Let’s talk about PTSD. Most of us connect PTSD with war and our military. While it is prevalent with our veterans the media fails to tell the story about those of us who have gone through something so traumatic in life that we are left scarred for life. Yes, many of the “Millennial Generation” use that phrase often. What they don’t realize is it is a very serious disease. How many of you have had a death in the family, it sticks with you. In some cases that loved one that passed was very close with you. You hoard pictures and memorabilia to remember them. You take them out from time to time and reminisce on the happy times you spent together. But you refrain from remembering their death. You don’t want to think about something so terrible. So heart breaking. Now imagine you can’t choose what you remember or when you remember it. That alone would be nerve racking right? That’s how PTSD works. Only most of those memories you don’t want to remember are terrible, frightening experiences. I’m going to tell you what happened to me, how I was diagnosed at age 11, and how I finally became comfortable telling others about what happened.
I am a 24-year-old woman living in a tiny town called Truth or Consequences. Yes, that is the real name of the town I live in. I live here with my boyfriend and our three dogs. My father and sister live just down the road. I have a pretty normal life. I go to work every day, come home, and relax. People that know me would describe me as a kind, hardworking, goal-oriented person. What they don’t know is that I have been diagnosed with PTSD. They have no idea that when I lay my head down at night my dreams are filled with nightmares. Or that I leave the house filled with anxiety some days. I have my PTSD under control. I know I am safe. I know that what happened was out of my control and that as an adult I make my own choices. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a daily struggle to see the world around me with open positive eyes. I have battled and won self-consciousness. I walk into every room I enter with confidence and knowledge.
When I was growing up my family moved from town to town about every six months. No, we weren’t a military family. My mother was just mentally ill. It took me a lot of years to understand that was all it was. She was sick. She was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder along with schizophrenic with multiple personalities. She was somewhat "normal" when I was little, I even came across some letters she had wrote to my grandparents after I was born. She seemed happy then. She was my mother, the person you idolize. She loved to play music and was very talented. I hear old songs she would sing while playing the guitar and I can picture her back then. It was a much better time. Even though we moved a lot we would go on family trips to the mountains and rivers where ever we went. I loved it and it instilled in me the love of nature.
Things began to change as I got older; she would fight with my father a lot. She wasn’t as kind and loving as was before. She would hit me for no reason. I quickly learned to be quiet most of the time. I started spending more and more time outside and following my dad around. He is the hero in this story, and forever will be my hero. We ended up moving to a town called Young, Az. when I was about six. The school I attended was so small that one classroom consisted of 11 students. Six in first grade and five in second. We had four teachers in that room at all times. There was no hospital or clinic only a small building with a few rooms in it to patch you up before you where hauled off in the helicopter to the nearest hospital. This town had two bars, one that doubled as a restaurant with a tiny motel off the side. There was a small store that had a few basics to get you through a storm, but any real shopping had to be done in Globe. Which was a good forty miles away. We actually had a tiny library up there along with a few churches, but that was it. The police station had two cops who rotated shifts. The only gas station, with two pumps, was just outside of town in Cherry. It was amazing. My dad found work with the fire department and a logging company. We managed to find a good house to stay in and we were set. That would not be the happy ending it should have been.
My mother found out she was pregnant with my sister. She was happy about it and so was I. I had wanted a baby sister for so long! I had so many plans for her. I wanted to show her everything and finally have a friend to play with. There was a doctor in Globe that would make trips up to see my mother every so often. My dad would take him on little trips in the mountains every time he came. He was an amazing doctor and man. However, he told us that my mother was at high risk for miscarriage. We where all worried about her, especially because she was not one to stay calm.
I had my eighth birthday up there and the Fourth of July was coming up. I was very excited to see the little parade that was being prepared. July third, the day that changed everything. I was playing with my toy horses in my room and decided I really wanted to call my grandma. I hadn’t spoken with her in a long time and just really, really needed to talk to her. My mother was doing dishes and told me she would call her later. That wasn’t what happened though. I went back to play in my room and heard the phone ring just a little while later. It was my aunt. She had called to tell my mom that their mother had passed that day. She wasn’t ill and there was no reason she should have passed. I couldn’t understand what was happening. My grandmother had been killed on the road between Globe and Kearny. A trucker had his breaks go out and had ran her car over. If this wasn’t tragic, enough things simply got worse as the days would pass. Independence Day has forever been tainted by this tragic death.
Of course, we packed up and took my pregnant mother all the way to her parents' house in Dripping Springs, just past Kearny. There was to be a wake and all the family and loved ones where supposed to attend. All my aunts and cousins where there but not many from the community, my grandfather was a very hard individual, but that’s another story. I remember watching my cousin cry uncontrollably because he thought it was his fault she died. He was supposed to go with her that day. She was coming back from getting supplies for the fourth of July. I had felt the same way, if only I had called her. If only I had pushed harder to call, maybe she would have left later and would have been on the road at a different time than that truck! I was heartbroken. I loved my grandmother very much. So much that later in life I got a memorial tattoo on my back for her. We all gathered in her front yard next to her beloved rose bushes and doves and listened to the service.
Later we found out that the man that had killed her was suing my grandfather for the damage to him and his truck. He said that my grandmother swerved into his lane in an attempt to commit suicide. Any one that knew her would tell you she was one of the strongest people alive and would never do something so selfish. That didn’t stop that man from suing though. My grandfather, who was the captain of the sheriff’s department of Gila county at one time, went down and made it so he could transfer all his assets into one of my aunt's names if needed. This turned out to be a big mistake for him. My aunt transferred them into her name and kicked him out of his own house at one point. Services for her body were set up in Globe just after the wake. Think it’s been traumatic so far? This is only a tiny piece of everything.
The day of the service was at the mortuary, we all put on our best clothes and headed out early. I was too young to go with my aunts and cousins to view the car, so I stayed behind trying not to cry. They wouldn’t let me in to see my grandmother one last time. The truck had ran over the car and her entire left side. It was a closed casket funeral. After everyone had gone in and said their peace, my father took me in to say good bye to her. I will forever be thankful for that. It has brought me a lot of peace knowing I at least said good bye. Even at a young age. I remember watching a single tear run down his face that day. I have never seen him cry since then. The next thing I knew I was being rushed into a dark room with the rest of my cousins. I remember people yelling and seeing my dad go out to the van and grabbing his shotgun. The only cop that did show up left. He wanted no part in the events going on at the time. I wouldn’t find out until later that my aunts had my mother in the bathroom and were kicking her in the stomach. We rushed my mother to the hospital, her placenta was broke and with a high-risk pregnancy I was sure my baby sister wouldn’t survive. However, she pushed through and was born December 12, a healthy screaming baby girl!
I have since referred to her as a miracle baby. Of course, my family wanted to see the bouncing baby girl, as if nothing had happened. By this time, we had moved back down to Globe, so my mother could be close to a hospital. She had spent weeks in the ICU from losing so much blood during the birth. She nearly died herself. Which is why I actually got to hold my baby sister before she did. When my aunts and grandfather came down to visit, she wouldn’t let them around us. Understandably she hated them for what they had done, and when they had done it. Karma is real, my friends. My aunt had cut her finger off just after everything happened. I am convinced it was because of her merciless kicking my mother.
After we had got settled in our new house, my mother would just lay around depressed. She wouldn’t take care of my sister or make food for me. She didn’t even get up to bathe. My father had to go to work and when I came home from school every day I could hear my baby sister crying. I began to make a routine of changing her and making her a bottle when I came in. This is when I started to learn how to cook, not very well I might add. But we all have to start somewhere right? We lived there for a while before we moved again, because “people didn’t like my mother” which was the usual reason we moved. Some variation of that anyways. Once she finally started getting out of bed again, she had no love in her eyes. I remember the first time she held my sister, not once did a smile grace her face. It was as if part of her died when her mother did. She was never the same after that. She began hitting us all the time. She would yell for hours if I didn’t do my chores properly or was being too loud. At this point I was torn between taking care of my sister or escaping my mother’s tantrums.
We found a new house in the Globe Trailer Park in town. My dad got a job as a maintenance man there and started fixing some of the older trailers up. By this time, I was about nine years old. My sister was as healthy as ever. My mother, however, was getting worse. She started dabbling in black magic and would tell me that she hated me. She would grab my hair and yank me to the floor if I hadn’t done something right. Used too much hot water, took to long to do the dishes, hadn’t put toys away, etc. It got to the point that she would do it just because she was in a bad mood. My head would hurt so bad that I couldn’t stand to brush it. She of course would brush it for me and only make the pain worse. She got into the habit of picking me up and throwing me into my room because I was crying. I learned to cry silently after that, which then frightened me when my sister would cry. She wasn’t old enough to learn how to do that. I never seen her throw her but honestly, I don’t know if she ever did or not. She began to think I was plotting against her, why I have no idea. Maybe she felt guilty for hurting me and I was out to get her because of it? I will never understand what went on in her mind. She would go to therapists on and off but would only take the medication they gave her sometimes. Many of those times she would try to commit suicide during one of her tirades. She got to the point where she wanted me gone. As in dead. She FED me black mold. It was already getting us sick and we were going to move as soon as we had money, but she thought that was a great idea I guess. How do I know she fed it to me? Well aside from them finding it in my system when I went to the doctor, she told me later. I got so sick I was out of school for weeks. I did truly think I was going to die. My dad took care of me though. He got me all the medicine that I needed and checked on me off and on all day. I finally got better, and we moved to some apartments in a different part of town.
This is where one of the most haunting things, for me, happened. This was a turning point for our entire family. We had only lived there for a few months when she made enemies with our neighbors. And started thinking they where out to get her too. She was always angry, I remember I had gotten sick one night and didn’t make it to the bathroom. My dad slept through the noise, it was late. I woke up my mother, still innocently expecting some kind of help. Nope, she was pissed that I had made a mess and told me I had to clean it up before I went back to bed. Which I did, god forbid I left it until morning. I was afraid of the terror I would receive if I did just leave it. This is when she started locking me in my room when I “misbehaved.” I think she started getting deeper into black magic here. She just seemed more and more, something else. She ended up sick and in the hospital for a while. Because my dad had to work we were sent to live with our aunts; we stayed for a while with both of them until she got out of the hospital. When she got out; she expected everyone to do everything for her. It was horrible. The beatings became so bad that it hurt to sit at school all day. No one could ever see the bruises because she never hit me in the face. I never told my dad either; he fought so hard for us and tried so hard to help her get better. Tell me if you come across many other men that will stick with someone that sick for years still trying to help them. He didn’t know everything that happened when he was at work. She rarely would hurt us when he was there because they would end up in a huge fight.
Once while we were living there my mother got drunk. I don’t know if she mixed alcohol with her medication or not, but she was definitely not in her right mind. I came home from school to find all the lights off in the apartment and blood everywhere. I was so scared I just stood there looking at all the blood. I thought she had either killed my dad or maybe my sister. There was so much blood. I looked in all the rooms trying to find my sister when I finally got to my parent’s room. My mother was laying on the bed covered in blood, sleeping. My sister thankfully was asleep in her crib. I grabbed her up and ran into my room making sure none of the blood was hers. It wasn’t, she was fine, but I nearly had a heart attack. My mother woke up and realized my sister wasn’t in her crib and started looking for her. My heart was beating so fast I hid us on the top bunk of my bed praying she didn’t find us. I had no idea what had happened or who’s blood that was. I just kept praying she would leave. I don’t know why I thought she would leave with blood all over her, but I did. She finally found us and made me come down. For some reason she was very calm. She was never calm, it scared me that much more. I was convinced she was going to kill us. She just walked through the blood like it wasn’t there. I remember stepping in it frightened that it might be my dad’s or sister's. Did I call the police? No, I did not, I was so convinced that she could get away with anything that I thought if I did she would beat me until I couldn’t move. The police had been called to our house many times before, but nothing was ever done. She had made it clear that I was to tell them everything was fine if I was ever asked. So, I just went with her calm mood, it always proved better to just go with what ever mood she was in.
I finally found the courage to ask her what happened. Risking her going into a rage for bringing reality to attention. She switched from being calm to being frantic telling me that my fathers soul was at risk of going to hell. Now that doesn’t match up with what she had been preaching for the last six months but I didn’t say anything about that and listened very carefully to the words that came out of her mouth. She said she had performed a ritual to save his soul. At this point I noticed the giant purple hole in her leg. I let out a breath I hadn’t known I was holding in. There was a chance that it could be her blood, there was just so much of it though. It was starting to dry on the walls and floor. How long had she been bleeding? This was when I learned just how much blood we have in our bodies, and a three hundred plus woman definitely had a lot. She told me that she had to use herself as a sacrifice to the devil in place of my father’s soul. And because she loved him so much she was so willing to trade places with him. But mercifully she was allowed to live. I was so frightened and shocked and relieved all at the same time. Everything in my body was screaming at me to just run grab my sister and run! But to where? No one but my dad could protect us from her, and even he was subject to her abuse. I had no options, so I sat quietly as she rambled on about how she saved his soul. I remember feeling cold and sick to my stomach. I looked over at my sister still in this fog of unreality, she was playing in her blood. I didn’t even think, I just jumped up and grabbed her. I took her to give her a bath, still shaking from shock. By the time I finished her bath my father had come home. He was surprisingly calm about what was going on. He helped her clean up the blood and took care of her leg. I went to my room and fed my sister, trying desperately to be invisible. I was so glad my dad was home, but I didn’t want to talk to him about it either. I just wanted him to keep her calm.
This is just the first part of my story, come back later for the second half. Thank you all for taking the time to read what I have to say. My end goal is to bring awareness of the struggle we all go through. To bring light to the fact that not all of us get the help we need.