Click For Hope

Depression

I then heard the sound of firecrackers

Orphan, Clickforhope, Depression, Suicide, LossJasmine Lopez8 Comments
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Sensitive Content. Please be advised.

Please share your story.: I was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. The third child of five siblings. My mother and father always helped others even though money was always a major issue due to both of them being addicted to crack cocaine.
I was 11 years old, asleep in my bed. One Monday morning, there was a knock on the door which woke me up at around 5:30am. I remember my father waking up to answer the door, it was someone he knew, which was a "buddy" who came over extremely early to get some money from the friend my parents allowed to live with us until he got on his feet. My dad let him in, the "buddy" went to the room where the friend was staying and demanded his money. The friend told the "buddy" he didn't have the money, but would get it to him as soon as he got it. Well of course the "buddy" wasn't happy and as I lay in bed I heard him say to my dad, "Let me take your television until he comes up with my money." My dad told him, "No, you can't take my TV, I don't have anything to do with this and it's time for you to leave, because my kids have to get up for school in a few minutes." I heard foot steps toward the door past my bedroom and I heard my father say to the "buddy" it was time to go. The door opens and I then heard the sound of firecrackers ( as a child this was the only logical explanation). I then heard my dad run close to my bedroom door and I heard even more firecrackers. I heard my mom calling my dad's name and she ran in my bedroom which was right next to where my dad was.  She came into my bedroom where she put her back against the door and pressed the heel of her foot against my bedroom door and told me not to get up from the bed. The "buddy" was shooting at her through the door. Then he quickly ran from the house, and heard loud screeching tires. Mom and I got up and went to the kitchen where my dad was laying on the floor in a pool of blood, he had been shot 9 times. We had to step over his body in order to get out of the house and ran to a neighbor's house to call 911 because we didn't have a home phone. Shortly after the call the coroners showed up and pronounced dad dead.

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My mother took this very hard and started drinking just about everyday. She'd cry in the kitchen almost everyday finding a spot of dad's blood that was missed during the clean up process. I always tried to comfort her. About one year later, my mom came home from being in the streets and asked me to bring her a glass of water so that she could take her medicine. I was sitting in the living room at about 9pm struggling with my homework from school and looked at her and said "Ma, I'm trying to do my homework I don't understand it". She told me no not bring the water that she'd get it herself and she did. I sat and watched her take her medicine. The next morning my sister and I were getting ready for school and on our way out the door to walk to school, I turned to my sister and told her that I needed to ask mom for some money. Deep down I knew she didn't have any, but there was an urge just to go ask anyway. I did, and I patted my mom to wake up because she was still asleep. I then shook her, no response. I shook her even harder, no response. I then took my mom's right arm and placed it under her back and raised her in a sitting position. I immediately moved it, to realize my mom was dead. She had taken her medication the night before and died. She had taken her life. I backed up in the room and hit the wall behind me, and stared at her for a few minutes. I ran to tell my sister, who was still waiting outside for me, so we could walk to school. Again the coroner came to our house for a second time, and this time it was for my mom.

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How has your story shaped who you are today?: My story has given me the strength to live life with purpose and courage. It has taught me that no matter what you have to walk through in life, you can make it. If I can make it anyone can! My motivations for graduating high school and college were growing up with little to nothing, this made me want "more" out of life. I currently work with Psychiatrists, helping children who are in the system with foster parents and are experiencing similar situations like I did as a child. Now life is tremendously better, I'm happy with a loving spouse and three wonderful boys of my own. My family and encouraging others are my ultimate motivations.

What compelled you to share your story with us?: I was compelled to share my story, because I realize that there may be other children who may be currently experiencing something similar, and I want them to know they are not alone.

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What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: Don't give up on life because those who were suppose to nurture and protect you were taken away so soon. Your life is a gift and you can make it through this, I know it hurts, and I know you're angry but it will get better. Just take one day at a time. God is there and he'll never, ever leave or forsake you, I'm living proof.

AWAKENED BY A MAN ON TOP OF ME

Abuse, Adoption, Breaking the Silence, Clickforhope, Depression, Forever Family, Foster Care, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Single MomJasmine Lopez13 Comments
 Photos by:  Jazi Photo  Makeup by: Ashley Vela

Photos by: Jazi Photo Makeup by: Ashley Vela

Please share your story:

It all started when I was 14. I lived in Gary on 21st Sve . I was going to school and just living a normal teen life, chilling with friends and having fun. It had its ups and downs but hey who's life doesn't right?!? So in March 2012, my dad takes a trip to Puerto Rico to visit his mom, leaving my brother, mom, and me alone at home. So one day, being the nosey child that I was, I went looking for my mom but couldn't find her. I went upstairs to check and nothing. Something said go look out the window. So I went and looked, and saw my mom talking to some guy. I didn't know who he was but they exchanged something, and my mom walked back into the house. I didn't think anything of it. I'm 14, why should I really care, right? My mom always told me to stay out of grown folks business, so that's all I knew.

So a couple days later my mom comes downstairs and says "We're having company for a while." I told her, "Ummm...okay?!?" To soon found out it was the guy who she was talking to outside. I told myself, "Something is wrong here. A man is staying in our house that isn't my dad. He shouldn't be here. But she said it's only for few days, and she gets paid for it?!?" Now money was tight since no one had a job at the time, so my brother and I had to panhandle a couple time for money just to get through one day at a time.

One night, I'm asleep and the night is still. Only to be awakened by a man on top of me, touching me, and taking my innocence. My brother was asleep in the bed beside me. The man whispers, "Shhh don't tell anyone, and your mom will be okay." I laid still thinking my life is over. I'm scared...Where's my mother to protect me? He left soon after. The next morning, I walked downstairs to see my mom scooping some type of substance on a plate... Is it flour? Sugar maybe? I walk into the kitchen and she hurried to cover the plate, and told me to get back upstairs. It's now April and the same thing happens again, while I'm asleep in my bed, in my house...while my mom is God knows where. My brother and I were barely surviving and it's up to me to stop this from continuing. May is here and I have no menstrual cycle. My mom is all of a sudden curious, and asks me. "Where's your cycle?" I replied, "I don't know, late probably?" I can't even look at her. I stopped going to school because I had no motivation and no drive to do anything but live in fear.

One day my mom sent me to my grandma's church to ask for some money, but something in me said enough is enough. I went to church and I told my aunt that I didn't want to live with my mom anymore. I was tired of everything going on and I was dying inside. My other aunts, who attended the church, came over too, to gather my things, along with my brothers. We left and stayed with them for a while. I told them what happened and everyone was disappointed in my mom, in how she let her guard down and let drugs break her wall of being a real parent.

The next day, I was in the hospital getting rape kits done, swabs, and shots, only to find out I'm one month pregnant. Yes, I was 14 years old, pregnant and felt like a piece of trash without anyone or anything. My aunts told me and everyone cried. Three months past by and I'm now four months pregnant. I'm tired, big and taking everything in, all at once. I have a journal to keep me sane and it wasn't working. My aunt found it and kicked me out because of something I wrote. I was then placed into foster care and I can honestly say it was the best thing that could have ever happen to me. I missed a lot of school, so I had to do 8th grade over again which was my choice. Even though everything was bad, I was blessed with a beautiful son on December 24th, 2012. Yes I can really say he was my gift from God. I named him Alejandro Nicholas Kirkland.

I moved again shortly after that to Whiting, Indiana and my son got a terrible fever of 104.3. My foster parent really didn't care and kept saying to give him water. God whispered to me and said be patient, just watch. A few hours later, my therapist came and saw Alejandro so hot and called the abuse hotline. We went to the hospital and stayed all night. Lets just say God has his ways and perfect timing. The doctors said if we had waited any longer, he wouldn't have made it. That made my life take a turn it really needed to. We were removed from her care and moved to East Chicago, and spent a summer there. We then were placed in a foster home in Gary once again. At this time, I just couldn't deal with my life and putting my son through that didn't feel like it was right. I couldn't do this to him. I was in school but I didn't have a job and I couldn't provide for him like I wanted to.

So winter of 2014, I got placed in Dyer at a mom's home for some help and to see if I still wanted to have the role as a mom. I found out that I didn't. I didn't have help andit was hard seeing my peers with their baby's father. I was alone and no one came to see me. I loved him with all my soul and being, but I wanted better for him. I want him to have the world and some. I wanted to give him everything I never had. Summer of 2015 I gave him up for adoption. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make. I signed the papers and he was officially adopted. He deserves better and that's what he's going to get. God has always watched over him and I trust Him.

So its been a little over a year now and his new family spoils him and some. He loves it. I'm also glad that I could be a blessing to someone who couldn't bare on their own child. But, overall God gave me an amazing person to help guide me and steer me in the direction I needed and her name is Kiessa Hamilton. I love her so much and shes my rock. I'm sure I wouldn't be here without her pushing me to keep going forward. I will be 19 on September 18th and its crazy to think about how I've been in 6 placements, 5 schools over 4 years. Where did the time go.?.

I can't end the story here. I always told myself good things come to those who wait. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for God. I wouldn't be telling my story without Him. And I'm a firm believer, because God's work is so pure and unbelievable. He's amazing! When you think it's over, God sneaks up and says "No you're just getting started."

How has your story shaped who you are today?:

It shaped me to know that life isn't over. Keep moving forward and know you have more to live for. Life is more valuable then you think. Keep pushing through the pain and you will find healing.

What compelled you to share your story with us:

Because I've been through a lot and I feel like I can help someone overcome their troubles. To let them know they can get through what they're going through. You are a strong independent person!

What encouraging words would you say to someone who shares a similar story?:

You're strong!

You got through it!

I'm proud of you.

Keep going.

I knew you had it in you.

Never give up on your dreams.

God has plans for you.

 

I KNEW HE WAS DANGEROUS...

Breaking the Silence, Suicide, Depression, Abuse, Sexual Abuse, RapeJasmine Lopez1 Comment
 Photos by:  Jazi Photo  Makeup by: Ashley Vela

Photos by: Jazi Photo Makeup by: Ashley Vela

Please share your story: :

 I do not remember how young I was when it first started, but I do know that I was quite young. I only have a few memories of actually being molested as a child, because I repressed the memories. I mainly remember the times I lied to get away because I knew he was dangerous, but I loved him because he was family. I was conflicted, but I knew he was not safe, and I would do anything to make sure we were not alone together in the same room. I remember when I was around 10, he grabbed me and I was finally strong enough to pull away and run away. I ran to another room, and closed the door crying and saying "I got away today", but at the same time not understanding why I did not want to be alone with him. It was so confusing to me. When I was fourteen and I was a freshman in high school, a group of senior guys were goofing off in the crowded hallways and they thought it would be funny to circle me. They had me trapped and reached out and started grabbing me and touching me and I freaked out. It was a few months later when I had nightmares about them and I acknowledged what they had done was wrong. As I was dealing with those emotions, the memories from my childhood came back full force. It became a burden as I kept the secret from my parents because I felt like I would not be believed because of who the person was in my family. I clung to the Lord during that time, but it was overwhelming for me and I did not have the best counseling at the time.

When I was sixteen, I started dating a guy, but it turned into a very controlling relationship. He had a bunch of crazy rules, and for some reason I kept going in the relationship despite these vivid warning signs. A few months into the relationship, he showed up at my job while I was working alone, and I was happy to see him, but he ended up raping me. It would have gotten even worse, but I believe the Lord allowed a customer to ring the front bell and stop him. I had frozen, I could not say no to him, because I reverted back to the little girl in my mind. I know that I was praying for it to be over and for me to get away. I also remember at one point seeing the back door and thinking "I need to go out that door...I need to leave and get away from him, but I can't...because this is my job...I can't leave...I'm stuck here...how do I get him to leave...Lord help me". This was a controlling relationship too, I was also scared to make him angry. I remember after I helped the customer, I went to the back room, and tried to put on a happy face, and he was so angry with me. He stomped out, and I kept smiling until he left then I fell to the floor crying. I was so scared because I thought I was the one who was wrong. I knew I could not let anyone know because I had just come back from a mission trip and they would think that I was bad. I locked up and went to my best friend's house and I never told her what happened. That night changed me. 

My relationship with God changed, how I viewed myself changed (which was already tenuous from severe bullying in junior high). I was still a Christian, but I was so angry with God. I felt like He left me that night. I still played the part, but inside I was so broken and did not know how to put it together again. I had an older friend who was such a blessing to my life. A few weeks after that night, she walked in while he was arguing with me and he had grabbed my wrist forcefully. As soon as she came in, he dropped my wrist and pretended everything was good and then left. She looked at me and took me to her car to talk privately. I confessed to her about the abuse, but I still never told her about that night. She handed me her cell phone and told me to call him and break up. I did, even though he started spreading rumors which attacked my reputation, and they were all lies. The more I tried to defend myself (as teens do), he would make up more and more lies until I stopped talking to my friends. One thing I understand now and I did not understand then, was that all of my childhood memories came back full force because I had to deal with the anger I had towards God. I had felt that my childhood molestation was now my fault too. 

This made me desire to leave the state for college. I needed to get away, and I needed a change of scenery and I thought going to an out of state college would give me that. This is when I started realizing that I was so afraid of being raped in college. I started having some fears come out, and I sank into deep depression and became suicidal. I even attempted one time, but the Lord graciously saved me. I was a mess and all over the place. I reached out for counseling, but without the repressed memories coming forth, they were not able to help me. They put me on anti-depressants and they did not work. In some ways I felt like they made me worse. The side effects were horrible and made me feel like I was going crazy. Even though I was in a Bible college, I felt so far away from God and I could not understand why. I would see others and feel like God was not happy with me and that I was not worthy of Him. I remember crying out to Him over and over yelling "Can you hear me??" Meanwhile I was teaching Sunday school and showing the world I was still the "good little Christian girl". The depression got worse and worse to the point I could not function and I was becoming suicidal again. I even began cutting, I literally felt like I was going crazy. I remember walking by the side of the highway in three feet of snow at 2 am and thinking I should just jump in front of the trucks because living life as a crazy person was not worth it. My world was so dark that light did not even seem like it was a possibility. Then I came back to Chicago to be admitted to a Mental Hospital. 

Once back in Chicago the hospital would not accept me because I did not have insurance at the time. I ended up staying with my friend and her husband, and this was the biggest blessing to me. I was able to just stop for a while. While I was there, my medication ran out and I did not have a doctor in Chicago to renew the prescriptions. I was nervous because of the dosages I was on made it dangerous for me to stop them cold-turkey but I had no other options. I had no side effects, and in fact, I started doing better and it became clear that my issues were not chemical imbalances. I slowly started coming out of my depressive fog and back to the Lord, and realizing that He had never left my side during the darkness. He was always there. I just took life one day at a time from there, but I would slip into depression periodically. I knew there were parts of my heart that I knew were there, but I did not know how to access them. While I was back with the Lord, my relationship was still different. I felt like I had to perform for Him, and and that I needed to do everything right. In my head, I knew that it was illogical, but I could not change my heart. I would talk to friends, and pastors about it because I was desperate for help to change it. I would tell them that the distance from my head to my heart was a very long way. I still dealt with horrible anxiety and fear of being raped. I was afraid to live alone because I felt that I would never be safe. I was even afraid to stay home alone when my parents were away. I went to counseling, but it was not helping either.

One day in November 2011 (about 2 years into the counseling), I went to church for early morning prayer. I told the Lord that I had enough of this and that I was ready for Him to deal with it because I did not know what else to do. I remember telling Him that He had permission to open the closed doors of my heart and to deal with stuff that I didn'teven know was there. The next night at my counseling session, my counselor asked me about my boyfriends. I counted off the relationships (which were few), and in my head I knew that there should be five but I could only remember four names, and two of those guys I dated for like one day and really did not count. We just started talking and offhandedly I said a name and she looked at me and said "who?" I looked at her and was like "I didn't tell you about ***?" She said "No". So I started telling her and all of the sudden I was telling her about that night at my job. As I told her I remember looking at her and saying "Oh my God, he raped me". With that it was like the floodgates opened and the memories came back in vivid color with emotions and feelings as if it had just happened the day before.

The following two years were some of the most difficult years as I dealt with, not only the rape but my childhood as well. I am so thankful for the friends and the support I had around me at the time, and of course for God's love. While the memories were so difficult to deal with, I cannot begin to tell you the freedom that came from allowing God to go to those dark places. My relationship with God is so beautiful now. I can finally see myself as He sees me, as His precious daughter whom He loves and cherishes. There is freedom in telling your story. It gives you back the power that was taken from you. I now control who I tell and when. This is my first time sharing the story publicly, but I knew that it was time. Those men no longer have anything to say over me. I remember telling people that there has to be a reason for me going through this, if I can someday help just one person, then all of this pain was worth it. If I can save one girl from being abused, then it is worth it. If I can help one woman heal, it was worth it.

I am telling you, that it was worth it to share my story!

I can't end it there though....I need to share that I have many reasons for my weight gain, for health conditions which contributed, emotional eating etc.It definitely became my comfort during the years of the pain I held deep inside. It is still a struggle that I have, and is very difficult for me. Because along with what I mentioned, it has become a shield to protect me from unwanted advances. As I have gone through times when I've lost a little weight, something will happen to make me want to have that shield back up. I believe that this will be the final step to my healing, to conquer this wall and break this shield, and I am nearly there. I needed to mention it in my story because it is something I rarely share. God will be with me along the way and I know this battle will eventually be won. God has more than restored the years that the locust have stolen, and I am blessed beyond comprehension. 

How has your story shaped who you are today?: 

I am who I am because of what happened to me, and what I went through. I am no longer fearful of my own shadow, but I am growing stronger each and every day. I am growing bolder, and standing up for others. I am compassionate because I know what it is like to be alone. I feel like I can help others because I understand the emotions and the feelings even if my story may be different than theirs. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." This has been my story. I have been seeking Him, and I have been finding Him. I want to help others find Him and to find the freedom that I now have.

What compelled you to share your story with us?: 

I believe this opportunity is for the Lord to fulfill plans that he has for my life. To share my story to those who are going through their own pain, and hope they know that they are not alone. Also to share my story with those who knew me during those times but may not have understood what was happening at the time. And ultimately for God to get the glory for what He has done in my life.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?:

 I pray that you will continue to keep pushing through the darkness. You are NOT alone, despite how you feel. God has not left you, He is still by your side. Ask Him to reveal Himself and He will. There is light and there is joy on the other side of the tunnel. I promise it will end, and you will look back and realize just how strong you have become during the process.

When Cancer Comes Back

Cancer, Clickforhope, Depression, LossJasmine LopezComment
“I thought that the fight with cancer had ended, but now I have it again. This time it is in my stomach.”
— Ruth

I thought my life was going to be simple: get married, have kids, and live a happy life. Little did I know, life would be scary and complicated. In 2014, I would receive an unexpected cancer diagnosis.       

In 2010 when I first began having abdominal pain, I visited the doctor's office. I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter, Leilanie and that I had stones in my gallbladder. Doctors couldn't operate on me until my daughter was delivered. Due to complications with my gallbladder and the baby, my daughter had to be delivered prematurely.

In March 11, 2011, my daughter was delivered via C-section. Soon after Leilanie was born, I had a pregnancy complication known as “Preeclampsia.” I almost died, but (thank God) survived and was blessed with my beautiful and healthy little baby weighing three pounds and three ounces.

After having my daughter, my abdominal pain worsened. One month following this pain, doctors were finally able to operate on me for the gallbladder. After the surgery, my life was back to normal.  I would feel the pain here and there, but it was tolerable.  

In December of that year, the pain worsened, and by the time New Years came, I made my appointment to see the doctor again.  They weren't able to figure out the root of the problem even after numerous examinations and tests.  This time seeing the doctor was less stressful though because my boyfriend, Joe (now husband) was there by my side.

In February of 2014, I found out that I was pregnant again. I was so excited knowing that my daughter might have a baby brother or sister, but I was also scared since I was still dealing with the abdominal pain. I prayed for God to help me, to heal my pain, and for things to be okay with the baby. At the end of March, I started spotting.  There was nothing scarier in this world than knowing I could lose my baby. I prayed to God to let everything be okay. April came and sadness came right behind it, I lost the baby due to a miscarriage.

If that wasn't enough, I still felt abdominal pain. In May, I decided to go to Rush Hospital to see if they might be able to understand the problem. It started with going to the emergency room.  After several examinations and tests, doctors came to give the worst news of my life: the pain was due to cancer.

I couldn't believe it. I didn't know how to process it. I was in denial. I could remember desperately crying and asking God if this could be true. I don't remember how many times I asked Joe and my mother why all these things were happening to me. This became the beginning of a long process, where I needed to gather all the strength in the world.

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I decided to go to Northwestern Hospital to get a second opinion on my diagnosis. The doctor at Northwestern confirmed that it was cancer, but they couldn't figure out what type it was. From May to November, my life was exams and needles. Finally, a doctor called and asked me to come in. It was three days before Thanksgiving and I found out I had stage three colon cancer. My heart dropped.

I was given chemo pills for about six weeks. Then they changed my chemo pill to a stronger one named Capecitabinr (Xeloda,) my mind was out of it. The doctor kept talking and I didn't even hear one word. Tears began streaming down my face. I could not believe I had cancer. The doctor called my name to get my attention. I replied back with,  “Am I going to be okay? I have a daughter and family.”

He replied, “You know we will do everything that we can. Colon cancer is the second highest form of cancer that kills people.” My heart was numb. 

I felt numb.

Treatment began soon after with IV infusion chemotherapy. I got really sick from time to time.  I had multiple X-rays, cat scans and numerous colonoscopies throughout the treatment as well.  As time passed, I had family, friends and many churches pray for me.  I have to say this was the hardest time of my life. I felt lost and lonely at times, even if family was near me.

In 2015, I fought like never before. One year later, I became a colon cancer survivor. I was extremely excited, blessed and honored to know God healed me. I held a party to celebrate. After all, I didn't know that this road was going to be so long.

One month after my survival party, I had to return for a doctor's appointment. I will never forget this day. I walked into the office and my nurse gave me a hug.  She asked how I was feeling. I said, “Great! I'm extremely happy that I'm done and don't have to return back.”   She just smiled and said, “We love you Ruth. You are a true fighter.”

I was placed in my room to wait for my doctor after that. I heard a knock and told the doctor to come in. My doctor entered followed by another doctor behind him and my nurse. I had a smile on my face that didn't last long.  “Well, Ruth we have an issue.  We found cancer in your stomach and must start you on chemotherapy once again. The X-rays we took show that it's next to your liver.” my doctor told me.

I felt stuck. I was pale as a ghost and started to sweat from all the nerves and anger building inside me.  I couldn't understand why this was happening to me.

I thought that the fight with cancer had ended, but now I have it again. This time it is in my stomach.

I couldn't understand. I stumbled on words as my brain just sort of shut down on me. All I could think of was my daughter and family. I didn't know what to say or think, so I lifted my head up and said, “Lord you got me right?!? Please don't abandon me; please heal me.”

I have to say that winning one cancer battle was such a joy; finding out I have it again has been a struggle.  Yet, I know that God healed me the first time and He will do it again. I have faith and I believe.

 "Never, never, never give up." This quote has been my encouragement. Waking up everyday and fighting cancer to become a survivor. I repeat these words and gather strength. with the help of God...I will succeed!    

I want to encourage others who are struggling with a sickness to keep fighting even if seems too hard. Know God is in control. You got this! Always have faith and pray at all times.  Always keep a positive attitude and know to never, never, never give up. 

Alopecia | Camille

Alopecia, Depression, Clickforhope, Self Harm, Suicide, BullyingJasmine Lopez3 Comments
Even though I am bald, with Alopecia Universals, I know that no one can ever make me feel inferior without me allowing it: and that is something that will never happen again. . -Camille

Please share your story:

My story begins in the 4th grade, when I was at the mere age of 9. My mom was doing my hair for school and she found my first bald spot. She had no idea what it was, so she took me to the first of many dermatologists. This man told my mother that I use to much hair product in my hair, and that was why I had a bald spot.  As more hair started to fall out, my mother got more concerned so we went to another doctor. This doctor told us that it was because I wore my hair in pony tails and it was putting too much stress on my hair. Finally my mother took to the internet and found that I could possibly have Alopecia. And again, we went to another doctor. Finally we had a diagnosis, Alopecia Areata. He wanted me to get shots of corticosteroids directly into my head. Well, anyone that knows me knows that I hate needles. In fact, what 9 year old likes shots? After finding out some pretty negative side effects and only a 50 percent chance of hair growth, we voted against the shots. I did go to another dermatologist and tried everything out there from creams, to lotions, to shampoos, to oral steroids, and nothing seemed to work. So, I gave up on treatment and decided to let it be. The kids at school were relatively fine about my hair loss, although a couple of girls would say things to me when they were mad, but being so young it didn't bother me too much.

Then came the dreaded middle school. I tend to think that middle school is just some evil place where kids like me go to get eaten alive, but I guess that's just my experience. At the beginning of 6th grade I had lost both my eyebrows, but thankfully the hair on my head was finally growing back. The bullying started slowly and I was handling it as much as I could, but it started to get to the point where I couldn't concentrate in school any longer. I was being called freak and hairless cat, they threw food at me during lunch, would try to trip me, shoved me in the halls and meowed at me. This happened on a daily basis. And what made it worse was that I lost both of my best friends to the bullies: they joined in. From there everything went downhill, I fell into a depression, I began self harming, I stopped eating, and I planned my suicide. This was all at the fragile age of 14. All I could think about were those cruel words playing like a recording over and over. I would come home from school and find horrible messages on my phone or on my social media accounts; there was no way to escape, there was no way out. One night I finally decided to go through with my plan to kill myself, I was desperate to get away from my pain. The only thing that stopped me from taking my life at the very last moment was hearing my sister come home. And it made me wonder how she would have reacted to finding her little sister dead. At that point I knew I needed to fight, and I needed to get help. After going to the school several times throughout the course of three years and getting no help at all, I decided to create a Facebook page. I called it Dare to be Different. There I was able to vent about my experience with bullying and talk to other kids who were dealing with similar issues. At that point I also decided to write a letter to my school superintendent, Dr. Burke. I told him what had been going on and how long I had been dealing with the bullying, and most importantly I told him how his school was handling it! I explained how my grades were suffering due to the bullying and so was my mental health. He came in a few days latter and talked to me. He finally put an end to the bullying by telling those girls if they say one more word to me that made me feel bad about myself they would be expelled! So yes, the bullying stopped, but everything didn't magically get better. Now I was forced to deal with my self esteem issues, my eating disorder and my self harming. I will admit that it took a very long time to put myself back together. But having the love and support of my family and three very special people, Lana Becker, Randi Moxi and Constantine James, helped immensely. 

My Facebook page is now a non-profit organization proudly called Cam's Dare To Be Different. I also have a website, www.camsdtbd.org. I speak to schools and groups sharing my story in hopes to get through to my peers. My motto is to inspire, empower and educate. I want people to understand how powerful words can be; words can heal or they can kill. I have also gotten involved with platform based pageant, and won the title of Miss Teen Illinois International 2014 and I am currently Miss Huntley 2015. My story has been featured in numerous newspapers and magazines, which helps me gain exposure and, in turn, help others. I've also won several awards including The Everyday Hero Award in 2015. My story is also featured in two books: Head On Stories of Alopecia and Bullying is No Laughing Matter. I'm also in the works of writing my own book that will feature 21 other boys and girls who also suffer from Alopecia.

I'm happy to say that I am once again a high honor roll student at Huntley High School, maintaining a 4.0. As a junior, I enjoy taking honor and AP classes to push my self academically. I plan on attending a university in the fall of 2017 to study Psychology! My goal is to touch as many lives as I possibly can. I want people to understand that everyone is different and that being different is not a negative thing. With the help of my family, my friends, all of my supporters, and God I have been able to achieve so many things I thought were impossible. I feel incredibly blessed to be where I am today, and I can't wait to see what the future has in store for me.

Losing my hair for the second time was not nearly as bad as the first and even though I am bald, with Alopecia Universals, I know that no one can ever make me feel inferior without me allowing it: and that is something that will never happen again. 

I finally found my passion, my purpose, my destiny. 

Alopecia | Kara

Clickforhope, Alopecia, Depression, AnxietyJasmine Lopez1 Comment
My children think I should walk around without my wig, my husband thinks I'm beautiful just the way I am... I wish I believed them! I look in the mirror and see all my flaws.- Kara

 

Please share your story:

 Hi! My name is Kara. I have had Alopecia for 30 years now. WOW! 30 years! I've never written that down or even thought of that before. I was 13 when I noticed my first patch of missing hair. I thought it was stress/anxiety. It's the prime age for liking boys, worrying about what and how people thought of me and this happens to me? At 13 years of age, I thought all my plans... boyfriends, being beautiful (on the outside), marriage, having a family was gone. I thought the only way someone would look at me now is "Poor Kara, she must be sick." But throughout my life, I've learned that's not the case.

I am a fighter! I am so MUCH more stronger than I ever gave myself credit! Maybe beauty starts from within?
I battle with anxiety and depression (this disease will do that to you) but I've been married now for 17 years to a very handsome bald man and we have 4 children (with full heads of hair!) My husband and children think I'm beautiful and that is all that matters to me.

I have only exposed my head once and that was last summer at the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado. I felt free and scared at the same time. The way my family (sister in law & brother in law included) reacted was so different than I thought, so supportive, crying right along side with me and so proud of me.
I think I'm ready for the world to see me... the real me!!

What compelled you to want to share your story?:
I'm a mom, trying to make a difference in the world. My children think I should walk around without my wig, my husband thinks I'm beautiful just the way I am... I wish I believed them! I look in the mirror and see all my flaws. I want to have the flowing hair and beautiful eyes of a model, but doesn't everyone? Almost everyone? Maybe bald can be beautiful too!

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story? :

Not many people are familiar with Alopecia, it has No reason, No cure. No warning!
I thought at 13 my life was over ( I know it sounds over dramatic, but aren't we all at 13),
You can have a "normal" life living with this disease, You CAN enjoy things (like not having to do my hair everyday, shaving, bed head!) There are all kinds of beautiful! I've learned to keep going and thank God I did! Because I have beautiful family and friends that love me for me.

Styled by Co Chic Styling

Makeup: Jacqueline Gamache

Photos: Jazi Photo

Printed purple kimono wrap by: Milk Handmade

Bipolar Disorder | Jenn

Clickforhope, Depression, Bipolar DisorderJasmine LopezComment

Please share your story:

 For a little over than 20 years I have struggled with depression, self harm and suicidal tendencies to name a few. I have survived the isolation and shame. It was only in my adulthood that I was officially diagnosed with being Bipolar. As a teen I was hospitalized for observation due to attempts on my life but nothing really came of that. I just learned to internalize more and more. One can only do so much internalizing before it starts to overflow. How I survived my teens and 20's is beyond me, I honestly never thought I would live past 13, let alone approach my 32nd year on this earth. 

Everyday that I draw breath is a FIGHT, I choose to keep fighting. I don't always understand why I struggle so deeply, but through this LONG JOURNEY I have continually encountered God's Grace and PERFECT LOVE. I was a terrified lonely 12 year old GIRL when I first cried out to Him at 14. He sent me a dear friend that spoke GOD's love into my SOUL. 

One thing that is constant, is my TRUE NORTH. GOD has such a love for me that HE is walking this JOURNEY with me. HE already knows what is in store but nevertheless he accompanies me on this journey as I discover what it means to see myself through HIS eyes. Some days are easier than others and some days I allow myself to be identified by how others see me or label me.  Then there are the days that the chatter all around and especially within me is silenced and I only hear God and His sweet whisperings into my heart and soul.

How has your story shaped you into who you are today?:

 I have discovered that I am truly stronger than I had ever imagined, I AM A FIGHTER, and I definitely have a purpose. Though I may not know the specifics, I truly believe God has plans for me. HE loves me so much that he refuses to let me give up. I am still being shaped and molded. There have been many times where I have had been broken own, to then be built up again. It is a painful process but I am learning to not fear an unknown future to a Known GOD.

Why were you compelled to share your story?: 

There have been many times I have felt like I am alone in my struggles, and fears. I have felt like there was no one on earth that could possibly comprehend what I struggle with behind this smile of mine. I have come to learn that there is strength in sharing one's story. Even if there are people out there that won't understand or even try. There is power in SPEAKING UP. There is at least one person out there that might need to hear my story, even if it is STILL BEING WRITTEN. Everyone's journey is different and God can use ANYONE, we are here to manifest the GLORY of GOD that is within us, and I am no exception. If my journey can reach even just ONE person and encourage them then why wouldn't I share it for that ONE!?

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story? : 

God doesn't give us a timeline throughout our struggles, but He always promises to come through. So don't give up. Everyone's journey is different and we all have to walk it out. Surround yourself by people who will speak LIFE into you, lift you up in prayer. Don't allow the labels to define you or the stigma of such labels to confine you. So your brain works a little differently and you feel things a bit more intensely. YOU still have PURPOSE!

Inspired by Love | Karina

Divorce, Depression, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment

My story is a very sad and painful one. I went through verbal, physical and sexual abuse at a young age. For someone to experience these things when they should just be a kid and enjoying life is definitely life changing. I grew up in a very strict environment where exploring simple things such a theme park or movie was not allowed. Almost everything that was considered fun was not allowed. We were a family of six and with just my father working on a very small salary there certainly wasn’t much for anything. Living in the ghetto and always being the new girl was also very hard. I searched for love in a boy and got married at a young age. I was in love and thought how lucky am I to have found love. Until it all started to unravel. I tried my best to save my marriage but was just humiliating every time. Although I don’t want to detail all I went through I think it’s important to highlight where I am now because although I was very broken, it served me as a stepping stone to wanting more out of life. During my divorce, I was diagnosed with a medical condition due to a tumor in my pituitary gland. I went from a size 3 to a 16 in the matter of a year. I was already experiencing deep sadness but now depression had settled in. As the divorce was set to be finalized, I found a friend that took me as broken and bitter as I could ever be and loved it all out of me. His incredible patience was instrumental in my healing process. His constant encouragement in telling me I can do anything regardless of what had happened helped me be a successful individual. He constantly reassured me that my past didn’t have to determine my future. The genuine love he gave me brought me hope and I opened my heart to love again. He is now my husband of 7 years. I didn’t get the best start and missed out on a lot of things as a child, but I can proudly say that courage, love and perseverance have gotten me one step closer to my PHD. It is a dream of mine to be Dr. Karina Velez. I have since recorded 3 music cds and have been featured in many other musical productions. I was voted the best Puerto Rican Voice in Chicago and had the honor of singing the National Anthem and the Anthem of PR. I was hired by the largest Ad agency in the world Leo & Burnett and did commercials for McDonalds (I’m loving it). I opened my own business and have reached success in my Business Life, Personal Life and Spiritual life. Success in my opinion comes when you are willing to go against the odds and chose to be happy & content with life. Happiness is definitely a choice and I’m so glad I made it. I will say that the one perfect memory I have as a child is that I was introduced to Jesus and I have been a follower of him ever since. I recognize that he pulled me through it and that my husband was just the tool he used to tell me every day I love you Karina and it had not been in vain. Thank you Jazi photo for the experience. I can’t tell you enough how thankful I am you allowed me to share a bit of my story and show the world that we are all uniquely beautiful. You are amazing at your craft and pray many more women give you and themselves the opportunity to experience this confidence booster session.

Hair and Makeup: Erica Alexis Artistry