Friday, November 6, 2015

Don't Say You've Been Where We Are

Okay, what a way to return to the blogosphere with a bang. But I keep hearing this and it makes me feel like crying, because it's so untrue.

You've probably missed a lot in my life if you don't follow me on Facebook, and possibly even if you do follow me there. Let's just say that I've finally come to terms with and embraced the fact that I am a member of the LGBTQA+ community. Which section of that community is irrelevant. What matters about that fact is that I have integrated myself in the community and know many people from it firsthand. I have many friends in the community, I have read first-hand accounts of things that happened in the community, and so on and so forth. I'm not speaking as an Ally, but as a member of the community.

That said, something people love to say lately regarding LGBTQA+ issues is - "I've been where you are." "I know exactly how you feel."

Things like that.

The catch? Unless they're very successfully closeted - for the purpose of this blog post, I am going to assume that every single person I've seen say that in the last month is straight and cisgender, and not just closeted - they aren't a part of the community. Some of these people aren't even technically Allies.

And that's the part that really upsets me.

You don't tell black people that you've 'been where they are' and 'totally understand your experience because once I--'. Why? Because you understand that as black people, they have a unique set of problems from your own and you couldn't possibly understand them.

Mind you, there are people who do try and tell black people that. And it is very widely frowned upon by most people. Because it's kind of obvious that you - if you are white - do not know where they've been due to the fact you are not a part of their community, which is a minority group in and of itself.

It is no different with the LGBTQA+ community.

You can't tell us you've been where we are, because you haven't.

Now, I want to address something someone else said recently that really bothered me as well. They more or less said that telling someone 'you have not been where we are' is ruining the argument people try to make about being loved and understood; they said that sympathising with others despite not having been in the situation is what you're supposed to do.

I agree, actually. But when you're saying you've been where someone else has, when they are part of a minority group, is not the same thing as sympathising with them. It's invalidating to their experiences. And what's even more of a no-no is telling someone "I've been where you are" and using that as an argument to explain why you think that person is being entitled, or whiny, or to tell them that since you got over your problems, then they should too.

That is not okay, and that is what I mean when I say you should never tell us you've been where we are. In those cases, you are trying to use that as a way to invalidate us, and that's not okay. You're trying to downplay the things we've been through, and that's not okay. And on another note, you can very easily sympathise - actually sympathise - with someone without telling them you've been where they are.

I have friends who disagree with my identity, and something you might be surprised to know is that despite disagreeing with me - they listen and they care. They don't agree with my identity, and yet they never bring it up. They are willing to listen to me vent my frustrations regarding that identity, and they don't once tell me I should stop being entitled or stop being who I am or that they totally know how I feel.

They simply listen, and they comfort, and they don't even bring up the fact they disagree.

And one more myth that often shows up in these discussions: "The LGBTQA+ community doesn't have it very bad. It's not like the slaves, who were beaten and forced to work..."

Okay, I don't think anyone in their right mind actually thinks the LGBTQA+ community has it as bad as the slaves. If you find someone who does think that, they are almost always either highly ignorant or a troll, and part of a very small minority.

And you can't use that as an excuse to say we don't have it that bad, or that we have it as good as, say, the Christian community.

That out of the way, here's the main point of the article.

If you have never been disowned or kicked out of your house for something you physically could not change, you have not been where we are.

If you have never walked down the street trying to get home as soon as possible because you know that there are people who want you dead for something you can't change, you have not been where we are.

If you have never been ostracized from your church or even your faith for something you can't change, you have not been where we are.

If you have never been physically beaten for something you can't change, you have not been where we are.

If you have never been treated as less than human for something you can't change, you have not been where we are.

If you have never been called 'monster', 'freak', 'Hellbound', 'demon-possessed' by people for something you can't change, you have not been where we are.

If you have never lost a friend due to the fact they were murdered by someone for being gay, you have not been where we are.

If you have never spent days unable to sleep because your best friend was beaten for being bisexual, you have not been where we are.

If you have never been told you aren't allowed to marry the person you love because you're different, you have not been where we are.

If you have never been fired from a job for something you can't change (that has no bearing on how well you do your job), you have not been where we are.

If you have never been banned from visiting a loved one in the hospital solely because you aren't recognised as legally related, you have not been where we are.

If you have never been denied medical attention because of how you identify, you have not been where we are.

If you have never lost nights of sleep because every time you close your eyes you have nightmares of being in Hell because someone told you that was where you were going to go, you have not been where we are.

If you have never had your children taken away from you (even though you never once abused them and loved them with all your heart) because of something you can't change, you have not been where we are.

If you have never found yourself living on the streets because your family refuses to let you live with them any longer, you have not been where we are.

You see, you have not been where we as a collective community are. Maybe you've suffered a few of these things. But there is no way you've been faced with all of them. And everyone in the LGBTQA+ community faces the prospect of these things happening, or has had them happen.

All of those things I listed are things I have either personally experienced, or things friends have experienced.

I am not making anything up. Those are real problems we in the community face, and if you are not a member of our community, you can't have been where we are.

Maybe you've had a bad life, and that is totally valid. I respect that you have, and I am 100% here to help comfort you or be there for you any way I can.

But I'm not going to say I've been where you are. Because I'm not you. I haven't been where you are.

The harsh truth is that if you are white, you cannot tell a black person that you know exactly what struggles they've faced. If you are straight, you can't tell someone who's gay that you've been through what they have. If you are cisgender, you can't tell someone who is transgender that you've been where they are.

You are approaching minorities and telling them you've been where they are solely so you can tell them to stop whining and being entitled.

And honestly... if fighting for the same rights as everyone else makes me egotistical or an entitled whiner, then I'm sorry, but I'm going to be whiny and entitled until the day I die.

~ Casey

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Blog Tour: "Keeper"

Hullo again, everyone! Typically, I put these sorts of thing on my writing blog, Whispers of Wind and Song, but this time around, it's here.

My friend Elizabeth Altenbach recently published her first novel, "Keeper".

 And today she's here to talk about it. You can buy her book at CreateSpace. Without further ado, I give you Elizabeth Altenbach!


Greetings, everyone! In case you’re just joining us, here’s a link to the beginning of the blog tour:

Today I’ll be introducing one of the two secondary main characters, Olivia Sterling Samuelson – or Livvy, as everyone calls her.

Livvy only lived to seventeen, when leukemia claimed her life. Before she got sick, she was five feet and six inches tall, with long, thick, black hair that she wore loose or in a ponytail most of the time. Her eyes were the same as Dreamer’s – such a dark brown that they were almost black. Her figure had just started to fill out from skinny to curvy.

She adored her little sister, Dreamer, from the moment she arrived, vowing to always be the best big sis she could be. She taught Dreamer everything, from pranks to tree-climbing to bike-riding to what books to read and which ones to leave on the shelf. She was always loving and kind, and did her absolute best to include her sister in everything. Sure, they had their disagreements, as all sisters do, but they were always minor, easily and quickly forgiven.

Livvy loved to read. She bragged that she’d read every science fiction and fantasy book in her local library, and no one knew whether it was true, but since she always had her nose in a book, they were inclined to believe her.

When she was diagnosed with leukemia and informed that she’d have to undergo chemotherapy, Livvy slowly began losing hope. She asked her mother to cut off her thick, beautiful hair, so that she wouldn’t have to watch it fall out. She started writing poetry, which she’d always wanted to do but never had. Over the period of her illness, she filled almost an entire notebook with poetry, doodles, and little snippets of wisdom she’d learned during her short life. The last time she’d gone to the hospital to stay, she left it on her bookshelf in the room she shared with Dreamer, so she never got to present it officially to her little sister, but she knew Dreamer would find and cherish it. She wrote several poems especially for her little sister, two of which appear in the book. But if you want to read them, you’ll have to read the entire story.

Thanks for stopping by on my blog tour! I hope to see you again at the next post, which will be at the Holy Worlds blog tomorrow: .

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Stay Gold

I know. It's been a long, long time since I last posted. Sorry for that. Life has been a madhouse lately, and I only just now got time to write a blog post. I still have one in the works, but it's one that will take a lot more planning, rather than the rambling that is this one.

Anyway, I'll just jump right in and say - stay gold.

That's a line from one of my all-time favourite books: The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. "Stay gold, Ponyboy."

Now, I'm sure that can be interpreted in many different ways. But for me, I always considered it to mean 'stay young'. 'Stay gold'. 'Keep the wonder and awe alive in your life, and don't let it die'.

I wanted to focus on the 'stay young' interpretation of that. Let me go on a (possibly lengthy) anecdote ramble here. Just bear with me. There is a point.

Sorry for the dramatic expression, but I haven't had many
photos taken since I turned 18. This is one of the few.

I'm 18 now. So technically, a legal adult.

I haven't had a bad childhood, per se, but it hasn't really been a normal childhood either. My mother ended up too ill to drive me and my brother to events or clubs or anything of the sort early on - I think I was about twelve.

You have to understand that we live in an isolated area, so we had no friends in our neighbourhood. When we stopped going to our homeschooler group, and stopped going to our swordfighting group more than once every few weeks, and stopped going to our writing co-op... we didn't have social interaction with anyone but each other very often. There were the occasional meet-ups with friends from further away, but that was it.

My brother and I stopped getting along shortly after my father lost his job. So that was around when I was nine and he was eight. So we didn't really interact with each other much either, without it ending up in a fight. Our interests drastically changed - I wanted to play games that required imagination, and he wanted a BB gun to shoot things with. Polar opposites as far as interests went.

So we were more or less on our own without friends for most of our childhood. We didn't get out much. Our first and last vacation was in 2003; the first time we've had a vacation since then was in 2013, which I paid for with my own money, every bit of it saved up over the course of a year. We didn't go to amusement parks, or fairs, or even many parties after we were in our preteens.

Now, this wasn't our fault, and it wasn't our mother's fault. We just didn't have money for outings after my father lost his job, and then my mother fell ill and couldn't physically drive us even places near here. And she was far too protective to let us go anywhere with someone else, such as a friend's parents.

But we didn't have a normal childhood. We didn't get to go on playdates much with friends, or go to parties with them for their birthdays, or go to fairs and amusement parks. We spent most of our time doing school, or keeping to ourselves.

When I got older - about 14 - I couldn't really have a normal teenagehood either. For one, I went into college classes (real ones; not high school classes in college, I was literally enrolled in college) when I was 15. I still had two grades of high school to finish as well (I skipped twelfth grade). On top of that, my mother needed my help, and she needed emotional support. Badly.

Long story short - she is anorexic, due to feeling worthless and other issues that I don't feel it is okay to disclose here. When her cat died, it felt - to her - like she had lost a child. She loved that cat so, so much.

My father wasn't there for her. Neither was my brother. She has no friends nearby. So I had to set aside my own sadness at losing a pet, and be her shoulder to cry on. I never let her see me cry, because it would make her feel guilty, and she would stop leaning on me. And that would lead to disaster.

When I was about 16, I found out the truth of just how bad her anorexia was. She weighed 88 pounds. I didn't even weigh that little when I was ten years old. She is an adult.

So my being her emotional support doubled, and I took it upon myself to make sure she was always eating. I stole the scale from her bathroom and buried it away where she couldn't find it. I made sure she felt appreciated whenever possible, and I listened to her vent, and let her cry on my shoulder.

Since then, I have been her sounding board and support. When she needs to rant to someone about life, she comes to me. We don't have money for her to go to a therapist - so I've more or less taken on that role.

Ignore the photos, they're just dividers to let you know
when my personal story ends and the blog starts

And what I'm trying to say is... I grew up. Way too fast. I never had a normal childhood, and for now, I have no chance to have one at all. And God knows how much that hurts me sometimes.

Because I just want to be able to go back to the years when I was supposed to be carefree. And take advantage of those years. Because when you reach a certain point in life, you'll never get that feeling back.

Someday, when and if I ever move out, I'm going to try and stay young. I'm going to try and shake off all the social rules I've had drilled into me, and just live. If I want to dance in the rain, I'm going to. If I want to run down the streets laughing and trying to avoid running into people, I will. If I want to act like a child while I'm in my twenties, I'm going to. If I want to hang out with friends and have squirt gun fights, I will. If I want to host a party where everyone plays dress-up, I will. If I want to drop everything and go on a road trip, I will.

Because I never really got to. I was always very closely watched, and I never got to experience anything outside of my house. And I want to make up for all the lost time of my teenage years, where I spent all my energy doing homework and taking care of my mother and making sure my household didn't fall to pieces.

What I'm trying to say is... don't be in such a rush to grow up.

In fact, don't ever grow up. Don't stop playing around or goofing off or seeing wonder in things just because society tells you that you should.

Don't let work and school take you away from having fun. And I don't mean harmful things, like drugs and alcohol. That isn't fun or staying young. That's being foolish.

I'm saying just... don't let work and school consume all your time. You have one life on this one world. (I believe that there is another life after this one, but that's my belief.) Don't waste it on school and work.

People like to tell you, "Don't waste your life away, do something with your life!" when they catch you hanging out with friends or going on walks in the woods or watching a good film.

But it's the other way around, really.

There is a balance. Don't spend all your time running wild, but don't spend it all running yourself ragged with jobs and homework.

And if you're young... don't be in such a hurry to grow up. Don't lose the spark of imagination and awe you have as a kid.

You know how you see something new, and it takes your breath away? Something spectacular? Look here...

Looking at those photos of the trip I took for my birthday, which would you say I was more in awe over?

Most people would probably say the glacier lake and the mountains in the second photograph.

But I was just as awed over that as I was the beauty of the flowers and the brick wall. Maybe not as awed, but still very much in wonder over both.

I still have that spark because, well... I never got to see these sorts of things growing up. It's all new to me. But even if this stuff was old to me... I don't want to lose the child-like way my eyes light up and a grin graces my face when I see the smallest of things, from a dragonfly to a meadow of dandelions.

A lot of people lose that because they want to grow up. They want to get cars, and go to 'grown-up' parties, and be old enough to drink and smoke. Or there are people who just begrudgingly grow out of enjoying the little things because 'that's the way it is'.

It shouldn't be that way.

Just don't grow up completely. When Johnny told Ponyboy to 'stay gold' in The Outsiders, he was telling Ponyboy not to grow up and become what the others around them were. Bitter, world-weary, angry, and solemn young men who had to grow up too fast.

He wanted Ponyboy to continue to gaze at sunsets and ponder the world. He wanted Ponyboy to keep reading poetry, and writing stories, and not to grow into the steel-tough man that their friends had become.

And that's what I'm trying to say. Don't lose all of the innocence and wonder of being young. Don't stop enjoying the little things.

Because when you grow up, whether you did it on purpose or were forced to... things like that slip your mind. It's like everything resets itself into dull shades, professional shades, and life loses the bright, vivid colours that sparkled when you were a kid and everything was new.

You become a cynic, sometimes. I have. No fifteen-year-old should fall into the habit of seeing life as 'being born, going to school, going to college, working your head off, getting old, dying'. I did, and I do, and it's not right. No kid, no person ever, should end up having such a cynical view of life.

When I say to stay young - to stay gold - I mean don't let the joy, the wonder, the awe, the newness, the feeling of being carefree when you're a child fade away. Don't let the monotony of work and school drown you.

Take some time off. Do something fun.

Run through a meadow of wildflowers, go swimming in a river, climb a mountain, travel to another country, tease your friends, blast music at full volume while driving aimlessly down backroads, curl up in a blanket fort with all the junk food you want and watch a cheesy rom-com or a Disney film. Run and sing and dance and laugh and play.

The world is really so beautiful. Yeah, life's difficult sometimes. But beauty of the natural world can be created from fires, earthquakes, floods, blizzards...

Maybe when life is difficult, it's just a way of making you beautiful too.

You are alive, and the sun rises every morning. There are mountains to climb and rivers to cross and hilarious films to see - and so much more to explore and wonder over.

Don't let growing up rob you of those things. Don't be in such a hurry to grow up. Don't ever grow up completely. Just stay gold.

Stay young.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Heart Topics: Is Suicide Selfish?

Greetings to any and all who stumble upon this blog article.

This is the first in a series. "Heart Topics" are, in short, any blog posts I write on a topic close to my heart - animal rights, depression, LGBTQ rights, womens' rights, pro-life topics, the effects of porn, etc.

As you may be able to guess... these topics and some others are very personal to me. This means they can sometimes trigger negative memories and emotions, or at the very least, cause me considerable pain.

I tell you this so that you know - it takes great effort for me to write on such things. But I will write, for people need to hear about them. All I ask is that you treat any and all of my Heart Topics with respect when commenting on them.

Now that that is out of the way... we move on to my first Heart Topic.

Suicide. Or, rather, whether or not it is selfish.

As with most aspects of life, this is not black or white. There is no clear-cut answer: no 'yes, it is selfish' and no 'of course it isn't'. It is far, far more complex.

Do I believe suicide is selfish?

Well, I believe it is about as much as I believe all apples are rotten.

(Hint: that's not much.)

Just as not all apples are bad apples, not all suicide cases were because of selfish choices. In fact, eight out of ten people who commit suicide do so because of other people. Observe the following thoughts:

"Everyone will be better off without me."

"If I do this, my parents/spouse will have more money for debts and bills."

"At least now my failures in life won't upset Mom and make her cry."

"I won't be able to constantly upset my friends anymore. I could never help them anyway - like this, they have the ability to go find someone else, someone who can help them."

I can promise you that those thoughts and ones just like them are what goes through a person's mind when they consider suicide.


Because I have seriously considered it more than once. I've sent out the goodbye notes and had plans to end everything. I never did succeed.

But I can say with complete certainty that my thoughts were not centered on myself - some of them may have been, but the majority revolved around other people.

How much better their lives would be, how many things that would be set right when I was gone... always other people in my mind.

Was I correct? Probably not, on most counts.

I may have been wrong - but I was not being selfish. The definition of selfish is 'concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself'. Which I was not - I had a few thoughts for myself, of course; one of them being, "The pain will finally be gone". But the rest of my thoughts were excessively about other people.

That means that - if I had succeeded - my choice to commit suicide would not have been considered selfish by the dictionary definition of the word.

Neither would the suicides of any person who had felt and thought the same as I did in my situation.

If a soldier kills himself or allows himself to be killed for the greater good of his comrades and his country, he would be considered a hero for 'doing what he had to do for the sake of all'.

When a person ends their own life, often they are doing the same thing - trying to do what they feel is best for the greater good of those they know.

Are they correct? No. But the pain, the feeling of being lost and drowning, make it so that they believe that ending their life is the best thing to do. They are no more selfish than the soldier is - the only difference is that one's mind is clouded by pain, and they are believing something that isn't true.

It is not logical... but it is definitely not selfish either.

Now... can suicide be selfish in some cases? Yes. Sometimes, a person commits suicide and is only thinking of themselves. How to end their pain, why they deserve death, etc. I do admit that.

But I'm going to give anyone who immediately wants to announce to the world, "That was selfish and wrong!" a quick lesson in something called empathy.

I know how hard it is for those of you who have never been truly depressed to understand. Trust me, I do know. When you've never been that low, never been drowning in the dark and lost, unable to find a meaning to anything...

It is only too hard to understand how it feels and the motives behind what happened. Sometimes, it is impossible to figure out the exact motive.

That never - never - gives you cause to be callous and proclaim to anyone who will listen about how selfish and wrong and disgusting a person is for... simply trying to end the agony in the only way they knew how.

My mother's cat died from kidney disease. In her last weeks, she was in agony. Finally, my mother made the decision to euthanise her - to end her suffering instead of prolonging it.

Elderly folk in many places have a choice - if they are getting sicker, and in a lot of pain, they can ask to be 'put down' in a peaceful manner so that they no longer have to suffer.

Why, then, is it so much more 'selfish' and 'cowardly' for another sufferer to try to end the pain in the only way they can think of? Yes, it is wrong, but one who has been in their shoes cannot blame them for it. We can grieve, but knowing the pain they were in, it is impossible to condemn them for their choice.

They were only doing what animals and the elderly have a legal right to do. It isn't logical, yet it is nearly no different, but for the stigma around it.

Not only that, but you never know who might be reading your posts or listening in on your conversations at the store. A severely depressed person may come across something you said about the horrible wrongness of suicide.

The resulting emotions you give them may have disastrous effects.

When Robin Williams committed suicide, and I found out, I was heartbroken and devastated. I still am - I was crying over it the other day. He was the man who did everything for everyone else, and gave them joy... but was going through so much pain, he could never do the same for himself.

Someone on Facebook spoke harshly against the people mourning the loss of the bright soul who had lit up their lives for so long - implying that those who mourned him were foolish. In the comments, more people started to talk about how selfish a choice it had been, and how Robin Williams would surely end up in Hell.

I saw this. I took part in an attempt to explain things to them, as did several others who understood.

I have depression. It was so much worse at that point, because someone I had looked up to had been struggling for years with the same thoughts and feelings I did - and had, the night before, lost his battle with the agony.

And because those feelings of pain were so much more intense for me at such a time, the words those people spoke were a personal blow. I found myself, yet again, suicidal as well.

I wasn't planning on doing anything - 'being suicidal' means that one wishes to die, and may even entertain thoughts of it - but does not plan on going through with it. And I was wishing for death then.

Why? Because I felt like a disgusting human being - I struggled with depression, and I had so many times thought of suicide... and here, I was seeing implications that that made me a bad person, selfish, horrid, and that if I ever made such a mistake, I would end up in eternal damnation.

Do you know what that does to a hurting soul?

I wept the rest of the night, mainly for Robin, but also because of the pain I was going through.

The point I'm trying to make with that anecdote is... you must be empathetic. You must be loving. You must be gentle, and kind, and understanding.

Because you never know who might hear your words. You never know who might feel your words are validating how they already feel - worthless, horrid, and hopeless. You never know who might make the ultimate decision to end it too, solely because they feel from your words that it's true - they don't deserve life and they are horrible for having a medical condition they cannot change.

The bottom line is - even if suicide is done for selfish reasons, shouting it to the world and acting in such a way (without compassion and understanding), is very wrong. You will dig a knife into the wounds of people already hurting from the loss, and possibly cause pain to others.

When something like this happens, offer condolences and reach out to the family and friends who lost their loved one. Pray. Post comforting words.

Do not condemn or judge or make assumptions about how selfish the person was, when you do not know the whole story.

In conclusion to the question - is suicide selfish? - my answer is that it's complicated. It is not black and white. Sometimes people will commit suicide for themselves and not for the perceived good of others. (Most times, as I said, however, it is for the perceived good of others.)

Even if something does seem selfish, it may not be.

Even if it truly is, being callous and uncaring about the gravity of such a situation... is wrong.

And that's all I really have to say on the matter for now. I may write a follow-up in the future.

God bless,
~ Theodora Ashcraft

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Plea and a Prayer: No More

Leelah Alcorn. A bright young lady, only a few months younger than me. She ended her life recently, because she was shown no love, no acceptance, and felt as though the world would never have any hope in it for her, as she was.

Jamey Rodemeyer. 14 years of age.

Jacob Rogers. 18 years of age.

Seth Walsh. 13 years of age.

Asher Brown. 13 years of age.

Eden Wormer. 14 years of age.

And so many more, over the years and through the ages. Gone too soon. They took their own lives, driven to suicide by hatred, by neglect and feeling as though they would never fit in.

Suicide is on the rise because the more time that  passes, the more one realises that love and acceptance are becoming rarer and rarer in society. Bullies run rampant. The 'mongers' - the mongers of hate, and war, and fear - roam the streets and the cyberworld, waiting. Waiting to strike and then disappear, anonymous and uncaring.

Why? Why do we sacrifice souls of beauty, people of worth? And we do. We do sacrifice them. We sacrifice living beings with hearts and emotion, solely for our own agendas - or our own fear of taking a stand, taking their hand, and protecting them whatever the costs. We betray them to the abyss of agony, in an act of self-preservation.

We allow men, women, and children to die - because we are afraid. Afraid to love unconditionally, afraid to accept them, flaws and all. Afraid to get too close.

Because if we had let them get too close, what if they had dragged us down with them? What if their dirt and grime had brushed off on us and turned us - horror of horrors - into them? We could not allow ourselves to get close enough for that to happen... to have their dirt and grime mingle with the dirt and grime we ourselves already carry.

Don't you see? Can't you understand?

It was not only their hand that brought them to the next life. We - the fellow humans, the fellow souls - played our own parts. We did nothing to stop it. In some cases, we may have even caused it to happen.

This needs to stop.

We need to learn to love, to care, to feel. Apathetic is a pathetic way to be, and yet many who do not actively try to hurt others make it no better with their apathy.

Imagine a world where love reigned - a perfect ideal, where love replaced all pain, no exceptions. There would be no war; there would be no bullying; there would be no murders. Because everyone would love one another, and by extension want the best for every person they came across.

How many more innocents must die before we as a species realise that as long as hate, bigotry, fear, and superiority rule, there will be no peace? No hope for a gentle-minded world, no hope for the rescue of our children from depression, bullying, and anxiety.

How many more times will the Leelahs and Seths and Edens of this world have to die by their hands - and by extension our own - before we begin to change?

How many beautiful souls must we lose before it all becomes clear and we begin to hold them dear?


No more.

No more of this. No more pain, no more neglect, no more attacks hidden behind veils of sweetness-tinged judgement.

No more suicides, brought on by feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.

No more deaths. Please, God, I beg you, no more. No more executions by the barrage of stones from the falsely righteous, justified by cries of 'sinner, foul sinner!'. No more worn and weary hearts pleading for Death to take them away from the day-to-day struggles of abandonment, cruelty, and unbelonging. No more light-filled souls shattered into shards of darkness.

No more, my God, I beseech thee.

No more.

Please... no more.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

As The Sun Sets On 2014...

... I find myself reminiscing on the past year and pondering the year soon to arrive.

2014 has been a rough year, just like 2012 was. I've had to trek up many thornbush-covered mountains this year; much more frequently than the few times I was able to stroll through smoothly rolling valleys. It has been a dark year, but there has been light.

I've faced a lot of challenges this year, and quite a few new experiences; probably the widest range of any I've ever seen or went through in any one year of my life.

A fantastic Scottish singer and a friend of mine - George Donaldson - passed away from a heart attack earlier this year, leaving behind a then-13-year-old daughter and his wife; and it twisted my life upside-down. This was a man whom had been a father figure of mine since 2011, because of his warmth, generosity, kindness, and gentleness. And suddenly he was just gone.

In summer, a man who had been a huge part of my childhood committed suicide - Robin Williams. And though I didn't know him personally, all those years of looking up to him and being cheered up by his antics had made me feel like I did.

There was a light side to those tragedies. A faint light, but a light all the same.

After George's unexpected death, I began to ask questions about theology that I had never asked before; I sought out answers instead of accepting whatever ones were handed to me pre-baked on a platter.

After Robin's death, I grew closer to already-close friends. In the midst of people calling those with suicidal thoughts things like 'selfish', 'greedy', and 'hellbound', those that knew the truth stuck together and comforted one another. When I was sobbing the night after Robin's death, because I had lost a man I had looked up to all my life, and because someone had basically just told me I was hellbound because I had suicidal thoughts, my friends were there. They comforted me and kept me from completely breaking down. I tried to return the favour as best I could.

And through those trials, we grew closer.

As for friends... I made some new ones this year, and - as I mentioned above - grew closer to others. I also got to see more of my friends in this one year than I have in any other (considering up until recently, I only had one or two friends that could even visit on a half-regular basis).

In March, I got to meet two of my friends for the first time and another of my friends for the second time - Matt, who visited in October of 2013. I spent an hour or two hanging out with them in Seattle; it was only the second time I had ever visited the city and actually walked around.

In April, I visited a friend and her family for the first time in years. I also got to play with their baby lizard.

In August, I got to see Matt again and we spent an afternoon in town before going to a concert, where I had the pleasure of meeting our friend Alex for the first time. This was another first - it was the first time I had ever been allowed to go anywhere with a friend without a parent tagging along. It may sound like a little thing to most, but it was a huge milestone for me.

And again in November, Matt dropped by and we hung out with our mutual friend Brenna for a while.

From November to the end of December, a friend was living in our back room for a while as well.

All in all, I got to see nine friends - some of them multiple times - this year; six are mentioned earlier. The other two I spent time with at my high school graduation.

There's another milestone of this year. Two, actually - I graduated high school and, while I've been enrolled in college since March of 2013, went to my very first on-campus classes this summer.

Those were two experiences I won't soon forget. In June, I graduated high school at the age of sixteen. It was also the first time I ever got to try a coffee from Starbucks.

My long-time buddy August - whom I saw a few months prior for a while - came to watch my graduation, and I had a blast talking to him again. Then I met a girl who was friends with another friend of mine - we hit it off great, marveling at the coincidence that we would be graduating at the same time and that she would recognise my name from our friend's Facebook page.

During my on-campus classes, I got to see lovely scenery in the hiking trails at my college, and I met two new friends in my P.E. class. Another similar milestone was that taking these classes was the first time I would spend any longer than an hour (usually four hours) away from anyone my mom knew. And it wasn't within walking distance - it was a twenty-minute drive most mornings. And I would hang out on campus and in classes by myself. It was scary, and finding my way around without having a breakdown from overload of emotions and senses was a challenge.

I guess I learned a lot - not everything, but a lot more than I did - about being an adult this year.

I had to learn responsibility for my on-campus classes. I had to arrive on time, make sure I understood the information, and turn everything in on schedule. I had to remember to keep an eye on the calendars, and I had to get up early each morning so that I could get dressed and make sure everything was in my backpack before heading out the door.

I had to learn to put aside my own desires and fears in order to help my mom through some very rough times that she is still going through now.

I had to take responsibility for the friend who moved in with us. That was a challenge - I needed to exercise patience, calmness, punctuality, and persistence. All things I have trouble showing. I needed to make sure everything they needed was taken care of, and remind them of their day-to-day duties.

And while it is not a particular skill or attribute to learn, I was allowed to spend time with friends in town by myself (without parents) for the first time ever this year. For our family, that is a definite step towards adulthood. It may sound silly, but it is.

I had to ignore my fears and insecurities during the summer and tell someone exactly how I felt about them, despite the anxiety that they would 'run away' or push me away. (They didn't. And our friendship is even stronger now because I was honest, praise God.)

I had to destroy a knot of negative emotions in order to confess to my mother and my friends the struggles I have - the fear, the self-loathing, the guilt, the shame... it all had to be obliterated just long enough to confess. And that is probably the most adult thing I managed to do all year.

I learned patience, I learned more about logic, I learned how to schedule my time better... I learned that it is wrong to judge others for their own struggles, and I learned that even the people you trust have the ability to mess up big-time... and above all - I learned from a close friend that the best way for me to be is just to be me.

All that said... what do I hope to see in 2015? What are my resolutions?

I never do fulfill my resolutions. But here are some goals, wishes, and resolutions I have anyway:

~ Fly out-of-state to visit friends; either in Virginia, Texas, Ohio, or Florida.

~ Go to Emerald City Comicon with friends.
~ Learn how to drive.
~ Write a novel for the first time in years.
~ Start some sort of project designed to help the needy.
~ Get into acting somehow; by joining a drama team if there are any nearby.
~ Complete the 365 Photography Challenge
~ Attempt to get a job.

We'll see if any of those get completed this year; I do hope they will!

Before I close, I want to give special thanks to the people who made my year so much easier to bear and made me smile and laugh, and comforted me through the dark times: thank you to Sian, Hayley, Charity, Matt, Andrew, Eli, Brendan, William, Elizabeth K., Mark, Ellen, Elizabeth A., Ophelia, Adrienne, Joel P., Jasmine, Annie, Gael, Kitra, Seth, Hannah L., Jenni, and August. I love all of you so very much. Thank you for being yourselves, and for caring about me even when I'm at my worst.

To all of you reading this... here's to a new year - may it be bright and blessed and shiny. Keep on keeping on, all of you; every last one of you is amazing and strong and so very special.

Happy New Year, everybody!

God bless,
Theodora Ashcraft

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Negative Effects of my Addiction

Some of you might remember my confession, earlier this year. I posted it on my blog because I felt it needed to be out in the open. You can find it here.

I'm back to talk about the same subject - porn - using personal examples. But this time, I'm not going to be confessing things. In this article, I want to talk to all of you about some negative effects porn has had on me and my life, personally.

I'm going to attempt to keep this article organised, but I may ramble - I hope the message gets across regardless.

Now, I will most likely not be using Bible verses to prove my points in this particular article. My focus for this is to show you how porn has negatively affected me and the people around me - some of the things may sound selfish, and certain people might feel the urge to say 'well, if such-and-such was negatively affected, it was the person's fault and they need to man up'.

Please ignore the urge to say that. I am listing all the things that suffer when one is addicted to the things I am, in an attempt to show people that it really does change things. This takes a lot of effort to write, and I do hope that people will respect that.

That said, we'll get on with it.

One thing that is negatively affected by questionable online activity is trust. Trust is impacted, big-time, believe me on that.

My mother doesn't trust me on the internet. Heck, I've proven to myself that I don't trust me on the internet. But that's just one aspect. She doesn't trust me alone with males much anymore either - she thinks that my online activity might leak into my real-life interaction. I don't think it would... but her trust in me is severely limited because of my addiction.

Because of what I've done, my mother doesn't trust me with technology or with guys as easily as she used to. And she has every reason not to trust me - I acted in a way differently than who she thought I was, and I wasn't honest with her from the beginning about what I was doing. Four years, I kept silent and hid it.

Four years. Letting it fester. I would think I had stopped, but then I would start back up again. I stayed away from it for about a year - though my mind often strayed - but then a friend died from a heart attack and the sudden plummet of grief and anger sent me back to what I had thought I had gotten rid of.

Four years of hiding the truth and letting people think I was a perfectly innocent teenage girl.

I finally confessed. And I lost trust. That is one consequence of lying, in general - not just about this, but about anything. If you lie, you inevitably lose the trust of others. You don't always lose their love and respect - but you do lose their trust. And it often takes a long time to rebuild that.

It doesn't even lose you solely the trust of non-strugglers... it can lose you the trust of other strugglers as well.

Someone I love struggles with it. I only recently found out. They hadn't been honest with me about it. And yes, I stopped trusting them with certain things. One day I was highly emotional about it and, since they're older and stronger than I am, I went into breakdown mode - when they tried to hug me, I pulled a knife on them.

I didn't hurt them. It was just to scare them off.

But what I'm saying is that, even though I'm a struggler, I can't trust as easily either. Do I still love them? Yes... oh, yes. God knows I do. And I do trust them not to hurt me, most of the time.

I can't trust them as I did before though. And that not only hurts me, it hurts them too.

Losing someone's trust usually hurts everyone involved, depending on whether they feel remorseful or care about you at all; which is nearly always the case in my personal experience so far.

Another negative effect that such an addiction has had on me is guilt. The guilt is always present - sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker, but always present.

When someone shows they don't trust me as much as they used to, the guilt is there - because I failed. I failed everyone, including myself.

The guilt about what I've done is always there, usually when I get urges to go there again, or when I'm reminded of the past by others. There are triggers for memories and the guilt is usually worse then as well.

Guilt really messes up your life too, in an emotional way.

The most prominent thing guilt has done to my emotions is convince me that I should never get married. I still think that. I'm too much of a mess, and who knows whether or when I'll backslide. And anyway, I've made so many mistakes, any man that I could trust deserves far better.

Do I believe that? Yes, I do. The guilt solidified those thoughts and I cannot believe any different.

Guilt will almost certainly change your perceptions of yourself; you'll beat yourself up about things that have happened and passed. You'll most likely consider yourself a less important person than others, and you'll have a hard time believing people when they tell you differently.

Everything about porn will make it hard for you to enter a relationship most likely, but guilt will possibly be one of the hardest things of all. If you ever even allow yourself to enter a relationship in the first place, you will constantly think - subconsciously or not - that you do not deserve this man or woman, even if they do accept you've made mistakes and love you anyway. You won't believe them when they say they forgive you and love you no matter what.

Guilt makes it nigh impossible to be in a decent relationship because you will never believe it's real, or that you deserve it. Guilt makes it impossible to love yourself again, if you ever did before - I had a hard time of it even before the guilt factored in.

A third thing porn negatively affects is your friendships.

Look, your friends most likely love you. They did before, and most of them will probably still love you afterwards.

But the sad fact is, they will no longer trust you as much as they did. Sometimes they may lose their respect for you.

This did happen to me. The majority of my friends still loved me unconditionally - they did not at all condone what I had done, nor did they like it. But they continued to love me.

There were a few who lost all respect for me - and rightfully so, I have to admit - and decided they no longer wanted to be friends with me. Yes, I was called quite a manner of things by a few people; disgusting, a liar, impure, a whore, etc.

Were they right on some counts? Almost certainly. Did it hurt any less? No, it didn't.

All that to say - your friendships very well may be impacted by this, negatively or not. You won't lose all your friends; there will always be a few who will forgive and love. But even your relationship with them will change somewhat.

Perhaps where you once mentored them with a problem, they now have to mentor you with yours. Perhaps they still love you but can't trust you as much now. Perhaps they need to stop talking to you quite as much until they finish mulling everything over.

Your friendships will be affected. Oftentimes negatively in someway or another. But this does not mean you'll lose all of them. Some, maybe. All, no. Just know that there will be negative effects on your relationships with friends and family alike.

Another thing that will be negatively affected is your faith. Now, as I am a Christian, this will be focused on that - though there's no saying it can't be applied to the religion of whoever is specifically reading this.

I'm not saying you'll just all of a sudden give up on your faith - you might, but you might not. I'm saying that your relationship with God and the Bible will be strained.

You'll stop praying, you'll stop going to church, you'll stop reading your Bible...

Part of this is the guilt factor - and in my case, most of it was the guilt factor. I felt that I was unworthy of love and forgiveness. And, since the Bible's foundation is love and forgiveness, I found it highly difficult to believe or accept. As a result, I stopped praying, because I got the impression somewhere that because I had messed up so badly, God would not listen.

I've managed to break myself of that guilt-induced haze, but I still have a long way to go. If I hadn't fallen into the addiction I did, it would almost certainly be easier for me.

Being addicted to these things messes with your faith, because it's so hard for you - guilt-ridden, depressed, feeling like you're undeserving of anything - to accept what the Bible's very foundation was built upon; love, forgiveness, and salvation.


I'm sure there are other negative effects that I've forgotten, or that I didn't experience - these are just a few.

But it's very clear that... believe me... porn does have a bad effect on your life. If not your life personally, on the lives of those you care about.

If you struggle with it, please, try to stop. It's not worth it. Trust me on that. If you need someone to talk to, to hold you accountable, or just to listen, I'm always available. You can find my contact information here. I will get back to you as soon as I possibly can.

If you have struggled with this addiction in the past, and have advice to share, I ask you to consider shooting me an email about it; you could even write a guest post, if you so desired. I would be ever so grateful.

To everyone, just remember - there is a way out. There is always another chance. There is hope.

God bless,
Theodora Ashcraft