“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Most of us have heard some variation of the phrase, but most won’t admit even if they know firsthand that there are things people can say that hurt an infinite amount more than any beating ever could. That’s certainly not a phrase I’ll be teaching to my daughter, she needs to know not only that her words affect others, but that it’s perfectly acceptable to feel hurt by something someone says to or about you. We’ve become so accustomed to speaking in such a manner of selfishness, taking little or no responsibility for the outcome of verbal insults, assault, or abuse. If you’ve ever been victim to hurtful or abusive words, you’ll know how detrimental they can truly be. My goal in life as a parent and a human being in general, is to be the exact opposite of what everyone thought or said I could be, to be so much more than just an addition to the unnerving statistics about kids in foster care or that come from abusive homes.
It’s nearly impossible for me to express how many times I’ve thought about all the different ways this could go, writing about my story but in a way that isn’t really just about me. There’s an uncomfortable feeling in sharing your experiences with others and especially when written versus having a conversation with someone whom you trust. Since this is the beginning after all, we’re gonna start as far back as I remember, my longest standing memories. One paragraph at a time I’ll unravel the strings that helped shape me into what and whom I am today, and each day as I grow and continue to write this. Bare with me, it may get a little ugly from here on out.
Thank you for reading, even if just this, because I’ve said enough for you to now have things planted in your mind that may not have been there before, and my biggest goal in all of this is for it to grow and blossom into your mind, to manifest itself enough for you to spark a conversation or offer help to someone suffering.
Not all children have families, you know. I’m here to tell the tale of the kids you don’t know. The ones who spend their time alone, locked inside their rooms; completely on their own, and you haven’t got a clue. There’s children going hungry, crying themselves to sleep. There’s kids forced to do awful things most adults would never speak. They’re forced to do these things but they just don’t yet understand the full repercussions of these actions in the end. I’m not just speculating, I’m telling you because I know; for I was one of those kids, and you’d never even know.
I go about my business just like everybody else, and take care of my daughter as if I were someone else. I try my best to just forget the things that I’ve been through, pleading silently with myself to just let it all go. I’ve cried myself to sleep so many times I couldn’t count, but you can surely count on me to not count on anyone else. I’ve come to accept the loneliness, as if it were a choice; pretending I’d rather be alone, trapped with my own voice. But the truth is very simple, yet it’s hard to comprehend; I long to feel lasting peace, stability in my head.
The chaos never quiets, it smothers me through the nights. I’ve begged for attention, cried out for help so many times, that in fact I think I’m all cried out, for my tears are running dry. The anger is consuming after time has failed to heal the wounds of a neglected child with a voice as piercing as nails. I’m no longer aware of the person that I am, not even sure who I’ll be in the end, but there’s one thing that I’m sure of, something I’ve always known; I’ll give the love to my daughter that I have never known.
People can be inherently cruel, especially when asked to understand things they’ve never been through. Empathy and sympathy are more so perceived by each of our urges to connect with other beings. Not everyone you encounter will be willing to attempt to see things through your eyes. There’s always gonna be another reason to look back, so don’t allow one lousy day make you question how far you’ve come. This is a life that only you have lived, the battles through the war that left you broken within; the sweat and tears that only you have shed. So here’s my advice, don’t let their opinions win.
They say that misery loves company, well I can tell you that they’re right. But misery also loves to be taken by surprise. Sometimes the smallest things can bring you joy, if you allow; but once you’ve become closed minded it’s incredibly hard to dig yourself out. Positivity eludes me, I’m sure some of you can relate, but we cannot let negativity sabotage our current state. Sometimes I look around and I feel torn, I feel conflicted. This may not be the life I want, not the one that I envisioned, but I know I’ve gotta make the most of what I’ve got while I’m still living. I’ve gotta learn to move on while my daughter is still young, before she’s old enough to follow my image.
This journey includes details about me, about my life, but it’s about way more than just that; it’s about shining some light. So many kids and young adults are living in the dark, ashamed to reach out and share what’s going on in their lives with someone else. There’s gotta be a way, I’m convinced, to help us all come clean about how we really feel at night when we’re alone. There’s certain things in life that never leave you, they stay with you, and most of us, I’d like to say, are having trouble coping with them. Let’s tackle this together, for it’s the only way, and paint a new picture where the sky’s not always gray.
Please join me in an attempt to share my story and to help teach you how to spark a conversation with someone you know who’s in the dark, or to help you reach out and enlighten someone else about what it truly means to be depressed, contrary to what you read about it in the press. Mental illness can be more devastating than any cancer, more dangerous than any gun. Destruction and disaster strike our hearts and minds, much like a flash of lightning you catch a glimpse of late at night; the exponential growth, the climb to the climax and the decline, and we find it hard to describe most times. It’s cliché to end this way, but as they say, and I must implore, you don’t have to be alone anymore.
We all have blurred memories from our childhoods, some of which you’re not even sure actually happened but you go along anyways because a family member insists they witnessed it. For me, the blurry moments involve life changing events, things of an awful nature that leave lasting imprints on you, whether you’re certain of it happening or not. Let’s just say therapists have told me that if these events didn’t actually happen and therefore didn’t cause my PTSD, what did cause it was the constant reminder from my mother; the only family I’ve ever known. Some of the things she said to me are forever engraved in my brain, permanently burned into my skull. I’ll never stoop to using my words or actions against my daughter, in spite of her, to make her feel pain or anguish.
More permanent than any tattoo or scar is a memory of one of your parents telling you how much they regret your existence. How does one find the will to keep going if the people who created you aren’t even truly invested in you? I remember thinking that I wish I could express to my mother how much I also wished I didn’t exist; how I wish I was as invisible in her eyes as I am in my own so that she would just let me be. I wished she’d just let me leave so I could disappear, never to be seen again. I was flooded with near constant urges of escaping or dying; I longed to feel absolutely nothing at all.
For as long as I can remember, my mom has been instilling upon me details of an alleged sexual assault, molestation as she preferred to call it, committed against me by my father, at 3 years old. While I’ll never know for certain that it legitimately took place, I will say, that if it did, I feel extremely lucky to have been too young to remember. Girls and women alike deal with these issues before we even know what sex is, spending too much time being sexualized by family, friends, and even strangers as well. Even if you’ve never been molested or raped or assaulted, chances are you’ve at least been a victim to some form of gender related verbal attack or abuse. I find myself struggling quite often with this, not knowing whether or not it happened, wishing I could just know for sure so I can quit this “what if” mentality caused by the constant question of how different my life could and would have been with my father in the picture.
I’ll always remember being convinced that I was one of those missing kids on the side of milk cartons, that my mother stole me from somewhere or I was sent home from the hospital with the wrong people, that somewhere out there was a kid living a great and happy life that should’ve been mine. While those thoughts were with me for an unhealthy amount of time throughout my life, sometimes it’s all I had to keep me going, to keep holding onto. My mom is full blooded Puerto Rican, both her parents and most of their families were from or still love there. If we’ve met, or if you look for my picture, you’ll know that we look nothing alike, which is initially why I wondered if I wasn’t actually her kid. But as time went on, as I continued to grow and learn, I have now let go of those childhood fantasies and have accepted that she’s really the only family I’ve ever known.
There were long periods throughout my life when my mom was incredibly ill, and she still is today. One of the first times she was having surgery, she sent me to live with a woman named Stacy and her husband, she was one of my babysitters when I was younger. She was great, I loved her, and I was so happy to get away. I stayed for an entire summer, even met a girl who was staying nearby with her grandma for the summer, we met at the neighborhood park and pretty much instantly became friends. There were two other occasions where she was having surgery and I flew by myself to Puerto Rico to live with my grandparents, both stays were around a year each, with the second time being much worse than the first. Let’s just say that my mother is definitely my grandmother’s daughter, they’re so much alike that it’s scary, so I’m glad one of them lives on an island so I don’t have to deal with them both at the same time.
For as long as I can remember, I’d have an army of friends built around me, people who loved me, people I could confide in, people’s whose parents could sense there were issues at home and always tried to comfort me and make me feel comfortable and welcome in their homes. School was always a safe haven for me, a schedule I could count on to keep me from being alone too much or with my mom too much. No matter where I was, I walked around on my own from a very young age, I always wanted to get away, to go on adventures, to see the world and feel true independence without limits. More than anything, I just wanted to feel loved, accepted, wanted, needed, as any human does, but especially young girls without fathers and whose mothers are no role models.
Friendship definitely isn’t an aspect of life where I ever took advice from my mom, I’ve always trusted my instincts without a fight, mainly now because the few times I haven’t have ended disastrously. But from a very young age, I felt older than I was, that I could relate to things I should’ve never understood, from music taste to entertainment to books, life issues, and more. Despite all of this though, I’ve been known to be naive, to fall for people’s lies, to give people too many chances to hurt me again and again, most of whom never deserved a second chance, let alone a fifth or more. AOL, AIM, MySpace, VampireFreaks, and other iconic platforms were in their prime in the late 90’s & early 2000’s, my generation was the first to grow up seeking out strangers’ approval, friendship, or guidance on the internet. We’ll come back to this topic again, so I’ll leave it there, but the current purpose of this part is just to paint the picture you’ll need to better understand my frame of mind then.
I’ve never truly witnessed my mom having any healthy relationships, neither friendship or romance. She’s been married and divorced 3 times, but I’ve only met one of them, and two boyfriends afterwards. Her husband Andy was probably the closest I ever felt to having a real father, but she of course ruined it. He was a high functioning alcoholic, he struggled with demons just like the rest of us, but he was a great man. Her boyfriend after that was at least 10 years her junior, he was in his mid twenties, was half covered in tattoos, and him and I had more in common than they did, he heavily contributed to some of the music I now attribute to being why I pursued music so intently. He would end up trying to rob us blind and pushing me down a flight of stairs to get away with it. After he got out of jail she would call him crying, begging him to return, despite my begging her to stop calling him.
The only thing I’ve always known about myself is that I love to sing. For as long as I can remember, it was my identifier, what made me memorable to others, the one thing that I was good at, and that made me feel special or unique. So as soon as choir was an option in school, I opted in every single year, and continued to all the way through to my high school graduation and even years beyong that. Most everyone enjoys music, but there’s something to be said about the connection between raw, real music and someone who has greatly suffered. Music gives us life, it gives us hope, helps us cope, makes us feel understood if even for a brief moment in time. From a very young age I took interest in all types of music; no matter what it was, I just couldn’t get enough of it. I learned every song on every movie, cartoon, commercial, radio station, etc., and sang loud and proud just about everywhere I went.
“I judge books by their covers, and people by their faces.” With how bad things were at home, wherever that may be this time, I began looking for every potential distraction; boyfriends, girlfriends, friends in general, reading, writing, doing what I love most by joining choir and a local band. Reading, writing, and music were and still are the most enjoyable things in life for me; they help compose me when I can’t quite manage it myself. As for the people aspect of the phrase, well let’s just say that if you’ve ever seen the show “Lie To Me”, I’m a self proclaimed natural at recognizing the true emotions and feelings behind others’ facial expressions and body language. I’m still not sure how far into the spiritual aspect of things like that I’ll associate it with, I’m not one of those people who believes in auras and energy that people give off (although I’m not condemning or judging that in any way). I’m just a very firm believer in following your gut instinct, listening twice and speaking only once until you’re certain of the authenticity of an unknown person’s demeanor.
There’s not a time I remember ever being wrong about someone, whether it be a friends boyfriend, a friend of my mom’s or husband’s, etc. and yet I’m still guilty of trusting way more than I should. No matter how many people betray, use, abuse, or accuse me of despicable things, I’m constantly heavy hearted over wishing I could help those whom I care about. Most of them don’t even speak to me on a regular basis, and yet it keeps me up at night knowing I’ll never truly be able to impact or reach them in the ways I want or need to in order to feel satisfied. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t times that I isolated myself from the world entirely, some would actually say that I’ve mastered and perfected the art. I won’t even argue with that, and am proud to say it now actually, because there was a time when I allowed toxic people to rule my life, meanwhile my current life is completely centered around my daughter & husband, whom both love me very much. Sometimes you’re left with no choice though, sometimes no one’s around when you need someone most, so I figure at least this way I know who I’ll always have instead of depending on those who can’t seem to ever make themselves dependable for me.
Let’s go back to reading for a moment though, because I hope more people see it as an option. While I was in high school, I can honestly say that I read more books (not school assigned) than up until now in my life. At 26, just getting back into reading on a regular basis in my free time, and as the mother of a 2 year old, I’m remembering books as I see them that take me back to time periods I had forgotten. For that reason, I’m currently rereading some of those books as I begin this journey, with some new ones sprinkled in there as well, if for no other reason than looking for inspiration or maybe some kind of insight into some of the feelings that I may have pushed out of my mind. Sometimes I question just how truly different I am, I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t feel exactly as I do right now, but I also know that I’m not still that sane scared girl I was, I’m a woman now.
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