Welcome back, everyone! Recently, I did a poetry run on my Facebook Author Page and met some very talented local poets. One of those individuals is a teen in my area. Through a private conversation, I found out her poetry is driven by some exceedingly difficult experiences. Later I was pleased when she’d accepted my offer to interview her. Here’s that interview.
Hi, Rachel. Thank you for your willingness to give an interview. I know you gave it much thought.
R: You’re welcome.
Where are you originally from?
R: I am from Topeka, Kansas. Though I spent most of my smaller childhood in a small town called Hunter. Mainly because it’s where my family lived and kind of originated.
What grade are you in now?
R: I am a Junior.
When did you first realize you enjoy writing?
R: I was really young. I was three, actually. I started writing songs. Then at the age of ten, I started writing comics and short stories. Though I always felt weird, because the two boys I sat by in 4th grade always complained I constantly wrote. Then around age 13 I got into poetry.
Do you still have any of your songs and stories from back then?
R: No, my songs, unfortunately, would be copyrighted, because I had an obsession with Hilary Duff and would use her music and change the words to mine. And as for the stories, I might have a few in the basement my mom saved. I’m not for sure. I try to keep my room as clean as I possibly can.
Haha! I can understand that obsession! Do you have plans to publish any of your works?
R: Yes, I do eventually though I do hope that I can get into psychology of some sort. I do want to keep doing it as a hobby because writing has been my coping skill.
Really? Has it always been a coping skill or did that come later?
R: I didn’t realize how much it helped me when I was little. It actually became helpful when I relapsed into depression a second time.
May I ask why you were depressed?
R: My first ever best friend died a few years ago. It was a rare case and I used God to help me feel better.
What kind of rare case?
R: She died after having an allergic reaction. Then her liver was attacked by a virus. She needed a replacement organ, but they couldn’t get it in time and she died June 5th around 10:30 at night. There are only 21 cases that have ever been documented. Her case being one of them.
I’m so sorry about your friend. What happened afterward?
R: I got into an abusive relationship. He took away all of my friends for four or six months depending on who they were. But he was so manipulative he would convince me that they were bad people and that I was so lucky to have an amazing person like him. And he would use that to almost guilt me. Once I got out of it because I realized what he was doing was destructive, I had no one I really trusted… to turn to. And I felt God couldn’t forgive me, even if I couldn’t forgive myself. So that’s when I started writing a little more. And I got into a relationship with a bipolar guy. He made me feel so insecure. He told me I needed my face reconstructed and how worthless I was. And how I would never accomplish anything in life. Then he left. And I was on the verge of suicide. My parents loved me too much to let me do that. And I learned that writing was my ‘person’ to talk to. And it helped me realize not all of it was my fault and I needed to go back into church. And know that God forgave me a long time ago. I just needed to apologize for doubting him and rebuild the strong relationship I had with him. Though he still loved me dearly, I just needed to stay with him, talk to him and work with him. That’s what helped me get out of it completely.
I think teens being in abusive relationships are more common than what many folks realize. How are things going now?
R: Though I still have many disorders I’m still dealing with. God is here. My writing is here. I have an amazing, caring family. I have my friends back and learned they actually never left. They were right behind me watching me until they knew I was ready to have people back. And I have the best boyfriend I have ever had at the moment. He’s a wonderful Christian. He’s a wonderful boyfriend. He’s a wonderful person. He respects me and he shows me love no one else has ever given me, besides God and my grandfather. Writing has helped me cope with my interpersonal relationships, with an eating disorder I once had and some of my social phobias. Plus, they suspect I have PTSD.
Is the PTSD from losing your friend, the bad relationships, or a combination of everything?
R: My prior relationship caused it. He was not only mentally and emotionally abusive. He was physically and sexually abusive too. He never hit me, but he used to grab me hard enough to leave bruises. Though PTSD isn’t technically diagnosed yet, my current doctor is assuming I do have it and has put me on anxiety medication for it. Since then, I haven’t had any episodes.
Episodes? As in anxiety attacks?
What were they like?
R: When someone talked about rape or made really terrible jokes about the victims, my heart would beat fast. I couldn’t breathe and I would cry and feel like hitting something.
During the time you were contemplating suicide, what was your internal dialogue like?
R: Well, I told myself no one deserved to suffer for me. That I wouldn’t succeed in life. And I just remembered every bad thing everyone has ever told me. How fat I was Though I wasn’t… I was actually at my worst point and was having health problems of being too skinny. I told myself I should go and kill myself. That I wasn’t pretty enough. And I just thought of every negative thing I’ve ever been told. I was frustrated. That for every single bad thought I had I would swallow a pill. I kept doing that until I eventually overdosed and my parents took me to the hospital.
Was that trip to the hospital the changing point?
R: No. I didn’t have a good experience in the hospital. There was lack of protection. The nurses were just horrible. Personality wise and how they treated us. It made me more stressed than ever, but I just kept it to myself for a long time.
How has the internal dialogue changed since you’ve gone back to God? Did it stop?
R: Most of it. But I had to do a little work on my own for it too.
May I ask what your spiritual experience has been in the midst of your journey?
R: I’ve always had a good connection with Him. I’ve had experiences I keep private. Just from the way my heart felt, I knew Someone was listening. My heart and my prayers are the ways He and I talk. He’s given me a purpose to help people. Many people have told me… If God was real he wouldn’t put me through this, he wouldn’t have put you through that… and I can understand why they feel that way completely. Although, I still think it’s a stupid reason not to believe in Him.
I agree, but what makes you say that?
R: I feel you have to know you have a purpose and you’re going to go through a lot. Most people blame god or deny his existence. But other people have different purposes than you do. And sometimes, it isn’t going to involve you. You may ask God why is he doing this. But if you really just follow along his paths, he gives you answers along the way. That’s how I basically view it. I’ve been through a lot, but he knew that for my purpose, I would have to walk through this. I know what my purpose is. It sucks from heartbreak to every life frustration. Every time you fall in love, it hurts worse each time. Usually, it’s because each time you fall in love more than the last time. But you just have to look at the future and know that there’s a reason why. And you can’t blame anyone for it. But if you follow the path of God, God gives you answers sooner later.
Well, wisdom certainly comes from experience and you’re gaining lots of wisdom at a young age, Rachel. What are your plans for the future?
R: College. I’ll go to a smaller one the first couple years. Then, eventually, I’ll move to a bigger one, expanding my horizons.
Sounds like a solid plan! Thank you so much for getting so personal about what you’ve been through. I’m certain it will help someone out there realize they aren’t alone in their experiences.
Here’s one of Rachel’s poems. Scroll down my author page to find one she submitted a few weeks ago!
I looked fine today
But I wasn’t
You lost me eleven years before
And it still feels like
I’m stuck in this storm
When you looked at me today.
I might have seemed okay.
But in my mind
There’s a thousand secrets stored away.
If I told
I know my life
Wouldn’t be the same the next day
I still sit here and wonder
What it would be
If one day I became happy
Then the doubt comes through
What would you say if you only knew
Would you have felt the same way?
Been as happy as I was?
Guess we’ll never know.
Not now anyway.
Right here soon.
Becomes a new year.
And for one time I wouldn’t have to shed a tear.
No longer live in fear.
You might be shocked from what I become
But little did you know
If I make this change
I’ll be happy for once
~Rachel L. McLay
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