There are times in life that are hard. Some days I didn’t think I could get out of bed. And if I’m being completely honest, I still have days like that—more than I’d like to admit to.
When I was younger, I seemed to have the perfect childhood. Everyone that saw me or knew me thought that I lived a charmed life. However, behind the scenes was a completely different story.
I endured severe abuse for many years. I was abused emotionally, sexually, spiritually, and physically. I was sexually trafficked beginning at age four. As a child, I didn’t realize how wrong those things were. I was told I was special and loved, but love was used as a weapon to keep secrets. I was threatened with many things, but losing love was threat enough to keep those secrets. I didn’t want to be the one to destroy my family. I didn’t realize until adulthood that I was never truly loved or protected.
As a teenager, I started cutting, hitting, or doing anything I could to hurt myself—partly because I hated myself and partly because I felt nothing. Physical pain was a small something I could feel. It allowed me to finally feel some release and control over my life.
I began to realize how the abuse I suffered slowly started to destroy me. In 2008, I cut off all contact with almost everyone from my childhood, so I could try to focus on healing and on the little family I was building with my husband. But the shame I felt from those 21 years of abuse almost killed me. Literally. I attempted suicide in 2009, but luckily, God wasn’t ready for my life to be over. He knew I still had things to do.
I really struggled after I had our fourth baby in 2014. The demands of living a seemingly normal life were hard enough. Postpartum depression got worse with every baby. I would cry and cry. I felt I was being ridiculous for being so incredibly sad, but feeling I was being ridiculous just made me cry harder. I wanted someone to hold me. I was sad that other people were having babies because I knew they had their mom come and be there. But, for many reasons, I had no mom to take care of me. I wanted a mom to swoop in and play with my other kids while I took a nap. I wanted a mom who I could cry on. I wanted to be cared for. I missed the idea of a mom; I missed what I wanted to be real. I still miss that nurturing influence, but I have learned to be that for my kids and, in turn, for myself.
After years of therapy, the patience of an incredible husband, and a few other heroes, my life is now one filled with love. Real love. It took a lot of work and I had to go to some really dark places, but I did it. I have forgiven, but not forgotten. The scars I have from hurting myself have faded a lot, but I am grateful for them. I look at them and they remind me that I am a survivor.
For the past year, I have worn what I call my “hero bands.” I have many, all with different words. When I wake up in the morning, I decide what I need most. Peace. Love. Courage. Strength. God. So many words to keep my head up. Each remind me of what I want to be. Remind me of who I really am. I always wear more than one band, and I often pass along one of my Hero Bands to someone in need of a reminder as well. I’ve learned that nothing helps you heal more than helping others and seeing their lives change, becoming stronger and more authentic.
Maybe you can relate to some of this story, and maybe you can’t. But we’ve all been through hard things. We aren’t here to compare trials or judge others. We are here to lift and help each other through those hard times. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, illness, miscarriage, abuse, depression, anxiety, work, kids, finances, marriage or any other number of struggles, we all know what heartache feels like. The cause of the pain may be different, but the feelings are the same.
My intention in sharing my story is not to draw attention or upset anyone. My intention is to give others hope that life can still be amazing, no matter what we've gone through. Hero Bands was started with the hope of giving hope. To give a daily reminder that life is worth living. That we can do hard things and get through hard things.
Because I was sexually trafficked, I’ve chosen to donate $2 for every bracelet purchased to Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that rescues trafficked children. It’s an incredible charity full of heroes. You can read more about them here.
You can also purchase a band for a child that has been rescued from sex trafficking. When you purchase one of these bands, we stamp your initials on the band by the word SAFE. This way, the child knows that there is a real person out there that cares about them. We mail them to OUR and they make sure the children they rescue get a band. To purchase one of these, click here.
As I have received inquiries for speaking engagements, those interested can contact me here.