Note to Reader
This is a twelve month project which aims to bring to light the individual pain experienced by young women and to show how their unique stories make them who they are. We ask you to feel with an open heart and respect their stories.
I’m from Birmingham, AL, I now live on the Westside of Jacksonville, FL, and I’m thirty years old. My childhood had its moments; it had a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes I could be a normal little kid, running around and doing everything. But a lot of the time it was more serious. I had to grow up really fast. When I was seven my mom had my little brother and she worked a lot, so I was like his second mommy. That’s my love, I love my little brother to death! So I had a lot of responsibilities as a child. More than I wanted sometimes.
I have eight siblings in all, so nine kids in my family. My mom had us six kids and I have three step-brothers. My oldest brother, my mom’s oldest son, he passed away when I was seven years old. He was killed in prison. And for the most part, most of my life, it was just me and my younger brother. I have a older sister, she was in and out of the house. And then I spent a lot of time with my three step-brothers who are older than me as well.
Having so many siblings wasn’t too bad but you get picked on a lot. When I was at my mom’s, my older siblings weren’t around much, so it was just me there for awhile and I liked that. It was like I was the only child, until my little brother came around. Then he got all the attention and I didn’t get any attention. When I was at my dad’s, I had my step-brothers around and I was the only girl, so I got more attention. But at the same time, one of my step-brothers couldn’t stand me growing up because I took his spot as the baby. Then my middle step-brother, Jeremy, he’s my favorite. We got along no matter what was going on, he would just sit down and talk to me. He could be tired, off work, out of school, and he’d just sit and talk to me all day. So I loved having him around. Then I had my oldest step-brother and I loved having him because he would always help me with my homework, and if I got problems right he would give me a candy! So it was perfect!
What I’m doing now is pretty much nothing. I went to school to become a medical assistant, quit that. Went back to school and I got my associates in business management. I’m in school right now for marketing. And these things are nothing from what I wanted to do as a child. As a child, I really wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or a marine biologist. That was my passion, marine biology, but I had my son when I was seventeen so that kinda set me back. And being in school, I just went the wrong way instead of doing what I was supposed to be doing so that dream just fell off. I’m still not on the path to where I want to be but I’m trying my best to get back there, because what I really want to do now is work with children with autism. My youngest brother has autism, so it’s something that’s really important to me. I’ve worked with people that have autism and they’re really fun to work with. It’s challenging but also very rewarding.
I always felt like I didn’t belong to my family.
When I think about pain I think about when I was younger and being molested. I think about being older and being married twice, went through one divorce and now about to go through another divorce. When I think about pain I think about me not making my children happy, not being where I need to be in my life, because when I’m not there, my children are suffering. So I think about them a lot. My oldest is thirteen so he’s seen more of what’s going on in my life and I hate that he has to see it. It hurts me that he has to see it and at thirteen he has to step up and take care of his siblings. I think about his pain. I think about how I try my best to work through things. I think about being a kid and how I never had anyone that I could talk to. My parents were there but I couldn’t talk to them. I always felt like I didn’t belong to my family. Growing up around my grandparents, they favored my cousins more and I always wondered, “What’s wrong with me?” Then I had my brother who was mean to me growing up and I wondered, “What’s wrong with me?” And I had other people who really just took advantage of me. Like I said, I was molested several times growing up and it seemed like I never had any one to talk to or tell about it. But once that stuff came out when I was older, it was like no body cared or believed me. So that bothered me a lot. Its just pain I continue to have and a lot of the pain is me trying to figure out “what’s wrong with me”.
For me the most painful event was when I was twelve I was raped by my step-brother. I kept that in for a long time and eventually I told one of my cousins because I just wanted to tell someone, so she knew about it. It didn’t come out till I was about sixteen years old and my mom found out, so she told my dad what was going on. My cousin retracted that I had told her and I was like, “You’re suppose to be my cousin. We’re suppose to look out for each other.” But she just threw me to the wolves. It hurt me because my dad believed me, my mom believed me, but my step-mom she didn’t believe me at all. She said, “If it did happen, it was consensual.” I was like, “I could never look at my brother that way. That’s my brother. Even if we’re not biologically related, that’s my brother.” So that hurt me for a long time.
That pain put me on a path of self-destruction...
That pain put me on a path of self-destruction, I just stopped caring about a lot of things. I got into a lot of relationships and those relationships weren’t love or lust. It was just, “Okay, someone wants sex so they’re just gonna take it, so might as well just do it.” So I did that for a long time. Before I got pregnant with my oldest son, his dad did the same thing. I kept telling him I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to, but he didn’t want to listen. So a few months later I’m pregnant with my son.
I went through that spiral for a long time. I was suicidal a lot. When I was fourteen I tried to overdose. I went into the psych ward when I was twenty-one for post-partum depression. And then I went again when I was twenty-five because of my first marriage and depression. So I just went through a cycle until I had my fourth son and I was like, “Enough is enough.” I had to sit down and forgive my brother for what he did.
One day I just woke up and I literally looked in the mirror and I didn’t recognize who I saw. I didn’t see Barbara. I don’t know who I saw but it wasn’t me. It was a mental breakdown for me. So I just prayed and prayed and prayed. I had so much hate in my heart for people and I knew I was only hurting myself because they were going on about their lives like it was nothing. So for me it took a few years, more years than it should have, for me to finally seek forgiveness. Even though my brother never asked for it, I just forgave him. Because I know now in our life he would never do that again. I don’t know what he was going through at that time, but I know now if anything happened to me and my children, he is one of the first people I could call on.
I don’t know who I saw but it wasn’t me.
To read part two of Barbara's story, click here.