ZOE'S STORY:

The Climb

I was 10 years old when I first began experiencing suicidal thoughts. I was home alone again, dreading the arrival of my stepbrother and stepmother. I had not seen my Mom in two years because of a manic episode of her undiagnosed bipolar disorder. I had endured two years of abuse from my stepfamily while my Dad stayed oblivious. I was being sexually assaulted on almost a daily basis by my stepbrother and was so young and scared I didn't know what to do. I thought ending it would be the answer.

 

This went on until I was 16. By this point I had a shaky relationship with my Mom who had finally won back some visitation. Getting back that support system of her side of the family helped me find some hope for the future. I also found solace in a boy who made me feel something worth living for. His family helped put an end to the abuse I was still dealing with at home. I found courage to move out of my house and into my Grandmother's half an hour away from school and work. It was worth it. 

 

Unfortunately, then the normal teenage drama kicked in, rumors started to fly about my boyfriend, (my rock), cheating on me. I started to have thoughts of suicide again. I stopped going to school. I spent my 18th birthday, a week before Christmas (my senior year), watching my mom’s trial. She had been in jail for months on an arson charge, stemming from another manic episode.

 

I thought college might bring new beginnings and hope for a future. Turns out I wasn't ready. I scraped by the first year, got together with a boy who was a charmer, but a user and a cheater. I was nearing the end of my rope, I could tell my strength in myself was running out. I almost failed out of college and lost scholarships and my dad's financial backing. 

 

I decided to apply to be a resident assistant the next year. I got the position and was excited for a new opportunity. The problems came quickly. Someone who suffers from depression and unresolved issues should not have a dorm room to herself. The nightmares started, times I would just sit on my bed and shake and blackout with emotion, or just feel nothing at all. I was in so much emotional pain. I was at the end of my rope. I had a suicide attempt. Luckily, I woke up about an hour later. One of my residents found me and recognized what was happening. She took it to my boss who made me go to the hospital, fired me and told me to seek help. At this point, no one knew about any problems of my past and of the 8 years of sexual assault turned rape. I was basically suffering from PTSD all alone. I took time off from school, transferred to a community college and focused on myself and my job. I took a break from boys and went to the gym every day. I found a few good friends to keep me occupied. 

 

When I least expected it, I found love. I found someone who I felt I could trust completely with my heart and soul. I told him my story the night he asked for me to be his girlfriend. I needed him to know this huge part of me, the abuse, the depression, the suicidal thoughts and attempt. I needed him to know I was a work in progress, but that he gave me hope. I still had bad days, but they were further apart.

We found out about a year in that I was pregnant. There was a switch in me the moment I found out. That baby saved my life. I knew that no matter how I felt, I had to be here for her. I picked my head up and immediately enrolled in college full time. By the time she was 2, I had graduated Summa Cum Laude. I felt like I was back. 

 

However, my feelings were simply distracted for awhile. Soon after graduating, I got a full-time job. The stress of that combined with raising a toddler, and being thrown into adulthood triggered some old feelings. I finally went and saw a counselor consistently who helped me realize I was holding onto anger from my childhood. She gave me the courage to finally reveal the years of abuse to my Dad. I had been struggling to tell him for years in fear it would break up the only family he had. Luckily, he accepted the news the exact way I wanted him to. I can say I have been a different person since. The feelings of depression and PTSD have passed. I was able to have two more babies who light up my life, and a man I still hold tight.

 

I've climbed the mountain. The struggle is so real, but it is possible to survive trips, falls, even avalanches. The view from the top is so worth it.

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