Happy New Year, fellow Butterfly Ninjas, survivors, and The Choose Courage Foundation supporters! I hope you are stepping into 2022 with a renewed sense of hope and optimism; I know I am. I wanted to share my narrative of my Choose Courage Photo Shoot on April 13, 2021, and how being a Survivor has changed the trajectory of my life. Marianne Williamson stated: It takes courage to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.
Around this time last year, my close friend from college suggested the Choose Courage Photoshoot to me to speak out against abuse as I was in two IPV relationships back to back. These relationships left me shaken; my self-image, esteem, and confidence were at the lowest point they had been. I was so unsure of myself that I struggled to complete the application. However, I decided to move forward as I was unhappy with feeling victimized.
To my delight, I was accepted as a model and met Rhonda a few weeks later at Panera Bread. Rhonda is one of the most beautiful humans I have had the honor of knowing, and she immediately instilled a feeling of confidence that I had not felt in the years past.
Further, I began to feel my inner beauty rise to the surface in the most exciting way. Rhonda asked if I had any hesitation about participating in the photo shoot, and I replied that I was afraid I was not photogenic. In retrospect, this was a very innocent fear laid to rest as the team of photographers began to work with me.
April 13th is my late Granny’s birthday, and I knew that this was the perfect day for my photoshoot. My mother, whom I cherish, picked me up to meet Rhonda at the BAM beauty bar. First, I chose my dress (of course, Rhonda knew the exact dress!), and it was a floor-length lavender dress that perfectly matched The Choose Courage logo. As I was having my hair and makeup styled, I allowed my excitement to bubble up to the surface. It makes me smile to remember how thrilled I was to have eyelashes and my perfect lip color applied. The three of us went to lunch – I am never too nervous not to eat – and enjoyed connection and conversation. Then, we were off to the Winspear Opera House to take pictures!
There are moments in life that are pure magic, and the photoshoot will remain one that I view as a turning point in my journey to healing. I shyly met the photography team, but they swiftly put me at ease as I relaxed into having my picture captured. I began to feel radiant, glamorous, and… happy. As I smiled, I could feel my smile reaching my eyes for the first time in a few years. That is a gift beyond measure. I have progressive multiple sclerosis, and we approached a flight of stairs that I remember apprehensively looking up as I began to climb. My absolute favorite moment of the day was when the entire photography team sensed my doubt, and all helped me climb the stairs. It was at this moment that I felt my Great-Grandmother, Granny, and Mother whisper to me that their strength is mine, too. As I write that sentence, tears of gratitude fall into my lap.
The year following the photoshoot has been one of joyful and painful growth. I have the distinct honor of writing for The Choose Courage Foundation, the pleasure, and pride of viewing the survivor photos at Leaves, the loving support of the Butterfly Ninjas, and I am proud that my niece, Hannah, will be part of February’s Teen Takeover. Yet, as I felt my disease progress, I realized that I was not coping well and still holding on to past trauma.
The butterfly is fascinating as its transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is parallel to what I was experiencing. I crashed down in December mentally and physically and drew upon my experiences the last year to have the strength to admit that I needed help with sobriety and depression. I enrolled in a dual diagnosis Intensive Outpatient Program and have wrested control of my life again. By doing so, I enabled myself to walk into the New Year feeling ok better physically, emotionally, and spiritually than I have in many, many years. I want to thank The Choose Courage Foundation for helping me to move from surviving to thriving.
“Butterflies are like women – we may look pretty and delicate, but baby, we can fly through a hurricane.” – Betty White.
One in three women and one in seven men will be victims of domestic violence in their lifetime. CCF advocates for courage in the face of this travesty through survivor photoshoots, events and spreading a message of hope and courage throughout the community. If you are in a domestic violence situation, please reach out to someone. There is help, and it is not shameful to seek help because nobody deserves to live in pain. One anonymous phone call to 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) will put you immediately in touch with support.