Volunteer Testimonial: Anonymous

TW: Child abuse, SA, Eating-Disorders, & Suicide
***For anonymity purposes, names have not been included***

Have you ever looked at someone and been jealous that they had an easy life? In a world of technology, it's easy to see only the good things and envy them. When you grow up struggling in life, it’s easy to look at another’s life and wish you had that. However, remember at times, we only allow others to see the good in our lives. We hide our flaws, we hide our truths, and I am no exception. I wasn’t the typical “foster kid”. I actually wasn’t classified as a foster kid at all. I wasn’t allowed to pity my situation or mourn my childhood, because I was “privileged”. I sure didn’t feel privileged.


Here’s my story: Ages 0-11

I don’t have many memories of my childhood before first grade, but trauma had already started. My mom and dad divorced, I never got to see my dad, had a mom in a constant mental health crisis, my stepdad passed tragically & survivor of at least 1 sexual assault. To say the least I got a rocky start. From kindergarten to 7th grade, I bounced back & forth 7 times between my grandma’s & my bio mom’s house, attending 6 schools (1 school twice).  A majority of my trauma came between the ages of 9-11. I just moved back in with my bio mom and her 3rd husband, as well as my special needs little brother, after begging my grandma to allow me to live with my bio mom again. I just wanted to have a relationship with her. This move changed my life. 

My bio mom was constantly sleeping, gaming or having a mental health crisis. So her husband was the one mainly taking care of us. Our house was old but fairly large. It was disgusting, with trash & cat feces everywhere. Basement was filled with molded clothes that were left in the washer, then thrown on the basement floor to eventually be washed again. I slept in a room with a metal bed with little to no bedding, a window nailed open, a small closet and a black dresser. My dresser and closet was filled with clothes usually too small for me or out of season. I started puberty a lot earlier than other young girls my age, which caused me to look a little more grown in the smaller clothing. I became an easy target for sexual predators. Just in my 5th grade year, I had been abused by my babysitter's son (molestation) & my bio moms' husband (child pornography). I never felt like I had anyone to talk to or that anyone would believe me. I found sanctuary at school, and I was good at school too. Since I did well in school and my brother had behavioral issues, the focus was never on me. 

My bio mother is a complex person, but the easiest way to describe her is manipulative. She used my brother’s situation to gain sympathy and money from others and she favored my brother for this reason. When my bio mom was actually taking care of us, it wasn’t usually pleasant for me. She was quick to anger, lashing out by smacking me across the face or screaming at me. I rarely seen my little brother get punished in the ways that I did. I knew this wasn't my brother's fault, but my anger & jealousy would set in. I hated my mother but loved her at the same time. I yearned for her love and affection, but rarely seen it. 

Food was also a touchy subject in the house. My bio mom rarely worked, so we had little food. When we did have food (either food bank, monthly food stamps or my grandma would come down and refill the pantries), her husband would lock it up. I remember stealing from a local convenience store to eat at times. Still to this day, I can’t believe that the owners didn’t know or that I never got in trouble. A part of me believes that they knew I was food insecure and was allowing me to take things. I tried to go back to pay my debt a decade later, but that convenience store was no longer there. 

6th grade started and depression set in. I walked to school most days, so I had a lot of freedom outside the house. School was my safe haven until it wasn’t. One night my bio mom chopped most of my hair off while I was asleep. I was given a “guys” haircut (prior to it being accepted) and made to go to school. This is where the bullying for me started. I was constantly told to go kill myself, and that nobody would miss me: a negative sentiment I already had for myself. I never really told anyone until I became an adult, but I wanted to end my life. How could anyone love me? My own mother didn't. 

2 months prior to being officially removed from the house, my bio mom had found the videos that her husband had been taking of me while I was showering. Evidence was deleted and I was left in the house with that man. However, as soon as my grandma found out the truth, my life changed (instantly). The next 2 years were probably the worst, although I was safer than I had been. This part of my life was the most complex/confusing.  


The Christmas break that changed everything: Ages 11-13

That Christmas break still makes my head spin to this day. The adults in my life will tell this story all differently. I don’t know what to believe. My grandma and her partner took me in and became the loving parents that I know to this day. I truly believe I would have ended my life or been on a different path.

I was safe.... but I was not healed.  

Over the next 2 years I was faced with challenges of my past and from the constant chaos from my mother, court and other family members. My bio-mom was constantly creating arguments and fights at family functions, a custody battle had begun, and other family members were blindingly commenting on my situation, calling me names that I would rather not repeat. Eventually my parents were awarded guardianship of me, but the pain didn't end there. 


The Trauma

If you read all that and said "holy moly" or something to that affect, you would be correct. This is just the tip of the iceberg of my story, and all had happened prior to high school. To say the least, I have had my fair share of character building. All things that I never should have been subjected to. 

Trauma can manifest itself in many different ways. For me, I internalized a lot. The anxiety was horrible, and depression was crippling. I felt isolated, unwanted and unloved. As the days, months, and years went on, the pain would drift away. However, in a matter of an instant, I could be reminded of my past and act out in aggression or become overly emotional. I know I hurt many people as a teen, because my actions were directed at them, when my emotions would take over from my past. I pushed away those that probably did love me and wanted to be there for me but didn't know how. I regret a lot, but I have had to learn to forgive myself.

Present Day

Now I’m in my late 20’s and I wouldn’t say that I have healed from all the scars of my past, but I recognize that they're what makes me who I am. I still struggle with making connections with others, especially those my age, physical touch and getting in my own head about being a burden on others. As they say, "Rome wasn't built in a day". 

I am pleased to announce that I have been no contact with my birth mother for over 2 years, as this relationship was causing more harm than good. I am continuing on my road of recovery from the PTSD created in my childhood and I have built a support system that I know I can trust and lean on, and a lot of them have been with other volunteers from Camp LIT. 

Why Volunteer?

Feeling that you are unwanted and unloved is a heart wrenching feeling. A feeling that I hope no-one ever has to feel, although I know it's a little more common than people may realize. Growing up in the fashion that I did, I didn't get a chance to just be a kid. I had already aged way beyond my years. 

Volunteering with Camp L.I.T. has given me so much purpose in life. I get to go to camp and be what these teens need; someone that can make them laugh, someone that can ease their worries, someone that can provide a huge hug or someone that will make them feel safe. I know what it's like from some of these teen's perspective, and it's the least I can do. 

It truly takes a village and at camp each volunteer is vital. The 2024 camp season will be my 4th camp season and I am more pumped than ever. I am excited to see all the new and returning campers, to see their growth and hear their stories. Seeing the smile on their face when we reconnect and the gigantic hug I get, makes all the tears worth it (and yes, I shed a lot of tears after camp). Even if one kid leaves camp knowing that there is hope on the other side, then I have done my job as a daughter in Christ and as a volunteer/mentor. 


God Bless,

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