Part 2 | Read Part 1 here

When you interviewed with us in 2014, you had graduated the pilot SnAP (Strength Energy and Power) program at RS. You had found the strength to turn your life around and you had a goal to overcome what you had been through. Have you achieved your goal? Yes, in some ways. To overcome I’ve had to look fear square in the face and not shrink, run or hide from it. It’s taken courage, determination and work. My circumstances haven’t changed much, but I have. I’m definitely a changing person. I think you can see the difference in my face from the pictures RS took back in 2014 and the ones you’ve taken today. I’m more peaceful, my face is softer and I have greater confidence in myself.

Tell me about the past two years. Well, I’ve begun to learn to deal with the deep trauma I suffered from the past; and the reoccurring nightmares and feelings of powerlessness. I grew up in a drug house which meant anyone could come in and use, and drink. If they had nothing, they could buy or turn a trick for what they wanted. Uncles, aunts, boyfriends, girlfriends, their kids and strangers. It was a revolving door, nothing was secure, so sleeping was a nightmare. I never knew who might come into my bedroom. Often I would lie in front of the door, so if it opened I could run and hide. I was quick and nimble. I would sleep a little, but mostly with one eye open. My mom had three girls, I was the youngest. My father had other kids, so there were 8 of us all together. My mom was often gone for days at a time and she was in and out of jail. So, we mostly raised ourselves. When she got out of jail we went to Church. I used to pray to God, “keep me, protect me.” I was never sexually abused, I never did alcohol and I never did drugs. I was smarter than most people and I learnt to survive. I always knew I wanted something different for my life. I saw my sister and my cousins selling food stamps to buy drugs and their kids going hungry. There’s no future in drugs, there’s no point. People wake up the following morning and they have still got the same problems!

What was the worst thing you experienced? I saw my uncle almost kill his wife on Linwood. He kicked the door in, beat her up and kicked her out into the traffic. The very worst thing I saw was my dad beating up my mom. He beat her up all the time. The last time she went into the hospital her face was black and blue and they said she may lose her eyesight. Those are the memories that would haunt me in my nightmares—seeing her bruised and bloody face! I didn’t like to talk about the past let alone look at it. Going back was almost like seeing it happening again today and feeling everything all over. 

So what's been your process of change? In 2015 I repeated the SnAP group therapy program with RS which meets once a week. When I graduated I went straight into their follow-up group therapy program. I’ve also met with Miss Sylvia for individual therapy once a week for the last year. It’s been a lot of internal work. I get assignments and I just do them. I’m determined to make the most of the help that is available to me at RS. I am learning to be vulnerable, not tough. Two years ago, when I last interviewed, I would not have been able to talk to you like this. I’m learning to express myself and be honest. Miss Sylvia has helped me a lot, she’s straight talking and encouraging and she’s consistent and stable. I like this about her and I trust her. Learning to trust has been the hardest thing for me. I’ve been coming to RS for four years. It’s been a gradual process for me to feel safe.

What are you proud of? I went back to school and got my GED. My three kids are all in Center School, playing sport and doing well. I’ve lost weight, my body is healing and I can now walk without a stick. I manage my budget, I cook good food for my kids and and we’re stable. 

What have you learned? I’m not alone! I have resources to help me to continue to learn and grow. I’m smart and I can help others through what I’ve learned and experienced. I’ve got initiative, I’ve got the ability to take charge of a situation, but I’m not afraid to reach out for help when I need it.

Read more stories of courage from Troost
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Story: Lyn Morse-Brown
Photo credit: Tom Morse-Brown