POSTED ON June 05 2017

Hope Alcocer on Empowerment, PTSD and Finding Hope In Suffering

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About Hope:

It’s often said there are two roads – a well-beaten path and one less traveled that provides obstacles that teach you as you go. While many get to choose which path they take, Hope Alcocer’s was decided for her. A rocky path, her life has thrown her many curveballs to endure – from a terrifying head injury, struggle with PTSD and two heart-shattering breakups – to highs including a self-started and internationally lauded magazine, KHLOE, and now a new book based on her life, Where Hope Lies.

In episode 45 of I Want Her Job: The Podcast, Host Polina Selyutin talks with Hope about dealing, ironically, with hopelessness, to founding a women’s magazine, creating her own boutique marketing agency and turning her painful life experiences into a just-released novel. We also discuss her Armenian culture and how her family has remained her source of strength and wisdom. And if you like what you hear, be sure to check out our online interview with Hope here.

We’re excited for you to see (and hear!) that Hope is a woman who is living up to her name by handling the surprises life sends her with courage, grace, and of course, hope.

Topics Discussed In Today’s Show:

  • The Importance of Innovating: During her senior year in college, Hope was dealing with the aftermath effects of a head injury from a few years prior. About to burst out onto the adult career scene, she had serious doubts wondering, “How am I going to hold a 9-to-5 job with this injury?” She had major conversations with her loved ones, who urged her to use her creativity to create something. She sent out some cold pitches and ended up with her first freelancing gig. Her freelance editing then turned to writing and social media. One year later, she had 50 clients and had to hire help, thus creating Hope Alcocer Studios – a boutique marketing, public relations and social media agency. She’s thankful the opportunity also provided her with more flexibility to heal. Her self-created business then turned into an opportunity to move client side full-time in 2014.
  • On Recovery: “I was told I would never be normal again,” Hope says. After she was given the wrong medication during a time she was sick at age 16-going-on-17, Hope had an allergic reaction, and a seizure ensued that changed her brain chemistry, caused her to lose consciousness, led to short-term memory loss and brain damage. She’s since worked through cognitive and physical rehab and is about “99% recovered,” she says. “The thing about head injuries is that two or three years can go by, and then a new symptom can pop up … But I have really made a comeback … My entire recovery was through natural health and medicine … If I don’t stay in tune to my body, my body will give me warning signs.”
  • Life Inspiring Art: Hope shares how her book, Where Hope Lies, was inspired by the popular Tumblr she ran from 2010 to 2012 called Diary of an Army Girlfriend. (The Tumblog had to shutter when her now-ex-fiancée went on a secret mission.) Fast forward a few years, and there came a point where Hope was feeling broken -- battling with PTSD -- and feeling like her power was taken away. It was at this point that Hope fulfilled a lifelong dream and moved to New York City for a fresh start. 
  • On A Fresh Start: “I bought a one-way ticket, packed two suitcases, had a panic attack the entire 1-hour and 45-minute flight to New York, and I started over,” Hope says.
  • On Friendship: “I have a group of five-to-six girls here [in New York City], and we go out every weekend. If someone in the group needs something, the other one is there at the drop of the hat,” Hope says. “We consider ourselves like Sex and the City 2.0. These women who I’ve networked with and become friends with are powerhouses, and they never want to see anyone fail. We push each other to be the best version of ourselves in life, love and career. It’s so important. I’ve found my ‘tribe’ so to speak, and I couldn’t be happier with where I am right now.”
  • Golden Career Advice: Find your “it” factor, Hope says, and stay relevant in your industry. “You only have a couple of seconds when you are making a pitch.” Spend it wisely.
  • On Networking: “I think it’s good for everyone to be pushed outside of their comfort zone to network,” Hope says.
  • Creating KHLOE: KHLOE, an entirely reader-contributed print (and then digital) magazine, was started by Hope in 2011. The title, an acronym for “Klothes, Health, Love, Opportunity and Empowerment” was created by more than 50 volunteer photographers, writers and graphic designers from across the globe and was translated to 13 different languages. Although it was successful and received attention from CNN and other outlets, Hope says that eventually she got burned out on the project and opted to put her creative talents elsewhere – like her new book!
  • The Darkest Night: Hope opens up about a traumatizing night, and the good that came out of it. “It was one of the worst night I ever had, and I tried committing suicide,” Hope shares. The attempt was stopped and later on that same night she sat there, doodling images and words on a Jimmy Johns napkin. The words ended up creating the categories the acronym “KHLOE” represented. “It was that night that I decided I needed something to live for if I was going to get out of this dark abyss of the head injury and depression,” she says. “I was going to start a movement (a voice of female empowerment) … I needed a reason to get up every morning.”
  • Dealing With PTSD: “A lot of times when you hear that phrase (post-traumatic stress disorder), your mind is going to go someone who has been in combat, or a policeman or a firefighter. That’s usually where we, as a society, go when we hear that phrase. A lot of times, what we don’t realize, is it’s trauma. It’s the after-effect of anything traumatic. And each individual’s definition of trauma is based on different thresholds,” Hope says. Having seizures every day for 14 months, short-term memory loss, losing her independence from these injuries and dealing with grief from childhood of losing a parent, and her brother becoming paralyzed waist-down after a motorcycle accident (they almost lost him), all led Hope to battle PTSD. “We didn’t have time to grieve,” she says. “We just went into survival mode. When all of that dwindled down, and I was alone in New York with my thoughts from the last decade, it hit … I would fall asleep and these movie reels would play in my mind of the last 10 years.”
  • Time To Deal: Hope attended weekly counseling sessions to deal with her trauma, which she describes in detail during this episode. You need to sit quietly to hear what you need, Hope says. Her important and guiding life decisions came when she gave herself quiet time and space to listen to herself.
  • Connect: Follow Hope on Twitter and buy her book here.

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