I was once told, “It doesn’t matter where you come from, only where you go.” The truth is, I will never forget where I’m from, but it no longer defines me or my destiny.
I’m the oldest of three siblings. My parents were mentally, emotionally, and physically challenged. When I entered kindergarten, the school officials thought I was mentally retarded. They were astonished when the tests came back that I was “above average.” My mother was a large woman and often threatened to “sit on me and squash me” as she laughed. Another time, she told me the garbage men were coming to collect me and I better hide. I was four. When I was six, my father said I was “evil and scum and all I enjoyed was chewing bubble gum.” It was part of a song he made up. My parents had no rules. I had no bed time, no chores, was never grounded and was told homework wasn’t important. My parents argued, swore, and constantly complained about money. Years later, one of my elementary school teachers told me that “my family was the worst case in her teaching career, and the saddest she had ever seen with her own two eyes.”
By the time I reached thirteen, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was embarrassed, isolated, and couldn’t control any of it. I had no relatives to turn to, and my mother was pregnant. I witnessed my father’s temper one too many times. I was told daily I wasn’t wanted. By this point, I had seen and experienced too much. I knew I wouldn’t survive if I stayed. I didn’t know if I would survive if I left, but at age 14 I had no other choice. I remember my mom holding the back door open for me as I said goodbye on a hot summer day with all my belonging in nothing more than a blue duffel bag and $50.00 in my back pocket.
I experienced children’s homes, racism, runaway shelters, going hungry, foster homes, group homes, friends’ houses, hitch hiking across the country, being homeless, living in a religious commune, and only having the belongings on my back before living with a family friend until I turned 18. As soon as I turned 18, I was on the Greyhound bus headed 800 miles away to Atlanta. My future was in my hands and I cherished the opportunity.
As time went on, I discovered for me to emotionally move on I needed to forgive my parents. I realized their battles were not my battles and not my weight to carry. I needed to let it all go. I learned this after I experienced panic attacks. I was told by a doctor who had no knowledge of my background that they generally came from unresolved issues. This led me to find a book Toxic Parents by Susan Forward. It had a profound effect on me. I no longer felt alone. I learned many children had it far worse than me. Some never recovered. This was a fresh start for me. My healing process slowly began and I began to live free of the fear of the nightmares of my childhood.
Today, I believe anything is possible. I am a wife, mother, sister, friend, and a business owner. And I am happy. We can’t help where we come from, but we can help where we go.