The Letter No One Read

We are now 1.49 years into this journey known as my blog. And by now I’m sure you know a lot about me.

In case you don’t know a lot about me: I use humor to hide my pain.

That’s it. That’s all you need to know about me in a nutshell.

But, many of you know the whole, ugly truth about my life. And I’ve talked about many things on this blog–Depression, Sexual Assault, self-harm, my eating disorder–but, there’s one thing I’ve never really talked about. I’ve talked about it briefly in passing, as if it were no big deal. Honestly, it is a big deal. And honestly, I need to talk about it, because I’m on a journey of healing, and you know what they say about healing…

To put it bluntly: 3 and a half years ago, I attempted to commit suicide.

Looking back on it now, I have no idea what led me to that point. I have no recollection of what straw broke the depressive’s back. I can’t remember the days and weeks leading up to this event. But I do remember that dark, dark night.

I remember coming home from Youth Group and thinking, “I can’t do this anymore.” I remember cutting my wrists, crying quietly as the blood dripped from my skin, I remember writing a letter, and when I was done, taking some pills.

And then I remember crawling in bed, waiting to die. I remember hearing a quiet, yet strong voice.

You’re not alone.

3 words. So simple. But they saved my life. (It’s amazing the parallel here. 3 words saved my life. 3 words describe life: it goes on.)

I threw up the pills. I hid the letter no one read, and with it I hid the memories of this night somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind.

That is…

Until last night when I found the letter in a stack of notebooks on my bookcase.

I cried as I read it, because I saw so vividly the night when 15 year-old me decided to write it. And last night I realized how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown, how much I’ve learned.

Dear whoever’s reading this,
If you’re reading this, I’m probably most likely dead. And I bet you wish you knew why. I do too. The truth is, I don’t know. I have no idea, but I feel like I’m drowning. My lungs are filled with water, and they can’t take in air. I’m finding it hard to breathe. And I don’t really know where I am, what I’m doing, where I’m going. I can’t live like this any longer.

I’m not sure you’ll understand. I don’t either. But things have happened to me, and I can’t tell you. I’ve never been one to ask for help, and I can’t start now. Because right now, my pain is too much to lay on you. I’m hurting. I’m bleeding colors I didn’t know existed. I’m crying emotions I shouldn’t feel. I’m so filled with self-hate, I can’t feel anything else. The world is so full of ugly, and all I want to be is beautiful.

I’m fighting a war I shouldn’t be fighting. I’m defending myself from me. My mind is a booby trapped maze filled with hundreds of tons of dynamite. My body is a graveyard for all the battles lost. I’ve tried to fight harder and harder,but it’s exhausting to fight without back-up. It’s exhausting to fight at all. My life is a roller coaster that only spins down. And I can’t live it anymore. They’ve won.

I’ve never been good at goodbyes, so don’t imagine it this way. It’s more of a TTFN–ta ta for now. I’m trying to find happiness some place else other than here, a place where I can’t find peace.

I hope one day you find it too.

Clearly we know how this turned out.

I’m alive.

I’m breathing.

I’m fighting.

My demons haven’t won.

This isn’t for sympathy. I’ve had plenty of that.

It’s for acknowledgement. It’s my “I went off the Deep-end, and I survived” medal. I’ve always been a fast learner, and each experience teaches me something new.

I’ve learned no matter how many times I think I’m drowning, my lungs will always come up for air. I’ve learned life is a normal roller coaster. I’ve seen the valleys. I’ve seen the peaks. I think both are beautiful. I think life is beautiful. And sometimes, a little comedic relief in the form of a Tweet is the best way to deal with pain.

This morning, I burned that letter (metaphorically, of course. I’m no Pyromaniac). I cut it up in little pieces, and I threw it out the window as I drove down the road. And as I looked behind me, I saw little tiny pieces of someone who no longer exists scatter in the wind.

And it was beautiful.

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An Open Letter to my Readers

To everyone who’s ever read my blog, whether you’ve read one post or all of them or any number in between: Thank you!

In the last few weeks, the number of people reading my blog has increased dramatically. And in the last few weeks more people have thanked me for writing my blog than I ever thought possible.

People have thanked me for my “openness and honesty when it comes to real life issues teenagers struggle with today.” People have thanked me for how I “put feelings and emotions on paper in a way people who don’t understand Depression are able to understand.” People have thanked me because my blog has helped them/someone they know. People have thanked me because they are now able to relate better to people who have Depression.

People are thanking me when I should be thanking them.

I should be thanking you.

This is not the first time I’ve kept a blog, and it probably won’t be the last. But this blog has been the most rewarding. When I started this blog, I was on a journey of healing with the intent to find myself. This journey has been long and hard. There have been many sleepless nights, many internal battles deciding if I should write about “such and such a topic,” and there have been many tears as I relive certain painful memories. This blog tells about what it’s like to struggle with Depression, Eating Disorders, and self-harm. This blog has recounted the memories of my Sexual Assault, and how I dealt with the pain of it all.

But mostly, this blog’s been about hope. I believe no matter how painful life is, it’s also beautiful. And there are many days when I don’t want to write anymore, because it’s all too painful. There are days when I tell myself no one wants to read what I write, no one cares what I have to say, but day-after-day, “thank you” after “thank you,” you prove me wrong.

People like you who read my blog, who tell me your stories, who tell me how my blog has helped you, have made this journey full of sleepless nights and many tears worth it.

And I just want to say, Thank you! I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I hope you will continue to join me on this journey called “life.”

An open letter to my Attackers (Part 2)

Dear Attackers,

Two months ago, I wrote you a letter saying I forgive you. And I did forgive you, but I need to warn you and tell you a lot of people don’t like you. My Father doesn’t like you. My close friends don’t like you. There are a few adults I know who don’t like you either.

And I need to tell you I have never told anybody who you are. Nobody knows who you are. Nobody from High School. Nobody from town. Nobody from anywhere knows who you are, except for me.

I never told anybody what exactly happened in that bathroom. Well, I’ve never told anybody until now. But I need to tell people now, because I’m trying to heal, and I can’t until people know. I can’t heal until people know why unexpected physical contact upsets me. I can’t heal until people know why shirts, scarves, and necklaces too close to my neck upset me.

I’m telling people now, because I’m going on a trip with a fantastic group of people, and I want to not have a freak-out attack in front of them. I’m telling people now because I need to move on with my life. One day I will start dating a fantastic man, but I can’t be ready until I say this:

I remember. I remember it all. I remember one of you coming up behind me, grabbing me, and then pinning me down. I remember the other 4 of you walking up to me, laughing, as if it were some kind of joke. (I kid you not, it was no joke. Because it hurts to write this, and I find no part of this funny.)

I remember you pushing my clothes out of the way, because you didn’t think I’d need them, because you had the audacity to think my body was yours to use.

I remember the choking, the pinching, the way you touched me that was not at all gentle. It was almost as if I were an animal you were sizing up, getting ready to buy or sell.

I remember you choking me, hitting me, and calling me names I wouldn’t repeat to my worst enemy. I remember the sounds of zippers as you revealed parts of you I was too young to see.

I remember sights, and smells, and the way things felt. And I remember the feel of my tears rushing down my cheeks, and the sound of my voice saying “stop” over and over, until it lost all meaning.

I remember the way you touched me and the way you forced me to touch you.

I remember the bruises I had for days. I remember the bruises around my neck, on my upper arms, around my knees and every where in between.

I remember your strength and my weakness.

I remember the things you told me.

And there are nights I can’t sleep, because I remember it all. And people wonder why I am the way I am. People wonder why I randomly freak out over small things. People wonder why I hate big groups and why I hate being anywhere alone.

And yet, somehow, I’ve still forgiven you. And my forgiveness shows you messed with the wrong girl, because I’ve forgiven, but I haven’t forgotten.

I haven’t forgotten, but I’ve used my experiences to help others. And I’m writing a book, because I want people to know they are not alone. I want people to know healing is possible. I want people to know there is always hope. I want people to know true strength comes from within. I want people to know they are beautiful.

Because somehow, despite everything you took from me, I’m still beautiful. I’m still standing tall, shining bright, and you can’t ever take that from me.

Gene Pool

“Dear Je…”

“Hot food over here, cold food over there.”

My Grandfather was laughing so hard he couldn’t finish the prayer.

My Grandmother has always been a little hard of hearing. My Grandfather has always been a little hard of seeing. So between the two of them… they’re a perfect pair.

If that’s not the best way to describe my Grandparents, I don’t know what is. But allow me to continue.

My Grandfather is a well-educated, even-keeled man. He has a Bachelor’s, two Master’s, and a Doctorate. His official title is “Reverend Doctor Boppa Sir,” but we just call him “Boppa.” (Since I am the oldest grandchild on my mother’s side, I called all the shots). I’ve never heard him laugh, but I have heard him chuckle deeply. He may forget where he placed his keys, but if you ask him a question about anything he ever learned, he’ll remember the answer. He was a College Professor before he retired, and he was also head of the Religion and Humanities Department for a while. It should come as no surprise then that when I needed help writing a paper for one of my classes, I sought him out for help.

When I called him up and asked if I could “borrow some of his knowledge” (those were in fact my exact words), he didn’t sound too enthused. But I could sense excitement in his voice as he responded with a strong, “sure. When are you free?” When I showed up the next morning, he said it would take him a few minutes to find his notes. Not more than 30 seconds later he returned with a copy of all his lectures. (Clearly he knew exactly where they were, and clearly he was waiting for the day when one of his Grand-children would ask for his expertise on his specialty.)

Unless you are prepared to learn why you are wrong and are prepared to receive a lecture on what Grammar means, “where are you at?” is not the correct answer to use in my Grandfather’s presence. Yes, he was an English major in College. And in case you are wondering, I probably received my love for English from him. But that’s not all I received from him. We both love trivia and game shows, and we both think Jeopardy is fantastic. We both like puzzles of the jigsaw and brain varieties. And while he does his crosswords in pen, I do mine in pencil. And we both love a good game of scrabble. I beat him at Scrabble for the first time a few months ago. I was excited on the outside. He wasn’t. But, I know on the inside he was proud.

He plays Solitaire on his computer for hours, but he’s never lonely. He has seven Grandchildren. One of them shares his name. (One time my Grandmother was yelling at my Grandfather, and my Cousin put himself in time-out (ok, it was more than once)). I’m sure when we’re all together it feels like there are more than seven of us. Both of his daughters married Italian men, and Italians are good at being loud and eating.

My Grandmother knows how to cook. When you are at her house, you never go hungry. At her house, there is no such thing as a simple snack, because even snack is five courses. Phrases such as, “Grandma, I wanted a little scoop of ice-cream, not the whole tub,” are heard frequently. The candy jars are always full, and you always leave her house a few pounds heavier than when you came. She doesn’t know how to cook for two people; she only knows how to cook for a small army of people. And even though she has hearing aids, she may not hear you the first time you call. But when she does, she’ll be there immediately.

When I was smaller than I am now, I would curl up in her lap, and we would read books for hours. By the time I was too big to fit in her lap, we had three joke books memorized. That is why I’ll always understand the punch line before everyone else (living with my Dad may have helped my getting of punch lines too, but shhh. It’s a secret). She always gives the best advice: “Never get old, Kaleigh. Your memory starts to go/your knees get bad, etc.” I hate to tell her my short-term memory is not much better than that of a goldfish. I think I’ve inherited her bad knees, too. They are starting to mimic the sound of an old house.

Staying home from school because of sickness were always the best. It meant a free day at Grandma’s. She just knows how to take care of you. When I had my appendix out one Christmas Eve, all I wanted to do was see Grandma. So I ate that yucky hospital food. I peed in the stupid toilet. I took that painful walk. And even though it was 7:30 pm on Christmas Eve when I left that hospital, I went to Grandma’s, because she wanted to see me as much as I wanted to see her. Grandma makes everything better. And I’m not sure if it’s because she was a nurse, or it’s because she’s Grandma. I’m leaning toward the latter.

When she left her purse in the cart at K-mart, the first thing she thought was, “Oh no! The Grandkids!” She was more worried about not getting those pictures of her grandchildren back than she was about the credit cards. And if that’s not the perfect definition of Grandma, you need to change yours.

My Grandparents give more than they take. They’ve been to more concerts, school plays, soccer games, and piano recitals than I can count. They even came to my High School Graduation (bless their hearts)! They’ve let my sisters, cousins, and me spend the night. They even let me spend a week at their house, sleeping in one of their extra bed, eating their food, because they didn’t want me spending the week in an empty house (even though I am 19).

My Grandparents taught me what it means to love. They taught me love is in the little things, not necessarily the big. They taught me loving someone is not the same as liking someone. And you don’t always have to like someone, but you always have to love them.

My Grandparents are adorable. She calls him “dear.” He pours her coffee and opens the bottles she can’t. And sometimes when he’s going to meet my cousins’ school bus, he will pause at the door a little longer and say “bye” one more time.

So I know genes are inherited, but most behaviors are learned. And I want a marriage like theirs someday. I want to be like them someday. And I know life isn’t a competition, but I’m winning. Because when it comes to Grandparents, I have the best ones.

You Look Like a Leprechaun!

Have you ever laughed so hard you sound like a retarded seal?

I have. I do. All the time. When I laugh, I either blow a little bit more air out of my nose than usual, or I laugh so hard tears stream down my face, my face decides to do tomato impersonations, and my very distinct giggle turns into a deep laugh, which turns into absolutely no sound at all. I have been told I look like a leprechaun when I laugh. I have also been told my laugh makes other people laugh, which is a good thing… I guess?

I remember one time I was sitting in my college’s library, and I read something punny on the internet. And I laughed so hard. A few seconds later, one of my very dear friends came and found me. She told me, “I was sitting upstairs in the library, taking a nap, and I heard you laughing. So I had to come find you.”

…Gee, thanks. I laughed so loud and hard I woke you up from a nap. I was never self-conscious about my laugh before, but now I am. My laugh may be obnoxious, but hey, it’s better than the cackle I used to do. I’m moving up among the Ranks of Laughter. Gold star for me!…

Personally, I think laughter is great. It’s one of my favorite things to do (besides smiling and crying), and I believe everybody should have a healthy dose of it every day. If you live in my house, it’s not hard to do. Seriously, if you ever come over to dinner at my house, be prepared to have most of your dinner come out your nose.

There is no such thing as “normal” conversation at my house. Conversations at my house turn into stand up comedy routines pretty quickly. We use accents and different voices and hand motions and puns and one liners and more sarcasm than you can imagine. And we’re pretty much the stupidest bunch of geniuses you’ve ever met.

But this post is not about that. My post is about this picture one of my Facebook friends dared me to make my profile: 1005200_10201617908555441_329423959_n

This picture was taken after I had had a particularly difficult day, which, I’m sure you know if you’ve read any of my other blog posts, occurs frequently.

I once read somewhere smiling is the easiest way to trick yourself into being happy. It’s as if the simple act of smiling is enough to release Magical Happy Hormones into your bloodstream. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it worked that day. The smile turned into a deep fit of laughter, which is not uncommon. Because, as my family can tell you, I’ve been known to start laughing hysterically for no reason.

Some days, smiling is the last thing I want to do. Some days my Depression is so bad it’s hard for me to get out of bed. Some days I hardly ever smile. But that’s ok, because some days I can’t stop smiling.

2 weeks ago, I had to be to work at 6:30 in the morning, and I was extremely un-smiley (mostly because I am the complete opposite of a morning person. I’m as close to being a morning person as a mouse is to being a blue whale).

But, by the time the end of my shift rolled around I couldn’t stop smiling. I had a conversation with Rudy the Janitor, and we were discussing my boyfriend situation. I told him I didn’t have one. To which he replied, “Oh. I’m sure you have two or three. They just haven’t introduced themselves yet. I mean, you sit in the Pearce Coffee Shop all day, staring out the window with a big smile on your face. It’s like you’re so happy to be here and are so content to just sit, think, and watch the world around you. You’re just so content and relaxed and studying hard, all while daydreaming. And you’re always smiling. It’s like you’re telling yourself stories in your head, which, since you’re an English Major, you probably are. That’s the kind of girl most guys want. They’re just too scared to admit it. Keep smiling! It lights up the room!”

This information had me smiling all day for two reasons.

1. Boys.

and 2. Random compliments are fan-super-tastic!

For the longest time I didn’t think I’d ever laugh and smile again. I thought my past prohibited me from ever feeling happiness. I thought my hurt and pain was too great to ever overcome. And I thought beauty was only reserved for those who were never ugly.

But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s life is beautiful. I’ve learned how to feel pain, and I’ve learned how to feel joy. And I will keep smiling, because one day the one whom God has planned for me will reveal himself.

I just hope his laugh is as joy-filled and obnoxious as mine!

What’s in a Book?

In a recent post, I wrote about wanting to impact the world at least half as much as it has impacted me (for that post, click here). I think we all want to impact the world in our own way. Some of us want to be President of the United States. Some of us want to find the cure for cancer. Some of us want to decrease World Suck (if you understand that reference, you are AWESOME! DFTBA!).

I have many dreams. I want to fall in love, get married, travel the world, have children. You know, normal things. But I also want to write a book. Or rather, I want to finish my book. I’ve started this book so many times in my mind, but I never moved past the ‘thinking about it’ point. This time is different. This time I know how the book is going to start and finish, which let’s be honest, is half the battle. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing this blog, it’s beginnings and endings are the hardest, and are almost the most important: it’s who you were and who you became. The middle is just the journey from Point A to Point B: why you are who you are.

So why do I want to write a book?

I want to write a book because I believe in the power of words, but I also believe that I’ll never be very good at saying what’s on my mind. Because when I speak “my thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations” (thank you, John Green for that fabulous quote), but when I write everything makes sense. I believe we can all learn things from each other, because everyone on earth knows something you don’t. And I believe the best way to learn is by sharing stories.

What makes me qualified to write a book?

Absolutely nothing. I don’t know the first thing about writing a book, because apparently reading more books than you can count each summer does not automatically guarantee your ability to write a book.

So, why am I trying?

I’m trying because of my experiences. I’m trying because writing has helped me in my struggles. I’m trying because I believe what I’ve been through, what I’ve learned can help others. I believe I’ve been given this gift of words for a reason. I’ve found my voice. I can be the voice for others who have not found theirs.

Am I arrogant to believe that my words are important enough to be read?

I don’t know. Maybe. All I know is people read what I write. All I know is I’m scared my words aren’t important enough to be read. I’m scared maybe I’m making a big mistake, maybe what I’ve been through in my life is totally unrelatable and totally not something that should be written about.

Basically, there are a thousand reasons why I shouldn’t write a book and a thousand reasons why I should. And when push comes to shove, I need to write this book, not because I need to be validated, but because I need to be liberated. I have this intense desire to help others, and if writing about my experiences can help others, then I will gladly relive every moment, every painful memory.

I believe in the healing power of words. I believe words are beautiful, and I want to leave this world more beautiful than it was when I arrived.

Guatema… what?

Wait… what? I’m going to Guatemala in 20 days? (August 5, 2013). Yes, yes I am (In case you didn’t know that little tidbit of information, which if you’re not my friend on Facebook or a follower of mine on Twitter, I’m sure you had no idea).

And I’m kind of freaking out here, quietly and internally of course. But, freaking out nonetheless. Am I freaking out because this is my first time on a plane? Nope, because last summer I flew to Seattle, and I mastered the art of Getting Massive Headaches on the Plane Due to the Change in Air Pressure and Not Having my Head Explode. Am I freaking out because this is my first time leaving the country? Nope, because I’ve been on a canoe trip with my Youth Group to the Canadian Wilderness where Moose and Bears roam in abundance (when I was there, I ran into some wild, stinky teenagers, too. Now those are terrifying).

I’m freaking out because my support group is here, and I will be there. And I’ve never really done this before: I’ve never been on a Missions Trip. I’ve never been to a country where the culture is different from my own. I’ve never been to a country where a different language is spoken even though I speak Spanish, which is helpful, it’s still… different. I’ve never traveled with this group of people before, and even though they are all lovely (but strange) people, I’m worried. I’m worried not that I won’t fit in, because I’m sure I will. I’ve got the strange part down pat.

I’m worried about a lot of things.

Large groups have never been my forte, but that doesn’t really concern me. What concerns me is how I’m going to react when we get to where we’re going. Am I going to become loud and hilarious or quiet and humorous? Am I going to feel all the things, or am I going to shut down, feel nothing, and have my mind take a siesta? Am I going to cry? Probably. Because I’m a crier. I cry watching movies. I cry reading books. I cry when other people cry. I cry when I run over squirrels. I laugh so hard I cry. So yes, I’ll probably cry. At least once…. a day. I’ve embraced that fact.

My life is like one big ball of blah. And my feelings come in waves, which is fine, because I’m at the point in my life when I can tell when the tides will change. But at the same time, they can change without warning. I may be reminded of something. Memories may come flooding back, and that scares me a little. Because in my comfort zone, I know how I will respond when unwanted memories return, but I don’t know how I will respond when I’m in another country. I suspect I’ll be doing a lot of writing.

I’m an English Major, and you may be thinking so what? But let me tell you what that entails. I will freak out when you talk about books. I will speak in metaphors (most likely). I will probably connect things that happen to books I’ve read (or at least try to). If you’re extremely unlucky, I will correct your grammar in my head as you speak (I’m sorry in advance if this happens to you. I try not to, I really do). I will probably, most likely, definitely speak in book quotes. A day may come when I won’t speak in book quotes, but today is not this day!

I play piano, so I will probably at some point make a fool of myself and play an imaginary piano. Just go with it.

I’m clumsy, and I don’t mean like normal clumsy. I mean like full-blown Queen of the Clumsies. I was the one who sprained her ankle Wii Bowling after all. At some point during this 12 day escapade, I will fall on my face after tripping over nothing. It will happen. I guarantee it. And this clumsiness is not conducive to playing sports. Even though I’m competitive enough to believe I can win, my athletic ability (or lack thereof) proves otherwise.

Basically  a million things could go wrong. I could have a mental break down. I could have flash backs to things I don’t want to remember. I could make a total and complete fool of myself in front of all the cool people.

Ergo. I HAVE NO IDEA WHY I’M DOING THIS! I AM DOOMED!

However, I do know that God called me to go on this trip for a reason. So I’m going into this trip hoping it will be fantastic, and I’m trying not to worry about it being horrible. Because it could be. But I’m hoping it will be fantastic. I’m believing it will be amazing. And I trust that God will do great things on this trip. I pray that He will bless it. I pray I will make new friends and strengthen relationships. And I pray that I will come back with a stronger faith, because I am willing to step out of my comfort zone, and God will bless me indeed.

Death in a Fandom

I am silently grieving today. You see, there’s this part of me that I keep hidden from people, a part of me that I’ve only let come out and play a few times in public. A part of me that so many people on the other side of my Tumblr Dash understand, but one that not many “real-life people” do.

To put it simply: I am a fangirl. Google defines Fangirl as “A fan, sometimes also called aficionado or supporter, is a person who is enthusiastically devoted to something, such as a band, a sports team or entertainer. Collectively, fans of a particular thing or person constitute its fanbase or fandom.” I belong to many a fandom, and I’ve been known to randomly geek out when I scroll down my Tumblr dash and see a post that pertains to any of my numerous interests.

So, why am I grieving? Was one of my favorite characters killed off? Did Steven Moffat ruin my life? Probably. But, that’s not why.

I’m grieving because one of my favorite actors died last night.

Cory Monteith, best known for his role as Finn Hudson on Glee, died yesterday at the age of 31. I don’t belong to the Glee fandom because it’s a great show, because honestly I can make a list at least 100 items long of what’s wrong with the show. I belong to the Glee fandom because, at least originally, it was about a group of misfits who were trying to figure out where they belong, where they fit, which is all what we really want from life. And this group of misfits strived to be better. Glee addresses topics we don’t talk about in society today because of the social stigma, and they do it so delicately and honestly it hurts.

But, I’m not grieving because the show lost a great actor. I’m not grieving because the fandom will never get their “Finchel” happy ending. I’m grieving because the world lost a great man. Cory was more than an actor; he was a human, just like you and me. He was open and honest about his past, and he used his celebrity status to draw attention to the issue of Substance Abuse, an addiction with which he struggled. He was so open and honest and painfully genuine, and I rooted for him. The whole fandom did.

Surprised is not the right word, because I was surprised when I found out a few years ago he was nearly 30, neither are shock or sadness. And the fact that I can’t find the right word to describe how I feel is a little disconcerting, because I am an English Major.

What I do know is this: this is the first time a celebrity’s died my generation’s grown up with. This is the first time a public figure we’ve admired has died. Michael Jackson does not count, because we didn’t grow up with him. This maybe the first time that a teenager has lost someone they look up to, and it puts everything in perspective: it makes us realize that nobody’s immortal. Everybody will die, friends, family, celebrities. 

I grew up with Glee. It got me through difficult times. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It made me shake my fists in anger. It made me nod my head in agreement. It made me believe that somewhere out there is a place where I belong, where I can be myself, where I can be accepted for who I am. To that I say, thank you. Thank you for making me believe in myself. Thank you for making me believe that I can be better, that I can succeed. Just… thank you.

And how do we, the fandom, respond? We can’t call in sick because one of our favorite celebrities died. He was one of our “friends” (because he was our friend, in the most general sense of the term), but we can’t go to his funeral. And we certainly can’t let our grief go unvalidated, because then our feels* will take over. Glee changed my life, and if you think I’m not going to cry over the death of one of it’s kindest, brightest stars, you need to learn a thing or two about the inspiration celebrities can be. If you don’t think that I wanted to go back to bed this morning because I was not emotionally ready for this day, you’d be wrong. I wanted to redo this day since I woke up this morning.

And it’s not just the fandom who’s grieving. Because somewhere out there are people who really knew and loved him (like we, the fandom knew and loved him, but they did for real, for real). Yesterday, someone lost a son. Yesterday, someone lost a brother. Yesterday, someone lost their boyfriend. Yesterday, someone lost their idol. Yesterday, someone’s whole world came crashing down.

Yesterday, the world lost an inspirational gem of a man whose Twitter bio reads: “Tall, awkward, canadian, actor, drummer, person,” and who said: “Be yourself. That’s good enough for me.” Yesterday, the world lost a man who inspired us all to be better, to embrace our past, to learn from our mistakes, and to root for the underdog. Yesterday, the world learned that your idol can save your life, but you can’t save theirs.

And I don’t know if I’ll ever be emotionally prepared to watch Glee episodes. I don’t know if the fandom will ever be ok. But what I do know is that the whole fandom is struggling today.

So to my fellow fandom warriors:

I feel ya, bro.

*feels: it’s a known fact that people belonging to a fandom feel things more intensely. The objects of our affection and interests make us explode with all the emotions (hence the term, all the feels).

Clock Tower Ministry

“What time is is?”

“I have no idea.”

“Oh, wait… We’re sitting under a clock tower.”

*facepalm*

This past week was my favorite week of the year: Bible Quizzing Nationals! Every year, this is a week where my faith gets tested, my hatred towards high stress situations becomes apparent, and where friendships are made and strengthened. This year was no exception (I regret to inform you I was unable to watch my youngest sister in her Semi-Finals for Individuals, because of stress. And, had she made it to the Finals, I wouldn’t be able to watch her there either. I rather enjoy not being bald and having finger nails. If not being able to watch her makes me a horrible sister, oh well. Persecute me).

However, my experience this year was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in all my previous years of Quizzing. Last year was my last year being involved as a student in Quizzing, and as such, this year was my first year being a Coach. Being a Coach is a completely different than being a Quizzer, and like in every situation, there are goods and bads.

Bad: I miss jumping.

Good: My knees don’t hurt, and the skin on my elbows is intact.

Bad: I miss knowing things.

Good: I don’t have to study, because studying: Ain’t nobody got time for that!  (Study kids! It’s important!)

Good: I can talkasquickly or as s l o w l y as I want to.

Even better: I can still make my point in 20 seconds or less, so don’t get into an argument with me.

Being a Coach this week afforded me the opportunity to get to know some people. And a lot of the conversations I had took place at this clock tower in the center of my College Campus: 17595_10201556207572955_2020817768_n

The thing about this clock tower is I hated it. I hated it when it was being built, because while it was being built, the shortest route from one end of campus to the other was not able to be used. I hated it after it was built, because I kept running into it. I hated it because even though I’m in College, I have a hard time reading analog clocks.

This week, my perspective changed. Every night, I would sit here, and I would talk to anyone who needed a friend. I would talk to the misfits, the lonely, the ones who were struggling, the ones who were metaphorically lost, the socially awkward, the ones who needed someone to cry with, the ones who needed a hug, the introverts who just needed someone to sit with. Basically, I sat and talked with anyone who reminded me of myself. We all had something in common. It provided healing for me, and I hope it started the healing process in them.

Yesterday, my Dad told me he was proud of my “Clock Tower Ministry.” I mean, he’s supposed to say that, because he’s my Dad, but I’m proud of me too. Because there was a time not too long ago when I would have been the one who needed someone to be at the Clock Tower, and I might not have found anyone there. And I would have been too shy and afraid to ask if I did find someone. But this week, I was the person at the metaphorical Clock Tower. I was the one standing in the Harbor with my light glowing, safely guiding people home. And if this is the only worthwhile thing I ever do in my life, then so be it. Because I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.

 

This week, I was President of the ACFCL (Assistant Coach and Fanclubing League), which let me say, is fantastic! Because this week, I was able to watch a lot of the teams from my Church quiz, and I was able to cheer them on without the pressure of having to be at this place at this time.

And for that, I am thankful.

Because this week, I learned something about myself. I learned that even though I am insecure, even though I am loud and obnoxious in large groups, even though I have been broken in the past, even though I have no idea what I’m doing ever about anything, even though some days I believe I’m worth nothing, even though I am a misfit, I can help others. I can be their listening ear of understanding. I can be there to share their laughs, to listen to their struggles, to sit there in silence when words just aren’t enough, to be their shoulder to cry on, and I can be their Fan Club when all they need is a little encouragement.

And that is why I am thankful for this ministry and this week, because I was surrounded by fantastic teens from all over the country. I am surrounded by teens who are hungry for the word of God, and who are destined to do great things. I am thankful for the people I meet, the people I talked to and got to know, and I am thankful for all the students who stood at the front of the Auditorium and shared how God has worked in their lives. And I am thankful for the people I didn’t meet, the people who attended, and the people who couldn’t.

Because I left this week more fulfilled than I ever did when I won trophies and accolades. This week reinforced the concept that people are what matter.

My Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Imagine that you are fighting by yourself in a war against an army that is 7 billion strong. The other army has all the weapons available to them; you, on the other hand, have only a plastic fork and a metal trash can lid to defend you. Clearly, you don’t stand much of a chance. But, you, being the innovative person that you are, use the fork to dig yourself a hole. You jump in the hole, and use the metal trashcan lid to cover the hole and protect yourself from the bombs and bullets that are raining down on you.

This is Depression. The bombs and bullets are life and everything it throws at you. The fork is the voice inside your head telling you to fight like hell to survive—a voice that can be silenced so easily. The metal trashcan lid is your own personal sanctuary, wherever or whatever it may be.” –What doesn’t kill you

This is Depression. This is not the “my dog died and now I’m crying” feeling. This is not the “my boyfriend broke up with me, and now my life is over feeling.” That is sadness. Sadness is normal. Sadness is when things in your life are going wrong. Depression is sadness when everything is going right.

I don’t have trouble admitting this now. But there was a time when I did. There was a time when I would paint a smile on my face every day in order to make myself presentable. There was a time when I would be happy on the outside and a wreck on the inside, and I would try my hardest to hide it. So if you asked someone to describe me, they’d probably say: “sister, daughter, friend, musician, writer.” Which, technically, is true. But, if asked to describe myself, I’d say: “sister, daughter, friend, musician, writer, happy on the outside, sad on the inside, two sides of the same coin that never spin in tandem.”

And clearly I don’t have trouble talking about it anymore, considering most of my posts are about depression (for which I am #sorrynotsorry). But most people don’t, won’t, can’t talk about it, but we need to. Because the fact of the matter is, every thirty seconds, someone in the world takes their own life. And it doesn’t matter who this someone is—your friend, a neighbor, someone two states away, someone an ocean away—a lot of other lives are affected. So the death of these people should matter. But people tend to ask “so what?” People tend to say, “Suicide is sad, but it’s not my problem.”

It could be your problem. One day it could be someone you know. Someone you love. Because 3 and a half years ago, I was 15. 3 and a half years ago, it was my problem. 3 and a half years ago, I sat on my bed like I do every night, but it wasn’t like every night. Because that night, I had written a letter, and I had taken some pills.

And somehow, I am still here today. So that makes me one of the lucky ones. Because when I jumped from the edge of the cliff, ready to test gravity, my parachute opened.

But there are other people who weren’t so lucky. There are other people who lead a seemingly normal life. People who haven’t had bad things happen to them. People who are the top of their class, captain of the football team, well-loved by everybody, who are just like me, whose story begins with 4 simple words: “I suffer from Depression.”

And for a long time my two sides of the same coin were like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The side I showed in public and the side I showed in private were two separate people existing in the same body, but who refused to acknowledge the other existed. Because I wanted to be perfect, and by perfect I mean “socially acceptable,” and I was afraid to show people what was really going on. Beneath my smile was struggle, and beneath my big laugh was bigger pain, and beneath my light was dark. And generally, people are afraid of the dark, and spiders, and clowns. I am too, but for the longest time, I was afraid of myself.

I feared the truth. I feared the pain. I feared being vulnerable. I felt trapped in a dead end tunnel, surrounded by hundreds of tons of dynamite, with only one way out. And I thought about that one way out every day. (somedays I still do, because I think if I looked hard enough, I could find that letter stashed away in my room, and that terrifies me even more). But that’s what this is. That’s what Depression does. That’s the struggle. You don’t beat it once, and it’s gone forever. You have to beat it over and over and over again.

It’s the annoying neighbor who refuses to move. It’s the voice over the loudspeaker you can’t ignore. It’s the feelings you can’t run away from. And eventually you become numb to it. It becomes normal even though none of it is normal. What you fear most isn’t the pain inside of you, it’s the ignorance inside of others (and if ignorance is bliss, then I am in hell). It’s the shame, the embarrassment, the whispers in the hallway, the knowledge that you are not as strong as you think you are, the fact that people believe you are crazy. We don’t want any of these things. That’s why we hold it in, why we hide it, why we refuse to get help. Even though it keeps us in bed every day, even though it keeps us shut off from the world, even though it makes us empty no matter how many times we try to fill ourselves back up, we hide it.

Because we would rather tell the world that we stayed in bed today because our back hurt than tell the world we stay in bed every day because of the oppression of depression. If we break our arm, people will line the streets to sign our casts. If we need an appendectomy, people will come to our bedside to wish us well. But if we have depression, our friends wave “Sayonara, see you later.” If one part of our body fails us, people are encouraging. But once our brain is no longer in our favor, people are discouraging.

Depression is one of the least talked about sicknesses, which is ironic because it’s one of the most documented. People push it under the rug, ignoring the noticeable bump it makes. We all want to heal, but right now Depression is the gaping hole in the heart of society we won’t see a surgeon for. And ignoring it won’t make it go away.

If you’re going through it, remember that you’re ok. And it’s ok to talk about it. Because Depression is ok. And Depression is not an identity. As much as I hate the low places my Depression has brought me, I’m also grateful. I’ve been to the valleys, but I’ve also been to the peaks. And I’ve been through the dark, but I’ve also seen the light. And if there’s one thing my hurt has taught me, it’s taught me how to have hope and faith. Faith in myself, in others, and faith that everything will be ok. And maybe one day, we will all learn to love ourselves. We will learn to love ourselves despite our struggles and despite who society wants us to be.

Because I believe in a world where nobody hides their ugly, because I’ve learned ugly is beautiful. I believe in a world where our ability to overcome obstacles is more highly valued than our ability to dodge them. I believe in a world where we are supportive when someone else is struggling.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s true strength is measured in how far you’ve come. And that we can’t do this alone. We are people, and people aren’t perfect. So let’s stand strong and be perfectly imperfect together.