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Monday, October 9, 2017

#MentalHealthMonday: Sharing my story and Getting Involved


Depression  knows no color, race, or age. I was diagnosed at 16 and struggled with accepting it for so many years. I am now growing to a place of acceptance, and I share my story of overcoming to show others living with a mental illness is possible. I was asked to share my story of attempting suicide and surviving depression with a local awareness campaign called 'Talk About It Norfolk' This is a city wide initiative in Norfolk, Virginia to spread awareness about depression and suicide. The hope is normalizing the conversation will encourage others to speak up and ask for help.

This is my story 

I also participated in a mental health training called 'Talk Saves Lives' where attendees are taught how to talk about suicide with those you care about it.

I am also raising funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Foundation. There are several awareness walks called 'Out of the Darkness'. Click here to donate




















Saturday, October 7, 2017

Secrets of My Life: The Complexity of Telling Your Own Story

Secrets of My Life: The Complexity of Telling Your Own Story
LAUREN HOPE·SATURDAY, OCTOBER 7, 201712 Reads
It is early, a little after 3:00 a.m. on a Saturday, and I am thinking of Caitlyn Jenner. Yes Olympic gold medalist, turned reality start now transgender woman, Caitlyn Jenner. I checked out her memoir, because confession I love the Kardashians, (that’s another story all in itself) and I want to know how living in their world effected his gender dysphoria. I wonder what it feels like to live in a skin that you feel is not your own for over 60 years. I’m also reading, because I am fascinated beyond measures with memoirs, and biographies. I always have been. I guess that is what lead me to a field in journalism in the first place; I love storytellers. Memoirs allows you to step in someone’s world for 200 or more pages. They give you a window into someone’s pain, reality, and often times triumph. One of my favorites growing up was “I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelo, and more recently ‘Glass Castle’ by Jeanettee Walls. My greatest moments as a journalist was when I knew my reporting gave viewers that same intimate look into someone else’s world. I miss that dearly.
Caitlyn’s story has struck a nerve with me for so many reasons. It brings to the forefront my own struggle with writing my memoir. In journey of Caitlyn’s life her story intersects with so many others; the Kardashians, three former wives, her kids. All of their lives have been impacted by the telling of her story. And, I find it heartbreaking that the telling of her story has further destroyed her relationship with her once close Kardashian stepchildren. I’m sure the book wasn’t the only thing, but all of them have publicly stated the book was a punch in the gut. This is hard for me, because I worry constantly what my memoir will do the people whose lives I have intersected. Will they brand me a liar like Caitlyn or say I am rewriting history to serve myself? I am truly anxious about this as I am sure a lot of memoir writers with controversial stories are. My story is dirty, and ugly at times; dark and desperate. There are parts of my story that still keep me up at night, and make me ashamed of myself Accepting your story flaws and all is brave thing. This is why I have been drawn to storytellers my entire life.
Reading ‘Secrets of My Life’ reminded me that my story is mine, not my families, not television viewers, or people I feel could never understand the struggles I’ve endured the last three years. My story is mine, and as painful as it is to write; I feel compelled to keep going. . I want it to set me free as I know the truth does, and I hope in the pages of my memoir it sets someone else free too. I hope in reading my struggle it gives a broken-hearted woman in a church shelter hope that one day she won’t sleep on a gym mat and thin cover. I hope people with mental illness see how I’m living in recovery and choose life over suicide. ( I am currently raising money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention you can donate at www.afsp.org/norfolk search Hope Walker) I hope that imperfect Christians like me know that no matter what dirty deed you have done, or how far from grace you feel God will meet you where you at and fill your well again. (See the story of the Samaritan woman in the book of John. Ichanged my life.)
I pray this early morning that like God says in Joshua 1:9 to “Be strong and courageous,” in my story-telling. I hope no matter how many tears fall in remembering those homelessness nights, or bad choices that I continue to put pen to paper and hands to keys.
Everyone is a story, and being a journalist has taught me that telling your story can be hard. But when we are brave enough to tell our stories profound things can happen for you and the people who read it. My little blog and business Good Girl Chronicles is not much now, but one day I hope it’s part of a storytelling/motivational speaking business that encourages and teaches people how to share their stories even if it’s only for themselves.
Caitlyn Jenner’s memoir is a mess at times. Her reflections of herself teeter back and forth from optimist to depressed. You can read that she too struggles with her version of history and the version of the people around her. But, what I do admire is that none of that stopped her from telling her story, and as you near the end of the book and Bruce transition you can feel and sense a freedom that is joyous. That is what telling your stories does, it has the power to liberate you. May we all move a step closer to making peace with our past, owning own set, and dancing in the free of our true selves.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Out of The Darkness: Suicide Prevention Month

Norfolk Out of the Darkness Walk:  I Walk to Be a Ray of Hope


I’ve been speaking publicly about surviving suicide for over a year now, and it’s still not something I am comfortable with. I am sad that depression took me to a place where my life didn’t feel worth living. I can still remember the numbness, and darkness I felt during my first attempt. And, a part of me feels that when I tell some people I am a suicide attempt survivor there is some pity, and in turn some guilt and shame in me.

On the flip side, speaking about what lead me to attempt suicide is liberating. I can see myself further removed from that pain, and I am proud of my recovery. I am also starting to discover that sharing my story has done more for others than I ever imagined. In a world where suicide is taboo to speak about people tell me my story lets them know they are not alone and has encouraged them to get help. That is why I speak up, and I am always seeking opportunities to spread a message of hope.

When I heard that a suicide prevention walk called “Out of the Darkness” was happening in Norfolk, I wanted to help. So I sent an email to Eric Peterson, a man who lost a teen daughter to suicide, about how to participate. Eric had heard me speak at another suicide prevention conference for mental health professionals. I was honored and something he wrote in his response email confirmed to me once again that my story has value, and as hard as it is sometimes I must keep sharing.


“I am sad everyday that my daughter Sarah is not longer a part of my life here, but there is nothing I can do to change that. I am out here working to prevent suicide because I believe in you, and others who struggle. Everyday you stay alive brings meanings to this work in which I am involved in,” said Eric.

And Eric is right. He and his family are on the front lines of teaching people about depression and suicide prevention. I see him and his wife often at events promoting good mental health. They are trainers, advocates, facilitators, warriors for the cause. They remind me that suicide doesn't just affect one person. They are using their pain for the purpose of helping others. I am constantly in awe of their passion and drive. For days Eric's words stayed in my heart.

“Everyday you stay alive brings meaning to this work.” It reminded me of the value of life and not just any life, my life. Everyday I choose to live in spite of my circumstances, and my major depression is a victory. I want to be a voice for those living with a mental illness. I want to show people suffering in silence that they really are NOT alone and with the right resources, there is a way out of the darkness.

The Norfolk Out of the Darkness walk.is part of the e American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. On their website they state the mission of these walks is not just about raising funds which is definitely important, but also about showing the world that when people work together they can make big change.


I want to change the discussion around suicide and show people resources to help themselves or others. There are a number of Out of the Darkness walks in Hampton Roads. Suffolk, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Newport News are all hosting walks. I’d love your support monetarily or by walking with me.


I w Suicide is the 10 leading cause of death in the United States, and AFSP is dedicated to reducing the suicide rate by 20% by 2025, a big part of that I believe is awareness. Out of the Darkness Walks are in all 50 states, to find one near you go to www.asfp.org

Click here to donate to my team.







Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hungry for Mississippi Morning

The sunlight creeps through my grandmother's bedroom blinds, and gently kisses my face. I rub my eyes, stretch, and rose from my great mother’s waterbed. I would often find myself floating on her waterbed when nightmares kept me awake or I just needed extra comfort.

 The aroma of fresh buttermilk biscuits and coffee are swirling through the house. It's seeping from underneath my great grandmother's bedroom door. She is a second mother to all us kids, cousins, and neighborhood kids. We all called her ‘mother’, and often ran to her when moms, the women who carried us for nine months, weren’t giving us what we wanted.

 There is a sizzle, a crack, and pop. I know that's bacon cooking on my Mother’s old black, burnt frying pan. This is a Mississippi morning, and where some of my fondest food memories live.
After lingering in the bedroom for a while, my senses overwhelmed with the breakfast that is cooking down the hall, I wake up and start following the aroma.  My cousins are anxiously sitting at the table, and Mother is at the stove smiling. Her caramel life-worn face shoots me a smile. I'm only eight, but she pours me a cup of coffee. I go to the pantry and reach for the generic creamer, and sugar. I've tasted a lot of different coffees since those Mississippi mornings, but this coffee will forever be my favorite. When the biscuits finish baking, Mother brings the piping hot pan to the table. Me, my cousin, and young uncle are eagerly waiting for our turn to pick a soft, moist biscuit from the pan. No KFC, Church's Chicken, or any fast food joint can lay a finger on Mother’s biscuits. We pour this rich, thick maple molasses that came in large mason jars on our plates. It’s so rich and thick it takes what seems like forever to seep from the jar to the plate. With our hands we dip the biscuits in the syrup. This was the kind of food that fed more than your stomach. It fed something deep inside of you, something intangible. It’s like I could taste the love and attention Mother cooked into the meal. At the old circular table surrounded by my kinfolk I felt part of something, part of something lasting.


I've been thinking about these early Mississippi mornings a lot lately. I'm riding another weight roller coaster, and after way too many highs on the scale, I'm starting to wonder how I ever got here. Some nights I’ll lay on the couch, miserable, homesick, and alone. Then I feel a hunger rising in my stomach, punching, kicking, and demanding for something to fill the emptiness inside of me. It compels me to venture to the kitchen, and stand in front of the refrigerator. What I am really hungry for? I grab a coke, a few cookies, and head back to the couch. After my late night snack is consumed, my stomach is happy, but something else is still empty.

The sugary mix of caffeine and chocolate are not filling the loneliness or take me back to those mornings where I felt so whole and complete.  Growing up, food was not just about nutrition or fueling the body. Food brought my family together, it comforted us, and it was love. I've carried these feelings about food from childhood.  I realize now that sometimes when I overate I'm really trying to fill my soul with the same warm feelings I got on those Mississippi morning.
When I can't fix anything in my world at least I can fix a good meal for myself. The food cure doesn't fix the problem, but for those few seconds I'm lost in a haze, trying desperately to feed the little emptiness in my heart.

Our family is so far away. I’m living in the mountains trying to start my adult life. My sweet, warm Mother is now in a nursing home with little memory of those post sunrise meals. She has lost her youngest child, my aunt, and it’s caused a rift in the family that can’t seem to be healed.


My cousin and young uncle can barely relate anymore. The last time I went down South, I sat at that table where we had those sweet, rich, fat inducing breakfasts. I’m hungry for that feeling again. But, as I sit there in a house my Mother can’t call home anymore—I know no meal can fix where life has taken us or transport me back to those days that started with the feeling of sun on my face, and the smell of a family that loved deeply.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

#LOLOS LOVE LIFE: The Boston Bear

For the past three years I’ve been lied to, hustled, lusted after, used, but rarely have I been admired by a man. They called me a bitch, crazy, ugly, and so much worse. So when I heard that a guy in another department at my job had a crush on me I didn’t really know what to make of it, and it made me wonder if I was really worth of someone’s admiration again.


When I met the Boston Bear I remember thinking he had kind, inviting eyes. Nothing about the encounter suggested anything romantic. We exchanged names. I explained I was fairly new to the company, and after that I didn’t see him again. Weeks later one of Boston Bear’s coworkers stopped me in the back office.


“So what do you think of the Boston Bear?,” he asked.


“What do you mean? I met him like once. He seems nice,” I replied.


“Well he thinks you’re really pretty.”


Pretty, I thought.  I couldn’t help but wonder if Boston Bear needed his eyes fixed. My work uniform makes me looking like I’m carrying an extra 15 pounds on my already voluptuous frame, and since we can’t wear bright makeup, more often than not I look rather plain. Nonetheless, the compliment felt nice. Pretty was one of those words I always wanted to hear from the opposite sex when I was younger. I didn’t see much of the Boston Bear anymore since we worked in different departments, but his co-workers never missed the chance to tell me I needed to give Boston Bear a shot.


“He’s a super sweet guy. You should reach out to him,” they would say.

Love was the last thing on my mind. For the past year, I’ve been struggling to escape a life of homelessness, and despair. So many days I felt broken, less than, and hopeless. A part of me had given up on finding love again. But, I took a leap of faith and sent the Boston Bear a Facebook message. I was touched the Boston Bear read my blog, praised me for my strength in adversity, and didn’t flinch when I shared the heartbreak I had endured or the depression that nearly killed me. The turning point came when the Boston Bear heard I had no way to get to work because my driver's license was suspended. For weeks, he'd take me home, and take me work. On those trips down 264-W on the 40 minute trek to my house, I fell in love with the Boston Bear’s northern accent, his love for his city, and his welcoming brown eyes. One night home, he put his hand on my knee, and I felt flutters in my stomach. I found myself taken back when he opened the car door for me, carried my work bags, and greeted me everyday with, “Hello beautiful.”
When your new boo is a Patriots Fan- you just go with it

The Boston Bear and I have been dating for two months now. He is one of the most selfless people I know. He is kind, patient, hard-working, funny, affectionate, and an amazing listener; so many of the things I prayed for in a partner.


When I was homeless, it was hard to feel safe with a man. Most wanted me physically or were enamored with the little celebrity I had as a television reporter. I thought every man was out to get something from me, and I was always waiting for them to disappoint me.

The Boston Bear didn’t pressure me for sex, or immediately ask to Netflix and Chill. He read my blogs about my suicide attempts and didn’t run. He laid awake with me for hours sharing pieces of himself and his history that few know. He holds my hand in my public, and blow kisses to me from across the room, and he believes in my dreams. He encourages my speaking career, gushes me about to his family and friends. And, when he holds me I feel home, a feeling I’ve wanted for a really long time.

To my Boston Bear….. Thank you for sharing your life and heart with me. Here is to new beginnings. May we grow as lovers, partners, and friends. May we build each other up on hard days. I want to be your harbor in the storm, your biggest cheerleader, and best friend. Thank you for giving me the type of love every good girl deserves. I can’t wait to see all your dreams come true.