I challenged her to write a post in which she doesn’t mention her past (stolen from my old blog)

I forgave myself today, kneeling at the altar.

You can’t move forward if you’re angry at the past–

angry at yourself for things that are not your fault,

for relapses you could’ve controlled if you had just. . .

just . . . re  a   c  h  e   d   out,

for relationships you purposefully sabotaged because you don’t feel worth anything.

Maybe forgiveness can’t change the past, but maybe

it can change the future.

I cried at the altar today, got angry at the altar today, wanted to scream at the altar today.

I feel sometimes as though I’m being to/rn in two–

the part of me that wants to die fighting against the part that wants to live,

a tug of war with my soul

(I want to live).

Forgiveness can’t change the past,

but perhaps

perchance

purposefully

it can change the future.

The future–God can find us in our brokenness–

is waiting for us in our brokenness–

meets us in our brokenness–

is beautiful.

I challenged her to write a post in which she doesn’t mention her past–what happened to her,

he said to him as they sat across from me, my head buried in my hands.

I forgave myself today.

I was angry today, trying to turn it all over to God,

but Satan?

He won’t let me.

The punk.

What do you want to do with your life? He asked,

as I sat in his office, trying to hold back the tears threatening to overflow from my eyes.

I want my story to be used for good, make a difference, beauty from ashes.

I want to know that there’s a purpose for all of this, not a giant game of yo-yo with my existence.

Breathe in for four. Hold for four. Out for four.

How many animals begin with J?

On a scale from 1-10, how are you?

Why can I help someone else out of a panic attack but can’t help myself?

My mind goes blank as soon as I get to 100.

100

99

98

97

count backward and breathe.

I forgave myself today,

trying to move forward,

Here’s his phone number. Promise me you’ll use it in case of an emergency.

Right now, I’m moving through the fire–and this fire?

Future?

I don’t know where it will take me.

Hopefully somewhere great.

But right now? This journey ahead–

looks

daunting. threatening. foreboding. And,

I’m not always sure I can do it. I

forgave myself today. For things that may happen in the future

as I walk , walk , walk , this

w

i

n

d

i

n

g

p

a

t

h

of healing.

Because I don’t know what the future holds, but I want to be a part of it.

I’m chasing happiness, and though it feels like a 50pound weight is

d

r

a

g

g

i

n

g

me down, i still stand.

I move forward.

I breathe.

And I let go.

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Letter to a suicide note

I found you tonight, tucked away amongst books I haven’t read in years but love too much to throw away. I’m getting ready to move, packing books in suitcases and clothes in boxes because I can’t stay here forever.

I can’t stay here forever: trapped in the past–but I can’t move forward until I move out, can’t live until I leave the place where I tried to die.

I found you tonight, and I’m not sure which time I wrote you. What darkest of nights were you conceived in? You’re older now; the pen marks starting to fade, dust gathered around your edges as you’ve laid undisturbed, forgotten.

I shouldn’t be personalizing you, making you sound more poetic than you really are. Because there’s nothing poetic about your blood stained page, the tear marks from where my feelings escaped. There’s nothing poetic about the way I felt that night I wrote you.

But there’s poetry in the healing; there’s beauty in the midst of pain; there’s power in letting go.

I found you tonight, amidst the memories I’m leaving behind, amidst the baggage and the pain. And where I’m going, you can’t come. There’s not a place for you there: a one-bedroom apartment too small for elephants to take up residence in rooms.

The point is, I’m still suicidal. But these suicide notes, these letters of pain and despair, hopelessness and darkness have no place in my future. A future in which I’m moving forward. And this is not the post I wanted to write tonight. I wanted to write about the process of purging while trying to move, but I guess in a way, that’s what I’m doing.

I’m purging the memories. Years of memories are sitting in boxes before me. I’m purging the past, as I try to make space for the future, making space for love and happiness and laughter. There’s no room for you there.

Dear suicide note. You are no longer an “is.” You’re a “were.”

Part 2- I’ll suffer, but at least I’ll have $40 in my pocket

“Honey, you ain’t been to a funeral until you’ve been to one with 3 ex-wives,” is not a sentence I’d ever thought I’d here in my life. But, here I was, in the trailer home of an 84-year-old woman who spoke “her damn mind.” She was, of course, referring to her ex-husband number 2, who left her for one of her girlfriends they met in a Camping Club. “The girl didn’t even like camping,” she retorted, “but she had the best camper, so we invited her.”

At the funeral, the husband’s first ex-wife came up to Anne and said to the woman on her arm, “This is the broad who stole my husband.”

“I didn’t steal your husband; he came running.”


A lot of what Anne told me yesterday has stuck with me, but perhaps the thing that’s stuck with me the hardest is something I say all too frequently: If I don’t laugh, I’ll cry. But she added to it, saying, “People will laugh with you, but they won’t cry with you.”

Who are you going to cry with today? Who are you going to support in their difficulties? Who are you going to sit with when they need it most?

I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all the people who cry with me. We’re not meant to suffer in silence.

Anne sure doesn’t. Well, when she’s around people, that is. She spends most of her time alone in her trailer, with her books and her cat statues, and her real-life cat, Bella. She doesn’t want it to be this way; she wants to be able to help her neighbor who had breast cancer, whose radiation destroyed her hip bone, whose husband died on the road in front of her house. “She couldn’t even be there because she couldn’t get out of the house, and I so badly want to help her, but I can’t,” she said tearfully, rubbing her right knee, aching with arthritis.

“I can’t help my oldest son, and he can’t help me because he has COPD, and his two brothers live out of state.”


As we said our goodbyes, we prayed with her. She told my friend that introduced us that “she must be a pipeline to God because nothing hurts when they’re done praying.”

Nothing hurts when we’re done praying.

As we pulled out of the trailer park, my friend said to me, “It’s sad, isn’t it? Most people wouldn’t want to come here, but there are amazing people living right in our neighborhood that we would never choose to interact with because they seem different from us. But this. This is what it means to love your neighbor.”

Love your neighbor who’s different from you. Love your neighbor who’s struggling. Love your neighbor.

Love like Anne does: she loved her ex-husband so much, she went to his funeral, despite the two other ex-wives.

I’ll suffer, but at least I’ll have $40 in my pocket

Her name is Anne. I sit kiddy-corner from her in her trailer home’s kitchen dining area. Beneath her purple glasses and her aquamarine knit sweater, her cloudy eyes shine. She has the classic, comforting old lady smell: mothballs and cats. There are books and cats everywhere–cat memorabilia and other mementos, that is. Her hands tell her story–worn and tired, but strong and willing to fight.

She took a Creative Writing class 20 years ago; now, at 84, she wants someone to write down her stories. I’ve been chosen. I don’t know why.

But I go. I go, and I sit, listening to her tell stories–stories of times gone by and of times more recent: of walking to the library with her best friend during the summer, of watching someone die on the road outside her house. The circle of life.

“Why has God taken people so close to me who have lead productive lives and left me?” The big question she’s trying to answer, and maybe, maybe I can help her tell her story–we all have one.

She has carpal tunnel now, in her right hand, making it hard to type. The click-clack of the electric typewriter in her spare bedroom is silent. “I paid $40 to get electrocuted 9 times,” she howled, telling us how she’s received treatment for the pain in her arm, the pain keeping her from writing. “I’ll suffer,” she continued, “I’ll suffer, but at least I’ll have $40 in my pocket.”

There’s something admirable in the way she unflinchingly tells her truth, something humorous in the way she tells her life. And I want to be like her one day–feisty, a spitfire, even at 84.

She says she wants to be like me: young, and with the drive to write.

I see a lot of myself in her; she sees a lot of herself in me. Maybe we’re not that different–born in different generations, 60 years apart. But what is time but a social construct? Age is just a number.

“You may have lived many years in your short 24 years, but look at how many years you have left! Look how much you can accomplish.”

She’s been wanting to write this story for many years–the story of a penny. A penny that even years of adventures, years of being passed through people’s hands, years after being a part of numerous transactions, is still shiny. A certain soldier happens upon this penny and considers it lucky. He’s shipped to Germany, where, he’s shot, and the penny is dropped in the mud. Someone else stumbles upon it, but it’s no longer shiny. No longer clean. No longer fresh.

And I don’t remember how the story ends. I was too busy thinking about the poeticness of that: how life can one minute seem shiny and bright, and dull and boring the next. How people can think they’re like that: passed through too many hands, been through too much, are too broken to be beautiful.

But we’re not. I’ve been through so much in my short 24 years of life, but look at how many years I have left. I don’t want my funeral to be the result of driving into trees or taking too many pills.

I want my funeral to be because I died of old age, in my bed, after living my life the way I want to live it, not defined by other people’s expectations, achieving the goals I have set for myself.

She wonders why God’s taken so many people close to her when she’s the one that hasn’t been productive in life.

I think productivity is defined in different ways, and maybe her purpose was to cross paths with me. I sat with her for two hours today, listening to her share. I should’ve recorded it. Next time, I will. Anne, next time I will because your story deserves to be heard.

And I don’t want people to wait until your funeral to know what wisdom, humor, and wit you have to offer the world.

“Honey, you ain’t been to a funeral until you’ve been to one with 3 ex-wives.”

Apartment hunting in the age of depression

How does one even make a budget, I texted to my friend, a mixture of panic and frustration washing over me. Like, I know I need to move out, but I just don’t know how. I don’t know how to even begin apartment hunting, and besides. I have a crockpot and a mattress.

Life has this way of sneaking up on you: one minute, you’re a child, being carried to bed by your father; the next, you’re an adult carried your heavy heart and full mind to bed at 7pm because the depression is too bad to stay awake. And that’s how my depression has been lately. Too heavy for me to stay awake.

But that hasn’t stopped me: I’ve gotten up, gone to work, showered. Done all the things I’m supposed to do. Heck, I’ve even done things I didn’t have to do: start a new blog, apartment search, and found an apartment.

Guys, I found an apartment. And that’s huge. Because six months ago, I wasn’t ready to live on my own. And now I am, or maybe I’m not. This depression seems too big to handle alone. But I’m stepping out in faith that everything’s going to be ok. Because I have the skills, I have the support, I have all the tools I need to be successful in life.

And I’m ready, anxious, but ready.

But, I’m also looking for recommendations on how to live on your own. What’s helpful? What’s not? What works? What doesn’t?

We’re all in this life together.

Time is a construct and emotions are fleeting: On New Year’s Resolutions

I’m not going to stop you from crying. Tears are good, healthy, a sign of healing, my therapist told me yesterday, as I sobbed across from him, unpacking the last sixteen years of my life. This is the missing piece, he continued, tears in his eyes, I’ve been trying to figure out why you have such a hard time opening up to people, and this is it. 

Life has this way of moving forward, marching onward, whether you are ready for it or not. And we’re at that time again–the time when people seek to better themselves by resolving to do things, better things, more things.

I’m not one of those people. Maybe I should be. Don’t get me wrong, I strive to better myself: I go to therapy; I have built a group of people around me who support me and call me out on my crap; I’m trying my best to move forward, to live in the present for the future.

I have things I want to accomplish in my life, this year, five years from now. (Look, I finally have a five-year plan.) But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter how soon things get done. There’s no deadline on how fast you reach your life goals, only self-appointed ones.

My goals for this year?

  1. Read more.
  2. Write more.
  3. Cry more–feel more–don’t bottle everything up.
  4. Live in the moment, make the most of the time I’ve been given.
  5. Be thankful for those in my life and don’t question my importance. Let people care about me.

There’s so much to be thankful for: for working in a place with people that drop everything when I need a minute. That remind me that I don’t do life alone–we don’t do life alone. Good times. Bad times. Happy times. Sad times. Emotions are fleeting, but there’s something wonderful about the way people reach out to you with arms open to catch you when you fall. Tears fall.

And there’s something about the way the sun hits the ground that makes me glad I’m alive.

How trauma helped me find my words

The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence.- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Growing up, I was always told to use my words, but every time I opened my mouth, I was afraid the earth was going to swallow me whole. I was afraid of people telling me no–no, they didn’t want to play with me; no, they didn’t want to be my friend. No became the worse word somebody could tell me.

And then one day, no became the worse word I could say. With every no that came out of my mouth, they raped me harder, and at that moment, I wish the earth really would swallow me whole. But for once, the earth failed me.


I didn’t say much growing up; if I wanted something, I would pull someone by the arm and drag them, pointing to what I wanted. “Use your words, Kaleigh” became a common phrase my father said. He loves to tell those stories: stories of my childhood, when I was young and innocent, too shy to speak to anyone, to anxious to make any noise. Stories of when I didn’t know how to speak.

It didn’t help that I had a speech problem, r’s and ing’s tripped me up. Even now, I always have to pause, catching my breath before I say words like World and shoulder. Ironic, isn’t it? No one should have to shoulder the burdens the world puts on them.

I eventually learned how to speak, inspecting people’s shoes as I asked them questions, answered teachers in class. Still, my report cards read needs to participate more in class. I participated as much as I could.

My sixth-grade teacher was wearing black leather flats with a silver buckle across the toe the day she told me to “go out into the hall until I could get it together.” It was the day after my grandfather’s funeral. I never told her anything again, never raised my hand to answer a question, stopped telling people how I was feeling. Between that and being talked over every time I opened my mouth to say something, what was the point if I was going to be a burden?


There’s no feeling in the world like the soul-crushing disappointment of being told no.

Or so I thought.

There’s nothing worse than saying no and being raped any way. At that moment, the word loses all meaning. All words lose their meaning because how do you describe what happened? How do you say that you went from being “will you go out with me?” to a “slut that no one will ever love” in 15 minutes? How do you tell your English teacher the next day that the poem you’re reading perfectly describes your life at that moment as the guy who initiated everything breathes down your neck?

My life had stood–a loaded gun.

You revert.

I reverted. I was fine. Everything was fine.

School? Fine.

Me? Fine.

The kids at school? Double fine.

I learned to stop saying no because what was the point anyway?

Never talk to your guy friends again unless I’m standing there. Ok.

Is it ok if I touch you here? I am your boyfriend after all. Sure. Why not. Wouldn’t be the first time.

Touch it. It’s hard for you. Ok.

I know you’re texting me in a panic because of what they did to you, but imagine that it’s me touching you. I’m touching myself. Ok.

When all I wanted to do was scream, no. No. No. No. this is all wrong.

But I let it happen anyway–words had lost their meaning.


Words had lost their meaning, as I traced their words into my skin, cutting myself as I spelled out s-l-u-t, w-h-o-r-e, u-n-l-o-v-a-b-l-e.

Words had lost their meaning, so I began searching for meaning in empty stomachs and an abusive boyfriend. Maybe I’d find definition in the wrong places.


Somewhere along the way, I don’t remember how, I started writing–writing my thoughts, my feelings, my past. Letting my past define me because that’s all I thought I was worth.

Somewhere along the way, words started coming back–it started with a suicide letter and has progressed to this: me, asking for help, reaching out, no longer holding everything in.

This was the year I reclaimed no.

Because no means no means no. And I am worthy of saying no.

Words having meaning, words are powerful, and it’s taken me talking about my trauma to unlock their power.

No. I will not let you touch me.

I need help.

On a scale of 0-5, I’m at a 5.

No. I will not let you touch me.

I will not be silent any longer. I will write about my life: Prozac and faith– because silence makes my depression worse.

And life is for living.

Even though I need help from anti-depressants, God, and my words to help me do it. I’m here. I’m alive. And I have my words.

Kaleigh. Use your words.

I am, dad. I am.

How loving a dog with anxiety taught me to love myself

I have anxiety, but I don’t go around licking things excessively. Unlike my dog, who constantly has her tongue out, as if her nervousness will follow the rules of entropy and move out into the room.

I rescued a dog a few months ago. She has anxiety. She takes a while to warm up to people, and even then, she has to be really comfortable with you to let you touch her.

Funnily enough, I’m the same way: shy at first, even guarded, not a huge fan of personal contact, but once I’m comfortable with you, a hug is really all I want.

I don’t know her whole story; was she abused? Abandoned? Probably. But I only have guesses–little snippets of her past I see when she shudders at loud noises or at guys coming too close.

We have that in common, too.

I love her to pieces–the way she puts her paw on your leg when you’re eating as if to say, “Excuse me. But you have food. I also like food;” the way she snuggles up so close to me on the couch, she’s basically sitting on my leg; the way I walk in the door, and she’s so filled with excitement, her whole butt starts wiggling.

But mostly, I love the way she’s taught me to be kind to myself, to love myself in ways I haven’t.

It’s easy for me to judge myself, to say things like “I shouldn’t feel this way” or “I shouldn’t be doing this, not after this long.” Don’t we all do that to ourselves, though? Judge ourselves for not behaving according to society’s rules. Judge ourselves for not being as resilient as we’d like, for not healing as fast as we could, for feeling things for too long.

It’s taken me years to learn that feeling things are ok. I can be who I am without apologizing, unapologetically feeling without saying sorry.

My dog licks things excessively because she’s nervous. She sits on my foot on the couch so she knows when I get up. She follows me into the bathroom because she’s terrified I’m going to leave her–she’s already been left at least once.

I’m terrified of being left too. Of being left alone with my thoughts, of no one ever loving me, of people deciding that I’m just not worth the effort, that my past is too much to overcome.

But then I look at my dog. She was so nervous the first few days, we couldn’t leave her alone. I slept in the same room with her every night. She wouldn’t let any one touch her, wouldn’t let any one come within a foot of her. And yet I still loved her.

From the first moment I laid eyes on her, I loved her.

I never once thought her anxiety was too much–I thought I was incapable of taking care of her because I was too messed up, too anxious, too broken. I was too much, but she wasn’t.

She isn’t. Even though I have to give her anxiety meds to cut her nails, or before we meet lots of people. But, hey, I do that, too. I always got frustrated that I had to pop a pill before parties. My dog, I never questioned, that’s just how she is.

I judged myself even though I know my past and what I’ve been through. I know not much about my dog’s past, and yet, don’t judge her for her baggage.

My family’s rallied around the way they’ve always rallied around me, care for her the way they care for me, but it took me getting a dog so similar to me to see it.

Sometimes, that’s what it takes. Sometimes learning how to care for someone else is the only way you can learn how to care for yourself, how to be patient with yourself, how to love yourself.

And I’m getting there, one doggy anxiety pill at a time.

New Beginnings Amidst the Search for Perfection

Prozac and faith–What do they have in common? They both keep me going.

I was struggling to come up with the perfect first blog post for this new site, but then I realized that this is not what this site is about. It’s not about perfection or having it all together; it’s about the real, the raw, the messiness, and through it all, still searching for peace.

I had a blog before; maybe we were a part of that journey (that link can be found here).   

Maybe this is your first time encountering me and my writing, and that’s ok, too. You don’t necessarily need backstory to celebrate where I am now.

It’s not about what God is going to do in our lives; it’s about what God is doing in the here and now, and boy, is He working in my life.

This isn’t the perfect first blog post–but then again, I’m not perfect, nor do I try to be. I routinely cry at the altar on Sundays; I take cry breaks at work; I’m struggling with so many things: depression, PTSD, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Recently, I took suicide off the table as an option, but the thoughts just don’t stop because I no longer want to kill myself. I’m learning how to navigate life in a post-suicidal world: one in which I exist alongside my suicidal thoughts, giving them the space they need to exist without the danger of acting on them.

This is a blog in which I will navigate life, a resource in which other people can find hope and know they’re not alone. They can find hope in learning that it is possible to find healing after trauma. My therapist asked me to write a letter, an angry letter, placing blame where it’s due, taking it from myself, and placing it squarely and firmly on the ones who raped me. And now the anger is gone. And now I’m feeling 10 years worth of hurt but I know that healing and peace exist on the other side. It does. There will still be bad days.

This isn’t the perfect first blog post–it’s a mess, like me. Like all of us. But it will be filled with honesty, guest posts from people I’ve met along the way, heartache, and hope.

None of us do life alone. So, here’s to new beginnings. Here’s to finding hope in the struggle.