Stop This World

Gracefully going from victim to survivor to servant

In 2018, it is no secret that there has been a sharp increase in death by suicide. Suicide doesn’t discriminate.  Famous people, poor people, rich people, farmers, bankers.  The list goes on.  I live and work in the food & agriculture industry and times are really tough right now out in the countryside.  The number of farmers & ranchers dying by suicide or considering suicide is astounding. Suicide rates increased by 25% from 1999 to 2016.  Nearly 45,000 Americans took their own life in 2016.  I can only imagine that the rate has gone up in 2018.

People are afraid of saying that they suffer from depression or anxiety.

 

I know that at the height of my ‘stuff’ from the assault, all I wanted was for nobody to know that I was a complete wreck and suffering. I did not want to appear weak. I wanted to appear that I had it all together. I could handle anything, including being raped and not miss a beat. In my mind I could show how strong I was by going about my life as if everything were fantastic and then ‘some day’, when I was healed from the trauma, I would tell people about being raped.  Then, my coworkers and friends would exclaim, “Wow, we had no clue you were going through that!  You didn’t miss a beat!  You are so strong!  You can do anything!”

 

How utterly sad.

 

I cared so much about what other people thought of me, especially my friends, family & coworkers that I was willing to put my own health on the line. I was willing to not meet this disease of mental illness head on because I was afraid people would talk. I was afraid they would talk about how weak I was, how I’m not all I’m cracked up to be, how they would snicker, how they would talk about my family. All those things swirled in my head for years. I was afraid of dealing with the real me and being found out.

 

I had always prided myself on being a hard worker and having accomplishments, but I couldn’t work myself out of depression and anxiety.  In fact, the more I worked at ignoring it the worse it became.  Depression and anxiety became like stalkers in my life and I couldn’t shake them.  I tried everything – work more, socialize more, drink more, travel more.  Nothing worked and I couldn’t shake the twins of depression & anxiety until they finally knocked me down and helped me realize that they weren’t kidding and that I had to deal with them before I ruined my life.

Struggling with mental illness is nothing new for me. After I learned more about depression several years ago, I realized that I have probably had other depressive states of time in high school and college. You just didn’t talk about it. I distinctly remember being in college after my Grandma passed away and my sister’s boyfriend died in a car crash and how I struggled. I actually looked at seeking help and even called Lutheran Social Services to check out pricing. But, I didn’t go. I couldn’t go. I was the president at my sorority. I had finally reached the pinnacle of my college career. I was not going to let severe depression tarnish that. So, I dropped most of my classes that quarter and drank…a lot. I didn’t tell people that I dropped most of my classes because I was failing and the drinking was no big deal because, well, college. I never got the help I needed.

 

I wish I had.

Fast forward 7 years and I have a panic attack in the middle of traffic on I35 from seemingly out of the blue.  It was like a wave crashed me down. I was so overwhelmed, but did I pull my car over? Heck no. I was delivering something back home so I cried a bit and got the work done. It took me a few weeks to realize that this was not okay and that I should maybe go talk to someone. The crying needed to stop.  I decided that it was time to be an adult and utilize my medical insurance.

The day I went to the mental health clinic will forever be burned into my mind.

 

“What was I doing? I’m one of those people now.”

 

I remember checking in and the receptionist telling me to fill out a pile of paperwork. I looked around for a chair and immediately felt dread because I obviously did not belong here. I mean come on, I wasn’t like these people. I was fine and just had a little hiccup along the way. I’m not mentally ill. I just need to exercise more (or something like that).

I found a place in the corner of the waiting room and started working on the paperwork. I kept on saying to myself, “you don’t belong here, you don’t belong here.”

 

When the form asked me to be honest about certain aspects of my life on a scale of 1-5, I knew I couldn’t lie anymore.  Do you find enjoyment in life?  How often do you feel tired or hopeless?  Trouble staying asleep or sleeping too much?  With tears in my eyes I filled in those little dots and realized that I found little joy in anything and was hopeless. I was tired all the time and would much rather stay in my apartment curled up on the couch.  I knew at that moment that I needed help because I didn’t want to live like this. I was exhausted.

 

I got called in to see a therapist and I don’t remember much, but what I do remember is I kind of balled up in my chair and was not very communicative. I was scared & ashamed of being there, but I knew I needed help. So, I did months of talk therapy and got put on a low dose of antidepressants.
I would go on and off of antidepressants over the years. In fact, I was actually looking at going off of them right before my assault. I felt that I was in a really good place and that I could go off of them for the foreseeable future. Then October 19, 2014 happened and I have yet to come off of them. Who knows how long I will be on them. It doesn’t bother me any more talking about being on medication for my mental health. If I get an infection of some sort I take an antibiotic, so taking medicine for my mental health should be no big deal. I take my antidepressants every day like I take my Zyrtec for allergies. No big deal.

Mental illness is a nasty beast. Nasty. Someone can appear to have it all going for them; money, material objects, perfect marriage, perfect kids, great career, etc. Trust me, more times than not it is all a show because we are so darn concerned about what other people think. On the inside of the perfect house, or on the inside of the soul there are burned-out, scared people who are barely staying alive.

 

Out here in farm country my Dad has a saying, “Looks good from the road”.  What does that mean?  Well, you drive by a sprawling farm site and the house is big, the lawn is meticulously mowed, the buildings are well-kept, there is nothing out of place.  The same can be said for houses in town.  Everything looks perfect from the curb.  Perfect garden, perfect kids, perfect car.  Perfect.  Except it is not.   It has to be perfect, otherwise people will talk.  Then stuff hits the fan and something bad happens that blows your cover and you realize that they have problems like everyone else.

 

Looks good from the road.

 

I’m done with caring how my farm looks from the road (I’m referring to my life, not the actual farm…my Dad would freak out).  A few years ago maybe my life did look good to others.  I thought it was pretty darn great.  I thought I had life by the tail.  Then the assault happened, depression, anxiety, PTSD and I couldn’t keep up appearances anymore.  Now if you look at my life, it isn’t perfect and maybe looks only marginal from the road.  There are weeds popping up, things need to be painted and there is a hypothetical broken down vehicle in my yard.  The yard (my life) is a work in progress and I’m not really caring what others think.  Somebody might drive by my life right now and wonder what in the world happened.  She looked like she had it all together.  She looked good from the road.

 

I’m happy that I am living honestly now and don’t care nearly as much what people think.  I want to not care at all about what others think, but that is a near impossibility, so I’m going with not caring as much as I can.  I’m living my life out loud and honestly.  I have depression.  I have anxiety.  I have PTSD.  I am alive and darn happy to be here.

 

Have I ever felt suicidal?  Thankfully, no.  I’ve been asked that question a lot since my assault.  I am so thankful that I have never had those thoughts.  Hopeless?  Yes, but I somehow knew that sometime, somewhere I would see the light and start to get better.  I just didn’t know when or how.

 

So what can you do to help those with mental illness?

 

Don’t judge.

Don’t stereotype.

Be supportive.

 

Don’t assume that you don’t know anybody with depression or anxiety.  I can almost guarantee that you know somebody.  If you start to notice a friend or family member withdrawing from normal activities or writing something out of character on social media, make sure to check in with them privately.  Tell them you are concerned about them and that you are there to listen.

 

We always say, “if you ever need anything or anyone to talk to just let me know”.  We need to turn the tables on that and check in with people.

 

It is so hard to ask for help.  So very hard.  We won’t do it.  We can’t do it.  We think that we can fix it ourselves.

 

A question often asked is “Why did they kill themselves?  They never said anything to me, so I thought everything was fine?”

 

We really need to pay more attention to those around us.  Don’t assume things are okay.  Be compassionate.  It’s called being a caring human being.  I’m not saying that you need to go around asking if everyone is okay, but pay attention to those closest to you.  If somebody wants to talk, listen.  Truly listen.  Don’t offer advice, just listen.

 

When you are commenting that someone’s life looks good from the road, why don’t you drive up the driveway and see how things are going.  You checking in could be just what that person needed.

 

At the end of our lives it isn’t going to matter what the guys at the coffee shop or the ladies at book club thought about us or our choices.  They won’t be there and I won’t care if they thought I was fat, crazy or whatever else people care about.  All that matters is that you are right with God.  His judgement is the only one that matters.  Maybe instead of judging people so much, we should actually help people live their best lives?  What a concept.  Live like Jesus.

 

We need love, connection and purpose in our lives.  We also need to take care of ourselves and be honest with ourselves.  Be kind to one another, friends.  Everyone is struggling with something.  Everyone.

 

-J.Lynn

Greetings from the the Tulsa airport. I have never written a blog post so quickly, but I want to capture this before I get back on a plane headed for Minneapolis. This summer has found me extremely busy with 4-H work and doing a few consulting gigs on the side, hence why I am in Tulsa. That means that book writing has taken a back seat. I’ve actually felt bad for not making more progress on the book, but I just haven’t found the inspiration to write and I don’t yet know what format of book I want to write. Like my mentors have told me, “it is all there. It just might need to be reformatted.”

So, I find myself speaking at the HR conference in Tulsa and I attended some of the workshops. The last one I attended was on dealing with employees in distress. I was an employee in distress for over 2.5 years so I was curious to hear what they would be talking about.

I related with a lot of what they were saying and it got me thinking about the process of coming through it all. At the same time, I am preparing for my first keynote address talking about my assault and being a victorious survivor. Being in that workshop brought up all the ‘feels’ and instead of crying, I decided to start writing and blocking out my keynote that is in 2 weeks. I was riding in my Uber to the airport when it came to me.

Little Victories

This is the title of my keynote and I think my book as well. Start from the beginning about my assault when life brought me to my knees and go through the struggle, pain and victory that I accomplished. Getting to this victorious survivor point did not happen quickly and there were many times when I didn’t think I would get through the darkness, but little by little I made it to another day. A little victory here. A little victory there. Add them up and my goal of overcoming became more tangible.

You guys!! I am so excited about this! I’m going to be writing on my flight back and dive right back into this book and my keynote…even though I have a 4-H livestock auction and the state fair coming up in the next 2 weeks. It is all good and when inspiration strikes, you need to take it.

The cool thing too is that one of my favorite artists, Matt Nathanson, wrote a song called Little Victories awhile back and I have always loved it. When I saw him perform it live in Minneapolis about 6 years ago I distinctly remember being in tears listening to it for no particular reason. I think that reason is because somehow I knew that I would be facing the struggle of my life and this song foretold it.

So, stay tuned for more speaking and writing about Little Victories.

Thanks Matt Nathanson for speaking directly to my soul over 6 years ago at the Cabooze in Minneapolis with this song:

“Once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain – when you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.” -H. Murakami

I had a completely different post schedule for today, the one-year mark of when I faced my rapist for sentencing and read my victim impact statement. Then, the quote above popped up on a support group I participate in and it was just perfect for today.

I’ve had several people comment over the past year say that they couldn’t have survived what I went through. How did I do it? Well, I simply had no other choice. I had to keep on living somehow. You decide to live with the struggle and try your hardest. Some days trying your hardest is simply getting out of bed and showering. Some days it is facing your rapist. Some days you cry in your apartment and other days you laugh with your friends. Somehow, you keep on living and hoping for things to get better.

I hesitate to say that the ‘storm’ is over. It scares me because I feel like the minute I say that, something awful will pop up again. I need to get over that fear and learn to appreciate every day and not be scared. I’ve been through one hell of a storm and I’m appreciating the calmness that comes at the end of a storm.

A year ago my friends drove me to the courthouse to confront my rapist. Today, I’m with my aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, sister & niece looking out on a beautiful lake. A lot changes in a year and I’m excited for what the next year brings.

June 29th will always be a significant date in my life because it was the day I found my voice again. The day I finally had my say in the whole ordeal. June 29th is and will continue to be a day of reflection and celebration remembering all that I have gone through. Only by God’s grace & mercy am I able to be here today laughing with my family and feeling good.

So, here’s to one year of taking my life back!

To read my victim impact statement, you can go to this previous post:  https://stopthisworld.com/2018/01/

-J.Lynn

Sitting here on the shoreline of Como Lake in St. Paul, MN on a perfect summer Friday. The flowers smell sweet, there is a slight breeze and it is not too hot & not too cold. Just right. Idyllic.

I have nothing but time to write, read a book and sip on a local craft beer. It is blissful and I almost feel guilty. Almost.

Como is where I have come over the past 25 years during good times & bad. It served as my long, country road for contemplating but with a city setting. During my years at the University of Minnesota some friends introduced me to this place. We would sometimes walk to the park from campus while getting to know one another. We would enjoy an ice cream cone or a concert and learned to love the city. I’ve listened to community bands here on hot summer nights and watched weddings from a distance with the beautiful backdrop. It is a place where the good things in life are on display and I feel calm.

It was my walking path for several years as there is a nice path around the lake. I have done some of my best thinking and decision making at this lake. During my St. Paul years, I didn’t make any major decisions until I trekked around the lake. It was almost instinctual. I needed to walk Como to make sure my decisions were correct.

I have walked the lake during every season. When the trees are in full bloom with their pink petals and walking underneath them is like a pink canopy. In the fall, the colors of the leaves turn intense orange & reds and there is a carpet of leaves to walk in. Summer is a time to sit along the shore, sip a beer and look out at the kayakers. Winter is barren and quiet, but that is the way I like it.

This is also the place where I trained for a half-marathon with like-minded friends passionate about finding a cure for crohn’s & colitis. I’ve been around this lake countless times trying to push myself to make another lap. As running is about my least favorite thing to do, at least I enjoyed the place.

When I lived away from MN, this was a place I visited often to get some serenity and reflection time. After I moved to Indianapolis and would come back to visit friends, I was often homesick for this lake. I loved living in St. Paul and wanted to come back. When I lived in DC, this was a nice place to remind me of good times had at the park. Good reminiscing. Then, after my assault this park became somewhat of an escape for me. I spent several hours on trips to the Twin Cities sitting along this lake thinking, reflecting and praying.

I remember watching the sunrise in spring 2015. I had a bagel from my favorite shop & piping hot coffee. I was one of the few people on the path that time of the morning. I was sad and defeated. The long trip into the pit of despair was just starting and I needed some clarity. As I watched the sunrise over the trees, a calming peace came over me and I knew that I would be okay. It was something that I felt in my bones. I just didn’t know how I would be okay, but I knew I needed to keep on moving forward. I’ve been back here several times since then and each time I am advancing on this journey of healing. Sometimes the visits are good and I go for a joyful walk. Other times, I try to hide my tears behind my sunglasses as I slowly walk the path. Today, I feel good. It is a beautiful day & I want to enjoy it. This is a big change from a couple years ago when I didn’t want to leave my apartment on even the nicest of days. I am so thankful for this day that God created.

Como relieves my stress like no other place other in the city. I am safe here and I can think here. So, it is only natural that I bring my writing to this place. I’ve been reluctant to write lately because I’m trying to find that balance I’ve talked about before. My job with 4-H is fantastic, but when I come home at night I want to eat supper, go for a walk and relax with my family. Writing is the last thing on my mind, yet it continues to nag at me. What is your message? Will anybody read the book? Does anybody care? Maybe I should give it up and move on? Maybe I’m not cut out to do this? Maybe I should settle for mediocre and not go after my dreams? After all, the big city life didn’t work out for me.

Lots of big decisions are on the horizon this summer. Will I continue to be gainfully employed by somebody else? Or, do I create my own business focusing on sharing my story, writing, speaking & coaching? It is nice being safe & secure after so many years of being the exact opposite.

This is why I’m at Como Lake. To figure out my next steps.

So, if you will excuse me, I am going to make a couple laps around the lake on this glorious day and do some serious thinking. After I walk Como, the decisions will be well with my soul.

PS – don’t worry…I’m going to continue on the writing and public speaking path. I just don’t know if it will be full-time or part-time. I just needed to visit Como Lake and get my mind right.

Happy Summer,

J.Lynn

Spring is really going fast! So much so that I have not been good about blogging. I started a full-time job last month working with 4-H members and that takes the majority of my time. I absolutely love working with the families and I get to help implement their county fair in July. County fairs are one of my most favorite things.

 

Thinking about this post of switching gears, I can’t help but think about life growing up on our farm.  I spent most of my time with the animals, but I did get in my fair share of driving tractor for baling and raking hay.  You know what I always had trouble with on the tractor?  Switching gears.  The poor person who was on the hay rack behind me usually suffered dire consequences because I couldn’t switch gears smoothly.  Maybe they would fall off, fall down, or have bales topple on them.  I was definitely not smooth.  Never been good switching gears and am still learning to switch the gears of life smoothly.  I think I need more practice.

 

There have been a lot of positive changes going on in my life the past few months.  I look at the quote above and I’m happy that I have moved on from broken & helpless. It was important for me to accept that I was broken. I denied that for a long time after my assault. I tried to convince myself & everybody else around me that I was fine. Better than fine actually.  I wanted to portray that the assault hadn’t affected me at all.  In reality, I was absolutely miserable and truly broken. I had never felt the depths of despair quite like that before. I knew that someday I would not feel this way, but I had no clue when. I also had no clue what hard work I would have to do to get better. I had to let myself be broken and accept myself that way. But, I couldn’t let it stop me from healing. The healing didn’t happen on my timeline though. Not even close. I wasn’t expecting 3.5 years of hard work.  I had to accept that season of my life.

 

So, what does my life look like now? Well, I have been allowing God to open doors for me that I wouldn’t have opened myself.

 

I started working with a local 4-H program about a month ago. It has been a whirlwind of activity, but I have really enjoyed getting back to something I love and am passionate about. This is only a short-term position, but it has been perfect to get me back to working and accomplishing goals. I could only take so much time off!

 

I need to really buckle down and find more time to work on my book. I joined a mastermind coaching group in April to help me with writing & publishing my book as well as starting my own company. It is a big dream, but deep down inside I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I would just never let myself dream that big. My goal is to get the book written this spring/fall and get it published early in 2019. I’m also starting to strategically look at speaking engagements like at Rotary Clubs and such so that I can start spreading my message of hope & resiliency. My ultimate goal is to be on the public speaking circuit world-wide. I absolutely love public speaking. I just need to get my message down and get polished. I can only do that through practice. So, I’m looking forward to developing my platform through my book, speaking engagements and training seminars. I have a really great team of cheerleaders from friends, family, readers, and Ziglar family, so I’m going to shoot for the stars. It is so exciting!!

 

Finally, I have decided to take on a venture that never in a million years would I have thought I would take on. I enjoy beauty products and have spent thousands of dollars on different potions and lotions to make my skin look better. Well, I started learning about the products that are in our skincare products and make-up and I was completely floored. I never found the need to look at those ingredients before and I wish that I had. There are so many ingredients that can potentially be hormone disrupters and/or cause severe damage or even cancer.

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So, I have joined on to work with BeautyCounter. I had never heard of this company before, but once I started trying their products I was sold. High quality, luxurious products made with safer ingredients. I also like the fact that they are actively advocating on a national level for more regulations in the beauty industry. Now, I’m not typically big on regulations, but there hasn’t been a bill passed about beauty product ingredients since the 1930’s. The time has come to advocate. So, if you want to try out some exceptional beauty products & make-up, take a look at my BeautyCounter website: Www.beautycounter.com/Julietesch

 

So, as you can see I have become very busy. It is time to put into practice all the things that I have promised myself. I need to remember to practice self care, yoga, reading, spending time alone. Those are the first things that have always fallen by the wayside when I have gotten busy. This time I am very aware of how I am balancing my life. It is difficult because I do find great pleasure in my work, but I need balance. I need to set boundaries and be kind to myself.  I’m working on it!

 

This blog is going to be changing gears as well. I’ve written mainly about my past trauma from the assault and the trial. There is still plenty to write about there, but I’m going to start writing more about my life currently. I’m rebuilding in real time and I look forward to sharing parts of that rebuilding with you. Is it scary not knowing what the future holds? Absolutely, but it I sure exciting too! The Lord has guided me this far and I trust him with my future.  I hope that you will continue on with me on this crazy journey of life.

 

It is time to switch gears from broken & helpless to growing & healing. I’m ready.

-J.Lynn

 

It seems there is a ‘day’ for everything now. National Ice Cream Day, National Cat Day, National Sibling Day and the list goes on. I mostly ignore these days because I tend to celebrate my cat, sister & ice cream on a daily basis. I have enough to keep track of besides what special ‘day’ it is.

 

Once you or a family member are a survivor of something you take notice of those special days and months. You might donate money to the cause, do a walk, jump in a lake (polar plunge) or post things on social media. I know that I pay attention when it is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October because I have several family & friends who are currently fighting breast cancer and others who have survived as well. I also pay attention when it is Crohn’s & Colitis Week in December since my sister and several friends suffer from these diseases.

 

I wish that we didn’t have to have this month of awareness for sexual assault, but as we’ve seen over the past 9 months, there is a serious problem in this country with sexual assault, harassment and abuse. We have these months to build awareness to those of us who would never think of learning about sexual assault. Trust me, I don’t need to be celebrated for being assaulted and surviving. But, it would mean the world to me if you learned how to support victims of assault and help make it stop. Be an advocate. Be a friend.

 

As I have learned, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). I always thought of April as the beginning of spring and my departed Grandma’s birthday. Now, April has a new meaning for me and one that I’m still working on accepting.

 

This month had many events happening across the country to raise awareness, but the most important thing I am participating in is saying ‘thank you’.

 

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my new normal of being a rape survivor. The day of the assault and the week after have pretty much faded in my memory (after a lot of work). I’m also doing really well on working through my PTSD, anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, my new normal is that I will always be a survivor, but it doesn’t have to define me.

 

So, to bring awareness to Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) on this last day of April, I would like to say thank you:

 

Thank you to my family
for making several trips to be with me in Washington, DC
for letting me move back home and not feel awkward
for letting me get my ‘therapy cat’, Guppie, even though the household is allergic
for letting me sleep…A LOT
for keeping tabs on me, but still leaving me alone
for letting me take over the house & garage with all my ‘stuff’
for continually looking for jobs for me while I turn most of them down
for the unconditional love

Thank you to my friends
Who ask, “how are you doing, today?”
Thank you for the hugs (when I am comfortable with them)
Thank you for the knowing eyes of sadness and struggle
Thank you for the notes of encouragement
Thank you for noticing me and my assault. Simply being acknowledged is a big deal.
Thank you for the laughter
Thank you for letting me have a pity party, but not for too long
Thank you for asking about other aspects of my life besides the assault
Thank you for not pretending that the assault didn’t happen
Thank you for sharing my story & blog so that others may learn and heal
Thank you to my country neighbors and old friends who have allowed me to come home as the prodigal with grace
Thank you to those who have reached out to me with your own story
Thank you for the quotes, books, podcasts, and websites that friends think that I may like or gain something from
Thank you for the prayers. Lots of prayers.
Thank you to the people who encourage me to ‘step out’ into my greatness
Thank you to old friends in MN who are reaching out to have coffee and catch up
Thank you to the Washington National’s baseball team for keeping me occupied for 4 seasons of baseball
Thank you to my baseball friends in DC for keeping me entertained & laughing
Thank you to my healthcare teams in MN and in DC
Thank you to the churches I attended in DC, Waterfront Church & National Community Church

Thank you to my Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) for your gentle care
Thank you to the many detectives who worked on my case, especially Detective 3
Thank you to my county-appointed advocate
Thank you to my prosecuting attorney
Thank you to my friends who came with me to appointments and court dates
Thank you to my former staff in DC for being true pillars of strength in my darkest times
Thank you to the people who came and got/bought all my furniture in DC so I didn’t have to haul it to MN because I wanted a fresh start

Thank you to my rescue cat, Guppie, for letting me nurse her back to health and give her lots of hugs, even though I don’t think she appreciates them.

Thank you for making me laugh
Thank you for the encouragement
Thank you for offering to listen, even though I don’t have much to say most of the time
Thank you for seeing the real me
Thank you for rallying behind me as I continue this path of recovery
Thank you for not shutting me out
Thank you to the people reaching out with speaking opportunities
Thank you for the encouragement to write a book
Thank you to Minnesota for being my landing pad
Thank you to my friends at MN 4-H for believing in my talents
Thank you to each & every one of you reading this blog

 

Most importantly, thank you to the Lord for carrying me through this tragic storm, making me rest and getting back on my feet one step at a time.

 

I could obviously go on & on with thanks.  I am one blessed woman.

 

With All My Appreciation,

J.Lynn

Before my assault I always assumed that I knew how I would react if I was ever raped or a victim of a violent crime. Prosecute and let the sucker rot in prison. No holds barred.

 

Prosecuting someone who you don’t know seemed fairly easy to me at the beginning. I didn’t know the guy, had no connection to him, so I didn’t care if he rotted in jail. Little did I know that I would end up caring. A lot.

 

After 1.5 years and 3 detectives, the guy confessed. Detective 3 gave me time to consider my options. Drop the case or move forward with prosecuting. He went through all the reasons why it might be a good idea for me to drop the case and get on with my life. I now knew who the guy was and he confessed. Was that enough for me?

 

Detective 3 reminded me that there is absolutely no guarantee that the Commonwealth will take up the case. Actually, the odds were stacked against me greatly. Just because he is arrested doesn’t  mean it will go to trial.  He also warned me that there is a very real possibility that moving on with prosecuting and going to trial could do worse damage to me mentally than the actual assault. I heard this sentiment echoed by several friends who were in law enforcement.

 

Did I want to risk even more mental damage?
No, but I had come this far. I just didn’t know what to do.

 

I prayed a lot and cried a lot seeking answers. How can I possibly put someone in prison, potentially for the rest of their life, and not feel guilty about ruining his life and his family?
Had he ruined my life? Yes, but being a Christian I forgave him. I didn’t want to inflict harm on another person or his family. It just felt wrong. And this is why I get taken advantage of a lot. I care too much.

 

Again, I thought that the idea of arresting him would be easy. It truly was the hardest decision I have ever made.

 

On a rainy Sunday morning, April 10, 2016 to be exact, I found myself at National Community Church. It was jam packed that day. So packed that I had to sit in the very corner, back chair in the balcony. That was fine though because I just needed to be there and hear the word.

 

The church service went on as normal. Singing, readings, message, prayer. I didn’t know anybody around me at this service. (Thank goodness). When it came time for prayer, the pastor asked us to pray for those around us. Greet our neighbor and ask what you can pray for in their life.

 

**For those of you that know me well, you know that I was raised in a church where you don’t shake hands with each other. You keep to yourself and mind your own business. Nod your head or whisper hello.  No body contact.  So, shaking hands for me is one thing, but telling a stranger my problems and asking them to pray for me is another. My German Lutheran upbringing had me cringing. Hard.**

 

So, the woman next to me asked what I would like her to pray for in my life.

 

Oh boy, here we go…deep breath…

 

“I have to make a decision about sending a person to prison potentially for the rest of his life. I don’t want to ruin his life or his family’s life, but he did something really bad to me. I honestly don’t know what to do.”

 

And then I cried. I cried like all those times before in church and that wonderful woman hugged me and prayed over me. I had never experienced that before. A complete stranger praying over me just blew my mind. I was so thankful.

 

I never saw that woman again, but her understanding and praying helped me find some peace in making my decision.

Later on that evening I was reading the bible for some inspiration and came upon Joshua 1:9, which I have leaned on before.

Strong and Courageous

 

Alright, I’m going to go through with this and put it ALL in God’s hands. Thy will be done.

 

But just to make sure, I thought about it some more (of course). What hit me square in the face was thinking about all the other times in my life that I had let people run over me. I am typically the first one to say “sorry”, or “no problem” if something is wrong, even if is not my fault. I don’t want to make other people feel bad or awkward. I’ll take the brunt of it to keep everyone happy. It’s ‘just’ me, so no worries. Obviously, this is not good and it was time to stand up for myself. I tell friends and family all the time to stand up for themselves. Maybe I needed to follow my own advice.

 
Am I going to let a complete stranger who did an awful thing to me get away with it?

 
No. Absolutely not.

 

So, on an beautiful April day full of cherry blossoms in Washington, DC I got the call from Detective 3. It was such a beautiful day that I got off the Metro (subway) a stop early to take his call and decided to walk rest of the way.

 

I wasn’t expecting this to move quickly, so I figured he was just checking in on me as he typically did.

 

“Do you want me to arrest him?” he asked

 

“Excuse me, what?” I replied

 

“I’ve got all the paperwork filed and everything in order with warrants. If you want to book him on the charges you need to tell me. You can take more time to think, but we can do it whenever you want.”

 

I remember standing there outside the Metro station on this gorgeous day and feeling numb. I had thought long & hard about this. I told him that I had my answer.

 

“Book him,” I replied

 

“Are you sure? Need more time?”

 

“No, I’m sure. I’ve contemplated this for a long time and I’ve decided that we will take this as far as God lets us. I’m tired of being a victim.”

 

“Alright, let me get in touch with his lawyer and I will let you know when he gets booked.”

 

I let out a really, really long sigh.

 

“You alright?”

 

“I think so. I’m wrestling with the reality that I just made the decision to put a man in prison, potentially for the rest of his life. I did that. I potentially am ruining his life and his family’s. I am causing great pain.”

 

“Well, he raped you and has changed the trajectory of your life. He doesn’t get a free pass. What he did is wrong & illegal.”

 

“I know. I just never thought I would be in a situation like this. I know it is the right decision though.”

 

After we ended the call I couldn’t really think straight, or enjoy the beautiful day. I ended up at the nearest Starbucks and I’m sure I looked like a deer in headlights. Ordered my iced tea and called my sister to tell her the news.

 

She could sense that I was freaking out and made sure I was okay.

 

I just couldn’t get over the fact that after all this time, after all this sheer agony & pain that what I had wanted was actually happening. And it was all my decision. Not only is my family destroyed, so is his. I did that. Lots of guilt.

 

That day was a Thursday and Detective 3 gave him until Monday at noon to turn himself in to the courthouse. If he didn’t turn himself in, Detective 3 would come and break down doors to get him.

 

He turned himself in.

 

Then the real circus began.

 

 

6 Months

Hard to believe that it has been almost 6-months ago since I started my blog and started telling my story. I can honestly say that sharing my story has been the best decision I have ever made. There was a lot of risk involved and it was scary, but it has been a helpful story to share. I look at my self-confidence from even 6-months ago and I have come so far. I don’t often pat myself on the back, but I’m pretty darn proud of myself!

 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I never thought much about this awareness until assault happened to me. Take a look around in your communities, there are probably a few quiet events happening for survivors. 2 years ago I was going to go to an event outside of Washington, DC for survivors. There they had people you could talk to for resources and counseling and they also had a time where you could publicly say that you are a sexual assault survivor. Very empowering moment.  I wanted to go and do this really bad, and even asked a friend to come with me, but I just couldn’t do it. I was still a victim and couldn’t bring myself to publicly say that I was a sexual assault survivor.

 

Resources

I’ve had several people inquire about some helpful resources for dealing with sexual assault & abuse as well as some inspirational materials. Below I will highlight some of my favorite websites. In a future post I will highlight books that have helped me. I’m not being paid to advertise any of these books or websites, but they have been really helpful to me.

 

Once I started therapy to work through my assault and the impending depression, anxiety & PTSD I decided to immerse myself in all the information I could about how to get better. It is strange because there is so much information out there, yet I felt none of it pertained to me because I was in sheer denial that the assault happened.

 

RAINN
www.rainn.org

RAINN is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the country. They had a lot of resources that I read through and relied on. I really didn’t know how I should be feeling or what I should be doing and the RAINN website helped me greatly. The one thing that I did not utilize was their 24-hour hotline. You can call at any time and talk with a trained professional about where you are at in your journey. I was often tempted to call, especially late at night, but I never did. It was scary for me to talk with a complete stranger over the phone, and for a long time I didn’t want to actually verbalize what I was feeling.

Joyful Heart Foundation
www.joyfulheartfoundation.org

I found this website awhile after my assault and was inspired by their message. Their goal is to help survivors heal and reclaim a sense of joy in their lives.

 
Joyful Heart is an organization that was founded by the actress, Mariska Hargitay, from the popular show Law & Order: Special Victims’ Unit. I used to watch the show and was intrigued by the mystery of the cases, but now I can’t watch it anymore. Hits too close to home and I don’t need more reminders of my assault than I already have.

 
Mariska started this organization in 2004 and they have been gaining traction ever since. They are a huge champion for the rape kit backlog and are working on legislation in each state to help solve this problem. I was ‘lucky’ in that my kit was tested relatively quickly, but I am one of the few across the country. Joyful Heart is working to end the backlog.

 

 

National Sexual Violence Resource Center
www.nsvrc.org

I discovered this website more recently and really appreciate the work they are doing. Their mission is to provide leadership in preventing and responding to sexual violence through collaborating, sharing and creating resources, and promoting research.

 
Since I have an education background, I greatly appreciate all the research they are doing. More & relevant research is needed.

 

SurvJustice
www.survjustice.org

I discovered SurvJustice about a year ago. I wish that I had come across them sooner because they would have been a big help in my case.  They are based out of Washington, DC but are a national organization. SurvJustice is a national not-for-profit organization that increases the prospect of justice for all survivors of sexual violence through effective legal assistance, policy advocacy, and institutional training.

 
What makes me love this organization even more is it is a grass-roots non-profit started by Laura Dunn, who was sexually assaulted in college and decided to take matters into her own hands by becoming an advocate.

 
For those of you who see me on a regular basis you may notice a teal-colored bracelet on my right wrist. The bracelet supports SurvJustice and says ‘Be Brave’. I bought one to remind myself to keep on moving forward and not to be discouraged. I looked at that bracelet a lot in the courtroom the day of sentencing. I wear it almost every day to remind me of bravery in every situation.

 

 

These are some of the most helpful websites that I have and continue to rely on. There is no roadmap for success on being a victim and survivor, but these websites have helped me feel a sense of normalcy and a feeling that I’m not alone.

 
I hope that these websites can help you, or a loved one, in their time of need.

 
Do you have a website that has been helpful to you on your journey? Please let me know!

 
Truly,
J.Lynn

Since my last post, I have struggled a bit with what to write. I want to continue to tell my story and how I have survived, but I also want to move on as well. I still have parts of my story that need to be shared, but I don’t want to be defined by my assault. And quite honestly, I’m finally moving on and letting go. It’s hard to tell the story while moving forward.
I guess it is all a part of learning how to incorporate the assault into your life story. It is a defining moment, but not the end.
I’m working on some really exciting ideas for the future and I can’t wait to share them with you in the months to come!
But for now, I want to share with you a poignant day a year ago. A day where I knew God was calling me further into the furnace. That day was Palm Sunday.

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I started going to a new church in Washington, DC at the beginning of 2017. I had several friends who really liked this newly planted church called Waterfront Church, so I thought that I would give it a try. I immediately loved it! I even went out and bought a new bible to take to church with me. Growing up, we never took a bible along to church. They were typically provided, or verses were printed in the program. So, this was a big deal for me. The last time I had a new bible was the one I received as a gift from my grandparents on my Confirmation day.
Have you ever been in church and you swear that the minister is preaching directly to you? I had felt that way for about 3 months since starting at Waterfront Church. I didn’t know Pastor Zack before I started attending worship, but I swear he had an inside track to my mind. Every week I resonated with the message. Not just like, ‘oh that’s nice’, but the message was in my face basically screaming at me. The message was always right on cue with where I was on my journey, especially during those waiting times for the trial and sentencing.
Of course Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week in the church. I attended that day prepared to hear the word and to pray for the upcoming week with potential sentencing.

 

Sentencing had been moved back to Good Friday of all days. It was originally set for February, but of course that didn’t happen. At first I was really upset that sentencing would be around the Easter holiday and on Good Friday of all days. But, then the more I thought about it, the more I liked that date for sentencing. It would indeed be a ‘Good Friday’ to get sentencing out of the way and start new again. What a great time to start the resurrection in my life.
A week before Good Friday, I received an e-mail from my attorney. I was hopeful that we would be able to sit down and go over my victim impact statement and get me ready for court and facing my rapist. Well, she had to tell me that they will probably have to extend the sentencing to another date because the judge is out of town.
Excuse me what?!

 

They set up the sentencing with the judge and she won’t even be here? Thanks for letting me know only a week before the date!  They had to know this awhile ago. This is so far beyond unbelievable. (Wow, my chest still tightens up when I think about this. Time for some deep breathing.)
“FINE!”, I grumbled to myself. “Getting overlooked AGAIN. When will this ever stop?”
I called my attorney back and said that I wasn’t happy, but go ahead with it. Nothing I could do to stop it. She was very apologetic because she never had good news for me. She also told me that sentencing might just happen on Good Friday, so be prepared just in case.
I’m so used to being let down at this point that it doesn’t even matter. Why am I always getting the shaft?
I just went and cried…again. So frustrating.
I ended up going for a walk on the Washington, DC Mall. I did that walk a lot since October, 2014. When I needed to calm down and needed a good cry I would walk past some Smithsonian museums and sit at a park bench looking at the Capitol. Then, I would continue my walk and go to the Newseum and check out the daily headlines from each state’s newspaper. Depending upon how upset I was, I would either then go to Starbucks to get something to drink and then walk part of the mall again, or I would walk to my therapist’s office if I couldn’t calm myself down.
That day I went the route of Starbucks. I sat outside and contemplated some more while looking at the wonder that is Washington, DC. I was so upset, but it was also the first time that the thought of ‘you don’t belong here’ ever popped in my mind. I quickly pushed that thought aside because of course I belong in Washington, DC! I’m just getting my mojo back and I want to stay here a long time. (Reflecting back, this really was the beginning of the end. I was not well mentally, spiritually or physically) This thought about moving back to Minnesota would creep into my head more and more, but I didn’t want to go home a failure.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Back to Palm Sunday at Waterfront Church…
The question Pastor Zack asked that Palm Sunday was, “What should you do when God asks you to take a painful path?”
Dang.
He’s speaking to me again. I better hold on tight.
Now let’s be clear, God had me on an extremely painful path for the past 2.5 years leading up to that Palm Sunday. How could I possibly be asked to take on more pain? I couldn’t take any more.
When I heard Pastor Zack ask that question, I knew right then and there that God was asking me to extend my walk on the painful path and that it was going to get even more painful.
That feeling hurt…badly.
I’m not comparing myself to Jesus & Holy Week in any way, but think about what God asked Jesus to do on Palm Sunday. He knew this week was going to hurt…badly, but Jesus went on with it anyway. Jesus cries, laments & keeps moving forward, doing it all in faith.
I took diligent notes that week at Waterfront, as I did every week, but this time I had this deep, deep heavy feeling that I had never felt before. Sentencing was potentially on Good Friday and that was going to be rough, but then what? What is Jesus going to ask me to endure?
Pastor Zack hit it home that week that God is calling some of us to walk a tough path and that our struggle matters to God. But, we have to walk the path we have been called to.
I really thought that I was going to start hyperventilating at the end of the sermon. What was going to be happening in the days, weeks and months ahead?

 

I sobbed…oh boy did I sob. I thought I had cried in church before, but that was at a different church that was very large. This was a small, intimate church where I knew a few people. Only two people there knew of my story. One was Pastor Zack and the other was a good friend. So, I’m trying to control my sobs after the sermon as they are playing music & praying. All the while trying to stay out of site of my friends who don’t know my struggle. I seriously fell to my knees right there. I didn’t care what anybody else thought. I was being torn apart, but yet told to fight.
Church ended and I pulled myself together, puffy face, red eyes and all. I immediately found my friend who knew about my assault and he gave me a big hug. I cried some more and he made sure that my other friends didn’t see me leaving. I wasn’t ready to share my story yet, especially after that emotional service.

 

After church I turned to one of the verses from the sermon that day, Philippians 4:6-7.  It is a popular passage, but it really struck me differently that day and calmed me down.
Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, through prayer, and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Basically, don’t sit in your selfish anxiety. I need to hear this daily.

 

I listened to that sermon again yesterday. I remembered almost all of it (yeah for note taking) and I didn’t cry. I took notes again and it reaffirmed this past year. It has been a tough year. A year that I never would have imagined last Palm Sunday. But, do you know what? There is peace. The peace that God promised.
It wasn’t until the very end of the sermon that Pastor Zack reinforces that some of us are being called to walk that tough path with God. God’s power is made perfect in weakness.

 

 

When I heard that last part again, I did choke up a little bit. It’s hard not to when you know what you were asked to do and then realizing that you survived.
I’ve made it to another Palm Sunday.
I’m at peace with that part of my life.
I’m still on the painful path, but I’m better equipped. Right now the painful path is leading me through struggles with finding a new job that I am passionate about. It is rough. For someone who was so defined by her career, not having a job is extremely difficult. Is he calling me to go out on my own in a big way? Potentially.

 

I look forward to the walk to see what He calls me to do.
Onward down the path.

 

Blessings to You During Holy Week,

J.Lynn

 

If you are ever in the Washington, DC area make sure to stop by Waterfront Church!  It is an amazing place doing amazing things in the community!  http://www.waterfrontchurchdc.com

 

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Nobody tells you that when you are turned into ashes that there is not a timetable for returning as the Phoenix. Honestly, I thought that I would be further along in my recovery by now. I’m not quite sure what it is that I thought would be happening, but a year ago I was thinking that my life in 2018 would resemble what it was before my assault, which I really enjoyed.
Obviously, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The first photo below is of me heading back to work after my leave of absence a year ago. I was excited to get back to work and be with my work family. I felt that I had made great progress on my PTSD and anxiety. I thought I was ready to ‘get back in the game’. Now when I look at this photo I can see how absolutely exhausted I still was. My soul was depleted. My smile was there, but my eyes were empty.
Sigh…

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Now, compare the above photo to the ones below which were taken last week:

 

I honestly can’t believe the difference! That my friends, is a genuine laugh & smile. I have missed that feeling of joy & confidence for over three years. Y’all this is amazing! (sorry for the southern thing, I was in Dallas last week)

 

What brought about this eruption of joy and confidence? Well, it was a long time coming,  honestly. I’ve been patiently trying to follow God’s plan for my life and you know what? I haven’t been a fan! But, I’m still trying to follow as best I can because I know his plan is better than my own.   Previously, I was a hard-charging person that had to be busy with work to be satisfied and fulfilled. Now, for the past year God has basically told me to rest…a lot. I heard a lot as a kid when I got revved up, “cool your jets.”. I’ve been cooling my jets and my patience has been tried.
Every couple weeks I think, “maybe this will be the breakthrough and I can get on with life”.  Every week goes by and no breakthrough. That was until I re-learned last week that goals take patient and diligent small steps to achieve. My breakthrough is happening in real time. It’s just not happening on my schedule, but God’s schedule. Every day is a little bit better.

 

I have been “getting on with my life”, just not in the traditional way I thought. My soul has been getting filled in ways I never imagined. That empty soul from a year ago is starting to shine again. I’ve been able to take family members to doctor appointments, drive my niece to dance practice, and have coffee with long-lost friends. Those things fill my soul. I am blessed to be able to do all these things and more, now that I am back on the farm. I have phenomenal people in my life and they fill me up with their love.

 

 

Last week, I had the honor of being selected to become a Ziglar Legacy Certified trainer and speaker. I had been thinking about doing this for about nine months and finally bit the bullet. I had had enough of the, “I’ll start living my goals tomorrow” chatter in my brain. I craved personal development and motivation to keep me going on my path of going from victim to survivor to servant.

 

 

At the time I applied for the Ziglar Legacy Certification I didn’t have any real job prospects, so I thought that this would be a good way to potentially jumpstart a training and speaking business. Currently, I’m interviewing for a couple positions that would be wonderful fits for my passions in life, but I know that the time I invested in myself at Ziglar will come in handy no matter what happens in the future.

 

 

I met seventeen other individuals who are passionate about making a difference in other people’s lives. We each have our own stories to share and they are all powerful. I am proud of myself in that I shared my story of sexual assault and survival on our ‘graduation day’. Throughout the week, I really battled with my self-image and self-esteem. We actually went through the trainings that we were coached to present and I had a hard time. Why? I realized that I don’t have any specific goals. How am I going to teach goal setting if I don’t have any goals? I told the group that I felt like a blank canvas ready to be painted on and I didn’t know where to start. So, I’m adopting the Ziglar philosophy of goal setting and striving for a balance in my life between the physical, family, mental, financial, spiritual, career and personal aspects of my life. I have a lot of work to do, but I am excited to get started.
I want to get back to having more focused energy rather than “going with the flow” so much. I used to focus on dreams and goals when I was in college (twenty years ago), but I had abandoned this important habit until last week. I forgot, in the midst of being an adult, that I am an achiever. I enjoy setting goals and I love reaching those goals. Before my training last week, my very lax goals were around how much money I made and where I lived. So, I have started fresh with my goals and am excited to get going.
Can I share with you one of my goals?
I want to publish a book about my experiences over the past few years. This blog has helped me so much, that I would like to have a more formal book that can help people overcome their personal obstacles. I’m hoping to start working on my book this spring, so wish me luck!

 

 

I’m going to bask in this glow of new found happiness for as long as I can. I can’t wait to see where I am in a year and compare that photo with the others!

 

 

For those of you not familiar with Zig Ziglar-

 

 

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