Stop This World

Gracefully going from victim to survivor to servant

Jayme Closs is home.  Praise be to God!  After 88 days of being held in captivity and watching her parents be brutally murdered, she found a way to bravely escape. I can’t imagine all that she has been through, but I am so happy that she is safe with her extended family now.  It appears that she has so much love and support from her family, friends & community.

If you are not familiar with the Jayme Closs case you can go here.

When I heard the breaking news that Jayme had been found I was transfixed to the television and crying tears of joy.  The news reporters were also crying because of this miraculous event.  This 13-year old girl had been found safe.

After crying tears of joy, I continued crying.  I realized that I was also very sad and scared for Jayme.  My anxiety kicked in and I was trying to figure out what was going on in my mind.  It’s not like I watched my parents murdered and was held captive for 88 days. 

So why was I so sad even after Jayme had been found?

Well, I realized that I am so heavy with sorrow for her because the grieving and healing she needs to go through will be hell on earth.  Literally.  My mind goes back to the depression, anxiety & PTSD that I suffered from for nearly four years.  Every single day I not only replayed my assault and the aftermath in my mind, but I asked God when this will all end.  When will I not have these thoughts every day?  When will this not define who I am?  I really just wanted to wake up one day and it all be better.  Couldn’t it just be a bad dream?

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a bad dream, but reality.  The hard work never got easier.  Doing the work is hard and repetitive.  I really didn’t know how the brain functioned (still don’t) and didn’t understand how trauma affects the brain.  After 1 year, 2 years, 3 years why couldn’t I get better?  Why?  It was so frustrating because I was putting in the ‘work’ of therapy, mindfulness training, yoga, support groups, etc.  I was working hard and getting nowhere.  I’m a hard worker naturally, but typically when you work hard at something you will have a tangible goal in mind.  Graduating from school, getting a raise, finding a new job.  Getting better isn’t the tangible goal I thought it was.  What is getting better?  What is healing?  Does healing have an end?

I kind of at least wanted a ribbon or medal for my efforts along the way.

I’ve written in previous blog posts that I was very confident that I would be over my assault and moving on with my life within 6 months.  Totally doable in my mind.  What I didn’t realize is that after 6 months I was just getting past the shock phase.  Some people are in shock from trauma for a few days.  Others, like myself, are in the shock stage for months.  I really thought I was making really good progress, and I was, but it was slower than I ever imagined.  The brain doesn’t recover from trauma like a broken bone does.  You can put in all the work, what I term physical therapy for the brain, and still not feel like you are making any progress.  Or, you know you made progress only to have something trigger you into the depths of despair again.  It might be something as simple as a smell or something as big as a detective calling you. 

Fortunately, my therapist started pointing out to me that I was making strides in my healing after several months.  When I would get triggered during the first year it would typically take me 5-7 days to fully recover and feel like functioning again.  As time went on she pointed out that it was only taking me 3-5 days to recover and then 1-2 days.  My mind was building resilience and that is a good thing.  It didn’t feel like I was making any progress at all, but I was getting there.  Slowly, but surely.  There was light.

I just wanted a silver bullet.  That one thing that would make all the awful thoughts go away.  Would yoga do it?  Accupuncture?  Sound therapy?  Hypnosis?  Where was the silver bullet or magic potion that would take it all away?  The silver bullet was myself.  I had to invest time in myself to get better.  I didn’t choose to be raped.  I didn’t choose to bear this cross in life.  But, I could choose not to be a victim and not let this define my life.  Sounds easy, but is really hard.

 I’m still working on it.

Nobody else can put the work in for you.  You may have all the support in the world (like I did) and still struggle 24 hours a day.  In our society of quick fixes, we want things to be better immediately.  If I can get a pack of antibiotics to make my sinus infection go away in 5 days, then why isn’t there some quick fix for trauma and PTSD?  I was trying to find the holy grail of recovery.  I just wanted to snap out of the funk.

Granted, there are some quick fixes out there like drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.  Quick fixes indeed, but they won’t give you long term results.  Several times after a therapy appointment or having a good cry at church I would wonder if this would do it.  Would I have finally done enough work for God to take away my suffering and for my brain to heal?  Did I put in enough work? Did I suffer enough?

I felt like I had to suffer.  I deserved to suffer. That is part of the shame and blame of being assaulted.  I felt like I deserved it for some reason.  Like I had to suffer even more to make sure that I was fully engulfed in shame and guilt.  Why?  I don’t know. 

Something I didn’t realize along the way is that you put in the work of talk therapy and all those other things, but what you really need is time.  Time to just be.  Your brain can’t heal itself quickly and you need to be patient.  I consider myself a fairly patient person, but when it started taking years to recover from my trauma I was losing hope fast. 

Thinking about Jayme Closs, I’m so very happy that she is safe and sound.  I cry because the work ahead will be almost as bad, if not worse, than the trauma she endured.  I never thought that was possible until I went through it.  You get retraumatized and have to live through the awful things over & over again.  It just doesn’t stop.  Then the questions will start, “why didn’t you do this, why didn’t you do that?”. This makes me sad for Jayme and her family. 

What would I tell Jayme? 

Be patient with yourself
Be patient with your family & friends
Let those you love take care of you
Sleep some more
Take bubble baths
Slow down. Healing isn’t a race
Write in a journal 
Hug your pet 
Smile when you feel like it
Ask for help
Accept help
Take care of yourself through doing your favorite things
Go to therapy
Move your body-dancing, yoga, anything that makes you feel alive
Do what makes you feel safe

Know that you are a loved child of God.  There is so much evil in this world, but God has given you the tools to find your way through. 

Don’t let anyone tell you when you should feel better.  You will feel better when you feel better.  There is no deadline on healing.  Period. 

Your journey is going to have points of great darkness and also points of profound light.  Don’t let the darkness get you down.  Work through it and find your way.  Take a break when you need it, but never quit.  I had months and years of long darkness but knew somewhere deep down that I was making progress.  I promise you that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I never thought I would find that light, but I did. I’m here to tell you that I have faith in you, and I pray that you heal wholly and at your own pace.

Finally, I would tell her that you are so loved by thousands of people.  I would give her a big hug, cry tears of joy with her and tell her that she is going to be better than okay.  It might not be tomorrow or next month, but someday in the future she is going to feel great again and this awful crime will not define her life.  It will be a chapter in her life, but the great novel of her life will be so much more.  To Jayme, I’m proud of you and I pray for you on your journey of healing.

Jayme, this is where the healing begins.


Here is a song by Tenth Avenue North that I listened to & meditated on a lot over the years:

I wrote this from sunny Riviera Maya, Mexico sitting by the pool. Is that meant to be bragging?  No. In fact it is quite the opposite. Being there in Mexico was a celebration . I was there with many friends from my time in Washington, DC to celebrate life, love, friendship and a beautiful marriage.

A friend that I made during my time in Washington, DC, we’ll call her Jill, got married last week to a remarkable man.  Jill and I were only able to work together for about 6 months before she moved away, but I felt like we were kindred spirits in a way. We are both independent & strong women who love agriculture and education.  We both grew up in the Midwest and had the same values & beliefs so it was good having someone who understood my background.

Outside of the couple people I already knew in DC, Jill was the first person to invite me out to happy hours, dinners, and most importantly church. 

My favorite thing that Jill did for me was invite me to church. We both grew up in pretty conservative Protestant churches in the Midwest. I still wasn’t comfortable going to church by myself in DC, so when she invited me to go to National Community Church (NCC) I took her up on the offer.

I never thought that I would take a subway to church, but that is what I did to get to the middle of the city. The first time I went to church with her we met at the Starbucks across the street from the theater where church was held (it is lovingly called theater church). I figured that we would get a coffee, drink it at Starbucks and then head to church. Nope. This was a different kind of church and we took our coffee with us into the theater. I was kind of hesitant because I grew up where you don’t take beverages or food into church, unless it is for a small child. They allow coffee in church? Genius! And I liked Jill’s reasoning as well – when people start putting their hands in the air you can just hang on to your coffee cup and it is just fine. It is like your coffee safety blanket.

Again, I grew up in a church where there was no real jubilation during a service and definitely no hands in the air praising God. No way, no how.  It was nice having her by my side at that church service and several others. If I had gone by myself that first time I would have been extremely overwhelmed and might not have gone back, but because of her invitation I felt comfortable and content in church.

Little did I know that Theater Church would be a saving grace for me over the next several years dealing with my assault.

In Mexico, it was a reunion of wonderful friends from across the country and the timing was perfect. Most of these friends I had not seen since I left DC in June, 2017. It felt so good seeing them!  We gave lots of hugs and laughed hard for a week. It was beautiful.  Gloriously beautiful.

These are the people who saw me through the absolute worst part of my life and didn’t abandon me, even when it was rough. These friends didn’t know me before I came to DC, but we became friends and they rallied around me. I was only in DC for 11 months when my assault happened, so they could have very easily walked away from our friendship…but they didn’t. They stuck with me through meeting with investigators, tears, more tears and coming to court with me among other things. They were really tough times, but I found out that these people I call friends are the real deal and truly care.

Some of these friends didn’t know about my assault until after I started my blog last year.  Did they run away?  No.  They ran towards me.

Do I regret moving to DC 5 years ago?

Would I do it all over again?  These questions came up last week as we were all catching up.

I can honestly say that I do not regret my decision to move to DC one bit. Obviously, I really wish that the rape had not happened. That was a life altering experience that I deal with every day and I would much rather not have to deal with it. 

A couple weeks after my assault a longtime friend and colleague asked me if I was going to move back to Minnesota immediately. Honestly, the thought never crossed my mind. I loved DC, my friends and my job too much. My friends kept me stable.  I would also feel like an utter failure if I went home after only a year on DC.

Regret?  No.  Lessons learned.  Yes.

Did the rape and the residual effects ruin my life for a few years?


But, I look at the friends I made during that time and I would move back to DC all over again.  I love them that much.  It isn’t often that you make a group of friends in midlife.  We were just a bunch of rural, farm kids trying to make it in Washington, DC.

My life would look much different if I didn’t have these friends in my life and I don’t want to know what that life would look like. Also, had I not moved away from MN I don’t think I would have appreciated my home state, family and lifelong friends as much as I do now.   I was happy to return to that bedrock of my life to start writing a new chapter (literally).

God knew what he was doing when he moved me to Washington, DC because I needed these people in my life.  I still need them in my life.  They make me a better person.

On this journey of healing I’m looking for the silver linings. I’ve had enough clouds to last a long time, so I spent last week enjoying the sun of Mexico, celebrating friendship and the good things in life.  

Last week reminded me of true friendship. As I looked out at our group of friends in the pool, sipping cool drinks and enjoying the sun I realized that this group of friends has dealt with about every imaginable awful thing in the last few years; serious illness, death of loved ones, rape, illness of family members, job loss, moving across the country. Yet, when we all got together last week it was like a huge sigh of relief and joyous. For a moment in time, life was good…really good.

Here’s to the good life,


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