I’ve been depressed since I was a little girl. My mom abused me. She kicked me, banged my head on the wall. At times I lashed out and got hit for that. Mostly I was afraid to speak my mind. But it didn’t matter if I kept quiet or not. She still hit me every day.
I was also depressed and angry because my step-dad molested me. I told my mother what my step-dad was doing, but she didn’t believe me. She said, “You just don’t want me to have no one,” and continued to expect me to stay in the house with him until she got back from work. All I could do was go in my room and cry.
Eventually, I threatened to kill myself and I stabbed my step-dad with a nail file. I was scared. What if I had killed him? That night, my mom realized that what I had told her was true and she threw him out. But after that, I was sexually abused by the rest of her men.
When I was a teenager, my mother put me in a mental hospital and I was diagnosed with depression. I’ve been on medication and gone to support groups. Still, I am struggling with depression daily.
When I feel down and out, I tell myself, “People don’t like me. I’m stupid. I shouldn’t even have been born.” In my depression mode, I think about killing myself, or about disappearing and never coming back. I tell myself, “No one will miss me, no one cares.” These moments scare me. I consider myself weak because I have not been able to leave my depression behind.
I also feel like I can’t protect myself. As an adult, I’ve been raped. It happened again not long ago. Sometimes I feel like I’m a trigger for men, that my life is just one big joke for abusers, rapists and all the wrong people.
Recently, I’ve become even more afraid of the world. I isolate myself. I don’t do fun things anymore. I don’t do parties or movies. I’m just home watching TV and looking at the walls all day. I still want to do fun things and go to fun places, but I am afraid that I will get hurt. I’m locked away from the world, locked inside myself.
Protecting My Kids
When my world is coming down on me, thinking about my kids brings me back. I think about how they would miss me and how I don’t want them to feel sad and alone.
I have two handsome boys, ages 20 and 22, and a daughter, 18. They are my power. Joshua always tells me that he loves me and that he thanks God for me. Nick is always kissing me and cooking for me. Kassandra is my diamond. She says she loves to hang out with me and we talk about everything.
I’ve tried to protect my children from the painful experiences I went through. When my kids were young, it was hard to know who was good and who was bad for them. I was overprotective. I walked them to school every day and I never let them spend the night with anyone. I wanted them home where I could keep them safe from harm.
But I don’t feel that I raised them in fear. I never told them about my fears or about the painful things that happened to me. I just tried to keep them from experiencing what I went through, mostly by doing everything possible to keep them having fun.
I got every game and let them bring their friends over to the house. I also took my kids places, like the movies and arcades. I even dressed up once as a clown and jumped up and down so my kids could have a good time.
Making a Connection
Recently, I have been looking for help to begin to overcome my isolation. I know I need to begin to trust in people. Not everyone is out to hurt me.
The first person I opened up to was Wanda, who lives on my block. When I first moved to the building, I told myself, “I’m not going to make friends in my new neighborhood.” But my son Joshua likes to meet people and he’s very friendly, so after a couple of years my son had introduced me to almost everyone on the block.
Wanda was one of them and we immediately became friends. She showed me that I could trust her. One time I caught an anxiety attack. I was overwhelmed and felt very afraid. Wanda was there. She made me feel better by asking me what happened and giving me feedback about what to do. She came to my home and helped me cook and clean.
A Place to Talk
Now Wanda and I are both taking a parent leadership training at the Child Welfare Organizing Project (CWOP), which trains parents affected by the child welfare system to know their rights. Wanda’s daughters were in foster care, and I was investigated for neglect and required to go to drug treatment. (I was smoking weed because it made me feel less depressed.)
I found out about CWOP when a woman I know brought me to the CWOP support group after I was raped. At first I was afraid to talk. I couldn’t stop crying or speak clearly. A CWOP parent leader, Sabra, took my hand and told me, “We can’t understand you when you’re crying and speaking at the same time.” I calmed myself down and told some of my story.
Another CWOP staff, Teresa, told me that they would be starting the parent leadership training and asked if I wanted to join. I said yes and I’m glad I did. Everyone here is very understanding, very kind. They listen. Being here has helped me think positive. I’ve realized that many people suffer from depression and I am not alone.
Recently, I’ve tried to change my thinking. I’ve recognized that thinking about painful things from my past only gets me more depressed.
Now, when sad memories or negative thoughts come across my mind, I think of something good, like the joy I felt when my first baby was born. I like to remember good moments with my kids, like a time we had fun at Great Adventure, or a time when my daughter smiled at me and told me said, “You’re the best mom I’ve got.”
Thinking of wonderful moments and feelings helps me to block the negative feelings. At first, it wasn’t easy. Sometimes I’d just have to let the tears come down. But I kept trying to think positive, and it’s helped.
A Long Journey
These days, I feel less stressed and tired. I feel better about myself and I am doing more things. I am proud that I graduated from the Parent Leadership Curriculum and that I’m going places, like to the movies and out to dinner, and just being around people more. I’m also proud that I’ve written about some of my struggles.
I still get angry, I still lash out, I still have problems trusting people, I still need help. My journey to open up and let people in my life will be long. But I’m glad that I’m taking baby steps to get better. I am connecting with people who I can talk with and cry on a little bit. Trusting will come little by little.