Are you a Lifelong Alaskan?
No – my family moved to Alaska, from Texas, in the early ’90s when I was a kid.
What part of Alaska did you grow up in and what was it like growing up there?
Fairbanks! I’d never really seen snow before we moved to Alaska, let alone experienced dark & cold like there is here. It was a hard transition, but this weird & beautiful commUNITY grew on me.
What would you say to someone who needs help and someone to talk to but may not like the idea of asking for help?
It’s hard to ask for help – we internalize false narratives that asking for help means we’re being weak or a burden to others. Neither is true. Asking for help is hard because we have to be strong to do it, at a time when we don’t feel strong at all. Practice asking because – the moment you’re ready – someone is waiting to listen.
Alaska can be a challenging place to live. What are some coping strategies that you have developed to cope and thrive in our unique Alaskan environment?
Keeping a routine – a healthy sleep schedule, regular meals, a nice walk & lots of water go a LONG way to keeping myself as healthy as possible. Also, taking time to smell the wild roses, listen to the winter chickadees, wonder at the aurora, crush fall leaves, gaze at the moon & watch a river current… this land is lovely. Being in it, sharing it with loved ones, appreciating it & protecting it helps ground me in the present.
During a time of great uncertainty and turmoil and transition, what gives you hope right now? And what makes you proud?
Mr. Rogers said to “look for the helpers” & I do. These extraordinary times are hard & it’s ok to feel that – but there’s so much good in the world, too. My job is organizing helpers & helping others. Every day, I see communities lifting each other up because we are hopeful & because we care about each other. I am so proud of us. I’m proud when people choose kindness & gentleness (with themselves & others) in the face of fear & trouble.
Every day, I see communities lifting each other up because we are hopeful & because we care about each other. I am so proud of us. I’m proud when people choose kindness & gentleness (with themselves & others) in the face of fear & trouble.H. Hill
During difficult times, is there a mantra or some sort of touchstone that you return to? Something that gives you strength or offers perspective during challenging times?
There’s a quote from Galileo Galilei: “The sun, with all those planets revolving around it & dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.” It reminds me that just being is enough & that even when I feel overwhelmed, I can still ‘ripen grapes’ – I can choose kindness & wonder & make the world a better place no matter what else is happening.
No one deserves trauma, but many of us have experienced trauma in our lives. The path to healing looks different and follows a different timeline for every one. Would you feel comfortable sharing a story of healing or recovery from your own life?
I’m a fairly private person, but I think sharing the experience of being a repeat suicide survivor – as too many Alaskans are – is an important part of breaking the stigma that feeds this cycle. Alaska is in crisis – we have a suicide epidemic & not enough accessible resources for mental health to address it – the impact of this is an obvious wound that is harming us all. Part of my healing has been ongoing self-education & community organizing as an act of existential resistance as well as radical love for everyone we’ve lost & everyone who’s left.
During times of acute stress and crisis – looking back on those times in your life, what advice would you give yourself?
First: learn the difference between abusing coping skills & actual self care (coping feels good in the moment but doesn’t help long-term, self-care is hard in the moment but helps in the long-term). Second: “Get out of your head & into your body.” The best advice I’ve ever received was that when I’m in crisis, that I need to cool my limbic system down with mindfulness, breathing & being present – taking a walk helps.
Is there anything else you would like to add about hope & healing?
We’re not in this alone. Life can be hard & the future is unknowable but we’re not alone. Find your allies, find your support system & let them help.
We’re not in this alone. Life can be hard & the future is unknowable but we’re not alone. Find your allies, find your support system & let them help.H. Hill
In crisis or simply need someone to talk to?
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Thank you Alyeska Pipeline Service Company for sponsoring Alaskan Stories of Hope & Healing