The Semicolon Project began in the spring of 2013, when Project Semicolon Founder, Amy Bleuel wanted to honor her father whom she lost to suicide. I just heard about it a few weeks ago, and it hasn’t left my mind since. Although the original movement was created to honor one person, it has grown into an organization to raise awareness and lower stigmatism about mental illness. It resonates on a different level with me. It helps me understand part of my healing journey out of a history of sexual abuse.
Even though I was getting better, I used to struggle with the reoccurrence of pain, depression and anxiety with triggering events. I wanted to conquer it once and for all. I wanted to be done with it. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Please…just make it stop. Shouldn’t the end goal of healing be freedom from pain, depression, and anxiety?
I was raped by my own pastor at the age of 15. Years into real progress of healing, I was surprised when a change of pastors in my church sent me reeling into weeks of flashbacks, and uncontrollable anxiety. During that time I had an opportunity to be speak privately with Marie Fortune. Marie is the founder of Faith Trust Institute, a respected national educational organization that provides training on clergy sexual abuse. I took the opportunity to ask Marie if I would ever heal to the point that getting a new pastor would no longer traumatize me. Marie answered honestly. “No. Because Jennifer, you know things other people don’t know, or choose not to know.” And then she added, “but it might get less severe.” I have forever been so thankful that Marie was honest with me that day, and that she explained why. And she was right. As a result, I no longer panic when it happens, and it has become less severe, and I have learned to trust that it will eventually subside.
So when I read about the semicolon project, I really connected with the metaphor. In grammar, the author uses the semicolon to ask the reader to pause – but not permanently stop here – because there’s another complete sentence coming just ahead.
When Jackie and I created LearningHope.org, we gave the name a lot of thought. We tossed around several ideas before realizing that learning hope is what we have both done throughout our healing. We have learned to pause here and absorb what we’re going through but not to stay – because we know more healing is just ahead. Healing is not freedom from pain, depression and anxiety, but the solid hope that we are bigger and stronger than the pain.
We have also learned that sharing our stories has bound us together and makes us stronger, which in turn makes the pain, depression and anxiety weaker. We have dedicated LeaningHope.org to encouraging others to share their stories with us; please consider sharing yours.
See what I did there? 😉