A Lesson In Hope

I was only fifteen when I tried to kill myself.  It happened nineteen years ago today.

Both of my sisters left home. One left a note behind and didn’t look back. The other moved in with a different family just a few houses away. I stayed. I had a medical condition I couldn’t get my family to face and I hid from the rest of the world. I had just been diagnosed that September. The following month, a boy who went to my school and lived up the street died by suicide the same day we received our report cards. He had gotten a B. Two other students attempted suicide. Then, I became attempt number three.

We had just celebrated Thanksgiving. A couple of days later, my parents went to granny’s house for turkey leftovers, but I stayed home that night. Maybe it should’ve been a sign that I planned it. But the truth is, I was so ambivalent in my attempt I was blinded. While the rest of the world could see what was on the surface, if you asked me, I was just trying to get rid of my migraine.

Years later, a college essay forced me to reflect on that day. I stayed in denial about a lot of things. I stood by that migraine, which I did have… and shifted the focus to home. I lived in a pretty abusive household. At the end of the essay, I needed to choose what side of the fence I was on when it came to legalizing physician-assisted suicide. I couldn’t choose one. So, I took a break from college to decide.

Ambivalence, once again, crept into my life. Attempting suicide during my youth, amid familial religiosity, made me a black sheep; sinful, troubled, tormented… outcast. I fought against that with lies.

“I didn’t try to kill myself! I had a migraine.”

When suicide isn’t talked about in the community or the home, it’s easy to feel like we have to hide those things. So, at age thirty-one, I repeated the past and my self-destructive uncertainty with a suicide prevention campaign on Facebook. Ambivalence has always been tricky with me, and it’s hard to detect.

Like when my sister told me, in the middle of my campaign, she was “broken but not suicidal.” I think she really believed that. Or wanted to. I know I did. I should’ve known better. Maybe I would’ve saved her if I had known what to look for and was listening with my heart. But I didn’t know how. I didn’t know anything about suicide; the risks, the warning signs, they were lost on me. Until now.

While juggling suicidal thoughts, grief, and denial… I educated myself. But the one thing I kept running from is why feeling suicidal is a daily fight for me. I finally know the answer. When I tried to kill myself as a teen, it wasn’t because my sisters were gone or because I lived in an abusive home. And it wasn’t depressive disorder like the inpatient doctors at the youth facility tried to throw at me. It was because I couldn’t leave like my sisters did. I couldn’t fight for my life on my own. I couldn’t escape. Because the biggest thief of my hope was looking in the mirror, seeing the diagnosis I was facing, and knowing there was a solution, there was a way to address it—for the rest of the world. Not for me. My father’s insurance wouldn’t cover the treatment.

Some say I survived, but I didn’t. The following summer, I deleted me. Although, I couldn’t have told you back then. I wouldn’t have been able to explain why I wrote a new first name on every paper at school.. or how I went from a bully to one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet overnight. But I know now that it was the onset of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

I kept myself hidden, protected, for as long as I could. I ran from the reason for my suicide attempt as long as I could, until I had my daughter. Until my lack of fighting for myself began to impact more people than just me. Then, I rose from the ashes to face the demons still burning inside… and I learned the hardest lesson of my life: Hope is temporary if solutions are out of reach.

I don’t know if you know how it feels for the cure for your pain to sit just out of reach. But I can tell you how to survive. Fight. Even when there is no hope.

It’s okay to fight dirty when you’re fighting for life.


If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out to the National Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741-741 to chat with the Crisis Text Line. 

Take Your ‘#MeToo’ and Shove It

The day I was raped was the first time I wore a jean skirt. OMG, I was so excited. Was that the case with you, too?

It was up against my green Firebird, just after eight o’clock. It was beginning to get dark. He pushed me against the car, whispered in my ear, and looked behind him to make sure he had an audience. I swear I saw my head go through the window. Was that the case with you, too?

And when he was done, I’m not sure how I got home. But I remember his smile. I said “I’m okay” for two days. I tried to scrub him off my skin in scolding hot showers. Was that the case with you, too?

For nine years, I couldn’t even say the word “rape.” He took away every success I would ever achieve. He destroyed me. He still owns my legs! Is. that. the. case. with. you. too?!

I am ashamed. I am enraged, watching the world minimize my rape as if it is just a number; as if I am just another name on a page. As if every rape is exactly the same.

Do you think the numbers aren’t out there? Do you think men and women don’t know rape is almost like a handshake these days? Here we are posting #MeToo because it’s the next viral tag stamped on our pain. And the alleged victims who indirectly inspired this tag, can you tell me their names? Don’t you dare Google! Are you listening?

Can you say “Me, too?” Am I making you angry? What does my rapist look like? Did you forget?! Did you forget how it felt when you told your best friend, mother, or sister? Maybe you wrote a poem or a blog and shared it online, did you forget?

Did you forget how it felt when all you were trying to do is find your way back to yourself and when you needed support, when you needed to be heard, the world shouted, “Me, too!” And shared every detail of their rapes with you as if somehow that pain would keep your head above water? Did you forget?

Because I still have nights I can’t close my eyes and I would risk my own life to avoid seeing his face in my dreams. I have days I can’t take the weight of every way I’ve been violated. I violate myself just to cover the scars! And you don’t get to say, “Me, too.” You don’t get to make me feel reduced…

Unless you can name where they are.

When topics like this start trending on social media, it can be overwhelming for survivors. This is the rant of a survivor in the heat of it all. It is not an effort to discredit to #MeToo Movement. We all heal differently.

If you’ve been a victim of sexual assault and you are struggling, please reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE). Your rape did not happen to the rest of the world. It happened to you. 

There Will Be Days

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Love Changes People

Evade, avoid, repeat. That’s my motto. Lately, it’s become more of an anthem. Some days, it works.

Tonight, for example, I didn’t notice that my open letter to my friends and my family wasn’t liked by even one of my family members on any of six social media outlets. I didn’t notice that out of 338 Facebook friends, only a handful read my letter or liked it.

In fact, It almost slipped right by me that out of my last 20 posts, only three family members interacted and the exact same 25 people.

No, I didn’t notice at all. It doesn’t bother me…

“It’s just Facebook!”

I also didn’t notice when child abuse, domestic abuse, and violence, started trending and not many shared my message then, either.

A few wrote to tell me “I wanted to share it, but…” I understood. It’s hard to think about that kind of violence.

I would know. I struggled to write it.

Approximately 3 million reports are made annually, which include more than 6 million children. But we all just continue to watch. Meanwhile, CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman, an “expert,” wants to refer to the line between discipline and abuse as a gray blur?

I guess she’s never been a victim.


The same thing happened the first time my work was published by Elite Daily. #YesALLWomen began trending on Twitter, sparked by the Isla Vista Shooting.

Instead of mourning the victims, we placed gender against gender and one kind of pain against another, rather than addressing that we have a culture of violence.

#YesALLWomen is an important and meaningful hashtag. As a woman and a survivor of sexual assault, I understood that. But as someone who experienced the death of two classmates and the tragedy of the Columbine Massacre when I was a high school student, it was frustrating to watch the world divert the attention away from the lives that were lost.

When I was 15, I remember thinking to myself that what I was hearing about would be a part of history one day. I never imagined we would allow it to become a way of life.

My friends and family struggled to congratulate me or share it the same then, too.

I called my mother and father and told them that day, even gave them the link to read it. Six hours later . . . silence.

No big deal. People forget how you made them feel, right? Maya Angelou reminds us that’s not true:

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

We all deserve to feel loved.


When I began advocating for suicide prevention, I blogged an article to kick it off:

Everyone is Talking About Homosexuality, But No One Is Talking About What Matters.

Less than 24 hours later, I realized that if I wanted my message to be heard, I needed to change the title. People wouldn’t read it and they definitely wouldn’t share it, if it alluded to a lifestyle they consider immoral, sinful, or perverse.

If I reference homosexuality or if I advocate on behalf of a transgender adolescent, I must be one of those people:

Leftward thinking people truly do whatever it takes when it comes to convincing others that their lifestyle — and other lifestyles — are simply equal expressions of human life.

As expressed by a Christian blogger.

Telling someone Jesus loves them is not the same as telling them you love them. Jesus can’t tell our children how much we love them or how important they are to us. Jesus can’t tell them how much they matter to us.

That’s our job.

Leelah just needed to know her parents loved her. She screamed it. She needed to know that her life mattered to them; she mattered.

When I was her age, I attempted suicide. It has taken fifteen years to admit that, but it took my church seconds to deem me unfit for ministry contract I had signed. In fine ink, it disclosed, “Perfection required.”

I guess I wasn’t called or anointed. I guess I’m not a leader. I’m just a sinner. My life didn’t matter. I didn’t matter. Only good Christians mattered.

At least that’s the message they sent. Now, as an adult, I know they were wrong, but back then I didn’t. I hid the truth, carried the guilt and blamed myself. I wish I hadn’t.

I’ve read the bible. For me, this was the verse that screamed among everything else:

Three things remain: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.

I can’t help but wonder how many people viewed Leelah’s suicide note the night before her death and chose to ignore it.

It doesn’t take a Bible or a hashtag to share your faith, show love or save people. If you want to change the world, it’s simple.

Go spread love throughout it.


Someone in your life is sitting at home right now and they’re wondering why they should go on living. They’re suffering in silence and painting a smile because that is what we’ve come to believe is normal, polite and expected. But they’re lying. They’re desperate, broken, hurting and alone, and silently thinking,

I don’t matter. No one cares. If I die tomorrow, nobody will notice. 

They say pain changes people.  I’ve come to find it true myself.

But so does love.



“Even God Must Get the Blues”

 

Their Hashtags Are Trending Now. Will We Listen?

I am an Oklahoma woman. One small voice in the middle of the Bible Belt, in a city known as the Heart of Oklahoma. I used to believe this was as far as my voice could ever reach. Then, I found out I was pregnant.

Nine days before my daughter’s birth, my partner left and never returned. I could have succumbed to the pain and anger I felt, but I didn’t. I had my first child, moved homes, became a college student for the first time and discovered the meaning of being called “Mom.”

That’s when I realized my voice could reach further than I had imagined — it must.

My daughter is 1-year-old, and every day, I grow more fearful and worried about what her future might hold. If something happened to me today, who would stand up for my daughter tomorrow? Who would protect my child for me?

This week, I realized, no one will stand for my daughter unless she becomes another hashtag that goes viral.

#OKGirls

Yesterday, Stacy Wright and Danielle Brown led a walkout and protest to present the Norman High School administration with an urgent call-to-action and one very real message:

We will stand for our daughters because you didn’t.

While speaking with Stacy, the voice of the mothers, she emphasized their anger and shock at the lack of action taken by the teachers and other members of the administration.

She expressed that the #YesAllDaughters viral campaign is not about the way the Norman Police Department is handling the investigation; it’s about the school allowing the victims to be bullied. Bullied to the point where they no longer felt like they could return to the classroom.

By the end of the protest on Monday, three victims became four victims. Another one of our daughters became a victim of violence.


#Ferguson

On August 9, Lesley McSpadden lost her son, Michael Brown. After the decision to not indict police officer Darren Wilson who shot and killed Brown, McSpadden reacted to news that her son will not receive justice with the same intensity and emotion to the ruling.

As she screamed and wept in disbelief and anger, millions of us stood and raised our hands and voices along with her.

When her son hit the ground in a storm of unmerited violence and bullets, the people of Ferguson, MO learned that their voices can reach further than their hometown — they must.


#HandsUpDontShoot

On Saturday, the parents of Tamir Rice sat in the hospital with their 12-year-old son. They sat beside him, hoping and praying for God to spare his life, after he was shot two times in the chest by a police officer.

Tamir had responded to police with a childlike response; he put his hands down to his waistband and pulled out his fake gun. Even the officers of the department confirm it was never aimed at police.

On Sunday, those parents mourned the death of a son. Another one of our children becomes a victim to violence.


This is our culture.

Now, news networks are careful to specify “rookie cop” when telling the public how another one of our children lost his life. As if being a rookie makes it alright.

As if we won’t notice the black demographic that’s been targeted over and over, while we pretend the Civil Rights Movement erased bigotry, racism and hate from our nation.

Schools hide behind politics and professional agendas after failing to protect the students, while getting paid from the pockets of the parents of children they are obligated to protect. They blame the victims. They laugh at the students. They ignore the bullies and the rumors they hear in the hall.

Police officers gun down our children and then justify it:

Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions.

You’re damn right, we’re angry!

So, how do we respond?


They’re Our Children!

Violence is trending, and there’s no hashtag to say it, so allow me.

We have a culture of violence and a tolerance of injustice.

We spend a lot of time acknowledging gender roles and fighting for rights: “Stop the violence against women!” But, we forget our children are boys and girls. Children are children.

When one child suffers, as parents who have held the same small hands and loved the same small hearts, we should be front and center when it comes to speaking out against any and all violence.

Black or white, boy or girl, teen or toddler, well-behaved or not, every child depends on our voice. We are the parents.

We’ve been so busy sticking to one cause or side for so long when it comes to the subject of domestic violence, we’ve neglected to see the bigger picture. We have tunnel vision when it comes to the stats.

Domestic violence affects 12.7 million people each year — men, women and children, alike. Violence doesn’t discriminate; it has no lines. The corruption is not in the gender, it is in the people.

It’s time for men and women to drop their battle signs and hold up a new one:

NO MORE CHILDREN. NO MORE VICTIMS. WE ARE PARENTS.

I stopped supporting the fight to end violence against women. It’s time to end violence against all people.

I Attempted Suicide & I’m Not Sure It Was Wrong

It was just after Thanksgiving. My head was pounding, and I was freezing as my feet hit the pavement running.

My parents had gone to my grandma’s house for leftover turkey and dressing. I stayed home, eager for the time to myself.

While they were enjoying their family dinner, I took a bottle of Tylenol: 350 capsules. It didn’t help matters much that I had taken a muscle relaxant from my mother’s collection.

I wasn’t suicidal.

I had a migraine from running.

At least, that is the story I told.

By the time my boyfriend found me, my body temperature had dropped, my lips were blue and I was freezing.

I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

When I was 15, medical professionals tried to tell me that it was “depressive disorder.” Even then, I knew better.

While on Facebook, some days, just viewing my profile can cost me an entire day or a few hours. It’s one day one minute, and the next minute, it’s Tuesday.

The days just disappear and so do the hours. Facebook regularly prompts me to update my profile and poses this question:

What are some of your favorite memories?

I should mention . . .

I also have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

As an adult, I have learned that extensive physical and emotional trauma have conditioned my brain to a specific, organized, way of thinking.

Some days, it feels like it did the same to my emotions.

I couldn’t tell you exactly what at the time, but something changed just before I started seventh grade. I stopped going by my first name. I adamantly went by my middle name and became verbally aggressive if challenged otherwise.

Please, call me, ‘Grace.’

I also took a creative writing class that year. When we returned from Spring break, we were assigned a writing project prompted with this question:

What was the favorite part of your Spring break with your family?

In tears and confused, I approached the teacher’s desk and quietly whispered that I had nothing special to tell about my Spring break.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

I can’t remember what happened that year. There were many hard years. My counselor tells me,

We have a way of blocking the hard parts out.

I’d like to know what she considers as hard. 

The teacher told me to write about any happy memory with my family instead. On that day, I realized I didn’t have any happy memories—not one.

Not that I never had any happy moments, that is just how my mind works.

Ethics

As a teenager, if had succeeded in taking my own life, would the decision have been ethical? Would it have been right or wrong? After all, I was the victim of an abusive culture and upbringing, innocent in my youth and my thinking.

I was a child.

If mental health did not play a role, but rather a pure response to real trauma, would you tell a child he/she is selfish for escaping abuse the only way the child knew how or does the abuse give a logical and acceptable justification to suicide?

Physician-assisted Suicide is legal in the Netherlands, currently being determined in Canada, and moderately approved (with restrictions) across the United States. According to the American Medical Association:

Physician-assisted suicide occurs when a physician facilitates a patient’s death by providing the necessary means and/or information to enable the patient to perform the life-ending act (eg, the physician provides sleeping pills and information about the lethal dose, while aware that the patient may commit suicide.)

If the physical need for an escape from pain or the fear of the pain that is coming is an ethical justification for suicide, then, wouldn’t the same be valid in the case of a teenager escaping physical abuse or other trauma?

If suicide is justifiable for any reason, what gives anyone the authority to govern who and who does not deserve to choose if they live or die?

If an adult, undergoing extensive medical treatment for a terminal condition, can choose to end his/her own life at will, why would an adult undergoing daily pain and torment not also deserve that same right?

Wouldn’t it be “ethical” to determine that is for the greater good of all who are hurting to cease suffering, if possible?

The problem is human nature. It makes the majority believe that the method by which death is achieved is not moral. 

I would by lying to say that I am not torn on the topic. Losing a loved one to suicide feels like a shock to the heart. It feels like an injustice, like a life was stolen.

A close friend who lived in my neighborhood was shot in the head during the summer of 1996. His name was Michael Lime. At first, they tried to claim it was suicide. Then, there was rumor and speculation of murder. In the end, it was chalked off to boys playing with guns.

But nobody really knows because we don’t talk about it.

Why do we fight against the justification, ethical theory and legality, of suicide being socially acceptable?

Morals.

If we determine and declare that suicide is an acceptable way of dying, what message do we send our children, friends and family, when they reach out during that moment when life feels like too much?

In those moments, we want to send one message:

Choose life!

So, we declare it unethical, immoral, sinful, selfish and crazy. But is it?

To want to escape something unreal, unimaginable and unbearably painful, is that unethical? Is that wrong?

I’m not sure, but I choose life and every good or bad day it may bring.

I choose life.


Suicide Prevention

Image Credit

Defining The Line Between Discipline & Abuse

Fifty-Six

Fifty-six was the amount of time that I was able to stomach the altercation that transpired between Ray Rice and his fiancé, Janay. As I sat and watched the video on TMZ, I wasn’t shocked that another story of domestic abuse made the news.

In just twenty-seven seconds, Ray rendered her unconscious as he delivered one swift, left hook, punch to her face. She collapsed against the elevator rail and slid down to the floor. She didn’t move.

I should have stopped watching then, but I didn’t.

I continued to watch.

He pulled her lifeless body across the elevator and towards the door, with one shoe missing and her feet dragging behind her. Then, he dropped her face-first on the floor with a thud. I stopped watching. I was enraged!

I was angry for every victim across the nation who has seen the hand of abuse. I was angry at TMZ for exploiting the video. I was angry at Janay Rice for marrying him a month later on March 28. I was angry that she publicly lashed out towards his team and the media via Instagram, and sent the message to every child in the world that violence and abuse are “what true love is.”

Four.

Four is the age of Adrian Peterson’s son, whose body has been at the receiving end of a tree limb, a hand, and a belt, in just the four short years that he’s been alive.

I should have known better than to go researching the latest and hottest NFL trending topic on Twitter, but still, I began scrolling.

Tears filled my eyes before I even started typing. My heart was racing with anger. I knew not to read too many articles and to know when enough was enough. I was prepared, this time, I thought.

I continued to read and I continued to watch.

When I came across a few short lines, among millions of words, that left me fuming and speechless with fury, I wasn’t surprised. As he spoke with police, Peterson’s son said,

Daddy Peterson hit me on my face. There are a lot of belts in Daddy’s closet.

Then, he explains to his mother that Peterson “liked switches and belts” and has a “whipping room.”

I was enraged.

Yesterday, my daughter slipped and fell on the bathroom floor. Today, I am still upset at myself for not being more proactive in protecting her. That’s my job as her mom.

I cannot fathom disciplining my child in such a way that bruises, welts, and cuts, are left on her body. I would never intentionally inflict pain upon her at all.

To Adrian Peterson, though, that’s just the way of life. 

So, the NFL waited a day to announce their commencement with former White House official, Cynthia C. Hogan, until one day after Peterson delivered his preapproved and professionally articulated statement.

A strategic move in keeping a lid on the latest domestic violence hype and Charles Barkley helped defend a culture of abuse claiming,

Whipping — we do that all the time!

Making sure to allude that it’s not a big deal, but it is. 

5.3 Million

The average number of men, women, and children, who will remain or become victims of abuse or neglect by the end of this year is 5.3 million.

According to the US Department of Justice, 1,300,000 women and 835,000 men become victims of physical assault at the hands of their own lovers annually. Black women suffering at a rate of 35 percent higher than white women.

An estimated 686,000 children, in 2012, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, had newly confirmed counts of neglect or abuse — 80 percent of them at the hands of their own mothers or fathers.

Approximately 3 million reports are made annually, which include more than 6 million children.

But we all just continue to watch.

Meanwhile, CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman, an “expert” defines the line between discipline and abuse as a gray blur?!

We blame our upbringing and culture while pointing our fingers at the NFL and the law for what our own hands are doing.

There is a line.

If you are disciplining your child, you are reinforcing positive behaviors and instilling respect. When you cross the line of abuse, you’re not only hurting your children, you are teaching them that it is acceptable and natural to hurt other people.

All states’ laws permit the use of ‘reasonable’ corporal punishment; simultaneously, they all prohibit nonaccidentally inflicted serious injury. —Doriane Lambelet Coleman et al.

If hitting our children results in a culture of violence and long-term disorders due to trauma (e.g. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, racing thoughts, severe anxiety, aggressiveness, relationship issues, suicidal ideation, etc.), those are serious injuries.

If you took your fist and you punched it into the wall would it hurt you? Would you feel it? Yes. If you take a tree limb, belt or wooden spoon, and hit the wall as hard as you could would it hurt you? Would you feel it? No.

When your hands are hurting your child is bleeding and bruised— that is abuse.

That is the line.

As a parent, you draw the line and you do not cross it because you love and do not want to hurt your child.

One

One famous NFL player had to have a video go viral to get our attention. One is the number of people it takes to speak out and bring attention to important causes.

One is the age of my only daughter and the number of times I held her in my arms before I knew that I would fight to no end to protect her beyond measure for the rest of my life.

There is something to be said of our nation when more than 5 million of our own citizens are being abused and neglected, and we do nothing to rise together and change it.

That is until it’s the beginning of the football season and our favorite players start missing from the field.

#YesAllWomen Enough is Enough

I remember the first time I heard about a gun being taken into a school, and the children who were killed. The sadness and shock still linger in my heart as if it were yesterday, not sixteen years ago. I was barely 15 years old at the time. I was in high school, and oh, so proud! The students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, were the same age and older. But age did not prevent tragedy from changing their lives forever on Tuesday, April 20, 1999.

Many other lives changed that day, also; my life was one of them. As Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris walked through the halls with guns, firing off 188 rounds of ammunition, they didn’t just change lives in Colorado; they changed lives around the world and instilled fear throughout the nation.

Even when I was a child, I had a great compassion for children. I was a “stick-up for the little man” and “stand up to the bullies” kind of kid. I began distrusting adults from a very young age, but I believe in the innocence of children, and have always felt compelled to defend and protect them.

When I went to school, it was the safest place in the world, I thought! Children fight, fuss, pick on one another, and then bounce back. Teachers are there to save the day and protect them! No one could hurt us . . . right? I was wrong.

At the end of my sophomore year…

I learned that children can kill.

I was no stranger to mass destruction and horror at that point in my life. I am an Oklahoma girl. April 19, 1995, just four years before, I sat in vocal music class and waited for the teacher to arrive. It was my first class of the day, and my favorite! I remember the look on my teacher’s face as he walked in the door, head down, heavy laden, and looked up to greet the class. That day I learned something, too, as bombs shook our city and claimed the lives of 168 people.

I learned that adults can kill.

In both of these moments in history, I also remember how the world seemed to stop. I remember how teachers, friends, parents and students stood speechless, or cried for strangers — true tears! I remember how shocked we were that a gun was even in the hands of a child, much less found in our schools. We stood in awe, disgust and terror. We were enraged! We sought justice! We sought protection! We vowed: “Never again!”

And when our city was attacked at the hands of terrorists, we cried as a nation. We cried for the deaths, for the fear, but, most of all, we cried for the children. We built a memorial. We lined the fence with stuffed animals and photos. We lit candles and lined the sidewalks with art. We joined hands in prayer, hugged and cried together. We guarded our children from pictures that flooded the news. We watched speechless and they sifted through the ashes and dust. We were enraged! We wanted revenge!

It shook our foundation. It rattled our security. It threatened our lives, our children, our families. Again, even then, we vowed the same: “Never again! We are The United States of America! We will not be shaken! We will stand and defend!” There wasn’t a soul in the city who didn’t scream it. We raised our colors, lowered our flags, removed our hats, put our hands on our hearts, and we pledged our allegiance to the red, white and blue. And then what happened? We forgot.

Maybe that’s why May 24, 2014, we added another school shooting to our list, and 100 other school shootings before that.

What happened to our rage? What happened to our fight? What happened to protecting our children, our sons, our daughters, our neighbors? We became accustomed. We sat back and watched. The more often it happened, the more normal it became, until we grew comfortable and complacent. It’s not our fault… right? Wrong.

There is something to be said for a nation that sees guns in the classrooms and children lying dead at their parents’ feet, and does not rise to stand against it! We might as well be holding the gun, as a nation, as we quickly seek to justify, explain and deflect it! We blame the children. We blame the parents. We blame mental health. We blame bullies, drugs, video games and television. We simply shake our head and turn the channel, or scroll past the news on our social network feeds.

We don’t stop dead in our tracks anymore. We are no longer taken aback by it. We don’t mourn as we used to, nor do we invest too much thought. “Kids these days have no respect!” we scream, as if we are not the people who lead them. We create trending hashtags and divert attention to women and sexual assault. We take advantage of the latest trending cause “#YesAllWomen” we type and send, putting anything after the tag because it helps us gain attention. And in the days to come, we’ll dismiss it, while our children continue paying the price. Enough is enough!

If we are not willing to focus on protecting our children, even if it costs us our guns, then we do not deserve them, America!

My daughter is approaching 11 months, and I fear that one day she won’t see guns as dangerous, but as necessary; I fear that she’ll be taught that violence is normal, and to live in fear. I fear that my daughter will not know what it’s like to attend school and feel safe. I fear I will witness my daughter’s death before she has even lived her life. I’m not okay with that! We, as parents, we, as a nation, need to join together and face the facts:

Guns kill.
People pull the trigger.

We can continue to wave them proudly with pride, and defend our “right to bear arms.” Don’t get me wrong, I believe in that right! But when we make it normal, and discount it as expected, when we put a gun in the hands of our children at the age of 5, and justify it with “they’ll need to learn someday” or “it’s just the world we live in today,” then we have lost our focus on account of our pride! It will be our children, the future of this very nation, who pay those costs!

When I was 15, I remember thinking to myself that what I was hearing about would be a part of history one day.

I never imagined we would allow it to become a way of life.

Photo via Chambers Visual

Stand Up and Speak Out

At the age of 31, I just realized the power of my own voice. It only took thirty years and one article, written by 12-year-old blogger for the Huffington Post.

Society thrives on technology and I’m the old fogey in the corner who remembers when the first cell phone came out and the World Wide Web was the latest trending hype.

Now, we have Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook , Twitter and trending hashtags, for that! Until now, I didn’t realize that the key to reaching the world with just one voice is learning to use your social networks and resources.

Different

“Different” was the name of the article that caused an already growing revelation to transpire to the max. Marcel Neergaard has a voice. As a young member of the LGBT community, he wasn’t afraid to speak out. And he didn’t just speak, he shouted his message. He made me think about how I was using my own voice.

I could be louder.

Fortunately, someone cared enough to just say hi.

Hello. One word that helped move him to action. One word what told him that he was important. In turn, he found his voice. We all have that power—the power of a voice.

What’s the most meaningful conversation you had today? Did you know with a simple “hello” and a smile, you have the power to change someone’s life?

Marcel helped change mine, and he doesn’t even know it. My favorite part of his article came at the end:

This week I will be in Nashville for Advancing Equality on the Hill Day talking to my senator and (hopefully) representative about making schools safer for kids like me. What will you do?

When he spoke, 9000 ears listened and helped echo his message on Facebook alone. That’s just what he did on March 10th, from the comfort of his home, while sitting at a computer; and for all we know, still in his pajamas!

Wow.

What will I do today, tomorrow, or in the weeks to come? I’m not sure. What will you do? Just asking yourself the question is a fine place to start.

As this week comes to a close, I have yet to reach the ears of thousands of people. I have, however, literally been awake around-the-clock. That tends to leave a plethora of time for thinking, reading, and writing.

For months now, I’ve been preoccupied with the power of the voice of the people. There are so many voice is the world and so much shouting, yet so much silence about the things that matter.

It’s as if we’ve learned to believe that our message, stance or topic of choice, is the most justified and correct or we should gain profit from acts of compassion, or we don’t bother to speak up at all.

Every voice matters.

Rarely do our words fall the same way on each ear that hears them. Listeners interpret more than just the words we speak or write. We can hope that your words will be concisely construed, but words are not what reach the ears first. Words are not what touch the heart of a person. It’s not always the message that’s the most powerful part of a message. Sometimes, it’s just the voice.

People were supportive of this writer’s LGBT advocacy and brevity to raise his voice on the matter, yes. But the loudest message he could have sent was this…

He stood up.

I Wrote This In The Psych Ward

Saint Lukes

Today is my birthday and I was just released from the hospital. It was my first time to check into an adult mental health facility.

On my first day, the nurse yelled at the entire unit over cigarettes. She yelled about cigarettes while I looked at the ground, two floors down, wondering if the drop would kill me… I’m going to share more of my story in the days to come. But for now, I just want to say:

You can do this. You can make it through whatever you are going through! Stay one more day. I can’t promise it won’t be hell. I can’t promise you tomorrow will bring magical answers. But stay. New strength comes every morning.

If you are struggling, reach out. If your family and friends are not listening, reach out until they do! Pick up the phone and call the National Lifeline, drive to an emergency room, call 911, talk to your mom or dad, talk to your husband or wife, reach out to a teacher or a friend—anyone! Do whatever you have to do!

Because even if you don’t believe it, your life is worth the fight.

You deserve to get to the good part.


If you need support now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

If you or someone you know needs help, check out The Mighty‘s list of suicide prevention resources!

Thirty-Five

I turned thirty-five today.

Just to paint a clear picture of the excitement: A random show is playing on Hulu, I don’t even know the title. My 4-year-old daughter is fully dressed in a bright red jogging suit and bright pink light-up shoes, trying to work the TV remote while dripping pickle juice all over the carpet. It’s a quarter ‘til midnight

Maybe I should be putting my restless Energizer bunny to bed for the thirty-ninth time, out getting drinks with friends, or pretending to hate a casual family dinner, but I’m not. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even get out of my pajamas. My birthday is the one day a year, no matter what, I feel suicidal.

I watch my friends with envy as they celebrate their birthdays and moan and groan about getting older. That part has never bothered me. I get tripped up by abandonment, insecure attachments, broken homes, missing family, and mental health. I get distracted by watching the hours fade away on the one day I should hear from my family. I get choked up by checking my phone and the mail, by checking painful doors and expecting lost love to be there.

I might be middle-aged, but I am still a little girl waiting to be surprised, waiting for her wish to come true when she blows out the candles, and crying herself to sleep at night. But I’m not writing this for me. I’m writing to the person who knows how the lies of worthlessness feel. To the person who can’t stand being told they are never alone because every time they hear it, they’re surrounded by empty rooms and silence.

I’m writing to you. Maybe it’s not your birthday. Maybe there is another day of the year you always struggle to get through. Maybe you’re happy one minute and the next minute, you’re hopeless. Maybe you struggle with thoughts of suicide every day, you feel like your life doesn’t matter and nobody cares every day! Maybe suicide haunts you. Me too.

When you can’t celebrate your life because you are distracted by thoughts of your death, it matters. Because even if you get a million Facebook comments or tweets from random strangers, when you’re disconnected from friends and family, when the love you want to be there is missing, the only person really left to celebrate your existence is you. And if you haven’t found a reason, if darkness is screaming like a monster after five shots of vodka at a nightmare Sweet Sixteen party, no matter how many candles are lit, you fly blind.

Hopelessness and worthlessness become all you can taste. All you can hear. You play Russian Roulette year after year as they duel with your will to survive. Here is my biggest piece of advice: Prepare. Buy a new outfit. Find a reason to leave the house. Alone or with someone else, it doesn’t matter.

If you don’t make it, if you can’t open the door, dress up anyway. Get out of bed anyway. Text a friend. Answer all the Facebook posts on your timeline. Don’t have any? Announce it! That’s right. Seek love out! Celebrate yourself! Even if you’re struggling to understand why you’re alive. Fight. Have your favorite meal. Have a drink of your favorite wine. (Mine’s whiskey.)  Do something you’ve been meaning to do.

Protect your heart. I’ve spent a lot of birthdays wanting to die. Enough to know a lot of other people out there have, too. And I want you to know, as my birthday ends, I am celebrating each of you!

Love doesn’t always come knocking the way that it should. And sometimes, when it does, things like depression, PTSD, and social anxiety, get in the way of us answering the door. That is exactly what lifelines are for! Build them. If you do not have them, seek them out. Build them.

Love will come. In the meantime, my wish for you is to taste the frosting. Have a cake made just for you. Keep choosing life!


If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, or text ‘HOME’ to the Crisis Text Line, 741-741.