The overarching theme of Brené Brown‘s research and work is shame, vulnerability and courage. And it has completely helped me to change my entire life.

The courage she displayed in her first TEDx Houston talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is something to be in awe of. It has only been through witnessing this courage that many events in my life have unfolded and taken place; Emerging Women 2013, Ever Upward the book and the blog, The Daring Way™ Certification training, and really, the first spark of my own recovery.

Because courage is contagious.

Witnessing courage in others; through the work of my patients, through my own loved ones and through amazing people like Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert and Glennon Melton helps us all to believe in our own power to change our lives.

And there are simply not enough sufficient words to portray the emotion I feel when others own their stories because I have owned mine.

Every single like, comment, and especially, share of Ever Upward posts.

The woman who has never spoken to anyone but her husband about their infertility struggles and stumbles upon Ever Upward to then post on Facebook that she is starting a infertility support group at her church.

My friend who admitted to more friends of how they finally became pregnant with their soon to be born baby girl.

My patient who chooses her recovery every day because she knows we’ve all had to fight some sense of recovery in our lives, even me, her therapist.

Brené Brown - The Daring Way™

Brené Brown – The Daring Way™

It is not always easy to speak, let alone own, all the parts of my story. Shame still resides in me, really in us all, as my unhealthy, unwanted, and really unneeded, savior; the dark dementor that comes in to shut me down, to protect me from pain and judgment.

The shame that comes in making me feel a dark, heavy pit in my stomach that then wafts the suffocating fog over my spirit dulling my light.

I felt it just this past week when Huffington Post ran the article, The Question The Gives You a One in Eight Chance of Being an Insensitive Jerk. I was so excited to see a huge site like HuffPost run a blog post about infertility. And I will completely admit, I only wish they had featured my blog and that they had spoken more to every side of the infertility world, but breaking the silence of infertility on any level is a step towards the death of shame that silences us so much.

But then I made the mistake of reading the comments on HuffPost’s Facebook page in response to the article. The amount of ignorance, judgment and mercilessness were all I needed for my shame to pull everything I’ve worked so hard on right out from under me. I was faced with the words that bring on my shame spiral in a blink of an eye, “I don’t understand why people who cannot have kids don’t just adopt.”

It hit me like a two ton shield. My heart started racing, my breath quickened and I could feel the dark pit in my stomach churn. My dementor came in so quickly to shut me down, to “protect” me, to steal my light.

And then I named it.


I took a breath, reminded myself of the power of my light and I spoke. I took a moment to post a comment myself on the Facebook feed, taking the opportunity to educate on how much infertility is misunderstood, minimized and invalidated, especially with that inevitable question. And, then I also emailed HuffPost asking them to run additional articles on this subject and even submitted for an opportunity to write something myself.

I took a breath and I found my courage.

I took a breath and embraced the pain and the judgment to remind me that the flame of my spirit, my core values, are courage and hope. And unless, I protect that flame myself, no one else will ever be able to see it.

I took a breath and I spoke.Rusty lantern hanging in a shed

I took a breath and I tried to be contagious.

As, it has only been through the courage and spark of others’ protecting and living their own flame, that I have found mine.

Because courage is contagious.

So even if HuffPost never features Ever Upward or my book doesn’t become a New York Times bestseller or the blog never achieves a hundred thousand followers I will still be here.

I will still be here, shining my light of courage and hope because it is the only way I honor my own recovery. And, if my light sparks the courage in even just one person to fight for finding their own ever upward, well then, I consider it contagious.

15 thoughts on “Courageously Contagious

  1. Karen Lanser says:

    Thank you for shining so brightly … even when the dementor is taunting you. You are lighting the way for many, many more than you could possibly know! And … I couldn’t agree more … courage is so contagious!


    1. Karen, thank you so much for your kind words! Much love, Justine


  2. Jane says:

    thank-you. Thank-You, THANK-YOU!


    1. You’re welcome, and thank you! ❤


  3. Marie says:

    I too have been wounded and shamed by ignorant comments about infertility. It hurts at a very deep level that only those who have suffered the pain of infertility and pregnancy loss can understand. It’s so important that we have a place where we are safe to express our pain and know that we will be understood and met with compassion. Your blog has become that space for me Justine, and I am sure for many more like me.


    1. Marie, thank you so much for being one of my I get it friends. I am so thankful for you! Just finished writing the last chapter of my book, and I wrote about our connection. ❤


  4. jenh94 says:

    You do a nice job of describing that darkness that sneaks in to protect you from pain. I never thought of it that way. As though it comes in to protect you from feeling. But looking closer, I do guess that is why when that takes over, I retreat to bed to shut it all off. I guess in a strange way, that was a way to protect myself, because feeling it is too much. Everyday I fight it and everyday I hope it doesn’t beat me. I strive to find my light, as you have. I can’t let this kill me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes we absolutely just need to feel it, as the is the only way it can move through and pass. Justine

      Liked by 1 person

      1. jenh94 says:

        Absolutely terrified…but in time I know I will let it happen. Brave, courage, strong and hopeful. Fight until the end!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Libby says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and courage. I feel like I have been searching for validation of my infertility struggles for so long and then today I found your blog. I know I have much work ahead of me and I’m so grateful that your story and posts give me a place to begin the healing process. Thank so much for being courageous and choosing to put yourself out there. I hope to be able to do so one day, because you’re right, there is too much silence around infertility and loss. It needs to be embraced and our children’s lives celebrated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Libby, I am so glad you stumbled upon Ever Upward today! I do hope you find it so helpful and see yourself in my words. We are in this together. Please reach out if you need anything. There is a ton here since it has been over 3 years already. Sending you love and prayers of clarity through this journey. Justine


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