CHILDHOOD I was born in the slums of New York City, also known as the projects. My parents were substance abusers so by the age of 7, I, not surprisingly, ended up in the foster care system. I spent the next 6 years moving to 9 different foster homes being emotionally, mentally, physically, and sexually abused, neglected, and left to feel unloved for most of my life. One month before my 13th birthday, my estranged father removed me from foster care and into his father's house, a man I had no recollection of, who then went on to molest me and lock me in his house for the next 2 years. He would shut off the electricity via the circuit breaker, which was in the basement, for which he had padlocked so I couldn't get to it. He also padlocked his bedroom door where he hid the phone, and had a lock on the front and back door that you needed a key to enter/exit. I suppose I was either too scared or not savvy enough to climb out the window to escape, but had I, I guess I knew I had no where to go. During those two years, he made it a morning ritual to wake me up for school by molesting me. For two years, I would wake up to him masterbating and rubbing me in places his hands should not have been. I would take showers and he would come in, open the shower curtain, and masturbate as he talked to me while I was bathing. Today, I know this man was sick. He was mentally ill. But as a child, I only knew to hide as much as I could and walk quietly so I didn't catch his attention. Unfortunately, fear eventually took over my mind because of these experiences I was constantly being exposed to for the first 15 years of my life, and sadly, it would get worse before it ever got better. NEVER GOING BACK Around my 15th birthday, a guy asked me to go to the movies with him after school. He was so fine and I couldn't believe he was interested in an awkward, poor girl like me. I suppose my hormones didn't care about the inevitable consequences that would be waiting for me when the movie ended: That 10-foot giant called my grandfather who would surely kill his frail and fear-filled granddaughter. Nonetheless, I went and had a GREAT time for the first time in my life. Upon exiting the movie theatre, I was hit with the paralyzingly realization that it was pitch dark outside and there was NO WAY I was going to go back home to that man. God knows what he would do to me, so I told the guy about my situation and that my mother had been killed two years earlier and my father didn't care about me, and that I had no where to go. That night, my whole life changed. I became a runaway and I became homeless.
During the midnight and early morning hours, I slept in his bread truck as he delivered bread to the delis in NYC. One day after his shift, he snuck me into his bedroom window. For the next few days, I would sleep in his bed with him: a 15 year old sexually abused child with an 18 year old boy who happened to be visiting his aunt's house for a few months. So after a few days, his aunt found came in the room unexpectedly and saw me. Shortly after, I was told to leave. This would only be the first of many more times I would hear the same words uttered by people who could have really helped me be safe, but that just was not in my cards, I suppose. After she told me I had to leave, I was beyond petrified. I was beyond oblivious. What would I do? Where would I go? I had no idea, but that would be the beginning of brain adjusting to survival as a homeless child. HOMELESS I had no where to go so I contacted a friend I went to school with and her parents let me move in until that fateful day when my grandfather found out and threatened to call the police on them for harboring a minor. I suppose it was a relief to the mother because a few weeks earlier I tried to kill myself by overdosing on pills and she thought I had been using drugs, so she wanted me out anyway. I then moved into another friend's home, and then a guy's house, and eventually I had to move from there also. During this time, I had to drop out of high school for lack of stability and there were many nights that I was left alone to fend for myself either on the trains of NYC or the streets. I began to carry knives with me for protection. Men would follow me, I remember, and once I hid in the bathroom on the Staten Island Ferry for hours because some weirdo was stalking my every move. Eventually, my brother found out that I was homeless and rented a house for us, but that only lasted a couple of months because he planned for us to move to St. Thomas. When I called a beloved previous foster mother of mine, she invited me back to into her home and stressed the importance of finishing high school, so off I went back to Virginia. MY AWAKENING I thought moving back to Virginia with this wonderful mother figure was the ticket to a better life, but one year later, she, too, told me I had to move out. By this time, I suppose I was too independent and would not obey her house rules. So, there I was once again homeless. I bounced from friend's home to friend's home until they each kicked me out. I eventually graduated high school and immediately joined the military. I spent the next 18 years mentally and emotionally lost, coping with my misery through drinking and partying way too much, and suffering from depression, for which I had no idea how to identify any of my problems, much less resolve them. I married men I never should have, I dated guys who disrespected me and my daughter; physically, mentally, and emotionally abused me, and never loved me. I became my own worst problem, and nothing seemed to penetrate my oblivion except a friend who loved me enough to put a mirror up to me, and the spirit of God that finally revealed itself to me through self-awareness and spiritual guidance. At 37 years old, I woke up and realized I had had enough!
I remember the night it happened. I was dating a man 10 years my junior (just one example of how oblivious I was), and we had gotten into one of our many fights while I was sitting on my couch under the loft in my living room. This guy commenced to hold my arms down with one hand and quietly slapped me over and over in my face. He whispered in an evil tone, "Shut the fuck up or your daughter will see me beating you". Although he wasn't what I would call "beating me" physically, the words of the abuser are usually what later controls the mind of their victims.
This was only one example of how he mentally abused me. There were so many nights he would belittle me, call me names, tell me I was a victim in the world because I was a white woman and men would only use and abuse me. He told me I put on make-up because I was ugly. He told me so many things that slowly ate away at the little bit of self-esteem I had, and since fear had already ruled my life, all I knew to do was fight him back in my own way....with knives and violence. PIVOTAL CHANGE When he finally let my arms go that night, I ran out the front door as fast as I could, escaped to my girlfriend's house, and slept in her parking spot all night long. I don't know what happened to my mind and spirit that night, but I awoke knowing that I was the problem in my life and I was also the solution.
The next morning everything would change. I sold my house, moved to a location he could not find me (at least for a couple months), I stopped drinking so much, started really working out, eating salmon and broccoli, took therapy serious, started swimming at night under the moon in Hawaii, bought myself a scooter, hung out with my 2 girlfriends and daughter more, worked on changing my thought processes, and learned to begin to LOVE myself. VICTORY Today, I am healed! I am mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually healed. I have learned to forgive my abusers, pray for my past enemies, have compassion for my parents, and see myself as a POWERFUL child of God. I have achieved my Ph.D, I own a non-profit that houses homeless foster care alumni, I founded a literacy program, I am an author, public speaker, international mental health therapist, business owner, real estate investor, GREAT mother to my daughter, and whatever else my resume says I am LOL I have been on magazine covers, walked red carpets, know celebrities, mentor foster children, and believe in the miracle that is YOU and ME!
Most importantly, I realized that God has a calling on my life, and today, I live by that purpose in all that I do. That purpose is to share my story and personal techniques used that took me From Foster Care to FABULOUS: An Imperative Movement, which is the name of the book I authored. God ordained me to be a healer to guide others until they too are healed. The therapeutic strategies, well, any therapist can teach you that, but only a therapist who has been though some stuff in life like I have can teach you how to heal your heart and spirit by teaching you how to Heal Out Loud.