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Amanda Cunningham: My Second Act

Silence tells a story…

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I’m not a writer by trade but the retrospective nature of it is a means of catharsis for me. It’s where I go for reprieve. When shared, I marvel at its ability to ignite camaraderie and evoke emotion in others. Like when you hear a good beat with lyrics that hit so close to home you wonder if you wrote them yourself. Alone in the car, you feel less so.

I was at a crossroads when FITSNews asked if I’d be a contributor. Scared shitless to be honest. I first heard of them in 2018 when they published a story suggesting I am an unfiltered feminist, quoting parts of a blog about my struggle with body image and identity shift during pregnancy. Then again in 2019 when they said I was complaining about my taxpayer-funded healthcare, referencing stories I posted about mental health services not being covered under healthcare plans.

Am I an unfiltered feminist? Sure, the shoe fits.

Was I complaining about my taxpayer-funded healthcare? Yes, I was.

We should all be complaining about the chronic inaccessibility and pervasive stigma of mental health care in this country – where studies have shown nearly 40 percent of those requiring treatment cannot afford the cost of getting help.

Does anyone really think this system failure isn’t having a devastating impact on our country?

But my words were spun creating clickbait for the far-right. As it picked up steam from more news outlets, it boiled behind the scenes too. It added heat to an already lit political agenda that intertwined and invaded my personal life. It’s difficult to look back and read certain things, mostly because I let the words and opinions of others stronghold me in a dark place at that time. In 2018 I became a mother while simultaneously tossed into the public political sphere. Miscarriage to motherhood, marriage to divorce, debt, death, and rock-bottom would consume me in the years that followed. I know with vulnerability comes consequence, but I didn’t know how deep the consequence would cut. The wound would silence me. And within that silence I wilted into a depression that could have taken my life. 

I’m still reemerging from the tight grip of those years and part of that process is figuring out where my voice fits in the lexicon, or how I wish to use it. I don’t know yet if my writing makes sense on FITSNews? But I do know that if we only ever interact in our zones of comfort, we give up an invitation to expand. Both for ourselves, and for our community.

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RELATED | AMANDA CUNNINGHAM IS HER OWN FIRST LADY

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Last month I made a choice to speak out during our state’s primary election and was asked, “what will you tell your son when he’s old enough to understand?”. While the question was posed as a threat, it holds a sentiment that gets me up in the mornings. It’s why I said yes to FITSNews, too.

My answer, truth.

I knew many could, and most likely would, misinterpret my voice and so I spent days contemplating whether I should or shouldn’t make these choices. The safest thing is to stay in the sanctuary of silence. Why put myself out there to risk the wrath of subjective public opinion?

Because.

The 2016 elections made clear our silence, not only in the face of injustice but in the face of our values, is our complicity. For eons women have played roles of neutrality. Molded to stay small and in the shadows. Conditioned not to stir the pot or speak too loudly. And in my reemergence, I can no longer be an enabler of the archaic systems and beliefs that have governed us for too long. We need more women and minorities represented in all roles; the voices that have gone unheard to be the voices that lead us in the future. My son needs to see me do more things that scare me, and less things to ensure other’s comfort at the expense of my own.

With nothing off-limits, I hope to share stories of the human experience that make us feel more connected and less divided. Together, we can shake narratives that no longer serve our relationships, community, or country. The lost art of communication needs to make a comeback so we can sit at any table, mingle with any group, and do so with a comfortable and healthy understanding that our differences strengthen the conversation. So yes, I’m scared shitless to do this, but I’d rather learn from speaking out than linger in the silence of complicity.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Amanda B. Cunningham is a guest contributor for FITSNews, additionally, her work has been featured in Redbook, Healthline, Bustle, Natalist, The Native, SWAAY, DIY Active, Yoga International and Udemy. Amanda runs operations and development for an anti-trafficking nonprofit and lives in the Lowcountry with her 4-year-old son and 10-year-old rescue.

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