It wasn’t really until I was much older that I realized that what had happened was not okay. It was in the back of my mind at times, but I never really thought about it or how it changed me. To be honest, until I saw the original “Commit 65” Ignite Boise speech, I pretty much convinced myself it didn’t even happen and it still took a year or two for me to do something about it.
He was a family friend – a local youth my older brother had kind of taken in as a foster child. He was around a lot and spent a lot of time with us at home, going on trips, and any other family event. The incident happened on one of those family trips. I was 8. He was 14. I can’t tell you how much I tried to convince myself that it never happened, that it wasn’t affecting me, that it was somehow my fault.
As I grew up I would have nightmares about the incident. I’d wake up screaming or crying. When my parents would ask what I dreamed about, I’d lie. Nobody could ever know. No one needed to hear why I was scared of being alone in a bed for fear that he might do it again. Ever since it happened, I’ve slept with something or someone else in my bed. Even now as a 38-year old man, I hold a pillow tight that my mom gave me when I was 5.
So I put up with it. I put up with the nightmares and fear and shame for years. It wasn’t until late 2017 that I finally started therapy. Admitting exactly what happened to her in that little room in that office was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But, it literally felt like a weight lifted off my back. I could breathe again. I could breathe. I could live.
When I first saw the Commit 65 speech at Ignite Boise, I felt like Matt (Speak Your Silence’s founder) was literally talking just to me. I knew I needed help, but didn’t know where or how to get it. My only regret is that I waited so long. Since I could afford to do the therapy with my insurance, I never asked the Speak Your Silence team for assistance. But I knew that wasn’t the case for everyone.
When I first saw “The Stitch”, it resonated with me. The zig-zag that represented the wavelength of a voice didn’t even need to be explained – I knew it as soon as I saw it. Before my first kit arrived, I drew it on a wall above the workbench in my shop. Ever since then, things have been different. I know my voice is important to me. I know that I can talk, that it can help to get therapy. I also know there are those that need help more than me, that don’t have the resources I have. Someone needs to know what is available.
I’ve now carried a backpack with the stitch on it all over the world. From Boise to Montreal, Beijing, Manila, Sydney, Sao Paulo. I’ve left Stitch Kits in geocaches in 8 states and 6 countries. One night in Manila, as I was waiting for my taxi, a man asked me what “that whacky orange line” was on my backpack. When I explained Speak Your Silence, he handed me 1500 pesos (~$30) to donate. I will probably never know who that guy was, but I immediately used the money to buy more kits to spread the word.
I don’t know if my efforts will make huge waves across the world. All I hope is that there will be one person somewhere that sees that there is help available and they take advantage of it. If I can help one person to lift this burden off their backs, it will all have been worth it. The world is a huge and scary place. But if I can make a difference, I will. Sharing the message and mission of Speak Your Silence gives me joy and happiness. There are stickers on my laptop at work, my motorcycle helmet, my car. I have the stitch sewn into a hat that I’ve now worn on 17 different 5k races, and on my backpack that I take with me everywhere I go.
One of the most solemn and wonderful moments happened on a flight a few years ago. I sat down and had my backpack on my lap, waiting for the person on the window seat to come sit. I wasn’t paying attention to everyone walking by, but all of a sudden, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up to see a woman wearing the orange zig zag on her shirt. She pointed to my backpack, then pointed to her shirt. She grabbed my hand and a tear fell down her cheek. The smile on her face spoke volumes. I didn’t get a chance to talk to her at all, but that little connection meant the world to me.
This is why I wear The Stitch. This is why I donate. This is why I know I can live life and breathe.
This blog post was written by our friend, Bradley Kindall. He’s been such an amazing advocate for Speak Your Silence and we are so honored to have him share his story.