Sunday, April 3, 2016

What becoming a nurse means to me: Healing myself from Chronic Pain (my journey)

--> Two and a half weeks ago, I passed my NCLEX, and am officially a registered nurse. A week ago, I got hired as a nurse at a large hospital in the NYC area, and my first day is tomorrow. WAHOO! If any of you have become nurses, you know the process it takes to get there and how much of a RELIEF it is!
But becoming a nurse means so much more to me than most of you may know, and I wanted to share a little of my story, in the hopes that maybe it could inspire someone some day. Or, at least give you hope that no matter what is going on, you CAN change your life and yourself for the better.
My story starts in 2009. I was an elite Olympic-style weightlifter, and was one of the top in the nation in my weightclass. I was a junior level weightlifter, but at one meet in 2009, I qualified for every single national meet, as a junior AND a senior level lifter. I was good, and on my way to competing in the World Championships.
At that particular meet (it was only my 2nd meet ever) I did great. I hit a clean and jerk PR of 76kg (I was a 58kg weightlifter), and a PR total. Afterwards, I got a squat in and hit a PR backsquat of 100kg. I was on a roll.
The next day I woke up with horrible spasms in my right shoulder. Something was SERIOUSLY wrong and I was in a lot of pain. I was really afraid that I hurt it, and sought out a massage therapist to help me get the knots out. I went to the massage therapist, and they worked on it – but it got worse after the massage.
I was completely defined by my weightlifting and I wa fearing that this was going to put me out of the process for qualifying for Worlds. I was horribly angry and mad and depressed. So I kept training.
1 week of chronic pain and tightness in my shoulder blade turned into one month. Then 2 months. Then 3 months.
In September of 2009 I transferred universities and started at Seattle University. One night, I had trouble sleeping – and it was like a switch was flipped in my body. As one friend puts it, as she had something similar happen to her, “it was like my nervous system broke.” I completely stopped sleeping and my health just deteriorated. I had to withdraw from school that semester. I had horrible insomnia every night for apparently no reason, and the pain in my shoulder and upper back was still there, and not getting any better.
So, naturally, I found other ways to abuse my body through exercise.
In 2010, at the start of the year, I found a sleep doctor and was able to start sleeping again with the help of medications. But nothing was healing my chronic shoulder pain. At the time, I was lying to myself each and every day by living a life in an eating disorder. I had lived in that reality since high school, always maintaining my health, but not really – my thoughts were sick, my approach to exercise and food was completely unhealthy, and, worst of all, the things I told myself no person should ever hear. But that was my reality, and I was “comfortable” in it. My shoulder pain became the new normal, and I found ways to train hard around it, but still prayed it would get better.
Then, in June, I was backsquatting 90kg for reps one day, and I felt something pop in my low back. I knew immediately it was bad, and I stopped lifting.
After that, my right low back, psoas, and upper quad were in excruciating tightness. Shoulder + lower back pain. Luckily, there was no disc involvement, but now I had a new problem that turned chronic. And through the summer, the back and hip pain continued to stay. So what had started out as only shoulder pain had now become two separate issues – two chronic pain issues that were not getting better, and no one could tell me what was wrong.
SIDE NOTE: the summer of 2010 was when the “SVU Saga” began – something that plays into the story, but is meant for another time.
In the fall of 2010, my eating disorder AND my chronic pain got progressively (extremely) worse. My life and my health really deteriorated in 2010, and at the tail end of 2010, my serious boyfriend at the time broke up with me which pushed me over the edge; I received treatment for my eating disorder at the start of 2011 for 90 days.
What I didn't know was how that break up was going to affect my state of being. I thought of myself as a horrible person, unloveable, day in and day out. I thought that having my food and exercise strictly controlled by someone outside of me was going to help heal my body, because I was forced to finally rest it completely. But to my confusion, my chronic pain got worse.
When I was receiving treatment, what started as unilateral shoulder pain turned into bilateral. Soon, my entire upper back was hot, tender, tight, and filled with trigger points to the point where I couldn’t even be touched.
I started school again in March of 2011, and, although I had a new lease on life, my chronic pain got progressively – no, exponentially – worse. It got to the point where I could not even carry a backpack on my shoulders, I was in so much pain. Throughout 2011, I continued to decline. Once an active weightlifter, I had to completely stop working out. The only exercise I got was walking – that was all I could do. I couldn’t move my neck from side to side – to cross the street I had to pivot from my hips to make sure no cars were coming. I couldn’t raise my arms more than a few degrees from my sides. I was in constant irretractable pain. I could barely make it through the day. In the summer, it got worse to the point where I couldn’t even stand to hold my head up when I was standing up, my neck muscles hurt so badly. I needed to constantly sit with support. I lost all social life, all semblance of happiness. Each day was a struggle to get through. I constantly used tiger balm to sooth the pain for a few seconds, but used it so much that my skin on my neck started blistering. My scalenes were some of the worst tightness/pain, and my entire neck broke out in a rash from all the tiger balm.
I was set to graduate school in 2012, and I made a silent pact with myself; if I was not better by graduation, I was going to take my life. I couldn't bear to live my life like this, and I truly feared – and believed – that this was going to be the rest of my life. And it wasn’t living. My Olympic dreams were completely shattered, but even things I previously took for granted – pursuing a nursing career, getting married, having a family – seemed like dream at this point. I didn’t know if I could do it. Every muscle from my low back to my neck and even my jaw felt like it was on fire – hot, tight, spasm-y pain that never let up. it was exhausting.
I exhausted every practitioner imaginable. In the summer of 2011, I went to see a shoulder doctor in Bellevue, WA. At that appointment, he told me, “Well, I think you’re in pain because you’re depressed. You should try to go on antidepressants.”
At that moment, I completely lost faith in Western medicine.
After that, I started looking for alternative treatments. I traveled to New Jersey in the summer of 2011 to a chiropractor that sounded like he could help. In addition, I saw a posture specialist in Washington, D.C. After that trip, I felt like it helped a little. But then it went right back to the way it was.
After a subsequent trip to the posture specialist, who was back in Oregon, and an unfortunate trauma that occurred there (a sexual assault), I gave up on that. I continued to look, and my pain continued to plague me.
In September of 2011, I found a physical therapist in NY that sounded like he could help. It was the first truly mind-body technique I had been willing to try. I had never believed in the mind-body connection my entire life, but what this guy presented was definitely more in the realm of mind-body than anything else (it was called Associative Awareness Technique). In October of 2011, I flew out to NYC to get help from this physical therapist. It was a week of treatments for about 4 hours a day and it was definitely unlike anything I’d experienced before. By the end of the trip, I was feeling a little better. (This trip, SVU saga continued).
I went back to Seattle, but my progress didn’t improve. I went BACK to NYC in December of 2011 to see the same PT again, but I was stalled. My pain would always come back.
While in NYC, I realized I couldn’t keep traveling back and forth. I began looking for alternative treatments closer to home. While there, I found a physical therapist in Colorado named Rick Stockwell. I began communicating with him; he also did a similar technique to the PT in NYC, but he added some other methods as well. He also had overcome a chronic condition and really started to give me hope that I could maybe overcome my chronic pain one day.
Within the next month, it was decided I was going to go to Colorado for 10 days during my spring break. Rick also often worked alongside a life coach, Melaney Sreenan. The two of them teamed up and essentially put me through a true boot camp when I was there. I was getting my body physically and emotionally “beat up” essentially for 4-6 hours a day. And this was a true step into the mind-body realm that I had never entered before. I very slowly started to become aware of my own thougths and beliefs, and realized my beliefs about my chronic pain were very deep-seeded (why wouldn’t they be, right?). I also became aware that some of the relationships I had in my life at that time were truly toxic (but I learned the hard way and didn’t let go of them until something truly awful happened). Rick utilized AAT on me, but also something called Primal Reflex Release Technique (PRRT) and, the real game changer, TREs – trauma releasing exercises. I believe that the PRRT and the TREs is what truly initiated my turn around (physically). In addition, I was introduced to meditation by something called the Amygdala retraining program. All of these things, combined with Melaney’s intense coaching sessions, helped me begin to overcome my physical pain, and release some stored up trauma (from my assault and other traumas I had experienced) that I had never dealt with.
By the end of the trip, by some miracle I could run up the stairs. THAT was amazing for me! When I went back to Seattle, my progress was extremely up and down. I filled my day so much with exercises – which involved some short meditations as well as some other mind-body activities. But my schedule was so packed with that work, that it became STRESSFUL. My body would improve, rebel, improve, rebel. However, I was totally aware of the small miracles that occurred – the first time I dribbled a soccer ball around a field, I cried. I cried! In addition, I started doing yoga. I slowly began to work out again – I found that if I did any sort of lifting or intense physical exercise like sprinting (which I could do again!) I needed the yoga afterwards, or my body would rebel the next day, and I would be in pain.
But it was a constant battle. As soon as a pain would come up again, I would spiral back into my old mentality and become hopeless again.
And then, the REAL life changing moment came in the spring of 2012.
One day, Melaney told me, “Your body is fine. It’s your mind we have to work on.”
I didn’t understand what she was talking about (in hindsight, my negative self talk, my beliefs, and my toxic relationships … to name a few) …
She told me that day, “I want you to get this book: Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself. Read it cover to cover and start the meditaitons.”
I had no idea what she was talking about, by I did as I was told and got the book.
The book was written by a Dr. Joe Dispenza, someone I’d never heard of before. Melaney thought I would like his book, because it has a science-y feel to it, and most of his book discusses some aspects of quantum physics, quantum mechanics, and the science behind how our brains work. I began reading about how our thoughts influence the physical state of our body – for example, by thought alone, we can literally TALK our bodies into anxiety. Think about it – you’re feelin fine, but you have a test next week, you start analyzing worse case scenario, and all these thoughts come rushing to you and then BAM you’re having a breakdown (ok, this happened in nursing school a lot!).
Anyways, I liked the feel for it. But the meditations were completely different story.
Up until this point, I had never done more than a 15-20 min meditation. Once finished with this book, the meditation that accompanied this book was an HOUR AND 10 MINUTES. What????
I had NEVER believed in meditation and my mind was SO busy I could hardly keep up with my own thoughts, let alone expect my brain to quiet down enough to actually sit through a meditation.
But, I started doing them.
I didn’t really get them (ok, to beginners – they are quite weird and different!), but I did them anyways.
When I was about halfway through the book, I decided to look at Dr. Joe’s bio at the back of this book. Who was this guy anyways?
I was shocked when I read that he was a chiropractor in WASHINGTON STATE. What?! The coincidence of that! And, even better, he was still practicing. I told Melaney, and she said to go see him. I was about to leave for Colorado for a month, but decided to drive the one and a half hours to see Dr. Joe before I left.
Around that time, I was having a horrible flare up of my chronic pain (the “flare ups” as I called them happened about once a month at that point, or once every 3 weeks – progress, but still not where I wanted to be). Today, it’s pretty funny to hear Dr. Joe imitate me the first day I walked into the clinic, but it was pretty accurate. I was a mess walking in there, negative, and still believed that no one could help me. I remember thinking, “Oh, yeah, he’s just a chiropractor, and he’s only gonna spend 15 minutes with me, how the hell is that going to help me?” I even texted that to Melaney. Talk about negative!
When I went to Colorado, I saw Melaney and Rick semi-regularly throughout the trip. I made some more progress, and continued to do Dr. Joe’s meditations.
However, at the time, I was still indulging in some extremely toxic relationships, and the turmoil that these put me through easily threw me out of balance.
When I went back to seattle, right before school started, I had a massive flare up that sent me to the ER because I couldn’t move my neck.
After school started, I started seeing Dr. Joe on a regular basis. Melaney had told me, ‘He just has a really good energy, he’ll be good for you.’ Ok, sure, whatever!
But slowly, as the weeks moved on and I saw him more, his energy started to wear off on me. I got what she meant. I realized I couldn’t really leave that place without being in a good mood – it was impossible!
I continued to do the meditations, but my body was still kind of physically stuck. I was SO MUCH better than I was a year ago – worlds different, really – but there was that constant fear that the pain was going to come back. I LIVED in that fear (I didn’t know it at the time), and most people wouldn’t blame me. I did yoga, did a little lifting, but would always injure myself and get set back. And, the other thing I noticed, was that if my body felt ok, another pattern popped up – usually my sleep. Even with sleeping medications, I would have “flare ups” where I would completely stop sleeping. And then my body would hurt again, and my sleep would be ok. It was as if my body was bouncing back and forth between patterns. Hmm…
In January 2013, my entire life changed within 1 night. Most of you know this story, so I won’t go into it right now. But my life as I knew it was shattered, as I had to cope with this trauma I wasn’t capable of coping with. The week after, I was diagnosed with an “incurable” disease and for the first time in my life, I truly wanted to die. I never thought anyone would love me again.
My physical body took a backseat as I tried to cope – alone – with this trauma that had occurred. I stopped sleeping, I developed PTSD and I could hardly function. I was a complete mess. Honestly, I don’t remember a lot of this time; I definitely stopped doing the meditations during this time, and could only live in the trauma, each and every day.
2013 had a turn around, or so I thought at the time, when I went to the JHF gala (SVU saga, part 3). But I never imagined that 2013 could get any worse. Yet my day to day life was spent living in the trauma I had experienced, and I didn’t even realize it at the time.
However, I had one saving grace: finally, a year after reading Joe’s book and sorta doing the meditations, I FINALLY was going to my first ever Progressive Workshop in June of 2013! I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but I shelled out the money and went to the workshop.
It was the absolute best thing I could’ve done for myself at that time. On July 5th, I had a very, very stressful meeting I had to survive – prior to that, I could hardly function. I couldn't sleep, I was throwing up, I could barely work because my anxiety was so bad. After this workshop, I started to ENJOY doing my meditations – imagine that! But, more importantly, that week leading up to that meeting (with the NYPD), I was absolutely present. I had no fear, no anxiety. I didn’t LET myself feel that fear until the day of the event.
Many of you know what that weekend led to, and the ensuing issues that arose. After that weekend, I was overcome by my trauma and PTSD again. I stopped meditating; well, I didn’t, but I was just going through the motions, I wasn’t really putting any effort into it. And my body paid the price. I ended up with an injury that lingered and lingered and lingered. I had more events happen, and my PTSD and sleep got worse. I almost lost my job. The events completely took over my life – for those of you who know that story and saw me during that time, you know what it was like. It wasn’t pretty. I had trauma after trauma occur during this time and I could barely keep my head above water. I lived in a lie – showing up every day to work, smiling, happy to the world around me, when inside I felt like I was dying.
But I didn’t give up. And, I remember so clearly, one day I was in Dr. Joe’s office, and I hadn’t said a word, but after he had adjusted me he sat down and looked me in the eye and said, “Izzy, you have a strong, healthy body. A wonderful man is going to come a long one day and sweep you off your feet and love you for all eternity. You have a beautiful life ahead of you. Just don’t try too hard to be happy!”
I was a little baffled at that, and wasn’t sure I truly believed it, but took it to heart and filed it away.
The tail end of 2013 was probably one of the worst months of my life. The culmination of 3 awful traumas occurred within weeks of each other in November and my life, soul, and spirit truly fell apart. I crumbled. For the second time in this process, I truly wanted to die. Everything that I had believed in, had faith in, and meant to me had fallen away. I was left with an empty soul and heart, which for me was one of the worst times of my entire life (but now, I realized, needed to happen in order to create the life I have today).
After a few weeks of this, I’d had enough. I told myself I was done with the drama and the trauma, and I pulled myself together. One week later, I got asked out by 5 different (good) men, one of which is the love of my life. When I saw Joe and told him, he said to me, “you made the conscious decision to no longer be this person you were, and you freed up energy and made room for him.” Something like that! That didn’t make sense to me until later.
My life slowly started to change. I was accepted into LIU’s nursing program, and in January I went to New York to start nursing school.
Moving to NYC was tough. The trauma that occurred there still ruled me, and my PTSD was easily triggered. The thoughts I had of myself and what happened ruled my life, day in and day out. It was a rough adjustment. I didn’t give up, though. And, I had miracles startin to happen. One of the most amazing things I accomplished during this time was that I started lifting again. Not just here and there – REALLY lifting! I was snatching and clean and jerking, and really training. I cleaned 65kg, 10kg off my best EVER. When I stopped and thought about it, I couldn’t even fathom how far I had come – 2 years before that, running around with a soccer ball was an accomplishment. Wow!
In February, one night before I was supposed to travel to Arizona for Dr. Joe’s Advanced Workshop, I did a snatch and felt something tug in my shoulder. I knew it was bad as soon as I set the weight down.
All of the negative emotions I’d felt with my chronic pain rushed back as I dealt with the pain of a strained rotator cuff. I did NOT want this to happen right before I was travling, yet it did.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that injury – and many subsequent other ones – was a sign loud and clear to my body.
I was frustrated, but I went to this workshop with an open mind.
The 5 days in Carefree, AZ completely changed my life forever.
For the first time in my life I REALLY meditated. Sometimes, 6 hours a day. And not only that – I went deep within myself and connected to something far beyond my comprehension and anything that I had experienced before. In one meditation, I experienced a profound emotional healing (if you are interested in hearing this, feel free to message me) and have been changed ever since.
I was surrounded by more love that weekend than I’d ever seen before. The people surrounding me were some of the kindest, most genuine people I have ever met. That workshop still stands out as one of the best experiences of my life.
At the end of the workshop, I had my brain mapped by Dr. Jeffrey Fannin. In that meditation, I truly FELT my future was at my fingertips. For the first time since my chronic pain started, I had true hope that this did NOT have to be my reality. I heard stories of people who had overcome incredible obstacles, healed themselves of genetic conditions, and created amazing futures. I NEVER would have believed any of this if I hadn’t heard it for myself, out of these peoples’ mouths. Hell, prior to this even reading these stories I didn’t truly believe it. But once I heard it from these people themselves – and I’m still friends with many of them today – I was filled with such hope for my future. I was a changed person.
Except, going back to NYC, I let my environment overtake me again. I went back to the same thought patterns, the same anxieties, the same fears. I was meditating, but still not really putting my heart and soul into it. I was only half doing the work, but expecting full results. Wasn’t happening.
My physical healing was kind of at a standstill again. In May of 2014, I got into NYU’s accelerated nursing program – a dream I’d had for years – and came home for the summer before starting my NEW nursing journey at the place I’d always dreamed of going. The year before, I had not applied to accelerated nursing programs because I wasn’t sure if I could handle it – I thought I could MAYBE handle it with my body (which was HUGE), but my emotional health was still not 100% after the year that I’d had, and I was worrie about the stress afeting my health. But I had taken a leap of faith and applied, and got in. A MIRACLE transformation from where I had been 3 years before!
The day I got home, the injury I’d had the previous summer recurred. So now I was dealing with a strained shoulder AND an injured low back. And, like my usual patterns, I let the negativity get the best of me, let the old fears pop up.
However, I lived my life the best I could, and Robbie and I had the most amazing summer of our lives – the longest time we’ve spent in person together. I remembered Dr. Joe’s words to me a year before and couldn’t help but smile. It was a constant battle between fighting the fears that my body would never be healed, and being happy and present. I was still meditating, but still not fully with my heart in it. Subconsciously, I didn’t truly believe that this work would work for me (which I didn’t realize until recently). But I kept pushing forward.
And then, just like that, I started nursing school in September of 2014.
Now, if any of you had been through nursing school, you know how challenging it is. After the firs week, I was terrified – how on earth was I going to be able to meditate, change my body and my life without the stress of nursing school getting me down and destroying my progress?
In a fateful scheduling incident, there was ONE weekend out of the entire semester where I did not have a test or midterm to study for, and that happened to be the week of Dr. Joe’s first ever Advanced Follow Up in Seattle. A few days before I was supposed to leave, there was some chaos – I had lost my wallet on the subway, which included all modes of transportation AND my drivers license. I could not travel without my drivers license, and because my bank was based in Seattle, I had no money. Long story short, my parents had to overnight my passport to me in order to travel home. Because of that, I had to miss my pathophysiology class to wait for my passport to arrive at my apartment. Because of that, I was able to listen to Dr. Joe’s teleclass that day, and  was actually allowed to ask a question on the live call (coincidence? Nope!). I told him that with my nursing schedule, I felt I was constantly living in a state of fight or flight – some days I was up at 5, at clinical all day, came home, studied, and then went to bed. How could I possibly change my life under all this stress, when I hardly had the time to eat meals, let alone meditate?
Dr. Joe started his answer off with, “Since I’ve known you, you have made great strides in this work, and you are in a field that is going to help a lot of people one day.” I definitely started crying at that, as I realized I truly had come such a long way. And, he gave me a tool – even just concentrating on your breath for 20 minutes a day, anything to bring you back into the present moment, would help. I took that to heart, as I got ready for the crazy flight back to seattle.
The advanced follow up was a game changer. At the time, I didn’t realize it – I was distracted, because at the end of the following week I had to start studying for my pathophysiology exam, I had a ton of work to do etc etc, not to mention I got to see Robbie … so I was distracted. But I was surrounded by the people who meant the most to me, and I soaked up that love and experienced the workshp the best I could. Meditating at 4 am … going to 6 pm … it was nuts! No sleep, but no problem.
I left Seattle with my heart completely open. I felt so changed. And, as soon as I got back to NYC I was greeted with an awesome Mind Movie manifestation! Wow, this stuff works!
I really felt like I was getting this work, and it was finally settling in.
However, in January of 2015, my life took a completely different turn than I was expecting, all because of a phone call from the NY Daily News at 9pm one night in Seattle.
In a flash, my sense of calm, composure, and faith in my self was shattered. My previous trauma – which I had told myself I had moved on from – was completely thrust back into the open. I broke. I tried to maintain myself, but my PTSD skyrocketed and I could hardly function. I remember being curled in a ball in my bed, and Robbie couldn’t even touch me. He felt completely helpless.
I went back to school to start my second semester of nursing school, and I was actually glad to start because I thought it would give me a distraction from what had just occurred. But I was wrong. That pleasant distraction lasted about a week, and all those old emotions popped up again. My body broke. I stopped sleeping, even with medications. I remember taking a pharmacology class on no sleep because I had been up all night with anxiety
I tried my best to maintain myself on my own, but I realized I needed more help. Actually, help came to me through a series of beautiful events at NYU and I was led to an amazing advocate and social worker that has completely changed my life.
For the next 9 months, my life was school, crisis, school, crisis, let’s do something badass but stressful, repeat. February, I made the decision to do something that may impact the rest of my life, and has subsequently generated numerous public newsarticles about my life. This trauma and this situation became my LIFE, yet again. I didn’t know it at the time, but I became my trauma. I was a victim all over again. I was a victim to the system, I was angry, I was sad. I felt everything I did when it happened 2 years prior. But this was different, because it was public. It was new. It was mainstream. The entire advocate world in NYC new my story, even if they didn’t know my name. how could I even wrap my head around that?
I became my trauma. Every thought of every day revolved around this point in my life. I was living a lie – I appeared put together, nearly a 4.0 student, but I was dying inside. I had no idea how I was going to survive all this. And I felt horribly guilty, because I felt I brought it on myself since I had made the choice to pursue this. But I wanted justice, and this was my way. But, traumas and dramas kept happening, just one after the other, almost more than I could wrap my head around. And I identified with those. I had to tell professors because my PTSD stability was so unpredictable. i told most of my professors, except for one during my third semester. I had leeway, even though I never had to use it. But my trauma continued to be who I was, even if I didn’t know it.
I kept meditating and creating my life, but there was a huge gap between who I thought I was, and who I truly was being. Yet, there were still blessings in my life. I not only had an amazing advocate on my side, an unwaveringly supportive boyfriend, but in a beautiful twist of fate, one of the most amazing and incredible people showed up in my life – a professor who I had actually been terrified of first semester, but who I had again (now third semester). In a series of events, I ended up in his office one day, in tears, and ended up opening up to him, and it was the best decision I made in nursing school (even though I had been terrified of him during first semester). Even though I was living in this trauma every single day, he carried me through. Without judgment, he listened to every single part of my story, let me cry and cry and cry when no one else would listen, and was there for me, completely unwaveringly and without judgment, for the rest of my schooling. I am eternally grateful, because I would not have survived this time of my life (and managed to get almost a 4.0) without this person. And even though that is a time in my life I want to move on from, the gratitude and love and appreciation for the kindness and compassion he showed to me will always stay with me, and I will be forever grateful.
Despite the traumas, my dreams seemed to be coming to reality – I went to another Advanced Follow-up Workshop and sat in tears listening to a beautiful woman tell her story how she used this work to help in her healing journey for overcoming ovarian cancer and heard other amazing stories. I graduated nursing school – an event that had me in tears after everything that had happened. The moment that my special professor pinned me was one of the happiest moments of my life – I had survived SO much and never let it beat me.
I went to south Africa for a month and had the time of my life. Yet when I was there, I was constantly plagued by old traumas and self doubts – about myself, my physical condition, my old eating disorder, everything. It all came up at once, when my crazy schooling had settled down. What was going on?
I got a huge wake up call the week I got back from South Africa.
The day after I got back from my trip, I was set to volunteer at Dr. Joe’s advanced workshop. I was SO excited, as this was the first workshop Robbie and I were doing together, and I KNEW it was going to be amazing. I was so exhausted I knew I would be able to slip into a meditative state pretty quickly.
Well, an unexpected whiplash injury (don’t even ask!) disrupted my plans for a “perfect” event.
Probably more so than any other time I had done this work, I sat in this workshop angry. I was in SO much pain that standing up in the morning made me nearly pass out. I was so so so angry that I almost walked out of the workshop. I couldn’t get comfortable since I was in so much pain and definitely couldn’t concentrate in my meditations.
Sunday, our last meditation, I nearly walked out. But I didn’t. I stayed, and I heard an amazing woman’s story – she had been a nurse for 23 years, and when working in the ICU a patient had fallen on her and crushed her spine. She also had had SVT for a number of years (supraventricular tachycardia) and had had horrible chronic back pain for 10.
I listened to her tell her story about using Joe’s work to heal herself of her back pain. In October, she had completely stopped ALL medications, even her meds for SVT. Prior to that, she was taking about 25 medications a day, could hardly even unload the dishwasher, and would go to work and come back and cry in agony.
I was mesmerized by her story and was drawn to her; even though I had overcome the majority of my own pain, I could relate so much. I cried listening to her story, as I had almost missed it since I had nearly walked out.
I found her aftewards, and we talked. Ironically, she knew who I was! We kept in contact.
The following week, my major wake up call came. I saw Dr. Joe, and he said something to me that was a true wake up call – “we need to talk about what you’re attracting in your life.” He sat me down and talked to me straight up. He told me how I was presenting to the world, how I was living in this trauma I had experienced, and what that was doing to me. For the first time in a long time, I really listened to what he said. And not only that, I took what he said, and really examined it.
I went through a few really tough weeks of self reflection. And I noticed some astounding things.
Nearly every thought that went through my head was negative. Whether it was about my body, about my life, about my trauma, it was negative.
The biggest thing I realized, thought, was that, on a deep, subconsious level, I did not believe that Dr. Joe’s work was going to work for me. Even the countless people I’ve talked to – friends who had healed themselves of genetic bone disorders, cancer, chronic pain – I had this deep, deep unconscious belief that I was the exception. That it worked for everyone but me. When I voiced this in the office, I started to cry. It was a huge, huge realization I had.
I started realizing that I could not tell myself the things on a daily basis that I was and expect to lead a fulfilling life. My eating disorder thoughts/hatred of my body, fear of my old chronic pain, and the traumas that I had were continuing to dominate my thoughts. Even though I had beaten the odds with everything, these thoughts were still there. And THAT was what was holding me back.
This happened only a month ago. And since then, I have made leaps and bounds. Not all physically, mostly mentally. They have been subtle, and most people don't even realize it. But people have noticed. Of course, Robbie knows why. Not everyone does. But now, my challenge isn’t healing my body completely. That’s just a byproduct. My challenge is changing my belief system that my body will never be functional, that there will always be pain, that I have to rely on outside sources to “Fix” myself (BIGGEST challenge right now); changing the thoughts I have about my body on a daily basis, body image issues. THAT is what I have to work on now. The byproduct of that is healing. Look at my nurse friend – look at what she had done. If she could COMPLETELY overcome herself, her pain, and her past, I could too. I had done an incredible job – I had overcome myself and my past enough to create a beautiful life for myself. But something was holding me back. Something was keeping me from reaching my full potential, especially in my physical healing. I talked to a friend, who, when I talked to him, was in tears because he could see my potential so clearly yet I couldn’t. this was the message I kept hearing over and over again, and I realized it was time to do something.
So what have I been doing?
Constantly monitoring my thoughts. I have been meditating on changing my thoughts nonstop. I focus soley on my future. I watch my mind movie (when I remember to!). I try to catch my negative thoughts before they become a whole thought. But most importantly, I have the utmost KNOWING that my body is WHOLE and HEALTHY right NOW. That’s a belief that can be challenging sometimes, but it’s the only way. Especially now, when im truly trying to overcome my pain and heal myself without any outside help (chiropractors and PTs), it’s a challenge every single day. But I get up and I do it. I catch fears that pop into my head, and attempt to change them. I see myself lifting heavy weights, doing backbends, doing gymnastics. To even be able to think about doing these things again is a true miracle, considering where my life was  5 years ago. But it’s the next level for me – and I want to get to that level. To not fear the unpredictability of my body (one day it’s fine, one day my old chronic back pain is back, etc), to not fear relationships in my life, to not fear the future, to LOVE the unknown and KNOW that it only holds the most BEAUTIFUL things for me is what I strive for each and every day. Today has been one of those days when I’m in pain, and I’m fighting the old thoughts. But I keep crossing that river, no matter what.
It’s challenging. This past week, there seems to be a pattern a day I work on. One day it’s my physical pain. Another day it’s my eating disorder thoughts (self-hatred is extremely tough to fight!). another day it’s old trauma coming up. But I’m still fighting. Even this morning, I texted someone and said I was having a hard day. For no reason. It was just old feelings coming up, old memories, old patterns.
So ask yourself this – what limiting thoughts and beliefs do YOU tell yourself on a daily basis? What subconscious personality program are you running? For me, it was being a victim – of my trauma, of my physical pain, of my past. I was a slave to my past traumas, all of them. And I was viewing my future based on the lens of my past – mainly, not truly believing I would ever be physically healthy. Im still on sleeping medications – that’s another thing I want to accomplish, as well.
There’s lots of work to be done. But as Dr. Joe recently said in a teleclass, the work is never done. You get to one level, and it’s time to pursue the next level.
We are all human. We are all searching for certain things. Some of us are searching for bodily healing (like me). Some are searching for a connection to the divine (which I have done too, and wow is that awesome!). Some want to create certain things in their future. All are a part of Dr. Joe’s work, and other work as well (I just use his because his is what I’ve concentrated on the most and had the most success with).
The key is to NEVER GIVE UP.
I recently listened to a podcast called “Mechanic to Millionaire” and the guy said this: “As long as you are still breathing, and your heart is still beating, there is hope.”
I nearly lost that hope a few years ago. I gained it back, thanks to Dr. Joe and this work, and the amazing beings that have entered my life along the way.
This has been my journey. I can say I no longer have chronic pain. WOW!!!!! THAT  right there is a miracle. I do say that I have old PATTERNS pop up – and that’s true. Old pain patterns, old thought patterns, old relationship patterns that were the result of trauma (and I apologize to those who have been on the receiving end of those, which are laden with fear and stress!). but they’re patterns. Patterns can be broken. And the first step in this process is knowledge, because knowledge is power. And now that I know that’s what I need to break, I can do it. Sometimes I lose sight of it – thank you doesn’t do enough justice to Robbie, Emily V., and Ken C., who have talked me out of my head countlessly the past few weeks.
Im still a work in progress. I may still get depressed. I may say horrible things about my body to myself. I may have pain, and I may have a lot of it sometimes. I may have fear that someone I care about is going to turn on me. But those are becoming less and less.
So if you hear me say, “my shoulder hurts,” or, “I’m worried about my back today” -- That’s so much more than a shouder hurting. It’s years of fear of chronic pain returning. It’s fear that I will not achieve the goals I want to in life (I have some lofty ones!). But really, it means that I am letting my past overtake me in that moment. So if you hear me say that, I just ask you to have that perspective – the, “don’t worry, it’ll heal” isn’t what fixes it. It’s a “remember you are a new person now, this will change and this is not permanent.” Pain means something different to me than most people, and few people understand that, and I hope this enlightens some people. It’s, “Are you believing in your future more than your past?” Because if I am fearing that pain, or the old sleepnessness, or the old trauma then I am living in my past more than my future, and  I need a reminder to snap out of it.
This is my story. I am work in progress. But holy SH!T have I come a long way! From living a life constantly filled with self-hatred, acquiring horrible chronic pain, losing all physical fitness to the pain, unable to even carry a handbag or turn my neck … to today, graduating nursing school, starting a job, doing handstands, squats, yoga. I’m a miracle. Even if I forget that some times, I am a walking miracle. I can’t tell you how many times doctors told me, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you and I don’t know if you’re going to get better.” But I DID. And, even with the trauma on top of all of it, I never let it stop me.
So, as I start my new journey as a nurse, I am humbled about where I have come from. Where I was, what I went through, and where I am now. I used to constantly search ffor things outside of myself to make me happy, using SVU and other things to qualify my happiness. Now I spend my time meditating, and working to better myself. I meditate 1-4 hours a day, something I never thought I would do. But most importantly, this is a message to anyone who reads this: there IS hope. Whether you’re suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, or other health issues THERE IS HOPE. I never imagined I would be where I am today, and I have to remember that because it truly is miraculous! So please – NEVER give up. seriously – coming from where I have come from, and talking to countless others who have overcome incredibly serious conditions, has inspired and moved me beyond words. You just have to believe – no, you have to KNOW – that your body is capable of healing and changing. And you have to FEEL it.
I would not be here today without some amazing people that have been placed in my life at important times. My family, thank you for financially supporting me in this healing, I know it’s been difficult.
My HNA teachers – no words. You carried me through one of the hardest times of my life in 2010, and I survived because of you. Thank you.
My friends and professors at Seattle U, you supported me in my initiating this change and through my sexual assaults. Thank you.
To those of you who picked me up randomly during 2013 – Autumn, Connor, Kieresten, Elyse, Ashley and anyone else – thank you. You gave me little snippets of light during the worst year of my life.
To all of the people I’ve met through these Dr. Joe workshops and the facebook group – you have moved me and inspired me beyond words, and have encouraged me to keep fighting. The love I feel from you is always with me. Especially Emily and Ken, you two have been such lights in my life the past month, I feel like I’ve known you too forever! Thank you.
To my NYU professors, thank you. ME, you gave me such a gift during the difficult time this last semester. You not so subtly call me on my BS when I need it, and have been like a mom to me. Thank you.
LS, you have changed my life in more ways I can ever put into words. Your kindness and your compassion and unwavering support got me through some of my darkest times. No words can describe what your support has meant to me, and you have changed my life for the better, with your love, kindness, and compassion during a time where I didn’t love myself. Thank you.
I would not be where I am today without Dr. Joe and his work. I am completely indebted to this work, and the love that he has given me on this journey so far. Dr. Joe, thank you. I love you beyond what my words can express.
And Robbie – you deserve so much more than my words can express. You have not only supported me in this journey, but entered into it during a difficult time, when most people would’ve run away. Yet you stayed, learned and loved me and supported me across this river of change, and also initiated your own journey. You are the love of my life, and I love you so much more than my words can express. Thank you.
And to anyone reading this – thank you for reading this, supporting me in my journey. And remember – THERE IS HOPE.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Second Semester Review: NYUCN

Hey everyone! So if you're  reading this you hopefully survived your first semester of nursing school. Congrats! First semester is LEGIT the hardest and worst one. Second semester is MUCH less complicated in terms of workload, assignments, and competencies!

So, if you're like me, you've probably heard that A&E2 is killer. Don't panic yet -- there are some strategies to share that will help you succeed.

Adult and Elder II
In general: I had Professor Gilles this semester, and I loved her! She made it a point to highlight the important, key points of each lecture, was clear and concise, and has always been super helpful outside of class. She was absolutely great for this semester.

This is the core class of this semester. Unlike semester 1, A&E2 is the class you will probably stress out the most for. Why? It's the most credits, but it is also a huge jump in terms of "thinking like a nurse" from the first semester.
Tests are much more priority-based -- ie, "What would you do FIRST?" These types of questions get you into the style of NCLEX and for some people this type of jump can be a bit jarring, and the class averages sometimes reflected that.

If teasing out priorities, first actions, and first implementations is not your strong point (which it isn't for most people!), I highly recommend purchasing or tracking down a copy of the MedSurg Success book. This book was my LIFELINE to get used to the types of questions that are asked on these exams. These exams aren't about memorization -- they are about taking what you learned in class and applying it to different situations (unlike patho, which is just regurgitation of material).

For me, what made me succeed in this class was the following:
1. Before each exam (I would attempt to do this at the end of each week), I typed up ALL of my notes into ONE document. Everything -- I would take handwritten notes on the powerpoints, and then I typed everything up.
2. From my typed up notes, I made study questions to help me learn the material (ie: "What are the symptoms of left sided vs right sided heart failure?). These questions helped me learn the content of the material.
3. After I felt comfortable with the material, I did a ton of practice questions. First, I did practice questions from the MedSurg Success book -- the beauty of this book is that it is divided up into chapters that closely follow the material we learn in class (ie there are specific sections for Endocrine disorders, diabetes, head injury, etc). I did every practice question that pertained to the topic in class.
4. Once I did the MedSurg questions I went on to the evolve website for our textbook. Make sure your professor tells you how to access the practice questions on the Evolve website! These questions were a LIFESAVER -- at first, they may give you a panic attack because 90% of them are way harder than what will appear on the exam. But they are GREAT practice becase once you do those questions, any questions you encounter on the exam will most likely be easier.
5. If i had time, I did some questions from Saunders (optional book on the syllabus). I don't like Saunders as much because there are very few questions that pertain specifically to the topics we cover in class, but it's great for content review and to get some extra practice with questions.

Again, this isn't a "one size fits all" recipe for success -- this is just what worked for me in this class, and I continued this format for the rest of the semesters in both A&E3 and Leadership.

A note on A&E Sim: it's only 3 hours!!! Rejoice! Pre-sims are a bitch and a half and they will be for the rest of the program. No way to skate around those -- they're just long and tedious!

PHARMACOLOGY 
This class is about as straightforward as it gets. The study guides outline exactly what you need to know on exams -- not like A&E or patho or any other class. It's a gift!!!

Van Cleave and Fidel split teach the class -- so no matter what section you're in, you'll have both of them. van Cleave can be a bit dry, but Fidel is hilarious. fun suggestion: keep a list of "Fidel-isms" to look back on at the end of the semester, it's worth it. Nothing much else to say for this class -- it's jus pure memorization.

PSYCH
Dr. Standard and Weidel both teach this class because there is only one section. I loved them both. I really like psych so maybe that's why I liked the class, but it was relatively straightforward.
I had it first half of the semester, and apparently after my section they changed the study guides to make them harder (more like A&E) because people were doing so well (they were pretty detailed like Pharm).  But it was a great class, and I really enjoyed it.

Psych clinical: The majority of you will not be in inpatient psych; they don't allow it. I had a great instructor, named Patrick, and I was in a facility in Brooklyn. A lot of psych clinical is talking -- you do a lot of interaction with clients and patients. Most of these clients are very stable because the majority of these are in outpatient settings. There is a lot of practice with therapeutic communication, even leading therapy groups. Psych is my strong point, so I enjoyed this, but it is not for everyone.

Psych sim: I had Weidel for psych sim AND OH MY GOD HE WAS THE BEST EVER. I never had so much fun in simulation before. He is absolutely hysterical and would intentionally try to make us crack up during simulation. It was the best sim ever, and it made coming to class on a Friday morning at 8am a little more bearable. So if you have him, enjoy it!


RESEARCH
Ok. This class. This is the class that everyone kind of forgets about. I took the online version, which I liked because I was able to take breaks during the lectures etc. The lectures are VERY hard to get through because the material is very dry. DO NOT save the online lectures until the last minute, it will screw you for the midterm

The midterm is legit impossible. You get a cheat sheet, but it is SO HARD. I walked out of that midterm feeling like I had failed. Legit. It was my lowest test score at NYU I think, if I remember correctly. It's really, really hard. And there's no way to really study well for it except to listen to all the lectures and try to understand the material, but the questions are not straightforward. Just be prepared. 

PICOT: don't save it until the last minute. Unfortunately, some of the poster grades are really dependent on the advisor you get. My group unfortunately did not have a great advisor for our poster and we got one of the lowest grades in the class. Make sure you stay on top of your poster, that you please your advisor, that it looks pretty and don't save it to the last minute. This is the class to just get through this semester.



Well, that's about. If anyone has any questions, feel free to find me through instagram! rizzo02481 and I'd be happy to answer more questions! 


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Welcome to NYU! A review of the first semester

So I'm going to depart from my normal topics for my blog. As I reflect back on this year, there are a zillion things I want to write about but can't write about now; that will come later. As I think back to a year ago, I can't believe I was JUST starting the NYU nursing school journey; going into it there were so many questions  i didn't have the answers for and wish I did! So what I decided to do is do a COMPLETE review of the program thus far in order to hopefully ease some fears and answer some questiosn to anyone starting NYU's nursing program next week!
(excuse the typos, I was typing this from my iPad)


FIRST SEMESTER
Going into first semester, there is really no way you can be prepared for the amount of work they are going to throw at you. Now first, I am writing this from the perspective of someone who really wants to get good grades, who actually goes to class (for the most part), and who works her butt off to get good grades, and also someone who has developed relationshihps with some professors (downsize to this prgoram is that there are a LOT of people in it, and it's hard for professors to know you). Now, you can pass this program (read: PASS, which is a 73% I believe) without putting nearlyy as much effort into it as I did, but that wasn't what I wanted, so I put 120% into it, and that's the perspective I'm writing from. So, about first semester ...

General Info/tips
First semester is 10000% the worst semester. It's the busiest schedule, the most amount of busy work, and kind of a weeding out process. The classes, IMO, are not as hard as some of the coming semesters but the workload is outrageous.

For us, we only had lectures all together -- our nursing classes used to be at the regular NYU campus and all 200+ of us were crammed into one lecture hall. So we all had the same professors; I can only speak to the experience I had with those professors, but all of the them are at least the same for one section, so they try to run the classes similarly.

You will have no life. Like, hardly. For me, I like to workout and stay active (weightlifting, soccer, etc). I had to majorly cut down my gym time; that was what I did in my free time (instead of going out partying etc). If you're a partier, that's fine and you'll have time to do that on the weekends -- if you do nothing else. I played soccer for a brooklyn soccer league, went to the gym once a week, and then did home workouts on my busy days. READ: I used to be in the gym 2 hours a day, 4 days a week and spent all my free time outside (I'm from the Northwest); I had to drop all of that because there was that much work to do! Just be mentally prepared that you will really have to alter your life and schedule that first semester.

The first week, write out all of the tests in your planner and major assignments (care plans, etc) for the entire semester. Don't do what I did whicih was write out EVERYTHING, even assignments, for the whole semester -- i had a panic attack, lol. Just do that every week and stay on top of your schedule to keep organized.

Find a little time to yourself each day. Despite the rigor of the program, it is a MUST to find something for youruself each day -- whether that's yoga, listening to music, going for a short walk, playing with your pets, etc. You will burn out if you don't do this!

And one of the most important things: DO NOT READ THE TEXTBOOKS!!!! REPEAT: DO NOT READ ALL OF THE ASSIGNED READINGS. You will want to blow your brains out and will be reading from sun up to sun down. There are a few classes where you want to skim readings buut please, for the love of god, don't read every page! i made that mistake the first two weeks of classes but I learned quickly (more on that later).

Now, about the specific classes.

HAP
I had Professor Slater for this class, and Professor Keating for HAP sim. This is one of the more straightforward classes. I did not crack open the book ONCE (i sadly bought a kindle version). Slater is extremely organized in his powerpoints and they are filled with information; as long as you study the powerpoints, you should be fine.

HAP sim was straightforward until the midterm/final return demonstration. This whole class is straightfoward information until these two things. The midterm demo is basically a focused head to toe assessment (you'll learn about that). You do not have to pass, but if you fail, you have to go to remediation. The final demo, howerver, you MUST pass OR YOU WILL FAIL THE CLASS. This was honestly one of the most stressful things of the semester; I had my final return demo the day after we got back from Thanksgiving breake and you better believe I was practicin on everyone the whole break! It's terrifying because they are extremely tough on passing you -- you literally have to get EVERYTHING correct on the rubric (which you'll have beforehand) in order to pass. It's brutal. My suggestion is to do your best to pass the midterm because it;ll give you confidence for the final.

This class has a lot of busy work; just get it done as early in the week as possible so you don't have to worry about it.

PATHOPHYSIOLOGY
This is usually the class that people fail, if one was to fail the class. This class is by far the most amount of work; for me, it wasn't "hard" per se because I love anatomy and physiology and this is similar, and requires a lot of memorization and understanding of body processes. If you're good at memorizing then you'll be good; if not, not gonna lie you will have to work a lot harder.

The class is set up in a "reverse class" format: ie, you watch the lecture at home (called "modules") and then you do case studies in class to help reinforce the information. For me, the case studies didn't help at all -- I needed to memorize and learn everything by heart first and THEN do the case studies in order to test my knowledge. So I actually didn't pay that much attention in class (although I went to every single one).

The modules are your life line; take AS DETAILED NOTES as you can when you watch them; they are really long and take forever to do, but it's really the only way to pass/ace the class (my average was a 98 or something).

I only opened the book once, and it was to look something up I didn't quite understand; I've used it a few times since then for care plans, but you really dont need the book for this class.

TAKE NOTES TAKE NOTES TAKE NOTES during the modules and never skip a week or you will get too stressed trying to make them up! For me I liked to sit down and do them all in one sitting but it takes a while; do whatever works for you, but DO NOT put them off to right before the test.

Flashcards will be your life. Some people really hate flashcards, but patho is the perfect class for them. I made flashcards for every test and it's the only way I learned and memorized everything I needed to.

If Slater suggests to make a concept map in the module, do it; they aren't the way to study everything, but for diseases that are really simlar, it's a great way to distinguish things that set them a part (the various types of anemia for example, or the leukemias).

Slater changed the order of material from our semester, and your first test will honestly be harder because he saved some of the most confusing and challenging material for the last lecture for us but changed it because it makes more sense to have it at the beginning (fluid and electrolytes: be wary! This stuff is hard).

For patho, start studying two weeks in advance; it takes a lot to distinguish differences in diseases and I found that doing a bit of material 2 week before and the rest the the week of (or weekend before) was the best way for me. Don't save evertying til the last minute, like 3 days before -- this class covers an insane amount of material and it takes time to memorize everything. Exam blue prints are posted a week or two in advance -- be wary these are not study guides. THey just show the concentration of questions per section to hopefully help you focus on where to study. Sadly, you need to know everything. But the biggest piece of advice i have for this class is to focus on the differences between diseases vs the similarities -- that'll help you distingish betwen varying diseases of similar origin and characteristics.

Slater: so I think that Slater and Gilles are both teaching this class now. I had Slater for patho, and gilles for another class, so I will only speak about Slater in relation to patho.
I loved Slater; when I had him, he could come off and rude and condescending to students (which, if you read on ratemyprofessor.com, you will see), but he has changed SO MUCH since I had him first semester, and he's probably my favorite professor. He is straightforward in lecture, always to the point, and responds to emails pretty rapidly. I had him last semester, and have him again this semester and am so happy I do! He is a good man and a good professor, can't say enough good things about him.


ADULT AND ELDER 1
This class is the one class that is difficult to "get" when you first start it. Essentially, this class begins to teach you the process on how to think like a nurse, analyze questions that are the beginnings of NCLEX style questions, and is what your clinical is based on.

I found this class hard to sum up; it's difficult to study for -- a lot is common sense. It is the foundation of A&E 2 which is the toughest second semester course.

For me, I read over my notes, and skimmed the chapters in the book to study for exams. But realy a lot of it is common sense (or should be); I studied, but not in an organized way. It definitely helps to skim the book prior to exams.

For this class ,and all other AE classes, I would suggest getting or downloading "MedSurg success." I did not use it for this class, but IT IS A LIFESAVER FOR ALL OTHER ADULT AND ELDER CLASSES!!!! If you take one thing out of this blogpost -- take that ! GET THIS BOOK ASAP. It is an entire book dedicated to practice NCLEX questions. Not necessary for this course, but it might help you feel more prepared for the class if you're feeilng uncertain. Honestly, I alwasy felt uncertain going into this class for an exam because I didn't know how to study. This class really teaches you the basics on how to study for NCLEX-style exams, which AE2 is all about.

Professor Ea: I had Professor Ea as an instructor. i didn't get to know him personally, but he's very sweet and approachable. Point of note: he puts not a lot of information on his powerpoints and talks A LOT -- so make sure you take note! Tests are based on the powerpoints and some parts of the reeading; make sure to review the end ot he chapter summaries at the end of the required readings to help prepare for exams. And really take notes with what he talks about.

PROFESSIONAL NURSING
Ah, this class. Honestly, this is a tough one to get through. There's a class every semester that we all have to get through, and this is this one for first semester. It's hard to focus on because it's different than other nursing classes, and unless you want to go into management and the business side of nursing, it's hard for a lot of people to find it interesting. They have changed things from when I took the class, but the first test was nearly impssoible; we all walked out feeling as though we had failed. It was Mattia Gilmartin's first time teaching the class at NYU so it was a learning process, but it was brutal.

Read the book for exams. For our final exam, we got a fairly detailed study guide -- follow the study guide to a T and you wll be fine.

I know Gilmartin and James Weidel are both teaching this class. I had Weidel for psych and I absolutely loved him. I can't speak too much on this class because it's changed a lot but just do the work and you'll get through it. It's not like patho, don't worry!

SUMMARY
The first semester is hard, challenging, and makes you want to cry. If you're like me, you WILL cry because of the amount of work you do. Ha. It's rough. But remind yourself it's only 13-14 weeks and you get 6 weeks off over Christmas break.
Make yourself known to your professors (if that's what you want). I've gotten to know my professors more second and third semester, and didn't at all first semester. go to office hours, ask questions, let them know that you're a person, not just a face in the crowd. They care, they really do! Even if they don't seem like it sometimes. A few of these guys, in first and later semesters, are some of the most caring people I've met.

Make friends, but don't make too many friends.
I've gone through a lot in this program, and one of the professors I went to for advice told me, "Be careful who you tell thing to in this program." they were right. Make some friends and stick by them. The program can be lonely sometimes, despite the amount of people. But just get through it the best you can and just know that there is light at the end of the tunnel even when it doesn't seem like it sometimes!

Use NYU resources.
If you're sick, don't go to clinical. They try to scare you with the absentee policy -- which IS scary -- but if you are deathly sick, don't force yourself to go to class. If you're having a problem -- personal, family, any kind of issue you need to talk out -- go to the Wellness Center. They are great and will work with you and the nursing school if anything significant arises.

DO NOT GET INJURED.
This one seems silly but it's vital! I'm an athlete -- I played soccer in the fall and did a little gymnastics this spring. If you so much as show up with a cast one day they will kick you out of the program. Ok, maybe not right away -- but if you are in a cast, boot, or splint of any kind that is visible and known, they will make you not go to clinical and you won't be able to finish the semester. It's serious. so, this might not be the best time to take up Judo, competitive skiing, or play super competitive soccer! But, do something for fun still.


This is the best I can give for first semester. If anyone has any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments!

GOOD LUCK on starting your first semester of school AND YOU WILL DO GREAT! If I can do it, you can too, I promise.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sexual Assault, Mental Health, and Robin Williams

"The less whole we feel on the inside, the more we need things outside ourselves to make us happy." --Dr Joe Dispenza

This week as been difficult for me. Stressed about going back to the city of the crime in 2 weeks, starting a new program, furnishing an apartment, then a flare up of my chronic pain and PTSD ... it's been a lot.

But, there's another reason why my chest has been a little tigher this week, why I've been a little more emotional than normal, why I've been thinking more about a few specific dates over the past few years of my life.

As I heard of the news of Robin Williams' death on Monday, I felt a part of my soul turn dark. My chest tightened up, and my heart rate increased every time it was mentioned or we talked about it. Maybe it was because of that day in 1996, when I was just 6 years old, that I heard my uncle had died and a gun was involved (only years later would I learn it was because of suicide). Maybe it was because of that day in May 2012 when I got the news that another one of my uncles had killed himself by hanging. Or maybe, it was because of the beautiful girl that I played soccer with, who, at only 15 years old, jumped off the Aurora Bridge in Seattle in May 2006, and sparked an outrage in the community to do something, finally. The public nature of her suicide, the hundreds of people who gathered with flowers and candles where it happened the day after, the community coverage ... this weeks outpouring from the world was reminscent of that week in 2006, a week I will never forget for the rest of my life.

Or maybe it was because of me, and my own struggles that I've dealt with. And how on December 24, 2010, i had my own attempt.

Depression and suicidal ideations are issues that sit in the dark, barely untouched, right alongside other mental health issues, eating disorders, and sexual assault. And myriad conditions can cause them, ranging from purely clinical depression to PTSD/trauma to eating disorders and everything in between. These are issues that need to be talked about.

And I talk about this from the perspective of not only losing people that i cared about to suicide, but because of my own struggles. I had one suicide attempt at the height of my eating disorder, in 2010. Or, how i made a pact with myself that if my chronic pain wasn't better by the time I graduated college, I would end it all because I couldn't bear to keep fighting. And how, in the aftermath of my sexual assault, I truly wanted to die when I got diagnosed with the STD, as well as when my entire world collapsed in November with the SVU/NYPD/friend issues. For a moment, i never thought it would get better.

But it can always get better.

Robin Williams death has sparked a conversation much like my friend Maren did when she killed herself in 2006. It brings a chilling realization into the forefront of everyones mind -- that no matter what 's going on on the outside of that person, we have no idea what's going on in the inside, what silent battles we each are fighting day in and day out.

Maren was an incredibly smart, brilliant, talented student and athlete who had her whole life in front of her. The week that we found out about her death, one of my soccer teammates embraced me and said, "It could've been any one of us."

And she's absolutely right.

A smile, an "I'm ok," a bright future, or four decades of genius comedy and making the world laugh and having the world at your finger tips ... they don't indicate what's going on on the inside. They never do. And the more broken we are on the inside, the more we need on the outside to make us happy and keep convincing our selves and the world that we are ok, because that'll work ... won't it?

But it doesn't. Not all the time. It didn't for Maren. It didn't for Robin Williams. And it almost wasn't enough for me.

I was lucky. I somehow found it in me to keep fighting in the midst of my chronic pain. I grossly missed the mark of my first attempt (or else I wouldn't be here today). My sexual assault nearly killed me and I never thought I would get better. But I was able to slowly pull myself out of the hole i had been left in, the blackness of my soul that encompassed me so strongly in the aftermath.

my uncle Nick and my Uncle Mike couldn't. Neither could Maren. And now, neither could Robin Williams.

But the people who end their lives this way ... they aren't weak. The fought a battle for the longest that they possibly could. And it's heartbreaking that they couldn't push on longer to find the reason to stay. But it's not their fault.

Just like sexual assault isn't the victims fault, the way that depression affects people isn't their fault either. They didn't fail; their brains did, society did.

Suicide is a world I've been living in since 2006, a cause that I worked hard to support ever since Maren died. And if one thing can be gained from Mr. Williams death (which Im sure he would've wanted) is that suicide needs to be talked about and more prevention is needed. And, especially, the underlying causes need to be addressed. Better mental health resources. Better treatment for eating disorders. Better support for sexual assault and trauma victims. But, most importantly, removal of the stigma.

Depression -- whatever the cause -- is a silent killer. There are a million facades a person can hide behind to give the illusion they are whole, free, and happy. But no one knows what goes on behind those masks. Even our most beloved people in society -- Robin Williams -- had demons that no one knew the extent of, even despite his openness with his struggles.

One of my favorite things that my chiropractor says is, "The greatest gift you can give someone is your attention." And that IS the greatest gift we can take from the loss of Robin Williams -- to turn our attention to suicide prevention and mental health issues. It's a stigma that goes right alongside sexual assault and is something that cannot stay in the closet anymore. And not only that -- but to truly listen to people. Everyone fights some sort of battle that we know nothing about. The greatest gift we can give as a fellow human being is our attention, our love, and our support.

My uncles were two troubled people, but kind, compassionate and fun. Maren was a spark of color that stood out amidst everyone else. And Robin Williams was a kindhearted, generous, genius of a man who treated me very kindly and nicely when I met him and made the world laugh for 40 years.

These people shouldn't have died. They will never be forgotten. And now it's our turn to do something. It's time that the shame in asking for help is lifted, the shame in being suicidal disappears, so that people can ask for help without being stigmatized, and that people can talk openly about their struggles without being made to feel weak, ashamed, or different. Because these people are no different from you or me. It could've been any one of us.

So as this week has unfolded, that heartwrenching pain and sadness I felt in 2006 slowly crept up and reminded me of the profound impact suicide has on people ... especially when it is someone as beloved as Robin Williams was.

And to Robin Williams -- thank you for being you, and blessing millions of people with your talent and laughter for so many years. And despite your traumatic death and the hole it's left in your family -- and the world's -- hearts, thank you for bringing this issue into the forefront of society.

It's time to talk.






Friday, May 30, 2014

A Letter to Mariska Hargitay

I have many posts that have been floating around in my head lately, but this is one that I feel like I want to get out.

Knowing that the JHF gala was last night stirred up an incredible range of feelings for me. Knowing the work that Mariska has done to put the issue of sexual violence in the spotlight is profound; watching MSNBC the other day speak about the rape kit backlog was incredible, knowing that Mariska was has been a huge force behind this movement.

But knowing that the gala was last night brought up a rage and heart break I can hardly put into words.

The other day, I came home from dinner with my boyfriend, the JHF on my mind. Mulling over what they did to me. How betrayed I felt. And I walked in from dinner, and my boyfriend put his hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eye, and said to me, "I see what you're doing to yourself. These people failed you. I can see how you're blaming yourself for this, when it wasn't you. It was them. They failed you." And then I broke down.

So this leads me to this post. A letter i wrote to Mariska weeks ago, while still in NYC. I hope she reads it some day.

TO MARISKA

Dear Mariska,

It's Rachel. You know, the weightlifter from 2010. So many emotions when I think about you it's hard to sort them out.

First, I never meant to hurt you or anyone else or make anyone else mad. I've had nothing but love and admiration in my heart for you since the day I first met you back in 2010, the epic "SVU Summer" I call it. Any of my friends could say how much my face lights up when I used to talk about you, the dinner I got to share with you in 2011, and the help that you gave to me in the aftermath of my rape. So much love for you in my heart.

Yet now, I'm incredibly heartbroken on how all of this with JHF has unfolded. I see now how my actions could've been perceived negatively, yet there was never a moment in my mind where that was the case. The truth is, with the way that all of this was handled by Danny and JHF -- I have never felt more ashamed in my entire life. Ashamed to have shared my story, ashamed to be a survivor, ashamed that JHF was questioning whether this really happened to me or if I was just saying all of this to get attention. Heartbroken doesn't even accurately describe how I felt, when I've been nothing but a loyal supporter and advocate for JHF since I first learned of them in 2009. The way Danny threw my story back in my face, and what Sherisa said to me later, how Monica lied to me when I called her number (she said she wasnt there, when I actually had her on the phone), how Sherisa's words indicated she questioned the validity of my story ... it is the worst I have felt since Dan assaulted me, and the subsequent horrific treatment of the NYPD.

I see everything you continue to do for survivors, and in the back of my heart I swell with pride and love at the fight that you have taken on. But now, i also feel an enormous amount of heartbreak. And mostly because I have no idea what your involvement was. Maybe you don't know what I'm talking about at all. Maybe you were the one who said I couldn't be a part of any JHF events anymore. If that's the case, then this is my apology. If that's not the case, then I'm just writing to you as a scared and heartbroken girl who was let down by JHF. A girl that has shared a few special moments with you, that has some of the same friends that you do, that has attempted to show only love and support for all that you do, the purest love for you that any survivor could ever have for their hero. And that is still there. But behind that is the fear and the heartbreak, the heartbreak of fearing the worst, of questioning, of wondering if you really believe I was making this up for attention. And that scares me the most, out of everything.

So dear Mariska, I still love you. From the first time I met you with Carlos and my boyfriend and awkwardly shouted "I LOVE YOU!" To the dinner conversation we had in 2011 to the gala in 2013 ... I have had nothing but love and admiration for you, even despite the anger and heartbreak and betrayal I feel now. I just hope that one day, I can maybe tell you this, and understand the love I feel for you despite the heartbreak. and that one day, you can forgive me.

Your fellow fighter always,
Rachel

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

When Heroes Fail, Part 2: The SVU Version

So I wasn't gonna do a blogpost on this but I decided I wanted to because of the feelings I have if I run into the Svu set (intense panic and fear and total PTSD reaction). I've been afraid of backlash, but I also know that my experiences are important and valid and I don't like keeping silent or harboring anger alone.

I'm structuring this post in 2 parts -- first the exact events that happened with JHF and the feelings I felt immediately; and then my thoughts/analysis on what happened (because I don't want the analysis to cloud the actual events).

This isn't bashing anyone or anything. This isn't embellished. This is only my true, 100% honest experience with what happened, the feelings I had, the way I felt.

I know a lot of you know my background and history with the awesome experiences I've had on SVU, so I'll be brief with those, but will need to go into detail about everything that happened from the gala onward.

Here it goes.

As most of you know, I had been in contact pretty regularly with JHF since last year. Ever since Mariska emailed me and put me in contact with Maile, I had been in contact with the clinical director of JHF. She was wonderful and id have periodic checkins with her throughout the year (about once a month). At one point I emailed Mariska again to give her an update that I had been diagnosed with another STD. JHF called me immediately and tried to talk me through it.

In the months that followed, I would have periodic check-ins with JHF. I obviously went to the gala in May, and had posted a video of the gala on YouTube. I got a call soon after that I needed to take the video down (Mariska had a glass of wine in her hand). I didn't even know how they knew my YouTube account, and it unnerved me a bit because I felt like I was being watched almost. But I didn't think anything of it at the time.

Because of the gala, I decided to report my rape.

Throughout the reporting process, JHF was sorta involved. I'd talk to my go-to person (the clinical director) and she was always super supportive. If i had a question about anything I'd call her and she'd always talk with me for however long I needed.

In October, (after all the drama with the NYPD had happened) I had to come back to NYC to do the controlled call. It was the last attempt to nail the guy. I was staying on the upper east side in NYC with a friend, and the day I had to do the controlled call, SVU happened to be filming literally right around the corner from where I was staying. My friends and I were gonna go do stuff in the city, but we decided to hang around and talk with the teamsters (I knew a couple of them). They were all super cool, and we became friends with Mariska's driver. I was having a good time trying to distract myself (the NYPD were picking me up in an hour) but when my legal advocate called me from Seattle, I lost it. The teamsters kinda didn't know what to do, but Mariska's driver tried to be supportive (and he was). I was in a ball sobbing on the ground, when all of a sudden Mariska came out of her trailer. A bunch of fangirls (young) kinda swarmed her and I didn't wanna bother her but my friends wanted me to say hi. So I was bawling and she saw me and made eye contact and got concerned (went all Olivia-Benson). She had to go tho, so I didn't really talk to her. I told her quickly what was going on but she started to leave. Gave me a quick hug and that was it. That was the last time I saw her.

We were walking down the street (me sobbing) when all of a sudden Danny Pino came out of his trailer. A bunch of girls swarmed him too and he was taking pictures with them. He saw me and got really concerned and then came over. We had an incredible moment -- he was so incredibly supportive and said words to me that lifted me up and guided me through the process that I needed to do. We talked for about 10 minutes and he was just incredible. It was seriously meant to be and I was eternally grateful for that, especially because it gave me the strength to do what I needed to do. The next day I went back to the set and gave him a thank you note. He saw me from across the street and actually started to cross the street, but I went to meet him, and he yelled at me to be careful. He was wonderful again. He said he hoped everything went well and that he wished he could stay longer to talk but that they had more filming to do. So he wished me safe travels back to Seattle.


I left New York worn out, exhausted, sick -- but feeling so hopeful and grateful at all the kindness I had experienced.

Now, fast forward to the hard stuff.

In November, I was back in NYC for a college interview for grad school. Danny had been so supportive that I was inspired to write down my entire story (which  I had never done before). I communicated to him how amazing it was to have men like him in the world fighting for this cause, because we needed more of that. And how i found salvation in his character, because of the failure of my own detective and the subsequent trauma that resulted. It was a truly heart-felt letter, and I opened up my soul on that paper.

The day I flew in, they were filming in the Bronx. I had promised a younger survivor that I would go with her, but I was so exhausted from traveling all day I almost canceled. But she was waiting for me there so I went, begrudgingly. We got there, and it was freezing but I knew a couple of people on set, so we hung out with them (teamsters and Mariska's driver). Mariska's driver was so funny and gave us water, and gave us NO MORE magnets. It was fun. It was emotional for me to be back in NYC after the failure of the legal case, but it was comforting to see the people that I knew and to re-ignite the positive memories I had of the SVU set from 2010. I had an awesome moment with Dann Florek (who recognized me and my silly Facebook name) and it was just great fun.

They were about to go film, so Mariska's driver told me to go give my letter to Danny, that this was gonna be my chance. The other girl I was with wanted to go see Mariska so I told her to go. I waited for Danny, and he came out.

It was horrible.

He was extremely rude cold and abrasive, the complete polar opposite of what I had seen in October. I identified myself, and He said, "Yeah I know who you are," really pissed off. I told him I had been inspired to write my story down for him to read, and gave him my letter, and he said, "Well it's a busy shoot, I can't promise I'll read it." I asked him if he could try, and he said, "Yeah whatever," took my letter and stuffed it in his pocket. I felt so extremely small at that point, I didn't even know what to do or say. He then just walked away.

I was upset but didn't want to go into it, and just chalked it up to a bad day for Danny. After that Mariska's driver was worried about our safety in the Bronx, so he gave us a ride in her car to the train station. It was risky because he could getting huge trouble for that but he told us to get in and he'd make sure we were safe. So he dropped us off at the train station and sent us home.


Later that night he emailed me and said that security had been watching me the whole time and saw that he had given us a ride in her car (for some reason they were only noticing me and not the other girl that I was with) and that he had gotten in trouble. I was freaked out because I didn't want to make any trouble for anybody, it was the last thing I wanted. I felt pretty crappy that night and didn't sleep well, thinking I had gotten people in trouble and that I was in trouble too. I talked to my teamster friend about Danny etc and he said not to worry about it, that I don't know what's going on in his life etc. But it still really upset and unnerved me.

The next day I was with my dad, and I tried to forget about Danny. everything was fine until the evening. That night we were at dinner and I received a call from Joyful Heart, a woman named Sherisa. When we were at the gala and had a meltdown she was the one Mariska called to talk to us so I remembered her. She called me and said that they had gotten the letter that I had given Danny (not sure how they got it -- that unnerved me from the start) and that I was having "too much communication" with the actors. She then told me that I was to have no contact with the SVU actors anymore because my communication was "misplaced," that it was "too much" (wtf does that mean?). That I was banned from the set and all JHF functions, that she was confused why I was still writing the actors even though I had a therapist since they had given me resources, and that there is too much communication with them. I explained that i was telling them how much their cause meant to me and that I wanted to be heard. She said she didn't get it because JHF had listened to me and that it wasn't right for me to talk to them because I was distracting them (when other girls have gone to the set repeatedly to give letters and get pics -- I inow a few who have gone REPEATEDLY over the past year and I'd gone only 3 or 4 times -- why me?). I was really confused as to what that meant especially because I hadn't been to the set all that much considering some other girls that i know (especially bc I don't even live in New York), but she said that they had been given EVERY single thing that I ever wrote to them (they had a folder of the letters/emails I'd sent Mariska). And they had everything filed away in a little folder. That unnerved me even more and confirmed the fact I felt like I was being watched.  I was very upset, because I thought Mariska knew about me and knew me at least a little bit and that she cared a little bit to see how I was doing with the case etc. since i had met her in a different setting than most fans. So I would send her updates, I told her about the NYPD and how I thank her for the work that she does on the TV screen etc. but Joyful Heart didn't like that, even though I had never sent anything that illustrated I wanted THEM to help me (which is what Sherisa said) -- it was an appreciation, but JHF didnt get that. So they banned me not only from the SVU set and contact with the actors, but they banned me from all Joyful Heart events, things that are supposed to be incredibly healing.

And not only that, but Sherisa said something that implied I was doing all of this for attention. That maybe this hadn't really happened to me (my assault). When she said that, I completely lost it. It was awful. To say that I was low is the understatement of the century. I was heartbroken. I had been nothing but supportive of JHF over the years, and only appreciative of the actors and so much love for Mariska and all work that they do. And then this happens.

But it got worse.

when I got home I started receiving anonymous hate texts from a texas number who wouldn't ID herself. She claimed she was part of JHF and knew details of my story that only my best friends knew and JHF and Mariska knew. Anyways, long story short my friends and I did some detective work and discovered it was some random girl from Texas who my ex -best friend  (ThePaigeEverett on twitter) had told my DETAILED story to behind my back and she was pretending to be some important person in order to put me down and tell me how awful I had fucked up etc. It was horrible, especially on top of the betrayal of JHF.

A few days later, after I collected myself a little bit, I called my contact at JHF (the clinical director), on her direct number that she had given me 9 months earlier (sometimes she didn't answer the phone but 90% of the time she did). She answered the phone but I asked to speak with her (her name is Monica), just in case she wasn't there. She said that Monica wasn't in -- but I knew it was her because I knew her voice. I identified myself and she said that she couldn't talk to me, that I'd have to talk to Sherisa. So even the person who I had been sharing intimate details with for the past 10 months, who was there for me during the case when I needed someone to talk to ... she LIED to me and said she couldn't talk to me.

To top it all off -- the guy who assaulted me found out that I had reported him somehow and emailed me and intimidated me, called me a liar etc.

ALL of this happened within the span of the week.

November was officially my bottom. I went home could hardly get out of bed for a week. Because my heroes had literally failed me. To have someone you look up to -- someone you admire so much and appreciate more than words can comprehend -- turn around and throw your story back in your face (Danny) ... It's one of the worse feelings I have ever felt as a survivor (tied with the betrayal of my survivor friends).

In the following weeks I tried to piece together some of what happened, think about what Sherisa said, and try to make sense of it all.

One thing was made obvious to me -- JHF does NOT care about individual survivors. Yes they UNDOUBTEDLY care about the cause, 100% ... but don't confuse that with the integrity of a single individual. And it's not just me: I've talked to a few of you who have had similar experiences with JHF. Individually we are just collateral. They share our stories that we give Mariska -- things meant only for her eyes. JHF gets and reads all of it. Logistically I understand and don't blame Mariska -- she gets SO much. But it was unnerving to see that they had all of my communications tucked away in a folder, again as if they were keeping an eye on me.

Another thing that I am firmly starting to believe has to do with what a friend of mine who was an actress on SVU back in the day said to me. I was telling her about who had assaulted me and how he was a writer on the show, and then what had happened with JHF. And what she said really captured the essence of what this situation was: 

"I hate what he did to you, but would I go around and proclaim it? No. If he offered me a job, I'd still take it from him."

That's how show biz works. Hearing her say that broke my heart, and watchin how JHF was almost watching me, I'm starting to believe that the reason they kept talking to me and pushing me away from Mariska was because it was a conflict of interest. The guy who assaulted me was an SVU writer -- know what that would do to their image? And my friends words echoed that, so clearly. Mariska's actions never demonstrated that -- but even the few short times I got to talk to her she never referred to him by name or what he did to me. It was always in general terms -- even though when I emailed her, and she responded, I had written his name in the subject box and that he had raped me -- so I knew she knew. Now this is all PURE speculation -- I have no direct evidence to prove this is the case -- but with things that JHF have said it has crossed my mind more than once and it has started to point in that direction.

Lastly, I was fortunate enough a few weeks ago to talk to someone who's very close to Mariska. I told her everything that happened (fearfully). The biggest thing that she said is that she is 100% certain Mariska had nothing to do with JHFs decision. That they are protective of her, and have had to make decisions like this when girls have threatened to kill themselves if they don't talk to Mariska, so now they make extreme decisions in ALL cases -- even small ones. Better to ban a survivor even if she is telling the truth than to risk it. Know how much that hurts when you ARE telling the truth?

I write this because I live in New York now and I walk by the court systems twice a week. I have not only passed multiple tv shows filming (once Blue Bloods -- which is where the writer who assaulted me works now; talk about a heart attack), but when I see SVU is filming I have a panic attack. Or I'm filled with such anger and rage and I want to hit something (or myself). I can't even bring myself to watch the show anymore. I can't be angry at Mariska, because I have no idea what involvement (if any) she had ... and from the looks of it, she had none. But JHF? Yes. Rage. and same with Danny. But mostly I am just purely heartbroken.





In hindsight, I see how my actions could've been perceived negatively. But part of it is that in 2010, when I was a part of the "pack," the dynamics on set were SO different. I could go and hangout behind the scenes all freakin' day and socialize with everyone. it's not like that anymore. And it kills me to know, and SEE, how many other fans/survivors out there go to the set SO MUCH MORE than me ... and I'm the one who gets burned. I wouldn't want anything like this to happen to anyone ... but I'm justified in thinking it's not fair.

So, JHF and Danny Pino ... I don't wish death threats on you. I don't stalk you, waiting to make my move. But I don't support you anymore. I'm heart broken beyond all belief. Never have I EVER regretted sharing my story more than when Danny Pino tossed it back in my face, and when JHF made me out to be doing this only for attention. And that is the exact polar opposite of what JHF's mission is -- to heal, empower and educate victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. Well let me tell you this: they failed with me. I have never felt more ashamed of using my voice than I did in November, only tied with the fallout with the NYPD. And that is incredibly sad.

These people are human. They are not their stoic, unwavering characters on TV. JHF isn't the 100% failure-free pioneer in healing survivors. They are human as well. Angry and heartbroken are the only words I can use to describe SVU and JHF now. Confusion, as well. But couple all of this, with the fact that my rapist wrote for the show ... it's hard to ever watch it again, as I'm sure is understandable.

I don't judge those of you who still love and watch the show, who think Danny Pino is the sweetest person alive. I did, too. Hell, I've tried to block out the positive experience i had with him in October because it's so damn painful to see how wonderful he was, and then relive the November experience.

Maybe some day I'll get some answers. Ill never support JHF again, at least in terms of money. But I am hopeful that maybe some day I will get some closure. Maybe have a conversation with someone, Mariska, Peter. I don't know .... it's possible.

All I know is that SVU and JHF has lost someone who would've supported them til the very end. I can't change what happened. I also can't live and re-tell this story, because I know that it does no good. but for those of you who wanted to know, this was it. This was my part of an incredibly painful few months this fall, something that I'm only now able to talk about (this happened 4 months ago and I haven't been able to talk about it at all).

All I can do is try to forgive and move on. To love despite the hurt. And that's my plan.