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 20 years. I was also sexually trafficked. The earliest memory I have of being sold for sex was 4. 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 the love of my parents was threat enough to keep me quiet as a child. 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. Self harm is something not understood by many and I was looked at as crazy and mentally unstable when, in reality, I was just in so much anguish for the things going on in my life that I didn't know what else to do.
The trafficking continued into my early 20's, when I finally moved out of state with my husband and son. My life, my husband's life, and my son's life were being threatened and it wasn't until we moved that I felt safe enough to cut off contact with those from my past. It was time. I needed to focus on healing and on the little family I was building.
I began to realize how the abuse I suffered started to destroy me. The shame I felt almost killed me - literally. I attempted suicide in 2009. Luckily, God wasn’t ready for my life to be over. He knew I still had things to do.
The demands of living a functional life were hard enough. Postpartum depression got worse with every baby. It was a spiral of despair that I couldn't see an out from. I would sob for hours a day. My entire body hurt from the crippling depression that came on more suddenly that I was used to. I wanted a mom - someone to hold me, so that I could feel unconditional love pour over 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 warrior. I got through the unimaginable.
For the past few years I have worn what I call my Hero Bands. I have many, all with different words. When I wake up in the morning I go to my dresser and look at all my Hero Bands. I have 20 or more to choose from. I think about what I need most that day. Sometimes it's peace, sometimes it's strength, sometimes it's both - so I wear two. Actually, I'm pretty much always wearing two. They remind me of what I want to be, of who I really am. Because, honestly, I still often forget.
Words are powerful things. They can change our way of thinking, our views, and our actions - for good or for bad. Hero Bands are a daily reminder of who we are and who we want to be.
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.
You can also support Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) and rescued survivors two ways through Hero Bands!
The first is to DONATE A SAFE BAND for a child that has been rescued from sex trafficking. You'll receive an email with a photo of your donation before it's mailed to OUR. Their director of aftercare delivers the bands personally to each child.
The second is to PURCHASE A SURVIVOR BAND, which are made by survivors around the world. Hiring survivors has been a goal of mine since starting Hero Bands. By purchasing a Survivor Band, you're helping provide them with income so they can continue to support themselves as they adjust to a life free of trafficking.
Sharing My Story
As I often receive requests for interviews or to speak, those interested may contact me here.
My intention in sharing my story is not to draw attention or upset anyone. My intention is to share hope - that life can still be amazing, no matter what we've gone through. Hero Bands was started because I wanted to give others hope - to let people know that they aren't alone in their pain, that life can be beautiful even after going through horrible things. These bands give a daily reminder that life is worth living, that we can do hard things and get through hard things, that we are warriors.