I had a teacher tell me once that labels were for cans. As a little middle schooler desperately trying to fit in by denouncing labels (fighting the proverbial man, if you will,) I adopted this phrase as my life motto. I shook off any label anyone threw at me. Calling me "emo" was offensive to my little emo heart. I was not a choir kid, I was a kid who liked to sing. Anorexic, depressed, anxious, traumatized, if you could label me with them, I was anything but that.
For years I fought off any kind of label. I did not want to be put in a box. I met any labels with a dramatic "you don't know me!" I told myself I would not be defined by these words and any stereotypes that came with them.
But in my early 20s, someone looked at me and gave me a label that would change the course of my entire life. She would give me the language to finally speak out about what had been happening to me my entire life. She would see what was happening to me and call it for what it was: sex trafficking.
From that moment, I stopped fighting labels. Because you put a label on a can, yes, but the language is on it for people to read. I had finally been given a word to call what had been happening to me. I finally had a label that gave context to everything I had been thinking and feeling. I had a label to finally be able to find people who understood me, people who could offer me specialized help that I so desperately needed.
Labels aren't a bad thing, especially when I realize it's in my hands to define what those labels read.
In middle school, my label read "Emo, cutter, anorexic, weirdo, loner, crybaby." But I'm choosing to rewrite that. My label has gotten an upgrade. "Writer, Christian, Dog Mom, Survivor, Advocate."
And that's possible for me because someone gave me the label, the language, to call what had happened to me what it was: sex trafficking. Because she knew what trafficking was, she blew the doors wide open on my healing and gave me the space to rewrite my label.