Trigger Warning: This post contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to some survivors.
"I Hope," Lisa Marie Gilbert
When you're 13, there's a lot of stuff you don't know. At least, I didn't.
What boys are like. What they can be like. What they should be like.
What a relationship is like. What it can be like. What it should be like.
When you're 13 and your best friend gets you to start using drugs and alcohol, I sincerely hope with every fiber of my being that you're able to wake yourself up from the nightmare your friend is leading you in to.
So you, whoever you are, right now, in this moment. However old you are. Wherever you are. Please hear this. I hope that you don't start dating a boy who learned about girls and how to treat them from older friends who give poor advice. I hope you don't start dating a boy who pushes you to go farther than you're really willing to go. I hope you don't start dating a boy who gets you high before your first kiss. I hope you don't start dating a boy who gets you high before putting his hand up your skirt. I hope you don't start dating a boy who gets you high and takes you into your best friend's bedroom and teaches you the worst possible way to "love" someone.
I hope you don't decide to self-medicate. I hope you don't go back to the alcohol or the drugs that made it impossible for you to use your voice, to say no, to remember who you are. I hope you don't skip your eighth grade band recital on 4/20 because you'd rather smoke and feel dead than play and be hurting because you're alive.
I hope you don't continue to drink and smoke and huff and pop to dull the emotional and physical pain. I hope that it doesn’t take you six months to wake up to the fact that what is happening to you is wrong and not okay. I hope you don’t stay in a relationship with this boy. I hope that when that same best friend who led you astray realizes something is wrong and walks into his room to check on you that you don't lie for the boy. I hope you don't tell him that it's okay. I hope you don't let him close the bedroom door again when the boy tells him to. I hope you ask for help. I hope you ask for help with your eyes, your voice, your mind, your heart, your soul.
But if this happens, I hope you know it doesn't have to be forever. I hope you know it can get better. I hope you know you're not to blame. I hope you know it’s not your fault.
I hope you put down the bottle of vodka. I hope you don't roll up another joint. I hope you leave the pill bottle closed. I hope you set the pack of cigarettes aside. I hope you never touch a razor blade with bad intentions again.
I hope you start to heal. I hope you find your art again. I hope you find friends who truly care about you, and who refuse to let you walk down the dark and scary paths alone. I hope you don't block the painful memories for years until you're triggered and feel like you're drowning in your repressed emotions. I hope you take the hand of that someone who reaches out to you.
I hope you start listening to your heart again. I hope you start to trust people again. I hope you're not too afraid to try love out - the real kind of love that isn't rooted in pain and self-loathing. I hope you believe it when people tell you that you're loved.
About the art:
When Lisa reached out to me to share their story, I was a little heartbroken. As someone in the Student Affairs realm, I've interacted with her a great deal and I hated learning that anything bad could happen to them. And learning from their story made me find a lot of parallels to self-harm within my own story. So creating this piece was an honor.
Lisa knew exactly what they wanted on their painting. She wanted an homage to one of their favorite poems, "Ana," by poet, Sierra DeMulder (see video). I wasn't actually aware of this poem of the poet, but I checked out. It's a pretty incredible slam piece about anorexia and self-harm, and you can check out the words HERE!
The survivor initially wanted the 11th stanza painted on this piece, but there were just a few too many words:
Your body is not a temple.
Your body is the house you grew up in.
How dare you try to burn it to the ground.
You are bigger than this.
You are bigger
Alas, I thought of a way to create a more visually striking piece by combining two of the lines i liked the most "Your body is the house you grew up in/How dare you try to burn it to the ground" with the even more powerful line (in context of the poem), "you are bigger than this" in the background.
I'm actually in love with how this piece was pulled off and I am so thankful that the survivor loved it as well! The survivor even told me they shared a picture of it with DeMulder and DeMulder LOVED it as well! So that is a very cool thing to know!
This survivor is an incredibly resilient human being and I am proud of them.