Things change.  Doors open.  Anything is possible.  These things hardly ever happen right away, but they will happen when you are ready for them.

4.  Belief makes miracles happen.  Did you know that the true power of prayer is in the belief that those prayers will be answered?  As I said, the impossible is possible.  They key to seeing the impossible unfold before you, is believing that it will.  If you ask God for something, but doubt that He will give it to you, don’t expect it.  If you hope for something, but believe it could never be, it never will be.  The power lies in what you believe.  You are manifesting the outcome with your very thoughts and intentions.  Just believe.

3.  Every cloud has a silver lining.  It wasn’t until this year that I realized, what that little old lady with a walker taught me.  I stumbled, but I did not fall.  BAM!  Silver lining.  I got in a car accident, but I am safe.  BAM!  Silver lining.  I’m struggling with finances, but I believe everything will work out for my good.  BAM!  You get the point.  Yes, hard stuff happens.  Yes, we have our struggles and our trials.  Yes, sometimes we fail, or people fail us.  But we learn from all of these things.  We grow.  Every time you lose someone, there opens an opportunity for someone new to come into your life.  Every time you struggle, you have the opportunity to learn, grow, and know how to change outcomes for the better next time.  Don’t see your losses or failures as a devastation.  They are opportunities for new and better things to unfold in your life and your circumstances.  Don’t look at what you lost, look at what you gained.

2.  The hard moments will pass.  A recent campaign that set out to encourage gay youth struggling with bullying and prejudice has gained new ground.  The concept behind the campaign?  It.  Gets.  Better.  This idea, though it once seemed preposterous to me, is true.  It does get better.  The hard moments will pass, things will turn around.  Sometimes it is a waiting game, but you have to hold strong, because I guarantee you things will start to look up.  Look, if anyone knows this, it is me.  So, trust me.  I waited 28 years for my life to change, and it happened.  I finally see this world in a new light.  I finally love myself and those around me.  I finally want to get as much out of this life as I possibly can.  I finally believe.  Was it worth the wait?  Absolutely.  The hard moments will pass, and as you get used to watching them come and go, they will get more brief and less intense.  The hard moments will be blinks in your vast reel of days, weeks, months, and years of the incredible that your life will become.

1.  God is good.  I have experienced and accomplished a lot over the past year, all of which, I am completely grateful for.  At the end of the day, when my work is done, I thank God that I have had an opportunity to do this work.  I have been treated for the traumas I have endured.  I have met tons of new people.  I have an incredible sponsor and incredible supports.  I have experienced new and exciting things that I never could have imagined.  I am living in a city that I used to think was only a distant dream.  I am living a life that I wasn’t sure even existed.  I have everything I could ever want and more.  All of this, is because of God.  I have done a lot of work, but only because God has provided me the opportunity to.  I was in treatment for 5 months, because insurance covered it.  If that isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what is.  I worked with some of the best therapists in the country, because God gave me that opportunity. I am grateful for all the support I have received, but none has been more important than that of my God.  I could sit here and try to claim this has all been because of my hard work, but that would be a lie.  Without God’s timing, ingenuity, and grace, all of my hard work would have been worthless.  At the end of my year, as I reflect, I am certain that this is the most important lesson I have learned.  When I had no faith, belief, or hope, desperation stepped in and gave me God.  God restored my faith, belief, hope.  God instilled in me a gratitude for my desperation.  God gave me a life worth living, and the desire to live it.  Without God, I’m not even sure I would still be here.  At the end of the day, I know that everything I learned this year, I learned because of lesson number 1: God is good.

HappyNewYearNeonFlash

Surviving Elementary School

“Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.”           ~Susan Taylor

I don’t typically watch the news.  I have a computer and a T.V. without cable, or even basic access.  I stick to Netflix, and I get my teeny bit of “news” from Philip Defranco, on YouTube.  That’s about as much as I can take.  In 2009, I had a therapist tell me to stop watching the news.  I took her advice.  I had, at the time, become overwhelmed, baffled, and distraught over the Shaniya Davis story.

I couldn’t understand how, someone could do that to their daughter.  I couldn’t understand how someone could do those things to a 5 year old.  I was starting to drown in a sea of headlines and news reports of just how evil this world is.

And it is true.  This world can be a very evil place.

I have spent a good chunk of the past few years overwhelmed by an issue that the rest of the world seems underwhelmed about: sexual violence.  Such violence is beyond an epidemic in our world, and repeatedly, our response is victim blaming, and sweeping it under the rug.  It makes me cringe to know that 1 our of 4 girls, and 1 out of 6 boys will be the victims of sexual abuse by the age of 18.  How do people walk around in their own little bubbles, oblivious of something so heinous?

I don’t know, they just do.

In some of the work I have done, I have teamed with people who had similar experience and ambition, wanting to do something on the matter.  What have I found?  That there are victims out there working toward solving a problem, without even having dealt with the issue in their own lives.  It is like someone with a still gaping and bloody bullet wound trying to fight for gun control.

First, you need to address your own trauma.

The hard part is, no one else is stepping forward to solve the issue.  All of those people who’ve never had to suffer through the trauma have no interest in dealing with something so dark and ugly.

This is just what I have found.

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I look around me, and I see people becoming passionately driven about the issue of guns and asking themselves, “what could of we have done to prevent the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012?”

I would never venture to claim that this question is not important, pertinent, or should not be asked.  I do, however, think that it is too soon to be torn apart by these issues.  Our hearts are still breaking from what happened, and the details that continue to unfold.  Our stomachs are still twisted by what the children of Sandy Hook must’ve witnessed that day.  Chills are still shooting down our spines to imagine what evil it takes to commit such an act.

How have we allowed this to lead to a divide?  What the survivors need right now, is a community to come together in support around them.  They certainly have a long, tough road ahead of them.

Repeatedly, through the past several years we have witnessed tragedy and allowed it to, even for a short time, bring us together in mourning and solidarity.  For the first time in my life, I have witnessed the opposite happen.  That is what breaks my heart now.

I think ALL of us will agree that something has to be done to attempt to prevent these massacres from happening again, no matter what side you’re on.  What that “something” looks like will start to materialize as we work on the matter.  I trust that.

At this point, I don’t care what that “something” is just yet.  I am still far too stricken with grief to start thinking strategy.  Am I alone in this?

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I look at the faces of the victims, and my throat starts to tense.  I hear their stories, and my eyes are filled with tears.  I cannot look at December 14th with a hard heart.  I find peace in my belief that these children are safe and happy now.  I find strength in the stories of heroism in the adults that fought for these kids with their very lives.

I remember too, those who survived, and I give them this message: you can overcome your trauma and live a fulfilling life.  This may be a struggle, but it does not have to defeat you.  This dark moment in your lives can become a place of strength, and a place of motivation.  You are in the thoughts and prayers of so many, and we will still have your hands when the heavy realization hits you of just how blessed you are to have faced and survived a trial that many will never even have to face.

To the rest of us, I say: stand down.  This is not a fight.  We are worn and we are weary.  We have faced far too much as a country this year.  Yes, we must address this issue, but please, for God’s sake, can we take a moment to grieve first?

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To all of us, I plead:  Do not let this destroy us.  We will march forward and we will advocate for the changes necessary to prevent such tragedy in the future, but first allow yourselves to grieve.  Before you stand up to fight, address your own trauma.  Make sure that when your time comes, when your voice rises, that you are in a place where you are strong enough to argue your side.  So many times, I have seen angels fall short here, and lose the drive to carry on.  We can heal.  We can overcome.  But first, we must grieve.

A heart must finish breaking before you can begin to mend it.

It is true that this world can be an evil place, but what is also true is that each of us has the ability to contribute to the good.  If you are going to pour fervently into this world, be sure that what you are pouring is positive.

mended heart

Resources:

Post Traumatic Growth

NY Times PTSD Article