From ER to WDS in 242 Days - The True Story of a Lonely Girl and How she found her Tribe
This is the story about a girl. A story about desperation, overwhelming sadness and incredible hope.
I'm not going to pretend this story isn't about me. But it's not just about me. It's also about you. And you. And you.
The story started way back (as it often does), but the turning point happened just this weekend.
Sit down, and grab a tissue if you're easily moved. I'm about to tell you a story written from the heart and the gut. With tears steaming down my face. (In public, oh yes). Here we go:
25 years ago, on a cold December morning, a girl was born in a small town Norway called Gjøvik. Her eyes were pitch black and her hair was golden. She came into this world and was innocent and vulnerable. Her sheets were blank. Everything was possible.
She just needed love.
The girl was just like you and me.
However, when she grew up she didn't feel safe in her own skin. She didn't feel comfortable. She felt different, and it was hard.
The other children picked up on this and they were afraid. They didn't want her to come to their parties. They didn't want to play with her. And they said all kinds of hurtful things to protect themselves. And they did hurtful things to feel better about themselves. They were just kids, the girl can see that now. But it hurt nonetheless. It hurt a lot.
It didn't take long until the girl started to doubt herself. What is wrong with me? Why I am not like all the other kids? Why am I not good enough?
This went on for 18 years.
And the girl broke down. Slowly. Suddenly. Completely.
Eight months ago, the girl didn't want to live anymore. She had lost hope and she was incredibly, indescribably lonely. It felt like she was living her life behind plexiglass walls. People could see her, but no one could understand. No one could reach in.
And so she gave up. She cried. What about that dream of moving to New York City? What about that dream of helping people, of being of service? What about the writing that she loved, the blog that was the only thing worth living for?
And what about the friends she longed for, the community she wanted to be a part of, the love she wanted to share and receive?
It just seemed too hard. It felt like there was no possibility of change. And it felt like she was inherently not good enough.
And so the girl gave up. Not completely, not at first. She asked for help. She hurt herself and went to the emergency room. She was stitched up. She did it again. She stopped eating. And no help was offered. She did it again. And again. And again. She wanted to destroy herself. Completely.
She wanted to disappear.
And it felt like no one wanted her to stay.
A cold Monday morning in November 2011, the girl asked for help and spent two hours undergoing an emergency psychiatric evaluation. And then 6 hours in the Emergency room. But she wasn't met with love, she was met with cold professionalism. Rejection. And disbelief. Just like in school, she felt totally, completely and utterly alone.
The girl bought pills. Lots of them. Pills, and a bottle of water. She had them in her bag. She walked out of the ER and she was ready. She had made up her mind. The world would be a better place without her in it.
She reached for the pills in her bag...
... and then her boyfriend called. Arranged for a friend to meet her 5 minutes later. Took her back to the ER and had her admitted to hospital.
For the second time.
(There's a long story between these brackets. If you follow the girl on her blog, the Freedom Experiment, she promises to tell it another time.)
After more than 5 stays in Emergency Psychiatric care, three months on a long-term ward and A LOT OF HARD WORK, the girl boarded a plane bound for Portland.
Two months after she was discharged from hospital. Three months after her last serious suicidal incident.
And in case you don't know, leaving a psychiatric hospital is like being born again. She felt raw. She felt vulnerable. And she felt insecure.
But she knew one thing about herself: She was alive because of her blog and her writing and the support she had been given from her readers and the online community. (That, and an incredibly supportive boyfriend who loves her.) When walking through the darkest night of the soul, the online community held her hand. And she had a tiny flicker of hope: Maybe she would finally meet her people. Her tribe.
But the girl was really, scared. What if her tribe would reject her, just like everybody else? What if they would think she was a nobody, a loser, someone not worth talking to?
Or even worse yet, what if they just ignored her, hurtfully and cold, like she was used to?
The girl was really, really scared.
But thanks to a beautiful twist of fate (and careful planning) the first person she met was Friendliness. When Jana Schuberth met her outside the hotel, the girl felt relieved. Jana knew her from before and so the girl felt like she could be herself with Jana. She didn't have to pretend. And so she didn't. And they became even closer friends. And it felt good.
The girl was holding her breath when she entered the hotel room to meet her roommate for the first time. But she didn't just meet a roommate - she met Acceptance. Ana Ottman turned out to be the best roommate the girl could ever have wished for. They have a lot in common and they talked and talked. The girl started to feel like a real human being, she started to feel hopeful. Maybe this was her people after all? And it wasn't just the conversation that gave her hope. Ana saw the scarred arms and she still didn't reject the girl. And that meant everything to her.
The girl sat in the auditorium, nervous and scared, and listened to Brené Brown speak. And Brené said just what the girl had needed to hear: You belong here. Just three words, but the impact it had on the girl was huge.
Because it gave the girl confidence. It gave the girl inspiration. And it gave the girl a newfound sense of attitude. Brené told her that she didn't have to be ashamed, that she didn't have to be scared. Brené told the girl it was okay to say "suck it" and go on. Brené made the girl feel Empowered.
And then the girl had dinner with Tracy and Stephanie and Christina. But she didn't only meet three beautiful souls, she met Leadership, she met Beauty and she met Transformation. And it was just what the girl needed. Although she felt young, and naive and less successful - she also felt accepted. She felt included. And she felt peace. The girl searched her heart and discovered that she had something of value ot give offer the women in return. The girl felt she was worthy and unique.
On Sunday morning, the girl finally met someone she had been longing to meet - Compassion in human form. Rachel Cole, although always inspiring and beautiful online, is even more radiant in person. That woman is a healer. And it gave the girl hope that she too could heal her eating disorder. That she too can fill her true hungers. And Rachel made the girl feel well-fed too.
And so it continued: Throughout the weekend, the girl met people whose projects gave the girl goose bumps because it felt so right. The girl met people who shared her story of suffering, she met people who have done what she is about to do, she met just the right person at just the right time. (If the girl met with you this weekend and you are not mentioned here, fear not. The girl will e-mail you and express her gratitude. It's a promise.)
And it felt good.
The girl grew more confident and she finally, for the first time in her life, felt like she could be herself. She could walk up to somebody, introduce herself, and meet new people.
So she walked up and introduced herself to her heroes. The woman whose old blog posts about depression meant more to the girl than the woman probably knows (Now, you know why I am so grateful for you, Danielle!). The girl met her photography and unraveling inspiration and they ended up having a great conversation. She met the internet superstars and the girl slowly realized that they were just like her.
Apparently, having thousands of followers does not automatically mean that you suddenly have your shit together. Even the most amazing people are insecure and sometimes less than nice if you catch them at the wrong time.
The girl started feeling that she, too, could succeed. She, too, has what it takes.
And so it became that she was no longer afraid to be herself. She was no longer ashamed of who she is. And she started to trust in people. In the world.
And then the most amazing people on this earth started trusting in her.
Offers of collaboration, compliments, deep conversations, tweets of appreciation. People sent the girl e-mails and tweets telling her how amazing she was. People told the girl that she was beautiful. Even with scars, even when eating disorder skinny, even though she is tall and awkward and pale. Even when insecure.
(For your information, the girl is crying when she is typing right now. Tears of joy. Tears of gratitude. Tears of relief.)
And just when the girl thought it could not possibly become ANY better, she was met with one of the grandest acts of Generosity she has ever witnessed. Chris Guillebeau invested $100 dollars in the girl and said go back out in the world and make a difference.
Chris Guillebeau believed in the girl.
And so did 999 other people.
That girl is sitting at Portland International Airport right now. That girl is forever changed.
And of course, that girl is me.
And I can honestly say that the World Domination Summit has changed my life. It has changed who I am. Not just in terms of how I will run my business, how I will go back and take action, how I will raise to the occasion and be of service in the world.
No, the World Domination Summit and all the people I've met have changed how I feel about myself.
Finally - after 25 years on this earth - I feel a sense of deep connection and belonging.
I feel valuable.
I feel free.
And I feel that the world will be a better place with me in it.
I feel like I want to live. I need to live. The world needs me.
And even though I am good with words - words can not express my gratitude.
Words cannot express my love. My relief, my hope, my sense of possibility, my feeling of belonging, my overwhelming sadness and ache for the little girl who was so, so lost.
I have found my tribe. I have found love. I have found myself.
And I am ready to pass it on.
It get's better.
And if you don't know it already, you have the power to save a life, to change a person forever. Your support makes a difference.
So stay tuned - that girl is ready to change the world.
And she'll be rockin' world change with a brand new soundtrack. With a thousand people watching her back. With a thousand people singing the same song.