Today while I was in a tear filled message conference with someone very, very close to me, I was reminded once again to turn around and look at the road I've travelled. I know it's there, I talk about it a lot, but sometimes you need to really take a moment and look at it.
Not everyone in the world has lived the life I've lived. I know that. The first time I told my story, I knew that, and it's what made it so hard to let those words tumble over trembling lips to first a few people, then a few dozen, then a few hundred, and on and on. I was never comfortable in my skin when I began to tell my story because it felt like I was lifting up the clean carpet in my home to reveal a silage pit hidden beneath filled with rot and putrid horror.
Now that I am comfortable telling my story, I sometimes forget the raw emotion that comes along with it. I'm not numb, don't get me wrong. I still feel it every day, but I'm not afraid. Telling my story has birthed more survivors from the bondage of their victim chains than I even can begin to fathom. No, now I tell my story from the stance of a warrior on a crusade.
I consider myself a Phoenix. I lived one life before. The dark and empty life of a victim suffocated of hope, peace, or freedom, just waiting for it to be over. Everything I saw from those eyes was hurt, fear, and ugliness. I lived in that ugliness for so long that even after I was free of it, I was still hunted and hurt again. It was all I knew because it started before I had memories. From the dark corners of my bedroom to the dark corners of the streets, everywhere I went was filled with dark corners, and in all of those corners was another more horrific monster. I was led with promises of safety into some of the worst experiences you can imagine, and barely survived. It was in those last moments when I was told where my body would lie rotting and never found that something happened. I can't explain it other than God was not letting me die on that day. As I rushed back into the world of the living, I embraced it with everything I had, burned that old life down, and was reborn.
I was reborn a survivor. Since that day 11 years ago, I have only glanced back in the rear view mirror with my foot on the pedal as I continued on my journey, afraid that if I slowed down, the monsters would catch up. It took me a few more years to open up about my life, and when I did, it was as if Niagra Falls washed over me. Every time I told it, my armor got stronger. Every time someone approached me, and in that tiniest voice said, "Thank you. You just told my story" my fire burned brighter. Every tear soaked meeting and impossible moment pushed me beyond my Phoenix birth.
They led me to write a series of books for Damsel in Defense called SAFE (Sharing Awareness for Family Empowerment) Hearts where I can go right to the source and help break cycles before they even continue. Together with Damsel in Defense, we have the opportunity to empower an entire generation to shine light in the dark corners of the world.
They have led me to work with amazing organizations such as OAASIS (Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service) where I can come together with other warriors to create change in how the world views not only child sex abuse, but the soil in which it takes root and begins to grow.
They have led me to the involvement in the RAINN (Rape and Incest National Network) Speakers Bureau where I have had the opportunity to speak and be published.
They have led me to put my story into words in a book that will be done this year so that others who have visited the dark places I have been can find solace in the fact that they are not alone, that we are better together, and that there is light in their futures.
In the next few weeks, I am meeting with program managers and founders of organizations I would never have dreamed that I would be sitting down and having coffee with.
With all that said, still, these words stopped me in my tracks tonight:
"And as if you need any more qualifying around the word survivor, now you have cancer survivor in there as well. You are more than a Phoenix."
I never thought that there was more than being a Phoenix, but after some time spent in deep contemplation, the act of being reborn was the moment I became a Phoenix. The moment when my light shone bright and I refused to have darkness around me ever again. Now I carry that torch into my fight. I am a warrior of light, a defender of the helpless, and a freaking force of nature. I am a catagory 5 hurricane and I'm just getting started. The more I set free from the bondage of shame, the , the more we grow in strength. I am a Colonel building an army, but not of darkness, of light. Together we are a supernova.
This is the road I've traveled. Sex abuse, sexual assault, abduction, domestic violence, child exploitation...those are all in the rearview mirror on that road. Sometimes you have to stop, get out of the car, and take note of the road so far. Ahead of me is darkness. So much darkness. I have no idea where this road leads, but I'm not afraid of it anymore. I will battle whatever comes to free them all.