Speak My Mind

There’s a fantastic new song by The Willis Clan called “Speak My Mind.” I believe Jessica Willis Fischer wrote it and her siblings recorded it. If you haven’t heard it yet, click the link below and give it a listen. This song is very much on my mind as I write this post.

“Speak My Mind”

I’m choosing to share this bit of my story now, not because I want or need you to feel sorry for me (please, please don’t), but because this piece of my story needs to be told for a variety of reasons.

When I was about 14 years old and a freshman in high school, a classmate of mine sexually harassed and assaulted me after school on school grounds. 

With permission from a teacher, while waiting for my Mom to arrive to take me home, I went back to my locker to retrieve a book I had forgotten. He and a few of his friends followed me. I didn’t think anything of it. His locker was close to mine. I figured he had forgotten something as well and was simply visiting his locker too. I had no reason to think otherwise. We had been classmates throughout grade school and knew each other fairly well. When we turned the corner and were out of sight of fellow classmates and teachers, he and his friends began taunting me and saying things like: “Come here and kiss me. I know you want to.” “Yeah, give him a big kiss!” etc. 

I responded with, “What? No! That’s not funny. Leave me alone.”

The taunting and rude suggestions of what to do to/with him increased in volume and content.

They continued to follow me as I tried to escape. 

Nothing I said or did worked. No amount of pleading made them stop. Finally, he had me pinned against a wall and was trying to do things (I’m purposefully leaving out the details) while his friends cheered him on. 

Sometime during this, my sister had gone looking for me because our Mom had arrived to take us home. She found me and saw that the boy had me pinned against the wall. At this point, the boy and his friends stopped what they had been doing, although they continued laughing at me as I practically ran from the building with my sister.

Once we were safely in the car, my sister told Mom what she had seen. Mom asked me what happened, and I told her. She turned the car around, went back to the school, and against my protests made me tell the principal what the boys had done to me. I didn’t tell him all the details. I was too ashamed and too afraid.

The principal assured us that the boys would be punished, he would be assigned a new locker far from mine, and teachers would be informed that he was not to talk to or sit anywhere near me. I was then told not to talk to anyone, even my friends, about the incident and that he and the friends who had been part of it would be told the same thing.

I kept my silence.

He did not.

He told everyone who would listen that it had only been a joke and he and his friends had just been kidding around and that I was making way too big a deal out of nothing and he never would have done what I said he did.

They believed him.

My reputation, with classmates and even with teachers, suffered. I was teased mercilessly. I was told I wasn’t pretty enough to have caught his eye in this first place. I was called a liar and how dare I exaggerate to get him in trouble, and if he had actually done anything, I must have somehow instigated it or asked for it, because he’d always been such a good guy up until then. They shamed me for speaking up and reporting the incident, and the constant barrage of “it’s your fault” made me believe it really was my fault.

One teacher even complained how inconvenient the whole thing was because now it would make their seating chart planning more difficult. 

I learned not to trust my classmates or adults. People who should have come through for me, massively let me down. Adults who should have protected me, participated in shaming me for reporting the incident. As a result, I don’t trust easily.

This is also why I’m terrified of certain types of crowds. I am well aware of what horrible things sober people are capable, and even more so, drunk people whose inhibitions are dramatically lowered.

It’s also why I generally hate having my back to a door or having my back against a wall.

I never talked about the full details of what I went through during the initial harassment and assault and I’ve never talked about what I endured afterwards. In so many ways, I didn’t know how and I felt like, even if I did know how, who could I trust? So, I hid my feelings. I hid my pain. And I did my best to bury the memory.

The thing is, burying traumatic memories, ignoring them, and trying to forget, doesn’t magically make them disappear and erase the effects of the trauma. Avoidance doesn’t fix it. Wounds that are soul deep, don’t heal overnight. By God’s Grace, I’ve made a lot of progress, slowly but surely, over the years

For almost 20 years, I’ve stayed virtually silent about the entire thing. 

But the thing is, I don’t have to stay silent anymore. I’m not a child who has to obey adults. 

I can finally tell this piece of my story. (This incident is one, small part of my story.)

I don’t want to. I’ve been thinking about this for over a year now. And I still very much do not want to share this. 

But the thing is, this really isn’t about me.

This is about how our society shames the victims and tries to excuse the perpetrators. 

This is about not letting what happened to me, happen to another child.

And maybe, by finding my voice and telling my story, I can help others.

 This is hard. Really hard.

But if my story can help even one person, just one, then whatever I’m feeling in this moment as I tell it and whatever negative comments I may receive because of it, is all worth it.

Adults, especially educators, as you begin a new school year, pay attention to your kids and students. Watch out for them. Believe the girl who’s always been trustworthy when she reports abuse/harassment/bullying etc. Take steps to protect that child and follow up with them. Check in and ask how they’re doing. Assure them they can be completely open and honest with you, and prove to them that you’re trustworthy by following through on whatever you tell them you will do to protect them. If they’re not comfortable talking about the incident with you, help them find someone with whom they are comfortable and encourage them to talk about it with that person.

If you’ve been harassed/assaulted/abused, please know that you are not alone and that there are others who understand what you’re going through because of that trauma. I’m so sorry you’ve experienced it too. Please know, that there are people willing and able to listen to your story and walk with you through the aftermath. 

It will take time, effort, courage, and patience, but it does get better. For me, it’s been a slow process, especially since I hid it for so long and refused to acknowledge and deal with the trauma and it’s effects. PTSD doesn’t go away by avoiding it. It has to be dealt with head on. Take your time. You can’t rush the healing process, even though you’ll wish you could. There’s no time limit on the healing process. Rest when you need to and fight again when you’re ready. Two steps forward, five steps back, one step forward, one step back, ten steps forward, two steps back is totally normal and there’s nothing wrong with it. You’re not failing; you’re healing. 

Know that if you ever need me, I’m right here and I’ve got your back.

If you’ve stuck it out and read this entire post, thank you. 

To all my friends and family: thank you for your support and encouragement as I continue in the healing process.

 

~ Erin

 

#metoo #breakthesilence #endthestigma #bethelight

Hello, My Name Is…

Hello! Welcome to my blog!

Some of you who are reading this are my friends and family. Some may be new friends who don’t know much about me yet and some of you don’t know me at all. Please allow me to tell you a bit about myself.

My name is Erin. I was born and raised in Michigan. I’m the middle of three children in my family. My sister is 17 months older than me. My brother Joshua was born four days before my second birthday. He was born with Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy, and was a spastic quadriplegic, i.e. for the most part, he was bedridden and confined to a wheelchair. He passed away in October of 1997 when he was 11 1/2 years old. (More on this part of my story in future posts.)

Siblings
Debbie, Joshua, and I; Christmas 1996

I love coffee and tea. 

My favorite fruit is strawberries and my favorite veggie is broccoli. 

I love classic country and modern country with a classic feel, bluegrass, and Irish and Scottish traditional music. 

I love hiking, especially in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s one of my absolute favorite places. 

Hiking
Hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park last year

I’m kind of a bookworm. I’m the girl in the checkout line at the grocery store who’s generally okay with the line moving slowly because she’s reading a book via the Kindle app. 

I’m a musician. I started playing flute when I was about eight years old. I’ve been playing for about 26 years. Nowadays, I’m focusing on bodhrán and mandolin with a bit of tin whistle on the side.

Bodhrán
Me and my bodhrán

I like playing board games.

I’m learning my fifth language: Irish Gaelic. My previous four: English, German,  Ancient Greek, and Ancient Hebrew. I think learning new languages is fun!

I have the cutest dog ever. Seriously.

Abby
Abby

I’m a third generation immigrant descendent. I’m proud to be American, and I’m equally proud of my Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and English heritage. 

My sister likes Guinness. I like cider. 

I love Bing Crosby movies and look forward to watching “White Christmas” and “Holiday Inn” every year during the holiday season.

And one more thing:

I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD for short.

I started talking openly about it just within the last year, although I’ve had it to one degree or another for most of my life.

It’s a long and complicated story and one into which I plan to delve in this blog.

The seeds of this blog were what I called “Super Honest Posts”on Facebook in which I shared a little bit about my struggles with PTSD. Each time I did, I found I had so much more to say than what could fit in a single, lengthy Facebook post. With each post, I received an abundance of positive feedback, including people telling me their #metoo stories and sharing with me that my posts had helped them. As a result, the idea for “Courage to Fly” sprouted and took root.

A blog gives me the opportunity to write even more than what I already have on Facebook, to share my thoughts and experiences with others, and to have all of that available in one place. In “Courage to Fly” (we’ll get to the story behind the title in a future blog post), I’ll be sharing about my journey through PTSD, music, travel, etc, because for me, it’s all connected. It will partly be about my own healing journey, but it’ll be more so about community. Rallying around each other and supporting each other has never been more important. We have a mental health crisis in this country, and perhaps even worldwide, whether we want to admit it or not. We need each other. We need loving kindness and compassion to rule our thoughts, words, and actions. 

I hope that you, dear reader, will find something of use to you on the blog. Please, leave constructive comments or contact me if you’d like to chat. My goal is to create a safe space for anyone to share their own stories, experiences, struggles, victories, concerns, tips for coping, encouragement, etc. I hope with your help, dear reader, to build a community that is kind, compassionate, and supportive. As a friend often says, “Sometimes you will be the light, and sometimes you will need someone else to be the light for you.” Let’s do this! ❤️

“What if I fall?” “Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”

~ Erin

Hyacinth Macaw
Hyacinth Macaw at Disney’s Animal Kingdom; favorite bird ❤️