Fairly recently I started speaking and writing about the less than glamorous parts of my life.
In our cancel culture, I believe this could be misconstrued as a sort of brash arrogance on speaking about my own shortcomings.
I was actually inspired, to begin peeling away the filters I put over myself on social media, by a lyric that Andy Mineo wrote.
In his track “Honest 2 God,” Andy pens the line:
“We post pictures of the party, but not the ones throwing up at the end”
A common theme in Andy’s work is the importance of authenticity and honesty in one’s day to day life.
As a young person growing up within the context of homeschooling and church, I always believed that I either had to have all my shit together or admit that I was a failure.
There was no space for mistakes, and character flaws were promptly punished and behavior modifications were constantly being applied.
I learned the “correct” things to say, the appropriate behavior to engage in, and the activities to avoid.
From the outside, I was mild mannered and well behaved. Internally though, and to those closest to me, I was a powder keg waiting to explode.
I had a conversation with Imon the other day about how we define trauma and how we can trace the effects of our past trauma to today. We spoke candidly about how some of us have “relatively” less traumatic lives.
It was in this conversation that I was reminded of a conversation that I had with Crystal. In that conversation, we were discussing how it is important for us to validate our own emotions and frustration as we process through our pain.
To anyone who goes to therapy, we know that self validation is the bread and butter that leads to growth and healing, but to an outsider, self-validation seems inherently selfish.
We play the comparison game and we sympathize and pity those with “greater” trauma.
In reality, self-validation does not exalt your struggles over the struggles of others. In fact, self-validation just gives you permission to feel how you feel and to heal what has been broken.
When we give ourselves permission to be angry, sad, hopeful, anxious, frustrated, excited, happy, etc., we acknowledge that we are human and that we are worthy of love and acceptance even amidst the less than glamorous facets of our personalities.
The last year has been a whirlwind of activity.
I went from thinking I was going to travel a whole bunch more and perhaps move to Mexico City to facing the harsh reality of the quarantine.
Despite the change of plan, the year was incredibly eventful.
From a random email response from Andy Mineo regarding perfectionism and creativity, to a surprise video project where I had to learn Adobe Premiere. There was also the random video interview I did with Fight the New Drug talking about my journey over the last few years. As I was dealing with the mental and emotional effects of detoxing from porn, I was in a class where I was learning how to get out of debt and save. I was hitting up friends to do “No Porn November” with me while learning how to cope in more sustainable and healthy ways. I was invited onto the Clubhouse app, and found other anti human trafficking advocates who I shared my story with and I got invited onto a podcast and was asked to share my experiences with a lady’s thirteen year old son.
On the flip side: I had a handful of mental breakdowns last year and relied heavily on Imon to take detox trips with me into nature to calm the heck down. I struggled with anxiety as the covid crisis rose to a fever pitch and AAPI were targeted and treated with aggression. I had several bouts of depression as the institution of church abused its power and asserted that man knew what God’s will was. I went on a porn bender after the quarantine initially started and I struggled to put the bottle of alcohol down.
Amidst all the amazing things that were happening, I felt trapped and stuck. I didn’t feel like I was moving the needle and I didn’t feel like I was where I was supposed to be.
So I did the only thing I really knew how to do and I just started writing about everything I was feeling.
I went from only talking about porn with my therapist and closest friends to blogging about it and then going full blast advocating against it.
An addiction that was a source of shame and guilt for years started dissolving once I began talking about it.
I started addressing depression, anxiety, doubt, frustration, therapy, and my various addictions and vices in my blogs.
The churchboy facade started fracturing and I became less compartamentalized. Strangely enough, as I questioned the motives and actions of the church, I felt God nudging me to continue to deconstruct further.
As I wrestled with the church’s inaction and silence on matters that I thought needed to be discussed, I felt led to speak into those areas where there was only deafening silence.
My friend Cheyenne in Mexico City encouraged me that “Our greatest weaknesses are often what God uses… our struggles give us authority”
Clubhouse is an app that allows users to basically host Ted Talks on any issue they desire.
Rooms range from discussions with Elon Musk, to mental health, and everything in between.
When I got on the app in February, I quickly was serendipitously connected with anti- human trafficking advocates, mental health advocates, creatives, and old friends in far off places.
The free form nature of the rooms I joined quickly revealed to me, that what I had believed to be unique stories and experiences for myself were in fact the stories and experiences of many.
Rarely have I felt so validated by complete strangers, but with little to no space to customize one’s profile, users were forced to simply rely on their stories and anecdotes to paint a picture of who they were. And for people who were looking to connect with organizations and individuals doing specific work in specific areas, Clubhouse provided a unique opportunity.
It was on this app that I met Victoria who runs a safehouse and a podcast for human trafficking survivors. As I shared my FTND interview experience and my desire to get more involved in the anti human trafficking and anti porn space, she was quick to validate and affirm me while thanking me for sharing. I distinctly remember her being a fiery advocate in her defense of survivors that were vulnerably sharing their experiences on Clubhouse. While some white and more privileged moderators steamrolled the stories of survivors, she made sure to affirm and give space to everyone who shared.
She was gracious enough to host me on her podcast and she is doing incredible work representing POC’s in the anti human trafficking space while also giving POC’s the space to share without taking advantage of their stories to push a hidden agenda.
Be sure to check out her podcast at this link and support her work if you feel led to do so!
We often hide the ugliest parts of ourselves for fear of rejection.
When we hit rock bottom, often we feel alone and isolated and we believe the lie that we are the only ones to have gone through this.
Tobymac in his track “Stories,” models the song after a roundtable discussion in which people are sharing the shit they go through. One of the lines goes:
I’ve been there too
When everything falls apart and the best you can do is
Get through each day wonderin’ will this never end?
Is it always going to be this way?
And the greatest lie you’ve ever been told is that
You’re the only one to ever walk on this road
And that you’ll never see the light of dawn, so we came together to say
Cause we’ve been there and found our way home
I promise you that you’re not on your own
One day this will pass, God will see us all through
God will see us all through, God will see us all pass through
What if the ugliest parts of your story need to see the light of day in order for you to heal?
And what if, your struggle and your pain and the isolation you felt when you went through hell was a nudge for you to provide encouragement to someone who is going through that now?
What if we posted not only the birthday parties, and the concerts, and the trip highlights?
What if we were honest about our trauma?
Our broken families.
Our broken hearts.
Our addictions that threaten to derail our lives.
What if when someone was honest about what was really going on in their lives we could answer with “I see you and I feel you. Welcome to the club”