I have dedicated much of my adult life to using my experiences with childhood sexual assault to empower young women. I have led Bible studies, self-defense seminars, trainings, and public discussions on recovery, empowerment, and prevention. In those moments, when I have used my journey to help others, it has always felt like God’s hand was on my back.

As an adult, I have struggled with PTSD and anxiety, but I have always found a place of peace in my work and in my role as someone who participated in the fight against sexual assault and violence against women. But, in all of this time focusing on others, the one thing I frankly never considered was that it would happen to me again.

It did.

Several weeks ago, I was sexually assaulted by a stranger in a foreign airport. I did not react in any of the ways that I’ve trained young women to react. I did report.

Since the incident, people have tried to check in, most of them with the same theme, “You know this stuff, so you know what to do.” But I don’t. I know what to tell others to do. I know what to do with trauma, generally speaking. But, I have no idea how to deal with the wave of emotions that comes from realizing I am no longer on the other side of this thing we call trauma. I am sitting in pain instead of analyzing it from afar, and, no, I do not know what to do with it.

For all of the people who’ve asked me how I’m doing and for all of the women who relate because they feel like they’ve had the label “survivor” yanked out from under them, this is how I feel:

I feel like someone rammed their muscly, hairy arm down my throat and pulled out my soul. Now I am dragging it behind me, each step heavier as I am pulled down by the weight of my own fears surrounding me. Everything that woke me from slumber follows me throughout the day. Every strategy that I had developed to cope, rendered meaningless – just a clunky reminder of who I thought I was.

It has been so empowering, as an adult, to talk about the traumas of my childhood. It was simultaneously accessible and removed, like telling a story about a previous life. It was about me, but a different me. As an adult, I was smarter, stronger; no longer the paralyzed young girl who felt small beneath the pain of the loss of agency.

Today, I feel small again. Strangely, small and heavy. Too tiny to be who I want to be and too weighted down to be who I was. My spirit is exhausted. I feel like I am once again searching for the fire that comes with knowing "it gets better," but now it feels like I am forcing myself to accept a lie. It doesn't just get better. It gets better, then it gets bad all over again. It gets better, and then everything you know about yourself gets stolen again. And, then you cannot help but question everything and everyone you know and care about. Why am I here? Does anyone actually care? Where was my mom when I was a little girl? How did she not know? Where was my boyfriend at the airport? Did he not see the dread on my face? I know these are different questions that address situations that exist in almost different lifetimes. I know they are unfair questions. But, my mind goes there because I bounce back and forth between blaming myself and trying to find somewhere…anywhere…else to put the blame.

This is always so vivid and, yet, so vague and intangible. I get mad at the people I love because I need to convince myself that this is specific people and not the whole world. Because I need to believe that, in raising two girls, I am not just sending two lambs out to slaughter. And, I believe nothing right now. I hear words, I recognize the life going on around me, but I am just too tired, too heavy to do anything other than play human for the sake of others.

I left something in that airport. I am not sure what it was. Maybe it was my faith. Maybe it was my trust. Perhaps it was even my ability to hope. I am not sure. I don't even know that I want it back. Maybe slogging through is better than pretending that to be a woman in this world is to be anything more than a receptacle for trauma revisited again and again. Maybe hopeless is better. Perhaps a sad, hope-void, sloth of a human is better than being a victim, over and over again.

So, to those wondering, that is what I am doing with it. Having the knowledge and the training did not stop the attack. And, to be honest, it is not doing much for me in terms of processing what happened. How I am doing is hopeless, lost, and pretending.

Don’t worry, I will continue to pretend when you ask how I am. I will continue to smile when you suggest that I have the answers. I will wear the mask of bravery that makes you more comfortable than knowing that I no longer feel connected to anything that matters, including you. I will not stop acting like the things that I teach matter. I will do that until I start to feel whole/something/anything again. Then, perhaps, I will begin again; savoring each moment of peace with a newfound appreciation for how quickly and harshly it is likely to be ripped away.

That’s how it feels when it happens again.



It’s a new year. The posts about setting new goals, putting together vision boards, and starting over are rampant this time of year. Ads about getting into shape are everywhere! Want to start new projects? There’s an app for that. Planners for 2019 are flying off store shelves, faster than the stores can keep them in stock. Set a budget. Write down your goals. Make the lists…

…And it can be downright exhausting! Ummmm, can I just take down the Christmas decorations and get the kids back into school first? Please?

This time of year can be glorious to some and outright overwhelming to others. Some of us have it together, and others just want to survive another day. And that’s OK. Seriously! It’s OK.

There’s nothing magical about January 1st. It’s not any more important than June 17th or October 11th. The only thing that must change at the beginning of a new year is writing 2019 on all the important documents. Other than that, it’s another day. Because vision itself is not limited to a certain date on the calendar!

Now, I’m all for writing down goals. Vision boards are a great way to stay focused. But it should be happening all year long. Why limit yourself to only one day of the year to start new things? Goals can be started or revised all year long.

“But forget all that—

    it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.

For I am about to do something new.

    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Those two scriptures are some of my favorites. But do you notice that there’s no date attached to it? It doesn’t say, only on January 1st will God do new things. Those verses are good for any day of the year. New beginnings can happen at any time!

Let’s take a lesson from our kiddos. They aren’t limited to a calendar. They’ll start a new project whenever they want! I remember when my kids would get out their toys and build a new city in the living room. When they would go to their dad’s house, I would take down the city and vacuum under it. Then, they would come back, whine for a minute that I had destroyed their work. However, they would just start over and rebuild it. But they would change things. “Hey, let’s put the road over here and move the bank to the end of the street.” “Let’s put Batman in this car and Spiderman on this building.” Their imaginations would soar, and another city would be built.

So, don’t worry if January 1st comes and goes and you can’t write down new goals until February 15th. All that matters is that you consistently allow yourself to grow. Permit yourself to dream all year long. And, when there’s a thought that says, “Hey, let’s do this,” then get out a piece of paper and write that stuff down! Set some goals. Add it to your vision. And then get started.

This year allow your imagination to soar! But, let it happen as it happens. Let yourself be flexible. And have a great and wonderful 2019!

Gwendolyn Irene

Single Moms: Take Control and Move Forward in 2019

Success: The accomplishment of an aim or purpose. You want it. You deserve it. You can have it, whether “it” means getting a promotion at work or a slimmed-down body for the summer. The first step in getting there involves setting goals, which not only helps you navigate the road to happiness and fulfillment but also live life to the fullest.

Some of those goals are strictly up to you. You’ve got your own challenges and circumstances to deal with that other people wouldn’t understand. However, there are some that work for any single mom, no matter where they’re from or what they do. Here are a few ways to keep things in your life on track as the new year goes by.

Get Yourself Organized

Getting organized refers to your home, your workspace, and your thoughts. Yes, your thoughts can be arranged and put neatly into categories, which is particularly useful for a person with a lot of responsibilities like you, a single mother. the Order Expert has 17 ways to accomplish this task, including lists, mind maps, and even pie charts. 

Up Your Fitness Game

Exercise is good for your mental health as well as your physique. As a busy single mom, it’s not always easy to get to the gym, so you’d better make the most of your home. The garage, basement or spare room make excellent spaces for your workout, and you need little more than a jump rope, dumbbells, and a yoga mat, none of which costs a fortune.

Learn Something New

When you decide to learn something new, focus on something that would help you as a parent, a professional, or both. If you’re wondering what that could mean, Fast Company has the answer. Skills that make you better and more efficient at home and work include strategic thinking, time management, and collaboration.

Take a Step Forward Professionally

Apply the new skill you’ve learned to move up. This could mean getting a raise, earning a promotion, pursuing a side hustle, or even starting your own business. Money is not everything, but a little extra cash certainly makes parenting a bit easier.

Find New Ways to Manage Stress

Managing your stress and anxiety is crucial to achieving the rest of your goals, as living in a constant state of panic can be overwhelming and nullify the possibility of making progress on practical matters. That’s why healthy ways of relaxing, such as taking a warm bath or reading a book, should be part of your schedule. It’s one thing to set goals for yourself, but it’s another to stay focused on self-improvement throughout the year after the initial enthusiasm has worn off. 

Here are a few methods to stay motivated.

  • Remember Why

It’s important to remember why you should reach your full potential and give your kids the upbringing they deserve. This is what you need to tell yourself whenever you’re wondering why you’re pushing toward self-improvement.

  • Visualize Success

Once you’ve achieved your goals, what will you be like? Picture that in your head whenever the going gets tough and you don’t feel like exercising, studying, or planning a weekend getaway with the kids.

  • Make It Fun

This rule can easily be applied to exercise. Choose an activity that you enjoy — and there are hundreds to choose from. That way, getting up and moving your body won’t seem like a chore, and you’ll be less likely to skip your workouts.

  • Celebrate Achievements

The road to your goals will be marked with little victories along the way, each of which is a step ahead. So, reward yourself when that happens. It strengthens your positive attitude and gives you an extra reason to keep on keeping on.

  • Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask friends, family, and colleagues for some support or a word of advice when you find yourself in a bind. They may know how to get unstuck so you don’t lose too much momentum — and that’s more important than your pride.

If you apply these tips and tricks to your life over the source of 2019, there will be a new you waiting when 2020 finally rolls around. Not that different, really —  just smarter, fitter, and more confident. Are you ready to make that happen? Then get started!

By Amanda Henderson

Safe Children 

Image via Pixabay