A Nightmare Past

Hello LIPTalk Nation, I am honored to introduce our guest blogger for this post; In due time I will share her true name but for now, we will call her Belle.  Her story will grip your heart and touch your soul.  I must warn you, this story is graphic and full of tragedies.  However, She is a survivor.  It is my hope that her story will allow other people to share their stories of darkness so that we may all join together and CONQUER.  This blog isn’t a light reading, and it certainly isn’t directed to anyone looking to place blame on anyone or group of people.  This really isn’t the full story, but Belle has agreed to keep us posted and share her steps of healing.  Here is her story….

There’s a line from the movie said by Katniss in The Hunger Games. She said “I have nightmares too. Someday I’ll explain it to you. Why they came. Why they won’t ever go away. But I’ll tell you how I survive it.”

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I sit and wonder what makes my story worth telling, I don’t know. There are so many others that have endured so much worse, such harder times than me. If there’s anyone out there that I can help, give strength to or just to let know you’re not alone then I will tell why my nightmares came, continue to stay with me and how I survive it.

There are days I can look in the mirror and see a young woman of 44 with a strength that’s worthy of living; but there are so many other days I see the scars and I can’t see past them. I was born in the United States but at the age of seven my parents picked up and moved to a small country called Saudi Arabia. My dad worked for an oil company and we lived on a compound similar to what the military would live on being deployed. I was free there, my parents raised me strong and independent at least that’s what I used to believe. With all that freedom I was raised in a religion of control, self-degradation and doubt of worth. I’m not here to bash religion but it really is the framing of my mind and the portal of how I ended up where I did. The woman was to do what the man was told, it didn’t matter. The man was below God and above everyone else. I had to dress and act accordingly and be submissive. My worth as a young female had to do with my virginity and looks.

My worth as a young female had to do with my virginity and looks.

As a youth I was very active in sports.  I played all sports that I could. I wasn’t the best but I gave it just that. My dreams were big. I dreamed of being a pilot in the air force. Little did I see any limitations at the early age of 11.

One night at the age of 11 and a few days before 12, I ran home after winning a soccer game, it was dusk. I parked my bike and saw my dad sitting on the couch through the sliding glass door, my mom was in the kitchen cooking dinner; it was dark outside and the lights were on inside. I didn’t realize the door was closed. While yelling “dad!” and running full force I hit the plate glass door. Flying in the air and bouncing back three feet I hit the ground. Remembering my duck and cover lessons from school and looking up I knew I needed to protect my head so I tried rolling over to my left. The glass was too quick, the shards of glass landed on top of me. You could see my jaw and teeth from the outside and my foot was soaked with blood; my shoe sloshed when I got up. Four days later and a birthday turning 12, I left the hospital and went home to rehabilitate. I almost lost my foot, the glass went through my ankle bone with the exception of a tiny sliver of bone that left my foot attached to my leg bone. Three plastic surgeries later, I’m left with a lifelong scar on my face.  This is where my story and nightmares begin.

Three plastic surgeries later, I’m left with a lifelong scar on my face.  This is where my story and nightmares begin.

I was a victim of extreme bullying from there. There wasn’t anything about me that wasn’t made fun of, particularly my scarred up face. The tires on my back were slashed on many occasions. My phone number was put on men’s public bathroom walls “for a good time call” with my name and number following. I was 12 and very innocent. I was called “scar face”, “Lezzie the Lesbian”, among all the other horrible names kids can come up with. A jar of tarantulas was thrown at me. Horrible notes were written to me. I was left Belle_2alone and shunned. I walked with my head down, grew my hair to cover the right side of my face. I would walk on the right side of people. I couldn’t bare looking at anyone for fear. My grades suffered along with any self-worth and dreams that I had. I was worthless. I looked in the mirror and saw a horrible person staring back.

One night at 12 years old, after leaving alone from the small diner that kids hung out at, I realized I had been drugged.  Something was put in my soda, I’m guessing an acid of some sort. Trying to make sense of things, I was carried to a small park and gang raped. I was 5’2” and 90 pounds and never had a drug or alcohol in me. The walk home that night was horrific. The acid was still strong in me. I can still picture the dogs with gnarling teeth chasing me and the three foot deep locusts that I had to make my way through while crying and screaming trying to get help. I hid in a construction hole in the street. The streets were empty and dark.  Getting home, the house was quiet and my parents were in bed, I was thankful. I never told anyone about this, my virginity was taken and now I was ashamed. My parents would hate me. I would go to hell.

At 14, I left home and went to boarding school. In the last two years I learned to drink and enjoyed it.  This boarding school was of the same religion that I was raised in except it was now my life not just a religion. I started starving myself. The rules were heavy and smothering. I met a boy.

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He was an upper class man.  I was 10th grade and he was a senior, I just turned 15. I was an outsider: new and away from the safety of home. This boy was handsome and wild. We dated and he decided I needed controlled. The abuse began and his anger was eruptive and unpredictable. I had no control over anything. I was in and out of the hospital for lack of nutrition and extreme anxiety. I remember yelling for help as he carried me out the door and the people in the room laughed. I wasn’t laughing and he had complete control of me. I had nowhere to go for help, no one to turn to. My grades were at their lowest and I was put on academic probation. One night the summer before I turned 16 he climbed in my hotel room and made me his. Early fall, junior year and school was back in session, he was at a party across the street from the principal and yelled (while holding up a drink) “this is for you Belle!” Being on academic probation, my dorm room was searched. Letters were found and the truth was out, this boy and I were having sex and I was kicked out. He had graduated and was in college; I was 16 and he was 19. I was free.

One night the summer before I turned 16 he climbed in my hotel room and made me his.

Moving to Arizona to live with my brother, his wife and son, I went to public school and was happy once again. Made friends. Grades were good. It was beautiful there. I was in dance class and found my strength and confidence once again. No one there knew me, they didn’t know me before my scar or judged me under a religious eye. I went home to Saudi Arabia for the summer before my senior year. It was a great summer. The weight of the boy I had met at boarding school, me belonging to him and the weight of being kicked out of boarding school was over and buried. For my last year of high school I flew back to Arizona to live with my brother and family and to start planning my future. I flew 10,000 miles, got off the plane and there he was; the boy I had met in boarding school. He was waiting for me. He found me. I will never forget the feeling I had seeing him. He had traveled from college in Michigan to settle there. He had been there a month, had a job in construction and a place to live. Belle_5.jpg

My friends went by the way side, I was owned once again. No one and no place to run to. My brother was too self-involved to help or believe that this relationship was abusive and controlling. The abuse wasn’t physical yet per se. Yes, he’d yell. He’d yell so hard and loud he’d start gagging. I was called every name in the book and made guilty of all his actions. I did run from him a time or two and he’d chase me and knock me down. Anyone that looked my direction he saw as a threat. In public, I would hope that no guy would look at me, either I or he would get in trouble. We were sexually active and therefore we were married in the eyes of God and divorce wasn’t allowed. We were bound as one and I was submissive to him.

The abuse wasn’t physical yet per se. Yes, he’d yell. He’d yell so hard and loud he’d start gagging.

I graduated high school with high grades, my parents retired and moved back to Arizona and we married in a church that summer, I was 17 and he was 20. My wedding night, my honey moon, was in the beautiful little town of Flagstaff. We had reserved a sweet little cabin for three nights in the mountains and three hours from home. It wasn’t just a place to start our marriage together but also a place for the first time his fist hit my face and I blacked out. I can’t remember why, but I can tell you I will never forget hearing his fist hit the left side of my face. With the rage and yelling, we didn’t stay the third night rather we drove to the Grand Canyon during the night and slept in the car. This was going to be the theme for the next 16 years.

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We decided we would go to a Christian college in the same town my boarding school was in. This was his home where he grew up from six months old. His parents were dorm parents of the college who were well established in the largest church there (he was also the middle child of five). All the professors and staff had watched him his whole life.  I was now 18, really had no home to go to, married in an abusive relationship and alone. I wanted so badly to do what the other girls were doing in my classes. Thankfully, I did have some time away going to my classes and my job as an assistant in the campus security department. I was always aware not to talk to guys; it was always possible he could have been watching without my knowing. We lived in a small apartment on campus and this is where the second time his fist met my face but it was my eye that stopped his fist. I was now officially an abused wife and had to wear the sunglasses and deal with the questions; “stupid me as I tripped in the living room of our tiny apartment, fell and hit the wooden arm of the couch and hit my eye.” We moved to the country into a block house converted from a gas station. No heat and no one to hear us. Early the next spring semester (1990) we moved the 2,000 miles back to Arizona. I was pregnant.

I can’t remember why, but I can tell you I will never forget hearing his fist hit the left side of my face.

He never hit my face again but below the chin, even pregnant, wasn’t off limits. I saw this pregnancy as my ball and chain, there certainly wasn’t ever going to be a way out now. Do you remember the movie The Burning Bed? I remember it so well. It was monumental in my mind and I learned to tape money to the underside of a drawer in case I could run. My husband sent me to live with his parents so I could have a Christian OB/GYN, he didn’t trust the male gynecologists in our town and there wasn’t any female options. I was back in the town of nothing but horrific memories. I hated that town, I hated living on campus in a dorm with his parents. I didn’t know it at the time by my husband, still in Arizona, was drinking, watching porn and doing coke with his construction friends. I went back to Arizona to have my first baby, (he couldn’t stand me being away although he knew I was well watched over). I had no car and his parents wouldn’t allow me to drive theirs, so they even drove me to my prenatal appointments.

I had my baby girl that September. By this time we’ve moved three times in the town we lived in in Arizona. His anger was worse and escalated again. I was wearing the scarves to cover being pinned against the wall while hanging by his hand around my throat. I now had been through two jobs and one I couldn’t keep because he was afraid my manager “had the hots for me.” Thirteen months after the birth of my daughter and three more moves, I gave birth to our son. I didn’t want him, I went into a postpartum depression and retreated into my own world. We moved in with my parents and my husband went into the army. While he was in boot camp I bottomed out, started taking up to 50 laxatives a day, exercised and didn’t realize anyone was around. I got down to 85 pounds. I was in complete self-destruction mode. Right now I can’t tell you how I ended up where I did but I found myself in an inpatient facility in Phoenix, my son was six months old and my daughter was 19  months old.  The army wouldn’t pay for one that was set up specifically for eating disorders, so there I sat with people of all addictions and problems I couldn’t relate to. I was there a couple months and the only thing it helped me with was get me away from having laxatives and provided some counseling I didn’t believe I needed. I left when I could.

While he was in boot camp I bottomed out, started taking up to 50 laxatives a day, exercised and didn’t realize anyone was around. I got down to 85 pounds.

The army put us in Fayetteville, North Carolina. We lived in a single wide trailer, buttingBelle_6 up against the air strip of the air force base; it was a village of poor lower class military. I had hope, my husband said he learned the error of his ways and while in boot camp, went through anger management classes. We made friends in the area. The bouts of rage returned, he now took it out on all three of us. Our son and I got the worst of it. I was back to having a broken rib, a hurt back from literally being folded in half and not being able to see a doctor for fear of him getting kicked out of the army. I was at the point, when he got physically angry, I provoked him even more. My hopes was that he would get angry enough to kill me. I didn’t know of any other way out. He told me time and time again he would always find me.

I was at the point, when he got physically angry, I provoked him even more. My hopes was that he would get angry enough to kill me.

1993, another baby was made and I went home to my parents to help with the pregnancy.
After the birth of my daughter in, 1994, we went back to North Carolina for one more year and he got an early out. He didn’t want to be owned and controlled by the military and we moved back to the town of so many night mares and then back to Arizona. It’s now 1996.
The physical abuse towards me had stopped and he was now a preacher. In no way did the physical abuse stopping, make my life that much better; it was now on my son. I endured the emotional damage of being stupid, causing him his anger and being worthless. Always being controlled.

January 2003, we moved back to the town he was raised in so he could get his preachingBelle_7 degree. We’d been married 14 years. The kids are all in school, he’s in school and I’m working as a secretary in the ministry school. I was the perfect Christian wife of a preacher. We had the perfect kids. His preaching was dynamic and strong. People loved him but I was never able to make friends. Since my accident, at 11 years old, I really hadn’t had a friend for any amount of time. We raised funds to help him through school by donations from churches. I was conservative in dress, listened to only Christian music and taught young girls how to be the perfect Christian woman.  Behind our closed doors my son was getting beat and I was reminded how he was in control. My kids had to ask for permission to have a glass of water. He rarely wanted them in the same room, he wanted 100% of my attention. If we were in the living room, they were in their rooms. If we were in the kitchen, the kids were elsewhere.

I was the perfect Christian wife of a preacher. We had the perfect kids.

For the first time in my life, in late 2003, I tried to take my life. I took 70 sleeping pills, when everyone went to sleep, and I went outside and sat in the back yard. The next morning my husband found me and took me to the ER where my stomach was pumped. I never read the label that said too many taken would make your stomach sick and would cause vomiting. I couldn’t find a way out. Divorce wasn’t allowed, I would be alone the rest of my life since remarriage was a direct ticket to hell, it’s unforgivable. I was uneducated and dumb.  I admitted to my husband I had been raped as a child, he said he could never touch me again if he found out I wasn’t a virgin when we got together and that included rape. He didn’t leave.

I was dead inside. I met a guy I worked with and he said, “I was beautiful and smart and was truly interested in my heart”. I found my way out and I took it. I cheated on my husband and forever I will regret it.

I found my way out and I took it. I cheated on my husband and forever I will regret it.

After 16 years of marriage and being together roughly 19 years, moving 29 times and many cars and jobs later I lost my whole family and can you believe it, it was in the same community I went to boarding school in. Death would have been the better option. After the divorce, I wasn’t allowed into a church. Eggs were thrown at my house, horrible letters were written to me and about me, crank calls, my kids were beat up and people would talk about me while I was getting my hair done; I was dis-fellowshipped. I I tried taking my life again. I cried and begged for death. I woke up alive and no one around. My kids were at Bible camp and I was alone.

My name was taken off the bank accounts; I didn’t have a car. I couldn’t pay the utilities or rent and I had custody of my youngest. I sold everything I had to pay the rent and utilities, bought a 1987 Ford Ranger with no air. We became homeless, my daughter and I. We lived in a tent in someone’s yard. I took toilet paper from the gas stations. Gathered food from friends and the food drives from different churches and went back to college. I was working towards my dietetics degree, finishing three years of college I realized I had to get out of that town. It was killing me. I was suppressed and watched. People reported to my ex-husband of everything I did. By now I had sold my truck and bought a reliable 2003 Honda civic with my student loans. In the Spring of 2011 I looked on a map and remembered hearing of Pensacola Florida. I decided to drive there; it was 10 ½ hours and I camped out in a state campground. I found a job and an apartment and was living there three weeks later. I knew no one an no one knew me.

We became homeless, my daughter and I. We lived in a tent in someone’s yard.

I never finished my degree, I learned that I was making more with my job than I would with my degree and all the student loan debt that would be carried with it. I made friends, no one knew me. It was fresh and I was myself, first time in my adult life. I have made a life for myself, completely built by me and my friends. I have a good job and can support myself. I am remarried to an amazing man who adores me and loves my strengths and accepts my weaknesses.

Recently I was the VP of a chapter of a networking group and I had to resign due to time constraints. A week or so later a member of that chapter saw me and said that I was missed. I said “I didn’t know anyone would know I’m even gone.” His reply really put me back. He said “How can you feel so little about yourself, of course we miss you.” This is where the scars of my past remain. I struggle with self-worth, my worth spiritually, and feeling pretty. I have nightmares that could put Stephen King’s books to shame. My husband wakes me from them a few times a week and there are times I am scared to go to sleep.

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I look in the mirror and I see a large scar from the glass door, a scar from my ex-husbands thumb nail digging into my left cheek while holding my face in front of his and the internal scars I can see in my eyes. I have scar tissue on my spine that hurts. I have lost my two oldest children to the control of their father. He still hurts me through them.

My husband tells me daily how loved and beautiful I am. My parents and youngest daughter live in the same town as me now and I enjoy the giggles and love of a grandson. I forgive easy and don’t judge. I enjoy the flowers and the birds singing. I paint and love photography. I love sunsets, good food and wine. Looking at the lady in the mirror, I see strength. I am smart. I am free.

Looking at the lady in the mirror, I see strength. I am smart. I am free.

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This story is not unlike many out there. Let me explain. Each of us have a past and we choose to let that past define us, or we choose to make it into a story of redemption. It is our choice. Belle had three distinct paths in her beautiful life…

HER HORRIBLE PAST:
She had a near death experience at the age of 11; Drugged and gang raped at the age 12; Abusive relationship with many hospital visit’s (even while pregnant); Suffered postpartum depression; Attempted suicide twice; She battled being anorexic; Her kids were physically abused; She was Homeless.
These are not all the tragedies that happened, I know she experienced more. The point is, it was in the midst of these tragedies that she had a choice: stay in the current moment or create a new one.  

HER SELF-WORTH MOMENT
This was the moment that Belle knew she was worth more than the situation she was in and that moment was a glorious day for her and for each of us that have the privilege to know this woman.
She left the abusive relationship; She married a wonderful man; She is a successful entrepreneur; She has a beautiful daughter and grandchild that she gets to spend quality time with; She looks at life with a new perspective, seeing the possibilities , enjoying the new moments and continuing down the next path…

HER CONTINUOUS GROWTH
The very fact that you see Belle’s story here, shows you how strong she has gotten. Her story isn’t for sympathy, it’s for strength; not for staying in the past, but to open the future. She is growing and becoming more beautiful everyday. She sees that she has value in this world and making that value better is better for the world. She is living Life in Purple!!!    -Laura

Laura Spragg is the host of the growing podcast and blog: Life in Purple – A place that fosters the journey of new perspectives, renewed energy, and a passion to be the best version of ourselves. Visit our Website or Facebook page to learn more… who doesn’t want a little extra positive in their life?
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