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day 12: everything happens for a reason: [no, really]

 

Thursday, 3/17/2016

So today I have to email a new doctor and I don’t want to. I feel like I’ve paid my dues in the medical realm. 

On May 21, 2013, I underwent elective brain surgery. Why would anyone elect to have their brain cut open? Absolutely debilitating headaches that take you out for hours to days at a time over the course of four years, and continually get progressively worse, push you to the point of saying, “Yeah, sure! Slice my head open. Sounds good!” 

(warning:one mildly graphic scar photo a little ways below - but if you’ve watched ‘Scandal,’ this is child’s play)

My elective surgery saved my life. After opening up my brain, my baller neurosurgeon/friend/mum’s colleague went to find my parents. We’ll call him BallerDoctor. It’s a little strange to think of my brain just chilling in the open air. Also do you want to know my biggest regret in life thus far? Forgetting to ask BallerDoctor to snap a pic of my brain while he was mucking around in there. I mean, I had the chance and the chance will never present itself again (at least it better not.) I blew it. Merp.

“Becky’s brain was gray and very little oxygen was reaching it, therefore it was not pulsating well. She'd been living on borrowed time. In addition to the procedure agreed upon, I had to cut through the lining of her brain, remove some dura from the top of her skull, and make a little patch in the back to give the brain more space.”  — Why, yes - I AM so smart that my brain is extra big and needs more room to compute its brilliant ideas…. 

Apparently, the scans I’d been having to monitor my very common (but also rarely and severely symptomatic, hence the choice to have surgery) brain malformation had not told the whole story. 

Let me tell you something - waking up from brain surgery is a b***h. When I woke up from the successful surgery, I almost immediately started vomiting. Actually, I was HURLING. I’d been ‘under’ for longer than expected and my body was not loving the repercussions of that extra anesthesia, so it decided to rid me of it in the most vile way it knew how - for three days. At one point I begged my doctors to give me enough pain meds to kill me because l really did not think I could take the pain. My time in neuro-ICU is pretty foggy due to a plethora of Michael Jackson’s pain meds being IV’ed into my body (they are MIRACULOUS,) but it’s truly remarkable how your body doesn’t forget that level of excruciating pain. Wanna know the weirdest sensation? Feeling every.single.pulsation of your brain. In case you didn’t know, it pulsates the way your heart beats. And if your brain had been slammed up against your skull for years, you wouldn’t know that. But once that pressure is relieved, you find it out real quick and it is weirrrrrd.

Getting to the point of choosing to have brain surgery was a four year process that began in 2009. 

Feb 8, 2009 |

fly back one day early from college auditions at my mum’s annoying insistence. She has these things that she calls ‘holy spirit holds’ where she knows she’s supposed to do something, but she has no real, concrete reason why. You might think she sounds wacko, but I kid you not, every time she’s honored that “feeling,” it has paid off.  There was no reason for us to fly back a day early and I wanted to miss an extra day of school, but she had a “feeling.” As a high schooler not particularly interested in the school part of high school, I was not amused.

Feb 9, 2009 | 3:45pm -     

pull my car over on the side of the highway due to severe stomach cramps. They pass, so I ignore them.

Feb 9, 2009 | 7:00pm -     

in rehearsal and turn to a friend and tell him I think I’m gonna puke  

Feb 9, 2009 | 7:15pm -    

make it to the bathroom just in time to start uncontrollably throwing up blood. Not vomit with some blood in it or the type of blood that comes out after you’ve been vomming for a while and have scratched your throat. No. I was throwing up only blood. And not old blood. I was throwing up pints and pints of fresh, red, blood and I couldn’t stop.

Feb 9, 2009 | 7:45pm -     

Mum picks me up from rehearsal and takes me home, while I continue to vomit blood into a trashcan in the car. 

Feb 9, 2009 | 8:30pm      

Mum calls 911

Feb 9, 2009 | 8: 45pm     

Ambulance arrives. I code in the ambulance on the way to the ER, so they divert and take me to the closest hospital, not the one we requested.

Feb 9, 2009 | 9:00pm  

Arrive at the hospital. My whole body is numb and tingling 

Feb 10-18, 2009 |        

ICU. Since they can’t find the source of the hematemesis (or as I like to call it, vomming blood,) and since the vomming didn’t stop for three days, they decide to look at every part of my body. I have the first of many MRIs, CT scans, spinal taps, blood patches, bleeding time tests, blood draws, and neurological exams. Over the course of this week, they discover a brain malformation, a blood disease, a connective tissue disorder, and cysts down my spinal cord. This vomming blood episode flung my previously asymptomatic existence into symptomatic overdrive. While that was extremely painful, it was not life threatening. And unless it’s going to kill you, you can pretty much convince yourself, and your body, to do anything. 

[If my mum had not heeded her “holy spirit hold,” this would have all gone down in Chicago - a city where we knew no one and had no medical connections. We would have been forced to spend a week in their ICU and then go through the grueling and complicated process of having records transferred to Houston, choosing new doctors ourselves, and trying to explain a medically inexplicable situation to people who were not there to witness it.] 

Over the course of the next couple of months, we ironed out the members of my medical team and began to look for ways to calm the symptoms.

[If I hadn’t coded in the ambulance, requiring a diversion to the hospital that was closest, as opposed to the one of our choosing, I would never have the team I have now. This team of internationally recognized doctors not only saved my life, but they have become a part of my family. They’ve answered calls and texts in the middle of the night and met my family and me in emergency rooms in the early hours of the morning. They’ve even come to my shows and performances.] 

I get put on some headache medicine, one of which I quickly had to stop taking due to the fact that it made me forget everything. Literally. My mum would tell me to do something, I’d agree, and later when she’d get annoyed that I hadn’t done whatever it was we’d discussed, I’d get frustrated and tell her the conversation never happened. This was initially chalked up to me being an annoying teenager (which I indeed was,) but a couple months in, my mum realized that I wasn’t that annoying (no, really.) I forgot how to get places that I regularly drove to or that I had conversations. I’d call my dad and he’d say, “Treasure, you called to tell me that a little while ago.” It was scary.

I became a pro at lasting through never ending MRIs (the longest I ever did was 8 hours with very short breaks) despite being claustrophobic. I have a phenomenal system and if you need tips - I gotchu. I became oddly used to the sensation of peeing myself provided by the contrast medicine used in CT scans (don’t worry, I didn’t actually pee myself.) I once watched a blood draw butterfly needle pop in my arm and send blood flying everywhere - I barely even blinked. I’ve passed out from having too much blood drawn at once, and I learned how to keep still while a doctor sticks a long ass needle into the space around my spinal chord, and then later injects blood into that space and tells me to “take as much pain as I think I can."

The day the blood vomming began was one of my first days of rehearsal for a production of “Beauty and Beast.” I’d been out on tour for my junior year of high school with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Whistle Down the Wind,” and came back to Houston really nervous about adjusting to life off the road. “Beauty and the Beast” was one thing that had me really excited. And then I got sick. 

A combination of miracles, grace, and patience on the part of my school, the company producing “Beauty and Beast,” and the cast I shared the stage with, allowed me to continue on in the role of Belle. In a way, it saved my spirit. It planted a seed that I would need to survive the next four years. Amidst a never-ending slew of doctors appointments and bad news, it was a reminder of the thing that brought me joy my whole life, even while muddying through the darkest circumstances. For just a few hours every night, I escaped my reality and stepped into the shoes of a young woman who also needed hope, and refused to believe that new beginnings weren’t possible. You could hear little girls gasp when I appeared at the top of the stairs in my yellow ball gown. They reminded me that magic was real - and I needed all the magic I could get. Over four days, we got to tell 20,000 people that magic was real in a massive outdoor theatre that is the stuff of dreams. My dad loves to describe leaving the theatre early one night to catch the metro, and hearing my voice echoing across Hermann Park. He says he stopped with tears in his eyes and just listened to me sing “A Change in Me”, whose lyrics couldn’t be more fitting to the two months we’d just pushed through. 

Two days after my high school graduation, I was met with the following words from a cardiologist (we’ll call him DrNoName):

“well, I hate to say this - you need to find a new career. You have a grossly enlarged aortic root. It is more than likely another symptom of the greater issue we can’t yet diagnose. If you continue to pursue this career path, you will likely die. The over-exertion on your body will cause your aorta to burst. I know you’re going on a mission trip in a few days to work with children, but you cannot pick up a child. You can’t even move a box. Not until we figure out a way to reduce this dilation.” 

I could see his lips moving and I could hear what he was saying - but I couldn’t compute. Two days after my high school graduation, and DrNoName was basically telling me that my life as I knew it was over. This was supposed to be a “just in case” check-up. When my doctors suggested I see a cardiologist, it was as a total precaution. They had no reason to believe anything was wrong with my heart, but since almost every other major organ had been looked at over the last three months, it “couldn’t hurt” to check my heart, too. Up to now it had been scary and weird, but nobody ever even remotely mentioned death as a possibility. The idea wasn’t even on our radar.

You will likely die? I felt all the breath leave my body and I just barely squeaked out a quiet “ok.” 

Insert Judy Moyes into the conversation. Things to know about my mum: 

  1. She is mad smart - one of a handful women in the world to be accepted to the Cambridge University med school in 1974. Seven degrees and a phenomenal pediatric oncologist.
  2. She is not to be messed with  
  3. We would not have made it through months of testing, diagnoses, worsening symptoms, college decisions, and doctors appointments without her
  4. She cannot stand morons 
  5. She is fiercely protective 

“Excuse me, DrNoName, would you mind stepping outside for a minute to walk me through these test results a little more extensively?” 

Yo, that’s how you know that Jude is PISSED. 

She ripped DrNoName, who you can well guess is no longer a part of my medical team, a new one for the way in which he relayed life altering medical information without any type of hope or concern for the way a teenager might react to that information.

[But you know what? If he hadn’t been such a dumbdumb, we never would have been placed with my now cardiologist, who we’ll call DrNotToBeMessedWith. DrNotToBeMessedWith runs not only the cardiology department, but also the entire internal medicine department of the hospital and the Heart and Vascular Institute where my care is based. DrNotToBeMessedWith never misses my 6 month stress echo - in fact, he stands right next to me the entire time. He also managed my cardiac care during my brain surgery … from CHINA, because that’s how much he cares.] 

But that day, the only words I kept hearing over and over again were, “You will likely die.” I was MAD. Why did this have to happen? Why did I get 18 normal years with these stupid problems lying dormant and then everything came crashing down all at once? I felt like a shell of myself. Two girls who were my “friends” started questioning if the problems were real since they couldn’t see them. Cue us not being friends anymore. I had a few of my college options stripped from me due to the necessity that I needed to be close to high ranking emergency centers. Within my first two weeks at college, I had to wear a heart monitor for a week to gauge how my heart was reacting to the rapid increase in physical activity - under a leotard. It wasn’t exactly inconspicuous. I was mortified and I was guarded.

So how did I respond to this news? I decided to push my body to its limit. I drank until I threw up regularly. I stayed out way too late and never got enough sleep. I pushed myself to a breaking point until Valentines Day 2010, when I had to fly back to Texas for an emergency myelogram and blood patch. 

When you have a myelogram, they strap you to a table that resembles one of those spine inversion chairs (except you’re on your stomach,) insert a lumbar needle into your spine, push dye through that needle, flip you upside down, and watch on a screen to see which of the multiple spinal cord cysts I had, the dye would leak through. Once that’s been established, they determine how many of the many cc’s of blood that have been previously removed from your arm will be necessary to insert into the space around your spinal cord, then squirt blood into that space, until you can’t stand the pain anymore. That part is called a blood patch. The blood acts as a glue, sealing the holes in your cysts, and allows the spinal fluid level in your brain to rise back up to a healthy level. THE HUMAN BODY IS AMAZING. 

(she looks oddly happy and comfortable - I can assure you, I was not smiling.) 

Once they were finished, my doctors gravely looked at my mum and me and informed us that my levels of spinal fluid were alarmingly low. They lovingly, but firmly, reminded me that ensuring that I did as little as possible to exert force on those cysts, especially vomiting, was of utmost importance. I feigned innocence, though everyone in the room knew better, and went to recovery. After that day, I swore that come hell or high-water, I would never ever subject myself to that stupid procedure ever again. HA.

It’s funny when you think you get to control your own life. Fast forward three and half years, six weeks post brain surgery, and I’m still not able to walk. I can physically do it. Like I could put one foot in front of the other, but I couldn’t stand upright without pain so severe that I would pass out. Nobody knew what was going on and we started to think that I was stuck this way forever. Before my surgery, my doctors warned me that the cysts down my spinal chord made things much more complicated. There was a chance, small - like 5%, but still a chance, that I would be irreversibly worse off after surgery than I was pre-surgery. I decided the potential reward outweighed the risk. I began to strongly regret that decision around week three post-surgery. By week six, I was going out of my mind. 

My whole life, I planned to move to New York and be on Broadway - and if I’m being honest, I never doubted I could do it. Call it pride or call it confidence - it was what it was. I worked hard, I was talented, and I wanted it. During the fall of my senior year of college, my mum called me to say that the team she worked with at MD Anderson had just hired a new neurosurgeon (BallerDoctor.) After hearing about my situation he told my mum that he may be able to help me and would like to meet with me. 

Vehement no. In no way was I interested in meeting with a man who cut into people’s brains for a living. But as the year progressed, so did the headaches - and by spring break, I was feeling a little desperate. At the end of a very long appointment we made a deal. If the New York showcase that I was performing in with my class in a few weeks went as planned, then I would move directly to New York and forego surgery. If it didn’t, I’d come home and have the surgery. I'd had a pretty great year at school and enough of the visiting industry guests had expressed interest in me, so I thought my plan was foolproof. I’d move right to New York, and I’d get out of this surgery. 

Ha. Expectations were not met and I was devastated. I’d just come through what I considered to be the toughest months of my life (my first real heartbreak) and I was shattered. The last piece of hope dissipated and I realized that I truly had nothing to lose - no career to speak of, no one to spend my life with, and I couldn’t imagine it was possible for my headaches to get any worse. So I kept my word. And it saved my life.

[If my life had gone according to plan, I never would have had that surgery and I may not be here now. Borrowed time is a strange way to look at life on earth.] 

So here we are, six weeks post brain surgery, and I’m no better. My doctors are stumped and they recheck my charts. Maybe in those first three days of vomiting, I had burst the majority of the cysts in my spinal chord. The idea of doing another blood patch as a last ditch effort to improve things is pitched. Remember that? The inverted table hell? My short and concise answer was as follows, “F**k no.”

That’s how much “taking as much pain as possible" hurts. It was being marketed as a way to relieve post-brain surgery headaches and the inability to walk, and I was still saying no. But a week later, I conceded. If it was my only chance to feel normal again, I’d take it, because I sure as hell couldn’t take this. Two days later, I was up and walking around.

[If I hadn’t made the decision to drink myself into oblivion out of anger many a night during that first year of college, we wouldn’t have had the key to revealing the actual success of my surgery which gave me a completely new life.]

I haven’t had what I dub “brain headaches” since that day. I never thought I would know what it felt like to live life not in pain. Knowing what life New York is like, I now know that I would never have been able to handle it in my pre-surgery existence.

[If I never got sick on February 9, 2009, we likely would have found out too late that I had a brain malformation and a heart condition. A brain malformation that was fixed in surgery and a heart condition that has no bearing on my career path or my day to day life, despite what DrNoName said, because it’s controlled by medicine, diet, and exercise.]

My doctors never could figure out what caused the initial vomming up blood that started all of this. Every single test (and there were MANY) came back inconclusive. But I know what (or Who) it was. 

The day before my surgery, one of my mum’s friends from Bible Study called me and asked if I could come over. She felt like she’d "heard from the Lord" and wanted to share with me. I finished up my manicure and eyebrow wax (priorities, people. If I was going to die in surgery, I was going to die looking good) and headed over. She told me that, while she was praying for me, she felt led to turn to Psalm 91:4 in her bible: 

“He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge"

She said she had a vision of me in that operating room - that there would be feathery wings like the ones the Victoria’s Secret angels wear (I kid you not) on either side of me, keeping me suspended in the air - and that they would keep me safe. 

Listen, even I was like - “ok wackadoo" - and went on my merry way. 

Halfway through my surgery, BallerDoctor told my parents that one of the brackets keeping my head in position had malfunctioned. He had no idea how or why - there was a one in a million chance of something like that happening. It was as if someone took a hammer to the bracket because all of a sudden, it snapped, the screw grazed my scalp in a line as my head began to fly downwards, and then it was almost as if my head was suspended in the air, giving the cardiac anesthesiologist time to hold it safely in place before any damage could be done. I mean, this is brain surgery. It’s not ideal for your head to be moving around while BallerDoctor is in there with a knife. The surgery was abruptly halted while they retrieved another bracket and clamped my head again so that it wouldn’t move. Crisis over. I didn’t totally believe that story until I read it in the medical report a few months later. How was that possible? Because, Jesus. 

I don’t know why God has chosen to save my life over and over again. People tell me it's because I have a purpose, a great calling on my life. But there are people all over the world dying every single day. Are we saying that they had no purpose? No calling on their lives?  

Being faced with medical uncertainty has put a lot of things in perspective for me. Death is a reality - something I’m both afraid of and yet have been forced to come to terms with. Science would say that one of my medical issues will be the thing that takes my life one day down the road. Maybe. Maybe not. I know that day will not come until I have accomplished what I was put on this earth to do. And when that day does come, I’ll be one of the many all over the world dying that day, and it won’t mean I had no purpose or calling - it will mean I fulfilled it.

Almost seven months after my surgery, I got a tattoo of a feather on the back of my neck as a reminder of this saga. And you wouldn’t believe how many times since my assault people have asked me why it was there. A tattoo I never see unless I look in the mirror while holding another mirror - almost as if God just wanted me to be reminded that while I couldn’t see my worth or value, it hadn’t gone anywhere. He covered me with His feathers and He gave me refuge once before - why wouldn’t He do it again?

day 8: rape & the righteousness of God : a glimmer of grateful light

Sunday, 3/13/2016

I watched the documentary “The Hunting Ground” today. I also had a conversation about the righteousness of God with one of my pastors. Talk about juxtapositions. 

These are two conversations that don’t go together. And yet, deep down in a place somewhere looking to get a little light, I know that they kinda do.

I know this because the idea that God is righteous in ALL circumstances, even circumstances that are heinous, is at the very core of my grievances with Him and this whole experience.  

Only 36% of rapes, 34% of attempted rapes, and 26% of sexual assaults get reported to the police. (National Institue of Justice)

26% of rapes reported to the police lead to an arrest. Of that 26%, 20% are prosecuted.” - FBI Uniform Crime Reports - 2010

The documentary is full of statistics, but these two haunt me and I have to do the math for myself:

- In 2011 reports from a 2010 study called "the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey” (which took place with the support of the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Defense) stated that 1 in 5 women had been raped or experienced attempted rape. Other outlets report 1 in 4, and some 1 in 6, so to be somewhere average, we’ll go with 1 in 5.

Ok so:

If 1 in 5 women in America are victims of sexual assault and there are about 157 million women in America   - that takes us to 31,400,000 women assaulted.  

- only 36% report their rape = 11,304,000 reported rapes 

- only 34% report attempted rape = 10,676,00 reported attempted rapes

- only 26% report sexual assault = 8,164,000 reported sexual assaults

The math in all of those situations brings you to at least 20,000,000 unreported assaults. So regardless of the fact that we can’t measure which 1’s in 5 experienced what version of assault, we can assume that 20,000,000 sexual assaults of some kind are unreported. 

Talking about rape only, 26% of the 36% of reported rapes (11,304,000) lead to an arrest - ok so that’s 2,939,040 arrests which = 8,364,960 cases without arrest. 

Of the 2,939,040 arrests, 20% are prosecuted - so 587,888 prosecutions, which = 2,351,152 cases without prosecution. 

So why does it shock people that survivors are hesitant to press charges? Especially when 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. (RAINN.org) Why report and go through the grueling process of attempting to bring a perpetrator to justice with those odds? 

Trying to give logic to that night and my decision not to press charges is a never-ending cycle. 

Trying to reconcile it with the righteousness of God is on another level.

But then I get a glimmer of light. And that inner conversation with God goes something like this: 

"What are you grateful for in that situation?" 

"What? Are you serious? What am I grateful for? Are you (expletive) kidding me?” 

“No.” 

“I’m not grateful. There is nothing to be grateful for.” 

“Really? What were you afraid of that night?"

“I was afraid that they wouldn’t let me leave. I was afraid that they would kill me. I was afraid that she’d been taken forever. I was afraid that I would have to call her mom and tell her that she wasn’t coming home and that I had no idea where she was. I was afraid that I was responsible for a horrible life she may be subjected to by whoever took her.” 

“And did that happen?” 

“No” 

Once I found one thing to be grateful for, it was a lot easier to come up with some more:

  • I’m grateful that my friend got out of that apartment.
  • I’m grateful that she doesn’t remember what happened there.
  • I’m grateful that this didn’t taint our friendship - she doesn’t blame me and I don’t blame her.
  • I’m grateful that I don’t remember the bulk of my time inside the other apartment.
  • I’m grateful that I had someone to call the next morning who answered the phone.
  • I’m grateful that my parents had the means to fly to New York from Europe.
  • I’m grateful that this was not the time that these criminals escalated to something even worse.
  • I’m grateful that I’m alive.
  • I’m grateful that I have amazing family and friends who have so graciously walked with me through the healing process.
  • I’m grateful that I’m not alone. 

I’m stunned to see even this tiny glimmer. 

Gratitude is a weapon of worship. It is allowing me a glimpse into where the righteousness of God exists in this situation.

My thoughts often veer off to,  “why did God save my life? Why me? Why not any of the other millions of people facing potential death each day?” 

In our conversation, my pastor stops me in my tracks - “stop trying to make yourself worthy of the righteousness of God; you’re not and you never will be. That’s the beauty of it. When you rest in your unworthiness, you honor His righteousness.”

This may seem harsh. I may never see the righteousness of God in that night. But somehow, it was exactly what I needed to hear. It removed the all-about-me attitude that was blocking me from seeing what I do see:  

- I do see that I not only survived, but fought my way through the recovery, and have come out the other side stronger and with a blazing passion to fight for change. So when God tells me that He will never let me be pushed past my limit, I know He’s right. (1 Cor 10:13, the MSG) 

- I do see that something guided me in the direction of home. So when God tells me that He will never leave me or forsake me, I know He’s true. (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV)

- I do see that instead of this pushing my friend and I apart, we are closer than ever. I also see that my friend who helped me came, regardless of our history. So when God says that a friend loves at all times (is always loyal) and a brother is born to help in time of need, I know He cares about my heart. (Proverbs 17:7 NLT) 

- I do see that this experience has been one of the greatest trials I’ve ever faced, but that through it, I’ve experienced more growth than I could have imagined. So when God tells me to consider it a sheer gift when tests and challenges come my way because it means that my faith-life will be forced into the open, allowing me to become mature and well-developed, deficient in nothing, I know He is always on my side. (James 1:2-4 The MSG.)

- I do see that within hours of originally posting this blog, I had quite a number of people reach out to say that they were also survivors of rape or assault, and felt like they finally had a voice; or that their friend went through this and is struggling and they were sending it along so that they would know they aren’t alone. So when God says that He works all things together for good, I know that He can take even the most broken situations, and use them for good. (Romans 8:28 NIV.)

Now let me be abundantly clear - I AM NOT SAYING THAT RAPE IS RIGHTEOUS. What I am saying is that in my own personal experience, I am beginning to see that even in the most UNrighteous situations (caused by free will,) God can take what was meant for evil, and He can use if for good. And that right there, is in fact, the righteousness of God. 

So I’m understanding it just a little through the lens of gratitude. And this little glimmer of light shines ever so much brighter with each passing second. 

Day 3: tidal change

Tuesday, 3/8/2016

Today I had what I believe will be a key breakthrough in this 52 day journey that deals directly with the negativity issue discussed in day 2. Funny how the universe (or for me, God) works. And the fact that it happened on day 3 only fills me with utter excitement because 3 is my favorite number in the world.

Disclaimer: when it comes to this blog, the deepest desire of my heart is that people who share my faith, and people who do not, will read it and identify with it. This post will discuss two things that people who do not share my faith may find weird and freaky, but also may not! If you’re willing to approach it with an open mind (that does not ask you to believe what I believe, simply to read about it) I think you’ll more than likely identify in some way. So, if you can get through like three Bible verses and a little explanation…press on. And hey, why not get weird early on? At least that way, you know what you’re getting yourself into. 

Ok - so:

I think regardless of faith or religious beliefs, most people believe that there is good at work in the world and there is bad at work in the world. Some refer to it as good energy and bad energy. Forces for good and forces for evil, good spirits and evil spirits. How else could we explain things like war or famine or abuse or addiction? In the Christian faith, we believe that Satan, a fallen angel, is the author of evil and of lies and thus arrives a term that is often accompanied by assumptions of craziness or weirdness: spiritual warfare.

In the bible it says,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, (we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies,) but against the (evil) rulers, against the authorities (of the unseen world,) against the (mighty) powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil (evil spirits) in the heavenly realms (places.) - Ephesians 6:12 - New International Version (New Living Translation)

Humans are spiritual beings, so it makes sense that there would be good spirits and bad spirits, regardless of where we believe the spirits come from. 

Alright,

Christians believe that God did not accidentally drop any person onto earth; that every single human being was deliberately placed on this earth for a purpose <- what’s up Bieber album?

The Bible says that God knew all about us before he formed us in our mother’s womb, that He set us apart for a holy purpose (Jeremiah 1:5,) and that every hair on our head is numbered (Matthew 10:30, Luke 12:7.)

“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ or got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.”  - Ephesians 1:11-12 (The Message) 

Christians often call this God’s plan for our lives. Others might refer to it as destiny. 

So, if God has a purpose for my life, and I ultimately believe that God is good (which despite the anger expressed in recent posts, somewhere deep down I still do,) then I also believe that the purpose for my life is for good and not evil. For joy and not pain. For provision and not lack. And if I believe that satan (or the enemy) is the author of evil, then his goal would understandably be to derail that plan for my life. 

Or in non-faith terms - why would evil forces or negative energy be excited for good to prevail? 

You’re probably like, ok Becky thanks for the religion lesson, but could you get to the point? 

Ok the point is this: I believe that satan’s greatest weapon against the human race is to attack the mind. Or, in other terms, for the bad energy at work in the world to create a mine field of negativity. 

I’ve been pretty transparent about my negative thoughts on this blog so far, but there’s a deeper level to that negativity that is almost embarrassing to admit. Negativity is a kind way to refer to how I’ve been dealing with myself. The more accurate description would be self-hatred. 

I was on the phone with my therapist (yeah, I’m back to that, but this time I’m actually being honest and it’s crazy how much that changes things…except it’s not crazy and makes total sense) and was narrating a recent experience when she stopped me and said, “Wait- what did you just say?” I quickly repeated myself so that I could get on with my story when she stopped me again, “Becky - do you hear how negatively you are speaking about yourself?” The honest answer was - no, I didn’t. I have become so used to the way I address myself, that it no longer strikes me as abnormal. She asked me to expound upon my general self-talk patterns of late: 

  • “You’re fat” 
  • “Your skin - ew, why would anyone want to look at you?” 
  • “You’re a whale.” 
  • “You’ve got so much baggage, no one will ever want to take all that on."
  • “See, there you go f*****g up again. You are SO past the line of God’s actual forgiveness. Prepare for withholding of blessings, big time.” 
  • “You’re SO negative- look at all these terrible things you think - geez, it’s no wonder you’re depressed. You’re depressing."
  • “You’re on your own - good luck.” 
  • “You don’t deserve good things.” 
  • “When will you ever learn? Are you this stupid?"
  • “You’re a liar and a fraud.” 
  • “Can you imagine if people knew that this is how you truly are? My god, you’d have ZERO friends. You can’t tell anyone."
  • “Whey even try for the life you long for? Never. Gonna. Happen.” 

— and then I’d get mad at myself for thinking all of these horribly negative things: cycle repeat — 

My therapist asked me what I feel like is keeping me from the life I want - because believe it or not, this ain’t it! 

The best way I can describe it is this: I can see the life I want. I can picture it vividly. I can almost touch it. It’s just waiting on the other side of this impermeable, multi-layered plexiglass wall.  I’ve tried bulldozing it down, walking around it, punching it, body slamming it - and nothin'. It will not budge. She asked me, “if words were written on this wall, what would they be?” 

     hopelessness 

     give up now 

“You know what? That is not your voice and that is not the voice of the Lord,” she said. "That is the voice of the enemy. What would God say in response to all those statements?”  (Go with me here, y’all - I know to some of you, this is SO WEIRD.) 

  • “I’m a child of the most high God.”  
  • “I’m a daughter of the King” 
  • “I am set apart for such a time as this” 
  • “I am beautiful and there is no blemish in me” 
  • “I am cleansed, washed clean, and restored” 
  • “I am found” 
  • “I am a lover and not a hater"
  • “I am free” 
  • “I am gifted with a beautiful mind, equipped with love and positivity.” 
  • “I am created with a purpose.” 
  • “I am promised more in this life than I can even think, ask, or imagine.” 
  • “I am a servant of the king.” 
  • “There is a plan, set apart before the beginning of time, for my life.” 
  • “Every hair on my head is numbered and known to God.” 
  • “I am known for all that I am, and I am loved.” 
  • “I am never alone.” 
  • “Jesus is my truth and His voice is gentle."

Without any concentrated decision, the statements immediately switched from what I like to call, you:accusatory statements, to I:ownership statements. Because my spirit recognized the truth on its own. And I felt my heart lighten.  (for those of you who are Christians, I think it’s worth noting that satan is no dummy. It’s no coincidence that the pride surrounding his beauty and intelligence, and his desire to BE God is what caused him to fall from heaven in the first place.) 

It’s amazing how the truth can turn your whole life around. I have been believing versions of those you:accusatory statements since the spring of 2013 without even realizing it. 

Not anymore. 

Tides are changing sweet friends! 

I am committing to amending #11 on my prep day list from “no needless negativity” to “NO negativity - especially in my mind.” Anytime a negative you:accusatory statement arrives in my mind, I will answer it back with an I:ownership statement. 

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.”
- Mahatma Ghandi

I hope that this post was enjoyable and made sense to anyone who read it. While my faith is the most foundational thing in my life, I think that faith so often needlessly divides people - “oh, she believes in something so big that I don’t believe in, that there’s no way we can relate.” I just don’t buy into that. We’re all sharing the same human experience - we’re just sharing it in different ways. 

It’s strange to be going to bed not dreading tomorrow. I can’t remember the last time that happened. 

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52 Days

out of the ashes and into the light

When I sat on the beach meditating that morning (you may already be like, "oh geeeeez make it stop!") and had the thought, “if JD can do that, what can you do for 52 days?”, I decided to begin a 52 day challenge. I’d been stuck in a negative space (that's a kind way of putting it) for months and wanted to drastically change my life. So, I starting thinking of personal mantras that I could adopt for 52 days, all with the underlying feeling that this was a silly, new-age-y, foundation-less idea that I was concocting. Basically, I was annoying myself. 

But then I felt prompted to count out 52 days on my calendar. Day 52 would land on April, 26, 2016. Uhhh what? That couldn't be right. So I counted again. And again. And one more time for good measure because I don’t believe in coincidences, (also because anything in the math realm, even something as rudimentary as counting, is not my strong suit.) My friends might tell you that I have a tendency to take things to be signs. I can categorically say that this was not one of those instances. Because of that, I decided to not only go on this journey, but write about it. Don’t fear - that idea was immediately accompanied with humbling and self-deprecating thoughts like: “Becky, who the actual eff is going to want to read a '52 day journey' about some random, normal chick who doesn't have any idea what it is she's journeying toward or even what she wants out of it, inspired by a random encounter on an Antiguan speedboat?” But that date...

Two years ago, on April 26, 2014, nine months after moving to New York to pursue my dreams, I was drugged at a bar, taken to an apartment with the promise of finding my missing friend, forcibly held there, assaulted, raped, and then physically thrown into the rain with the trash. It changed the course of my life. 

Sadness, anger, depression, anxiety, fear, recklessness, shame, confusion, pretense, destruction, excess, bitterness, self-hatred, and doubt became the foundations upon which I very secretly, and somewhat unknowingly, rebuilt my life. (Geez, that's a lot of emotions for one sentence.)

I didn’t want to be hurt. I didn’t want to give my attackers any power. I didn’t want to be another statistic. I definitely didn’t want people to identify me as this. And I certainly didn’t want anyone to know the deep wounds, previously healed with some antiseptic and a bandaid, that this ripped wide open. I didn't want to think about any of it.

So while bleeding out, I stuffed some lap pads in there (avid Grey’s Anatomy watcher over here,) abandoned my dreams, and said I was fine and “healed."

I “knew" that one day I would understand why this was allowed to happen and that "God was at work somewhere in it." But I didn't actually believe that. I just knew it's what I was supposed to say. When you really know something is true, you feel it in your bones (or in your fingers and toes… Love Actually anyone?)

I felt like I was being blown around in a tornado. But because I didn’t want to be feeling enraged and embarrassed, I decided to "trust God" the way I have been taught to my whole life. And I believed that the longer I blindly trusted Him, the healing would just come; the more that I got on with life and ignored it, this would fade into the background. That I was exhibiting faith. But I wasn't and it didn't.

Within a month, I stepped into new leadership roles at my church. Within nine months, I decided to start a foundation (this is how I ARISE was originally born) that would raise awareness towards the issue. But being a highly functioning, jerry-rigger of an emergency surgeon on my heart helped no one, least of all me, and the in-between was filled with patterns of self-destruction, often hidden in the dark of late night and early morning hours. 

I wanted I ARISE to be a non-profit, activist, organization that pioneered change, raised awareness and shifted the reality of so many women in the world. My free time was filled with researching sexual assault statistics, finding people who wanted to partner with me, watching documentaries, building a website, putting together a support team, partnering with a production company and filming the beginnings of a documentary. But I quickly burned out. How could I build something designed to help others when I hadn’t even begun to truly pick up my own pieces? But instead of asking for help, I ran in the opposite direction. I stepped down from leadership in my church and within two months, stopped going to church altogether. 

A blog was certainly never on my agenda. The thought just kind of arrived in my mind a few days prior to meeting JD, and I immediately dismissed it. I’m one of those cynics who is almost instantly annoyed at anyone who starts a sentence with, “Well on my blog…” - oh yes, please do tell me about your surely earth shattering blog filled with political opinions, healthy recipes, spiritual guidance, conspiracy theories, and an essay on how if you were the coach of your favorite sports team, they would absolutely, positively, never have suffered such an embarrassing and clearly avoidable loss to                          (insert winning team here.) Not that I don't understand the anger that drives that last one - I mean, I still feel personally victimized by the Texans loss to Miami last season where at the half, they were down 41-0. Sorry. Not the point and I will now get back on track.

Despite my hoity toity attitude toward the blogosphere, here I am blogging, so clearly God humbles our negative attitudes and pride even when it blows - actually let’s just be real here, being humbled pretty much always blows because it means admitting you're in the wrong….oh wait, is that just me? 

So the idea is this: one entry for each of the 52 days of this journey. The day of the idea is March 5 and will go up tomorrow, April 30. Day 1 = March 6 = May 1. 

I have no idea what these 52 days will hold, and therefore, no freaking clue what this blog will look like. Today is March 14, aka day 9. I started writing this introductory entry on March 8, aka day 3, and it'll probably get another edit before it goes live. All other entries will be in the voice of that present day. Here’s what I do know: this will not be a curated blog where everything falls under the same well thought out theme, follows a fluid storyline, or depicts photos all edited the same way for aesthetic consistency. It will be honest (likely to a fault) and at times will seem random - but uh HELLO, we all have a million random thoughts a day...I'm just the ding dong that's putting mine out on the internet for all to see - I'm also the ding dong who is immediately beginning to question this decision.  

But here I go - 52 days, huh? Doesn't seem so long until you come up with a weird idea to span them, and then it's like uhhhh what was I thinking? But if JD could survive his 52 days (I tell you all about that tomorrow,) I can get it together for this. And if I can't, well, I've got a lot more to figure out than I realize! 

 If you've stuck it out thus far, thanks for reading. Hopefully you'll come back and see what happens. 

One thing I've learned already - adventure isn’t for the faint of heart, that’s for dang sure.