So, when step 9 came around, my sponsor suggested that I write an amends letter to men, which upon my dismay she edited it to be an amends letter to the good men out there. Conveniently enough, I never got around to it. I never made that amends. Well, as those in recovery and anyone who believes in a loving higher power can attest to, sometimes God makes you do the steps that you didn’t want to do. With the #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen trend going around, I thought this would be a perfect time to write my amends letter to the good guys out there, so I can finally release my bitterness. So, here goes.
Dear Good Guys,
Hey, I guess I haven’t talked to most of you before, but I’m Noelle. I’m working the twelve steps and a part of those steps is making amends to all people we have harmed (except when to do so would injure them or others). I’m 30 years old at this point, so I guess I should make a point of apologizing to you. I apologize for generalizing you, for lumping you in with all the men that have hurt me. I was wondering the whole time where the f&%$ you were, but according to my sponsor, I can’t hold you accountable for something you did not know was happening to me, so I apologize for blaming you. I’m apologize for grimacing at you every time I walked by you. That probably wasn’t very nice of me. I apologize for assuming all men are sociopaths, when the percentage is actually significantly smaller and you were out there being a decent human being with genuine feelings and a heart for your fellow humans. To those of you I’ve gotten to know on an intimate level, I’m sorry for treating you like dirt, just because that is what had been done to me. I realize now that you, too, are human beings and I was being just as low as the men I’ve held so much resentment towards all this time. I’m especially sorry to the ones who fell into love/like with me and I ignored because I was annoyed by your “neediness.” I could’ve found a more compassionate way to handle that. Overall, I just want to say I’m sorry for being exactly like the a holes that have inspired me to build this gigantic wall around my icy, lifeless heart. From now on, I will do things differently.
God has recently made it very clear to me that I’ve been holding on to this bitterness for dear life, and it is time to let it go. I honestly do not know how to function without it. All I have left protecting me now is Jesus Christ, and I know that will be more than sufficient, but I feel naked nonetheless. So, this is me, making amends to the good guys, and giving my dear, lovely, comforting hatred of the male species over to God. He’ll know what to do with it. Because honestly, it never has actually served me well.
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.
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.
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.
IF YOU ARE IN CRISIS, CALL: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
I’ve had an incredible year, and for the first time in a looonnnnggggg time (if ever), I hate to see the year go. But I do know that a new year brings new beginnings, and I’m so excited to see what God has in store for me, because I know it will be good.
Yesterday, for the maybe 5th time, I watched the documentary, “I Am,” an incredible film that has changed my life. It got me thinking about how my part in this world can change everything. It made me realize that I don’t need power, or money, or my own non-profit organization to change the world. We are all interconnected, and my very mood has an affect on something else going on in this world. All I want to do is pour positivity and love into this world. Knowing that my heart’s signals set off a butterfly effect on this planet, makes me want to keep a smile always on my face.
When I was miserable, I thought I was the only one suffering. When I consider that my life changes, might’ve changed some vibration in this world for the better, it makes me appreciate my new happiness that much more. Someone else’s life might’ve changed for the better with mine. Beautiful.
“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” ~John F. Kennedy
In that respect, I made a decision for my New Year’s resolution. I don’t often make resolutions, and when I do, they do not look like weight loss or habit-changing. I want to contribute goodness to this world. I want to do my part to set a positive chain of events in motion, every. single. day. I made the decision to go out of my way to practice a random act of kindness every day for the year 2013.
My prayer, is that God presents me daily with an opportunity to help someone, and that in doing so, I start to make a shift for the greater good.
I will be writing about this experiment/resolution here, but I will not specifically name who I helped or how. I’m not doing this to receive kudos. I’m doing this to show those around me that even the little things can change the world. And to suggest that maybe others try this as well. I will be writing about it to discuss how this venture helps transform my life and perspectives in the process.
One afternoon, I was sitting with my mother on a bench at the front of one of those cafeteria restaurants. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of those, but the elderly seem to frequent them. The food is awesome and affordable, and the only downside is having to wait in a (sometimes very long) line for your food.
Anyway, as we were sitting there, a little old lady with a walker started walking into the restaurant. Right behind her, a woman was pushing an elderly relative in a wheelchair. She must’ve been unable to see how far away the lady with the walker was, because she accidentally hit the little old lady in the back of her ankles. As the lady stumbled, I watched with horror, unable to figure out what I could do, and afraid that she was about to fall to the ground. Though the lady stumbled, she did not fall. She was startled, but caught her breath, and walked on.
As she was stumbling, something stood out to me. Not knowing whether or not she was bound to impact against that floor, every step she took, she said “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!” That struck me as bizarre. I remember leaning over to my mom and whispering, “If she almost fell, why would she be thanking Jesus?” My mom’s answer was simple, but powerful, “I guess because she didn’t fall.”
At the time, I thought, wow that’s really stupid. I mean she almost just fell, I would be pissed at that lady who almost knocked me over!!!
My, how time changes us. When I look back now at that powerful, teachable moment I’m amazed by that woman’s response. I almost envy it now. I think wow, what a positive perspective to look at something like that and see the good in it.
I think we could all learn a lesson from that little old lady with a walker.
All I used to look at was the negative. Something small wouldn’t turn out my way, and my whole LIFE was OVER! Such drama. All I could see around me were the things that were going wrong. All I could have seen, had I been in that old lady’s shoes, was the fact that some reckless lady who doesn’t know how to push a wheelchair almost plowed me over. I’m a defenseless old lady, I would think. How could she?!
How often we look at something and lament over what didn’t go well.
How little we look at a stumble, and rejoice in the fact that we didn’t fall.
It is my prayer for myself and for all of us, that we become a little more like that old lady.
Tonight, on my way home from the gym, I stopped at a red light. Suddenly, there was chaos right in front of me. Two cars almost hit each other, and then neither one could decide who should drive away first. In a fury of frustration and anger, the driver in one of the cars threw up his hands, beat his steering wheel, and spit furiously what I can only assume were violent expletives. There were two cars who almost hit each other, and the drivers were enraged by the series of events. Two cars that almost hit each other, almost.
Safe, with both cars still in tact, they drove away cursing the universe for the negative thing that just happened, never seeing the pain from which they had just been spared.
How can we let one small unpleasant event dictate our days, or even our lives?
How can we overlook all of the little successes and blessings, thinking nothing of them?
That little stuff we’re overlooking… that’s the powerful stuff.
I look back on that small event at a cafeteria restaurant in North Carolina with gratitude. At the time, it seemed like nothing, but it stayed lodged in my memory through a lot. I am grateful that I can look back at that moment now and understand what that lady was thinking when she thanked Jesus repeatedly as she stumbled.
Wow! Thank God I didn’t fall! I may have stumbled, but I didn’t fall!
I am on your time, God, not my own. I thank you for teaching me patience. I am here to serve you, not myself. I am grateful for steady work and faith in your favor. I trust your promise. I trust that your view reaches lightyears beyond my own, and that your dreams for me go beyond any that I could dream for myself. I will be an honest representation of your life-saving love. I commit to doing your work, to being a shining beacon of light and love to those around me. If ever an opportunity to help my fellow human being arises, I will do so without hesitation. If moments of darkness surround me, I will keep my eyes on you. When circumstances threaten this foundation, I will not let them shake me. When I fall short of these promises, I will make amends to those who are affected. I thank you for teaching me forgiveness, both given and received. I thank you for teaching me unconditional love, that I may live this life fearlessly, and help others to do the same. ❤
I don’t know where to begin with the struggles I have recently faced and the miracles that have blossomed out of them. I know God has blessed me with a gift for writing, but I ironically believe that words can never suffice.
I kind of feel the need to fill you in about my journeys over the past 6 months. November 20th of 2011, I entered residential treatment for bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, an eating disorder, and substance abuse. Over the past few years, I have struggled with intense depression. I experienced depression most of my life, but it had intensified over the past 3 years, and I was being hospitalized pretty regularly. That was the main reason, I decided to look into residential treatment. That is how things seemed from my perspective anyway. Looking back on it now, I see so clearly how God had His hand in everything. He chose where I was going to go, and the moment I would arrive and leave. He carefully chose my treatment team, and my fellow survivors that I would meet along the way.
The work that I did from November 20-May 1 was the most intense work of my life. It was incredibly difficult to face the most trying moments of my past head on, and conquer them. We worked from 7 am to 10 pm daily, on dissecting and addressing our traumas. In that process, we were strengthened and equipped to move forward.
I worked with some incredible therapists while at Timberline Knolls. My primary therapist was a Christian therapist. At first I was uncertain as to whether or not I could share the ugliest parts of my past with her, but we built the trust and she constantly reminded me that I needed to push forward. She helped me to stay focused on the tasks at hand, my purpose of a life spent serving the God who had saved me. He pulled me through before, she promised, He won’t desert me now. Sometimes she was the only person who I could listen to, the only person who knew just what to say.
My family therapist sacrificed so much time to care for me directly, and was moved when she witnessed me evolve. I worked with specialists, art therapists, expressive therapists, and DBT therapists. We took every single angle in addressing every single issue. I was blessed with a team that I felt truly cared for me and believed that I was capable of overcoming.
Aside from my team, I met so many other residents who proved to me that survival was possible. They proved to me that some of the most beautiful people in this world, are the people who have been through the most. And you would never even know it. We would spend our brief bouts of free time, laughing, coloring, knitting, or in fellowship. You would never look at these women and know the horrors that they had lived through. Getting to know them on a personal level made me realize why I am so passionate about working against the issue of sexual violence. It helped me face the need in this world to build women up, to help them know that they are valuable, lovable, worthy, beautiful, and strong.
I cannot say enough about the impact that these women had on me. Through high school, college, and even in church, I feel like my strongest friendships were built with the women who were there to witness me break and rebuild.
May 1st, I left to go to “transitional living” in the Los Angeles area. After a week, I left.
The weeks since have been incredible, difficult, reinvigorating, transformative, and inspiring. It hasn’t all been fun. I have had moments of incredible stress. Two weekends ago, I started to fold. I wasn’t finding a job. I wasn’t finding a home. I was starting to believe I wasn’t capable of accomplishing everything I had dreamed of doing. I quickly felt as though the presence of God was draining out from around me. I started to lose faith. I started to lose hope.
Last Sunday morning, I went to a church that I had been looking into since I arrive in San Diego. I was certain that I simply needed to find a spiritual community. Initially, I found myself trapped in one of those, “Seriously?! Really?!” moments. You know, like the Saturday Night Live skit. Almost as soon as church started, I was worried. The sermon was on TRUTH, and I started to consider what my pastors would say on the issue. I imagined them saying that the enemy will lie to you, tell you that you are weak, or try to convince you that you are the person you used to be. I imagined them reminding me not to listen to the lies, that the voice that told me I was capable and worthy and loved was the voice of truth. That voice was the voice of God. This sermon didn’t go anything like that. If you can consider for a moment every single controversial political issue that has ever arisen in which churches felt moved to comment, that was in the sermon. Abortion. Homosexuality. Other religions. Evolution. The pastor even fit the justification for rape into his angry rant, explaining that men have and natural reaction to scantily clad women… “they’re just wired that way.” That was the point when I started frantically looking toward the doors. Just so you know, if you ever start to question whether or not doors will be barricaded if you try to make a run for it… you should probably make a run for it. I calmly headed to the doors, as if I was heading to the bathroom, but I just kept walking.
Let me tell you something that I genuinely believe. I believe there are people who are directly being used by the enemy (satan, evil, etc) through the church. The media has highlighted several of these recently in North Carolina. I believe that this can be the devil’s strongest tool against God. They are puppets for evil who hide behind the guise of Godliness. On a daily basis, they are driving more and more people away from the love of God. They are IN THE CHURCH, but working for the devil. It is a perfect set up. I am probably going to pay for this, but I am calling them out right now. They do not work for God.
I have been in churches whose motives are genuine and true. I have experienced churches where miracles are started, and hearts and minds are opened. It is true that they are rare, but they are out there, I promise. I didn’t not know, until recently that they even existed. I did not know that church could be a spiritual experience. I thought church was a punishment, a bore, and a waste of time.
When last Sunday morning unfolded, I was pretty pissed. I didn’t resign myself to the disappearance of God, like I might’ve in the past. I let the experience infuriate and motivate me. That was NOT going to be my first experience of church in San Diego. I was NOT going to let go that easily. I set out for the rest of the day, focused on my recovery, and on turning things around. I had a healthy, balanced lunch, and came home to find another option. I recalled that I had looked at a church with a Sunday evening service, and I decided to try that one out instead.
I have missed my church back home dearly. I was almost certain I wouldn’t find a comparable church anywhere else. That being said, I was wrong. My church in NC is awesome. They are loving, welcoming, and intentional representatives of Christ. Their hearts are moved from truth. Their lives were saved by the purpose they found in God. One of my church’s focuses has been children with special needs. The Pastor’s sister is a special education teacher, and one of the most devoted families in the congregation is a beautiful family whose son has autism. The issue is close to their hearts.
Being that my passion has long been the issue of sexual violence, I have dreamed of finding a church who was committed to working on the issue.
See, it was my work in Women’s and Gender studies that led me to God. I was driven into the area of study by personal experience and a motivation to change the world. The passion to do this work has been powerful and unyielding. It is the very reason I titled this blog “Incurable Hope.” Because the issue of sexual violence feels hopeless, but the glimmer of a hope that things can be changed is the only thing that has kept me going all along, even when I wanted to give up. I could have easily given up on myself, but I couldn’t give up on the masses of people across the world whose lives are devastated by such violence. There were times when I felt like one of the only people who cared about it. I grew overwhelmed, daunted, and weary. I was in a perpetual tug-of-war between letting go, letting go of this purpose, of this life, and of this fight; and holding on. Just before midnight on March 27, 2011, I gave it all over to God. I had come to the point where I wanted to quit, and I knew that faith would be the only thing that would pull me through. It was quite a stretch. I believed in God, but I was cynical, jaded, and bitter. I was irritated by all this “He” talk, and I thought “God” was the hateful dude who was hatin’ on the gay folk. I surrendered anyway, and hoped for the best.
What I have found on the other side of that commitment has been incredible. It has not been easy, but behind all of it, I have found purpose. I have seen grueling struggles give birth to huge life changes. These are changes I have been craving for years, growth that I have yearned to experience. I had been stagnant, and God had been waiting.
I had considered residential treatment, but God made it happen, with nearly 100% coverage from my insurance company, something that is incredible, and sadly, very rare. I made plans in the months before treatment and in the weeks since, but God constantly reminds me that he has more in mind for me. I have met people who have blessed my life. I have heard stories that have fueled my drive and reinforced my compassion. I have pushed through and overcome trials that can often cripple or kill people. In short, the blessings have been numerous.
Last Sunday night, I found a home church here. It is a different kind of church, a church focused on changing the world in a positive way… “not by making a point, but by making a difference.” By being living examples of Christ’s love in a world that doesn’t know it. Keep in mind that this world is not unfamiliar with that love due to a lack of churches. Oh no, I come from a town where there are almost more churches than people. They have had a KKK rally and a cross burning in the past couple of weeks. Lack of churches is not the problem. The truth is that church is completely useless if it is not conceived from the genuine nature of Christ’s love and compassion. And how many churches do you know that are like that?
The church that I found has a ministry that is committed to working against sex trafficking, both here in the U.S. and abroad. The moment I saw that, I knew God had led me to my church. He led me home. Thursday night’s service focused on impacting the world around us, being kind, lending a hand to someone in need. Simple gestures that are huge in a cold and distant world. It helped me realize why I had been guided here. I have been driven to do this work, and what I found in doing it, was that I couldn’t do it alone, in fact, as Alcoholics Anonymous puts it, “No human power could…” It is true. Doing it alone would’ve killed me. The world is largely unconcerned with the issue of sexual violence. It is just too much. I honestly believe that things can change with a sturdy spiritual foundation, with God behind the work being done.
I have been very active in AA, doing step work with a sponsor, and attending meetings regularly. The entire concept mirrors how I came to believe. We couldn’t do it alone. We needed God to help us overcome. And it is true also with other change. I have watched women devote themselves to the work of fighting sexual violence, and drowning in the hopelessness of the issue.
What makes me laugh is that, as I reflect on my old view of this struggle, I see that I wanted to change the world. The task seems far less daunting when I consider that it was already saved.
I don’t presume to know where things will go from here. God’s plans for me are irrelevant until they come to fruition. I move forward in pure faith. I know he will not let me down. I know he has my best interest at heart. I know he has my back. With that knowledge, what more do I need? With God, all things are possible. 🙂
April is sexual assault awareness month. I have a group of friends, who are all survivors, who live all across North America. We keep in touch and share our struggles with and fight against the issue of sexual violence. This month, we’ve decided to share each other’s blogs as we post about S.A.A.M. and what it means for us. One of those friends/survivors is Sheena. Here is her Facebook page. Here is her blog. She sent me interview questions, which I answered, and decided to share on my own blog.
Before I get to the questions, I want to share the shirt that I made last night, as a part of a survivors group. It is for the clothesline project. You can find out more about The Clothesline Project here. It was started as a grassroots effort to give survivors the forum to speak about their experiences as an aid in the prevention of and awareness around violence against women. Survivors are encouraged to make t-shirts conveying their “testimony to the problem of violence against women.” As I watched women all around me, I tried to think of what I wanted to say in regards to the issue. I wanted to express my pain and anger, but I also wanted to share my hope that we have the power to turn things around. I drew an image of a bird coming out of a heart, but the words continued to evade me. Then a bible verse popped into my head. It is Genesis 50:20 and it says: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. I think it adequately expresses the fact that we have the power to turn around what has been done to us and stop the cycle, a theme that was common as I answered the interview questions from Sheena. Here is a picture of my shirt:
Ok, and now for the interview!!! Enjoy:
1. Who are you?
Noelle: Freelance Writer, Future Banjo Prodigy, Recovering Addict, Self-Proclaimed Rock Star, Christian Feminist Slam Poet, Survivor
2. Does Sexual Assault Awareness month and Childhood Sexual Abuse Prevention Month hold any significant meaning to you? If so, why?
Yes, because I’ve experienced both and I think they are both completely unacceptable and unacceptably quiet experiences in the lives of far too many people.
3. What is your story?
4. According to some statistics, very few people report abuse & assault crimes. Why do you think that is?
Because our legal and medical systems, as well as our entire society as a larger whole pressures those who experience such violence to stay silent. Often times this pressure is carried out in the form of shaming and further abuse of victims.
5. Do you think abusers, rapist, molesters, pedophiles and the likes can be reformed, healed or changed?
I think anything is possible. Ask me if it is likely, and I will say no.
6. What do you want others to understand about those who have been victimized?
That such violence is completely unacceptable. That victims receive little to no support after such acts are committed. That our culture allows and even endorses sexually violent behavior, and that it is EVERYONE’s responsibility to start examining the way we live and making a genuine and vigorous effort to change. And that such violence is devastating in the lives of victims, but with support and dedication, such violence can be overcome.
7. What’s been the most difficult thing to deal with as it relates to what you’ve experienced?
The most difficult part of my experience to deal with is how I was treated after I was victimized. Again and again, I was either completely ignored or simply not believed. I was belittled, accused, ignored, and silenced, not only by the legal system, but by my loved ones.
8. How have you dealt with your own personal rage at the traumatic things that have happened to you?
Honestly… I haven’t. I’m still working on simply allowing myself to feel the rage, because I spent my entire life trying not to feel any of it. Whenever I do feel rage, I want to sit with it, embrace it, and express it. I feel like I deserve that.
9. What was an unexpected thing that aided in your growth and healing?
God. It was very hard for me to get past the idea of God as a man, or that God had allowed these things to happen. I was angry and full of blame. What I realized was that I was misunderstanding God. I had always listened to what others believed God was, and I didn’t like what they had to say, but I lived with that God for a long time. Now, I realize that God is more personal than that. God isn’t some giant angry white dude in the sky with a long beard. I see God in a way that comforts me. I also had to make the distinction that God and people are two different things. People have free will. People f*ck up, in major ways. God doesn’t hurt us, God is there to comfort us when people have.
10. What encouraging words do you have to offer for anyone who has ever been abused or assault?
Keep going. Don’t give up. We have the power to change things. What happened was unacceptable and inexcusable. Allow yourself to feel, and remember that everything you feel is valid. Trust yourself. This doesn’t have to break you.
11. What have you learned considering your experiences?
Too much to write here. So much.
12. What do you think is the most important thing the world needs to hear?
We hold the power to turn things around.
13. What brings you ultimate joy?
My future. My nephew. God. My dog. 😀
14. What’s your favorite quote?
“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” -Dorothy Bernard
15. Who inspires you? Why?
My sister, because she taught me to question authority, and that you can make your own family without recreating the mistakes of your parents.
16. Is there anything else you’d like to share? This is your space to say whatever you want to say unedited, unscripted and without any filters.
To Be Continued… 🙂