So why am I here?

When I was 3 years old, my mom left my dad and move her and I in with her parents. Within a week, her dad started to stealthily molest me. I remember thinking it felt weird, and thinking that my dad had taught me nobody was supposed to touch me there. I even said that to him. But it continued. After about a month, my mom moved out and left me there. She said it was because of her work hours. She told me she worked at a hospital. I know now she was prostituting and then spending most of her money on alcohol. She'd pick up a client or two at the bar. She always made rent, though. Anyway, this isn't about her. She abandoned me, but that's not the part that truly hurts. As soon as she left, the molestation escalated quickly, first to digital penetration and then to full on rape. At the same time, any time there were any traces of blood, my mom's mother would use soap and force it inside me, saying all the while that I was filthy, disgusting, and dirty. I quickly took that on board. I knew what caused the blood, and I knew that I had never heard her say one negative thing to her husband, so I assumed it was all on me. When I was 4.5, my uncles and I (they were ages 5 and 3, and were my mom's biological brothers) welcomed, along with their parents, a new baby. He was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. From the moment my mom's parents walked in the door with him, I was in love. My mom's dad started using that against me. He'd call me into the bedroom, and if I hesitated or refused, he'd say "I guess I will just take the baby." I'd jump up and beg him to take me. He almost always did, and when he didn't I felt one hundred times worse than I ever did after he would rape me. Up until age 12, when I told a judge I wanted only to live with my dad and to never visit my mom again (she had me every other weekend and on all school vacations; she'd pick me up and dump me off with her parents. I only saw her on the car rides there and back), whenever I was there, I'd give myself to protect that youngest uncle. I still feel that way about him. There's really nothing I wouldn't do for him.

At age 3.5, I was introduced to a new level of horror. My mom's parents began taking me with them to their weekly cult meetings. The leader took a fancy to me, and would drug and then violently rape me. The drugs made me feel absolutely awful. I eventually learned that if I cooperated, I wouldn't be drugged. So I stopped resisting, stopped screaming, stopped crying. I started to dissociate, and to dissociate very well. I'd float away in my mind, and everything that was happening would disappear. I'd come back to myself later on, at home in bed. I'd be in agony physically, but the emotional threats were there. There are lots of aspects to the cult life that I remember very, very clearly. They aren't profile material, though. Suffice it to say, it was horrifying and there were plenty of times when I could not dissociate. Those memories have haunted me my entire life.

By age four, my mom's mom had started to physically abuse us. She'd fly into violent rages, and would kick, punch, and whip us. During bath time, if we were too slow to follow her commands, she'd hold our heads under water until just before we lost consciousness. I'll never understand just how she knew when to pull us up. I hated it, and to this day, I cannot tolerate warm or hot water or steam or even cool mist in my face. I lived in heal until I was 7, at which time my dad got primary custody. My mom never failed to show up to get me on her weekends or on school vacations. And I cherished the time with her on the ride to her parents house and back. I cherished that time so much that when her dad would threaten me, he'd say, "If you ever tell what goes on here, you will never see her again," it was enough to keep me quiet. I was desperate to have her in my life. When I was with my dad, she'd call me and talk and laugh, and she'd promise that I could stay with her the next time she came and got me, and for some reason I would always believe her. The cult leader would threaten differently. "If you tell, I will kill you and kill everybody you love. You belong to me now. Remember that." And I believed him. To date, it's the only threat he hasn't followed through on. And I didn't tell until five years ago, so there's no way he'd even know where I am or that I told.

To cope with the hell I was living in, I started self harming at the age of five. I figured out that if I could cause enough pain elsewhere on my body, I could escape the pain of the sexual abuse, and dissociate much faster. As I grew older, I found myself self harming to induce dissociation in negative situations, and to bring myself OUT of dissociation when I was ready. It became a horrible cycle. At age 15, I moved into a therapeutic foster home, and stopped self harming. I started again eight years ago. Over the next three years, I had thousands of stitches and many hospital admissions and several surgeries as a result of my self harming. I stopped when an involuntary hospital admission resulted in a court order stating that if I was admitted one more time for self harm, I would be admitted to a long-term facility for a period of no less than six months. I couldn't fathom being away from my husband and my home and my dad for that amount of time, so I quit self harming cold-turkey. That was five years ago. At that time, I started therapy with my current therapist. For the first year, we did not discuss my trauma at all. We discussed day to day life, and he made me go through one year of DBT courses, which took me through the entire course twice in a group at my local hospital. The second year, we started VERY vaguely discussing my trauma, and working to stop the involuntary dissociation that induced. The six months following, we discussed the trauma a little more specifically, and continued to work on daily coping skills and learning how to not involuntarily dissociate. I took an 18 month break due to finances. The last year and four months, we have directly discussed the trauma. I still dissociate frequently, but it's getting better. In therapy, my therapist recognizes when it's happening and tells me and I can use my grounding skills to stop it. At home, I don't recognize it coming, so it still happens. But I've gone from losing 6-10 hours a day to losing 30-90 minutes. A definite improvement.

I am an unashamed Christian, but I know and love many who are not, and I would never belittle or judge someone who believes differently than me. I am responsible for myself, and my own beliefs. Each person is the same - responsible only for themselves. I am a black belt in Tae Kwan Do and Hapkido. I am also a professional photographer, offering on-location and in-home photography sessions. I specialize in weddings and family photography. I do my best to always schedule my sessions when my husband is able to come along as my second shooter and assistant. I have been married 10.5 years to the most amazing man on the planet. We tried for many years to have children. During that time, we had nine miscarriages. The first two pregnancies were conceived the old-fashioned way, and the following seven were conceived via assisted reproduction as I stopped ovulating after the second miscarriage. We gave up after our last IVF attempt resulted in the miscarriage of twins. We always planned to foster and adopt older children, regardless of how successful our attempts to conceive went. It's not a consolation prize, it is a tremendous privilege and responsibility and we can't wait until the PTSD symptoms are under control enough for us to begin the process. My husband makes a point of making sure I don't feel any pressure about that, though.

As I always say when I am done talking to someone:

Be safe.
Martial Arts, Photography