Donna Betz, A Peyton Heart Project Ambassador for Glendale, AZ. She will be a Peyton Heart Project ambassador until September 5th, 2020.
In Donna’s own words:
Although I love learning, school was not a safe place for me. I started being bullied in 2nd grade by my teacher. The students followed suit and started bullying me as well. When I would say anything about the situation to an adult, I was told it was my fault that I was being picked on and to quit complaining. I couldn’t defend myself because “it takes two to fight.” Fighting was unacceptable to my parents. I was told by my elementary school principal that I, “was asking to be bullied.“ Something was wrong with me that I supposedly wanted to be spit on, kicked, punched, pushed, shoved, hit, stolen from, and had locker doors flung shut on me. I knew that I deserved this for some reason because that is what the adults, that were supposed to protect me, kept telling me. I did not mention this terror to my parents because I wanted them to be proud of me. I didn’t want this “flaw” to diminish that pride. The bullying continued through high school. I don’t think a school day went by when I wasn’t physically hurt by someone. Often, I didn’t even know who attacked me. What I did know was that was my fault, so I had better just grin and bear it. I witnessed my friend being bullied, but I couldn’t protect myself, much less him.
College was nice because I could learn without being hurt. I had a hard time trusting anybody so making friends was difficult. I did make a few friends. One of them I married.
After earning my bachelor’s degree, I started teaching and found another bully. This time it was the principal of the school where I was teaching. Before the school year was over, I ended up ill. I spent most of my time sleeping or at medical appointments. I was unable to take care of myself, so my husband had to care for me like I was a young child. Although something was obviously wrong, the doctors couldn’t figure out why I was so ill. Besides the physical problems, I also was quite depressed and riddled with anxiety. One doctor told me that I, “wanted to be sick for the benefits.” I was, once again, being told that I was choosing to be in pain. I hated the way this was wearing on my husband and I still couldn’t figure out how to change that part of me that chose to be ill. I had not succeeded in not being a victim in school and I wasn’t succeeding in choosing to not be ill now. I was getting worse and I could see no end to all the doctors’ appointments and tests. I may not be able to choose to get better but there was another way for me to end this half-existence. I spent much of my waking time trying to decide which prescription would kill me with the least amount of pain. At least twice I had the pill bottles all gathered, ready to free my husband when he walked in and discovered me. He would then take all the bottles away from me.
A mother cat, with two newborn kittens, decided to make our porch her new home. If I didn’t help care for the cats, while my husband was at work, they were likely to die. I was not going to let that happen.
I would watch the kittens play and they would make me laugh. My medications were also changed about then. I found a group that made burial outfits for angel babies. That was something I could do whenever I was awake, so I did. I also watched the two kittens grow, learn, and play. I had a reason to live again.
I made angel outfits for many hospitals in Arizona and then I saw a post on a Facebook group that The Peyton Heart Project would take the hearts that this group was no longer taking. The Peyton Heart Project deals with bullying, suicide awareness, and stigma surrounding mental health issues; three issues by which I have personally been affected. I also grew up seeing the way my uncle was treated due to his physical and mental issues. I also saw the effect my grandfather’s suicide and my uncle’s attempted suicide had on the family.
Since I tend to crochet during “stolen moments”, the hearts are a perfect project. Because a variety of hearts are used, there is always a way for me to make hearts, even if I tire of one craft. Small acts really do affect us and so these hearts can make a huge difference to someone. By sharing my story, others may gain a better understanding of what it might be like to live with these issues and therefore grow more compassionate. Personally, The Peyton Heart Project means hope for a brighter future for others and me.
I am excited to become a Peyton Heart Project Ambassador because I want to help eliminate bullying, suicide, and mental health stigma. By helping others understand about living with a mental health issue, I believe it will also bring a better understanding and compassion for other invisible illnesses. I already bring The Peyton Heart Project to the on-line crochet community by mentioning The Peyton Heart Project when a question comes up about what to do with scrap yarn. I am aware of three people who have started crocheting hearts because of my posts. One even told me that she is using the hearts as a way to help her heal from her husband’s recent suicide.
Machine embroidery is a great way to make hearts so I would like to help bring the machine embroidery community into The Peyton Heart Project fold. I am going to work with my friend (and ambassador) with handing out hearts at the Winslow (AZ) Christmas Parade. Colorstreet’s charity for September is suicide prevention, so my cousin is going to place a Peyton Heart Project heart in each order as a gift and a way of remembering her uncle. She also volunteers with the Verde Valley Crisis Response Unit and wants to have hearts for each crisis she responds to. The Peyton Heart Project is introduced to people every time someone asks what I am doing with the yarn or felt, and a heart is handed out with the response, “Hearts to bring awareness and eliminate bullying, suicides, and mental health stigma.”
Thank you for this opportunity and the chance to help make the world a happier, more peaceful place.