Part of the Awakened Foundation is the Satori Project, which encourages people who have experienced abuse to share their stories though creativity. An aspect of this project is featuring stories from people in blogs or articles. Please note that because of the nature of the project, the Awakened Foundation aims to keep artwork authentic and although does some editing, supports the authenticity of each story. Because of this, please be warned that the following blog covers sensitive topics.
This month we are featuring Nikki Brooker from "YANAM2M" (You Are Not Alone Mom 2 Mom). When I met Nikki I felt how deeply she cared for her cause and her honesty was refreshing. Nikki is a mom of three and through her non-profit, offers other mom's support, guidance and authentic friendship. When she shared more about the inspiration behind the organization, it was truly inspirational and courageous.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I am a mom of 3 (ages 17, 15 and 10), an educator (for over 20 years) and a wife of almost 23 years. I am originally from northern Michigan but absolutely LOVE Colorado. I love to bike, do bootcamp workouts and be social with my girlfriends.
2. How did the journey of Yanam2m begin?
After two moms took their lives and the lives of their children (in Nov. 2016 and Feb. 2017), I decided that we need to support our moms of our community better and build each other up instead of tearing each other down. We were blessed to take over another non-profit and become an official 501c3 in June 2017.
3. What has been the response from the community?
We have been embraced throughout our community and are supporting over 25 moms. We have had only positive responses and all mental health professionals have praised our efforts to, a) change the face of mental health and b) create a system for prevention.
4. What have been some of the greatest inspirations for Yanam2m?
After Jen Laber took her life and the lives of her two small boys, I met with her husband. He told me her story and we spoke about how “normal” things were in his life before the tragedy. We spoke about how much he loved being a daddy and a husband. At the end of our meeting I asked him in his opinion, if my efforts, time and money that I had already put into YANAM2M was worth it. He paused, looked at me and said, “If you would have done this 5 months ago, I might still be a daddy and a husband.” That was truly all the inspiration I needed!
5. What do you love the most about what you do?
When I hear that moms and support moms are there for one another and are making great gains in their relationships, it truly touches my heart. We have created relationships that wouldn’t normally be created and that’s something truly magical.
6. Why did you decide to create Yanam2m?
I felt there was a need to build each other up instead of tearing each other down. There is so much negativity in our world and with social media taking over the world, so many people feel that their struggles are overwhelming and that they are truly alone. When you open up the lines of communication, you find that none of us are alone and there are millions of other people just like us… we just need to find them!
7. What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve overcome during this journey?
To be honest, most things have come very easily. We found two different locations to hold our events and have been gifted those, so that’s amazing. I was handed a non-profit whose CEO was looking to rebrand their mission anyway, so that was amazing. The biggest hurdle we are facing now is funding. We are truly in need of funding for staffing, programs and expansion. We would love to open a chapter of YANAM2M in countless other communities and we cannot do that without funding.
8. Could you tell us more about any Yanam2m events?
We have lots of different kinds of events. First of all, we have weekly gatherings where moms and kiddos come to either Burn Bootcamp (1:30-3:30pm) or Westridge Recreation Center (9-11am). These gatherings are just a time for moms to hang out, connect and make a community and for the kiddos to enjoy each other’s company and learn how to play together. It is such a great part of our week! We sometimes have speakers at these events and we have had things like acupuncture, but for the most part, they are just a playdate time for the moms to get to know one another and be in an accepting, loving environment. We also have had fundraisers like a vendor fair, workouts at Burn Bootcamp and other home-party type events. We are planning a 5K run, shopping events and other fun events for our moms in the next 6 months.
9. How would a Mom get involved with the program?
Any mom is welcome to join our group. We are always looking for support moms (a mom who usually has older children who can be a non-judgmental support to another mommy) but all moms are always welcome. They can check out our website at www.yanam2m.org and take a look at our calendar. That has all of our events listed. They can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
10. How could family members, friends or supporters get involved?
Contacting me with questions about this is the best way to get involved. We are not a mental health facility but instead are a support group for moms.
11. In your perspective, if a survivor is feeling overwhelmed or isn’t certain about where to start, what advice would you give about starting their journey of healing?
Ryan Laber said in an interview with 7news that his wife, Jen was one person away from not taking her life or the lives of her children. ONE PERSON who cared. Find that one person. Find one person who makes you feel safe and accepted and valued. If that means calling me and asking me about the process, great. If it means attending one of our playdates, great. If it means talking to a therapist, great. Just find that one person who can help you find your way.
12. In your opinion - Why do you feel society has difficulty around this topic (suicide)?
Our society wants to sweep all difficult topics under the rug. They want to put on a happy face and pretend that everything is perfect and they live in the perfect household with the perfect kids and the perfect spouse. The reality is that NO ONE has that. NO ONE is living the perfect life and if they say that they are, they are lying. Life is hard… the world is hard and mental health is even harder. People don’t want to face the fact that 1 in 4 human beings have had or will have a mental health disorder in their lifetime. That’s 25% of human beings. That is higher than breast cancer and yet no one wants to talk about it. Mental health is one of the leading causes of death and rising medical costs in the US.
13. What keeps you focused and grounded when things get challenging?
I believe in the mission of YANAM2M to my core and I truly want to make a difference in the lives of moms (and subsequently, their children). I see the faces of our moms at our events and I know that what we are doing is making a difference. That is what keeps me going and what keeps me on track.
14. Are there any up and coming projects that you’re working on?
We are always working on supporting our moms better and looking for partnerships that make sense for our moms.
15. Are there any words of wisdom you’d like to share?
I wish there was a magic wand that brought back the three children who were taken too soon. I wish there was a magic want that brought the two moms back who felt they only had one way out. But since there isn’t such a wand, we need to work together, as a community to make sure we don’t lose another mom or kiddo to depression, anxiety and the feeling that they aren’t “enough.”
Interviewed by Laura Naomi
© awakenedfoundation 2018
Part of the Awakened Foundation is the Satori Project, which encourages people who have experienced abuse to share their stories though creativity. An aspect of this project is featuring stories from people in blogs or articles. Please note that because of the nature of the project, the Awakened Foundation aims to keep artwork authentic and although does some editing, supports the authenticity of each story. Because of this, please be warned that the following blog covers sensitive topics and some unedited illicit language.
This month we are featuring Jessica Hickman who is the owner of “Bullyology”. Jessica is a specialist coach who helps to empower people who suffer bullying, harassment and gender inequality.
Jessica excelled in the workplace gaining multiple awards and recognition for her work on gender equality and mental health support. Some of the awards were; Minister for Territory Families Excellence in Youth Leadership and Exceptional Woman in Resources. Yet, while she received praise, Jessica was also suffering with extensive workplace bullying and harassment from an authority figure. She shared that she believes she was being targeted for two main reasons: her female gender (in a male dominated environment), and secondly, because she championed equality (being an advocate of freedom of speech).
When asked to share parts of her story, Jessica was honest and open about what she’d experienced. “In my last job, I was in a very dark place. I will not allow myself to be pushed back into that place again. I will never have the chance to have the time back and no one deserves to have this treatment for just doing their job.”
1. What do you do?
I am a specialist coach to help and empower people who suffer bullying, harassment and gender inequality.
2. What are you passionate about?
Being a change maker and helping people succeed. Raising awareness on bullying, harassment, gender equality and breaking the stigma on mental health.
3. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I am originally from Wales, United Kingdom where I was a youth worker for 7 years then decided to travel to Australia for a new life.
On my arrival in Australia in 2013, I worked in Human Resources. It's here I learned core lessons. I identified the gap in mental health support and went on a mission to be a change maker, creating my own job position at Culture Coordinator. In the workplace, I gained multiple awards and recognition for my work on gender equality and mental health support.
Behind the scenes I was suffering with extensive work place bullying and harassment from a person in a power position.
4. As abuse and violence is the focus of our Foundation, we feature those who have the courage to share their stories. Could you share your story with us? (We respect what you feel comfortable with).
5. How have your experiences impacted your life?
During the time, this left me extremely run down, confused, no sleep, having nightmares if I did fall asleep, anxious, in tears and with migraines. I felt isolated and afraid of his temper. I felt like my professionalism was constantly undermined and I was criticised for doing my role.
I was sick all night before work and so nervous of what would happen the next day. I felt humiliated and everyone around me could see what was happening. Those people were also too scared to help as they were afraid to lose their jobs. I felt physically ill knowing that my manager felt this way about me because of my gender. I would circle the conversation over and over in my mind.
6. What has been the response from people close to you (family) and the wider community?
My family were worried but very supportive. Community is very supportive.
7. How did you find your voice?
After the recent #metoo campaign and media coverage on sexual harassment I decided to create my business and speak up to help others.
8. Do you feel like you have overcome the trauma?
Slowly I have worked to overcome the trauma. During the process I felt trapped; unable to change the bully or hostile environment. The only hope was to change myself. I needed to become the master of my own mind. To protect my energy and reflect any negativity without it effecting my self-worth, mindset and confidence.
I developed my five steps for success moving from survivor to thriver:
1. The observer - I watched his every move
2. The protector - I learnt mindful strategies to protect my space and energy
3. The documenter - I journaled his words
4. The researcher - I collected resources, advice and prepared for his next attack
5. The change maker - I have utilised my experience to help others
Changing my mindset to move from survivor to thriver has been the best choice of my life.
9. What have been some of the greatest inspirations for sharing your story?
Support from family, friends and strangers.
10. What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve overcome during this journey?
Fear of my bully and nervous of judgement from others.
11. Do you feel the awareness is shifting around violence and abuse?
Yes especially now with the media coverage on the Hollywood sexual harassment scandal.
12. In your opinion - Why do you feel society has difficulty with the topics of abuse and violence?
It’s a topic that is swept under the carpet especially in organisations, families and schools. It’s a tough topic and people feel afraid to speak up as they are scared of rejection. Women can be afraid as they are portrayed as weak. In my case this was true.
13. What keeps you focused and grounded when things get challenging?
Remembering my purpose and mission. Turning my fear in fuel to help others. Knowing I am not alone.
14. What support system do you have?
Family, friends, and using support groups. The best thing I did was get psychological support and advice. From there my life started to improve gaining my confidence back.
15. Are there any up and coming projects that you’re working on?
www.bullyology.com – Raising awareness and breaking the silence on bullying and harassment.
16. Are there any words of wisdom you’d like to share for those going through similar experiences?
You are not alone. The moment I decided to speak up, I realised this wasn’t only limited to me. So many people I know have experienced similar thingss. It's going to take more than just one strong female to break the silence but in hope to empower others it's worth every breath of air.
Interviewed by Laura Naomi
© awakenedfoundation 2018
It began after returning from living in Europe for a year in 2009. I had lived in three different countries, each very different. This journey in particular ignited something inside me. It was not an easy time, however, I learnt some profound things about myself. One was how to ask for help. I had a belief that because I'd delved a lot into personal development, I 'should' be able to get through any challenge that life presents, by myself. Essentially, I was telling myself a story that wasn't real.
I had already hit bottom 4 years previously, leaving an abusive relationship. Yet I hadn't found the place inside me where I could say, "No". Part of discovering this place was being able to reach out to others and admit that I couldn't do it all myself. I had always surrendered and trusted my spiritual calling, yet, my level of trust with other human beings (no matter how close), was much lower.
So, I was sitting in Istanbul, Turkey. I felt both very alone and very blessed because I had explored the city, taking ample photographs and fell in love with the bohemian beauty. It was incredibly artistic and I loved my adventures. Yet, on another level, I was also doing my best to integrate having lived in Moscow only a few month prior; a country vastly different from my own. I had little resources left through circumstances and things were not turning out how I thought they might. Although, that was not something unusual to me, especially when traveling, it was an accumulation of overwhelm. On top of all this change, the connection with the man whom I had been involved with had run it's course.
One afternoon, I was watching the boats on the Bosphorus, it was quite a peaceful view and at the same time I felt that same alone feeling. I often loved being alone, yet this felt different. It felt like life had dismissed me. I felt as though I had failed at being independent. I felt over-responsible for everything and I had berated myself over and over again. At this point I reached for my laptop. I am unable to explain why it hadn't happened earlier, but I then sent an email to a dear friend. She wrote back not long after, saying, "Well, finally! I've been waiting for you to ask!".
Upon returning to Australia late 2010, and after the experience of that year integrated, something inside me had shifted deeply. I had found my "No'. One day I promised myself I would never let anyone treat me disrespectfully ever again, and I would stand up for myself and anyone else who was being treated badly. This meant saying 'No' to my family, which was one of the hardest things I've ever done.
Over the years following this shift, I had a growing sense that I wanted to give back to the community in some way, yet it wasn't clear how. I began writing more and connecting with other people with empowering messages. I felt very moved to support women so I focused more on this area.
The vision of the Awakened Foundation came through several years later, after another life-changing shift where I moved to America. It is inspired by a personal human story, along with many "awakenings" that have occurred in my life. We were driving along the interstate towards Maine to visit family, when suddenly images of beautiful, sensual and feminine artwork flashed through my mind along with the transcendent nature of what this represented. In the vision I also saw people who had experienced difficulties in their lives, painting, writing and creating moving pieces of work expressing their stories.
In one of those awakened moments I realised who I am was not those human experiences. I learnt first and foremost, that I could let it all go and then, to turn that difficult, painful energy into something beautiful and healing. I honour my human story, yet, I am not those experiences and they do not define me. Severing the chains and living beyond the story is different for everyone. Each person's path is unique and it may vary vastly to another's.
Why do I feel it is important to speak up?
To begin with, I was too concerned about what others may think. When I did speak to those whom I felt I could trust, I was judged. I did not balk at being vulnerable, in fact I learnt how vulnerability was an incredibly powerful and beautiful space to be in. I didn't realise the depth of what it meant to be open and honest about difficult issues and how it would press buttons in others. Reactions to someone who is willing to "go there" are plentiful. It is often a fear based response and is quite normal. I also know, with topics such as violence and abuse, there needs to be a great deal of patience and trust.
I speak up now for my family firstly. I also speak up for those in the world that do not have a voice. I speak up for a shift in the collective consciousness, and for myself.
Why creativity is so powerful.
The "Satori Project" is about healing through creativity. Pure creativity is an organic channel that is naturally healing; it is something that cannot be forced or replicated. It is unique to the individual. Those who feel moved to share their stories, we are open to; creative writing, poetry, art, photography, songwriting, music, and theatre.
The core focus of the Foundation and the Project is to support people on their path to freedom; in reclaiming their spirit, re-connect with their true self and return to their organic self through creativity. It is to support people in remembering the beautiful soul that they are, beyond the human experiences, knowing that they are not “damaged” beyond repair, and their presence is a pure gift.
Those who choose to tell their stories bring hope, inspiration, courage and greater awareness to others. It is an important phase of healing and empowerment for one to truly feel heard, seen and received in non-judgmental and compassionate ways.
Written by Laura Naomi
© awakenedfoundation 2017
Feel inspired to Share Your Story? Contact us here
To speak with the Founder please contact us here and we will arrange a confidential phone call.
"At first glance, I thought the red stiletto was letting us know about a fashion show and how high heels, although amazingly sexy, can become very uncomfortable after a long night. I kept seeing these signs on the side of the road, and then my curiosity got the better of me. I stopped and saw it was something called “Walk a Mile”.
Now, I have sometimes hesitated in the past to even mention the disrespectful way human’s treat each other. The signs indicated an event about walking a mile in “her” shoes, whomever she may be, yet she has experienced abuse in some form. I sat with this feeling inside me and reflected on how I have found my voice in recent years around this topic.
After a few weeks, I decided I’d like to join the Walk. Yet, I did not want to join as a disempowered woman. It was rather as a woman who does not tolerate disrespect in any shape or form anymore. The event was being held by The Elizabeth Freeman Center and I felt inspired to join in a creative capacity. This was my way of finding my voice - art, music and writing. I would never have attended such an event if it weren’t for the support of my husband and for those very close to me who I am eternally grateful for. It can be a very long and deeply painful road and to find the courage to confront the immense shame can be like wearing a really uncomfortable pair of stilettos. Blisters, cuts, aches and twisted ankles. As it was, although I was taking photos and admiring how the organisers had turned the walk into something quite fun and light-hearted, I observed a part of me still felt very uncomfortable. This was the first time I had ever raised my voice, in public no less about Domestic Violence. It was a vulnerable space. If it weren’t for the support, I would have stayed home. As we walked, I felt a familiar energy to shy away and keep it a secret and so every time I felt this, I turned to my camera and channeled that energy into creating something artistic.
Where I can create something beautiful out of something destructive, my heart beams with joy. This is the magic of transforming an ugly aspect of humanity, into something incredibly beautiful and healing.
If I did have the courage to reach out to someone, usually because I trusted them, I experienced interesting responses. One of course was the “Why did you stay? It’s your fault for staying”. This can be a highly destructive and critical comment and is filled with judgement. To judge a situation can deepen the wound and shame. It is never straight forward and there can be so much underlying a situation. It is important to know that each circumstance is different and I feel it is most beneficial to approach it with this patient understanding. The shame is the worst and the emotions that cloud the shame. And when one is in it, it does not make any sense at all no matter how one tries to rationalise it. The most important aspect for me was reaching a place of worth inside that no one else had access to and it required digging deep.
One other main reason I never wanted to talk about it was that people would box me. They would label me and make assessments and judgements on my character and my entire life. Being dismissed and shelved brings up feeling of being excluded and banished from society or community. And to maintain the “secret” and remain in denial is like setting out on a trek across the Himalayas only to realise you’ve completely forgot your thermals, ski boots, jumpers, jackets, goggles, toque….. water!!! *sigh*
Many years ago, I recall my Papa talking about self worth and how without it one is not living.
And so I walked. We turned up and I carried my camera being over-polite to not offend anyone. But then I realised I was among those who had been through hell and back, who were looking into each other’s eyes with love and an unmistakable respect along with a raw finger-nails-on-a-blackboard honesty. It’s out in the open, it’s being talked about, people are actually listening, they are not running away. A woman spoke with a fierceness in her eyes and fire in her spirit and I loved every minute. I heard a man reading poetry and saw how it moved the audience and it still rings in my heart. These were the words of human experiences of intensity and reality. Abuse is happening everywhere and it does not discriminate.
Most men walked a mile in high heels (I saw one elderly man running in his heels towards the Finish sign!) and as people crossed the finish line there were cheers and a collective celebration. On the map, the township of Pittsfield doesn’t look big but the hearts spoke loud enough for the whole world.
I still love my heels but perhaps the next pair will be some sturdy hiking boots with tread."
Elizabeth Freeman Center: http://www.elizabethfreemancenter.org
© copyright 2016, Laura Naomi