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)
Sexual Assault. Do you have to go through it to care about it?
This question always arises for me every April. I have a lot of friends who know someone with autism, and thus, support Autism Awareness month, which also happens to be April. This year, I see that friends who know someone who’ve benefited from an organ transplant supporting organ donation. April is also Organ Donation Awareness month. What simultaneously inspires and disheartens me is the fact that these people know someone who have been through these things, so they support these causes. Every one of these people, and the other 400 people on my Facebook page, know at least one person who has been sexually assaulted: me. And yet, the only people I see supporting this cause are the people who have themselves lived through such violence.
I think this is a huge problem in our culture. “As long as I haven’t been raped, then who cares?” Right? Why do I continuously find that the only people driven to stop sexual violence are those who have personally lived through it? Is it really that hard to imagine how awful it is if you haven’t experienced it? Do you really not care that much about the women and men in your life who have been victimized by sexual predators?
I think a lot of it has to do with the silence surrounding the issue, because it sure as hell isn’t the lack of prevalence. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18. (Finkelhor, David, et al. “Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors.”) Are you really going to tell me that you don’t know at least 4 women or 6 men?
No, a lot of it has to do with our silence around the issue. Anything sexual is taboo. You know, as long as it isn’t sexual imagery in time square, music videos, magazines, television, movies, or books. From Fifty Shades of Grey to Abercrombie ads, sexuality is everywhere. However, when it comes to sexual violence, we best not talk about it. Virgin ears, and all.
Or maybe it is the violence part of it. Although, I recently saw Olympus has Fallen, and it suggests Americans have an endless thirst for blood. What’s a movie without a good knife through the head, eh?
Nah, it is just the careful combination of sexual and violence that sends people fleeing in a frenzy.
Let me be frank, you know someone, nay, you know A LOT of someones who have been sexually assaulted in their lives. Not convinced? Start asking around. Your eyes might just open. It is likely that your between your daughter, sister, best friend, mother, aunt, or cousin, at least one has been sexually assaulted.
What then is our problem with talking about it?
I venture to guess that this culture of victim-baming has a lot to do with it. As most recently displayed in the Steubenville rape case, which has brought out the Ugly and the Brave around the issue of victim-blaming. Keep her full of shame = Keep her silent = Let’s just pretend this stuff never happens = No one cares about Sexual Assault Awareness month, except for survivors of sexual assault.
Maybe I am being blunt, but I am personally insulted by the lack of interest around the issue. And I expect a few more people to be displaying their teal ribbons after today.
Let me tell you, from personal experience, about the residual effects of trauma. After it happened, I could barely sleep. I stayed awake, alarmed by any small sound in the night. I never felt safe. I have yet to be able to trust men. I have flashbacks, that feel as though I am reliving the trauma over again. Therefore, I relive it over and over again. My startle reflex is incredibly sensitive. When I went to see Olympus has Fallen, I was jerking repeatedly, startled by the loud sounds. Even a shadow on my computer screen makes me jump. Whenever I am put into a vulnerable situation, I get disoriented and overwhelmed. My pupils dilate, and I become sensitive to sounds. Walking to my car in a parking lot at night, for example. I avoid situations which might trigger these effects, such as: being around men, being by myself outside, being intimate with someone, or alone at night. It has been years, and I am still working to undo the harm done.
I’m not saying I am not living a fulfilling life. What I am saying is that it has taken years of hard work to get to where I can. And what I want to impress upon you is that my case is lucky. I’ve had a lot of resources that most people never have. Such violence haunts a lot of people till the day they die. It breaks their souls. And mending a soul isn’t easy. And even when mended, there will always be scars.
That is all I’m trying to say. Sexual violence is an issue worth caring about.
I know the holidays can be this expectation-filled, anxiety-ridden ball of stressful days in rapid succession. Let’s be honest, once Halloween hits, you know it will be the new year before you know. At least, that’s how it goes for me. I know the year is over with pumpkins and costumes. The rest of it turns into a blur of get-togethers, sugar overloads, and family reunions.
I know a few people who were dreading the days they would have to spend with family. There’s a huge expectation of presentation and performance with holidays. We have to put on like we’re happy, and we love our dysfunctional relatives. We have to catch up, and cherish time spent together. We have to make a perfect turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, or other goodies. We have to spend money and give presents we can’t afford to make someone think we can. We have to try our damnedest not to micromanage, helicopter parent, or argue.
Heck, I’m visiting my sister, and I have already argued with my dad who happens to be 3 states away. It is a stressful time. We have a performance to nail, and dealing with traveling doesn’t make it any easier.
I’ve learned something in the process of working the twelve steps that helps me in these situations. See, a big part of why we [drink, use, overeat, under-eat, self-harm, gamble, shop, or ___(fill in blank)___ ] is because we carry around resentments. It is a big part of step four, to work through those resentments–to realize that the people who have hurt you are sick, and need your compassion and sympathy; and also, to see your part in things and remedy the situation as best you can.
A lot of people go back to their addiction(s) of choice because they get a resentment, and it takes them back into sickness. This is why, as in step 10, we continue to take a personal inventory and when wrong, admit it. Resentments will kill us. Resentments keep us firmly rooted in the problem.
This is why, I tread lightly on the grounds of my anger. I do not want to become rooted there. I have noticed that when I become angry, I can step away from the situation to let my feelings work themselves out. It is easy, after having a little time, to realize where you too might have overreacted. This is very helpful, not only in recovery, but in dealing with people or situations that can overwhelm you, such as holidays.
Always remind yourself of how precious your time is. October to January just flew past your very eyes. Keep that in mind. Years and lives fly in much the same way. Your in-laws or family may rub you the wrong way, but your time with them is short. This may either be a blessing, or a reminder to enjoy them while they are here. Either way, it is a good thing to keep in mind.
“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”~ Dr. Seuss
The argument I hear a lot from people who get offended by my spiritual beliefs is, “What kind of God lets . . . happen?”
Now, let me start by saying this, I don’t argue about my spiritual beliefs, though I often find that people want to argue with me. I don’t have a problem with people believing or not believing whatever they please. I’m not here to change anyone’s mind.
I do however, argue with myself. I pose these questions to myself, and to God, and give them serious thought. I’ve thought about the question a lot. Since I’ve been reading The Shack, I’ve had an opportunity to really think about the answer to that question.
This is a bit of a SPOILER ALERT, but the book takes an opportunity to teach us that, due to free will, bad things often happen because people make bad choices. After a year spent in treatment, healing, and acceptance, I finally do accept that as an answer for some of the bad stuff. Certainly, life would be meaninglessly dull were it not for free will. We would all be the same, doing exactly the right things, the same things. We’d be drones. The relationship between us and God would be more of a dictatorship.
The truth is that people only come into a relationship with God through a choice, often made in a moment of desperation. When I chose to know God, I was in a place where I had nothing else to lose. Well, maybe one thing could’ve been lost; my life. I knew that I had had glimpses of life, or happiness, and I wanted those more than I wanted to die. And even though I had NO IDEA what a relationship with God would mean, I walked into the uncertainty knowing it was my only hope. For the first time in my life, I made a commitment.
We come into this relationship, because we make a choice between what was and what could be.
I don’t want to be a puppet. My relationship with God means so much more, since it was I who wanted in. It was never forced on me. We all, at some point, have that moment, that way in. We all make this decision.
That being said, free will is both a blessing and a curse. Because we are not forced into goodness, or perfection, we also have opportunities to choose darkness. Because of that choice, people can be hurt or lost, for seemingly no reason at all. Someone chose to hurt me as a child, and I was left to clean up the wreckage because of their choice. This is common.
I kn0w that in the midst of pain, it is hard to accept this answer, but after a long examination of my beliefs, I do agree.
In my head, I’m still left to make sense of the things that aren’t caused by a bad person or a bad choice: An illness. A miscarriage. A natural disaster. The list could go on; a list of all the things that cannot be explained away by free will, and the nagging question: why?
What repeatedly arises is the difference, for me, between a life without God and a life with God.
I used to blame God for everything. Why I even believed in God is still baffling to me, because I was angry at him, and blamed him for everything that went wrong. Oh the moments I spent actually cursing at God with a grimace on my face and an angry finger pointed to the sky! I do not understand why I believed in a God that was so horrible to me. Why not just NOT believe in him at all?
But I did, and I gladly took every chance that arose to hate him.
At this time in my life, I looked at every bad thing as a punishment, or simply an act of a spiteful God. Because I’ve had a chance to work through healing, I see things differently now.
I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I used to start cursing at God if I dropped my books. No big deal, but there I was having words with this hateful God of mine. Those things don’t get to me anymore. A pause. A deep breath. And there I am, picking those books back up. No. Big. Whoop. That changes a lot.
I see the value in free will, and I understand that there are people who use that to accomplish negative, and even evil acts.
Most importantly, I see the error of my own ways. Working the twelve steps certainly gives me some perspective on the destruction I have left in the wake of my bad decisions. I see now that I can’t control what others have done to me. Wounds are left behind by sick people. I was sick once too. I hurt people too. My job now isn’t to dwell on fixing what others have done to me, it is make amends for the things that I have done to others. They call it “keeping your side of the street clean.” I do my part in making the world a better place, making up for the hurts that I have caused, and doing things differently now.
Yes, I see things very differently now. And when I think about the things that cannot be explained away by free will, I know that these are life’s experiences that make us who we are. We have to struggle. We have to face hard stuff. Who would we be without these hardships? These tragedies? Just as we would be without free will: drones. We would have nothing to bring us together, or make us unique. We would be weakly little things, incapable of facing anything.
When I think about how strong I am because what I have faced, I know I wouldn’t trade a single experience. I have the ability to say that I am a survivor. I have a faced adversity, and come out on the other side of things; stronger because of it. I also know, because of my past, that you can’t put anything before me that I won’t be able to conquer.
“Lose not yourself in a far off time, seize the moment that is thine.” ~Friedrich Schiller
I heard a song recently that brought up a lot of new emotions for me. Some of you may remember it “Graduation (Friends Forever)” by Vitamin C. Don’t judge. I don’t know why I download this crap, but I do. It started playing, and at first I wanted to turn it to the next song, but I didn’t. As I listened, it wasn’t far into the song that I burst into tears. I don’t know, blame it on hormones. It is a pretty awful song, but as I listened to it, it suddenly hit me how old the song was, and how old I am. I started thinking about how life was when I was in high school, and how it felt like every single day was going to last forever. Days go by so quickly now, that years are over before a blink or a breath have the opportunity to complete themselves.
“The clock talked loud. I threw it away, it scared me what it talked.” ~Tillie Olsen
I have been struggling a lot lately with this, as I do twelve step work. I suddenly feel like all the time I spent “living it up” was time wasted. All the years that actually last for a minute, are gone, and I barely remember them. Now time flies so quickly that I see people around me getting married, having kids, having second and third kids, doctorates being earned, marriages ending in divorce, and/or lives ending, period; and I’m left with my head spinning, still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.
There’s this sinking feeling in my gut, like everyone who was ahead of me by a small head start has now nearly completed their lives, and my proverbial clock is ticking. Not even my reproduction clock! I can’t even support myself at this point. It is my death clock. My death clock is now ticking, people. This is serious.
“Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.” ~Dion Boucicault
I get that my life hasn’t been a waste. It took a lot of ups and downs to land me in the spot where I am now standing, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have the growth, perspective, and relationship with God that I now have. My relationships with everyone around me have improved. How could they not? We’re maturing.
I know myself well enough to know that this is what it took to get me here, and nothing short of it would have sufficed. I am stubborn and hard-headed and feverishly determined. It is just that this is the first time I have started to put those qualities to use toward something productive.
“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” ~Abraham Lincoln
Look, I matured an unnatural amount with in an incredibly short period of time. In the time between last August and now, I have learned so much, and evolved so much. I love who I am, and the opportunities I have had are such an incredible blessing that nothing I could ever do would be enough to thank God and my loved ones for the support it took to have them. I also realize what a privilege it is to have had the kind of treatment it takes to overcome the things I have struggled with. I never forgot that while I was in treatment. I was pained to see what a small portion of the population has access to that kind of healing, and I had to keep pushing forward because I knew if I wanted to be a part of any positive change in this world, I had to start with a positive change in me. It took a lot to accept such a huge gift.
So now, in the interest of candor, I will tell you what I face.
As soon as Vitmain C’s song ended, Eminem came on. “Lose Yourself.” I know this was a God wink. 😉
It is like God was saying: you used to have your whole life ahead of you, but time has passed, and before you even know it, your whole life will be behind you. Time to jump in with both feet. This is not the time to hold back or freeze up.
I gave you this life, LIVE IT! This is your chance, USE IT!
“Let him who would enjoy a good future waste none of his present.” ~Roger Babson