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What’s the song that makes your spirit soar, and how can you let it transform you?


I believe the nature of music is spiritual.  Certain songs transform your soul.  It’s as if the music and lyrics gently massage your broken heart and spirit leaving you feeling like you can do almost anything.

Looking back, the songs that pulled me through turbulent times ended up being theme songs for what I wanted my life to be like.  They helped me pick myself up, take action, and focus on a brighter future.  Music helped me hold onto my faith in God which saved my life.

In November 2004, the darkness crept into my life again.  The only friend I had nearby, who was married and like a brother to me, made a pass at me knowing that I was a survivor of childhood sexual violence.  Suicidal thoughts started creeping in again.  I was living at the YMCA in Chicago’s Gold Coast in a room the size of a large walk-in closet and working as a security guard in a River North condo building where a resident was trying to get me fired for doing my job.

My life was miserable, but by the grace of God, I persevered.  The darkness overcame me many times back then, but I kept holding on to my faith in God and I wouldn’t let go.  I couldn’t afford an iPod or an Internet connection, so I listened to the radio a lot.  In 2005, Kelly Clarkson’s song “Breakaway” was still popular and became my theme song.  Whenever I heard “Breakaway,” it catapulted me over the rainbow.

Today, I am a happy and peaceful person.  Every sexual violence survivor deserves to live a happy and peaceful life.  You might not feel like it, but you are in control of your life.  You and God, Nature, or whatever you call your higher power.   Together you can do anything.

What’s the song that makes your spirit soar and how can you let it transform you?

Destiny


Here's a rap song, Destiny, that started coming to me while I was putting away groceries one afternoon on February 22, 2009 around 7:30 p.m.  I remember it was same week that we recorded When Life Lets You Down,Get Up!  However, I haven't recorded this one yet.  Words for the missing stanza, the second one from the end, finally came to me September 25, 2009 while I rode the bus home.  I hope you find it inspiring.
Destiny
Destiny, divinity
tell me what you mean to me
closed eyes lead to infinity
my endless possibilites
locked up deep inside of me.
 
Help me end this suffering
Lead me far away from me
Illusions I can't bear to see
Help me find the real me
Buried deep:  divinity.
 
Deny, deny or why do I
Believe I am my body or someone else’s word?
I see dead people have you heard?
Creeping, crawling, wailing, yawning,
pretending to be everything to
everyone, but they can't see they're dead.
 
Smothering their souls inside
They run away and try to hide,
so they won't have to feel the pain.
A candle running from a flame
Afraid they’ll melt and slip away
They live their lives not ever growing
and end up living: but never knowing
about a life pursuing dreams.
How sad and how depressing
They’ll never know what they are missing.
Destiny, divinity
Help me, please, be true to me
Cuz when I am, I’m truly free
I AM TRUE DIVINITY
I am one with God:  you see.
And then, he co-creates with me.
Destiny, divinity
tell me what you mean to me
closed eyes lead to infinity
my endless possibilites
locked up deep inside of me.
 

Destiny


Here's a rap song, Destiny, that started coming to me while I was putting away groceries one afternoon on February 22, 2009 around 7:30 p.m.  I remember it was same week that we recorded When Life Lets You Down,Get Up!  However, I haven't recorded this one yet.  Words for the missing stanza, the second one from the end, finally came to me September 25, 2009 while I rode the bus home.  I hope you find it inspiring.
Destiny
Destiny, divinity
tell me what you mean to me
closed eyes lead to infinity
my endless possibilites
locked up deep inside of me.
 
Help me end this suffering
Lead me far away from me
Illusions I can't bear to see
Help me find the real me
Buried deep:  divinity.
 
Deny, deny or why do I
Believe I am my body or someone else’s word?
I see dead people have you heard?
Creeping, crawling, wailing, yawning,
pretending to be everything to
everyone, but they can't see they're dead.
 
Smothering their souls inside
They run away and try to hide,
so they won't have to feel the pain.
A candle running from a flame
Afraid they’ll melt and slip away
They live their lives not ever growing
and end up living: but never knowing
about a life pursuing dreams.
How sad and how depressing
They’ll never know what they are missing.
Destiny, divinity
Help me, please, be true to me
Cuz when I am, I’m truly free
I AM TRUE DIVINITY
I am one with God:  you see.
And then, he co-creates with me.
Destiny, divinity
tell me what you mean to me
closed eyes lead to infinity
my endless possibilites
locked up deep inside of me.
 

Controlling Flashbacks


Most people are unaware that like war veterans, many rape and sexual assault survivors suffer from PTSD.  We experience flashbacks, too.  They can be anything that reminds us about the assaults.  As I mentioned before, although I can’t remember most of my childhood, I remember enough to know my father did horrible things to me that no child should ever endure.
Last fall, a flashback caught me off guard.  Don’t they all?  After shopping at a mall in Chicago, I walked across the street near a park where I remembered we used to go as kids.  Nostalgic, warm feelings came over me.  Yet, when I tried recalling a single, happy memory, I couldn’t.  They were all buried underneath the horrific traumas I experienced.  I couldn’t remember them no matter how hard I tried, so I cried like a baby.
It took a while, but I calmed myself down.  While it’s important to release my emotions, fears, and anxieties, it’s critical I ground myself in the present moment.  I’ll usually start by taking long, deep breaths and repeat something like "Jesus, I trust in you."  When experiencing overwhelming feelings or flashbacks, I suggest you try taking deep breaths and keep inhaling for a count of three and exhaling for a count of three while seeing yourself in a safe and peaceful place.  Remember, you’re in control of your surroundings now, and you can take control of your flashback.  It’s not easy, but it’s worse if you don’t even try.  Believe me. 
Sometimes it feels like I’m playing tug-o-war with the heavyweight champion of the world.  Then, I remember I have the most powerful weapon to go with my tenacity:  prayer.  Like biblical King David, before I know it, my adversary is history.
Recovering from it takes a lot of TLC, but that’s okay.  I won, and you can, too.  That’s what matters, and you’ll get better at it over time.
Whenever flashbacks persist, tell yourself they are like scary movies.  They are not real and do not have any control over you.  Remind yourself that you are in control of your body and surroundings.  Then, focus on funny and happy thoughts helping you return to the present and stay there.

Please ask your therapist for their recommendations.  Here are mine.  Try writing about how you felt after doing this and taking back your control and consider sharing this with your therapist or someone else you trust.
Remember, you are loved.  You are precious.  You are remarkable, and you’re still here for a reason.  Belong to the truth.

Controlling Flashbacks


Most people are unaware that like war veterans, many rape and sexual assault survivors suffer from PTSD.  We experience flashbacks, too.  They can be anything that reminds us about the assaults.  As I mentioned before, although I can’t remember most of my childhood, I remember enough to know my father did horrible things to me that no child should ever endure.
Last fall, a flashback caught me off guard.  Don’t they all?  After shopping at a mall in Chicago, I walked across the street near a park where I remembered we used to go as kids.  Nostalgic, warm feelings came over me.  Yet, when I tried recalling a single, happy memory, I couldn’t.  They were all buried underneath the horrific traumas I experienced.  I couldn’t remember them no matter how hard I tried, so I cried like a baby.
It took a while, but I calmed myself down.  While it’s important to release my emotions, fears, and anxieties, it’s critical I ground myself in the present moment.  I’ll usually start by taking long, deep breaths and repeat something like "Jesus, I trust in you."  When experiencing overwhelming feelings or flashbacks, I suggest you try taking deep breaths and keep inhaling for a count of three and exhaling for a count of three while seeing yourself in a safe and peaceful place.  Remember, you’re in control of your surroundings now, and you can take control of your flashback.  It’s not easy, but it’s worse if you don’t even try.  Believe me. 
Sometimes it feels like I’m playing tug-o-war with the heavyweight champion of the world.  Then, I remember I have the most powerful weapon to go with my tenacity:  prayer.  Like biblical King David, before I know it, my adversary is history.
Recovering from it takes a lot of TLC, but that’s okay.  I won, and you can, too.  That’s what matters, and you’ll get better at it over time.
Whenever flashbacks persist, tell yourself they are like scary movies.  They are not real and do not have any control over you.  Remind yourself that you are in control of your body and surroundings.  Then, focus on funny and happy thoughts helping you return to the present and stay there.

Please ask your therapist for their recommendations.  Here are mine.  Try writing about how you felt after doing this and taking back your control and consider sharing this with your therapist or someone else you trust.
Remember, you are loved.  You are precious.  You are remarkable, and you’re still here for a reason.  Belong to the truth.

My Imagination Prayer


Every morning I pray for crime victims who have lost their lives to child sexual violence, sexual assault, domestic violence, and all other violent crimes.  Then, I pray for survivors, loved ones, and all who serve them wholeheartedly like therapists, clergy, and nonprofit volunteers.  I ask God to bless them with justice, peace, and continued healing, so their legacy and their lives may far surpass their hopes and dreams.

I pray God shatters their darkness and melts away their uncontrollable and horrifying thoughts and emotions about their assault swirling around inside them torturing their every waking moment.  I ask Him to grant them rest for their weary bodies turned into war zones where they struggle to survive moment by moment knowing another agonizing flashback is coming soon.

I pray for God to melt away their misery along with their worldly fears, anxieties, and everything else that keeps them from Him.  I ask God to melt it all away and draw it to the center of the earth where it disintegrates into nothingness.  Then, I pray He melts their hearts with His sweet, gentle, overflowing love.  The kind of love that makes you cry after a long embrace from a dear loved one. 

I pray they finally hear Him softly whisper, “I love you.  You are mine.  I am here for you until the end of time.”  I imagine their hearts melt and tears well up as they also hear, “All you have to do is call out or speak to me in the silence of your heart.  And, when you don’t even have the strength to do that, just ache for me.  Close your eyes, look for me, and you will find me.  For I live inside you waiting for you to let me love you.  Let me love you.  Let me love you.  Let me love.”

Then, I imagine them opening their hearts and their eyes, and seeing God’s boundless world of all possibilities even if it’s pitch black.  I see their glowing face, and I know God has increased their faith, hope, and love in themselves, in their future, and in God himself.  I pray and imagine they remember this day and continue to grow in faith, hope, and love.  Then, one day soon, they realize they have surpassed their hopes and dreams, so it’s time to search for more and maybe reach out and support loved ones as they struggle with their own healing journey.

The Greatest Love of All


I can’t believe it’s been almost 15 years since I walked into the YWCA for my first one-on-one counseling session.  Just months before 9/11, with a new job near downtown Chicago, I finally had the opportunity and the courage to explore the darkness that haunted me my entire life.  

A few times, I almost ran out of the YWCA’s waiting area.  I only kept going because I figured if I couldn’t take it anymore, I could always leave.  One time, I remember seeing photos hanging on the walls of kids playing in a small room.  My eyes welled up with tears thinking about how I could see the fear in their eyes.  Later, it hit me like a slap on the face, and I realized that used to be me.  Next thing I knew, I was crying silent tears like I did as child overwhelmed with sadness about my tortured existence and the loss of my innocence.

Facing your fears sounds easy.  Monumental doesn’t begin to describe it.  For an incest survivor, it’s nothing short of re-living the horrors you endured still feeling as helpless as you were back then.  Depressed, I cried a lot; sometimes hysterically.  Yet, I could always put on a good front at work laughing and joking around, so no one ever suspected anything.  It was exhausting.

I remember coming home turning on the TV and sitting down and not getting up until it was time for bed.  I couldn’t face the ugliness alone.  I only stopped zoning out with the TV because I thought I was developing hemorrhoids.  That’s when I started going out for long walks which helped calm me down.

What made the difference?   Yes, I would definitely say a lot of therapy, prayer, and loving friends.  However, ultimately, holding onto my faith in God saved me.  Grounded by my strong faith in God, instilled by my mother, the coping skills I learned in one-on-one counseling and group therapy sessions transformed me from a suicidal incest victim to an empowered survivor.  

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, and I still argue with God to this day.  My stubbornness is a part of who I am.  Counseling sessions at the YWCA and God’s endless, unconditional love saved my life.  Like the lyrics to Whitney Houston’s song, The Greatest Love of All, say “learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”  Last year, finally guilt-free, I found the greatest love of all inside of me, but I couldn’t have done it without God’s unconditional love.

The Greatest Love of All


I can’t believe it’s been almost 15 years since I walked into the YWCA for my first one-on-one counseling session.  Just months before 9/11, with a new job near downtown Chicago, I finally had the opportunity and the courage to explore the darkness that haunted me my entire life.  

A few times, I almost ran out of the YWCA’s waiting area.  I only kept going because I figured if I couldn’t take it anymore, I could always leave.  One time, I remember seeing photos hanging on the walls of kids playing in a small room.  My eyes welled up with tears thinking about how I could see the fear in their eyes.  Later, it hit me like a slap on the face, and I realized that used to be me.  Next thing I knew, I was crying silent tears like I did as child overwhelmed with sadness about my tortured existence and the loss of my innocence.

Facing your fears sounds easy.  Monumental doesn’t begin to describe it.  For an incest survivor, it’s nothing short of re-living the horrors you endured still feeling as helpless as you were back then.  Depressed, I cried a lot; sometimes hysterically.  Yet, I could always put on a good front at work laughing and joking around, so no one ever suspected anything.  It was exhausting.

I remember coming home turning on the TV and sitting down and not getting up until it was time for bed.  I couldn’t face the ugliness alone.  I only stopped zoning out with the TV because I thought I was developing hemorrhoids.  That’s when I started going out for long walks which helped calm me down.

What made the difference?   Yes, I would definitely say a lot of therapy, prayer, and loving friends.  However, ultimately, holding onto my faith in God saved me.  Grounded by my strong faith in God, instilled by my mother, the coping skills I learned in one-on-one counseling and group therapy sessions transformed me from a suicidal incest victim to an empowered survivor.  

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, and I still argue with God to this day.  My stubbornness is a part of who I am.  Counseling sessions at the YWCA and God’s endless, unconditional love saved my life.  Like the lyrics to Whitney Houston’s song, The Greatest Love of All, say “learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”  Last year, finally guilt-free, I found the greatest love of all inside of me, but I couldn’t have done it without God’s unconditional love.

Our Somewhere Over the Rainbow

On Sunday, listening to Judy Garland sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow from the Wizard of Oz, brought me to tears.  As a little girl, that was my favorite song and movie.  Long before cable TV, watching the Wizard of Oz was my annual ritual.  I never missed it.  That movie and the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow always filled me with the hope I craved.  The kind of magical hope that an incest survivor desperately needs.

My childhood memories are pretty scarce, but I remember enough to know my father did horrible things to me that no child should ever endure.  My days used to be filled with past times like skipping, laughing and playing like most kids.  I’m not sure when I stopped being carefree.  Unfortunately, I remember the confusion, guilt, and shame.  Confusion about bad feelings I had after my father violated me and the monumental guilt after each occurrence.  I stopped feeling ashamed after I decided to go public, and tell everyone the truth.  However, it wasn’t until early last year that I finally convinced myself that the guilt never belonged to me.

You know, it’s okay to cry.  It’s okay to mourn the death of my innocence.  Like any other life it deserves recognition, reflection, and validation.  I just need to be careful not to stay stuck in that time warp.  Like all healthy mourning, you need to work on healing and move on.  Never forgetting, but also never dwelling on a horrible past I can’t change.  Because if I do, it will start eating me up alive again.

I remember now that it’s actually the little girl inside me, Mary Lou, speaking out, and reminding me that it still hurts sometimes.  That’s when it’s time to bring out the adult and remind her that the living nightmare’s all over.  It’s all in the past, and no one will every hurt her like that anymore.  I won’t allow it.  A smile comes across my face with tears as if she’s telling me she knows I’m right.  She just needed some motherly reassurance.  She’s alright, and we can keep on walking up the yellow brick road to see the wonderful Wizard of Oz before continuing our journey somewhere over the rainbow.  I hope to see you there soon.