One Day You Will Fly: Update!

About a year ago, I wrote the following blog post. And it was a huge hit (Coincidentally, it is also the intro to the book I’m writing, but more on that in a minute)! Since it was a huge hit, I’d thought I’d update my readers on what has happened in my life since then.

But first, my original post:

To all the people who think that they are not good enough; to the people who believe that there is no way out; to the people who believe that they are alone in this struggle; to the people who believe that they will never be loved:

This is for you.

To all the people who took a razor to their beautiful skin; to all the people who have starved themselves, who refused to eat, and then asked, “Am I beautiful now?”; to all the people who have ever wanted to end it all:

This is for you.

I know it’s hard. I’m not just saying that either; I’m not trying to sympathize, trying to understand what it’s like—because, until you’ve been to that point, you don’t understand. Until you’ve been down that road, until you’ve lost sight of the light, until you’ve been down the never-ending pit of despair, you will never understand.

I’m saying it’s hard because I’ve been there. I’ve been down that road; I’ve been down that pit, and I’ve dug myself out—over and over again. And I have the scars to prove it. Scars faint enough that only the observant will notice; but scars dark enough to show that I’ve survived.

I know what it’s like to be told to snap out of it, as if it were an insect that could be smashed with the smack of a hand. Rather, I’m the insect, and depression is that hand, threatening to destroy my being as it comes closer and closer—like a dark, ominous storm cloud that threatens to engulf a lone ship, Hope, sailing on the ocean of my soul.

And I know what it’s like to watch the blood drip off my skin as I cut myself open with the razor of hate, waiting for the needle of hope to stitch me back together again. I’ve treaded water in the ocean of darkness, while trying not to drown, waiting for a life-preserver to be thrown my way.

You’re not worth it; you deserve it; you’re ugly, and nobody cares.

Those words have repeated over and over again in my head. They serve as unwanted memories of things said and things done.

If only I were prettier; if only I were skinnier; if only I looked like that, all my problems would be solved.

Those lies are fed to me by the devil’s hand as I compare myself to others, reminding me that, sometimes, I am my own worst enemy.

If any of these words have ever applied to you, I’m here to tell you that you’ll be ok, and you’re not alone. It will get better, and it will get worse; though it may get worse for a while, I promise you that it will always get better. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.

You won’t wake up one day and say, ‘I’ll be ok.’ It’s a journey, it’s a struggle, and it’s a fight. And with every battle you fight, you get a little bit stronger; every journey you take, you gain a little more courage. When it comes around again, you can fight harder.

Hope whispers in your ear: ‘You can do this; don’t give up.’

Some days, you will scream, and you will cry. Some days, you will want to stop fighting; but, don’t give up, my dear. Because, one day, you will realize that you are stronger than this demon that plagues you. Even though the urge to pick up that razor won’t go away, you’ll learn how to control it.

I learned how to write with pain—how to take the blood that flows from my skin and turn it into something beautiful instead.

And even though I know I have talents, I sometimes doubt my abilities. But, don’t we all? And even though I know that I am beautiful, sometimes I still compare myself to others.

“Some girls say they’re not pretty, because they know someone’s going to come and say “Shut up, you know you are”. But some girls say they’re not pretty, not because they’re looking for attention, but because that’s how they feel. They compare themselves and see what others don’t. We see someone beautiful, but they see stretch marks, gut hanging out, small bodily features that wouldn’t catch the average guy’s eye. That’s why some girls can’t take a compliment; they feel like they don’t deserve it.”

If you don’t know what it is like to feel this way, don’t tell me it will get better. It’s not a disease. Don’t judge what you don’t know.

But if you do know what it’s like, trust me when I tell you it gets better, because I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve walked that road, and some days, I still do.

My scars and my words prove it. And believe me when I tell you this:

One day, you will spread your wings and fly.

—————————————————————————————–

How has my life changed since I wrote this? Well, for one: I flew. I’m not going to put the whole story here, because it can be found in my post “Set a Fire.” But, to summarize: I’ve always been afraid of heights–not because of how high I was off the ground, but because of gravity, and because my desire to jump was always greater than my desire to live. Until one day, when I had no desire to try and die and instead wanted to sprout wings and fly. So, I did. And I haven’t really come down since–my feet are on the ground, but my head’s in the clouds. And I’m writing a book, because I’ve always wanted to do so, but I’ve never had the courage. Because what if my story’s not powerful enough? What if nobody cares about what I have to say?

But I’ve realized something. People out there have stories similar to mine, and some of these people don’t know how to deal with the pain they are feeling in a healthy way. I’ve found out how to put the pain I feel into words, and if I can change one person’s life, I will be happy.

One day, I spread my wings and flew!

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The Trip that Changed Me

It’s been 3.5 years since I tried to kill myself. And when people ask me how I’m doing, I have no idea if they want a truthful answer or the “I’m fine” answer. Truth be told, I have no idea how I’m doing. Because it all comes in waves–feelings, flashbacks, and inner battles continue day in and day out: high tide and low tide. And sometimes everything is so overwhelming, I feel like I’m drowning, and I can’t get out of bed. But I can’t sleep either, because when I close my eyes, there’s darkness, and darkness is where the monsters live. And I stopped looking for monsters under my bed a long time ago when I realized they were inside of me.

I’ve been told I have a good memory, but it’s a blessing and a curse, because I can recall every word spoken to me, every unwanted touch forced upon me. It’s in these moments when I wonder if this is all life has to offer me. It’s in these moments when I wonder if the world would be better off without me. Because I was told once, 5 years ago, no one could love a broken girl, and sometimes in my moments of pain, anguish and despair, I believe these words to be true. When your 13 almost 14 and someone tells you these things, you’re going to believe them. And in the moments when hope seems lost, I’m 13 almost 14 again, and in my darkest moments, I’m 15 and ready to end it all.

And sometimes I used to list the ways I wasn’t beautiful on my skin as I cut myself open with the razor of hate and carved all the names I’ve been called into my skin. And sometimes I used to skip meals for weeks on end, wondering to myself “Am I beautiful now?” Sometimes I still wonder if I’m too broken to be beautiful. Sometimes I wonder if my scares make me ugly. Then I look at my wrist and see the scar from the night of what I thought was my last fight, and all I see is strength. So I fight this battle everyday, because I’ve seen the valleys and I’ve seen the heights, and out of brokenness comes beauty.

And all I ever wanted to be was beautiful.

And I know rain can wash things clean if you just let it. So sometimes I find myself wishing for a hurricane, because I need to start again. And I find myself rejoicing in the small victories, because with each one I find myself a little closer to healing. When this hurricane of healing comes, when I become this hollowed out structure of a building that is no longer standing, I will rebuild. Because with re-birth and rebuilding comes beauty.

I will be beautiful again.

I wrote this particular poem while I was in Guatemala after seeing a man that resembled one of my attackers. And it’s amazing how God works, because the week before I left, I found my suicide note (you can read that story here).
And before I left, I was just hoping I would find healing, which I did, and that’s a great story (the full version can be read here).

But to sum it up: God worked in my life as I was working in other people’s lives. When we went to serve dinner at the dump, I climbed on top of the bus and saw the mountains behind the dump. I was reminded of how great our God is. I was reminded of how beauty can grow alongside brokenness and how out of brokenness can come beauty. And in that instant, I felt a huge weight come off my shoulders: I could breathe easily again.

But the most healing came when I went to the roof of a mall. Because normally when I get to high places, I have the overwhelming urge to jump, but this time, I didn’t. Instantly, I felt this sense of calmness; I felt this wave of healing come over me, and it was beautiful.

I went to Guatemala broken and trying to heal. I went to Guatemala not at all convinced of my beauty. I came back from Guatemala a changed person. I was healed (not completely, but enough). I am satisfied with who I am. I know God will use my story to help others. I have found my beauty, and I’ve never been prouder of who I am.

Unsolicited Advice to Incoming Freshman and Returning Students

Students are beginning to move back onto Campus. And even though the most moving I’m doing is the 7 minute commute to school everyday, I am being fed glimpses of the hustle and bustle from my on Campus friends via Facebook and Twitter. I can imagine the heaving of boxes and crates, and the unloading of suitcases and backpacks. I can imagine the unpacking of childhood memories, the storing up of hugs to save for a rainy day when things aren’t going the right way, the parents lingering in the doorway–not quite ready to say goodbye, but wanting to see you spread your wings and fly–the hushed “I love you”s, and the long, drawn out “Goodbyes.”

Freshman, eventually this feeling will become familiar. Right now, the car is unpacked after numerous trips of carrying things one at a time, but eventually the car will be unpacked after two or three trips of stacked up boxes that defy physics and gravity. Right now, you want your parents to help (or maybe you don’t), but eventually you won’t. And it’s not because you don’t want them to stick around; it’s because little-by-little, step-by-step, you grow up. Don’t fight this feeling. Embrace it. Embrace your independence, but also be time conscious. Because, yes, you have all the time in the world to complete that project, but eventually you will realize that all the time in the world is less time than you think.

Just like things in your room will find a niche, you will too. But before you do, you will walk into the Dining Hall the first day of classes and feel overwhelmed with the amount of faces you don’t know, the number of places you don’t fit. When this happens, do not walk out. Do not retreat to the library. Push yourself out of your comfort zone little-by-little by sitting with people you don’t know. Join clubs. Get involved with activities on Campus. Eventually, the places you don’t fit will be outnumbered by the places you do. And eventually your dorm room will become your “home away from home.” You will find comfort in the rearranging of beds, the sound of the person breathing 5 feet from you, the closets that aren’t really closets but they get the job done, and the mattresses that aren’t quite as comfy as yours at home. And maybe you won’t sleep well at night, but that’s what naps are for. Because in college, everywhere is a bed if you try hard enough.

Speaking of bed, you will learn there’s a time and a place for decaf coffee: Never and in the trash. I’m just being serious. No, but for real: caffeine and Ramen noodles will become your best friends. But don’t complain about the food. I know it’s not as good as your Mother’s or whoever’s, but it’s certainly better than going hungry. And speaking of hunger, you will feel this ache in your stomach from missing your home no matter how near or far home is. Call your parents. Call your friends. Call your family. And when the nights are great, and the days are going right, write a letter addressed to you. Mail it to yourself. Walk to your mailbox. Open the box of metal. Pick up that letter, and save it for a day when the nights are longs, and the days are going wrong. And know that present you might not be your friend, but once upon a time, past you was on your side.

And if you’re not into the whole letter writing thing, have your family write you one. Have your family write one about what they’ve been doing with their lives. Because when I went to Guatemala, I knew my family missed me, but they carried on their lives as if they didn’t. Because missing someone is a sign of loving someone, and it’s better to be missed when you’re gone than not to be missed at all. My friend told me once about the best letter she received from her Dad. He was telling her about going to McDonald’s and ordering a large fry, and not having anyone to share it with. And it wasn’t about French Fries and throwing away the excess. It was about being missed in absence.

This journey is about losing yourself and finding yourself. And one day you may wake up, look in the mirror, and not recognize the face staring back. This is ok, because one day you will find yourself again. You will find yourself in the friends you make, the friends you leave behind, the choices you make, the laughs you share, and the hearts you break. And success doesn’t depend on grades, but that doesn’t mean don’t try. Because, I don’t want to sound cliche, but you don’t know what you can do until you try, and sometimes you need to spread your wings and fly.

And life is filled with disappointments, believe me, I know. This journey is hard, but I want you to know people are willing to walk it with you, willing to be a crutch when you fall hard, willing to lend a helping hand or a listening ear, and willing to be a friend.

And don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, because the most rewarding friendships I’ve made are the ones that have sprouted out of my openness. Don’t be afraid to open yourself up, because you are braver than you believe. Some days you may feel small, but you are big enough–big enough to make a difference, big enough to matter, big enough to succeed.

Set a Fire

*in response to the question: What have you been up to lately?

No mejor lugar para estar.
No mejor lugar para estar.
No mejor lugar para estar.
Que escuchando tu voz
Escuchando tu voz.

Manda un fuego a mi vida
Que no puedo contener y controlar.
Quiero más de Dios.
Quiero más de Dios.

Lately, I’ve spent time in a country whose airport sleeps at 8:00 at night. I’ve spent time in a country with a group of people who’ve laughed with me, cried with me, and have watched me grow. And I don’t know how I’m going to describe to you this feeling I have, what I’ve experienced over the last two weeks, because unless you were there with me, you won’t understand. But, I’m going to try my best, because it’s a good story.

There’s something wonderful about being the outsider in a group, and I didn’t realize what it was until I went on this trip. By being on the outside, I was able to hang out with wonderful children like these (in Santa Cruz and then Guatemala City):
118

076

169

186

Because being on the outside allowed children who were on the outside to be accepted for who they are, to be loved for who they are without judgement.

And it wasn’t just lovin’ on the kids that changed my life, it was being able to share my journey with a group of 20-something other team members that created the most change. Because sometimes working in other peoples’ lives allows God to work in yours. And so he did.

Because one day in the village of Santa Cruz, I shared my Testimony with the Junior Highers. And there’s something powerful about hearing your story repeated back to you in a language you’re not fluent in. There’s something about it that makes it more tangible, more real, and much harder to hear.

And there’s something powerful about sharing some of your poems with a group of 20-something people who you’re just beginning to call your friends. Because being able to trust anybody after what you’ve been through is a big step. There’s something powerful about being able to say, “Hey, I’m not doing ok today. On a scale from 1-10, I’m probably a 2, and I don’t know why. It could be because of this guy I saw back there who looks like someone I’d much rather forget. Or it could be because I’m out of my comfort zone, and I keep having flashbacks. I’d much rather not be this way, but I am, so I hope you can love me anyway.”

And there’s healing power in going to the dump and feeding the hungry, because despite not ever having enough, they are happy and they have so much faith that God will provide, which is more than I can say I have. Because some days, I use up all my faith getting out of bed, and here are these people who have so little, but have enough faith to move mountains.

Speaking of mountains, the way you can climb up on top of the bus in the dump and see the mountains is beautiful. The way the poor live inside the dump, between the mountains is inspiring. Because beauty and brokenness can live alongside each other, and out of brokenness comes beauty. And that’s all I really want for my life: I want to be beautiful despite my brokenness.

And there’s something magical in the beauty of a city seen from the roof of a mall that made me want to climb to the top despite my crippling fear of heights(which is really more of a fear of trying to die). And for the first time in a long time, I didn’t want to jump, which is how I know this trip changed me, because when I told my 20-something new friends this story, they all said, “Praise, God Almighty.”

And indeed, Praise be. Because life is a journey, and I’m not walking it alone. I have more friends than I can count, more memories than I can write about, and more things than I could possibly need.

Because there in Guatemala, the people live on “not enough,” while here we have plenty. And after seeing this, it’s making living here in America less satisfying to me. Because I’m not always thankful for what I have, and there some nights they go to bed hungry. And I’d most likely, definitely go back there again.

No place I’d rather be.
No place I’d rather be.
No place I’d rather be.
Than here in your love.
Here in your love.

Set a fire down in my soul
that I can’t contain, that I can’t control.
I want more of you, God.
I want more of you, God.

I spent the first two days of the trip counting down the days until I could return home, and now that I’m home, I’m not satisfied. There’s a fire within me that I can’t contain, and I can’t control. So now I’m counting down the days until I can return to Guatemala, and since I don’t know when that is, I could be counting for a while. But I will continue to count everyday, because I left a part of my heart there in Guatemala, and it will continue to beat everyday until I return.

So, don’t cry for me, Guatemala. I’ll be back again someday.