By Rachel Hinkle
My first breath of air was on a rainy Monday evening in April, in the room I would grow up in, surrounded only by my parents and a midwife. I was the first born of three- my two younger brothers following during the next three years.
My existence was unplanned and my parents married three months before my birth. I remember very little from my childhood and most of the memories I have managed to retain are unpleasant. Generally, I rely on the memories of my parents and brothers to help me recall the positive times that were removed when my brain decided to block out the negative.
Psychologists say that Depersonalization Disorder often comes after suffering many traumas, one after the other. It is also a major cause for a loss of memory from large periods of time in a person’s life. The first half of my existence was riddled with abuse physically, emotionally, and sexually from many different people I both loved and cherished. This time holds a lot of confusion for me and I often suffer knowing that it consisted of a loss of my innocence as well as any kind of real childhood.
For me, time and memories start to flood in from the age of about thirteen and forward. Strangely, this isn’t to say my life became drastically better at this age. In fact, the opposite could arguably be stated. Being a teenager is hard for the majority of people I knew. Romances form, you have to finish out school and attempt to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life, your parents suck, you get yourself wasted on cheap liquor you convinced someone’s older sibling to buy, your body changes, and the whole world feels like it’s exploding. For me, it was more.
Of course, I went through the normal teenage drama all of my friends were going through, but my life was far from normal. The abuse continued, a mild depression and severe anxiety began to form, a friend ended her own life three weeks before my seventeenth birthday, my father left for his mistress, my mother laid in bed for more than a year in a depressive state without working. The list continues on and on full of trials none of my friends could relate to.
During this time, we were living in severe dysfunction. The tiny trailer I was born into started growing holes in the floor, letting in wild animals during the night. The refrigerator contained only what we were able to purchase, forcing us to spend many days hungry. My youngest brother and I both picked up jobs to help with the bills my mother was not paying, and I had to push back my college start date a year to continue financially assisting my family.
As if things couldn’t become more complicated during this time, I found out four months after my high school graduation that I was pregnant and also that my brothers and mother would soon be evicted for the late lot rent that my siblings and I were unaware was due.
The next few years contained a lot of turmoil for every member of my family. My father married his mistress and moved into her house an hour from our hometown. He also suffered heart failure and had to go through a bypass surgery to save his life.
My mother continued to get behind on bills until she was picked up and taken to jail on two occasions for writing bad checks and then again for not staying up to date on her payments. She has lived in various friends’ homes for the past four years as well, while attempting to gain independence for the first time.
One of my brothers was forced to leave his school during the middle of his senior year to move in with my father after the eviction and graduated from this school away from the friends he grew up with. After graduating and working for a short time, he decided to join the Marine Corps and has now been a service member for over two years.
My youngest brother dropped out of school after the eviction and lived with a friend for many years. He developed both alcoholism and PTSD from his very painful childhood which, when combined, caused him to burn down our abandoned home.
As for myself, I had my son and left his father when he was eighteen months old. I have since been living on my own and sharing custody with his dad. I also went through a sexual assault in August which caused me to seek counseling after the depression and shame from the incident became too impossible to bear. In the strangest way, the incident became a beautiful blessing as the counseling has been helping me immensely to take hold of my life and the situations that I have faced.
Despite the negativity of life that I have faced, I remain positive and hopeful for the future. I have watched the people around me suffer through tragedy and trauma beyond comprehension yet come out of it somehow stronger than ever before- specifically my brothers whom I have the utmost respect for as they continuously attempt to better themselves. I have watched myself do the same.
The situations that I have personally faced have caused me to own my resilience. I have brought out the fiery, feminist, loving, compassionate, strong-willed, intelligent woman inside of me that had been suppressed until I found peace despite my turmoil.
I have found the most harmony through writing down my experiences in detail. I am eager to remember the difficult parts of my life in order to grow from them and to connect with others who have gone through life facing similar demons.
In the end, we all end up as stories, sitting in the hearts and minds of those who knew and loved us. I’m finally starting to find the value in making mine worth reading.