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Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Power of Telling Your Own Story: The Black Danielle Steele

The Power of Telling Your Own Story: The Black Danielle Steele

When I was a little girl I always dream of being a big time writer. Cover of magazines, book tour, celebrity big writer. Way before Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City made writing sexy and fun, I wanted to be like Danielle Steele. Steele is a hugely popular, best-selling romance novelist. She paints the most beautiful love stories with her words. And, to top it off she loves luxury. Before I’d start any Danielle Steele book I’d turn to the back of the book to see her author head shot. Home girl was always on point. Her long hair, straight, and luscious hair would be pressed to perfection. Her makeup was flawless, and she was always sporting some seriously gorgeous jewelry. Before grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation would scare me from a writing career, I dreamt of being the Black Danielle Steele. (I apologize in advance for any grammatical errors you see in this blog. I do my own editing, and like I said grammar scared me from writing career.)  A few D’s in English class shot any dreams I had of being a writer. The pain of being rejected in a subject I loved so dearly was so painful I shelved the idea of ever becoming the Black Danielle Steele or the successful public speaking career I thought would blossom from my New York Times Bestselling books.



I still remember the time I brought home a ‘D’ in English. The reaction from my stepfather was enough for me to never believe I’d be a writer in real life. “Writer’s don’t get ‘D’s,” he said looking down at my red marked essay I brought home from school. I am sure he meant well, and didn’t realize how hard I took the criticism. But, what I heard was, “You are not writer material.” I continued to write in journals, and occasionally I’d write pretend soap opera skits and spread them around to my friends, but I never seriously pursued a writing career after that. I did not submit anything to school magazines, or offer to read in class.


I am now 33 with a much different story than I thought I’d be writing, and a new desire to recapture the dream of being a writer. The story I have to tell now is nothing like those steamy love stories Danielle Steele I read as kid. It is real. It is hard. It is at times shameful, and regretful. It is mine. I’ve been sharing my story from mini TV fame to surviving suicide to homelessness to the road to my recovery for over a year now. I am now writing my story with the help of an amazing organization called 'The Muse', giving speeches on my story, reliving the pain of my story, praying for grace and mercy along the way. I hope my story shows people that all of us possess the strength to survive unimaginable pain, heartbreak, and mental illness.


As I reflect on my last year as a mental health advocate and speaker I often recall the first speech I ever gave on my depression and how it motivated me to keep sharing. Last March I gave my first speech in a small church in front of some of the warmest, most compassionate Christians I’ve ever met. I remember standing before the congregation, with tears coming down my face as I shared my suicide attempts, the renewal of my walk with God, healing and the road to recovery. Afterwards, so many people shared their same struggles. We hugged. We laughed. We even cried together. We rejoiced, and a part of me started to feel stronger. Stronger, because I had survived to tell my story.

When I dreamed of being a writer and speaker as a little girl, this is not the story I thought I’d be telling. But, now that I’ve started telling it, I can’t stop. Now I don’t just talk for me. I talk for every person that finds comfort, hope, and acceptance listening to my story. With every speech I feel this is part of my new calling in life.



I can’t wait to see my book in print. I am taking a memoir class, and growing more and more confident in my writing ability. Some days I am frightened to keep writing. Some days I am too sad to walk down memory lane. But, most days the little girl in me is beaming. She is excited to think of having her picture in the back of the book, and her words capturing readers across the world.

Thank you for everyone who has supported my journey as a writer, mental health advocate, blogger, and speaker thus far.

If you’d like to continue helping me reach the dream of publication, you can do so with a small donation to my GoFundMe Page. Donations will be used to buy a new lab top ( I am borrowing one now), to pay for my hotel and airfare to a huge writer’s conference in Tampa next year, and more writing classes.


All donation can be made to www.gofundme.com/teamgoodgirl





 









Monday, October 30, 2017

The Power of Telling Your Story: The CBS Story on my Journey

For seven minutes, I watched the depression, trauma, heart ache, homelessness, and despair that I’ve lived the past three years. I don’t know if I can describe what those minutes felt like. I was a television reporter for most of my twenties, but it was surreal seeing my own personal story on-air. I never thought what the subjects of my interviews felt about seeing their stories on-air. I always wanted to get their stories right, but I never thought about the effect it would have on them. That changed Monday, October 23, 2017 when my own personal story aired on CSB 6 in Richmond, Virginia.

It all started on July evening, when I was sharing my story on Facebook live.
For the past year I have shared my journey on Facebook. The good, the bad, the ugly you name it I shared it. Doing so connected me to so many other people struggling with their mental illness, introduced me to new friendships, and opened the door for support.

On that July evening, a television reporter I knew joined my Facebook live. At the time I was sharing with everyone how I grateful I was to be coming out of my season of homelessness. When the Facebook live was over, the reporter connected with me and I shared my story even further. She expressed that she wished she had known how I was struggling. She wished I would have reached out. But, in the clutches of depression I felt nothing or no one could help me. A few weeks later, the television reporter, Shelby Brown, asked if I would share my story on-air for Depression Awareness Month. I immediately said, “Yes.” Not because I wanted my 15 minutes in the spotlight. I did it because of something God spoke into my heart a year ago about sharing my story.

As I was coming out of my depression a year ago, I reconnected with my spirituality and I began to hear God speak to me in supernatural ways. One of the many things I heard from Him was that sharing my story would set me free, and remove the shackles of shame for so many others. I never knew how God was going to bring that promise to pass, but when Shelby asked to share my story I knew then it was just as God said.


When Shelby came down to shoot the story in August, I was nervous. While I knew this was part of God’s plan I was scared. I was worried people wouldn’t understand, but I pressed forward. When Shelby arrived and I saw who her photographer was and all my worries faded away. Shelby’s photographer, Dwight Nixon, was someone I had worked with at a previous television station when I was beginning my career. I remember seeing him and crying. I felt so safe and secure that the two of them were going to treat my story with care. Shelby and Dwight went to the Wal-mart parking lot where I slept some nights in the winter, the church shelter I found refuge, and then attended one of my speeches on suicide prevention.

I stayed up to watch the story air on live stream. The first 3 minutes took my breath away. I sat there watching and listening how my life fell apart; from upcoming television star to homeless, depressed vagabond. I can’t believe this was my life. I wanted to so bad to reach through the screen, press some magical button in life that rewind the past few years; take back the decision to leave WAVY News 10, get help sooner, leave the toxic love triangle I was in speak up more. But, life doesn’t work that way. I can only look back on where I was, and keep being thankful for where I’m headed. The story also shared with viewers how I am using my painful past to help others as a mental health advocate and speaker. I share my story with as many people who will listen. I speak in front of crowds. I share on YouTube, and each time I speak I feel a sense of healing about my past.

The second part of the story described the Christian couple who took me in their home, and gave me the kind of spiritual rest my soul could not find in a shelter. They opened their home to me, share their food, supported me, and reminded me once again how God brings His children together to help one another. They remind me that God makes it so I am never alone in this journey called life. Many thanks to Pat and Wayne. I was basically a stranger to them and they trusted me in their home. They came into my life just as the shelter program was closing and I was unsure of where I would rest my head. There are no words to describe how thankful I am for both of them.

After the story, I just cried tears of sadness, regret, joy, and gratitude. I know that is a lot of emotions, but that’s what I felt. That story reminded me of how God told me sharing my story would free me. When it was over I wiped my eyes, and exhaled. God whispered, “You are free! The truth will set you free.” That story empowered me to keep singing my song of victory over depression, suicide, and homelessness. My story has value. That was reinforced by all the people who messaged me personally to applaud me for sharing my story. They shared their own bouts of depression with me, and told me how my story inspired them to keep moving forward.



My hope is that CBS6 story is only the beginning. I have big dreams as a mental health advocate, business owner, writer, and motivational speaker. I pray God takes my like voice nationwide to encourage people that they can live through tough times, depression, mental illness, suicide, and homelessness. I want to be a ray of hope for those feeling in darkness. I am currently writing my first memoir about the last three years of my life, and I hope it serves as a platform to go on a book tour. I am expanding my audience and I feel destined to take this message of hope to as many people as I can. If you are interested in booking email teamgoodgirl84@gmail.com or comment on the page below.

I come to inspire, motivate, educate, and cultivate hope!

This road to the new me would not be possible without so many people. I am constantly thankful for all the beautiful people God sent to feed, shelter, love, encourage me.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How I Stumbled Into Being a Mental Health Speaker


The first time I decided to blog about my suicide attempts and depression, I had nothing to lose. Depression had already robbed me of everything I held dear; my ability to work at my high-powered television job, to function in relationships, and it took nearly two years of my life. Something inside me felt compelled to tell the viewing public why I left WAVY News 10 just when my career was beginning to take off. It was an admission of a battled I had fought for 16 long years with a mental illness. I endured it privately due to shame and guilt.

When I started writing the blog, ‘Standing in My Truth’, the words just poured out. I had nothing else to hide. I explained how depression forced me to resign from WAVY News 10, kept me locked away in my room for days at time, took away my desire to do simple things like shower, comb my hair, or brush my teeth. There were times I felt so disconnected from my own body that I pulled hair out of my scalp, and peeled scabs off my face just to feel like I was still alive. The array of anti-depressants coupled with ferocious hunger added 100 pounds to my small frame in a matter of months. Depression felt like an invisible coffin; cold, dark, and lonely. It even pushed me to attempt suicide.

When I posted the blog about my battle I expected pity, shock, and maybe a few eye rolls. What I did not expect was a tide of support, comfort, love, and most of all, understanding.

One friend wrote, “Thank you for sharing this. Mental illness is not discussed enough in the black community. The story you are sharing is so real for so many people.”


And I have to tell you writing those words, felt like freedom. Freedom from the shame of my illness, my struggle, and it showed I wasn’t alone. The comments on Facebook kept pouring in. Viewers who knew me as a sparking television reporter saw me as a real person, with a real struggle like many of them. They expressed empathy, sadness, pride, and many were rooting for me. Even more interesting  was that people started sharing their stories with me. That showed me that so  many people are suffering in silence. They want to share their story, but the stigma of mental illness holds them back. I wanted to break that barrier wide open and show people there is nothing to fear in owning your truth.  A friend recommended that I visit a website called ‘This is My Brave’, a non-profit that creates awareness about mental illness through creative storytelling. I admired the bravery of these storytellers living with their mental illness. “This is My Brave”, They and so many other non-profits like them are breaking the stigma by normalizing the discussion of mental illness. One of the most beautiful things I found while reading the stories, poems, and songs of
those with mental illness was that it lead me to acceptance, which in turn made me an even stronger advocate for my own mental health. I started to throw myself into talk therapy, I researched every medication I was prescribed, and became aware of my triggers to stay healthy. This is what speaking up does; it helps others know they can speak up too.

Since my first blog, I’ve been invited to speak at several mental health conferences, and suicide prevention walks. I never imagined I’d be this open and raw about my suicide attempts, and recovery. In October, I will be speaking at a number of suicide prevention walks and raising funds for the Out of the Darkness Walk in Norfolk by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I reached out to one of the walk organizers Eric Peterson, a man who lost his teen daughter to suicide. Something he wrote in an email reminds me why I am a mental health advocate.

“I am sad everyday that my daughter Sarah is no 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 meaning to this work in which I am involved in.”

His words resonated with me for days. “Everyday you stay aalive brings meaning to this work,” I kept thinking. My life, my struggle, my pain, my survival, my acceptance, my endurance is not only powerful for me, but for so many others. I hope in sharing my story, staying alive, and living with my mental illness, I show others they can too. Like my name, I want to be ray of hope for others. A, person who helps free them of their fear of getting help, starting over, and moving to recovery. I want to show those in the darkness with a lot of help and, and support there is light on the other side of their pain.

I am currently a Peer Recovery Specialist for the City of Portsmouth, a position that gives people living with a mental illness or substance use disorder the ability to help others through reach recovery. My name is Lauren Hope, I have Major Depressive Disorder, I’ve survived suicide, and THIS IS MY TRUTH.

For you interested in booking me as a speaker: email me at teamgoodgirl84@gmail.com



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.