And the Clock Winds Down

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I recently had to face another anniversary of my assault, another year past. It’s always more difficult then you think its going to be. I spent my day trying to distract my mind from the inevitable. I look at the clock, its 9:30 am.

That’s about the time I hear a knock at the door. In reality no one is there but the sound resounds in between time and space connecting the past to the present. My eyes try to stay focused on the present, but I stare blankly at the door. If only I would have stayed home. I hear the words, “don’t answer,” leave my lips in what could only be described as a whisper. I jolt myself into the present. I remind myself that it’s July 7, 2014 and I am safe. The only objective is to make it through the day. I was prepared this year and took off work. Every anniversary reminds me that it was real and I can’t escape the emotions that come along with real.

The objective for the day is to try and distract my senses by means of over load. I don’t care what that means, not today. My thoughts are not going to be left to their own devices because they would most definitely kill me. So I spend the day meandering in what could only be called distractions. I surround myself with familiar sounds and am never alone for too long. The clock on every wall haunts me and, it’s as if, time itself knows I’m hiding.

I glance at my phone and read an encouraging text from a friend. The phone displays 10:45 am across the screen. It’s about the time in which he pours me that drink. The drink was filled with odorless and tasteless poison intent on destroying my life.

The next few hours were the most difficult because I only remember parts of the assault, and therefore as time converged upon itself, the past became present and present past. One moment I’m talking to my friend engulfed in conversation and the next she has to pull me back from somewhere beyond. She is used to the routine by now because any survivor knows the role they must play, saving the other from the darkness beyond. She understands the struggle all too well and fights with me until the end. She reminds me that I’m never alone.

There staring at me from across the room the clock strikes 5:00 pm. That’s the time panic really hits because that’s when I wake up and the broken pieces of my memory betray me. The fear is so thick that I can’t breathe. Please Jesus, let me leave this place. I can see his face and hear every word. I turn the radio up, anything to drown out the sound of his voice following me like an eerie echo.

Its 5:45 pm when I arrive home. Coincidentally, the same time I arrived home on that fateful day two years ago. I’m safe now. The past and the present finally agree. I let the water from the shower stream down my face. It’s cleansing the wounds of my soul. I’m alive and I’m fighting for the past to stay in the past and for the past to not betray my present.

Today, I survived and that means I won.

Victory.

It’s small but its mine.

 

 

 

 

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It’s ok, You Can Trust Me

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I haven’t written anything in a very long time. I’m not sure why perhaps I lost my voice; temporary vow of silence. I’ve been taking time and reflecting on the past two years –each and every trauma- because there have been many for some reason. It’s really hard to grieve all the little traumas because they don’t always seem significant… and because my best coping mechanism is minimizing. “I’m fine,” is my go to phrase.

I’m pretty honest if you ask me the right questions. I’m not open. I won’t share or really open up unless you provide me with a safe space- and time. Recently, I felt really betrayed by a good friend. It was not a malicious betrayal on her part and she will never know that I’m angry, hurt, or severely wounded. I still really love her and that’s all she really needs to know. I understand why she did what she did… Sometimes when you fight for what’s right, you chose to stand alone. I felt betrayed by the legal system and many different things. I kind of understood the injustices when I made the choice to report and press charges. I have to say that knowing something and experiencing something are two completely different things.

The closest people tend to create the deepest wounds. I am grateful for real conversations even though they might be painful. The phrase, “I’m sorry,” means the world to me mostly because no one ever says that to me even when they hurt me- intentionally or unintentionally. I am so thankful for the individuals who have allowed me to express anger… it’s not the best side of me although it comes along with my wounding. Thank You for your Grace.

Forgive me when I’m not sure who to trust. Forgive me if I’m sad. Forgive me on the hard days because there are many. Forgive me in the confusion and chaos.

I’m only beginning to understand how to trust, love, & forgive again. That’s the beautiful part of the journey… Mostly, thank you for walking with me and carrying me on those special days when I can’t take another step. I’m learning that its OK to trust you and that’s the hardest thing for me to do. Despite my hope: My history says will you hurt me too? … but I still see good in the world.

People tell me that I’m naive maybe, but my hope remains in the aftermath of every disaster. I still believe that love wins and that trust can be built again.

“Sometimes, you have to step outside the person you believe yourself to be and remember the person you were meant to be. The person you wanted to be” -H.G. Wells          

 

The Purpose of Pain

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It was many years ago but it seems like yesterday. I had just graduated college with my degree in hand and left a broken relationship behind. My heart was torn and for the first time in my life I was lost. The instant that my engagement ring was placed back in his hands my dreams and aspirations went with it. When I say lost, I don’t mean the bounce back shortly after kind of lost. I mean the deep down meaning of life, existential, kind of what the hell do I do now!?- kind of lost. The perfectionist side of me had no goals to aspire to. I had rejected my acceptance to medical school in hopes of getting married and perusing my dreams of motherhood, white picket fence and 2.5 children.

In my crisis I called a long lost friend. She had recently started a homeless ministry downtown and wanted to know if I would come join her for a service to catch up. Needless to say I was a bit more than hesitant.

“Downtown, you say? Are you sure it’s safe?” I agreed to meet her but only after much coercion on her part. I’m glad I did. That time period changed my heart and life forever. The service was real, raw, and sometimes painful. I listened with my whole heart as these people shared how they felt forgotten by society, friends and even their family. I cried along side them and prayed for and over them. I thought I had gone there to volunteer but in reality their hearts and stories changed my life. They became my friends, my family and my church for over a year.

I particularly remember one gentleman by the name of Jeffery. His heart for Jesus was amazing and even though he didn’t have much in material wealth he carried more joy and hope in his heart then most people will ever ascertain in their lifetime. He was always helping others even in his deepest pain. He became an advocate for the homeless, always volunteering his time to serve others. I found out that he died earlier this week. He is in Heaven with Jesus and now has a home greater than any ever known, but I wanted to share the lesson I learned from my friend Jeffery.

The purpose of pain is the gift of healing. We don’t have to wait to begin to help. You can start now, and I mean right this instant even in the chaos of your painful moments. We are all wounded healers in some way or another.

I became a counselor who specialized in trauma. Understand? My trauma opened my heart and eyes to these hearts. I can now sit in, be present in the moment, not fix and just be with a person who is hurting. Trust me its hard for me to not fix something, so this was a skill that I had to learn, be it the hard way. It was the best lesson that I ever received. “Its ok, not to be ok.” I’ll be here walking right beside you, and we will walk together out of despair.

What if our greatest curse may in reality be our greatest gift?

In memory of Jeffery and my time spent @ Nomsa. Thank you for healing my heart.

Sweet Dreams

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Sweet Dreams…

It’s strange the things that I ask God for these days. They have changed drastically from the things I once dreamed that I would have or accomplish. I wanted to be a doctor, a neonatologist to be exact. I wrestled with the idea of being anything else for a long time because it was in my DNA. There was no other career path for me. I was never one of those girls who dreamed of getting married or having their dream wedding. I was independent, strong, and capable. I’m still all of those things except the definition has changed, transformed through the filter of an older and slightly wiser me. I never did make it to med school because…

Little miss independent fell in love. It was a perfect young love that was never destined to last, a romance that had the shelf life of a year at best, just long enough to change my dreams. I was genuinely happy and not because he completed me in some way but because we laughed, dared, and dreamed together. I dreamed of a little house with a white picked fence and children. I dreamed of commitment, honesty, and friendship. I dreamed but it wasn’t meant to be as so often young love seems. During that time, I caught glimpses of possibilities. My heart came alive and I continued to dream about many things but mostly about my future children. Strange because I know that there is an order to things…

first comes love

then comes marriage

then comes baby in a baby carriage.

Apparently my dreams are not sequential.

I stopped dreaming after my assault. I had no more visions of children. There was no future for me to look forward to other the one filled with nightmares. There are many and I mean many layers of trauma… but let me provide you with a scholarly definition.

“Following a traumatic event, a person may develop a sense of a foreshortened future, which is currently considered an avoidance symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People who experience these symptoms feel as though their life will somehow be cut short without any real explanation why. They may also feel as though they won’t be able to reach milestones in their life, such as a career, marriage or children.”

I have been praying for God to allow me to dream again. I keep rehearsing Jeremiah 29:11 in my head. I wanted God to give me a visual of something to hope for whether that be a family that showed love to each other or simply anything that mirrored my dream. God never answers my prayers in the ways that I expect and I mean NEVER. He always seems to keep me on my toes.

I recently had the privilege to see a popular Christian movie. Yes, I know what you’re thinking but it’s a MOVIE. I hardly ever see the example of the kind of love I’m looking for, not in real life, not in movies, and not even in sappy romance movies or books. It’s sad to say but not even in churches. The movie was called “Heaven is for Real.” Everything about that movie resonated with the desires of my heart. I want the father of my children to love them with an indescribable love. I want us to sing along with our children “we will rock you” instead of “amazing grace” or “Jesus loves you,” sometimes. I want us to be real with our emotions- with ourselves, others, and towards God, but most importantly I want tragedy to bring us closer together as a family because if I know one thing about life is that tragedy is rarely avoided. We all go through it- in some way or another.

In a strange way this movie has allowed me to hope. It has allowed me to dream of a happy future with two point five kids, a dog/cat, white picket fence, and a husband who will be an incredible father. This is the true desire of my heart. I’m not sure what God’s plans are for my life. At this point, they could be completely different, who really knows…

But I’m grateful for sweet dreams.

 

 

 

Maddy’s Heart

I have full parental and child permission to share her story, just in case you were wondering. 🙂

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I’m sitting in the corner of a small a cold room. I’m surrounded by victims, advocates, and lawyers. Shaking, I patiently wait for my turn to testify. This would be one of many court appearances. Everyone seems to be in tears except for me. I feel like in I’m a foreign land and remember thinking why is everyone crying? Oh and Of course I have a nervous smile on my face. I can’t cry. I won’t let myself, not now. He won’t ever get to see me cry. PERIOD. But I’m not going to lie the fear is overwhelming. I have no idea what’s coming next and there is no one there to tell me so I just wait.

My phone vibrates in my hands as I glance to look at a text message. Its an encouraging message from a friend and for some reason this is the only thought that popped into my head… when this is all said and done I want to meet a child who has gone through this process because if a child can do it so can I. That was the actual text that I sent. It’s a silly concept because trust me there are children out there that are WAY BRAVER than I am but in the moment that thought gave me comfort, like somehow if a child could do it then it is not as scary as it seemed. Yea, like I said silly.

I get the privilege to attend trauma training’s, workshops, and occasional conferences for my job. Sometimes they have a kids section where they educate children about sexual assault in an age appropriate way. So naturally I venture over to the kids section and I spot a girl no older then 10 years old. She is nervously standing by the stage as I take a seat, unknowingly, next to her mother. An adult provides an introduction as this little girl walks up on a pretty large stage that seems to encompass her entire frame. She begins her story. “I’m a survivor of sexual abuse. At first I was very scared to tell someone because I didn’t want to get my daddy in trouble but now I know it’s not my fault. I miss my daddy but I know he is getting the help he needs because he was very sick. I want you to know that it’s ok to tell an adult if someone is touching you in private areas because that’s not ok and it’s not your fault.”

My heart is filled with sadness over this little angel’s story and joy over her recovery, resilience, and strength. Her mother informs me that her father is in prison for 30 years because of her daughter’s testimony. Maddy went through the court process! This innocent child not only endured the abuse but was brave enough to confront her father in a court of law. I realize that this little girl has so much strength and wisdom beyond her years. She has so much to teach the world. She has so much to teach me. I decide in that moment I must meet her.

She was very friendly and loved the fact that I helped kids like her to heal. She said that she really liked going to counseling because she got to play a lot of games and sometimes got to skip school (play therapy). She eagerly looked up at me and said, “I get to help other kids by telling my story so they know it’s safe to tell like I did. It’s scary sometimes but I know that I did nothing wrong and I told the lawyer that too.” She said this with the most brilliant smirk on her face. I’ll never forget it.

Her eyes are etched in my heart. They shined with a mixture of beauty and pain. Their blue shade gave an image of resilience and hope. She is the next generation. I know that I will see her again because she is not done leaving her mark on the world. She is my hero and about the comment that it must not be that bad if a child could do it, well that’s just silly, because children can face great fear and rise to the occasion. They can be the hero to the nightmare. I will forever remember Maddy’s eyes and the story of hope etched on her heart…

Who is your hero? My hero is a 10 year old girl named Maddy.

Miracle Day <3

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I have nine lives. I’m a type I diabetic and rely on an insulin pump to live. Machines break, that’s reality. They wear out and break down over time. My insulin pump has broken a couple of times and each time I have ended up in the ICU with something called Diabetic Ketoacidosis or DKA for short. DKA can be caused by many things including extreme stress or even illness- common cold. In a matter of less then 5 hours I was holding on for dear life. I had never seen doctors and nurses go into such a panic. It’s pretty bad when the experts are having an oh-no-what-do-we-do response. My organs began to shut down one by one. It was so fast; I couldn’t keep track of time. Had I been there a day or three or seven? When it’s all said and done it would take me over six months to regain my sense of time and fully heal.

DKA was causing my body to go into septic shock. I have a smile on my face and I’m holding my mothers hand when I tell her that I don’t think I’m going to make it this time and I reassure her that it’s going to be ok. She is so strong and tries not to let me see her cry. I muster up all the energy I have left to tell her a joke before I can no longer keep my eyes open. I’m always joking or laughing or a combination of both but I’m so tired at this point and I let God know that I’m ready. I let Him know that I’m ready to go home. I’m not afraid to die. I never have been. I’ll miss the people who are still here, but in the end I know I’ll be in Heaven in the arms of my Savior… And besides I’m not going to die in a hospital. I’m going to die in a pastry shop eating delicious donuts, cakes, and chocolate anythings and did I mention that I’ll be old- I mean really old. God and I have already made that deal. 🙂

The chaplain comes in to talk with my mom and through the haze I hear the doctor say that my mom needs to call my family because I won’t make it through the night. They cannot save me. She called everyone and it a matter of minutes I had countless number of prayer chains… and I mean too many to count. Everyone back home was praying. They were calling my mom and encouraging her to keep faith, which is funny because I don’t think my mom was Christian then. My father and sister/ aunt (She says aunt and I say sister because we are only five years apart- closer than family) took a flight to get there in time. I still have the half heart necklace that she gave me with the words sisters inscribed on it. I think I just settled that argument for good 🙂

I’m pretty sure they thought it would be their last goodbye. I still cannot imagine the distress on their hearts. Everyone on both sides of my room did not survive. I watched their family grieve and my heart broke. I was the only one who lived. This is why I have an extreme fear of hospitals to this day. I’m not afraid to die but it’s the how that I’m a little hesitant about… My pump was covered under warranty so when I was discharged I received a new one. One little, two little, three BIG miracles all designed for me.

My insulin pump broke recently and this time I had no warranty. I had no insurance. I had no back up plan. I spent days of self-care trying to avoid hospital. I applied for assistance programs. DENIED. DENIED. And one for good measure DENIED. How much are those premiums again and you only cover what…?  Diabetes is one of the costliest chronic diseases. Oh, and stress/ anxiety exacerbates the complications of Diabetes Exponentially. So I did the only thing I could think of… I asked for support, prayers, and donations. I could not even to begin to imagine the response and miracles sent my way. God literally began to move heaven and earth just for me.

In a matter of just a few short weeks I have enough money to purchase a new insulin pump under full warranty. FULL WARRENTY. I had a complete stranger donate her older model pump to get me a discount on a newer one- with warranty. Let me say that again. A COMPLETE STRANGER WAS WILLING TO SAVE MY LIFE. BLESSING. Countless prayers and good wishes. BLESSING. Donations. BLESSINGS. Four more years of health-covered under warranty lol. BLESSING. Life. MIRACLE.

I’m alive because of your kindness, love, and support. I’m alive because I have a purpose not yet accomplished on this earth. I have nine lives, amazing friends, loving family, and serve a God who is still in the business of miracles that never seem to run out. Please continue to always pray and love one another, as you have loved me.

Thank you, with every breath.

Jess

 

Tier III Offender

C-LP-CP-8004GSo it’s a normal day and I’m going to pick up the mail. I’m praying for a package that contains all good things so I’m expecting a blessing but with no such luck. There is a strange letter in the box. It looks like something official and I flinch. I don’t want to open it. Court is over but there it is, living proof of my nightmare. My hands are shaking as I open the letter and across the top see Jeff Ashton State Attorney plastered on the letter head along with the department of corrections. I feel sick as I promptly put the letter back in my purse. Memories come flooding back, I get physically ill. Court is over. I have nothing to worry about. If I keep saying these things maybe my heart will begin to understand them.

I have been trying for weeks to reach a probation officer in Ohio because that is now where my offender lives. I want to know exactly what his probation entails because of course no one has told me thus far. I called Ohio state attorney’s office and was redirected to Ohio victim services then again redirected to the probation office. The probation office then informed me there is no one by that offender’s name being supervised here, call the interstate board. The interstate board then told me that they have no knowledge of this offender being transferred. FRUSTRATION SETS IN. WHY IS THIS SO HARD?

Finally there is a letter with an actual number of a probation officer in Florida, but I’ll take it. He gives me general information but says he doesn’t know who my offender is being supervised by in Ohio and that I have to call the interstate board. REALLY?!  Ok, so one last time, I call the interstate board. Finally, two weeks and LOTS of aggravation later I got an answer. Don’t judge me. You know you would be aggravated too.

HIS TERMS OF PROBATION:

TIER III OFFENDER-

Predator Status/ Highest Tier/ Must register as a Sex Offender for Life

A sex offender on probation must also comply with any of the following conditions that the probation officer checks or the court specifically imposes:

1. He will participate in and complete any sex offender evaluation and recommended treatment as directed by a probation officer (He is financially responsible for all or part of the costs of his evaluation and treatment.)

2. He will participate in polygraph examinations administered by a CSSD-approved, specially trained polygraph examiner for treatment purposes and to determine level of supervision- He got Tier III Offender!

3. He will have no contact with the victim or victim’s family by letter, telephone call, tape, video, email, text message, or third party contact unless approved by a probation officer. (Contact with the victim or victim’s family must be reported immediately to a probation officer.) I dare him to contact me… It would not be good for him.

4. He will notify his probation officer of any new or existing romantic or sexual relationship- well that sucks.

5. His place of residence must be approved by a probation officer.

6. He will not move from his place of residence or sleep elsewhere overnight without a probation officer’s prior knowledge and permission- umm awkward.

7. He will allow any probation officer entry into his residence and notify any occupant of his residence that a probation officer may enter where you live- bummer.

8. All employment must be pre-approved by a probation officer.

9. He will provide financial and telephone records upon a probation officer’s request.

10. He will abide by any curfew imposed by a probation officer. – He has a curfew of 10pm.

11. He will not possess or subscribe to any sexually explicit or sexually stimulating material deemed inappropriate by a probation officer or patronize any adult book or video store, strip club, or adult entertainment club or similar establishment.

12. He will not use telephone numbers that provide access to sexually oriented services.

13. He will not hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers.

14. He will submit to electronic monitoring as directed by a probation officer, He is required to pay for the costs of such monitoring, he will not tamper with electronic monitoring equipment, and he will not remove the equipment… I particularly like this one.

15. He will participate in any other treatment program as directed by a probation officer… Sex offender treatment program.

16. He must take any medication as prescribed if it is required as part of his treatment program.

17. He will not use any alcoholic beverages or drugs, except as prescribed to him by a physician.

18. He may not associate with other known sex offenders or convicted felons except in an approved treatment program or with prior probation officer approval.

19. He will not be in the presence of minors, nor have contact in any form, direct or indirect, including by means of computer, telephone, letter, tape, video, email, text message, or through another person with children under the age of 16 without probation officer approval. (Any contact must be reported immediately to a probation officer.)

20. He will not date or socialize with anybody who has children under the age of 16 without your probation officer’s prior approval. I wonder how that conversation would go “well you see honey…”

21. He may not possess children’s clothing, toys, or games, without prior probation officer approval.

22. He will not go to or loiter near school yards, parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, arcades, or any places primarily used by children under 16… He cannot live within 1,000 feet from a school.

23. He will not possess a camera, camera phone, camcorder, videocassette, DVD, or any device that can record or play back visual images without probation officer approval. NOT APPROVED.

24. He must maintain a driving log or activity log, as required by a probation officer.

25. He must agree to and sign a computer access agreement that will be provided to him by a probation officer, before using any computer and he must submit to an examination and search of his computer or other similar equipment to verify it is not used in violation of probation or treatment conditions; and- He is currently fighting this in court because he works for a computer company… boy, I bet that’s frustrating.

26. He must comply with other probation officer-imposed conditions.

Did I mention because he is a Tier III offender that the community must be personally notified… I did everything in my power so that this nightmare might be prevented for another person. It almost killed me but I fought the good fight and I told the truth. In the end we both lost because the game is rigged. My soul was damaged and he just lost his rights. Prevention, education, and awareness are needed. We can stop these crimes from happening. And even when we can’t we can equip first responder to be helpers not re-victimizers. We can add our voice to a broken system and commit to change for the next brave soul who is determined to fight…