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, 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 husbands life and my sons 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 from 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 use to. I wanted a mom. Someone to hold me and I could feel the 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 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 and keychain 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 next to an encouraging word. This way, the child knows that there is a real person out there that cares about them and is cheering them on. Once they are finished, I email you a picture of the completed band so you can see it before we mail it to Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that rescues trafficked kids. Their director of aftercare delivers the bands personally to each child. To purchase one of these, click here.
As I have received inquiries for speaking engagements and interviews, those interested can contact me here.