Learn to overcome my most difficult lifelong struggles. Change the way I think of myself and others. Those are my goals but in order to fix my problems I’ve begun to face them and trace them back to where they originated. As I stated looking back into my childhood and different traumas I endured or challenges I faced I was able to see and understand them, as well as my reactions to them much better now then I did when I was a child.
This was a painful journey down memory lane but I was beginning to see there was a benefit to going there. It was not to make me feel sorry for myself but to make me feel better about myself. I have spent most of my life refusing to look back because I knew it was painful and I thought it would only inspire self pity. I’ve always believed that being strong meant that you didn’t let anything get to you. If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger and so on… So I suppressed a lot of things. I didn’t deal with them at the time they happened so instead I have carried them throughout my life; always feeling weighed down by so much pain that nobody knew about. I’m not saying I think I should have dwelled on things but allowing yourself to be hurt and work through what you’re feeling rather then pretending it didn’t happen is healthy.
My life has been chaotic since birth. I was born to a mentally ill mom and my father is unknown. So my grandmother stepped in and she raised me for the majority of my childhood. Though I did bounce around some as a kid, staying with different people and spent a few years in the foster care system due to school truancy and neglect on my well meaning grandmothers part.
My grandma was the sweetest person most people had ever met. She was a strong Christian, selfless, thoughtful, compassionate, giving, and also very trusting or gullible. However she was not the best parent, she rarely ever disciplined me, she gave me almost complete control over myself beginning very early in my life. At a daycare center I attended at around age 4 or 5 I was acting out, I remember them threatening to talk to my grandmother about my behavior and my response was “I don’t care, she won’t do anything about it” in this one particular incident she did punish me for saying she wouldn’t and that is why I remember it. She was also a single parent who had already raised 4 kids of her own so I think she was just tired by the time I came around, that is my theory. Whatever the reason, she was also very neglectful. She allowed me to stay with people on the weekends even after she learned I had been molested over there. She worked nights and I was often home alone and then sent to school dirty and sleep deprived. This caused me to be bullied early in school and so begin my many problems with school.
Grandma felt terrible about how I was treated at school and my growing hatred for it. She began fighting with the schools on my behalf and unknowingly instilled a belief in me that the school didn’t like me either. She blamed them for all of my struggles in school never seeing her own part in it. Back then I didn’t see her part in it either, I heard teachers and other people say things about my grandma and her lack of parenting and this made me very angry I loved her and she loved me.
I hated school with a passion, sometimes to the point that I would have rather died then go to school. The school eventually called DCF on her for all of absences and from their perspective obvious neglect. A case worker showed up and they began putting pressure on us for my attendance to improve and grandma to change some things. Suddenly being made to go to school all the time was extremely hard for me as I had never been made to do anything really. At age 12 or so I attempted suicide by taking grandmas left over pain medication from a back injury she had. Soon after taking it I began to feel sick and got scared, so I told her what I had done. With some help from a cousin she was able to call for help and then I spent two weeks in the hospital for mental health evaluations.
That was one of the hardest times in my life because I was so afraid of ending up like my mom who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. That has always been a huge concern for me. Also I think that’s why I didn’t receive any help for struggles I dealt with because deep down I knew I was not okay but I didn’t want to be labeled mentally ill in anyway. I grew up hearing horror stories about my mom from different relatives who witnessed different things she had done. She threw me in a road in front of on coming traffic when I was 7 months old on one of her first visitations with me. She had done a lot of terrible things due to her mental illness; but I was also told about how pretty and sweet she was prior to becoming sick. So this made me question whether the same would happen to me. She wasn’t always that way and grandma had many theories about what made her so sick. In most of them she believed that it was doctors trying different drugs on her that caused her to become so mentally ill. So now as a child I established a fear of teachers, schools, social workers, and doctors. All these fears eventually turned into anger towards any authority figure.
Looking back I know I was a troubled child. I wanted to stay home playing with neighborhood kids or sometimes cousins; but mostly I preferred to play alone, I had a very vivid imagination and that was my escape, all throughout my childhood and early teens. When things got to hard I would just retreat to my imagination and imagine things to be however I wanted. It was a place I was in control of and could not be hurt in. So much time spent in fantasy land often led me to wishing things could be different for real. I became a terrible liar, when I met someone new I would lie to them about almost everything; so my friendships usually didn’t last long because of this. I just didn’t like who I was at all and did not believe that anyone would like the real me. When I grew ashamed of the liar I was becoming I started to isolate myself more then ever. I found a lot of comfort in animals and have always had as many pets as I could. Taking care of them and having them helped me tremendously.
As I got older my insecurities deepened, I was afraid of most social situations; I compensated for this fear by becoming very tough and unapproachable I was mean and got in a lot of fights. I was really pretending to be tougher than I was but it worked for a while. I dropped out of school as soon as I was able and further isolated myself. I felt worthless and was on a constant battle with depression and anxiety. I was angry all the time. I thought about suicide a lot but I was afraid I’d go to hell.
I went through short periods of trying to improve my own self worth at 15 I started attending GED classes and there I met a 26 year old guy who showed interest in me which I ignored, until one drunken night while trying to impress a younger cousin, I decided to call him so that he (being old enough) could get us more alcohol… long story short that night ended with me getting raped. The last bit of pride I had left was gone as well as any shred of dignity. I blamed myself because I put myself in the situation that I knew was bad. I knew what he wanted I just thought I could handle it. I was wrong, I still replay that night and everything I did wrong. Why didn’t I fight him more? I was scared, that in itself made me angry. I told myself to toughen up, it’s happened to a lot of woman, they’re fine, you’ll be fine. My cousin got scared (I think she knew) and called her mom. I lied to everyone to protect myself (my pride) and said it was consensual. I let him get away with it, now he is in prison for raping a 12 year old girl only 4 months after me. I thought about how I could have prevented that from happening to her. It was all to much. How I wished I could go back and change it.
I remember feeling so hopeless, I broke down in tears one night and prayed like I had never prayed before. After I said that prayer I went into the living room where Grandma was reading her Bible like she always did in the evenings and I told her how lost I was feeling and how I prayed. She cried and said she was so happy to hear that, we talked for a while and then I agreed to go with her to church that evening. (I hadn’t been in a while) They talked about camp that was coming up (I always hated camp because I never felt like I fit in) but I decided to try camp one last time. At camp I met a couple who did mission work in Africa, it was all really interesting to me for some reason and they were so nice to me, I felt loved. Then they told me I could go and do that mission work with them. I didn’t really believe I would go but the growing friendship gave me hope enough and I was growing spiritually as a result of their friendship.
It was just the perfect time for God to intervene in my life and give me just enough hope to go on. I did end up going to Ghana on a mission trip which impacted me and my perspective on life so much. I moved into my own apartment and was doing really well in my job that I had managed to hold for 3 years at this point! Soon after that I met an amazing, kind, funny, and all around great guy, my first ever real boyfriend and I came to love him very quickly. I was feeling things I didn’t think I would ever feel and so I married him! We have been blessed with 4 beautiful girls! Things were really looking up for me for the first time! The only problem is that I still had all of this unresolved trauma, insecurities, and false beliefs about myself. It all followed me wherever I went. I learned to live with it the best I could but as time has gone on I’ve realized how it still effects me and now my family. I have a fear of intimacy and of being touched, I have to see it coming if someone is going to touch me or I have to be the one to initiate it. I still struggle with anxiety and depression at times. Last year my grandmother passed away. I thought that was it, that was the last thing I could tolerate.
In spite of all of the blessings in my life now; I still had so much pain. So I sought out help for the first time, I found someone in my church who was offering grief counseling and allowed myself to feel everything I was feeling, to trust someone and get it all out. It was a powerful experience and though my issues went further then grief this was the first step in learning to deal with my pain rather then suppress it. I have learned…. It’s okay to not be okay sometimes, and it’s okay to talk about what you’ve been through, or get professional help in dealing with things. It doesn’t make you weak, or attention seeking. People don’t judge you as hard as you judge yourself. I still have a long way to go but for the first time I’m talking about it and working through it rather then dragging it along. Hope this helps someone somewhere, there is always hope!