Tag Archives: hope

If Hope Was A Color

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Titties
Nah, nah, you heard me right the first time
Titties
Tatas, boobs, jugs, rag, squeezer pleasers, hooters, Thelma and Louise, attention felons
and “One day, ‘dose mosquito bites will turn into juicy, juicy melons”
Breast.

Breast cancer.

You see it’s not so funny when that’s added into the picture.

Breast….Cancer

Do the math.

I was 16 — 2 lumps, 1 breast.
I mean 10 years ago it was about training bras but now it’s about padded ones
and the underwire just isn’t enough to support me.

The numbers don’t add up
If you divide the chest, subtract the lumps, you’ll see what I wanted to be..
Free.

When I was little
I used to put pink ribbon in my hair.
I would pretend to be a ballerina and let the pink ribbon engulf my body
As I danced freely — from all constraints.

Now pink ribbon gives me night terrors.

Because it’s like a grumbling monster that grew the balls to cuddle up next to me that October night.

Hug me, caress me, stress me,
Enough for my uncomfortability,
But I wasn’t strong enough to put up a fight.

So I lift my arms
Pat left, pat right.

Feel for lumps and bumps because it might be breast cancer
I felt something and hoped.

“Oh maybe it’s nothing”
But my thoughts lingered.
My fear and blissful ignorance held hands and strolled quietly..

and I asked God’s forgiveness for whatever I had done wrong
Made promises I didn’t know that I could keep,

Hoping he would take it away
But I don’t think he heard me.

So I prayed louder and harder

GOD, PLEASE DON’T LET ME HAVE CANCER

His response was silent…
and I was there.

Living on sincere hopes and prayers.
But if hope was a color I would see it in pink with red splashes and purple polka dots
Not as something scary,
But as something beautiful beyond comprehension
Not to mention
…worth fighting for.

So here’s to the warriors who wrap themselves in pink sashes and don’t allow the fear to overcome them.

Here’s to the mamas, sisters, aunties, and cousins who fight like real women
Because 1 in 8 will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

1 in every 8 will develop breast cancer
What if that one was your mother?
Would it force your eyelids open?
Or your sister?
Would it divulge the words you haven’t spoken?
What if that one was your daughter?
Because I’ve seen cancer slaughter daughters and I just wasn’t ready to put on the armor…

1 in every 8 women will develop breast cancer
And I was almost one of them.

 


 

**Evanston, IL native, Bryanna Adams is a senior at Marist College, studying criminal justice, communications, and women’s studies. She’s a sucker for long walks on the beach, deep dish pizza, and social justice discourse. To keep up with her shenanigans, visit: bchrisrenee.blogspot.com

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Finding ‘Fine’ Again

 

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I saw an old friend yesterday. We met for a drink at a bar in Korea town where we always liked to frequent.

“How are you doing?” she asked with that slightly condescending tone stinking just enough of pity.

“I’m fine,” I replied casually, tossing back a shot of soju—Korean rice whiskey. It’s smooth, so very dangerous.

“You’re so strong.” She shook her head in wonder. Eyes wide with what I suppose was sympathy.

“I can’t even imagine what it must have been like…”

I had no response. All the words I’d planned to say had dried on my tongue.

I’m fine.

I’m fine.

Don’t worry. I’m fine

And yet—on the inside, nothing was “fine.” Sometimes it felt like it never would be ever again.

In November of 2015, three days before my 28th birthday, while on my way home from that same Korean bar, stumbling from too many shots of soju, I was intercepted by a group of men, taken to the basement of a house a few blocks from my Crown Heights apartment and violently raped by one, and then another, and then another…

“Girl, you’re so fine—” They’d said to me on the street trying to get my attention.

But everything that was, died in that basement bedroom… or so it seemed.

Everyone said it was a miracle, a blessing that I survived and got out of that situation alive. How did I do it, you ask? I’m about to get real. (Trigger warning)

I got out by pretending—by getting aggressive. For a brief moment I took my power back, pure survival instinct kicked in. Because looking back on it—I can’t really believe I did what I did.

“So is anyone else going to fuck me?” I snapped, challenging them, throwing them off their guards. “Because if not, I’m going home.”

As steadily as I could, I stood from the mattress, adjusting my clothes and grabbing my bag.

“I’m going home.” I stated, and moved past the men who had been tormenting me the past hour.

It was like they didn’t even know what to do—my behavior had completely confused them. Were they expecting tears? Was I supposed to beg? I will never know why it happened the way it did, but I walked out of that basement of nightmares on my own two feet.

It wasn’t until I was out on the street, walking at a fast pace through the crisp November night, that shock and terror set it. I was intensively frightened and disoriented, and I just took off, not even paying attention to where I was going. I remember walking and walking, and feeling like I’d never get home.

This all took place within a three-block radius of where I’d lived for three years, mind you. That’s how out of my head I was—I was lost in my own neighborhood, the place I thought I knew like the back of my hand. It was at this time I also discovered they had taken my phone, my wallet and my keys (including my car key, which led to my adorable VW Beetle getting stolen and burnt to a crisp after a high speed chase through Long Island—but that’s a story for another day).

I didn’t know how I was going to get home. When I momentarily came out of my shock, I realized I’d wandered so far in the wrong direction, I was on a street I’d never even heard of. I saw a cab and begged him to help me out. Luckily he got me back to my place and with incessant buzzing I was able to wake my roommate from the downstairs lobby.

“Hello? Who is it?” A groggy voice came over the speaker—at this point it was past 3am.

“Kelly let me in, let me in! Let me in! Please!”

A savior. A blessing. I’d never wanted a roommate in my 1 bedroom apartment (necessity had led to that) but at this moment I’d never been happier. If she hadn’t been there, I would have been in a lot more trouble.

Inside I was able to call the police and my mom who lives in Dallas Fort Worth, and that set off a whirlwind of gritty, miserable events and experiences.

The attack itself had been surreal; it was like I’d stepped outside myself. But now harsh reality had hit and I was dealing with the fallout under the biting neon lights of the emergency room and the SVU detective’s office. The whole experience left me reeling, shaken to the core—in shock and struggling with the early signs of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

I was not fine. I couldn’t event fathom feeling stable or normal again; like the person I’d been before was completely and utterly lost to me.

But I suppose… somehow, through all of it there was something guiding me—some positive energy or “bigger reason” why this had happened. I’m not a particularly religious person, but I had to believe it was more than just chaos. It also helped that I have wonderful friends and family who supported me and showed their love in many ways, from helping out with expenses, to just making me laugh, to even tweeting out about my cause when I was fighting with the banks (another story for another day that involved checks getting re-cashed and money stolen).

Anyway—through this intense darkness, there was this thin ray of light, almost invisible at first but getting slightly bigger week to week. As corny as it probably is, I literally visualized it as a light at the end of a tunnel, and I just moved towards it step by step, sometimes even less then that, sometimes tiny centimeter by centimeter. Sometimes I even moved backwards, but that light was always there. In the distance.

I cocooned myself, leaving the cruel city to stay with my mom in Texas for a few months. I was surrounded by family, but mostly I just liked being by myself. When I was with others I had to put on a mask and pretend like I was ok. Not that they all expected me to be ok, but I’m the type who doesn’t express her more intense emotions very well. And my family, though very supportive, are not of the “lovey-dovey, talk about feelings” variety.

Still, this break was good for me—the demons seemed farther behind me than before, and at last I felt that I had come to the end of the tunnel, ready to step out into the sun. I decided it was time to come back to New York.

I was returning to a better situation, many friends who were eager to see me, and a new apartment far enough from my old place that I’d never have to return to that area—never have to walk down those streets littered with bad memories ever again.

But I can’t say it’s been easy.

After the whirlwind of moving, my mom flew back to Fort Worth and again I was on my own, for the first time since the night I had been attacked. Every day is a struggle and the Post Traumatic Stress has reared its ugly head more intensely than before. I get scared and startled easily—something I’d never experienced before—and my anxiety is off the charts. I have intrusive thoughts, visual flashbacks, every day.

But the nightmares have stopped. And I do feel like I stepped out into the daylight. That darkness is still right behind me, just over my shoulder, and sometimes (more often than I’d like) it reaches out a slippery tendril and coils its way around me.

Regardless…it is behind me. And every breath I take, every waking moment, propels me away from it and into that light.

Since this trauma happened, I’ve been determined to make something of it, to turn it around, to find a way to channel it and maybe—possibly—help others who have experienced something similar.

For a long time I wasn’t ready. I still may not be; I don’t really know. But I’m a big believer of “Fake it till you make it.” So for now, I’m going to keep pretending I’m Fine, and wait for the day I finally am.

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Coming Clean About Mental Health

I thought a lot about what to write for this month’s blog post. May is mental health awareness month, and though I wanted to contribute something meaningful and personal, I was also afraid. Afraid to fully open up and share the truth about my past struggles—and then it struck me.

This is why we need a month dedicated to mental health, this is why we need to raise awareness: there is still a stigma against mental illness and yet many, many people experience it. Suffering in silence, sweeping it under the rug, afraid to make their struggles known.

To be fair it is everyone’s choice on how honest and open they wish to be about their mental health, but I think if more people had the courage to stand up and talk frankly then maybe we would be able to chip away at the stigmas that keep mental illness in the dark, piece by piece. And so here is my contribution, my chip in the wall.

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As long as I can remember I have struggled with depression and anxiety. When I was young, I didn’t have a name for it and don’t even remember why it started. What I do remember is having intense panic attacks at the age of 6 or 7 around the time I changed schools. I had terrible separation anxiety from my mother and would throw fits when they tried to take me to school. I missed a lot of classes, staying home, feigning a variety of illnesses just so I didn’t have to go back.

This was when my mother took me to my first therapist. I can’t fully remember what we did—I think I mainly played with toys in the office while my therapist observed my behavior. Needless to say, I was eventually able to overcome my separation anxiety and return to school like a normal kid, though I suffered from stomach problems because I was always so nervous.

For several years I was fine though. Then around the age of 12 or 13 I was struck with more bouts of crippling anxiety. Again this had to do with changing schools (perhaps there is a pattern after all…) As I prepared to enter a public middle school after going to a small private elementary school, I was told I needed a round of vaccinations. At the time, I had a terrible phobia of needles (brought on by a severe illness I had suffered as a young child). Going to the doctor’s office to get these shots felt like death to me. My panic attacks were so severe I would practically black out. I remember how terrifying it was. I also remember how I logically knew my reaction to such a little thing—getting a shot—didn’t make sense. But I couldn’t control my fear. Again I was taken to a therapist. He taught me several relaxation techniques and ways to work through my panic attacks. Though it didn’t completely get rid of my phobia, I was able to get my vaccinations and move on.

Once again I spent several years without much trouble. But after I started college and moved to a city where I had no friends and was half a day’s travel away from my parents, I ran into more issues. I think every young person attending college probably has a difficult time adjusting. I was able to get through it without too much difficulty since I made quick friends, but still I was out of my comfort zone. My confidence was shaky at best, and my mental stability tenuous.

Then I had an accident. I had a severe back injury working on a film set and was hospitalized with a herniated disk in my lumbar. I was bed ridden for a complete month. When I was finally able to be vertical, I had to get around with a walker—a terrible blow to a 19 year-old woman’s ego and confidence. I was incredibly depressed by my sudden disability, and on top of that was being medicated like crazy. When I look back on how much Valium and Vicodin was being pumped into me (out of necessity, so my doctors said), I am not at all surprised that I became addicted. As my pain began to decrease, my desire for these painkillers did not, and I started abusing my prescription. This only added fuel to the fire, increasing my depression to levels it may not have reached otherwise.

I became incredibly reckless and self-destructive. I wanted to hurt myself. I reached a place where I felt I was worthless and thus it didn’t matter what I did to myself. I’m not proud of my behavior at the time. At a party with other self-destructive, enablers I almost overdosed on pills. I began to cut myself regularly. I fantasized about ways to kill myself.

I finally realized I needed help and sought out my third therapist. After seeing her a couple times, I showed her the self-inflicted wounds on my arms. She immediately told me I needed to be hospitalized.

This has been my dark secret for a long time, something I felt I could not share with people (although my closest friends who knew me at the time are aware of it). My mother came to get me from college in Chicago and we went back home to Michigan where I was admitted to a mental hospital under suicide watch. I was there for a little over a week and was able to successfully get past my lowest point. By the time I was released, I no longer wanted to kill myself and I had a bit more clarity on the whole ordeal. The severity of my depression was intensified by my use of painkillers, and even more specifically, my quitting. Several weeks before I was hospitalized I had stopped the pills cold turkey, tired of feeling crazy and addicted. I had no idea these chemicals could unbalance me so intensely. It was a sad and almost inevitable situation, and the more I researched the more I realized that many people became addicted to pills after they were prescribed for legitimate pain. It made me wonder, what was the lesser evil?

Despite this knowledge, I also knew that I had been susceptible to depression and anxiety my whole life. After my stunt in the hospital, I continued to see a therapist and also a psychiatrist who put me on Prozac to help rebalance me. I took medication for my depression and anxiety for several years and finally was able to wean myself off and adopt a more holistic approach to mental health. Now, after years of working towards a healthy mind, I finally feel like myself—the self that was happy, confident, and full of optimism.

Still I know there is a side of me that experiences depression and from time to time it comes back. The difference is now I know how to handle it, and hopefully will never return to that low place when I was hospitalized.

Though I am not ashamed of my experience (I honestly see it as an amazing period of growth and learning), I still never expected to share it openly with the public. But I am making that choice to encourage others to be open with their experiences as well. I think the more we talk about it, the more we share, the less of a stigma it will be, which may make it easier for people suffering to seek help. My story isn’t particularly spectacular or unique, and that itself is the magic of this. When I was in the hospital, I realized there are so many people suffering from a variety of mental illnesses and they just keep it in the dark. But the truth is there are ways to treat and overcome these illnesses. We must support each other and share each other’s strength. I think together we can change people’s minds on the matter, and possibly even change our own.

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