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Thursday, July 5, 2018

In Defense of Khloe Kardashian: I’m Sorry

Dear Khloe Kardashian,

I know you will never read this little blog of mine, but I want to apologize. I am a little blogger in Virginia who has been a huge fan of yours for years. But, a month ago I bailed on you. I cancelled my subscription to your App even though I love your work out tips, and home recipes. I love seeing you enjoy motherhood with baby True, and your amazing Khlo-CD tips. I even defend you when my people roll their eyes when I say I’m a huge friends of yours. Even with that said Khloe, I bailed on you.

I know you are no stranger to haters or means comments, but I found myself throwing shade at you. Last year, I even wrote a blog about your featuring you on a series I call Women Who Slay Wednesday because you inspired me to get serious about my weight loss, and speak my truth no matter who didn’t love it. Even with all that sad, I abandoned you Khloe, and I’m sorry. Why?

Because you choose to stay with the father of your child, Tristan Thompson after a pretty humiliating, cheating scandal.

My heart ached for you when I saw the evidence of Tristan’s infidelty, but then like a flaky high school friend I turned my back on you. I was angry that you decided to stay with Tristan. I wanted more for you because of what you went through with your ex-husband Lamar Odom. I thought to myself, “Doesn’t she know better?”

I read somewhere that you wrote, “You have no idea the amount of rebuilding it takes…” in reference to mending your relationship with Tristan. I immediately wanted to bail from following you. Because I like everyone else thought I knew what was best for you. “Leave him,” I thought to myself. “He’s a dog,” I protested. 

I ashamed Khloe because I threw shade for your ability to forgive.

Forgiveness, making amends, letting go, and moving on for the sake of love is a noble, honorable, and a necessary thing. I applaud you for the strength it takes to forgive, and rebuild a relationship after the trust is broken.

What’s worse Khloe —is that I was once a cheater too. In my 20’s I dated this video game nerd who at times worshipped the ground I walked on. I felt smothered, and in a moment of weakness I cheated on him with an ex. It was hurtful. It was wrong, and it was not my character.

Afterward the deed, I felt tremendous guilt, and remorse. I came clean to my boyfriend who was understandably crushed, but not only forgave me gave our love another shot. I don’t know if I could have been that kind.

Accept this apology from a former cheater, and current fan. I always in awe of your resilience, determination, and strength to pick yourself back up again.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Birthdays of Years Past to the Year of Lolo (IT’S MY BDAY)

July 4, 2018 is my 34th birthday. My thirty fourth spin around the sun. I’ve had the fortunate of having some pretty cool birthdays over the years. I imagine my first birthday went like this. I wale up in my great-grandmother’s bed. The bright Mississippi sun cracking through her plastic blinds stirs me awake. Before I can cry my cousin Tater lifts me, sings some Michael Jackson 80’s hit and takes me to see the family. Everyone spends the day oohing and aching over the little light skinned baby who just had to be born on the Fourth of July. Now I’m not sure if that’s exactly how the day went down, but that thought makes me happy so we’ll stick with it. 

In my early teens, we often traveled back to birthplace for Fourth of July, and my great-grandmother who we call Mother, held the largest neighborhood cookout. Her home was in a country subdivision outside of city limits called Brignall, and you’d swear everyone got an invite to her Fourth of July shindig. No invitations were needed. Everyone who pulled up got a plate. As an adult I still don’t know how any of my family members afforded that party, but it happened just about every year until Mother passed a few years ago.
When we moved to Virginia, I remember for the first few years as a family we fought the massive crowds at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, until like most natives we stopped.Then birthdays became kind of bland, dinner at some Italian restaurant where we all overate then fell asleep. If I wanted an actual sleep over it had to be done on the weekend before or after my actual birthday because Fourth of July is a family holiday.

When I was 20 I was studying abroad in Costa Rica. My first time away from home, and in another country. Somehow I managed to tell my host family about mi cumpelanos and they made a cake, a traditional Costa Rican breakfast of gallo pinto, and my Tico mom made me two dresses which I still have. That was an amazing birthday.

When I was 21, my step father took me a place I always dreamt of being apart of, Los Angeles. It was unprecedented for us. A trip thousands of miles across country with a man who I really didn’t know much about. Navy life kept us from really forming a deep bond in my formative years so this trip to me was huge. I had unlimited access to the man who seemingly adopted me when I was 2 years old with little or no reservations. And it was a nice birthday. We drove through Compton, California but we too scared to take an acutally take a picture of the Compton sign even though it was our family’s last name. We visited the Walk of Fame, the wax museum, Watts Towers. And in a huge mall my stepfather bought me a necklace with a star on it. I promised myself I’d wear that star everyday until I could come back to California a real star, as fate would have it I lost the star necklace, I have no relationship at all with my immediate family and I’m not famous. Ah well.

On birthday in my twenties I had my first hangover after bar hopping in Downton Norfolk. Another year I decided all I wanted was a fire pit, all the pictures of my ex-boyfriends, an Adele album. I set fire to all those old loves. It was quite cathartic

In my twenties I began my television news career and a lot of birthdays were spent at the news station. I love being a reporter with every fiber of my being so my job was the greatest gift.



My 30th birthday takes the cake as the worst birthday ever. 2 months prior I had a suicide attempt, and a 5 day hospital day. Even with medication, and endless sleep I still had no urge to live, no desire that the darkness inside of me would lift. 5 days after my 30th birthday I made the biggest and most crushing decision of my life. I walked away from my blossoming television career. Looking back I truly feel I could have salvaged my career with some intense treatment, a long hiatus, Family Medical Leave. But, I didn’t know the things I know now. I teeter back and forth between making peace with that decision and being in intense regret. Even thinking about that day July 9, 2014 makes me cry. I just remember getting up from my desk and going to my new director’s office and saying, “I can’t do this anymore.” All I knew in that moment was the fear of anxiety attacks, the actual anxiety attacks, the insomnia, the suicidal thoughts was consuming. I just wanted out.

Then birthdays took a nose dive into miserable. The next year I hardly remember what happened on birthday. Depression has stolen so many memories. Birthday 32 I was technically homeless. I
was sleeping on a couch of a friend’s house after my parents had put me out. My friend took me to dinner, and I got a happy birthdays on social media. But I also had no job, seemingly no future, no family, and no direction. 33 I was living with a man I had no love for, in a relationship that never should have started, and finally feeling the weight of what the last 3 years I had done to my life.


This birthday is by far the best one to date. Why? Because today for the first time in forever I feel am breaking FREE. I am no longer chained by the weight of depression and suicidal thoughts. I am learning daily how to live with mental illness, and use that knowledge to help others.


I am working tirelessly to break free from shame and self condemnation from the many mistakes I’ve made in my spiritual walk. I rededicated my life to Christ earlier this year and like it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.”

I am breaking free from perfection, and learning to love myself flaws, mistakes, and setbacks. I breaking free from the habit of living for a man to desire and love me. I am breaking free from the intense drive I once had to live a life pleasing to my parents. I am breaking free of trying to make everyone happy and live in misery.

34 is amazing because after 2 years a depression that almost killed me, a year homeless, a year struggling to find myself—- I just am. I live in an apartment where I pay my own rent, I work at a job that allows me to really help people in tough times like addiction, homelessness, and mental illness. I have the blessing of being there for people the word has sometimes cast aside, a feeling I know all too well.

I am finally building the type of relationships I always dreamt of friends like my Miss Sunshine Shirley, Kehyonna, Stephanie, my Community Church family, and my new amazing connections in Lynchburg like Charese, Shannon, and Tonya.  I am a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist, a blossoming writer, a speaker, and finally I can see that God is equipping me with the tools to live my wildest dreams. Yes this birthday takes the cake.

So call me Miss Independent, a woman breaking free from a really tough past, who finally feels free enough to write her own future on her terms, her way, and with God’s grace.

When you watch the fireworks tonight, think of me. I’ll be watching and rejoicing on finally breaking free. This is the year of Lolo. A year of new beginnings.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Host Debrief for Suicide: Ripple Effect

Last night I hosted a screening of the film Suicide: The Ripple Effect. It was intense, eye-opening, and shocking. What follows is the email I am sending the people who attended the screening.

Good Morning,

This is Lauren Hope, movie captain for last night’s showing of the Ripple Effect. I want to thank each and every one of you who came out last night. Special thanks to Christy Letsom, board member with American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and The Sarah Michelle Peterson Foundation for being there with support and information.

I also wanted to check-in this morning. Like you all I watched the movie for the first time last night. As a suicide attempt survivor it was an intense film for me. It brought up a lot of feelings for me, a roller coaster of feelings in fact. If anything in this film made you sad, depressed, increased suicidal ideation or triggered something in you I strongly encourage you to share that with a trust friend, counselor , or family member.  One of the biggest take aways I recieved from the film and my own advocacy is the importance connection, letting people know when we are struggling, and being to listening.

With that in mind I want to remind everyone the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 hours a day 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-TALK . Their website is also an incredible source of information suicidepreventionlifeline.org

I am a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and a HUGE supporter of American Foundationf for Suicide Prevention. Check them out also www.nami.org or AFSP.org

I also hope last night sparked a desire in you to learn more about suicide and how to prevent it. The Sarah Michelle Peterson Foundation gives training on how to recognize signs and how to start the conversation. I hope you consider taking a further step in prevention and consider taking one of those trainings. Www.sarahmpetersonfoundation.org

I also heard a lot of people talk to be about getting suicide prevention knowledge to kids. I would love to let you all know about an amazing regional event called ‘Shatter the Silence’ created for kids middle school and up that address suicide, prevention, and mental health. Follow me on my business page Good Girl Chronicles LLC or email me at teamgoodgirl84@gmail.com and I can get you registered for the event and give information.

Thanks again. Time is a precious gift and I am thankful you choose to spend that time together with us last night.

Sincerely,

Lauren Hope
Good Girl Chronicles LLC

Saturday, June 23, 2018

My Mental Health Awareness Month


Mental Health Awareness Month 

Sharing your story sets you free, and shows others they are not alone. I see this everyday
 through my blogs, tweets, posts, and talks. That is why I am overjoyed at all the opportunities 
I had to share my mental health journey during Mental Health Awareness Month (May).

Bedford Hike for Hope


    May 12 I traveled back to beautiful Bedford County to give a talk on suicide prevention.
Bedford has a special place in my heart, because I covered that region at my first television gig 
from 2009 to 2012. During my reporting days, the residents of Bedford County showed me the
 power of coming together as a community through so many stories I covered.

The Bedford Hike for Hope is a fundraiser for the American Foundation on Suicide Prevention, an
organization dedicated to reducing suicide through research, fundraising walks, and advocacy.
I was struck at how many families have been touched by suicide in Bedford County.
 My heart still aches for the families who lost loved ones to suicide. I felt for a few moments 
during my talk that we were all connected, comforting, and finding release in our shared experiences.
 It was amazing. Thank you for inviting me to such a powerful event Bedford County. I hope to return
 next year.


Mother Earth Production/ What’s Your Story
    It is so true that everyone has a story. Sharing our stories is one of the best ways we connect with 
others. I shared my story with my church group and I was connected to Malikah Harris, an actor, 
published author, singer, and owner of a production company called Mother Earth Productions. 
One of her many talents is sharing people’s powerful testimonies on her YouTube Channel called, 
“Mother Earth Productions LLC)

Here is the video!

 

Story For His Glory with Romania Whitehurst
    Facebook is amazing. I don’t care a what anyone says about it not being cool anymore. 
It is the platform I connect with people on the most. Facebook lives saved me in the pit of
 homelessness last year. People donated over $4,000 to my GoFundme and it lead to an amazing 
Christian couple reading my story and welcoming me into their home. So when a local church
called asked me to come on their Facebook show I was all about it.
The show “Your Story for His Glory” is hosted by Romania Whitehurst in conjunction with her 
church Bountiful Blessing Ministries. I was so impressed by Romania’s set up.
 She had a small production crew, backdrops, cameras, and even a commercial break. 
The show title was called “Depression, Now What?” I shared my experience living with major
 depressive disorder, and Certified Life Coach Danielle Boose talked about her being the
 parent of a child with a mental illness and how it has changed their family and her career path.
The show was so engaging and powerful. To this date it has over 700 views which tells me that
 people of faith are hunger for discussions on mental health. Many struggling with accepting a
 mental health diagnosis and continuing in their faith. Many don’t feel the two can co-exist. 
I beg to differ. I believe more discussions like this are needed to break the stigma of mental illness
 in the church community.
I also had the opportunity to share stories on two amazing Mental Health blog/websites

Speak Away The Stigma
Click here to read the blog!


Doming Out 
Click Here to read my blog feature on living with anxiety

There is a scripture in the book of John that says, “The truth shall set you free.” John 8:32

Speaking my truth has set me free of so much shame and guilt of having a mental health diagnosis. And, I encourage you whatever your truth is —- OWN IT! The amazing thing about the stories of our lives is that as long as we are breathing you have the power to write a new chapter.



   

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Being a Peer Recovery Specialist: “I’ve Been In Your Shoes”


“What do you see in this picture?” the psychiatrist asks. He is holding a flash card with what appears to be splattered ink on it. This the famous ink blot test I’ve heard so much about in Pyschology class, and now it is being administered on me.

Maybe it is a butterfly, maybe it’s a human face. I don’t know. What does he want me to say? What can I say that will get me discharged from the psych ward? This guy has no clue, no fucking clue how small this test makes me feel judged, small, and less than. None of these people with doctor before their name understand what is like to be living with a mental illness. 

“I guess it looks like a butterfly,” I reply. He nods his head and says, “Hmm.”

This is one of dozens of interactions I’ve had with mental health officials who have starred at me, prodded me with questions, and diagnosed me since I was 16. Very few have every made me feel like they understood what it was like to really be in my shoes. The kind of empathy that bolsters your strengths not analyzing what is wrong or diagnosable with you. I longed for the kind of empathy that would comfort me when I didn’t think recovery was possible or that I was worth anything. The mental health system is just not built that way I am learning. For years it has been locking people away, drugging them up, and moving on to the next case. What I wanted was some kind of human connection to someone who felt my pain and saw enough in me to help me move past it.


Me and Director of Peer Services, Becky Sterling
It’s that feeling that lead me to become a Peer Recovery Specialist. By our very definition we are empathetic, compassion is in our job description. Peer Recovery Specialists or PRS for short are people with a lived experience of mental illness and or substance use disorder that uses their experience, strength, and hope to help people regain their lives. At the heart of what we do is sharing our recovery story to shows other that is possible. We can come to their level, meet them at whatever station in life they are in and help them reach their goals. We focus on what my PRS trainer Raymond Barnes says is “strong not wrong.”

The idea of peering has been around for years through organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous. But now it is becoming a recognizable profession across the country complete with certification, .registration through the counseling board, and validations through studies that show a sense of empathy is revoluntionizing mental health and addiction treatment.

My peer journey began before I was even offered a job. During my first psychiatry stay after group sessions all the patients would all sit and talk, help each plan what was next in life, and encourage one another. I didn’t know then that essentially we offering each other peer support. The advice of someone who had lived through my same pain helped me get back up. The experience changed me in so many ways.


For the past two years it has been my mission to share my story of surviving suicide, depression, homelessness, and anxiety. I’ve met with people in big groups, small groups, personal places, and public places. I’ve listened to their stories, and hopefully sparked a hope in them that their dreams are possible. I’ve made job referrals, connected people to resources. Well before I knew any of this was the basis of being a Peer Specialist. As I began looking for ways to volunteer and give back to people living with mental illness I kept stumbling across the description of Peer Recovery Specialists. It was everything I was already doing and everything I wanted to be doing more of. My opportunity would come after I gave a speech on surviving suicide in front of a room of mental health professionals in Portsmouth last year. A substance use administrator heard my story and said he would be calling me about a Peer Recovery Specialist job that not only would give me the opportunity to help others, but my training for certification would be paid for. That in a nutshell is how I started my journey in becoming a Peer Recovery Specialist. This month I will take my certification test, and August will make a year in this field.

The beauty of this job is as much as it is helping others it is doing amazing work in me. I am growing confidence in my abilities, learning about how to live with my mental illness, and changing the perception of mental illness.