To Dan and Brock Turner

To Dan and Brock Turner:

Here’s the thing: I’m not a parent, so I don’t know what it’s like to want to protect your child, to want to defend them when they are a victim, to want to soften the blow when they do something wrong. I don’t know what it feels like to raise a child and watch them make mistakes, watch them do terrible things. But I do know this: I know that sometimes the best way to protect your child from future harm is by letting them face the consequences of their actions today.

Humans are not perfect, nor we should we pretend to be. We all do terrible things, and we all face punishment for our wrongdoings, or at least we should—it’s how we learn, how we become better humans, how we become more sympathetic to someone else’s plight. As a child, I was punished if I did something wrong, even if the only person hurt by my actions was me. If I hurt someone else by my actions, my punishment was more severe. As it should be. That’s how I learned not to hurt people, to respect them.

We all hurt people; it’s just a part of life. The question is: do we learn from the hurt we cause, or do we continue to allow it to happen? By defending your son in the way that you did, I don’t know if he has learned anything.

But I know who has: future victims—the young people who have watched this case unfold. The young girls have learned that if they’re raped, which approximately 1 in 4 will be, they’re better off not saying anything. They’re better off not pressing charges, because even if there is evidence, their attacker will get off lightly. It’s better to suffer quietly than to be publicly attacked, to have your name dragged through the mud, to have every decision you make questioned because society needs to justify what happened. Girls who are raped can be as brave as they want, but in this culture, bravery is not enough.

The young boys have learned that if they are white, middle-class and above, athletic, smart, and have a “bright future ahead of them,” they can rape someone and have consequences that do not match their actions. But if you’re a black man who’s wrongly accused of rape, good luck, dude. No one’s on your side either.

I hope I’m wrong about both of the above. 

I also know this: your son is not the victim here. You wrote in your letter to the judge about how your son used to be compared to how he is now. As you put it:

As it stands now, Brock’s life has been deeply altered forever by the events of Jan 17th and 18th. He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile. His every waking moment is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear, and depression. You can see this in his face, the way he walks, his weakened voice, his loss of appetite.

That, dear sir, is what guilt looks like. I’ve seen it before. I’ve felt it before, usually in the twilight period between doing something wrong and confessing, the period where I’m sick-to-my-stomach terrified that I’m going to get caught. The only thing your son is a victim of is what he did to himself. He made a choice that night, and I know you and he blame it on the alcohol, but the alcohol is not the problem. It’s not a drinking problem; it’s a societal problem. Rape can happen alcohol or not, “promiscuous behavior” or not; rape can happen, as it did for me, in a Middle School bathroom; a place where I, arguably, should have been the safest, besides my own home.

A murderer can still get the maximum sentence even if the murderer only took “20 minutes.” A rape is still a rape even if it was only “20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” Mine took less than 15 minutes, but it took more than 15 minutes for me to heal. There is no timeline on healing. 8 years later, and I’m still not fully healed. But I’m getting there, and your victim will, too.

I read her letter. All 12 heart-breaking, gut-wrenching pages of it. It took me three days, a new record. And I read it again and again, letting the words wash over me as my heart broke, as memories resurfaced. I read it first as a sign of solidarity: “I’ve been through this too, and I want to support you the only way I know how.” I read it again because I was amazed at the strength your victim showed as she faced you in court, publicly sharing her letter. I read it again and again because I see something in her I recognize—the sleepless nights, the wanting to leave your body behind, the strength it takes to get out of bed every day–and even though I’m farther along on this journey than she is, I am amazed at how far she’s come.

I don’t know the kind of person she was before you raped her; I’ve only gotten glimpses by the words she’s shared, but I do know who she is now: she is someone who’s walked through one of the toughest things imaginable and has come out on the other side stronger than she was before. I do know who she’ll be: she’ll be amazing; she’ll be shining bright; she’ll be someone who touches the life of everybody she has come in contact with. She’s touched mine, and I’ve only read her letter.

You had a bright future ahead of you. So does your victim. All of us victims do. You were great at swimming. She is great at something, too. I was great at school, until I was raped, and then just thinking about school made it hard for me to breathe.

And, yet, here we both stand: she and I, on the other side, each telling our own story about the same thing. And I’m angry—not about what happened to me—but that it keeps happening, that we have to keep saying the same things over and over and over again.

As for who you were before you decided to rape her: it doesn’t matter. You chose your fate. You were a swimmer, now you’re a registered sex offender and a convicted rapist. The only thing that matters now is where you go from here. How do you learn from this? Can you own up to the choice you made without blaming it on the alcohol?  Can people learn from you? Can you teach others, not about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity, or about binge drinking and its unfortunate results, but about what rape is and how not to rape others?

John Steinbeck wrote, ““I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”

You’ve already done ill.

I hope you choose to do well. Because that means there’s hope that good can triumph over evil.

And if there’s one thing we could use more of in this world, it’s hope.

Advertisements

In which I’m open and honest about my eating disorder

“People with eating disorders are so strong” – actual words that came out of an actual person’s mouth.

Wait, what? It’s 2015, and we still have to talk about this? Being me, I couldn’t keep quiet:

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I love food way too much to not eat.”

“I do, too. But that didn’t stop me.”

She had nothing to say after that.

But I did.  I do. I have so many things to say. And I don’t really know how to start, so I guess I’ll just tell you my story. I’ll be open and honest because even though I’ve talked about it, I’ve never really talked about it.

And now is as good a time as ever, perhaps the best: I’ve heard young people close to me make comments that I cannot ignore. It’s time to tell you my story, tell you about my fight against Anorexia, and maybe, in the process, I’ll help destigmatize eating disorders. We, as a society, don’t do a good job talking to our children about eating disorders, but that’s beginning to change.

It’s time to put a personal face on Anorexia.

My name is Kaleigh Distaffen. I’m 20 years old, and this is my story.

I like to think my eating disorder started after my sexual assault. It’s easier that way. It’s easier to blame the root of all your problems on a single event. However, looking back, my sexual assault made my eating disorder worse; it didn’t start my fight with Anorexia.

Puberty did.

It started in 6th grade, Middle School, the nightmarish years of every child. It started when I noticed the changes occurring with my body didn’t match what society was telling me was beautiful. And I just couldn’t accept that.

I thought being beautiful was the most important thing, and I would do anything to achieve the standards of beauty society put before me.

It started with skipping a meal or two here or there. Putting less food on my plate and eating a smaller amount was easy when I ate “barely enough to keep a bird alive” to being with.

All through Middle School I did this: buying school lunches and then not eating them; throwing away money like I threw away calories, not caring about the consequences, not caring about the effects on other people.

And then, at the end of 8th grade, I was sexually assaulted. And everything changed. No longer was not eating connected with being beautiful, not eating was connected with being somebody else. If I could be somebody, anybody else, I wouldn’t have to remember what happened.

They say muscles have memory. You can ride a bike after years of not riding one because your muscles remember how to do it. You can type without looking at the keyboard because your fingers remember the placement of each key.

I tried to starve my muscles away hoping they’d forget the feeling of unwanted touch on my skin. It didn’t work.

It started with skipping a meal here and there, picking and nibbling at smaller and smaller amounts of food. It escalated to not eating anything but a few crackers for weeks at a time.

Ninth grade is a terrible year for everyone, but it was especially terrible for me. After having the summer away from my assaulters, I was thrust back into an environment where I encountered them every day. And, on top of all that, I started to get hips (Gasp)! And breasts (double gasp). That was the moment I knew I’d never be the tall, skinny super model society wanted me to be.

And everywhere I looked I was reminded of what happened. I couldn’t look in the mirror without hating what I saw. So, I skipped meals like an atheist skips church: trying to starve away the memories.

Things food wise started to get better in tenth and eleventh grade: I started taking AP classes, which means I was never in the same class with any of the guys I avoided at all costs. It wasn’t perfect. I never ate three meals a day; I tried to kill myself (which is a totally different, but not unrelated story, but which can be read about in so many posts on this blog).

I wasn’t eating three meals a day, but I was eating all the food I took, which wasn’t much, but it was a start.

During my Senior Year of High School is when my eating disorder became just that: a disorder that caused order to become chaos. I’ve never dealt well with chaos. My life felt like it was spinning out of control, so I tried to control what I could. I could control the amount of food going into my mouth, and so I did. I meticulously counted calories. I started eating less and less and less. My schedule was perfect: I woke up too late to grab breakfast, so breakfast was usually a granola bar grabbed from the kitchen. I was taking too many classes to have a scheduled lunch, so I grabbed lunch (either snack bars from my locker or something from the cafeteria). The food I bought (which wasn’t much) was thrown away. The food I grabbed from my locker went back.

My locker became a storage facility for all the calories I didn’t feel worthy enough of eating; I gave it away to my friends who needed it more than me.

I swore when I went to college that I’d do better. I’d eat. I’d have a clean slate. I would not worry about others judging when I ate. I would forget the fact that with every bite I put in my mouth, I’d feel less and less secure and more and more judged by those around me.

But it didn’t happen. I walked into my campus dining hall on the first day of classes my freshman year, and then I immediately walked out.

There were so many pretty faces, and I wasn’t one of them.

I can’t tell you when things began to change, but I first noticed a change about two years ago. I was exhausted all the time: physically and mentally. Between the not being and the not eating, I was having a hard time. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to start eating. And I don’t know why I had the sudden change of mind. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was worth enough to eat. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was beautiful. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide my life was back in control, because it’s not. I don’t have my life controlled. At all.

Every day is still a battle: a battle to get out of bed, a battle to put food in my mouth, a battle to not hole myself up somewhere. But I try my best to do what I can to live. Life is not about surviving; it’s about thriving. I was barely surviving for so long, I want to thrive.

I’m trying to do just that. I still compare myself to others, but I have to not let it affect me: if I start to get anxious about the way I look, I’ll worry about eating. Skipping even one meal is super dangerous for people like me: Recovering Anorexics with a love-hate relationship with food.

I’m not sure how to end this story because it’s not quite over yet. It’s still a work in progress, but I’ve come farther than I ever thought I could. And that’s something to celebrate.

I never thought Anorexia would happen to me. Italians are genetically bred to love food, and I am no exception. However, my love of food was not strong enough to overcome my hatred for myself.

2322_1090090138128_8837_n 10296469_10203784683523461_185376561413191409_o

The picture on the left is from the end of my freshman year of high school (age 14) when my eating disorder was at (one of) its worst. The picture on the right is from last year, end of junior year of college (age 19).

I may not be society’s idea of beautiful, but that’s not stopping my beauty from existing.

I’m definitely 5000x happier in the second picture than I am in the first picture. I choose happiness over being Anorexic.

There’s nothing strong about having an eating disorder. True strength is found in overcoming it.

(if you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, get help.)

Bible WhatNow?

Disclaimer: Bible Quizzing is not for every one, and I was not paid to write this post, nor was I asked to in any way, shape, or form. This post has stemmed out of several conversations I’ve had over the past few days about Bible Quizzing, and you know, since I’m better at writing than I am at talking, I decided it would be more conducive for me to write it all out.

Question. Question Number 1 is a two part question. Question number 1 in two parts. Question. What is Bible Quizzing, and why do you do it?

What is Bible Quizzing?

That’s a complicated question. In the approximately 10 years I’ve been involved with Bible Quizzing, I still haven’t been able to string a set of words together to accurately describe what Quizzing is to those who haven’t seen it. But I’ll do my best because you all seem so interested in the topic.

First off, it’s not a room full of students sitting in neatly arranged rows of desks, taking a test on the Bible like an SAT or an AP. And it’s most definitely not a “Quiet, No Chatting, No Fun” Zone.

It’s like Jeopardy and Family Feud got together and had this child that also gives you a great leg workout if you do it right (And trust me, you want to do it right because one day you’ll know the answer but be outjumped and outgained by the kid from the other church you’ve been trying to beat for years). It’s an individual team competition, and I know that doesn’t make sense to those of you who don’t quiz, but it makes sense to those of us who do.

Because while we are trying to beat the team in the seats across from us, we are also trying to beat ourselves. How much of this can I memorize? How fast can I get up? Can I get more questions than I did last month?

And I don’t really know how else to describe what it is, except that I know I wrote a post about what Bible Quizzing is a while ago. You can read that if you like.

As for why I participate in it, that question is easier to answer.

I was forced. Or not, I can’t really remember.

If I was forced, it’s because I was a painfully shy child. And I’m not talking like “Won’t talk to strangers” type of shy; I’m talking “You’re my grandfather but I can’t ask you to play this game with me because what if you say no? So, I’ll just passively aggressively set this game up on the table and hope you get the hint that I want to play the game” type deal.

If I was forced, it’s because I needed to pop this “fear of people, rejection, and any type of social interaction” bubble that was surrounding me.

If I was forced, it worked.

If I wasn’t forced, it’s because I wanted to be involved in Quizzing.

If I wasn’t forced, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

I haven’t been a quizzer in three years, but why have I kept coming back?

Simple: the relationships.

The people I’ve meet through quizzing are easily the best friends I have ever had. It’s easy to say that you are best friends with someone when you see them almost every day, but when you only see them once a month, it’s a lot harder to call someone your best friend.

The relationships I’ve made through quizzing are easily the ones I cherish the most, no matter the miles or states that may separate us. The friends I’ve made through quizzing are the “I know it’s 3 in the morning, but I’m having a hard time. I feel like Atlas, holding the world up on his shoulders. But unlike Atlas, the sky is falling around me. It’s 3 am, and I called you because I knew you would answer” type friends.

I’ve stayed involved with quizzing because I want to be that friend for somebody, and I really love watching the quizzers grow and mature right before my eyes.

Quizzing is hard. I know that. It’s a lot of work, and sometimes the thought of studying and competing is overwhelming. Trust me, I understand. I’ve been there.

Numerous times throughout my quizzing career I thought about walking away. Between studying for school, balancing my Mental Health, and studying for quizzing, I didn’t think I could do it all. I couldn’t quit school, because that was frowned upon. I tried to quit life, and yet I’m still here. So, I tried to quit quizzing.

That didn’t work either because the relationships I made were too precious for me to give up on. So, I decided to focus less on the competition, which was never really a focus of mine anyways, except for that year and a half when I decided to memorize EVERYTHING.

Which was fun and all, but I realized winning isn’t everything. I cared more about my allies than my PPQI (which for all you sports fans out there is like a batter’s RBI). I started caring more about quality than quantity, but not everyone does, and that’s ok.

Quizzing is a combination of competition and fellowship, prasing and winning. And I wouldn’t have it any other way, because all of these aspects put together contribute to the greatness that it is. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And you win some, you lose some. And I’ve won some great friends, some great confidence, and a greater understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Because my greatest enemies in the quizzing room became my greatest friends when the final question was finished.

And that’s the beauty of it all.

So yes, I think every body should try quizzing at least for one year, because you can’t really understand the fullness of its greatness without experiencing everything: the practices, the tournaments, the weekend getaway, the week long nationals, the victories, and the defeats.

It’s more than “you have to see it to believe it.” It’s more like “you have to experience it to understand it.”

And I hope you can experience it at least once, and if you can’t, I hope you at least are a spectator once because miracles do happen, and this is one.

Un-eligible Princess

If you could use your imagination for a second and imagine me standing in front of you, I’m terrified and shaking and trembling but I’m reading this with a smile on my face. Because I’m terrified of speaking in large groups, but when I’m reading my words from the page, I’m the only one in the room.

Right now, it’s one in the morning, or 7 at night, or pick a time any time. And I’ve written many things already tonight. And the number of words I’ve written in my life is probably greater than the number I’ve spoken. And that’s ok. Because with every beat of my heart, my blood carries my words throughout my body, reaching my brain and my fingers until I itch for a pen.

But there was a time when I would have reached for the razor instead. I would have watched as my blood trickled from my skin and the tears from my eye flood carried the words I didn’t know how to say from this body of mine. Because I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve, but a part of it leaves when I sit down to write. Because my heart cries tears of pain and joy and desperation, and all this accumulation turns into inspiration late at night.

And I’m well-versed in the art of poetry (and also math, but Calculus 101 and 102 demanded my wrath). But poetry is not a mathematical equation, unless you’re Shakespeare with his sonnets, and his perfect 14 lines of iambic pentameter.

Because

Any

Sentence

Is

Poetry

If

You

Write

Like

This.

And if that’s poetry, I’m not a poet—try my way though. Because my prosetry may include rhyme and meter, because I grew up counting meter for music, so I’ve met her (be)fore. And anything is a metaphor if you try hard enough. I draw poetry from life around me and the pain inside me. Because every so often, I think ‘why me?’

And I believe my words are beautiful. Because they have the power to open minds, change minds, encourage minds, and maybe one day convince someone to be mine. Even dressed to the nines, I don’t feel fine, by which I mean beautiful.  Because what’s beautiful about scars? I mean Scar was the bad guy in Lion King, and I’m the Daughter of the King, so don’t my scars make me the “Next Un-eligible Princess?” And I try to hide mine, because I drew the line and connected the scars on my skin, and one day I picked up the pen instead.

Because writing makes me feel beautiful. And my writing is beauty filled, and people tell me they’re proud of me. And if my writing can help thee, then it shall be. Because I don’t want to hide these red razor lines on my abs and my thighs, so I transfer them to my writing, which is fine by me. My scars say “I have survived,” but these demons won’t go away, which is why writing is here to stay. Because this pain is enough to drive me insane, but my words are enough to keep them at bay.

Because not too long ago, I believed that beauty was directly proportional to weight, which made me hate society. Because when did it become ok to say things to ourselves we are too afraid to say to anyone else? And when did skeletons become goddesses teaching us to not need? Because what does thin mean to you? Sophistication, adoration, adulation, a vaccination against segregation? And if that’s beauty, I’ll stay ugly.

Because I’ve always been too big, too loud, too quiet, too excitable. But that’s ok, because my heart is too big to be contained in jeans too small for a stick. And although some days I hate everything about who, what, and how I am, it’s ok anyway. Because I have enough pain to write novels like Bronte. And they will be beautiful, because slowly and surely, I am learning to love myself. There are parts of me that shine like the stars. Because my eyes are full of wonder, and when I make a blunder: I still walk into the light.

So I can no longer believe that my value is tied into how much I weigh, because whoever said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” clearly never tried Red Velvet anything. Besides, I have better things to worry about. I mean, I have a book to write, and lives to change, and people to hug, and stories to tell. And the last thing I want people to remember me for is my weight. I want to be remembered for doing something great.

But right now, in this moment, I’m 19. I’m here, and I’m so afraid. But my courage is roaring like the sun, because I’ve made it this far, and I know I’ll be ok. So when I get up in the morning, and my legs feel like they might buckle, I’ll have to trust that they are strong enough to keep me from falling. I am strong enough. Besides, if they’re not strong enough in that moment, life goes on. And I can try again tomorrow.

 

Olympics and Flying: What they Have in Common

When I was little, I would watch the Olympics in complete awe and reverence. I would watch the gymnasts run down the mats like an airplane taxing down a runway, fling themselves off the vault, fly through the air, twisting and turning like a leaf in the wind, and stick their landings. I would watch the ice skaters glide on the ice like a knife over butter, twirl in the air as they complete their triple axels, and come back down to earth all with the grace of an angel.

And I wanted to be a gymnast and an ice skater and a fairy princess. So, I tried my hardest. I put a step stool down between the lines on the carpet in the living room. I would run and jump off of it, doing a half twist in the air before my feet hit the ground. And in that moment, I was an award-winning gymnast. I would “ice skate” in my socks on hardwood floor, and as I glided over the floors I pretended I was Michelle Kwan. I would take my light pink super hero cape and pretend it was a Queen’s robe, until I decided being prim and proper was boring. Saving the world is more fun.

When I was little, I was obsessed with the idea of flying. I would stand on the bottom step of the staircase in my home and channel my inner Buzz Lightyear by saying, “to infinity and beyond.” Of course, being 3, it would come out “to infiniby and beyond.” And then I would jump off that 6 inch step and flap my arms, because I was convinced that if I flapped my arms hard enough, I could fly around the room. One day, I told my Dad with all the enthusiasm little me could muster, “Daddy. I was in the air for 6 whole seconds!”

Of course, I wasn’t. Children don’t understand time… or gravity.

Sometimes I still don’t.

Time is a relative concept. It’s not a line. It’s more of a… of a… big ball of timey wimey stuff. Gravity isn’t concrete either. Sometimes, when I feel particularly unhappy about my body, I remember that I would weigh less on the moon. So, if I ever fulfill my dream of becoming an astronaut, I’m all set. Because what is weight, but the force of gravity acting upon us? And the amount of gravity depends on the mass of the object. The earth is bigger than the moon. But compared to the size of the universe, the earth is miniscule. A speck of sand on the finger of God. So it’s easy for me to feel small.

On the day I decided to test gravity and throw myself off the metaphorical cliff, I wasn’t small enough for God to see me, to protect me, and save me.

I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of flying, and I’ve learned that 37,000 feet in the air is beautiful.

Gymnasts fly. Ice skaters fly. I’ll never be either.

And that’s ok. Because I’m a writer. I believe in metaphors. I believe in life. And what is life but a metaphor anyway?

When I was little, I believed that if I jumped high enough and flapped my arms hard enough, I would sprout wings and fly around the room.

One day, I woke up, and I had wings. And now I’m flying.

The girl who is scared of heights, which is more a fear of falling aka a fear of trying to die, is flying high in the sky. And nothing will ever bring me down.

Normal Day: I attempted suicide 4 years ago

Today’s a normal day: I’m sitting in the library, at my normal table, people watching because that’s how I draw my inspiration, and it may seem counter intuitive, but sometimes watching people and getting caught up in the world I imagine for them is the only way I can get my homework done.

Today’s a normal day. Except, it’s not.

4 years ago, almost to the day, I tried to kill myself. I can remember the time and the place. I can remember it all. And now, I’m sitting in my Campus library, in my normal spot, wondering how on earth I made it this far.

How did I get here?

What am I doing here?

And sometimes I find myself wondering if people make up stories about me like I do them. Do they know who I am? Do they know what I’ve been through? If they do, are they judging me for it?

You see, yesterday, I posted this picture of one of my Facebook statuses on Twitter:

Which is kind of a big deal, because my Facebook friends are people I know, and only people I know can see it. On Twitter, however, that is not the case. It got retweeted by one of my friends, and people who I don’t know favorited it.

I think it’s a good thing, because maybe what I’ve been through can help them even if I haven’t met them?

But are they judging me? Because they don’t know me, and it’s easy to form judgments about people you don’t know.

Because yes, I’ve been sexually assaulted, which has led to me living with depression, attempting suicide, and battling anorexia. And it would be easy for people to judge me.

But what I’ve been through doesn’t define me.

I am so much more than my past.

I’m a Christian whose faith in God has been strengthened by what I’ve been through.

I’m a Survivor who has used what I’ve been through to help others. When I went to Guatemala, I was able to lead a young teenage girl to Christ because I was brave enough to share my story.

I’m a writer and a poet who is writing a book, because I believe in the power of words.

Today is a normal day: I’m sitting at my normal table in the library, studying grammar with my friends, people watching, and making up stories about their lives.

Today is a normal day. 4 years ago, I tried to kill myself. I’ve been waiting for my life to begin, and it’s already begun.

I was living my life when I went to Guatemala, climbed up to the highest floor of a mall parking garage, looked down, and didn’t want to jump.

I was living my life when I wanted to jump to end my life.

I was living my life when I tried to hide my past.

I live my life every day despite how numb I sometimes feel inside, and despite my heart being ripped out of my body through my throat whenever someone says, “You have no reason to be depressed.”

This pain I feel is real, and despite choosing to live after deciding to die, it’s present in my life right now.

So, I’m living my life every day, even though depression sometimes makes my life kind of gray.

Each day is a new shade of gray. 50 shades of gray: depression edition.

Today is a normal day even though big things have happened in my life recently. I’ve found healing and hope and love. The scar on my wrist reminds me of where I’ve been.

Every day, depression threatens to take over my life, because depression doesn’t care that I’m a white teenage girl who lives with her parents, who can afford to go to college. I guess that makes me average.

I just want to be normal. That’s why today is a normal day, despite what happened 4 years ago.

 

Enough

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my trip to Guatemala and about how much I miss it. And I realized I haven’t shared this story with anyone yet, so you, readers of this post, will be the first.

There will come a moment when your life makes sense: your past connects to your present connects to your future. And when this happens, it will be like one big ball of “Eureka! So that’s why this happened.” Because it that moment, the Healing Process begins all over again, and it almost doesn’t matter how much pain it caused you. Because in that moment, all that matters is how it’s changing lives in a different country.

It happened to me in Santa Cruz, a little tiny mountain village in the middle of nowhere, Guatemala. It happened to me on the day I shared my Testimony with my teammates and the Spanish speaking Junior Highers. It happened to me after we made Salvation Bracelets with the Elementary schoolers. And it happened to me when a Junior Higher asked me, “Podemos hablar?,” which translates to “Can we talk?” but carries so much more weight.

And I told her: “Por supuesto!” Which means, “Of course,” but there were a million thoughts running through my head at a mile a minute, and I was thinking, “What did I do now? Did I offend her in someway? Oh gosh, I’m really not prepared for this.”

But, I was. And so we did talk, just the two of us. In Spanish. For an hour. And my heart started to break as she thanked me for sharing my story, and it completely shattered as she told me her own. Because sitting across from me, next to the soccer field, was one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen, and she’s sitting there telling me how she doesn’t feel like she’s enough. She doesn’t feel like she’s strong enough, brave enough, good enough, and like she doesn’t have faith enough.

And I tell her I understand. Because there are experiences that transcend all barriers. We are not from the same country. We have different cultures, and I’m trying my best to speak her language, but boy, do I understand.

And she begins to cry as she asks me how I do it–how I find the strength to get up every morning. And I sit there wondering the same thing. I look at my wrist, and I see the bracelet with the colored beads I made earlier. And in that moment, I know what I need to do.

And as I rip it off my wrist, and tie it to her’s, I tell her: “Black is for your sins. Red is for the blood of Jesus shed for you. White is for the forgiveness of sins. And blue is for baptism and a relationship with Jesus.” And then I tell her again to make sure she understands.

“Negro es para tus pecados.

Rojo es para la sangre de Jesus.

Blanca es para la compasion.

Y azul es para la relacion con Jesus.

That’s how I find my strength, and now you can have it too.”

And then we prayed a prayer, and she accepted Christ right there, and this time I cried tears of joy, because she had found the joy I found.

And as I said goodbye to her as I prepared to leave the village, I realized moments like these are why my struggles are worth it. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that love transcends all languages.

And I was reminded of that over and over again as the rest of my trip progressed. I was reminded when we took the orphans out for dinner, and one grabbed my hand and said, “Sientense conmigo.” Sit with me. Sit with me. And I was reminded again when she fell asleep on my lap on the bus ride home, and I had to carry her off the bus and hand her off to someone else. And the way her eyes lit up when she saw me the next day and the next day, reminded me again and again how powerful love is.

When we went to the dump this little girl who didn’t know me from Adam, ran up to me,  and reached her hands up as if she was Adam and I was God. I’m no Savior, but that night I was a hero, because I brought love to give. And when I picked her up, the big smile she wore on her face was enough to make me realize we all want the same thing. We all want to feel loved. We all want to be safe.

And when the people in the dump who live on ‘not enough’ invited us into their homes so they could pray for us, I felt undeserving. Because, yes, I’ve had it rough, but at least I have enough. Right now, in this moment, you don’t. So I should be praying for you. But as they prayed I realized how much faith they had. And I want faith like theirs.

Because there are days when I don’t feel like enough. In those moments, I think back to these memories, and I realize: I have enough love to give. I am enough.

Continue reading: https://alltherestisunwritten.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/set-a-fire/

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.

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.

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.