Let’s Talk About Veterans

According to the HUD (Housing and Urban Development) there are approximately 40,000  of our 21.8 million veterans in the United States that are considered homeless.  This is about 18% of our total veterans. And yes, this number is terrible.

Of the 21.8 million veterans it is estimated that about 3.2 million of them receive some sort of disability pension. However, to be considered a disabled vet worthy of pension, the individual has to be deemed unable to work by a doctor or be older than 65. There are different programs for different levels of service. Wartime Veterans automatically qualify for higher compensation rates, as well as legally disabled vets. They also cannot be dishonorably discharged to receive benefits/compensation.

Below is a chart of the income limits for veterans. If your income is less than the stated amounts, you will be paid a pension equal to the difference of your income and Aid amounts. I.E. if you are receiving basic pension and your annual income is $10,000 the government will pay you the additional $2868.

2016 Basic / Housebound / Aid and Attendance Income Limits

Veteran Family Status Basic Pension

Income Limit


Income Limit

Aid & Attendance

Income Limit

Veteran with no dependents $12,868 $15,725 $21,446
Veteran with a spouse or child* $16,851 $19,710 $25,448
Surviving spouse / death pension $8,630* $10,548 $13,794

*Add $2,198 for each additional child

Our Active Military budget is $597 Billion.

Our VA budget is $182.3 Billion

Our Veterans Reintegration Budget is 36.7 million dollars and is dispersed to about 156 different organizations across the country.

Our Refugee budget is 1.56 Billion

Our Foreign Aid budget is about 50.1 Billion

Our estimated total cost of all Congress BASE Salaries is about $800 million.

Of our 21.8 million veterans, 2.7 million are Iraq/Afghanistan War Veterans. 20% of these veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD. We believe this is nowhere near the number actually suffering as many don’t seek treatment or acknowledge the existence of their mental illness. 260,000 are considered to have traumatic brain injury.

It is estimated that 70% of all veterans are or at some point have been substance abusers. 11% admit to abusing prescription drugs. In 2014 our Veteran suicide rate reach above civilian suicide rates: 20.2 vs. 19.2 per 100,000 people.

However, substance abuse disqualifies a veteran from receiving pension benefits, as does an dishonorable discharge or not being considered disasbled. PTSD is not considered a disabling disease, though it absolutely should be.

There is a serious disconnect in our country on how we treat veterans. We want to give them support but don’t acknowledge the real consequences of wartime. Reintegration needs more money and more resources. We need to focus more on easing the transition between active duty and civilian life so that we can better serve the mental health needs of our veterans. By focusing on providing resources to identify and treat PTSD/GAD/Bipolar/Depression we can easily combat the thousands of homeless/disabled vets in this country.

Mental Health is what is harming our veterans. Budget cuts proposed by both parties in Congress is what is harming our veterans.

But there is hope:

There are numerous bills in house to assist. Some increase pension rates while lowering the thresholds for qualifications. Some are proposing tax credits to landlords who rent to veterans. Many are attempting to convince President Trump not to include the VA in the current hiring freeze so that we may continue to sufficiently serve our veterans.

Please, go to Congress.gov and look up which bills are being introduced. Call your congressmen and tell them to support those that you feel would be beneficial. We the people have the power, but we have to communicate to our representatives what is that we want.

Instead of 20 billion for a wall, tell congress to fund 20 billion to our veterans assistance programs.


A Perspective Reality- The Whole Story

I don’t have a clever way to pull you into this, no witty opening statements or hooks to capture your attention. The truth of it is, I’ve been wracking my brain for years trying desperately to figure out how to get my story out on paper. I’ve probably got ten different drafts started. I’ve tried chronological order, a compilation of short stories, poetry, turning into a half-fiction. None of these just seemed to do the story justice, or really even make me happy.

So, I’m going to do my best to piece my story together.

It’s important to remember as we go along that this is all from my experiences and my memories. There will be inconsistencies, I was a child for crying out loud. This story may also paint certain very important people in my life in not-so-great colors, but please know that in the end there are no villains, no evil-doers, not even a hero really. Because in the end this is a story about humans and the choices they make and how those choices can affect so many.

I suppose the best place to start any story is at the beginning; I was born in Port Huron, MI. It was January 13th, and from what I understand there was an ice storm outside. There wasn’t anything “captivating” about my birth. My family was there, my parents were happy, I had mild jaundice but was otherwise healthy. It seemed at the time like my life would be full of possibilities, and don’t get me wrong, it was. But it wouldn’t be long after this perfect moment in time that things would begin to get rocky.

Around the time that I was 4- 6 months old my parents relationship took a turn for the worst and my mother decided that we would be better off in Florida, close to my grandparents. She packed our things and loaded her and I onto a greyhound bus and we rode for two days to West Palm Beach.

Now, obviously I do not remember any of this, most memories for children don’t start storing themselves until around age 3. So a lot of this time I have pieced together from different people in my family.

Before we continue I need to put a little excerpt here for my mother: She is a beautiful, loving soul. She has so much to give and has given so much of herself in the past that I feel she often didn’t have much left to hold herself together with. She too came from a trouble childhood, and when you are barely 22 years old and find yourself raising a child on your own, it’s hard to know what the right choices are. Please keep in mind that my mother is an incredible person and we have a wonderful adult relationship.

That being said, she didn’t often make the best of decisions. My grandmother tells me I was in foster care for the first time around the time that I was a year old.

Apparently my mother had herself a boyfriend, who wasn’t the greatest of people. My mother was young and depressed and very lost at the time, and according to her; on this particular instance; she had taken too many Tylenol. Of course a hospital will immediately look at that as attempted suicide. So my mother was admitted to the hospital, and I was at home with her boyfriend, who unfortunately could not be trusted. He proceeded to get very drunk and pass out on the floor with the front door wide open to our apartment.

My grandmother states that she got a call from the neighbor relaying this message and also informing her that my mother was in the hospital, however with my grandfather overseas and my grandmother having just joined the family, there wasn’t much she could do. So the police were involved and I was sent to a family members’ house to live until my mother could claim me.

And of course, those family members created a terrible living environment. I was told that when child services came to do a home visit they found me in the front yard wearing nothing but a dirty diaper and my face caked in food. The inside of the house was in a terrible state and they immediately removed me from the home and placed me back with my mother.

Now, I’m not sure how much of this is accurate, nor do I know any missing details, but as you can see, my life was already shaping up to be a roller-coaster ride.

Some of my first memories take place much later. I was probably 3 or 4 when things really started making enough of an impact that I could remember them.

I recall waking up in the morning to get breakfast and I remember my mother and her husband at the time rushing to close their door because they were engaging in a “vertical hug”. Don’t ask me why I remember this, but I do, and it obviously had some sort of impact on me. Sex has always been a weird thing for me. I’m pretty sure it was around this time that a childhood friend of mine from the neighborhood taught me all about masturbation and humping. So, again, early introductions into the world of sexuality = weird lingering feelings and memories.

Another memory I have at this time is of getting cologne in my eye. I remember my mother calling poison control and them telling her to flush it out with running water. She did, but it was not a pleasant experience for either of us. I screamed and thrashed while my mother cried and we both ended up with lots of bruises that day.

Bruises that I apparently told the neighbors my mother gave to me on purpose. It blows my mind that I would make up stories like this so young. My mother tells me she was heartbroken when she was confronted by a neighbor about the situation. We had a very serious discussion about lying and how lies can hurt people and give people the wrong ideas.

By the time these memories took place we were living with my mother’s second husband in a trailer park off of Forest Hill Blvd. in West Palm. At this point in time I did not remember any other male figure in my life, and so, for me, he was my father and the first father I ever remember having. He and my mother got pregnant and from what I understand life was going great for a while there!

Then the baby came, and things got stressful, things got strained, and then things changed.

It started with a play slap. My mother has always been playfully violent, a trait that I have taken on much to my husband’s annoyance. She had reached over and jokingly slapped her husband-at-the-time on the cheek. I’m not sure if he asked her to stop, or if there was a moment of conversation or what, but the next thing I know he was slapping her back, much harder than she had slapped him. She got angry, it was a joke and he should have taken it as such. However he didn’t and things escalated. There was screaming and yelling, maybe another slap. I’m not sure. I do know that by the time the fight heightens, he had thrown her to the floor, grabbed her by her hair and proceeded to drag her through the house to the door and throw her down the steps out onto the patio. My brother (a baby at the time) was screaming from down the hall in his bedroom. I was screaming, following behind, begging for them to stop. My mother stood up on the patio, screaming and throwing things. He was standing in the doorway throwing hers and my things out of it. She stated she wasn’t leaving without Scott. He told her she was. And maybe it was the fear on my face or the tears still streaming from my eyes, or the screaming of my brother from in the house, but she chose to take me and leave that day. He would never hurt the baby, and she knew it. So my mother and I were on our own again.

After the final brawl of my mother’s second marriage she didn’t have many options as far as living situations go. My mother and I ended up staying with a few of her friends while she began the process of filing for divorce. I didn’t completely understand what was happening, but I do remember quite a few things from this time period.

Please understand that a lot of what happened in this time I did not tell anyone until many, many years later. Often times I wasn’t even sure that these things had happened, perhaps I dreamed them. They often seem dream like, but your brain does really weird things under stress.

We were living with two men and if I remember correctly, my mother was friends with one, but ended up somewhat dating him by the end of things. I will never forget this time period, Madonna had just come out with a new music video which shows a lot of close ups of naked bodies and contained tons of sexual innuendos. I tell you this because this was the type of thing that these “friends” thought was appropriate to have on the TV with a three to four year old in the house.

A few major things happened that stick out in my mind: the time they made me eat a mexican chili pepper. They told me it was sweet and then laughed at me while I cried from how spicy it truly was. The roommate of my mother’s friend would often sit in the bathroom while I bathed, which at the time, as a child you don’t think about, but as an adult it began to bother me. My mother had no idea this was happening.

I feel as if the worst thing for me in this place was when the same roommate would often have me stand in the doorway of my mother and her boyfriend’s room, staring in the crack while they had sex. I didn’t know it was wrong. I barely understood what was happening. But he did.

Now, whether my mom had some subconscious inkling that things weren’t right, or she wanted me away for the divorce proceedings, I’m not sure. However, pretty soon my mom sat me down to have a very important conversation.

Someone was coming to get me, and I was to call him dad, because the man I had previously thought was my father; wasn’t and didn’t want to be. This man had a wife and a little girl of his own, who was my sister. And I would be going to stay with them just for a little bit while my mom got her life in order.

And so they came; my dad and his wife-at-the-time and their daughter. As confused as I was about this situation, I got in the car. I shouldn’t have. It all started on that drive. We were at a rest stop somewhere, I had just woken up and I remember being hungry. I don’t recall what I said exactly, but I remember my step-mother turning in her seat to look at me and saying “I’m your mother now. You will call me mom and nothing else. Understood?”

The next eight months are a blur. I remember so many little things:

-Being forced to eat cupcakes doused with Tabasco sauce because I had licked some of the frosting without asking.

-Dropping kittens off the top of the bunkbed. They always landed on their feet and I wanted to see it happen. (No kittens were harmed that I know of, but I did get in trouble.)

-Having a comb purposely tangled in my hair because I accidently got on tangled in my dad’s while brushing it.

-Riding my tricycle through the neighborhood

-Being terrified of guns but being forced to be around them (in multiple ways).

-Being given a skinned squirrel as a present.

My father was a truck driver, so he was hardly ever there. And my step-mother had some hardcore jealousy issues. I’m told that my father tried multiple times to convince my mother and step mother that they should “share him”. My parents often make it sound like they had some weird, epic love that was too tragic to exist. Funny enough, I can totally relate.

I spent eight months living with my father and his wife. I wasn’t supposed to be there for that long; I was only supposed to be there for two months. My mother says in the beginning things were fine, I would talk to her on the phone and I would sound happy and seem normal. The agreed upon two months went by, and my mother needed a little extra time. My father and step-mother obliged, apparently stating that they enjoyed having me there. But after that she would call and be told that I wasn’t there, or that I didn’t want to talk to her. The actual contact between us came less and less, and when it did, I didn’t sound like the happy 4 year old she had sent with them.

After eight months my step-mother finally snapped. I’m told that I remember this completely wrong: by her, but again, your life story isn’t often defined by the actuality of the event, but by your perspective of it.

I don’t know what triggered it. My mom was told that I touched my little sister inappropriately, maybe I did, I was 4 1/2. All children are curious bees and if that did happen I doubt I meant anything by it. My father at this time was over at friend’s having a boy’s night. My step-mother says that I was trying to drown Heather.

So there are a few variations of the story. I recall boiled water on the stove, she claims the water heater was set too high. That she was in another room while my sister and I bathed. She heard strange splashes, came to investigate and found me holding my sister’s head underwater. She says she panicked and pulled Heather out and proceeded to turn the water on as hot as she could just to “scare me”.

My memory of this event picks up in the bathroom. The water was already steaming and there was more hot water flowing into the tub. She was screaming at me to get in the tub, but I was taught that steam means hot, and I don’t want to.

I stepped one foot in the tub and immediately withdrew. It WAS hot. I told her. She got angry at me and told me again to get in. I told her no and began to cry as she was pushing me into the bathtub. I stood there screaming at her, the water pooling around my ankles, stinging, as she tried to physically bend my knees so that I would sit. I knew I shouldn’t. My feet hurt so bad.

She finally got me to sit down, but I was still screaming; not my butt was stinging. My sister came running in:“Don’t hurt her!” she screamed. My step-mother pushed her back, and my sister fell and hit her head. She didn’t make any more noise. I was still screaming, desperately trying to get out of the tub, to stand up, but she was holding me down.

And then my feet bubbled up.

The entire top of my feet were one big bubble. I heard her curse and pull me out of the bathtub. I was still screaming, she was freaking out and ran into the other room. I heard her on the phone. She came rushing back with clothes and began to get me dressed.

I lost track of my sister at this point. A sure sign that I was in total shock, my brain later created a version of this where she died (a four-five year old doesn’t understand someone being knocked out, or process situations like this correctly.) And I spent a lot of my life either not realizing she exists, or remembering incorrectly, I don’t really get it. That’s for later though…

My father showed up, and he was terrified and angry. I remember getting into a car,  for some reason my brain interprets it as a fire truck. And then I remember a dentist office, and them saying they weren’t sure what to do with me. (I literally have no idea.)

The next thing I know I woke up in the hospital, screaming because my leg was sticking to the bed. My feet had a weird mesh over them and I was by myself.

I suffered 3rd degree burns to my feet and my butt that day. I had to have skin grafts done to replace the skin on my feet. They took a layer of skin from my thigh and put it in place. I spent months in the hospital healing while my parents spent countless hours in court proceedings outside of the hospital.

I almost lost my life, I’m thankful I didn’t. It’s amazing how much these events define your life. Your way of thinking. I still find myself surprised at the impact this day had on me. But at the same time, in some ways I am thankful. Not everyone can go through something like this and come out on the other side.

Some would say being burned is the worst nightmare of their lives. I can’t say that. I can’t even say that it was the worst thing to happen to me. It definitely ranks up there, but life wouldn’t get easier after this. No matter how badly my mother and I tried.

There are almost 400,000 children in the foster care system here in the United States. Some of these children will be returned to their homes, others will be adopted out, and still even more, especially the older children, will be cycled through the system, from one family to another, until they become of legal age, and even then many of them find themselves still stuck under the administrations thumb.

Most of these children come from homes where abuse has taken place, wrong decisions made. As I mentioned before, I had a stint in foster care around the time I was a year old. But I would spend much more time than that in the system as time went on.

Much of my time in the hospital after being burned is a blur. I was given a photo album once full of pictures from that time, I must have blocked so much of it out of my memory.

There are three memories that stick out in my brain from my hospital stay. The first two centered around my skin graft surgery. They explained to me as plainly as possible what they would be doing, how my skin would regrow itself with the help of a layer of skin from elsewhere on my body. It’s not a concept a little one can really wrap their head around. The day came and I remember being taken to the operating room. The lights were so bright, and I was beginning to get scared.

“Take a deep breath, it’s all okay. What flavor do you like? Bubble gum or cherry?” I chose bubble gum, and next thing I knew an oxygen mask was being placed over my face and the scent of bubble gum hit me.
“Can you count backward from 10?” I think I made it to 9 before I was out.

I hate the smell and taste of bubblegum to this day.

When I woke up I remember being so scared. I was incredibly groggy and began crying for my mother. The only mother at my side was the woman who had burned me. I recall being relieved, I didn’t understand entirely what had happened and this woman had been the only mother figure I had known for 8 months.

I am told my recovery was full of pudding, barney slippers, and lots of heartache as I attempted to regain the strength to walk once my feet had mostly healed. For a period of time I did tell many people that “Dacia” was dead and that my name was “Tina”. I believe I was trying to distance myself from the little girl who had been so badly injured. The only thing I actually remember from recovery was the girl I shared a room with. She had a tracheotomy and it was probably the scariest thing I had ever seen. And it’s just a flash of her, and then the curtains were closed. Some days I wonder if we would have made excellent companions, but I will never know.

Little did I know, while I was in the hospital a custody battle was raging in the courts. I’ve seen a lot of the documentation at the time. At first my father supported and even defended my step-mother. They told the judge that my mother had abandoned me and had refused to have any contact with me since they had taken me in. This was before cell phones, so it wasn’t like my mother could screen shot all of her phone calls.

Court systems are interesting, especially in cases like this. My mother was living in Florida when I got burned, and I was in Michigan with my father. When she heard what happened she immediately placed her entire life on hold to come be by my side. However, due to the fact that my father had claimed abandonment, neither my mother or my father were allowed to have contact with  me.

And to make things even more complicated, my mother had no where to go when she got to Michigan, and so she found herself living in the same house as my father and stepmother, all the while fighting for the right to see me again with them in court.

Eventually my father separated himself from my stepmother as her malicious intent became clear. They later got a divorce and she went to jail. Though her jail stay was short lived: She was released after 2 years for good behavior. Too bad that wasn’t the last I heard of her, but that’s for later.

When I was able to go home from the hospital I was matched up with a foster family. I will never ever forget my stay there. They lived in the country in this beautiful house with a pond in the back yard and a chicken coop. So much space to live.

Unfortunately looks can be deceiving. I do not know who these people were, and for all I know I’ve got everything wrong,  I was such a destroyed child by this point.

I am told that my sister too came to this foster home with me, however I do not recall her being there, many therapists have told me that they believe I was traumatized by watching her get knocked out and my brain just created a conclusion for her and then blocked her out from that time. Maybe I associated her with what had happened or blamed her, I don’t know. I’ll say it again: Trauma is a strange, strange thing.

I did see my mother around the time I first arrived here as well. I was so angry with her. I saw her and immediately started crying, and kicking, and punching, and she just sat there and took it. I blamed her for everything. At five years old my brain had already decided that because she had sent me away that this was her fault. I think she felt the same way.

After that we were allowed to have supervised visits. My mother was doing all that she could to get me back and to prove to a judge that she hadn’t abandoned me.

Meanwhile, I remember I had a bed-wetting problem. My foster family’s  solution: sleep in it. Eventually I will hate being uncomfortable and quit doing so. Now that I’m a parent, I can promise you this logic doesn’t work. And when you are fostering a traumatized child, it REALLY doesn’t work and could even be viewed as a form of abuse.

I also am not sure of the backstory here, but I ended up being incredibly malnourished. I do not know how long I had lived there when this happened, but after a particularly bad rain one of their sons and I went outside to play. We were splashing water at each other, I stepped forward to kick more water at him, I slipped and fell on the grass, and literally snapped my femur in half. Clean break. (Please note: I remember these people being very kind. I was oblivious to the things taking place/immoralities of some of the situations that arose. I also believe these people were doing the best they could with a child that had just nearly been killed.)

Of course I was taken to the hospital where they took an X-ray of my leg. The only way to fix it was to put a pin in my leg to hold my bones in place and then do a full leg/half the other leg cast and to suspend my leg for a period of time.

I am no scientist/doctor but I do know that your body can build up an immunity to medications. My theory is that by the time I had broken my leg, I had undergone so many surgeries to fix my burns, etc. that I had built up some sort of immunity to the sedatives.

I wasn’t complete out when they set my leg, or stuck the pin in it. And from what I have been told you could hear me screaming two floors down. I do remember this. It’s not a pain you forget, trust me on that one.

It took me a long time to recover. Femur breaks generally take months to heal. I was in Kindergarten at the time and I remember visiting my classroom in a wheelchair at one point in time. I couldn’t go to school because my entire left leg was in a cast, from hip to toe, and then half of my right leg was also in the cast (hip to above the knee) and there was a bar placed between my legs to keep everything in place, so I couldn’t walk for months.

Which means yes, yet again, for the second time in less than 2 years; I had to go to Physical Therapy to regain the strength to walk. Fun times.

Not long after I was healed from my broken leg, I broke my arm. I think this was the big red flag for child services. I broke it by jumping across pads of un-lain grass. I tripped on the last one and landed on a stick.

My arm was casted, and I was removed from the home. My next foster home was one I wish I could get in contact with. I ended up going into a home with a woman who had 3 boys and who wanted a little girl but couldn’t have anymore of her own children. She had recently gotten engaged and her fiance was building her and her boys this beautiful home. I lived with them for most of 1st grade.

I was of course a mess of a child, and definitely not the best influence. But this woman took me in, made me feel like I belonged and often would try to work through my issues with me.

I was the child encouraging the other children to have naked pool time in the back yard.

Or telling other kids in class that Santa Claus was dead.

I did end up breaking my arm a second time while I was with them, but it was because the cast was taken off too early, and yet again I tripped and fell, this time landing on a bundle of wires in a comic book shop. Instead of a fracture, it would be a clean break.

We also found out I was allergic to bees during this time, which was a fun adventure in itself.

While I was settling into my new home, my mother was desperately attempting to regain custody of me. She had met a new man, and was working diligently on building herself a life in Michigan. But there was a deadline, I believe. Because I know that just when the people I was living with inquired about adopting me, my mother had completed all of her necessary directives for getting me back.

And yet again, I was ripped out of home and placed in a strange place with a woman I had honestly not spent much of my cognitive life with, and her new man; who would turn out to be yet another heartbreak waiting to happen.

Midland, Michigan. I was in 1st grade by this point so maybe 1995-1996. My mother had married for her third time. I met her newest husband and attended their wedding while still in foster care. My first words to the man “you need to cut your hair.” He had embraced the 90s Grunge rock trend, and my mother had hardcore fallen for it.

He seemed nice. He helped my mother to take the steps she needed to get me back out of the system, and by the time she had met all the requirements he and her were living in a Townhouse.

Goodness, I remember the exact layout of this entire townhouse, I could probably still draw it out for you to this day.

At first things were peachy keen. I was a strange child that’s for sure, but we were making do. I remember trying to make friends with the neighbor boy, but he annoyed me and heard me saying so to my mother. I learned my first lesson in “watch what you say and when you say it” that day.

My mom and her husband were really big into “soundscapes” and what not and playing cards. I had a birthday with them that year and got a bunny as a gift and a Pocahontas bedspread, though I remember being upset it wasn’t Meeko. We had a laundry chute and I would throw my toys down the chute and then run to meet them in the basement.

I think I remember so much of this time because it was the first time I had actually been able to BE a child and be in a comfortable environment without having to worry if the people I was with wouldn’t want me in the morning, or if I would be harmed, or if I would suddenly wake up in a new home. I can honestly say, I think we were all happy.

But then little things started happening. Her husband had a temper on him, and my mother did too, so the two would get into arguments a lot. I was hitting that typical small child age where nothing is fair and I pack my bags and run away every opportunity I could get, so that was stressful as well.

And then we moved back to Florida.

We lived on Weymouth Street. My mother worked at the mall and was quite the looker so often times had many people hitting on her. I don’t think he liked this, and would take it out on her a lot.

Things also just got really stressful. I entered into second grade and pretty much got head lice for the next two years. We were constantly combating it, but every time we got rid of it, I’d go to school and just get it back.

I really think things started to fall apart even more when I had a few friends in my school that were raised by their fathers. The both of them had had their mother pass away when they were small. I, wanting to make friends more quickly and feel like I belonged, told them that my mother too had passed away.

A teacher heard this, and apparently the news quickly spread through the school that my mother had died. (Obviously the faculty knew she was alive prior, so they assumed that this was a recent event.) So when my stepfather at the time came to pick me up that day, he was greeted with so many sad faces, well wishes, etc. He was so confused and of course totally freaking out. We didn’t really have cell-phones then, so it wasn’t like he could just call her. When we got home and she was there everything kind of fell together and they both realized what I had done.

My mother was heartbroken. He was appalled. I don’t think he had signed up for a mentally unstable daughter with his super hot but unstable trophy wife. It was shortly after this that his behavior changed.

My mother would work for long hours, she worked in retail at the mall, so she often wouldn’t get home until almost 9 at night sometimes. I was gradually beginning to lie about more and more things, some small, some big, but I almost always got caught. My stepfather’s solution?

Every time I would lie he would go and get the bike pump from the utility room. You know, the ones you use to air up your tires? He would place this on the living room floor and then instruct me to place my knees on the rounded bar (just under my knee caps.) He would then have me hold a heavy book on my head, like a phone book. I would be forced to sit like that while he played video games, and if I cried, or tried to move to ease the discomfort and pain, he would pile another book on top of my head and make me sit there.

And then every night, just before my mom would get home, he would allow me to stop and put everything away, so she wouldn’t know what was happening.

He wasn’t the only one starting to lose it at this time though. My mom was becoming increasingly agitated and her personality was beginning to change. I don’t know the details of their relationship with each other, but as an adult I’ve come to believe that He was abusing my mother sexually, but I haven’t confirmed. I mean, how do you say “hey mom, did whats-his-face ever rape you? Like spousal rape?” Yeah, no thanks…

He did however tell me at one point; “I better see your eyes peaking through that doorway whenever you hear your mom moan.” WHY the men in her life wanted me to watch them have sex I will never understand. I believe now that had things gone on I would have been involved instead of watching, and my mother wouldn’t have been there.

But that wasn’t the only sexual abuse I endured during this time. The other came in a less obvious form. My mother had a friend with two little boys about my age. The first time we ever went to their apartment the boys shut their bedroom door and showed me their penis. There was another time where the boys came to my house and told me to lay on my bed while they would grind against me.

I didn’t know any better. I had grown up thinking that sex was the most normal thing in the world and everyone did it.

And this right here will be the hardest thing I’ve ever admitted out loud and I’ve only told my husband: Shortly after my encounter with the boys I took what I learned and showed my little brother. And I will forever be ashamed. I only hope as an adult he understands how incredibly fucked up I was in the head and how I regret those decisions so much.

And now I’m literally shaking. Time to get this post out so I can step away and collect myself…

ANYWAYS. So more sexual abuse, some physical abuse and tons of mental. Maybe it was summer, maybe it was third grade, I’m not sure but my mother and her husbands marriage began to go down hill. It finally ended in a fiery fight in which he broke her best friends finger and gave my mother a black eye. (or maybe its the other way around, I’m not sure.)

Needless to say, my grandfather beat the shit out of him and sent him on a plane back to Michigan and my mom filed for divorce.

Thank goodness. We would have a rough rest of the year, but our lives were about to improve dramatically and someone would enter in that would hold the two of us together for a very long time.

Enter about half-way through third grade. My mother was fresh from her divorce. I was still battling head lice like crazy, but thank goodness my mother hadn’t shaved my head like the neighbor’s mother had done. We tried everything to get rid of it. It got to the point where my mother and her friends would have nightmares about popping the eggs between their fingers.

When I say we tried everything, I mean everything. Mayonnaise, vinegar, every brand of lice-remover that was on the market. I missed so much school it’s a wonder I even passed that year.

Meanwhile my mother was enjoying her newfound freedom. I was beginning to become a real problem child too. Which, in reality the two kind of went hand in hand. I met a guy down the street, mom slept with him. I lashed out and started a fake “fundraiser” in the neighborhood to have people give me money. Mom tried to discipline me, I lashed out and refused to listen to basic instructions.

Towards the end of my third grade year my mother was really big into the online chat room scene. It was the mid 90s, we were all doing it then. She met a man named Kevin and the two of them were pretty decent friends. It got to the point where they exchanged phone numbers. During this time she also met herself a new boyfriend from Iowa. His name was “Guy”.  (No joke.)

Guy was everything my mother was looking for at the time. A new start in another state, stability, he said he had money and owned land and even promised to buy me horses. So when school got out that year, my mother had been putting everything in the works for us to move to Iowa to be with him. Her friend Kevin actually drove down to help us pack. We were going to spend a little bit in Kansas with him visiting and then make our way onto Iowa to go live with Guy.

Was I happy? NO. I was literally the most angry third grader you had ever met. I had just gotten to the point where I finally had my mothers sole attention. I didn’t have to compete with her latest husband or SRS/DCF or even my little brother. I couldn’t believe she would pack us up and move halfway across the country to BFE to visit a man we had never met while she planned to move in with another man we had never met.

Even at that age I thought she was being an idiot. I was only half right.

I don’t remember the drive up at all. I must have fallen asleep towards the end of the trip though, because when I woke up, I woke up in Kansas inside of a strange house in the middle of the night.

I remember coming out of a bedroom to boxes of things here and there, some furniture. The one thing the house was definitely missing? Adults. I was completely alone in a new place and the last thing I had remembered was being in a car with my mom and her friend.

I completely freaked. I knew how to call collect, I’m not sure where I learned it from, but I knew if I dialed the operator I could give her my grandfathers name or number or address and they would put me in touch with them.

I gave the operator my grandfather’s house phone first, but no one answered. We tried the cell phone next, no answer. By this time I’m beginning to get distressed. I ask her to contact one more person: my uncle. Again no answer. By this time the operator can tell I’m upset.

“Are you home by yourself sweetie?” She asks. I remember confirming that I was an explaining that I didn’t know where my mom or her friend had went. I might have even started crying, I’m not sure. But the operator decided that I was at risk and she made a call to the local police department.

Chanute, KS PD showed up not even ten minutes later and escorted me from the house. It is my understanding that as we were walking out the front door and driving away in the car, my mother and her friend were actually pulling up in the alley behind the house.

So yet again, I was sent to foster care.

I remember the first house fairly vividly. I believe I even ended up stopping back by a few years later to say hi. It was a woman and her husband, they had a few kids of their own, and also numerous foster kids. I remember being so hopeful, maybe these people would keep me and I could be happy. They lived next to the community pool, they had a huge back yard, all the kids were fun!

But they were already at capacity and the state wanted me in another home in the area. So I was removed from this home and placed in a HUGE house somewhere in Chanute. I believe these people had a few grown children and then fostered me and another girl. I ended up sharing a room with this girl. She had a huge beanie baby collection. I think she was about 12 or 14 (not sure which.) but I do know that she had hit puberty.

I believe I was in foster care for 2 months and during that time I was forced to look at and even touch this girls breasts. I know I got swimmer’s ear while I was there too, but to be honest these are really the only details I remember from this place.

Meanwhile my mother was fighting for custody of me. I believe at the time she blamed me for this round. I pre-emptively freaked and got the cops called and if I had waited ten more minutes she would have been home. She didn’t think I was going to wake up!

But let’s be honest here. You don’t leave a 9 year old in a new house, in the middle of the night, by herself. Especially when the child has been through the crap that I had gone through.

Regardless, she jumped through all the necessary hoops and regained custody of me. Even the judges thought it was silly that I was removed for so long, but I had a record of being removed before, and I believe that was considered.

During this time my mother had to change her priorities for obvious reasons. She couldn’t go running off to Iowa to be with her new boyfriend while I was in foster care in Chanute, Kansas. So while my mother was trying to get me back, her boyfriend Guy came to visit her instead.

Apparently he spent the entire time telling her what she could and could not wear, who she could talk to, where she could go, and belittling her. She soon found out that he actually had a wife and kids in Iowa and that he had planned on hiding us on some piece of land he owned. She dropped him REAL quick.

So by the time I moved BACK IN with my mom, she was engaged to this friend Kevin that we had traveled up here with. And again, I was furious.

I entered into 4th grade at Murray Hill Elementary in Chanute. It was a “team-teaching” class, so technically two classes put together and taught by two teachers. It was an interesting experience, and I honestly excelled in school. Not so much in the friend department.

We lived in Chanute for about a year before relocating thirty minutes north to Iola. While in Chanute we ended up adopting 11 kittens and 2 sharpei dogs (we already had a dog we had brought up from Florida). This is completely irrelevant to the story, just know we really like animals and I still do to this day. 🙂

Kevin started to grow on me. He was a good guy and generally happy and he was head over heels for my mother. By February of the next year we had established ourselves in the Mormon church, both my stepfather and I were baptized, and my mother and him got married.

Kevin ended up being the glue that she and I needed to hold ourselves together. He sacrificed his own family and his own life to handle our crazy and to be there for us every step of the way. I finally had a steady male figure in my life that would hold me and dry y tears while I cried. He would sing me songs and read my stories. He supported my mother in almost all that she did and he looked out for me every step of the way.

Gosh I’m almost in tears writing this, it might be hard for someone who never lacked these things to understand, but for me, those small little gestures were things I had longed for my entire life. I didn’t know my father by this point. I had blocked out a lot of the memories of living with him and I promise you he didn’t do the things that my stepfather did.

And this is the last time I will refer to him as “Kevin” or my “stepfather.” From here on out, he was and still IS my father. My biological will be referred to by his name: Bruce.

It doesn’t take blood or birth certificate to make a father. You don’t get to insert your sperm and then claim all credit. Being a father takes time, dedication, emotional days, and a willingness to stick through it even when its incredibly difficult.

I am proud to say that Kevin is my father, even to this day. He is my son’s grandfather, my mothers husband and rock, and he has even become and excellent father figure to my brother.

I wish I could say he was our night in shining armor. He was, but unfortunately there was still a lot to come. He did his best to protect me, but its hard to protect a child first from her own mother, and then from someone everyone would grow to trust with their entire hearts.

More to come.

Thanks as always for sticking it out. 🙂

Iola, Kansas.

How can I even begin to really describe my first interactions with this little town? I think my father got a job at a factory in town; Gates, so we ended up relocating to be closer. We moved into a little house off of 3rd street right with an empty lot next door. Pretty unremarkable really. But I will never forget this house.

My first summer after moving to Kansas my mother had bought me a plane ticket to go see my grandparents in Florida. The night before I left for the airport my mother and I would have an altercation that would mark the beginning of a change in our relationship for years to come.

I started wearing glasses in 4th grade. My first pair were ginormous pink glasses that honestly swallowed my entire face. But I loved them. I was definitely not your normal child at this age. I wore sweater sets and my hair in weird pigtails. I talked until I was blue in the face and I was always so hyper that most people, including my peers, didn’t really have the patience to be around me for long.

Those pink glasses, though…I don’t know how it happened. Or at least I don’t remember, but they got bent. My mother and father weren’t the most well-off of people, so she was pretty upset when she found out.

And by pretty upset, I mean she flew off the handle. I probably said something smart, knowing me, I’m not sure really how it all began. But I do know that she lost her temper and before I knew it was curled in the fetal position on the ground while she hit me. She then yanked me up and sat me over the arm of the couch and placed her hands around my neck. I started freaking out and gasping for air, when my father came over to intervene and pull her off of me. I took off running through the house and locked myself in the bathroom. She came, not two seconds behind me, banging on the bathroom door. Screaming at me to come out. I sat there on the floor just crying and begging for her to stop, begging for her to calm down, and absolutely terrified of what had just happened.

In all my years of being in and out of her care my mother had never responded to me in this manner. I was shell shocked. I was terrified. And by the time all was said and done and the house was calm again, my mother was mortified. Though she claimed at the time that she was only trying to scare me.

It was shortly after this that my family really started becoming serious about going to church and being a part of the Mormon faith. I had a lot to do with that. We had met another family in town that also went to the church and we all quickly became friends.

My mother began getting some of her disciplinary ideas from them. For instance, I was once forced to write the ten commandments 1000X each, in cursive, and I could only stop for bathroom breaks and dinner. I actually think I ended up having to do this at least twice throughout the next few years.

I entered into 5th grade and really started to feel the effects of what had happened to me in my life. I was the odd child in the classroom. The bookworm, though I’d talk anyone’s ear off. And I had a terrible lying problem. I can’t even begin to remember all the stories I told. But if anything, I was an excellent student. I dove into my studies and came out with numerous writing achievements. I was tested for gifted that year and it came back that I was incredibly gifted at reading/writing/and word comprehension.

The relationship I had with my mother really became strained during this time. She increasingly became more strict, but sometimes not in the best ways. At some point between 5th and 6th grade we moved into a two story house a few blocks from the first one. My mother and I had another altercation in which I didn’t put groceries away fast enough I got smacked with a bag of frozen waffles. We laugh about it now, but at the time I didn’t find it so funny.

In fact, I found it so demeaning and it angered me so much that at one point I pulled a knife out of the kitchen with the shear determination to actually stab her. I obviously didn’t go through with it, but gosh I was so angry with her. She was the one person in my life who had always fought for me, not with me. Yet here we were, her constantly losing her temper with me and me rebelling more and more with each passing day.

It was also during this time that my father and I began to get really close. He always seemed to be there to pick up the pieces when my mother and I would get into it. Comforting whoever he felt needed it, and condemning whoever he felt was wrong in the situation. I wasn’t always the one that was comforted, because to be honest, it got to the point where I did things on purpose to lash out.

We moved again, to the south side of town. I was able to get a little more freedom here, but I also experienced one of my final straws with my parents in this house. By this time we had become excellent friends with the church family. In fact, by this point their children and I were hanging out everyday. And they were wonderful people (still are!). While as an adult I don’t agree with some of the disciplinary actions them and my parents would come up with, but we were 4 kids all around the ages of 10-15 who were actually big trouble makers.

And I did get myself into a lot of trouble during that time. I stole from a gas station, I took off for hours on end on my bike without telling anyone where I was going, I broke into old abandoned houses and walked through fields to explore old barns. I broke into our christmas presents that year and tried to blame it on the cat.

I was pushing every button that I could, until I pushed too far I guess. I don’t even know what I did to get in trouble, but one thing that my mother firmly believed in was spankings. Which I agree with too! Open hand swats when necessary. However, I was spanked with wooden spoons. It was never an issue, until this one time. The rule was I got spanked until I stopped crying. Which if you’ve ever been actually spanked with a wooden spoon is incredibly difficult. It kind of stings, which automatically brings tears to your eyes, not to mention its stressful and I have a habit of uncontrollably crying when my anxiety is at its peak.

So this particular time I couldn’t stop crying, so the spanking continued. By the time it was all said and done, my butt was actually bruised from being spanked. I had decided enough was enough and I went to my guidance counselor at school the next day. Authorities were called and we were then required to do in home-family therapy. Which by the way, is a complete waste of time when no one thinks there is anything wrong with the situation. And a new trend emerged in which I was made out to be and feel like a problem child and everyone else was just responding to my issues.

Towards the end of my 6th grade year my parents decided it was time to move back to Florida. My mother and I went first, leaving my father behind to tie up loose ends and make us extra money while we settled in. We moved in with some family friends and I was enrolled in a private school at my grandmothers Seventh Day Adventist Church.

I got myself into some trouble here, between lying to kids about different things, making sexual comments (mostly because I didn’t really know any better.) This was also the year 9/11 happened and we got our first glimpse into what my anxiety could really do.

I remember the media was in a frenzy that day, replaying the clips of the twin towers over and over again. The school had been shut down and all the students had been picked up and taken home, including myself. All day I heard news anchors talk about how many people had died, how this could lead to World War III. The impact that this event could have on all of our lives. Suddenly I began what I know now to be a panic attack. I spiked a fever, began vomiting and hysterically crying about the situation. I was practically inconsolable. This would be my new go to behavior whenever things would happen that I couldn’t cope with.

It didn’t take too long for my dad to get down and join us and for us to get into our own place. We moved into a trailer park in Lake Worth, Florida. I was entering into 8th grade and would be attending public school again. I was also beginning to realize that my living situation and the things that had happened to me all my life were not normal or acceptable.

Little did I know both my mother and I were experiencing the full blown effects of mental illness, each of us struggling with our own mental battles. And for the next few years I began to fight back.

If I thought I was a weird, problem child when I was younger, it was nothing compared to who I was as a teenager. 8th grade was a real struggle for me. I was bullied A LOT, but to be fair some of it was the result of my own big mouth and the weird lies I’d tell. Kids started to judge me for the things that came out of my mouth, the level of energy I had, the amount that I talked.

You see, I always had this philosophy that if I could just act peppy and happy no one would every know there was anything wrong. I was desperate to be the “cool kid” and I was desperate to make friends. But my home life was deteriorating in some ways and I was obsessed with making decent grades. A lot of the social skills kids pick up at this time, I just didn’t grasp. I was oblivious to how I came off to other people.

That year I ended up dealing with a lot of the usual teenage drama. He said; she said, exploring the world of a “teenager”, and exploring the world of smoking/drugs/and stealing. I started it all that year.

There was a target just outside the trailer park we lived in and I stole so much merchandise from that place. We would break into trailer homes where no one lived, and steal things off people’s porches. We would instigate fights at the bus stop, pit kid against kid. It didn’t help that I was constantly bullied by some of the neighborhood kids to do this stuff. I had to prove I could “hang” and that I wasn’t just some little blonde goody-two-shoes. It got to the point where we had to have two separate bus stops for the kids so that the number of fights before and after school would be minimized. I never got into an actual fight myself, thank goodness. I was a lot of talk.

Meanwhile at home things were getting more and more rough. My mother developed this habit of being the victim every time we bumped heads about a situation. It usually ensued with she made a simple request, I got an attitude, she got angry, I got angry, she told my step dad, then they both got angry, then there was lots of yelling and I was grounded to or from one thing or another. Or I had to do chores. Or write sentences. At first I didn’t push back a lot.

Then one day my mom and I got into an argument and I said “You’re acting like a bitch.” She slapped me so hard and proceeded to scream at me for calling her a bitch. I lost it. I started freaking out and screaming all of the hatred I had had building up. The original altercation had taken place in my bedroom. We walked out into the main room of the mobile home and I don’t remember what it was, but in her anger, my mom picked something up and threw it at me. It whizzed past my head and hit the wall behind me, creating a large hole. I was shaking with anger by this point.

Again, the next few minutes are a blur, but I remember being down on the ground while my mom tried to wrestle me, I think she wanted to spank me or something, but I wasn’t having it. She was grabbing at my wrists and my ankles trying to get control of me, and I was just kicking, trying desperately to get her off of me. Remember, this all started because 14 year old me said she was being a bitch.

The police actually got called on this one and I was pretty much told that I was abusing my mother and that if I continued to act up they were sending me away to a military school out in Belle Glade. My grandfather even called me and was so upset me with and was insisting that I just needed to go anyways since I couldn’t get my shit together and treat my mother with respect.

That was the year I decided it doesn’t matter how old you are, to get you respect you must give it as well.

I tried to pull my shit together after that. I really did. But the downward spiral continued. By my freshmen year I was sneaking out of the house, skipping school,  smoking cigarettes like crazy and my grades were even starting to slip.

I remember going in with high hopes. I was 14 and ready to face the world. I excelled in choir, I was interested in criminal justice. I told everyone that I wanted to become a lawyer when I graduated and then move on to become a Justice on the Supreme Court. I was determined, even then, not to let my life hold me back.

Verbally anyways. Skipping school was easy. The first time I was so nervous. We went to someone’s house just a few blocks away for the last class of the day and I took my first hit of weed. We walked back to school, and then got on the bus and went home for the day.

I wrote songs back then. All of my own originals. Some of them way too grown for little ole me back then, but I was always trying desperately to be something I wasn’t so maybe people would like me. I sang them for people all the time too! But, when all your friends are focusing on grades, and you’re off skipping class, smoking weed, purposely sitting out in P.E. and acting up class, people actually tend to drift further away from you instead of closer. I found that out the hard way numerous times growing up.

At the end of my freshmen year we moved from Lake Worth, Fl down to Boynton Beach. It’s not really that far, but it put me in a new school zone. We moved into an apartment complex and for the entire summer between freshmen and sophomore year I didn’t have any friends. I was in the middle of going from a child to a full fledged, developed teenager and it was an interesting transition for me.

At home I was constantly ridiculed for my appearance. Looking back now, I get it. I was a young girl trying to be older than I was, but at the time I despised it. I hated being told I looked like a slut just because I wanted to show of my stomach. My mom and I were getting into more and more frequently and the fights were escalating in severity. I started skipping school literally everyday. At one point I actually snuck out all night long, knowing my mom wouldn’t wake up to see if I had gone off to school. I stayed out until after she left for work and then I went home and climbed into bed. I think I may have gotten caught that time, but it wasn’t the only time I snuck out of the house or walked off school campus and just roamed Palm Beach, Florida.

There was one day that I made a particularly snarky comment towards my mother and I guess she just kind of lost her temper with me. She got all up in my face and started screaming at me and freaking out on me and at the end of her fit she leaned forward and actually bit my nose incredibly hard. I started bawling, she started freaking out. And these kinds of behaviors became habit. I would pop off of at the mouth, because I harbored so much unfair anger towards her, and she would fall off a cliff freaking out and by the end I’d be crying and she’d be locking herself in her room in an all out panic attack over her behavior.

Gosh, so much happened during this time. Things just started escalating so quickly because I was finally fighting back. Sometimes my fights were justified, sometimes I was just being a hormonal teenage brat. Hell, even some of the fights were normal mother/daughter teenage fights. I was slowly starting to tell the difference between what was normal and what I wouldn’t tolerate at all.

Things began getting so tense that it even spilled out into our relationship with my little brother. See, remember the man who pulled her out of the house by her hair? Well, he still lived in Florida with my little brother. So when we moved down we all kind of reconciled and the two began sharing custody of him. But it was always a competition. No one wanted to discipline Scott for fear of him harboring negative feelings and not wanting to come back. My brother had ADHD that we were having trouble managing too, but no one wanted to push too much in case it upset him and he chose one parent over the other.

I was constantly left to babysit too and I won’t lie, I took a lot of my negative feelings out on him. I’d set him up to get in trouble, I’d purposely tattle on him or bring attention to certain things that he did. But the more I pushed, the less trouble he got into. No one ever made him take responsibility for himself, whereas I felt like I was in trouble if it rained too much outside.

But my brother’s ADHD, mixed with my mother’s undiagnosed Bipolar, and my spiraling depression and anxiety, we were a deadly combo. We were all at the dinner table one night, and my brother was in one his usual “I can’t pay attention so I’m going to make lots of annoying noises to amuse myself and play with my food” moods. My mother was insisting that he sit and eat his dinner or he wouldn’t be allowed to get up and play. The more we pressed (because for once someone was! Though it would be one of the last times until later in life) the more angry he got until he stood up and flipped the table over.

He proceeds to start pushing my mom, my mom is trying to get a handle on him to calm him down. I just get angry the more I watch. I had been watching my mother get shoved around by men my whole life, and all the anger I had built up inside just came pouring out. It didn’t matter that I was angry with my mother. It didn’t matter that I hated my biological father and the woman who burned me, and the kids who had ridiculed me, and the system for failing me. I reached out and grabbed that little boy. I pulled him off of my mother and took him to the floor, climbed on top of him and started wailing. My mother started to scream at me and try to pull me off of him once she realized what was happening. And then mid punch I’m pulled off and thrown across the room. Scotty starts crying. My mom starts consoling him.

I was the one who got in trouble.

Please understand, these last couple of posts have been kind of hard, mainly because this relationship and these people I am writing about, they don’t really exist anymore. I know they say that people don’t change, and they don’t, and I’m not saying we aren’t these people. But when humans are subjected to the kinds of traumas and events like my mother and I were, your brain does weird things with your emotions and your responses to normal situations. It is obvious that we were both struggling, which is why I tell this story the way that I do. I don’t want to undermine these situations with a “oh but we’re better people now and this was back then.” It’s important that you understand the devastating effects these moments had on both mine and her minds, relationships and physical well beings.  It’s especially important that you understand how I perceived these events to unfold, because again: your perception is your reality. And the reality is I made my decisions based off the way I felt about what was happening to me.

Every boiling pot, if left untended, will inevitably boil over though. And that’s precisely what was about to happen.

Sophomore year was a huge year for me. I went into the school year still trying to cling to having “good grades”. I was doing excellent in choir and getting recognition, I was in yearbook and newspaper, which I loved. I even had a cooking class. These were all things that I found myself very interested in. I was trying everything I could to fit in the world around me. I had also done a bit of growing up over the summer.

Unfortunately, between my home life and my increasingly stressful school schedule, I found myself less and less focused on the things that would guarantee me success or bring me joy. I was still feeling like the outsider every where I went, and I didn’t understand why I had a difficult time making friends, or keeping a boyfriend for that matter.

I began writing songs, and writing dark poetry. I discovered that cutting was an excellent way to get all my anger and frustration at my current situation out of my head. I even began taking safety pins and carving words into my arms. Maybe it was a cry for attention, one that was never really answered. Maybe I was just lashing out. I don’t know, but eventually I justified it by explaining that I was turning emotional hurt into physical hurt and once the cuts healed I felt better!

I think even I started to believe myself on that one.

As my 16th birthday approached I became increasingly distant from my parents. I lashed out more frequently, I got more and more snide and pushed buttons every chance I got. It got so bad that even my dad was getting involved, getting up in my face and screaming at me while I threatened to punch or even stab him. I never followed through, though I was screamed at a lot to go ahead. I was smart enough to know that I would have either been seriously injured in the scuffle or I would have been removed and sent to some sort of reform program.

I couldn’t let that happen, because I was desperately researching justifiable means to get emancipated.

During this time I also became increasingly closer to some friends of my parents. They were the younger couple I mentioned before. He would take me to work with him every opportunity I got and she always made herself available. It was beginning to cause a rift between them and my parents,  but to be honest I needed someone on my side.

It ended up that the young lady and I planned out my 16th birthday at her house. My mother was so upset, she felt that we had completely left her out and bypassed her on this one, which in some format we did. But I couldn’t spend five minutes in a room with my mom at this time without losing it on her and saying every terrible comment that I could bring to mind.

The party went well, except my mother’s breakdown of course. It hurts to put this in literary terms, but the truth of the matter is, as I’ve gotten older I began to view a lot of my mother’s outbursts as “cries for attention” or “playing the victim”. Everything was an attack on her, everything was personal for her. If I gave her a hug that she deemed too short and impersonal, she would cry and accuse me of being angry with her. It got to the point that I just couldn’t take it. I was struggling with my own demons and did not have the patience to try and understand what was going on with my mother.

I think the birthday party was a big snapping point for her and I too. It was the first time I hadn’t attempted to make it a big secret that she was getting on my nerves. We were both so increasingly agitated to, it was a wonder we COULD be in the same room together.

My final straws? One was shortly after my birthday, I think my mom and I were on our way to school. We were getting in this huge argument and I had royally upset my mother. Idk. But I do know that she slapped me across my face and it took every ounce of my strength not to grab that woman by her throat and attempt to beat the living piss out of her. She dropped me off at school and then went home, I’m sure, crying.

I went to school angry that day. Every decision that had left us in unfavorable positions, every broken promise, every random move, every word screamed at me or eyes rolled at me. Every moment I had ever been angry at her just came crashing down on me right then and there. I hated her for all of it. But what would happen when my dad would pick me up from school would send me over the edge, and even packing.

My dad was fuming when he came to pick me up. He said my mother had been at home all day crying. I rolled my eyes I’m pretty sure, which launched him into this huge speech about how inconsiderate I was, and how terrible of a daughter I was. But the thing that got me most wasn’t the comments about my attitude, because those were completely correct, but when he looked at me and basically said (basically because I can’t remember exact words) “You dress like a slut and you act like a cunt. You’re already on your way to growing up to be a piece of shit.”

It was like being slapped in the face. I guess I just didn’t expect those words to come out of him. He had always been on my side until recently, and here I was being told, yet again, that I was the problem child.

So what does the problem child do when she feels like she is a hindrance to a situation and is constantly told she is the issue?

She packs up her shit and she leaves.

And that’s exactly what I did.

I first decided to move in with my best friend at the time. She lived with her dad and her uncle in the next complex over. I probably spent two weeks total there. But her and I were terrible influences on each other, and we enabled each other to skip school so we could hang out with our respective boyfriends.

Well one day, she decided to stay out longer than I did, and when I got back and she didn’t her uncle kind of freaked out on me and kicked me out for not telling where she was. To be fair, I didn’t know WHERE she was, just who she was with, which I told him! Alas, I had to go. My next place to live was with another friend of mine. But it was short lived because he would physically carry me to school and the rule was I couldn’t skip school while I lived with him.

By this point though I had skipped so much school there was no chance of catching up. And to be honest, at this point I didn’t care.  So instead of having the stability of having someone to stay with, I dropped out of school and ended up moving in with some friends I had met through an ex boyfriend. A married couple with a toddler. They were kind enough to let me stay in their guest bedroom while I tried to figure out what I was doing.

But I wasn’t ready, and I definitely wasn’t in a good place. I started drinking and taking pills. I was to the point where I was blacked-out wasted every single night. I’d spend my days online in chat rooms, talking to some old kansas friends and random people I would meet online and then my nights getting shit face wasted with the adults in my complex.

I needed a wake up call. I needed a reality check. The worst part is that I had been crying out for help for months, but I was only getting pushed further and further away. I turned to the only things I could find to lend me comfort because the people I had trusted were turning on me every moment.

I do take responsibility for a lot of my actions at this time. I did not make good decisions. I was not a nice daughter or a responsible teenager at this time. But I was hurting and lashing out at the way I had been treated. By this point in my life I had experienced every type of abuse short of being molested/raped. But my tribulations had always been treated as if they were to be expected, and no one said “she is struggling because of her history” it was “she is a problem child. She needs to get her shit together. Were going to send you to military school. You need to go to Juvy. You’re a delinquent and you’re going to fail as an adult. I’m right, you’re wrong, get over it. Quit being so stupid. What is your problem?”

I would get my reality check for sure, and in doing so my mother would get hers too. But at this point, it was just the dose of reality we all needed.

I’ve always been pretty self-aware. I think it’s a common trait among victims of trauma and abuse. They become survivors, and the first things survivors think about is themselves. I learned very early how to identify my emotions or identify when I needed help. I wasn’t always the best at articulating or seeking it out, but I have always been very aware when I’m headed in the wrong direction.

16 was no different. I was living with a very generous family. They were really awesome people, Wiccan. The husband worked, the mother stayed home and took care of their little girl. They were so sweet to allow me a place to stay. I wasn’t the most respectful of teenagers at the time, so I may not have shown my gratitude as much as I would now.

Regardless, while they were wonderful people, they did not have my best interests at heart. I had made it abundantly clear to them that I would be independent and treated as an adult, and thus I was.

I had made the conscious effort to lose my virginity just before my 16th birthday. To someone who honestly just turned around and left me for his ex. Was I surprised? No. I was an injured little girl who was trying to be way bigger than I was. But I was grateful that that bridge was passed.

It turned out that the ex of this guy actually lived across the hall from me. And boy did she hate me at first. Your typical teenage “she stole my bf, I stole him back” type shit. I always seem to go for the guys that had serious history with another girl.

Regardless, as time went on we got to know each other a little, and I started joining in with the nightly party sessions. Were talking blacked out drunk almost every night by like 7PM. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t go to school. I just got shitfaced wasted every night and played on the internet every other free moment.

I was a mess. I had dyed my hair black, I pierced my lip, I was wearing eyeliner halfway down my face, tuxedo jackets as shirts with patches all over them. I was so “punk rock” and “anti-establishment”. In reality I was just a little girl crying out for attention praying that someone would see how much I was struggling and would help me.

I turned to Wicca because the spirituality really made me feel put together. We started doing Tarot readings, past life regressions, energy transfers. I loved every minute of it. But the alcohol was slowly starting to eat into that too.

One night in particular sent me looking for an alternative. I went to a friends house and proceeded to drink like crazy. Got sick on their porch, had to be carried home. Dropped my phone in a toilet and then totally freaked (No job- no new phone.). I had a total breakdown the next day in my hungover state and realized I was going to get myself hurt. I HAD to stop drinking, I had to find someone to help me.

So I turned to someone I had known and trusted since I was in 2nd grade.

That sweet couple I talked about before, well they had gone through a break up. And the girl had moved away, leaving the gentlemen behind. Again, I was so close to these people. She taught me self-confidence and he taught me computers and driving and video games and that being a nerd was totally fine.

I had been hanging out with him more and more, I mean in reality he was my best friend. He knew that, my parents knew that. It wasn’t a secret. He took me to work with him, we went to his parents house for dinner. He gave me rides, taught me to drive his car. He was hands down my most trusted ally and my best friend.

So when my life was falling apart and I needed a supportive adult to help me out, I called him and asked if I could just stay at his house a few nights. I knew she had just left him so he had to be lonely and I figured we could use each other to get through this shit we were going through.

He agreed to let me stay a couple of nights so I got some of my things packed up and went to stay with him.

UGH this is hard to write…

The first night I laid in bed with him to watch tv. I mean we had lain on the couch a hundred times, I didn’t even give it a second thought. Well I fell asleep, I think he woke me up to try and move me but I insisted on staying. I think I just wanted to feel someone warm next to me. I just wanted to feel comfortable and safe, two feelings I hadn’t felt in so long.

I woke up the next morning to his hands in my pants.

Once upon a time I told people that I would just fight back. If anyone ever touched me in a way I was uncomfortable with I would freak and beat the shit out of someone.

I just froze.

I just laid there, pretending to still be asleep.

He slipped a few fingers inside a few times, pulled out and rolled over and then finished himself off on the edge of the bed. He got up and went to take a shower. I sat there in utter stunned silence. I didn’t know how to respond. I didnt know what to think… except to a moment about a week before.

We were in his car, I have no idea where we were going honestly, but I was driving. We were at Forest Hill Blvd. just passed I-95. There is a nice neighborhood off to the left and train track. I think we were stopped at the train track and he looks at me with this strange look on his face.

“Dacia I need to tell you something.” I smiled and told him to proceed. “I think I’m a pedophile.”

I literally laughed at him. I thought it was some big joke. I told him to stop being silly and that there was no way. I didn’t even ask why he thought that. I didn’t inquire. I didn’t care. It seemed ridiculous to me that he could think that way of himself. He had never done anything to make me think that way. So I just wrote it off.

And yet, here I was, listening to him take a shower while I laid in bed trying to figure out what had just happened and how I was supposed to process it. I was so mixed. At 16  you don’t realize just how many different ways you can feel love for someone, and I loved him. Not like “In love, I wanted this” loved him, but as an older brother, a best friend, the person I could depend on most.

I heard his shower turn off and pretended to be asleep again until he left for work. I then got up and took the longest shower of my life. No amount of scrubbing could make me feel better.

The first person I called was my friend across the hall. She immediately offered to  come get me, but I couldn’t just leave. I had pretended to be asleep, I didn’t want him to know I knew, I didn’t know what to do. So I stayed all day, waited till he got home and pretended everything was fine.

But it wasn’t. I contacted a couple of friends I had online and begged them to stay up with me all night so I could try and stay awake. I stayed on the couch in the living room. I was terrified to fall asleep.

But 4 am came…and then I opened my eyes to find him standing over me staring at me. Regret written all over his face. And then he turned to leave for work. I looked at the clock. It was 6 am.

So I called my friend and made her come get me. She convinced me to tell my mom and my mom took me straight to the police station.

At first he denied everything. Everyone told me I was a liar and that yet again I was the problem child trying to make up stories to get attention. Even his ex was in utter disbelief.

I didn’t blame them. I had a hard time believing it myself. But the two people who stuck by my side no matter what had happened? My parents. It was like this had opened their eyes to how much I was really hurting, to everything that I was actually going through.

They hate him. Actually once he admitted what happened and charges were pressed a lot of people did.

I didn’t want charges pressed.

You have to understand. Numerous women feel as if their rape/molestation was their fault. In my case, in some sick twisted way it was..

To this day I still feel guilty for everything. I carry the responsibility on my shoulders like a boulder.I was 16 years old. Regardless of how much denial I was in I knew better than to sleep in a grown mans bed. I knew better than to write people off when they were trying to confide in me.

He warned me. And I didn’t listen. And at 27 years old I still don’t really know how to process this.

My whole world was torn upside down after being molested. I didn’t know what to think of anyone or anything anymore. I was more confrontational than ever, and I was ready to get as far away from everything in Florida as I possibly could. Between my mother and I’s worsening relationship and the fact that the man who had just assaulted me knew where I worked, who I lived with, where my friends lived. I felt like he could find me anywhere and I was scared he would, not because it would happen again, but because I didn’t want to face the situation.

So I went to dinner with my parents. And we went to Olive Garden. I will never forget this. I don’t even know how it got escalated so badly but by the end of the meal my mother and I were screaming at each other in the restaurant and I wanted the hell out of there. I couldn’t take it anymore. All the stress was taking it’s toll on every aspect of my life. I needed a new start.

So I had a plan.

Remember that family from Kansas that we became friends with? I started talking to their oldest son online and he and I hit it off (as usual) and began “dating”. I needed to get out of my situation as soon as possible so I asked his mother and my mother if I could fly up there and move in with them. At first my mother was dead set against it. But then everything happened with me being molested and my mother realized I wasn’t coming back to her, so the only way she could really keep tabs on me was to send me to live with some friends. This way she would know I was taken care of and know I was going to school (it was a stipulation of me moving.)

And so after some convincing we got the ball moving and I moved to back to Iola, Kansas in June of 2005.

Now. I was still a mess at this time. And this boy and I were keeping it from his parents that we were dating. So I got to Kansas, immediately fell in with the party crowd (which he was a big part of) and found my niche in his social group. Upon my arrival I was greeted with expectations of living under their roof and I did my best to comply.

It was rocky, I won’t lie. I was a inconsiderate teenager and I think these people didn’t really know what to do with me in this instance.

A few months passed and I found myself less and less willing to comply. There was a lot of backwards “disciplinary actions”. One week being a party animal was acceptable, but the next week we were expected to be devout Mormon’s. It finally got to a point that I couldn’t really handle it much anymore. Every other day I was in trouble for something that was perfectly acceptable behavior the week before.

The final straw was a day that I had a choir performance or something. It was November, I had gotten myself a job at Sonic Drive In and we had made it back in town just in time for me to go home, change and get to work. I called up to my job to tell them I would be late and I was told by the manager that someone had already called in for me and said that I had quit. This was NOT true, I told them I was coming in and I had no idea who would have called.

So on my way home I realize my purse is in my caretakers car and they are at work. I run up to their work and ask if I can have the key to get my things and I’m told that they don’t trust me to just take that so they would go out to the car with me.

I may have been a liar at times, but I was not a thief, so by this point I’m getting heated.

We make it back to the apartment and I go in to get ready and I’m told by my other caretaker that I was not to go to work because I hadn’t completed my chores around the house, so he called to quit my job for me. I literally. Lost. My. Shit. I had never yelled at an adult before, but I yelled. I screamed. And then I came up with a plan to get me out of the situation but still cover my own ass.

You see, technically my mother still had rights over me. She had not signed anything over to them giving them any sort of parental rights towards me. So I called my mother in Florida and said “I am going to call a friend of mine and see if I can’t stay the night at her house while I figure out what I’m going to do. I have a feeling if I leave they will call the cops on me, may I have your permission to go so that they can’t touch me and I can’t be arrested for running away?” I don’t think she understood completely what was going on, but she complied.

I packed a few of my things, called my friend Stacie and asked if I could come stay and was told yes. So I left a couple of things behind and took off.

The next morning we all woke up the police at the front door. Stacie’s parents were less than thrilled and went to go have a conversation with the police. Apparently I had been called in as a runaway- and then the police had been informed exactly where I had gone and who I was with. They were also informed that I was not allowed to go back.

Which means I had no where to go.

So here I am, 16 years old. Standing in my pajamas with black hair, a lip ring, cuts all up and down my arm from self-harm, tears streaming down my face and I’m being told that I will have to go to Juvy in Girard until they can clear this up and figure out how to get my back to my mother in Florida.

I don’t know what Stacie’s parents saw that day. I don’t know if they had this magic mirror into my soul or some vision of the future or maybe they just saw the fear and hurt in my eyes, but before I know it, they are asking the police if I can stay with them temporarily until we work everything out.

And so I stayed. I was told to take out my lip ring and encouraged to dye my hair back to its natural color and I was required to go to school and follow the same rules as the other two teens they had in their house at the time. I would have done anything to keep a roof over my head at that point. ANYTHING.

NOW. Back up a few months. Like to September. It was Stacie’s mom’s birthday and she invited me to a family BBQ. This was my first interaction with this family as whole and they still make fun of my reaction. I remember being utterly amazed. We spent probably a good three hours at this BBQ and not a single person got into an argument. No one was drunk, no one was off sneaking drugs or stealing from a medicine cabinet. No one was being injured or yelled or anything. They actually liked each other. This big huge family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and not a single person is freaking out on someone else.

Move forward to November and I begin to live with this family. After everything I had been through it was such a breath of fresh air for me. It was nice to see people being realistic with each other. To see parenting from this point of view.

I had probably been there a month or two when I came home one day to Ron and Deb (Stacie’s parents) in the living room. They wanted to “talk”. I remember my heart pounding in my chest and thinking to myself “This is it. They’re kicking me out. I’ve overstayed my welcome.” or “great, police called, my mom doesn’t want me back and I’m going to spend the rest of my teen years in Juvy.” I was terrified.

And then they started to talk.

“Dacia, we have been doing a lot of watching you and discussing this situation. You have so far complied by our rules and so we have gathered our entire family together to have a very important discussion. And after a unanimous vote among all five of our children we have decided that you are to be a permanent part of our family. You will be treated just like any of our other five children. You will have the same expectations and rules. You will be their sibling. We will put a roof over your head, help you financially, ensure you get medical care and everything else that being a parent entails. If you will stay, we would like for you to be a part of this family.”

The difference in my life prior to this family and my life with this family is night and day. If I could express all the ways that they saved my life, I would be here all day. There was never any telling me who I needed to be, but telling me who I could be. There was never doubting my story but helping to figure it out every step of the way. There were lots of late night talks, disappointing moments, and an incredible amount of support.

And I’m proud to say that to this day, ten years later I still have that support. I still consider them family. They are my son’s grandparents, my husband’s in-laws. We do Holidays and Birthdays and Regular days. I honestly don’t think I would be half the person that I am without them. They made me realize that I was more than what had happened to me. I was more than my environment. I just had to make the decisions to BE more.

I also have an incredible relationship with my mother and soon to be legally adopted father (YES! We are filing for an adult adoption!). I’ve even managed to develop a lasting relationship with my biological father’s side of the family.

That’s not to say that I wouldn’t still struggle over the next few years. I was still a know-it-all teenager. I would still experience many wrong decisions, scary moments, drug addiction and even heart-breaking death. But I would also create a strong and necessary relationship with my mother, reunite with the man who helped create me, and somehow, someway, even through all of this find my happy ending.

But that’s another story.


Blank Pages and Black Pits

I’ve probably been sitting here staring at this screen for some time. The blankness of the page honestly speaks more to how I’m feeling than any words that I could place here. I think I’m slipping again. The inevitable pit that I always seem to find myself slipping into has returned.

You see all these posts on facebook about “Depression Awareness! Depression doesn’t make you weak!” etc. etc. I hate them. I hate every single one of them. I hate the “Make this your status for an hour to raise awareness about depression!”. What is that going to do? Great, we’re all aware that depression exists, but I promise your acknowledgement of it isn’t making me feel any better.

Because for me, Depression IS my weakness. It is this giant aspect of my emotional personality that I cannot control, I cannot pull out of, and sometimes I don’t even want to.

They say “If you can tell that it’s coming, why can’t you just make it stop?”

Picture this:

It’s 5:30. You’re sitting on your bed in your bedroom listening to your son play in the other room. He really is a gem and can make you smile even through the worst of things. Your significant other is being soft spoken because he saw your face when you walked in the door. The lack of sparkle in your eye, the avoidance of eye contact. The way every so often you grimace and your eyes cloud over and he knows that your brain isn’t remotely in the same room as him. You’re casually pinching your fingertips or wringing your hands, just trying to create some semblance of feeling because the feelings inside are mostly just dead. You know that you have responsibilities, dinner needs made, the kid needs a bath and bedtime routine, etc. But the more you think about taking on those tasks the more impossible they seem. Your brain refuses to even focus on what it takes to START the tasks. The reality of the situation is you really want to tell your loved ones to go figure it out on their own while you sit here in silence overthinking everything, trying desperately to either cry or stop crying depending on the moment.

It’s such a vicious, heartbreaking state to be in. Like so many mine comes in cycles. I do great for a few months, and then I slowly feel myself start to crumble. I don’t have any magical advice as to how to get through it. If I did I’d probably be able to save myself.

The reality of Depression is that there really is no getting over it. You have to work through it, train your brain to think positively and hope to God this episode passes.

Which is exactly what I am doing now.