Survivor’s Paradigm

How do you define yourself is a question I have always had difficulty answering. To outsiders, it would be easy to define me this way: human, female, daughter, sister, friend. But from the inside, it’s not that easy.  It’s easier to define somebody when you don’t know their past, when you’re not inside their head, hearing their thoughts, walking their paths. It is a whole lot harder defining yourself when every thought you have is telling you that you’re not worth defining.

. . .

After I was sexually assaulted, I viewed myself differently. I looked in the mirror, and I saw somebody who was broken, impure, unworthy, unlovable, dirty, ugly. The mirror has never been my friend, but now it became my worst enemy.

It’s never easy to admit our struggles. So I didn’t admit that I hated absolutely everything about who I was. I didn’t admit that I was broken, self-harming, starving. I didn’t admit that I was so depressed I wanted to die. I didn’t admit that I tried.

I was scared.

I was scared of being defined by what happened to me. I didn’t want to be defined by an act done to me, the scars on my skin, the calories I deprived myself of. I didn’t want to be defined by my Mental Illness. I didn’t want to be defined by my own worst enemy: my thoughts and inner demons.

Sometimes, I’m still scared.

When I tell my story I’m scared that the first thing out of somebody’s mouth will be what were you wearing? Because what I was wearing has no bearing on how much my rape has affected me. I’m scared that the first things someone will tell me about my depression is just snap out of it. Because, oh, honey, I would if I could. But it’s not that easy. Depression is to the mind what cancer is to the body. It attacks, and it’s aggressive, and some people don’t make it out alive. But I’m lucky to have made it this far.

There’s a stigma in society about Mental Illness and Rape, and I tell my story anyway because I want people to know these things do not define me. They play a part of who I am, but I am so much more than what goes on in my head. I am so much more than an act committed against me.

Sometimes, I still have to remind myself of that fact. It’s like a broken record, playing the same stupid motivational tape on repeat: Your past does not define you. Your past does not define you. Your past does not define you. Repeat ad nauseum.

You see, I spent so long concerned with how society would define me, I forgot how God defines me. I looked in the mirror, and I saw a broken girl, unworthy of being loved. But when God looks at me, He sees a girl who is pure, clean, so worthy of being loved that He sent his Son so I could live.

I am the Daughter of the King, a Princess, an Inheritor of the Kingdom. My body is a Temple, but it was turned into a Den of rapists and demons. I tried to tear it down, and God built it back up. He turned my red back to white.

I’m learning how to see myself as God views me: whole, pure, worthy, lovable, clean, beautiful.

No longer broken, I’ve been glued together one piece of shattered glass at a time. Society would say I’m missing something, as a rape victim, I’m no longer as worthy as I once was.

I beg to differ.

My value is not determined by my past, by actions done to me, by actions done to myself.

I’m shifting the paradigm, shifting the mirror, shifting the way I view myself, but, boy, is it heavy.

I could turn around and face the other way, but sometimes my feet are glued to the floor. Depression does this.

And though my past does not define me, it does not mean it won’t affect me. Because it will. I will be fighting a battle against depression for probably the rest of my life.

Some days I’m winning; some days I can’t get out of bed. And that’s ok.

Because I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process.

I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I think I am.

I’ve learned to find joy in the little things because sometimes the little things are what get me through the day.

I’ve learned that healing is painful. It’s about burning yourself to the ground and starting over again. It’s about accepting where you’ve been and discovering where you want to go. It’s about accepting every part of yourself–flaws and all–rising out of the ashes, and making yourself new.

I’ve learned to thank God for every day I wake up because life is a gift, and who knows where I’ll be tomorrow.

How do you define yourself?

I don’t know.

I’m defining myself one day at a time: who I am today is different than who I will be tomorrow. All I can hope is that as time goes on, and as my finite line of time approaches zero, my definition will have reached its maximum height.

And if it doesn’t, at least I tried.

Therefore, no one can criticize me.


Run Away

Before you move away from home, you will probably think about running away at least once, statistically speaking. Some people will run away; some people will get half way down the street and realize they have no idea where they are going, so they go back.

If home is where the heart is, my body is not my home. My mind has threatened to leave so many times, and my hands have carved a map into the walls of this body. I’m not sure how I’ve made it this far. My feet are on the ground, but my heads in the clouds, and sometimes if I dream hard enough and long enough my heart falls in love with impossibilities formed by the imagination.

And sometimes I’m scared my heart and mind will pack their bags and leave this body for a less tormented soul. Because if I can’t love myself, how is anyone else supposed to love me? On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m pretty darn naïve, so I don’t have all the answers. But I have all the questions.

Like, how some infinities can be bigger than other infinities, and howmymindcanmovesofast but m y m o u t h m o v e so s l o w, and how people can write books and poems and use words that just tear at your soul and make you question everything you thought you knew about everything you thought you knew.

Because when I’m speaking, my mind is a complex connect-the-dots with no apparent connection, but when I’m writing, the world makes sense. Perhaps John Green said it best when he wrote: “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.” Because right now, my mind is the sky, my thoughts are as numerous as the stars, and the connections between thoughts are like shooting stars moving from Point A to Point B in this intergalactic sphere of connectedness we call humanity.

And I don’t know many things, but I do know about love, because love makes the world go round. John Green once wrote, “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once,” which is true. But I also believe you can fall in love in an instant, if only for a moment. Or at least you can fall in love with the possibilities and the ‘’could have been”s of what might have been possible in that moment. Time is not linear, because a moment can last forever, even if it’s only in the replays of our minds.

Because I once saw a boy on a bus in Seattle with muddy brown hair and eyes so blue they put the sky to shame. I wondered what his life was like, and if he was in love or out of love, or even if he believed in love. I wondered if he had a Mom and a Dad or just a Mother and Father. I wondered what his hobbies were: does he read, play the guitar, dance in the rain? Does he fall in love with words the way that I do and as easily as I fell in love with him (because in that moment, we exchanged a glance, and my heart left my chest and connected with his for just a second. But it was one of the most beautiful seconds this heart of mine has ever experienced). Because on that bus in Seattle, I saw a boy with muddy brown hair and a crooked smile, and big, sad blue eyes, and I wanted so badly to save him from the darkness of his own mind, but how can I do that when I’m not able to save myself?

But none of that mattered, because when he got off at his stop, I knew I was never going to see him again. It was by pure happenstance that we met, and it was by chance that I saw the weight of the world on his shoulders. But I can’t help but wonder what might have been had we met in a different place and time. Because even though I don’t love him, my mind is in love with the idea of him. And even though I can’t control time, I wonder what he’s doing now. I wonder if he’s happier. I wonder if that crooked smile has finally connected with his big blue eyes. I wonder if someone’s saved him, if someone’s loved him, like I’m learning to love myself.

Because if home is where the heart is, I want to build myself a castle with a moat and alligators and a fire-breathing dragon. Because I’m not afraid of loving, I’m afraid of leaving.  My heart won’t run away, but it might sprout wings and fly.

And you could fill a novel with all the ways to love.

Because When You Smile, The Earth Stands Still

Dear Stranger,

I saw you walking in the mall the other day, eyes staring intently at the ground as you walked, feet shuffling as though you wanted to avoid the noise of stepping—as if you wanted to remain invisible. For a moment as we were in the same space, next to each other, breathing the same air, you lifted up your head; your eyes met mine, and you smiled. For that one millisecond, you left the comfort zone of being invisible, and piqued my interest.

As you were walking away, a billion thoughts ran through my head. What causes you to walk that way, as if you are carrying a heavy burden? What causes you to keep your eyes fixed on the ground, as if you are harboring a wounded pride? Did something terrible happen to you to make you feel inferior, less important? Or, perhaps, are you just naturally introverted, and cautious of people? Do people make you uncomfortable?


I wonder if I’ve ever caught someone’s attention, like you caught mine. Even if I was just walking among a crowd I wonder if that somebody wanted to get to know me, like I wanted to get to know you.

Regardless, it doesn’t matter. The possibility of us meeting again is slim to say the least, just like the chances of us being in the same place at the same time.

But, despite the slim chance, if I ever see you again, I will tell you:

“You might not believe me now, but one day you will; so, trust me when I say ‘You’re Beautiful.’ Because when you smile, the earth stands still, and the sparkle in your eyes puts the stars to shame.”


And you may think I’m strange, but I know that the kindness of strangers is capable of brightening a day. So, if the stars ever align again, and we happen to pass each other again, I hope you will allow me the opportunity to brighten your day. Allow me the opportunity to make you smile.

Because when you smile, the earth stands still, and the sparkle in your eyes puts the stars to shame.