Friday, June 24, 2016

Hope and Garbage

In the middle of an inner city neighborhood, on a tiny corner of green space wedged between two dilapidated houses stands a clumsy frame of the word 'hope'.  Instead of the bright beacon of light we normally associate with the word, this hope is full of garbage-- crumbled, used waste. 

I had to stop. You see, I saw myself in this artful pile of trash-- so much so that I parked on the side of the road and wept as I looked out at the structure. I felt long-buried feelings of worthlessness bubbling up to the surface. 

My entire life I've struggled with self-worth. Even as a child, I struggled to simply feel worthy for life, itself, let alone any good things. I have treated myself like garbage, as if I was simply the detritus left in the wake of someone better. I have often wondered why everyone around me seemed to have it all together when I was suffering so inside my head. It has always seemed that I am missing a piece that everyone else is born with as I seem to fit in nowhere. 

I drove past this the same day that an article I wrote in which I finally come forward as a rape survivor after twenty long years of silence went live to the world.  I have long wondered if I deserved what happened to me that night-- if I am worthless, deserving of terrible, awful things. I have spent my life gathering evidence to support my belief of unworthy.  Shame will take you deep in the darkness in unspeakable ways and much of my life has been spent inside the velvet obscurity of depression. 

Today I dredged deep into the filth inside myself and I pulled it out into the light where the shame will die(shame cannot live in the light). I am taking out the trash and using that pain to give others hope. 

Bringing up the shame is excruciating. 

Bringing up the shame is beautiful. 

It is excruciatingly beautiful.

I am on a roller coaster of emotion, the ups and downs coming with no warning.However,  I firmly believe that this roller coaster will end with my feet solidly planted in the light, with no garbage in sight.

I am thankful for my time living in the dumpster of despair. It has reminded me how lovely the light is and that we cannot appreciate love without the juxtaposition of hate. At the end of even the darkest journey lies hope, as hope always lies in wait in the most unexpected of places.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Are We Taking Modern-Day Criticism Too Far?

I always know that an article that I have written is doing well and being widely shared when I open up my messages to find cruel remarks inside. It is simply a fact of writing on our modern-day internet. The internet is full of trolls that thrill in sitting in anonymity behind the glow of their computer screen and writing cruel things to others. 
The past few months have been a time when I chose to dig deep, push past societal stigmas and come forward with really painful things in my life. It has not been easy for me, even though I feel that if I helped even a single person that it was worth it. 
When my article about being a suicide attempt survivor went live, I received messages saying that they wish I "would've been successful" at killing myself, that I was a "loser and an embarrassment to their country" and that I will be going to hell. This was my first article to go "viral" and was my first experience with how ugly people can be. I sat vigil through the night that first night, reading the messages and weeping. Very few times in my life have I felt as alone as I did that night. 
When my article about being a rape survivor went live, I received messages stating that I am "so ugly that I should be grateful that I was raped", that I should've "relaxed and enjoyed it" and a few pornographic pictures mixed in(Hey, boys- unsolicited dick pics are never cool, Man. Keep your pants on.) I was not prepared both for the vulnerability that I felt in the days after that piece first hit the internet(and still feel to some degree today), for the few friends that turned away from me and made me feel shame and for the onslaught of feedback, mostly wonderful but with some powerfully hateful things missed in. I became physically ill and I truly believe that my body could not handle the immediate and overwhelming emotions that I was not in any way ready for. I went to bed for days and when I finally was able to emerge from my self-imposed isolation, I can tell you that I was not the same person than I was when I went into my cocoon- in ways both wonderful and awful.
Yesterday, when an article that I wrote to bring awareness to CMV(a virus) went live I received messages stating that I'm a "fear mongering bitch" and again that I'm going to hell( what is it with internet trolls and hell?). This time, I was rather shocked by the hate even after growing a thicker skin through these past months. I was simply trying to help others to not suffer in the way that my friend and her family has. I still can't wrap my mind around why someone can find fault with that. 

My core belief since childhood has been that I am not worthy, a belief that many of us struggle with. These comments play on that fear, strumming the tight strings of my misery and giving evidence to that belief that I've tried to hard in my life to eradicate. It always amazes me how we seek and gather evidence to support any of our beliefs, even the ones that we wish we didn't have. It is so painful. 
I can receive dozens of lovely messages(thank you to those that have sent them!) but it is those awful comments that pluck at my heart and leave me feeling stuck. I find myself on a roller coaster of emotion as I swing from the highs of having a successful article and the lows of reading through the name-calling, criticism, and general ickiness of cruel messages and e-mails. 
Years ago, these comments would have made me take a break from writing--out of fear, out of that place of unworthiness, out of pure shame. I would have believed each and every unkind word, too mired in shame to refuse to acknowledge the cruelty. 
However, today-- even after shedding a few tears-- I am celebrating my response to these comments as a win. Why? Because instead of choosing not to write, I'm going write more and write harder in spite of the naysayers and in honor of myself. In the words and advice of the great Cheryl Strayed, today I'm gonna "write like a motherfucker." 
Write on criticizers of my work-- I will use your hate to fuel my flame. I am truly sorry for whatever circumstances of your life have led you to such a low place that this is the way that you choose to spend your days. I refuse to concede to your assholery. You may think of me as your nemesis--wherever you choose to bring darkness, I will bring the light threefold. The war has begun. The light will win. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Not One of Us Are Perfect Parents

I am saddened tonight and wondering what in the hell kind of people we have become. In the wake of a week of horror in Florida, I woke this morning to the horrible news of a little boy snatched into the jaws of an alligator at a Disney Resort. 

If that news wasn't awful enough, the commentary has been of people damning the parents and blaming them for this child's death. Blaming the grief-laden, shocked parents of a sweet two year old boy that they will take home from the "happiest place on Earth" in a body bag. A body bag. Let that image sweep through your mind. My children are no longer toddlers but I can image their round cheeked, dimpled handed toddler selves as though they were right in front of me. What I cannot imagine is my sweet children lifeless, their short life taken in a single moment in the shallow waters of a man-made pool that, by all accounts, had never before seen an alligator.

This death could have been my child. It could have been yours. This little boy was doing what two year-olds do-- exploring the world with his loving parents nearby. This Nebraska family that had likely never seen an alligator before was suddenly fighting with an incredibly strong and fast animal to save their young son but he was quickly swept away into the dark water.

These parents likely did what many of us do-- saved for months to give our children the perfect memorable vacation, because we love our children so very dearly. Their dream became a nightmare. One that most of us cannot fathom.

I understand that by twisting these stories into an idea that it is parental error, that we somehow can imagine that it would never happen to us and that allows us to sleep at night. After all, our children are the most precious things in our lives. I, too, do not like to  confront the fact that one of my children could die while in their youth. It is my very worst nightmare. However, I know--as a pediatric nurse and a human being-- that children do die. Everyday, in fact. Even the children with the most diligent parents can die. It is a heart-crushing fact.

However, if this is consciously or unconsciously your way to spare yourself sorrow-- you are doing it at the expense of the grieving families who may come across your heated damnation on that news article or in their twitter or Facebook feeds. These families that are swimming in the dark waters of grief are, instead of being buoyed by kindness, pushed farther into the black waters and are being drowned in a public crucifixion of sorts--a modern day witch hunt, with cruel words thrown instead of pitchforks.

We all have a choose. Our words can help to heal the world or they can create pain--great, blistering pain. Please choose with love.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

In Search of Freedom

I've been thinking about my teenage self, a girl who heavily embraced non-conformity and had great disdain for the docility of traditional suburban life.

 I've wondered if she(the old me) would have a haughty insolence towards my current self and the choices that I have made.

 However, tonight-- while listening to music from my teenage years and riding down the road with my husband, I put my hand out my window to feel the wind as I used to do years ago and I had a moment of clarity. Sixteen year old Mandi and Thirty-six year old Mandi have always wanted the same thing, although they may have envisioned it in different forms- we want to be free.