Parenting with PTSD …

Something about becoming a parent changes us, doesn’t it? Well, I suppose it would be more accurate to say everything about becoming a parent changes us! I love how becoming a mother to my daughter has forced me to grow in ways I never would have let myself grow. Some changes we are ready for and others we would rather not face because it is scary; and if weren’t for my daughter, I would likely run away from the more difficult parts. Ensuring her well-being has given me the desire and motivation to undergo such painful change and finally deal with my past. This is my first-hand description of what it’s like to become a person you never wanted to be.

I’d never given much thought to why I couldn’t recall childhood memories or feel connected to my childhood. I always knew that I’d endured physical, verbal, and sexual abuse at a very young age by family members and friends and for that reason, I didn’t try to think back to childhood very often in life. I spent years explaining my story of abuse and abandonment to therapists for it to eventually become like a story I once read rather than the truth of what happened. Evidently, it’s a common phenomenon to lose several years’ worth of memories as a result of trauma. Even memories that had nothing to do with trauma can be irretrievable if they were around the time of the traumatic events. This explains why certain parts of my therapy and my childhood were like a blur.

I hoped that becoming a mother would move me even further along in my recovery, by providing me the chance to end the dysfunctional and abusive cycles that had diseased my family tree.

Instead, once I became a mother, I was thrown into mental and physical chaos marked by a near constant state of anxiety. And as I started paying more attention to what exactly was triggering me, I came to the realization that it was the most basic acts of parenting — nurturing and protecting — that were causing my pain.

I was never warned that living with CPTSD would be something else I would have to learn to manage when I became a new mom. My primary care doctor and OBGYN both took a social history from me at my initial visits, and my chart held the secret that from the age of 2 to the age of 7, I was sexually abused and even during parts of my teenage life. My records briefly outlined the sexual and domestic violence I witnessed and the abandonment I experienced from both of my biological parents. Yet that is where my secrets stayed; it never came up in any of the discussions I had with these providers as I entered parenthood.

I didn’t just hide my pain from my doctors; I was too ashamed to talk to even those closest to me about what was happening. I was afraid friends would judge me, my husband would doubt me, and my doctors would have to report my inability to be a “good” parent to authorities. I never felt so alone in my life. But I carried on, leaving clues for no one that inside, I was crumbling.

I mothered through the physical pain, mental anguish, and a broken spirit until, finally, I heard a whisper in my head that would help me begin to confront what I was feeling, and heal: “you cannot become your mother, there has to be a solution.”

For children, giving and receiving affection is paramount, and disciplining is necessary. As a survivor who was denied such basic care as a child, or who only knows of such acts in association with abuse, this can cause serious anxiety, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, and chronic pain.

A parent experiencing frequent triggers, without assistance in connecting the trigger (the child or acts of parenting) with CPTSD, may revert back to methods that kept them safe and in control when they were younger — fight, flight, and freeze. These coping mechanisms that helped keep the survivor alive while enduring the abuse may now lead to unhealthy behaviors such as such as addictions, re-victimization, or poor parent/child attachment.

After experiencing trauma, some people develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many times it’s because the person didn’t have the chance or the skills to healthfully process their experience. A person who has Complex-PTSD essentially has a brain that is chronically wired for stress and operates in constant survival mode. Treatment involves trying to train yourself out of survival mode.

Until I had my daughter, I knew that I was all messed up inside and my young adult life was a roller coaster. A train wreck, if you will. Are there any untreated PTSD sufferers reading that can’t seem to keep a stable job or relationship? I know what you’re going through or went through. I had no idea that my past was still effecting my present.

But I began to deteriorate mentally and I knew the cause of my deterioration was due to a dark place inside me that I’d never dealt with and it was rearing its ugly head. Looking back, I know that being a parent is what brought out in me that which I refused to look at when I was only living for myself. This was the difficult part of change and growth. I had no idea it was coming either and I was ill prepared.

As my daughter  turned from an infant and became a toddler (about the time that my abuse began as a child), I started having a lot of anxiety about her well-being, nightmares, anger and hostility and intense depression. Her age is a giant trigger for the past that I’d stuffed down. I watched my daughter with grief for my own childhood. I knew that I’d do anything to protect her. How could my my biological mother and sperm donor of a biological father let such abuse happen to me? Deep rooted anger toward my parents began to simmer beneath the surface. Life started crumbling quickly thereafter.

Flashbacks and random mood swings flooded my psyche and I felt out of touch with the present reality. There were times that I had flew into a rage because I was being pulled in every direction between work, being a wife, and a mother of a toddler who needed me to be present, and I didn’t know how to deal with what I was experiencing.

Shrieking or continuous crying or whining on an evening where I felt emotionally drained from a night filled with nightmares, and a day of panic attacks, and flashbacks would send my exhausted body and mind into fight or flight mode. I would yell at my daughter to stop screaming. It would be like my mouth was moving and I was shouting things but my mind was like, “Stop! What are you doing?”

Knowing I would never want to hurt my child emotionally or physically, but also knowing I had intense rage flowing through my body for no reason that I understood, I would run into another room and close the door so that my daughter couldn’t witness her mother break down and cry. I’d just lay on the floor or the bed staring off into space for several minutes while my body slowly came back to the present day. Then a wave of guilt would suddenly take over. I do not want my daughter to see this side of me. To know her mother was hurting so deeply.

CPTSD is heartbreaking. Being a parent with CPTSD is daunting. It’s heartbreaking because your past robs you and your family of the present and the happiness in it. One of the hardest parts of this disorder for me to accept is that I will never know what else is going to come up or when. You can’t always be aware of what is going to trip your brain’s panic switch and you always have to be ready for it so that you can be calm, still, and rational. This task is the daunting part and you have to be kind and patient with yourself and never stop trying. It’s absolutely necessary that you keep growing until you one day outgrow the effects that your past has had on you. This is especially true if we are raising little ones who will one day be adults who must survive and thrive on their own.

My biggest fear is to be like my biological mother. To not be able to protect my daughter from the world and the reality of all the hurt and paint that is out there. It’s my adult responsibility to keep getting help and treatment for the past that continues to haunt me.

I will begin a new form of CPTSD therapy next week called Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) this is a fairly new, nontraditional type of psychotherapy that is supposed to  help me cope with my newer CPTSD flashbacks and moments of anxiety and disassociation. I will be documenting each step of the way.

Let the healing begin….

Maybe this is what I deserve…. (** Trigger warning Domestic Violence)

Growing up I had always associated men with some form of abuse. I had always felt worthless and dirty. Living in a home with a heavy handed disciplinarian I had always just assumed I was a terrible child and a not worthy of the love I saw some of my classmates have with their families. I made it a priority to never trust a man and never let them get close to me. If I was never alone in the room with a male doctor or family member or friend then I could never have to experience any of that again. Obviously, this did not last forever. My teenage years came and went. They were a whirlwind of crushes and sexual desires.

When I finally found my boyfriend things were different. He made me feel spoiled and loved. He showered me with affection and materialistic items. I was so consumed and blinded by it all that I never expected things would change. I never expected that once I let another man in and trusted him that he would hurt me in so many ways. Two years had came and went. We survived various obstacles and arguments. Some arguments got more physical than others. I had had many concussions, a few bumps and bruises, and even a blown ear drum.

We argued about most things. Eventually the arguments would get worse and worse. I was reminded on a daily basis that no one else would put up with my insubordinate behavior or my white trash family the way he does. I believed it. I knew deep down that I was dirty and that no one would want someone who was used baggage. Soon enough I stopped wanting all things sexual. What had once been fun and romantic became a chore and more like that of the hardcore porn he was watching. I noticed he had started watching more and more pornographic movies while I was around. He would remind me that if I was not going to please him that he had to do it himself. Some days he would hold me down and force himself on me. I would lay there stoic feeling dead inside and just allow him to have his way. I knew it would eventually be over and if I did not fight or struggle it would be over with quicker. He told me that not having sex with him and not performing sexual acts for him meant I was getting it from someone else. He would take videos of me on his phone performing these sexual acts and use them as leverage to get me to do more things. He would threaten to show them to my father or worse post them on the internet for the world to see.

One day I got really angry at him for watching the porn in front of me and I insisted I was leaving. He got up and pushed me onto the bed. Told me that I was his whore and that I would not go hang out with other men. He insisted I watch him finish his act. I got up angrily and tried to walk out the door. I went to walk down the steps and he pushed me. I fell down the first few steps onto the landing. With my heart racing, I went to get up and leave and he grabbed my arm and tried to pull me back up the steps. His mother heard the commotion and ran to my aid. He screamed at her and told her to mind her own business. I was able to slip out of his grasp and run down the next few steps. I ran through the dining room toward the door and felt him behind me. I grabbed the nearest thing I could find, a water bottle, and I chucked it in his direction. It missed him, hit the wall, and it exploded everywhere. I turned to run, but he already started hitting me. He smacked the side of my head so bad I fell to the floor. My ear was ringing. His mother was screaming trying to pull him of off me. He picked me up and slammed my head into the wall. I instantly blacked out. When I came too I was in his arms and he was sobbing. He told me how incredibly sorry he was. He admitted he had a serious anger problem and told me he was going to get help. That night I went to the hospital for the pain in my head and I was sent home with a concussion and a blown ear drum. The doctors had questions where the bruises came from and I lied and said I had a fight with some girl.

A few months went by and things were back to normal. He had changed. He was loving and charming. He became the man I fell in love with. We went on dates and spent nights watching movies. I felt like things were finally looking up.

One morning I decided to go with a close friend on a brunch date and a shopping adventure. I had bought myself nice new sunglasses and lots of new clothes. As I was the one driving too and from the stores I missed the phone calls I had received from my boyfriend. I had dropped my friend off and drove straight to my boyfriends house. I told him where I was and what I was doing and he told me I was a “lying, cheating, whore”. I instantly went out to the car to get my bag of clothes and sunglasses and explained that I had the receipt with the time stamps.  He proceeded to grab the bag out of my back seat and sifted through it. He took out the sunglasses and snapped them in half. I instantly grabbed the bag of clothes and tried to get in my car. He grabbed my head and hit it against the window of the car. I struggled to get out of his grasp, hopped in my drivers seat while he was pulling at me and I started the car and began to back it out. He almost broke my door off the hinge and finally moved so I could drive away. I drove straight to my friends house who insisted I go to the ER with the large bump I had on my forehead. She explained to the doctor that it was a domestic violence case. They released me and advised I should head to the police station to fill out a report.

So, my friend brought me directly to the police station. She previously has tried to convince me to leave him, but I always refused. After all he was the only person who could love a person like me. Finally I had enough. I could not do it anymore. I finally had enough courage and support to end the cycle of violence.

Going to the police station was a difficult and stressful experience. We were brought in the back by one of the officers. He told me he had to take photos of my bruises to put with my statement. I stood there while he took photos of various angles of the hematoma on my head, then of the perfect fingertip sizes bruises on my arm from where he grabbed me.  He asked me various questions about what had happened and advised that because we did not have any children together they could not do much about it. He said that if I agreed to press charges that they would arrest him and we would have to go through court to get a restraining order filed. I was overwhelmed by it all. I felt guilty of the thought of ruining his life with an arrest. Ruining his family with having their son arrested and removed from their home in the middle of the night.  The officer advised me I had till 5PM the next evening to make up my mind. I told them with the events of the day I could not make the decision and that I would come back tomorrow to work things out.

I dropped off my friend and went home. All I wanted was to lay down and forget everything that was happening. I walked in and I remember it being really late. My dad was in his bedroom and called for me to come in. I really did not want him to see my face as I did not want him to know what was really happening to me. I blamed most of my bruises on my clumsiness.

I knew once I saw my father’s face that something was not right. He told me my grandfather had called and that my mother had passed away earlier that afternoon. I stood there in shock and disbelief. The rest of the evening was a blur. I got in my car and drove to my boyfriends job. I needed to have someone to talk to. I needed the reassurance that everything was going to be okay. I just wanted to feel loved.

Drama, lies, tears… Cheers to the teenage years…

Going through the first half of my teenage years was rough living with a father from another country. He would not allow me to wear thongs, skirts without shorts underneath, or even red nail polish or lipstick. I was not allowed to be a cheerleader, or go out with friends without a chaperone.

Moving into my friends house felt like a vacation of sorts. I was free from the overprotective and extreme discipline. I was able to go out with friends, stay up late, eat what I wanted, and spend money on whatever I wanted. The first thing I did was go to Victoria’s Secret and load up on new bra’s and thong underwear. No longer would I be told what to wear!

I had my first experience drinking alcohol at a house party with a guy me and my friends met online. We made bad decisions and there was no one to stop me. My friends and I met with this older guy a few times and hung out. One day he advised he would throw a mini house party if we wanted to come over his house and have a few drinks. Of course all of us said yes! So me and four girlfriends headed over. He had six packs of Smirnoff Ice and Bacardi Silver. I had my first sip of the Bacardi Silver and was in love. It was absolutely delicious. Before I knew it I was 6 Bacardis and 2 Smirnoff Ice drinks in. I was hanging out on the bed with two of my girl friends and the guy we met online while the other girls remained in the living room talking. We were all clearly intoxicated and our new guy friend had asked us to kiss. I never really even thought about it I just started kissing my friends. I know I had seen plenty of adult movies with women doing things to each other so I did not think twice before trying it. It had almost felt natural. During this experience I never thought that it would be a window into sexual curiosity with women. That night I was taken home by a friend who came to pick all of us up. We were dropped off at my friends house where we stumbled in hoping to not get caught by her parents. The moment we got up her front stairs, we were greeted by her parents who were less than happy with us. I was sick to my stomach from all of the sweet alcohol I had filled my stomach with and it was obvious. They immediately asked my friend what was wrong with me. She tried to tell them I had bad Chinese, but it was obvious I was overly intoxicated. We spent the rest of the evening being scolded for our decisions.

Being at my friends house allowed me to have experiences I would never have had living at home. I hung out with old friends on the regular and even made new ones. While hanging out with my cousin and his friends one day I met this guy. He was dangerous and funny. His love for fast cars, driving at dangerous speeds, and flirtatious personality instantly drew me in. We began hanging out every single night. Some nights I even snuck out of my friends bedroom window and met him down the street. We would go for long drives and bond over music and our love of life. It did not take long for me to fall for him and his bad boy ways. I met his parents and his sisters and loved everything about them.

It finally felt like I had control of my life. He took me to my senior prom, came to my high school graduation, and started attending my family events. A few weeks into our relationship we took it to the next level. My sexual curiosity was again at an all time high. I suddenly wanted to try new things and have the adult sexual relationship I always saw in movies.

A few months into our relationship something changed. He began becoming more jealous and possessive. Deep down I enjoyed the possessiveness and jealousy. It meant I was wanted. Never again would I have to feel abandoned and unloved. I found a man that loved me and spoiled me with new shoes, clothes, car parts, and took me out.

I finally decided it was time for him to meet my real family. I managed to keep my biological family mostly hidden from my friends and boyfriends previously as I had been so embarrassed of who they were, the poverty and the poor conditions of their lifestyle. I was always afraid no one would love me if they saw what I came from. I was ashamed of my past, but it was time to share my experiences and move on from my fears. My boyfriend and I packed our bags and went on the seven hour trip to my hometown.

We pulled onto the old dirt road my grandfather and biological mother lived on and into the beat up rocky driveway. My mother ran out and embraced me. I immediately saw the look of judgement on my boyfriends face. He was used to money and status not the poor “white trash” family I was born into. My mother was aged, sporting a haircut that screamed 1980’s, and sported a fresh new tattoo on her arm. She lifted up her sleeve to reveal my name clear as day in permanent ink. I instantly wanted to crawl in a hole. I was filled with embarrassment and anger. Who was she to tattoo my name on her arm? She was not allowed to claim to be my mother. My mother was the woman that raised me and passed away to cancer.

We walked into my grandfather’s beat up old shack. It was falling apart and smelled of wet dog and feces. My mother introduced her husband who instantly gave me the chills. He smelled of beer and looked dirty and had a pair of ripped jeans on with a flannel button down shirt which was unbuttoned and showed his chest and beer belly. His hair was long and messy pilled underneath a baseball cap. I was mortified. I instantly regretted even coming back. Pulling me aside my boyfriend told me he did not want to even spend the night in the spare room and insisted we get a hotel about 45 min into town. I spent the weekend touring the area with my boyfriend and my mother who insisted upon stopping at every local store and house in the small town to show them how “beautiful and grown up” her daughter was. Needless to say it was a very long car ride home. We mostly listened to music and made small talk.

Within the next year we continued to let our relationship blossom. We spent countless hours together. He would show up to pick me up from my nursing home job as a nurse aid most days. Sometimes even surprising me with balloons and flowers. Things could not have been better.

One day he picked me up as usual after a long nine hour work day and told me we needed to go to his house and talk. Once in his apartment, he advised me that a large sum of money went missing from his room. At the time him and his parents were living in a two bedroom apartment in a mother daughter house. The landlords and their family lived upstairs. Immediately I thought about all the ways the adults or kids could have came through the door that separated the landlords basement from the apartment where his family lived. He then advised me that he suspected it was me. The life drained from my body. After being together for almost two years, how could he suspect I would do such a thing. He advised me that he knew that my family was white trash and that he should not have trusted me. I begged and pleaded for him to believe me and understand I would never do such a thing. In all my years of being an insubordinate child and teenager, I had NEVER stole money from someone.

We spent the next week talking about how disappointed he was because he loved me and that it hurt him to know I would do such a thing. After countless attempts to prove that I couldn’t have and wouldn’t have stole anything from him, he finally agreed to let it go.

About a week  or two later I realized that I had missed my period. With all of the stress and anxiety of the weeks before I had not realized something was off. I told my boyfriend and we went to the local pharmacy and bought a pregnancy test. We went back to his apartment where I went into the bathroom and took the test. I sat there on the toilet staring at the lines that appeared. I was pregnant. A wave of emotions came over me. I was so worried about what everyone would think. Here I was just out of high school, unmarried, and dating someone for barely two years. How was I going to afford this baby?

I finally got enough courage to walk out of the bathroom and talk to him. He stared at me anxiously awaiting the answer. I told him “I am pregnant.” We sat there in silence for a bit and he told me that we were not ready to have a baby. He said that he refused to have a child this young and that I was going to have to do something about it. I was instantly saddened and agreed, but told him I needed time to figure everything out. I called my local health center and scheduled an appointment with an OBGYN. They advised I had to come in and take the test in two weeks and they would advise what my options were.

Together we headed to the OBGYN appointment and sat in the waiting room waiting for my name to be called. Soon enough it was my time to go in and take the urine test. They handed me a little cup and explained the process. Soon I was escorted into a room with a desk and asked to sit down. The doctor sat across the desk from me and told me that the results were positive and did I know what I wanted to do. I explained that I was not sure I could handle a baby but wanted to explore my options. She immediately pulled out a piece of paper with a list of names of clinics that I could call to terminate my pregnancy. She explained if I decided against it there were many programs that helped single young mothers. Instantly my childhood came flooding back. I was my mother. I walked out of the room and to the waiting room where my boyfriend met me. We walked silently to the car where I burst into tears. “I do not want to be my mom!” I shouted. He advised me that if I did not want to be like her the smart thing to do was call the places on the list. I took out my cell phone and dialed without hesitation.

I had the procedure scheduled for the upcoming Saturday. They insisted I bring a driver and that the procedure be done early. Later term meant more money and difficulties. I remember sitting in the room hungry, nauseated, and nervous. My boyfriend looked like he did not have a care in the world. I saw some of the other pregnant woman anxiously waiting, no one saying anything about the taboo place we were in. We were all called in one by one to go through a process. First, an ultrasound to determine how far along we were. I was 9 weeks. Then to get a blood test to make sure we were not RH-. This was followed by a therapist who asked if I was doing this on my own free will or if I felt at all threatened. I agreed nervously and got lead into a room where there were gowns and baskets for our possessions. I was then shown to a room where all the pregnant girls sat quietly while one by one being brought into the room. Once in the room the doctor advised he was going to do a procedure and that I would soon be sleeping and not feeling anything. I watched as they injected the white anesthesia fluid into my arm.

I woke up in a bed in a room with girls who had also just had the procedure. The moment I opened my eyes the nurse advised me to get up and sit in a chair next to the bed. I looked over at another girl who was hysterically crying. I was in so much pain. I realized instantly what I had done. The nurse handed me two Tylenol and told me to follow up with a doctor in two weeks. The ride home was mostly silent. I cringed with every bump he hit. I just wanted to sleep. To numb my pain and suffering.

The next few weeks were rough. I felt guilty and miserable. I started giving my boyfriend an attitude and blaming him for allowing me to make such a terrible decision. One day after a long argument about how miserable I had been and how I treated him like crap he told me that enough was enough. He was not about to have a kid with someone who was white trash. He said I was just like my whore of a mother and did not need to have any offspring in my life. I instantly punched him in the face. I began hitting him over and over while sobbing uncontrollably. How could he? I loved him!

Suddenly I felt my body in the air. He had picked me up and tossed me onto the bed. He put his hands around my throat and began to choke me. I wiggled to get out of his grasp and he sat on my body kneeling on my arms to stop me from hitting him. I screamed in my face that I had some fucking nerve putting my hands on him. I felt dizzy and a sense of panic. He realized that I was starting to loose consciousness and immediately let go. He told me he was “so sorry” and that he would “never hurt me again”. He said that it was his self defense because I would not stop hitting him. I could not help but feel like I deserved it. I hit him after all. I was the one who got physical.

From this day on things would be different….

I wanted to feel no pain… I just wanted to sleep…

I acted out most of my life. Never really liked people telling me what to do. My insubordination was a lot for my parents and teachers to handle. As my moms youngest child and my dad’s only child, they were overwhelmed with my behavior. Out of frustration they became progressively more heavy-handed with their punishments. My father who came from a Latin American background believed in order and punishment.

Whenever I had done something bad enough my father would come home from work and use his leather belt with metal rings and beat me on the back and on my legs. The more I was punished, the less I listened.

When I was around 13 years old I had learned my mother had stage 3 endometrial cancer. I found out by listening in on a conversation my mother was having on the phone. I remember almost falling to my knees. I was crushed. My parents eventually explained to me that she was going to go through a form of radiation and that she would have to have a hysterectomy to remove the cancerous tumors. Radiation therapy eventually became chemotherapy. I watched my mothers life slowly fade away.

The next two years seemed to fly by. Countless hours at home while my mother became sicker and sicker. My friends were all growing up and going through puberty and I was at home cleaning up after my sick mother. I watched my mother struggle through chemotherapy sessions, lose her hair, and eventually lose the ability to even walk to the bathroom. Soon the seizures began. With my dad working late hours to support our family and pay our bills, my family decided to put my mother in a nursing home.

September 2001 I started my freshman year of high school. On September 11th I remember sitting in my English class when the announcement that a plane had crashed into the world trade center. I distinctly remember the look of fear on my classmates face knowing some of their family members worked at the towers. Not long after the second announcement came. My Principe immediately advised guidance counselors would be available to talk to those affected by the events.

Shortly after starting my freshman year I began having major panic attacks. They seemed to come out of no where. I would start feeling nauseated, nervous, and shaky. Soon they became so bad I would be picked up from school and rushed to the ER. My oxygen levels would drop so low from hyperventilating that I lost circulation in my extremities and could barley move. After enough visits my father explained to my psychiatrist that something needed to be done. So I was quickly put on anxiety medications and depression medications. Eventually these combined with the ADD medications I became a walking zombie. My nights felt long and dreary. After a few weeks a sleeping medication was added to the mix.

As a typical hormonal teen girl I surrounded myself with boys and focused very little on my academic studies. It didn’t take long before I was kissing boys and dating. As most young love situations I fell hard and deep many times and had my heart broken. Until, I began noticing an older junior from my church. We began dating and it was instant love. He respected me and came with me to visit my mother in the nursing home. We dated for about a year and a half before we experimented with anything beyond kissing. Despite having a hyper-sexual train of thought, I was always worried deep down of whether or not I could physically handle having sex after my childhood trauma.

I lost my virginity in my parents basement on a bed while watching a movie. I remember my first time as being confusing yet satisfying knowing I made it through the event without any terrible thoughts of my childhood. It was a huge sense of relief, but this sparked a deeper sexual curiosity than ever before.

The next year was filled with high school drama, friends, and my young love. I visited my mother almost nightly and some weekends. At times I would have my boyfriend with me and she grew to love him. Who couldn’t love the sweet and kind church boy that took care of their girlfriend?

One day I had walked to the nursing home from my aunts house bringing one of my aunts dogs to cheer her up. I got in the room and saw my mother on the bed convulsing. I screamed for the nurses who came running in to stabilize her. Soon they were screaming for someone to call the ambulance. I stood there with the dog in horror watching her eyes roll back in her head.

My mother was admitted to the hospital ICU. She was put on a breathing tube and remained in a medically induced coma for a few days. One day my family decided to remove the tube as it was my mothers wish to not be kept alive by machines. I remember being in the hospital room when the pastor walked in and told me my mother was holding on for me. She had told him she was afraid to leave me so early and that she was suffering. He told me to tell her it was okay to let go. I struggled to get these words out because it was NOT okay! How was I going to survive without her? The words “shes suffering” played in my head for several minutes. The pastor left me alone to talk to her. Choking back tears I grabbed my mothers hand and told her “I love you” and that it was okay to let go. I felt her hand move slightly as she squeezed my hand. I lost it. I ran out of the room and sat in the waiting room.

This was the first day I had ever seen my father cry. We cried together in the waiting room while they removed the breathing tube. Not long after the doctor came in and told us she made it! She was going to live!

Over the next few months my mother was transferred back to the nursing home. Life almost seemed normal again. She was put on hospice as her health quickly declined. One day while visiting her with my boyfriend she began to yell at me. She told me that I had used the word “hell” and that it was a curse and that I should not use such words. The hospice nurse saw that she was becoming increasingly upset advised me that I should leave. She explained my mother was on morphine and that it caused hallucinations.

Two days later I was sleeping over my cousins house when my Nokia began to ring. It was my uncle. He said “tell your father I am on the way!” Having been woke up from a dead sleep I was very confused and said “to where?!” he immediately said “you don’t know?” and then hung up the phone. My stomach dropped. I instantly knew something was not right and called my aunt who had been staying nights with my mother. My aunt advised me that my mother had passed away not long ago and that her and my father wanted to tell me in person. I threw the phone against the wall and began sobbing. All this commotion woke up my cousin who was sleeping feet away from me.

The rest of that day was a blur. I remember walking into the room and seeing her eyes open and the life drained from her body. My family was gathered in the room. I immediately had to leave and decided to walk around the nursing home until someone took me home.

The next few days were a whirlwind of phone calls, visits, hugs, and emotions. Having seen my grandmother pass away two years prior I knew what to expect at the wake. I attended the wake trying to maintain a distance from the coffin refusing to accept the reality of who was in there. I listened to stories about how my mother’s faith in God throughout her hard times kept others strong. I heard countless stories of how people turned to Jesus and were saved thanks to my mother.  At the time I was still attending weekly church groups and I felt some solace in knowing my mother had helped others, but always maintained the thought of at what expense?

As the next two days passed I saw more and more family members and people. My biological mother, aunt, and grandfather came down for support. My biological family had noticed I was not really emotionally present at the wake. They sat down with my father and my aunt and advised them that they had me “so drugged” that I was not even able to properly mourn my mother. The rest of the evening was constant arguments about me and my emotional well being. I remember being so frustrated that no one seemed to give a shit that I was standing right there as they conversed about me. I ran to the funeral home bathroom, locked the door, then fell to the floor in tears. How was I going to survive without her? How was I supposed to be a teenage girl and go to prom without my mother there? I sat on the floor sobbing for some time. Eventually, there was a knock at the door. It was my mother’s daughter (who I refer to as my sister despite our significant age difference). She asked me if I was alright and I asked her to take me away from that place.

The following day was the funeral. I watched as my family swarmed like vultures through my mothers closet and bedroom for various items they could take. I sat in my room and tried to stay out of it. It was easier to be in denial and act like this never happened. I got through the funeral service barely holding myself together. I watched as my boyfriend and five other family members carried my mothers coffin from the hearse to the grave. I stood over the hole in the ground in pure disbelief. This was it. This was the last time I would ever be physically close to my mother. I had felt such emptiness.

The final few years of high school I skated by. Constantly arguing with my father and getting into physical fights. I eventually stopped caring about myself and my relationship. I broke up with my sweet church boyfriend of three years and tried to just get by. Eventually the anxiety attacks and the depression just consumed me. I started skipping classes and getting in fights with teachers and even my friends. I was put in; in school suspension multiple times. My father struggled to deal with me.

He would work late hours six days a week. One day while home alone I decided to go through my mother’s old things. I found a bottle of medication labeled oxycontin from my mothers drawer and took the bottle.

I laid on my bed for about 45 minutes staring at the bottle in my hand. I began to sob. How did this happen? How did another mother abandon me. I felt alone. I could not believe the woman that saved me from years of torture and abuse abandoned me. I instantly felt angry. How could she do this? I started hyperventilating. I sat up and thought to myself that I did not want to be alive anymore. I was nothing but trouble. I felt unloved and abandoned. I just wanted to disappear into the ground where it was easier. I got up and went to the bathroom and got a cup of water. I opened the bottle of pills and put a handful in my mouth. I remember when my mother took them she felt no pain and slept. I wanted to feel no pain. I just wanted to sleep. I laid back on my bed and drifted off.

I opened my eyes, and was confused. My vision was blurry, and my body felt incredibly heavy. I realized I had a tube down my throat. I heard a machine beeping, and metal banging against metal. It sounded like a busy cafeteria, but that didn’t make any sense. A man’s face appeared above me, and he smiled. It took me several more minutes to get my bearings. I finally realized I was in a hospital bed. The man told me to be patient, and said he’d remove the tube as soon as I stabilized. As my sleepy mind awoke, I realized I was in an emergency room.

I tried to think back and recall the last thing I remembered. I had been laying on my bed pondering life. So how had I gotten to the ER, and why was I there? Several minutes later the doctor returned and removed the tube. The first question I asked him was why I was there. He told me my father had called 911 when he came home to find me passed out on the bed and he could not wake me. My lips were blue, and I was barely breathing. He said when the ambulance arrived, the paramedics scooped me up and rushed me there. I remained silent, and all I could think to myself was, “Oh God, I really did it this time – I blew it big time.” I was overcame with guilt and shame. My father told me that this episode was never going to be spoken of or repeated. He advised me I was no longer allowed to be alone in my home. I had to take the bus to my friends house every day after school so that I could be monitored for my behavior.

My senior year of high school was a disaster. I skipped most classes and struggled to pass. I would take tests and do last minute catch up work to just get C’s. One day during “spirit week” I decided to participate in what we called “gender bender day”. This was a day where the guys tried to look like girls and the girls would dress as guys. Being a lover of sweatpants and comfortable clothing I put on the baggiest Roca Wear sweatpants I could find, a pair of boxers I bought for the occasion, a hoodie, and a fitted cap. I went to school for my first few classes of the day. Around third period is usually when I got on the school bus to go to my vocational school classes I was taking for Medical Assisting and Coding. I decided not to go because I did not want to be the only kid at the school wearing such a ridiculous outfit. Despite it being gender bender day at my school, the other kids did not have this day.

I finished out the rest of the day hanging out with various friends in the cafeteria and eventually decided to take the bus home. I walked into my door and my dad was sitting patiently on the living room recliner. He smiled and said welcome home. He then asked how did everyone like my outfit? I immediately smiled and let him know everyone loved it! He then asked me how the kids and the teacher at my Medical Assisting class liked the outfit. To which I replied “they loved it”. My dad repeated “and your teacher?”. I squirmed nervously. “She was not there today, we had a substitute, but she liked it.” I said. Immediately my father got up and smacked me hard in the face. I felt woozy at first and then blood started dripping from my nose. All I could taste was blood. I sat there astonished at what had just happened. “I was supposed to pick you up from your class, but you were not there. The teacher told me you never showed up.” I sat there holding my face in tears. My dad threw his car keys at me and told me to go to my scheduled therapist appointment and that we would discuss everything further when I got home.

I went to my therapist and told her everything. By this time my lip was swollen and bruised. I told her I did not want to go home. I was terrified of what he might do to me. We called my friends mom who instructed me to come straight to her house. That night I stayed with my friend and went to school in the morning. My teacher in my first period class saw my bruises and sent me to the school nurse. I walked down the hall embarrassed and ashamed of the newly acquired bruises trying to avoid eye contact with anyone. The nurse gave me an ice pack, two Tylenol, and had instructed me to lay down and rest for a bit.

An unknown amount of time later I was approached by the school police officer. He sat down next to me and told me he had to ask me a few questions. He asked who did this to me and why. I told him everything. I was escorted to the local police station where I was asked to fill out a report. My friends mother met me at the station. She advised that I would be staying with her and that the cop would be coming with us to pack out my stuff quickly so I could finish the remaining school year with them. At least I was going to be with my friend I thought. We went back to my house and the police officer and my friends mom spoke while my friend and I frantically packed everything I could think of that I needed into garbage bags. In under 20 minutes we were packed and on the way to her house.

I was free from the violence once again…..

 

Internal Curiosity and More Secrets *Trigger warning sexual abuse

Throughout the next few years I began to let go of the feeling of abandonment and the fear of men. I made lots of new friends and even attended weekly church groups. My mother made sure I had plenty of positive experiences to help distract me from my troubled past. I still had various moments of anxiety and aggression, but I was on a steady path to improvement.

My parents made sure that during this time I maintained a relationship with my biological mother. We had a long distance relationship where she would call and write me letters. I would always keep in touch with my Grandparents, Aunt, and Brother as well. My Grandparents, Aunt, and Brother would visit me during most summers. They would stay at our house and part of me felt whole.

Throughout my younger years I really struggled with an internal hyper-sexual curiosity that I never discussed with anyone out of fear of what would happen. I knew and remembered the many times I had seen my biological mothers “friend’s” male body parts and the images were always flashing through my mind. I had discovered a channel on the cable box called “Playboy” and began obsessively watching it. I finally understood what had happened to me and I just wanted to learn more and more.

When I was about 6 or 7 years old while visiting with younger guests I was asked by an older boy if he could see my girl parts. We played a troubling game of “I will show you mine if you show me yours.” Allowing my curiosity to get the best of me, I let him touch me. He put me in strange sexual positions and told me not to tell anyone or I would get in a lot of trouble. Knowing deep down that something was wrong and that my new parents would be seriously upset with the situation, I kept it a secret until now. I have always been embarrassed that I should have known better and I have always been afraid to expose the individual. This has always weighed heavily on my mind causing great anxiety.

I held on to my adult and impure thoughts for most of my youth. My parents noticed something was off as they heard the sounds of the “Playboy” channel from my room. They eventually put a parental lock on the channel. That did not stop me. My sexual curiosity was always there. I wanted to learn more of what was supposed to happen with a woman and a man. The thought that another woman was doing the things that I had been forced to do made my many inappropriate memories feel less dirty and more normal. I had this thought in my head of what sex was supposed to be based on these dirty movies I would watch. I never knew this would backfire later on in life….

 

 

Starting school and adjusting to my new life…

The first year of being in my new home was really rough. I barely knew my new family and struggled with the fear of living with a new man in my life. I quickly took on to calling my great aunt “mom” as she became quite the maternal figure in my life.  I referred to my great uncle as “uncle” because I refused to open up. I spent most nights having nightmares and struggling with dealing with  my pent up aggression and fears. My new guardians made sure I was seeing a psychiatrist on a daily basis to help me talk about my experiences so I would not act out at home. I was quickly diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or CPTSD. The psychiatrist I was working with used various forms of games and photos to help me open up and explain my feelings and try to help with the nightmares. The psychiatrist helped me work through my fear of being in the room alone with men and my fear of abandonment and being left alone.

Going into elementary school was a serious adjustment for me. I was not a very socialized child. I spent a lot of time doing those Pre-K and Kindergarten practice books that taught me the alphabet and helped me practice reading. I found solace and peace in learning new things, It helped me drown out the graphic memories of the first few years of my life.

Once I started school I completely opened up. I blossomed into a bit of a social butterfly of sorts. I made lots of new friends and started adjusting to my new life at home. It did not take long for the teachers to notice something was off. I would refuse to answer by my last name and not listen to the teachers when they asked me to do something. My teachers brought my guardians in to discuss my home life and behavioral issues in class. They advised my new mother that they believed I had Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. My new mother brought me to my routine psychiatrist appointment and advised her of the situation. I was quickly put on Ritalin. I finished out the remaining years of elementary school experimenting with various ADD medications.

Meanwhile, at home, I listened to my new mother and my uncle fight over whether or not the medication was just a “crutch” and that ADD was just a made up thing to describe a child’s hyperactivity. My uncle was from South America and raised with a completely different mentality. My mother was becoming increasingly worried about me not warming up to my uncle so she advised the therapists I needed additional counseling. After quite a few years of behavioral therapy and various play therapy games I finally was able to see my uncle as a father figure. My fear of him dissipated and I began to call him dad.

Finally things were coming together….

 

The first four years… (Trigger Warning Graphic Information)

My mother had previously given birth to a son who she turned over to her sister because she could not raise him. The agreement was that my aunt would raise him and my mother would still be active in his life as the title “aunt”. In February of 1986 my mother got married to her then long time boyfriend. Shortly after they were married, he was shipped out and stationed at an Army base in Colorado, my mother soon followed. The events that followed after that are unclear.

My mother returned to New York pregnant with me and no longer in a relationship with her husband. December 1986 I was born. Newly divorced, my mother moved from apartment to apartment with her various boyfriends, lived with my grandparents for some time, and then settled into a small trailer off a dirt road in western New York a few miles from the Pennsylvania border. My mother struggled with her own diagnosed mental illnesses and family trauma and therefore struggled raising me. She had no money, no job, and lived off of junking metal and scraps for cash. She had several men come in and out of the home while I was there. Occasionally I was also left with friends and family members while my mother went out.

On a few occasions while my mother was out she left me with one of her “friends” apartments. I distinctly remember he gave me big red gum every time I came over. He was polite and kind from what I remember. One day while I was in his apartment bedroom, watching TV on the floor, he went over to the television and shut it off. He then came over to me and advised me to perform acts that I didnt understand. He put his private parts in my mouth. Obviously as a three-year old I was unaware of what this was and I fully trusted this man. I resisted a bit and was forced to finish the deed. I felt a warm liquid substance in my mouth and instantly spit it out. He then explained to me that the things that happened there were our little secret and things that should not be told to other people and I would get more big red gum as a result.

My mother eventually found another boyfriend who moved into the trailer with us. I remember on countless occasions I would be really hungry so I used to climb onto the small kitchen counter and grab boxes of cereal and I would eat straight out of the box. I was caught various times by my moms then boyfriend. He used to beat me and tell me I was not supposed to be climbing on the counter and that I was a terrible child with no manners and I needed to be punished. He would force me to sit on the couch until my mother returned home. At times this would go on for hours. I was not allowed to move to go to the bathroom, to eat, or play with my toys. The repercussions if I did meant more beatings so I just sat there hungry and dirty in fear of what would happen if I moved. One day while sitting on the couch for a while I was so hungry I decided to try to walk to my grandmother’s house which was just a few miles down the road. The boyfriend fell asleep and mother was not home. So, in my small dirty t-shirt and an old pair of boys underwear that was clipped tightly so it would fit me, I climbed out of an open window and started my journey down the dirt road. Shortly after I started walking a passer-by saw me and that I had no shoes and barely any clothes on so they pulled over to investigate.

I am unsure of the exact events that followed. I remember being told that I was going to live with my grandmother’s sister and her husband and I was confused. I remember being really afraid and sad. I later learned that social services was brought into the situation and they advised my mother that if someone in the family did not take me then I was going to be put into foster care. My grandmother knew her sister had got married and had children that were much older and her and her husband wanted a child of their own. They seized the opportunity to take me promising me a much better life.

I came down late December 1990 just after Christmas and right before my 4th birthday. The next year of my life was a cluster of social service appointments, mandated psychiatric counseling, and various court proceedings over custody. My mother claimed I was the daughter of her first marriage and the court had brought in her ex-husband to take DNA tests. After a few viles of blood were taken and some time elapsed we learned he was not my father. My mother then agreed to give me over to her aunt and uncle and granted them legal guardianship. She would not however agree to allow them to fully adopt me as she did not want to let me go.

So began my life in my new home with my new family….