Why is our world beautiful, and what are we supposed to do about it? Why is our world ugly, and what are we supposed to do about it? – N.T. Wright
Choose Bravery confronts the ugliness and beauty of life, accepting the tension between them.
When I saw no hope of finding relief from the agony inside and committed to killing myself, the true, caring words of my family and friends registered in my brain. But they couldn’t reach my heart. The actual content has to be in the right context or it may prove worthless. You can hear something a thousand times without impact until suddenly it’s the right time, and the truth reaches the heart.
It’s Not Safe
That’s why I write. Every day I connect one-on-one with suffering young women who want truth but need to know the words are more than theory. They must tell their stories but often don’t feel safe to speak. Once they’ve heard part of my past, the floodgates open. We talk, we vent, and—if no one else is looking—there might be tears. Finding a safe place releases the inner pain like nothing else could. To be heard will heal.
Many phenomenal people have been safe places for me. As I continue to lean on them, I want to invest in others. Every opportunity to give another woman hope of being heard is a privilege. We desperately need each other’s support and shared experience.
The Lost Years
For half of my twenties—what I call the Lost Years—I crashed through so many disasters it sounds ridiculous when I list them. If the Lost Years were put in a novel, as an editor I would beg the author to cut out some of the disasters to make the book remotely realistic. In a lengthy conversation I wouldn’t make light of the trauma, but it’s sometimes helpful to crack a joke when someone asks the natural questions, expecting a four-second response: Why do I have PTSD? How did I lose my memory?
Fifteen years of depression, twelve psych wards, numerous rapes, three scars, two divorces, and one kidnapping. And a partridge in a pear tree.
This is far from the life of most twenty-eight-year-olds. Fact is, the cumulative weight of those and other traumas nearly shattered my mind and body.
When Someone’s Been There Too
In the darkest days of my Lost Years flashed a man I barely knew. He sat me down and told his story. Only a few days ago he’d been dying in the ICU after attempting suicide by drug overdose. Now he looked me in the eye, and you could feel the joy and life radiating from him. He wanted to be alive. Getting another chance showed him how much he nearly threw away.
Being my self-appointed “you must stay alive” evangelist, he told me that—despite my insistence on despair—he knew I wanted to live and still had hope. I went to elaborate lengths to convince him otherwise. But he knew me too well because he knew himself, and all who survive the dark place of choosing death can find their way around that part of another hurting soul.
Two or three hours of conversation passed, and suddenly something clicked. In minutes the despair transitioned into cautious, nervous determination. And suddenly it became true, and I did believe him, and I did want to live, and it was such a hard trip back up but he said the right thing at the right time, and—
Bottom line: If you and I just met, I don’t have the right to tell you anything. But if you have wounds and pain and memories and horror inside and feel there is no safe place to be heard and to heal, I hope something on this website or in the book will be one step out of your dark places.
Earning the Right to be a Safe Place
The only reason I dare to challenge anyone to be brave, push into pain, or pursue beauty is that I’ve been to the bottom of the pit. I’ve lived through years in a black hole and came out (or more accurately, was dragged out feeling more than half-dead). In large part because of an enthusiastic, suicide-attempt survivor, I committed to push through my pain. But that couldn’t have carried me long without help. I needed a safe place to spill it all. The memories, the pain, the emotions: they had to come out.
And despite it all I choose to believe one thing:
It’s a beautiful life. It demands bravery, but it gives beauty.
Often, because of what we’ve lived through, we don’t want to live at all. Sometimes the physical, emotional, and mental agony intensifies until nothing matters more than getting a pain-free breath. Self-injury, risk-taking, compulsive behaviors—the consequences of our scramble for relief barely register. Just make it stop.
When I say you are not alone, I mean that because you are hurting in a deep and profound way, you have a community. Though each of us has lived through different evils, perhaps you’ve experienced the invisible connection that sparks when you meet another woman who has suffered at a superior intensity. It’s intangible—impossible to put into words—but powerful. Choose Bravery is about experiencing that power and support.