Courage. Strength. Bravery.

          What does courage, strength, and bravery mean for you? Let’s take courage first. Does it mean the book definition of the quality of mind or spirit that enables you to face difficulties, dangers, pain, and so on without fear? Does courage mean facing adversities, prejudices, invisible and visible illnesses, and more head on with the strength needed to keep pushing forward to the life you want to live? Maybe it could mean you have the courage to change things for the better, to face the hard truth of who you are and where you belong in this world, fighting for a just cause, or it could simply mean having the courage and strength to get up and face another day in your life. Courage can mean many things, such as, to be courageous is to be brave, and in my experiences when you replace the word courage with brave, it is seen as foolish, impulsive, and reckless. Then there’s the strength it takes to be courageous, to be brave. Strength is defined as being bodily, mentally, or morally powerful and courageous. All these words seem to just keep tying themselves together, ha. As a brave one, a courageous one, and a strong one, I have realized to be brave and have courage is to have the strength, as well, to continue on when you have hit rock bottom and it’s all you have left within to pick yourself back up to rebuild and go on. They are a few of the driving forces within us that keep us going when we feel we cannot go any further; they make that next step very possible. There have been more times than I can count where I had nothing left but to be brave and strong just to keep going on. I have had to dig deep within during several life-threatening occasions to that place within all of us, pulling every ounce of strength, courage, and bravery just to stay alive. I know that may sound a bit dramatic, but it’s the truth.

My story of courage, strength and bravery goes all the way back to childhood; I’ll try to give you the abbreviated versions as much as possible. I was so used to waking up ready to fight for another day by the time I was five, because of the abuse happening to my family and myself. This became the norm for me and my family, but I continued to fight because I was afraid for us. So, as a child I woke up every morning with a plan to be brave and strong to get through each day. My plan was simple: look after my brother, check on mom, stay as quiet and as invisible as possible, hide if we had to, and be brave enough to fight back if it was necessary. All of us did the best we could during these times.

          Moving on to outside the home, school. Going to school seemed to be hell for me, as well. I couldn’t make lasting friends for a long time from being so different and not having the “right” clothes, shoes, hairstyles, and homes. I went through great humiliations due to many things, that at the time, seemed to be the end of my world. But, I did the same as always; I woke up, got dressed, pulled upon my courage and strength to bravely face each day as the happy, sweet girl I wanted others to see, and because I have always refused to give up even when that’s all I wanted to do. This may seem like a small feat to us as adults but looking at these things through the eyes of a child, they’re huge.

During my senior year, at 17 years old, one of the scariest and one of the most deprave things was done to me resulting in a life-long illness, epilepsy. Again, I accessed my strength and courage just to survive this one incident, because I felt as if I were dying. I was in and out of consciousness constantly for hours, so I had to dig extremely deep to keep breathing and stay awake just to keep going so I could live to see the next day. I found out several years later from a reliable source the events of that night were pre-meditated. A night after this incident, I had my very first seizure, a Grand-Mal seizure. My mother had to administer CPR, I was taken to the hospital, where I spent the entirety of my fall break, I lost my chance to go into the Air Force as was planned, I became a guinea pig for doctor’s drugs trying to figure out what worked best for me, and began living with the fear of “when will the next seizure happen” all because of a date rape drug. Again, I was faced with waking up everyday ready to take on the world with a brave face and the courage to keep trying to be happy. I had to find a way to learn how to live with the new version of me that I saw in the mirror every single day. It takes great strength to show up and find a way to keep being happy after something like this happens, and I did it the best way I knew how. By the way, damages caused by these types of drugs have long-term and sometimes fatal effects, so I implore you to research these drugs and incidents and to choose your friends wisely.

Later down the road, I became pregnant with the little boy who now and will forever hold my heart, but I was scared to pieces that I would lose him due to complications or a seizure, and when it came time to give birth I became even more frightened. I remember being in that delivery room pushing for hours on end until a weakness I haven’t felt since I was 17 hit and I fell back on the bed. Both my son and I were dying. I could hear them saying blood pressure and heart rates were dropping, but the voices seemed so far away from me until I heard one of those amazing nurses say, “we’re losing him.” I shot up straight and yelled get him out, get him out now! So, they started prepping me for an emergency c-section. This is where it gets real fun… The anesthesiologist didn’t administer the spinal correctly for the procedure, which meant as soon as my doctor cut into my belly, I screamed, and all hell broke loose in the operating room because I could feel everything he was doing. The doctor could not stop doing his job so while the others were getting ready to put me under, I once again had to dig deep to pull that strength up to get through until I was under. I received the most beautiful gift of my entire life from this experience, my son.  

These are just a very few of the experiences I have had where an immense amount of courage, strength, and bravery were called upon for me to get through. I am telling you of these summarized stories of deep trauma to show you what it means to me when one comes face to face with fear, battles, hatred, abuse, and even death with courage and strength to continue on. I am not telling you these stories to justify anything or to play the victim. I used to play the victim because I couldn’t let go and heal from these traumas for longer than I’d like to admit, but with the help of my spiritual practices and so many beautiful women and men in my life, I overcame. You see, I had to go deep within to that strength we all carry within us to become courageous enough to make a permanent change in my perspective on myself and my life in general; I learned there isn’t always going to be a battle to fight, I chose to live in love instead of fear, and I became brave enough to take my life back for me so that I can live it unapologetically. I will do and be around the things and people I love. I am brave enough to take more chances. I am courageous and strong enough to stand up and speak up for the truth, for justice, for peace, and for love. This is what Courage, Strength and Bravery mean to me.

I share this with all of you to show you all possess this deep strength and undying courage, and you are not alone. I know there will be days it’s all you can do to get out of bed. I know there will be days that the world is just too harsh to deal with. I know there will be days when you don’t feel like you belong here, and all you want to do is go back “home”. I know that sometimes you feel that no one will ever love you. I know how fucking hard this world can be sometimes, but do not ever forget, your life is precious and needed in this world. I know you have the strength, courage, and bravery to be here or you wouldn’t be here. It’s just time for you to remember that you do possess these amazing tools within you to use for the bad and the beautiful days, to go out there and take life by the horns and live it the way you choose, to find where you belong, to be fearlessly in love with yourself, life and all the beautiful people blessed to be on this planet with you at this time. The only thing that’s stopping you is you. So, I ask you again, what does Courage, Strength, and Bravery mean to you?

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