Eggs and Elephants

I was told once that I should be happy because when I was sexually assaulted, I wasn’t actually “raped”, whatever that means.

Who are you to tell me to be thankful that “the act wasn’t completed” if you know what I mean? How dare you. There’s no scale on sexual violation. It’s not “on a scale from 1 to 10, how raped were you?” To think otherwise is to perpetuate the idea that reporting a rape can ruin a man’s life. Politicians today are arguing about what constitutes rape and all these other things. My experience is not greater, nor is it less than, anybody else’s.

We are the same.

Lots of things in life have scales. The weight of how much I was raped is not one. My burden of being a victim weighs the same on my shoulders as everybody else’s.
When I went to the hospital for my appendectomy, I was asked to rate my pain on a scale from 1-10. I said 7 every time.

When people ask me how I am, I reply with “good.” The people who know me best ask me, “on a scale from 1-10, how much does it hurt today?” I live my life at a 7. My number is 7, but the effect this 7 has on me changes. The number is constant; the weight of the number changes.

Confused? Yeah, I know. It’s confusing.

But, imagine this: 7 bowling balls are heavier than 7 eggs. 7 microwaves are heavier than 7 bowling balls. 7 elephants are heavier than 7 microwaves.

Some days I’m 7 elephants. Some days I’m 7 eggs.

That is the scale of Depression: eggs to elephants, not 1 to 10.

Right now, I’m about 7 eggs. I’ve been 7 eggs for a while now, which is good. But, I’m cautiously optimistic, because I know one day (maybe soon; maybe later) I will be 7 elephants, again. The weight of 7 elephants is a lot harder to deal with than that of 7 eggs. Elephants poop a lot; the only problem with eggs is if it put them all in one basket.

That’s why I haven’t been writing a lot lately. The weight of 7 eggs doesn’t weigh heavy enough on my chest to make the words flow. I write my best work when the pain of 7 elephants is unbearable.

My friend messaged me the other day. She told me she was horribly depressed and angry at herself because she has every single reason in the world to be happy.

I told her, happiness isn’t a choice. People say it is, but it’s really hard to be happy when you feel like you’re drowning on solid ground. I can choose to put a smile on my face, but my inside isn’t getting any happier, because inside I feel like I’m dying. When people say happiness is a choice, I ask them if they have a remedy for that. Because Jesus is supposed to fix this hole in my heart, but even with all this prayer I feel like I’m bleeding out. So don’t tell me Christians aren’t depressed, because Jesus was human once, so I know He understands pain. And I know He loves me despite all of this.

I told her, it’s not her fault if she’s depressed. She didn’t do anything wrong.

She asked me, but isn’t there a way to manage it? I’ve had it for a very long time, but there were times when I was happy and satisfied with life, when things that I enjoyed filled me, and now I just feel empty. Is it just that we go through phases?

I told her, phases. It’s like a spiral. Life is like an ocean filled with waves of Depression. Some people are Michael Phelps: they swim through life easily, breathing in-and-out expertly as they keep their heads above water. You and me, we aren’t Michael Phelps. We struggle day-in and day-out to keep our heads above water. Some days we are thrown a life preserver or other flotation devices. Some days we aren’t. And we have to do the best with what we have, with what we’ve been given.

She asked, can the waves come on sporadically, not from a certain situation?

I responded, yep. Those are the worst, because you can’t figure out what’s triggering you, so you can’t find a way to stop. But, one day you’ll wake up and realize it’s easier to get out of bed than it was the day before. The ground fills firmer beneath your feet. And you’ll feel this way for a while, until you don’t. Over time as the cycles continue, you’ll be able to recognize the signs, and deal with the feelings better.

With 7 eggs, I give pretty good advice.

Recently, I turned 20, which is a huge milestone. I survived my teenage years.

I attempted suicide before my 16th birthday. I didn’t think I’d make it to 20. But I have, and despite everything I’ve been through, I’m stronger than ever.

I was asked recently what I would do if I had a time machine. Would I go back and change the past? Would I stop my sexual assault, which would have bit the cutting and anorexia flower in the bud before it happened?

Honestly, no. I wouldn’t. There was a time when I would, but standing here and knowing where I am now, I would not.

I am who I am today because of my past. I’ve met some wonderful people because of what I’ve been through. I’ve formed friendships with people I might not have otherwise. My story has helped others from the United States to Guatemala. From Romania to Australia. And that’s all I want out of life: to help others.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the weight of 7 elephants isn’t so bad when you have people around you, supporting you, and helping you carry that weight.

If a group of ants can make light work of a potato chip, a group of people can lift elephants. (Really, we have machines that can do that now.)

Faith can move mountains (or mole hills that seem like mountains).

All we need to remember is that we’re not alone.

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Matter of Factual Finiteness

Yesterday, I turned 19. (My Birthday was fan-super-tastic. Thank you for asking.) A common question people ask after one has a birthday is “How does it feel to be a year older?” And I don’t know. Because the thing is, I’m only a day older than I was yesterday, and yesterday I was a day older than I was two days ago. But yesterday was special because the number associated with my age changed. Ergo, yay for me!

(Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful. Really, I am. There was a time when I didn’t think I’d live to see 16, but somehow, I’m still here.)

I’m grateful, but I don’t know what else I feel. Am I supposed to feel different? How quickly do people think it takes change to occur? A day?

Nah, bro. No good.

I believe change happens the way ketchup falls out of the bottle: slowly and then all at once. I am who I am because of who I was. And when you get older, who you were doesn’t just disappear; it becomes a part of you. Inside of you are all these pieces of former yous that help shape who you are today, which is why some people never grow up. When I turned six, I was still five and four and three and two and one, which is why I’m so curious and I learn something new everyday, and why I sometimes forget how to use my legs and trip when I walk.

The same is true today: I’m 19, but I’m also 18 and 17 and 16 and 15, etc.

And life is trying to throw all this responsibility my way, but I can’t hear it screaming my name over the sound of my crayons scribbling furiously. But, I still wonder what these next 365 days have in store for me. I wonder what adventures I’ll have. I wonder what kind of people I’ll meet. I wonder what stories I’ll write. I wonder what kind of person 19 year old me will turn out to be. I wonder if I’ll be able to impact the world at least half as much as it has impacted me. And I wonder if I’ll finally learn what it means to matter, and if I’ll finally matter.

Because popularity and coolness are fluid: they change depending on the container they are placed in. And you spend your whole life trying to achieve a certain level of coolness and popularity, until one day, you won’t remember why you were trying to achieve them in the first place, because they don’t matter.

I believe you matter because of what matters to you. Your level of mattering is directly equivalent to how much what you care about matters to you. I matter because I care about family and friends. I matter because I’m passionate about sharing my stories and about hearing yours. I’m passionate about life and about making beautiful things. And I want to leave this earth a little bit more beautiful than it was when I arrived.

Even though I think I have a lot of time, time is relative, and life is finite. My finite life takes up space on the infinite line of the universe, and even though the space of my line seems rather insignificant, I have enough time and space left to make it significant.

In these periods of 365 days, there’s enough room for me to reinvent myself. I can turn myself into who I want to be. Because if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that you can’t stop the future from coming. And why would you want to? Because life is beautiful and also terrifying. And if you try hard enough, so much is possible. I want to be possible.

So, life, I see your finiteness, and I raise you my hopes and dreams.