Surviving the System
Growing up, I had an image of the “perfect family” and that was all I ever dreamed of; watching other kids around me with their parents at school events, playing at the park, being completely adored and loved. At 2 years old I was put into the foster care system after not even being in Colorado 6 months. That would be the beginning of all of my struggles.
I was sent back home at age 4. What was supposed to be a great thing, quickly turned my whole world turned upside down. Without a place to live, we bounced around between hotel rooms. My father was an alcoholic and was abusive. My mother worked all the time. I was constantly teased at school because “I didn’t have fancy shoes and clothes” or I was “poor.” Before I knew it, my mom was leaving my dad.
The bad dream instantly turned to a nightmare. She started hanging out with men partying and drinking all the time. I felt as though I didn’t matter to her anymore, or to anyone for that matter. Soon, she got a boyfriend. I was abused constantly; physically, emotionally, sexually, verbally… everything. My self-worth became less and less, I began believing that things would be better if I wasn’t here anymore. These first suicidal thoughts began when I was 8 years old.
I was placed into the children’s psychiatric ward and then an Acute Treatment Unit (ATU), an in-patient unlocked facility for kids and youth 3 different times. My mom didn’t believe I had been sexually abused. She chose him, and told me she didn’t want me.
From the ATU, I went into foster care again. I had extreme behaviors, outbursts, and a past that haunted me and not one person understood. No family wanted to keep me. I was tossed around between homes and in therapy sessions multiple times a week. Nothing seemed to “help” me.
What I didn’t realize is I had a wonderful angel who wouldn’t let me go just anywhere, my case manager. She saved my life. She instilled hope within me. She let me stay in her home for multiple nights and mornings. When nobody else could handle me and I was having the worst behaviors she taught me how to overcome it. She taught me how to deal with my PTSD and anxiety symptoms by simply loving me and showing me that I didn’t have to feel that way anymore. That it wasn’t my fault.
Then at 13, I was adopted. Like every other teenager, I struggled with school and grades. In spite of my struggles, I graduated at the top of my class, with full ride scholarships from the highest honors program. I did everything I could to make my adoptive mother proud of me. Instead, I did just the opposite. At 19 years old I came out as LGBT. My adoptive family completely disowned me.
How did I get through it? My past. I have always been a fighter and a survivor. People come and go, but they will never get to tell my story. Through time and healing, I now have my biological mother and family back in my life.
The healing started with forgiveness, hours of journaling, and spending time on myself. I have been able to forgive her and everything else bad that happened to me. I have wonderful people in my life who love me for who I am. That’s all I need.
Today, when issues arise or I feel triggered, I use journaling and coloring as my coping skills – they help shut my mind off for a little while from everything else and allow me to express myself. I also use a lot of positive affirmations. I write down positive quotes and use them to get me through the day and remind me that my story is mine alone, nobody else can tell it.
I now realize that my life has made me who I am today, and I would never want to be anyone different! I hope to make a difference in this world through my story, and help others realize that recovery is possible!
I am me, a survivor!