I’m Dani Ward,

and I do lots of things.

As dumpster fires go.

I’ve been sitting here for a good 10 minutes, just staring at the screen. Occasionally typing a sentence or two, then deleting. The words I want to say aren’t words I feel I can say yet, and so I choose to be silent. Much like I have most of this year, if you’ve noticed.

On January 18, I left my husband. There’s much that could be said about this, but it’s still so fresh to me, and sometimes I realize that it’s still a gaping wound.

Speaking of that gaping wound. From March 11-17, I was raped several times. So, rather than focusing on packing my marital wound and healing from the breakup, dealing with the trauma from the rapes took precedence above all else.

And so this year has been all about survival. Keeping myself so distracted and so tired that I can’t give voice to the suicidal urges constantly lurking just around the corner in my mind. I’ve made no attempts this year, though I’ve come terrifyingly and mind-numbingly close a few times. But. I’m here. Whether I want to be or not.

I’ve been able to find words sometimes. After all, writing publicly in community is important to me. I’ve found fragments I could turn into poetry, some revelations about purity culture and the evangelical baby boomers who raised my generation, and even words for my constant self-hatred and fear of being an inconvenience.

But by and large, this year has been spent in relative silence. I can’t write about the thing I most need to write about, and so I’ve been unable to write about anything else. As if all of my words are blocked off since I can’t work out what I most need to.

Then there’s other aspects of the year. My dad’s symptoms worsening early on, so the doctors doubled his monthly treatment in hopes it would help. Everyone’s hope was that his body was just used to the treatment. Not that the tumors were becoming more active. But when a blood test revealed his cancer markers were through the roof…well, we knew. Thankfully, his new treatment seems to be effective. But he’s still sick. And so he retired this year, after around 40 years in radio. It’s been such an emotional roller-coaster for the whole family.

When I thought things couldn’t get more difficult, I lost my job in August. The first time I’ve ever been let go. Business had been slow, and I was the most recently hired designer (even though that was 5 years ago). I’ve been able to scrape by with freelancing and unemployment, but it’s been unspeakably difficult. After enjoying financial stability for the first time in my adult life, to have it taken away was…devastating.

Vision:

Vision: “Wanda, if you do this, they’ll never stop being afraid of you.” Wanda: “I cannot control their fear. Only my own.”

There are other things, too, outside of my own personal bubble. The Pulse shooting, which gutted me to the point of saying “to hell with it” and coming out as queer (at least on Twitter). And then the election. The election has broken me. And so I’m no longer going to waste precious emotional energy hiding who I am from anyone anymore. I will not live my life in fear of what people might think of me. And anyone who thinks I ought to is not someone I want to be a close part of my life.

Despite all of this, I’ve also experienced a lot of good.

Art has taken a larger role in my life this year. Teaching myself how to paint with ink, improving my lettering skills, continuing to work towards excellence with my design work — it’s all been so freeing and fulfilling.

was financially stable for about 6 months. Which enabled me to pay off most of my debt and invest in things I’d done without for a long time. And I’ve been largely successful providing for myself after the job loss. It’s so validating to hear positive things from my clients. Not only that, but I will be teaching a graphic design class at the local community college spring semester 2017. Things are looking up.

My family has become a much larger part of my life. I can freely spend time with them whenever I want to, without a lot of anxiety. The closeness I’ve missed for the previous 7 years is returning, and it means the world to me. Their love and support are invaluable.

I’ve also met so many amazing and wonderful people this year. Some only for a short season, but others who have become such good friends. Some I’ve had the great fortune to meet in person, and many who have taken me under their wing from across the country or even across the globe. My support system, my Team Me, has lifted me up this year when I could have so easily faded into the darkness.

This year has certainly been a dumpster fire. It’s affected me more than perhaps any other year in my life, mostly for ill. But there are pinpoints of light that give me hope, even amidst hopelessness. And so I am grateful.

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