"This thing we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down."
- Mary Pickford
I am a public speaker, designer, artist and developer, as well as a survivor of sexual abuse, assault and stalking. Let’s be honest, that last part of the sentence has taken its toll on me over the last 30 some years. I’d like to share with you a little about me, how I fell apart, and how I put it back together again. Seven years ago I had a beautiful art gallery. It was my dream in life, but through a chain of events, both out of my control (being the victim of stalking), and in my control (some poor choices), I lost it. I went from the belle of the ball to my own personal fail-boat sinking in the Salish Sea. I let it define me. I wore it with shame. I curled up in my failure. In 2015, after the swift death of my father, I found that I needed to relocate to gain freedom from my life which was dictated by fear of the offender who stalked me. Suddenly I found myself in Vermont, having blown up my career, working as a waitress, staring across a crowded dining room saying, "What the hell just happened?".
I found myself in a terribly difficult position. There were days I would lie in bed watching "Gilmore Girls" for 16 hours. There were days I lost all hope. There were many nights I cried myself to sleep. The depression was as real as the weight of the quilts I lay under for comfort. Over time I came into acceptance and began to shift my world into one of giving back. As the Gloria Steinam quote says, “The final stage of healing is using what happened to you to help other people." Time, education and acceptance slowly brought me closer to this point, the point of jumping off the ledge, not knowing whether I would sink or fly, but knowing the risk would be worth it – and knowing my voice and skills mattered and were needed.
I used to have a voice, and I’m finding it again. It’s different than before. But it’s strong and getting stronger. I’m no longer living in the dark, and that is the best step I have taken in years. Yes, I am strong. I have survived. And I am slowly learning how to stand tall. It is because of my service providers, friends and community that I am here today.
That's a little about me. I've failed. I've been beaten, bruised and battered. But I will never let that hold me down. I will continue to Stand Up every day. And I hope to stand beside you.
Photography by Ben DeFlorio Photography