Saturday, September 22, was the 3 year anniversary of when I was raped… most recently. Let me explain. This was not the first time. I have a long history of surviving these experiences, starting as early as the ages of 3 and 5. And this is not uncommon. Many people, especially those who started their lives as victims, are victimized again. Predators have a keen sense of who would be a good victim, and those who were victimized in their formative years know no other way of being. It has taken nearly a decade of intense therapy to unlearn the things that I was taught as a child victim.
I hear a lot of people substitute the word “survivor” in place of “victim.” In the years that you are just surviving, this is very accurate. You’re a victim when it happens, and a survivor in whatever you do afterwards to keep yourself alive, moving forward. I developed addictions, an eating disorder, and other self destructive behaviors to survive. My brain could not cope with reality. How could it? Reality was a living nightmare. Pure hell. These are the things I did to survive. To kill this thing inside of me. To get by despite it all. I thought I was doing pretty well. I didn’t realize the extent to which these experiences were destroying my life, until my behaviors came to a head. It was life or death from there. Keep doing what I was doing and let it kill me, or fight and as a result, live. My problem was, I didn’t want to live. I had no interest in it whatsoever. Which is why I nearly died numerous times. But there was some sort of secret spark in me. It was the bane of my existence, and it wanted me alive, when every other part of me wanted to die. It was my incurable hope. And thus, this blog was born, to document it. To explore it.
Today, I don’t see myself as a survivor. I am beyond that. I use the terminology, because it is what people are familiar with. Today, I am a thriver. My life, my success, my flourishing, is my big “fuck you” to everyone who hurt me. Though, today, I’m not angry or bitter. I let that go. It was too heavy. I punished myself with it long enough, believing that I was somehow punishing them by doing it. All I knew was someone had to pay. But I forgive myself for that now. I didn’t understand. I forgive most people, but contrary to popular belief, forgiveness is not necessary for healing. Some things, only God can forgive. I am only human. Today, my heart hurts for that little girl, for every little girl still living and suffering. Not just those who are still being abused, but those who are now grown women, with little girls still trapped inside, reliving it daily. Punishing themselves for the acts of others.
Look, I’ve come a lot further than a lot of former victims ever do. I’ve been blessed. But I do know this: I am supposed to share my experience so that the others know it is possible to not just survive, but to thrive. To use the pain as fuel. To live your meaningful lives. These are things you CAN overcome. As a matter of fact, there’s now even a name for that: posttraumatic growth. And you can achieve it. I promise you, you can.
I don’t want to make it seem like these these things won’t affect you for the rest of your life. They never go away. They will always hurt. At times, they still haunt me. But it is possible to get to a place where they no longer control you. Where they do not shake you. Where you can observe them from a distance that will prevent you from broken by them every. single. time. You’re heart can hurt for the child within, but you will be equipped to comfort her with the compassion you never received. You. Can. Heal. And you can help others do the same. Once you find that love for yourself, you will want to share it with others. ALL of us who were victimized deserve that.
I am a part of a running group that chooses a cause or charity every month as their focus. Everyone in the group donates towards that cause. We get a ticket in a raffle for every mile, or 20 minutes worth of exercise we do each day. At the end of the month, the tickets are drawn for raffle prizes. It is called “good running” because we are using our running to work towards bettering our world.
Everything I do is an attempt at improving the world around me, and this is just one way.
I volunteer for Hospice. I share my triumphs and my struggles. I express my gratitude and apologize for my mistakes. My main goal in life is for the world to be a better place because I am/was in it.
Many people don’t realize this, but my self-care is an integral part of my effort to have a positive impact on the world around me. I believe is was Rumi who said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today, I am wise so I am changing myself.” This has become my philosophy. In order to be of any use to anyone else, I must first address my needs. Also, I AM changing the world, by starting with myself. Believe it or not, I have seen that have a HUGE impact on those around me.
This week’s celebrity suicides have brought to the forefront of our minds the issues of mental health, suicide, stigma, and survival. It just so happens, that this month’s cause in my Good Running group is mental health. As someone in recovery from addiction and an eating disorder, and as someone who struggles with the affects of a mood disorder, and the lingering effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, these issues are always in the forefront of my mind. This is my every day battle. This is why I try to go to bed at a reasonable hour, and get plenty of rest. This is why I wake up each morning and make my bed. Why I organize and take my meds religiously. Why I try my darnedest to eat a balanced diet and practice moderate, regular exercise. Why I go to AA meetings, a psychiatrist, a therapist, a dietitian, and work diligently as both a sponsor and a sponsee. This is my life. This is my every day. Even when the suicidal thoughts aren’t present, I am working tirelessly to make sure they don’t have the environment they need to appear or grow or fester in my mind. My mind is like a garden that I tend to each day. And my body and spirit are just as important, in keeping my mind a healthy place. They are all intricately connected. It is hard, constant work, but it is so amazingly worth it.
Words cannot convey how worth it, it is. But let me tell you this… if you’ve ever seen the change of the light in someone’s eyes, when they finally grasp and really begin to pursue recovery, you’ll know. Something changes. It is just as palpable as a corpse once the spirit has departed. Only this is the opposite of that. It is like, for the first time, someone is finally ALIVE!
I have so much love in my life! I cannot REALLY look around at the people who surround me and not start to get choked up. Runners, artists, teachers, caretakers, addicts in recovery, patients who devoted their lives to becoming the counselors, survivors of sexual violence, those who’ve conquered their eating disorders, those who’ve taken back their power, and declared victory over their lives. I’m surrounded by them. Supporters. And when I struggle, a single post on Facebook sends them the battle cry. And they step up. They always step up. They are always there. To run with me. To go to a meeting with me. To combat ed’s voice with me. To remind me to keep going when I just want to sleep. To ask me if I’ve taken my meds, or written recently, or called my sponsor, or had a hug. I’m blessed.
And the exciting thing is… THEY. ARE. EVERYWHERE. And they will help you too. Because that’s what they do. They’re helpers. And when they’re the ones in need, and you’re the one who is able, you return the favor. You can’t keep what you’ve got unless you give it away. That’s how this works.
This is community.
There is a wealth of hope and resources and people ready and willing to tell you how much you matter, and how worth the fight you are. And you are. There are so many just waiting to offer a hand, to lift you up and walk with you into hope. So, don’t give up. Let’s figure out a way to surround you with these kinds of people too. Because life can actually be so fucking incredible. I promise.
He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22:41-44 NIV
This is not only my favorite part of the Easter story, but quite possibly my favorite moment in the entire Bible. We know Jesus is God in human form, but this is his most human moment. I imagine the prayer/conversation going something like this (paraphrasing, of course): “So, God/father, I know I have to be crucified and all, but I was just wondering if there might be a way to get around that whole part of this? Its going to suck pretty badly, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask if there was any other way to do this? I mean, at the end of the day, its your will, not mine. Just wanted to check.”
Who of us would not feel like that with such a task at hand? Overwhelmed, scared, full of dread. And yet, who of us would have the strength to surrender to God’s will with such an impending fate? I love that God sent an angel to strengthen him. It shows the ability of God to strengthen us in times of desperate struggle. For us, the angels may be literal or figurative, referring to people that He sends. Either way, He strengthens us. He sends help. He listens to our anguish. Jesus knew the reason he came. He knew this event was unavoidable and would feel unbearable, and yet he asked God for a way out. And yet, he ultimately surrendered to God’s will. He knew his mission and the purpose, and knowing how it would feel, he ultimately agreed to it… For us.
He knew the purpose it would serve was too great.
How many times have I begged God for a way out?
How many times have I pleaded for another way?
And did he listen? Always.
And did he strengthen me to get me through? Absolutely.
And did my anguish end up serving some greater purpose, either for myself or others? Every. Single. Time.
Did my ultimate surrender to God’s will help me accept the task at hand? You bet.
God is faithful when our fears distract us. God is present in our struggle. He will give us the strength to get through and accomplish great things. He is there. He is there because He knows our anguish. He has felt it for himself. He knows our desperation and fear. He’s been there. Even when we feel like He has forsaken us, still, He remains at our side.
When I was a child
my sister was jealous
of my ability to color
inside the lines.
It was the only arena
in which my capacity
outranked her own.
My compulsive attention to detail started there.
The irony of this is not lost on me.
My life has been lived
staying inside of lines.
I have been bound behind them,
constrained by myself
but I can never manage to stay for very long.
My wanderlust has launched me
or great escapes,
or entirely different realms.
Those that even I
had never dared dream.
I have been like an angry mass
who cannot be contained.
Not by tear gas,
or fire hoses,
or any aggressive show of force.
Or a child
who still finds herself
scribbling in crayon
on the walls,
and illustrations of stories
that only I can understand.
raging behind my eyes
has always been
entirely too ferocious,
and has always spread
entirely too quickly
to ever be extinguished.
And I have found that life,
can only be experienced
outside of these lines
that are drawn for us,
or those we sometimes manage
to draw for ourselves.
There dwells the buttery richness
hidden in flaky layers
of a fresh croissant,
drizzled in the decedance
of chocolate or honey.
There dwells the freedom
we seek within our slavery,
where the weight of our chains disappears,
and we can finally
No, I was not born
to be bridled,
or color inside the lines.
This earth needs me
so that I may share my tales
of life untamed.
The beauty of the risk
in living unrestrained.
In the image of God,
with an inability to be fathomed
Endlessly celestial and
too colossal for a cubicle,
Both yearning for the touch of others
too delicate and vast to be held.
This Valentine’s Day, I held the heart of a guinea hen in my hand. Organs are slippery, y’all. *insert gaggy-type emoji here*
Today, I had the opportunity to be a part of the slaughtering process on a friend’s farm. It was such a strange invitation for Valentine’s Day, I had to accept.
THIS is my life. Welcome. Pull up a chair.
Sometime last year, I was flooded with a scary bout of depression that very briefly threatened my life, and gave me a reminder of our mortality, especially mine, with the history that I have. I decided from that experience that this life is far too short to say “no” to ANY opportunities that come my way. I decided to say “yes” from now on, no matter what, no matter how scared I might be. Actually, I decided to say “yes” ESPECIALLY in spite of how scared I might be. (This is real life, y’all. Live it!) The time that has followed since has included, zip lining, paragliding, sky diving, fearlessly diving into dating, and many other endless adventures. When the new year started, I decided to take it a step further and try something new EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Today, I assisted in the animal slaughtering process.
To be honest, I’ve been teetering on the edge of vegetarianism for some time now. With the spiritual growth I’ve experienced in the past 6 months, I struggled with the consumption of animals that were hurt and traumatized prior to death. I believe that energy affects their bodies, and what we consume affects our bodies and our spirits. I believe that trauma most certainly has some impact upon us. I’ve also struggled with the environmental costs that come with meat consumption. My goal in this life is to positively contribute to the world in everything I do. I want this place to be better because I was/am here. I’ve also been squeamish about meat for several years now, which has made me wonder if I should give it up entirely. I figured today would be a good opportunity to confront what exactly it means to consume meat.
Today’s opportunity gave me plenty of time to reflect quietly. The farm I was on gives these animals a full, free life. The animals are treated luxuriously, and the slaughtering process is probably a hundred times more gentle than it would be in a factory setting. The lives these animals lived and the methods of their deaths CANNOT be compared to that of commercial farms. Let me be very clear about that. Today was an excellent chance for me to give that some honest thought. So, aside from the ethical question of whether or not to eat meat, I was allowed a chance to also consider carefully from where I source my meat.
I had friends who asked about pictures from today, but the entire process was treated very reverently, which felt entirely appropriate. I had come from visiting a Hospice patient, and to be honest, when I saw the first guinea hen die, I got choked up. It felt very similarly to when my first patient died. Someone asked me a question, and it was hard to talk clearly without my voice cracking. It is hard not to see death in any instance as a spiritual experience. Death is intense and powerful, and at the same time, it has never been something that I shied away from. If I were uncomfortable with death, I wouldn’t work for Hospice.
I was welcomed to help in any part of the process that I felt comfortable with. I helped with a few parts of cleaning after the death. I do not think that I could, at any time, become comfortable with actually killing the animal. NO part of the process felt comfortable. I started with what seemed easiest. A lot of it is a very delicate and careful process, that I feel too crippled by self doubt to try and approach. I’m not generally terribly enthused about trying anything with too much room for error.
The entire process was quite draining and overwhelming. I am still reflecting upon the experience, but I am grateful to have had it. It actually seemed like a very meaningful way to spend Valentine’s Day. I am grateful to the family that allowed me to be there, and participate at my comfort level. How I will approach meat consumption moving forward is still up for debate, and I will require more time to ponder, meditate, and probably write about the experience, so that I can see further into it and its meaning, and process how exactly it made me feel.
Where your food is coming from, and what exactly it takes to get to your table is something we all need to spend some time considering carefully. Food is not only nourishing our bodies, but also impacting us and our world in ways which we remain comfortably unaware. I’ve learned in eating disorder recovery that food is so important. It is never “good” or “bad.” It is something our bodies and our minds need, and it is equally important to consider how food might be nourishing or harming our souls as well. This world needs us to be intentional about every choice we make right now. Just some food for thought moving forward. Take some time to chew on that. 😉
I don’t know if any of you have heard of The Good Men Project, but let me go ahead and recommend them. I follow them on Facebook and on Twitter. They have some amazing articles that inquire, uplift, and inform. Today I saw one titled “An Open Letter to my Future Wife: How I Plan to Make You Happy Every Day of Your Life.”
Recently, I have been coming to terms with what it means to be a new person in Christ (yes, even 3 years into this journey) and to act like it when interacting with the opposite sex. I am so used to interacting with them one way, that I’m having to learn what it means to do things differently, in a way I’ve never done it before. God is basically reforming my DNA, which is no small feat. And, it is not without setbacks and screw ups. But He has made one thing very clear, we do things differently around these parts, and it is time I started walking the walk.
So, in an effort to imagine what my NEW future will be like, I was inspired to write an open letter to my future husband. I never dreamed of getting married in the past, but I suppose I should start considering it. I’m dedicated to this with everything I’ve got, and an open heart and mind. Here goes.
Hello there, future husband,
I wish I wasn’t at such a loss of words already in this letter. I’m hoping that isn’t a horrible sign.
I read a letter someone wrote to their future wife today. In it he promised all of these things that he would do for his wife. And I thought I would love to have a husband like that. Unfortunately, at this point, I’m only starting to consider that men like you exist, so hopefully, I’ll be more willing to believe when we meet.
That being said, I want to tell you what I will be willing to do for you, my loving, supportive, and stable love of my life.
There are lots of things I cannot offer you, because as they say “every saint has a past,” but I know you will be able to value what I can offer.
I will have an open ear to listen whenever you have something you need to talk about, and a shoulder to lean or cry on when things get hard. And whenever you need it, I will have an encouraging word. I want to pour into you as much as you pour into me.
I promise to always have an open mind and heart with you, to trust God and to trust you with my whole heart.
I promise to share with you everything that goes on in my life with a candor with which I can only speak to you and to God.
I promise to keep the passion of our youth ignited well into old age, to always have surprises for you, and to look at you the same way in 50 years as I did when we first fell in love.
I promise to let you listen to your music in the car at least 50% of the time, no matter what kind of music you like, without complaining at all about it.
I promise to do everything I can to foster a physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy me, and a physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy us.
I promise to always consider your needs.
I promise to stay dedicated to the love of our God and to the love of our family, whatever that looks like in our life together.
I promise to always work on being a better communicator.
At this point, I feel pretty satisfied with the idea of never having children, but if you definitely want to, I am willing to compromise, because I know I will have your love, support, and stability throughout the entire process. I will not be in it alone, and neither will you.
If you decide to make a big change for the better in your life, I will support you with everything I have. I want you to be happy more than I want anything materialistic.
Most importantly, knowing that I can trust you never to hurt me, I offer you unconditional love. I do not take vows lightly. If I promise to stay dedicated to something, I will see it through to the very end, so even when you have the most difficult, ugliest of moments, I will love you through it.
I love you already, and I cannot wait to start our life together!
Your Future Wife
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)