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 Pincipal 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 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, what did I do” I was overcame with guilt and shame. My father told me that this episode was never going to be spoken of or repeated as it was an embarrassment to my family. He locked up the remaining medication in the home and advised I was no longer allowed to be alone in my home. I had to take the bus to my cousin’s house every day after school so that I could be monitored for my behavior. We have not spoke about the situation since. I was advised that my once a month therapy sessions were now going to be weekly therapy sessions for my own safety.
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 a few garbage bags. In under 20 minutes we were packed and on the way to her house.
I was free from the violence once again…..