It was a hot summer day in North Carolina and the family decided to head out to the lake to cool off and enjoy the day. This was a big lake, with very deep waters and I remember that you couldn’t go out very far before it was over your head. I was around the age of 10, and I really wasn’t that great of a swimmer and got frightened anytime someone tried holding me down or pulling on me in the water, so I stayed pretty close to the shoreline. I remember being on the shore when I noticed that my sisters had all gone to the end of the very long pier, or at least to me it seemed a mile out into the dark water. I decided I wanted to go be with them, so I ran down the pier afraid of missing out on anything fun. I remember almost reaching the end where my sisters all older than me had gathered sitting on the edge when I started to slide on the wet pier floor and flew right off the end into the lake.
I was always the "insecure girl." I apologized for everything, changed my personality depending on who was around, settled for any man who would give me attention, and used substances in order to feel accepted and whole. My coping mechanism was to build up as many walls around my heart as I could so that when I let people get close to me, they could never get close enough to actually hurt me.
HER was succumbed to a mental ward, everyone fearing for the unborn flesh that was growing inside. I was placed in a foster system till the age of seven. Like a rag, thrown from house to house, although the family’s promises were all the same. The euphoria never lasted, they didn’t understand why I couldn’t play a theatrical role of “big, happy family,” even though my caseworker pleaded with them to give me a chance. Her name was Bertha. Anyways, my “stays” never extended a month… as I was quickly labeled the problem child. What did they expect? Most of them failed to understand their own kids were vile. One time I was at a house and the kid told me if I did not leave, he’d tell his parents I’d stolen from him. The audacity! That was not the worst bit though; at another house, the kid threatened to stab me in my sleep. Therefore, I threatened to punch his face and he went crying to his mommy and daddy, he was such a little witch. One day, I was staring at the ceiling... I always loved how it just stayed there. It was faithfully constant. The only thing in my life that was. That I could depend on to stay the same. Enough of that sappy story—we will get back to that soon. Bertha was just about to take me to my fifteenth house when she received a call that would again change my life forever. HER was out of the psych ward, and doing very well. HER had a place in Austin, Texas where she lived with my sisters and my new stepdaddy. HER had finally made the call to get me back. HER moved on too soon. I never forgave HER for that. But as I got older, I learned that people grieve differently. Bertha and I both flew down to Austin that weekend to visit. And there HE was. HE was so charming. HE promised everything, a place to go, to take care of my sisters and I, to honor my mother and us in sickness in health. I thought I’d finally get my fairytale ending like you see in the movies. So cliche, I know. Without any hesitation, as soon as the case work files were doled out, Austin was finally going to be home. And it was for a few short months that I finally had the childhood I so desperately ached for. But there was always a storm a-brewing, and it is dumb to think a perfect family exists.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Birds made their rounds around the clock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. You awaken from a brief sleep. The clock shows 3:15 AM. You hear HE yelling, obscenities again. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. It’s way too early for this, HE must have stayed awake through the night again. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. You can hear HER running up the stairs, her muffled pleads overshadowed by HE’s fit of rage. You hear the faint sound of glass breaking, the sound becoming more clearer with every step you take towards your bedroom door. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Your grandfather’s clock seems to stop in the moment of time. You wish it all would stop. You wish your dad was still here. Your real dad. The dad you’ve never known, he died protecting the country… a single gunshot wound to the heart, the obituary read. So senseless, and short, that damn obituary. All he did for our country, and all the favors he did for people he thought were his friends, no one even bothered to show up. No one, except my mother and I. Holding HER hand, I did not yet understand that when I lost him, I lost HER too. Now he’s buried in a vat of dirt in the ground. I was three when it happened. I recollect a man in a bright blue suit, knocking on the door and giving HER a letter. I remember her tearing the crease, to a single piece of parchment paper reading over it with her trembling fingers, and then falling to the ground. I remember HER being hysterical. HER was pregnant with my baby sisters at the time, as she rolled on the floor, a carticuare of her own body. I could not help but giggle, for I could not understand what was happening. It was then that my mother shooed the men out the door and then ran up our spiral staircase and locked herself in her room. I could remember it was days of isolation for I fed myself with what was in the pantry, and when I had eaten the last piece of bread, I walked towards the nearest house I could find with my stuffed bear in hand, knocked on the door and asked if I could have something to eat. I remember the sound of flashing lights, the blue and red sirens seemed like they were dancing in my eyes. The men in suits came and took her from me. I was just five years old. Just a few years ago, when I was old enough to understand, I learned that she had tried to kill herself the first night she was stolen from me.
If you're anything like me, you've heard "you've got such an old soul" since you were old enough to hold a conversation.
I’m ready to go in. I dip my toes first, then I let my body slowly sink in the cold water of August. I find myself floating gently while the water is dancing around my neck. I was absorbing the heavy smell of the lake, invading my soul with appeasement. I was thankful for the silence of the water: the seal of the confessional.
For the sake of having a dictionary definition: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological reaction that occurs after an extremely stressful event. Some of the common symptoms are recurring memories, anxiety, feeling afraid even in the absence of danger and/or nightmares.
Acceptance is the phase that takes the most effort. And by that I mean, you've really got to work at it. It doesn't come naturally. For me, the acceptance came when I finally had to name my experience. That was the single step that started the journey. Saying it that single time emboldened me to take action over what I could do in the aftermath.
My name is Jodi-Lynn and this is my story.
Today I am a week away from the anniversary of my assault. I’ve spent the majority of this month quietly reflecting on what happened to me and what has transpired in the twelve months since. I’ve found my brain in a place that I would describe as “trama adjacent”—I am not reeling in the out-of-control trauma brain I once was, but that place seems much more tangible to me now than it has in months. I know that seems difficult to understand if you haven’t experienced this, so let’s take it back to the beginning.