Stop This World

Gracefully going from victim to survivor to servant leader in the heartland

Guess what happened last weekend? Nothing. Nothing happened out of the ordinary and it made me extremely happy.

5 years ago last weekend is when my life changed forever. Each year on the days of the ‘traumaversary’ I’ve done different things to take care of myself. The first year I took a couple days off of work and sought out a support group. Years 2 & 3 had me working at a youth convention surrounded by friends so I could keep my mind busy. Last year I was at home on the farm and just laid low. This year passed by with barely a blip on the screen of life.

I of course knew that it was 5 years, but it didn’t bother me nearly as much as I thought it would. This really surprised me and I’m able to be proud of myself for moving forward.

I’m at a place in my life right now where I’ve worked to change my attitude about the past, present and future. What happened to me was absolutely awful and should not happen to anyone. I have worked really hard on healing and dealing with my mental health. I am the happiest I have been in five years.

So, instead of writing about how many things I’ve lost or have changed for the worse the past five years, I thought that I would share with you some of the good that I have found along the way.

The Farm

What I thought was at first a monumental failure, moving into my parents basement, has turned into the best medicine around. Being out in the countryside with space, peace & quiet and time to garden has been really good for my soul. I have been able to slow down and really think about life as I have coffee on the front porch with a cat on my lap.

This past summer I was able to help my Grandma with her vegetable gardens and it was very therapeutic. I had some container gardens over the years while living in the city, but this was the first time that I had truly gardened. I learned a lot from my Grandma and made plenty of rookie mistakes, but I loved tending the garden. Being able to take care of something that people will appreciate really brought a sense of calm and accomplishment. It was nice walking out to the garden most days to check the progress and admire what was growing.

The farm also brought me back to my family. If I was not assaulted five years ago I most definitely would not have returned to the farm so quickly. I wasn’t planning on coming back to a rural area until I retired honestly. Coming back home has given me the opportunity to see my sister and my niece more often. To go to some of my niece’s activities and pick her up from school occasionally. It’s nice watching her grow into a kind, compassionate young lady and I get to be there to witness her growth. Witnessing it from afar would have been difficult.

I am blessed in that I still have grandparents alive. When you are living far away you get the highlight reel of how life is going from them. Grandma & I would exchange hand written letters and occasional phone calls to stay in touch. It was nice because I could keep any health problems they had at a distance because I didn’t see them daily.

I am so glad that I moved back and live next door to my grandparents. It hasn’t been easy watching them get older. Grandpa is 96 and Grandma just turned 88, but I’m glad to be there in their sunset years. Grandpa went into the nursing home a year ago and has been in steady decline. He lived a good, clean life full of hard work and healthy living so watching him struggle is difficult. But, I’m glad I get to be there to witness my grandfather’s final months. I can’t just bury my head by living thousands of miles away. I have to deal with it and help out where I can.

If I hadn’t moved back home I would not have had this beautiful and gut-wrenching opportunity.

My Crazy Cat

I love cats. I have always loved cats. They were my first form of therapy at a young age. Holding a cat (when they want to be held) immediately calms me down. I always had cats around the farm growing up but didn’t have the opportunity to have a cat as an adult. I travelled too much in my previous jobs so having a cat really didn’t work.

A little over 2 years ago I ended up with a fur-baby and I wasn’t even looking. This little kitten had been drug through the mud and rolled on by a big Saint Bernard dog and the dog liked to carry the kitten around in its mouth. This kitten had been saved by my niece and former brother-in-law a few times before they started bottle feeding it and nursing it back to health.

Long story made short is that my niece asked me to take care of her baby kitten during the county fair. She had to be bottle-fed multiple times a day. I was reluctant to do this (although I really wanted to) because I live with my parents and my mom is very allergic to cats. But, my mom is a kind woman and knew that taking care of this kitten would be good for me and my healing.

Of course we ended up keeping the kitten and she has grown into a beast of a cat named Guppie. I love her so much! Even when she is laying on my head in the middle of the night or licking my feet, I still love having something to take care of. When I do travel I miss her and can’t wait to get back home so that she can follow me around the house.

So, if I hadn’t moved home there would be no Guppie tales and I know that my healing would have taken longer.

Reconnecting with Friends

I am fortunate because I have the same friends that I had as a child. A group of us all grew up in the same area, were the same age and grew up together. I maybe got to see them once a year while I was living out of state, but now that I’m back I get to see them more often. Still not as often as we would like because life gets in the way, but it is nice being back with them. Now that our parents and grandparents are getting older and their health is an issue, it is nice being close by to offer support, go out for coffee or bring over a bottle of wine. I couldn’t do that at a distance. I have lots of friends around the world, but those friends that I grew up with since we were toddlers are my firm friendship foundation. I missed that while I was gone and now I have it back.

New Job

When I left Washington, DC I had no job lined up back home. I just wanted to get out of town. I did some consulting jobs on the side, which I’m forever grateful for, but ended up being unemployed for over a year. I’m not going to lie and say that being unemployed didn’t bother me, but I’m glad that I had the time to explore opportunities and to rest.

I’ve had my “new” job now for a little over a year and I love it. After losing all self-confidence over the past five years, I was afraid of screwing this job up. I had crumbled before and what if it happens again? Fortunately, the job I have now gives me the flexibility that I need and I get to be involved in the non-profit world again working for the greater good of rural America. I am passionate about the work and excited for the future of the organization and my coworkers. Even though I absolutely loved my job in DC, this job back in rural America is more my speed for this phase of life. Granted, I don’t have a view overlooking the Capital, but I really like my current view of the farm and the fields.

Speaking Out

What has really changed in the past few months is using my real name in more of my writing and with advocacy organizations. There is still a bit of trepidation using my real name, but I’m happy to be speaking out on more public platforms. Last week I posted my photo to the Break the Silence Facebook page and it was so freeing. Even though I have this blog it was liberating to break the silence and stand in solidarity with other victims and survivors. There is no way that I would have been able to do this a couple years ago.

New Opportunities

Looking into the future, I have some exciting opportunities on the horizon. I am currently working on contributing a chapter to a book called ‘Illuminate’ that will be released in 2020. In my chapter I am talking about overcoming adversity through my story of the past five years. I’m having trouble condensing the story, but it is coming along. This chapter is giving me good practice for the book that I eventually want to write. The further I get along in my healing journey, the more I want to not focus on the assault. That was a point in time and the struggle was real, but I want to focus on the recovery & healing of the last few years.

I’m also heading to a keynote speaking training in November. I have always enjoyed speaking in public but I need to hone my skills to become more organized and laser-focused on my message. I’m optimistic that this training will help me tailor my story to help more people across the country. The goal is to have more speaking engagements on the side in 2020.

So, even though it has been five years since my world collapsed, I can look back on this time and look at all that I have built back up and be proud of myself for where I’m currently at in life.

I actually flew into DC last night to come and cheer on my beloved Washington Nationals in the World Series. I surprised myself when my friend gave me a hug and exchanged the typical pleasantries and I responded that I was doing great. Great? Me? Yes, that was my honest response and not at all forced. Things are great right now and I’m thankful for the journey so far.

Feeling great again has taken a long time, but I’m glad to be back at this point. I can look behind at the mountains I climbed over the past five years and realize that I did it. I overcame when the odds were against me. Now, I proudly look ahead to the future.

I went to the Dierks Bentley concert this past summer and his first song of the night was “Living” and it was like I was set free and had permission to live again.


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