Today…

…I take back my story.
Letter to My Uncle…

Dear Uncle,
I have been carrying around so much anger towards you for over 22 years. I'm sure you have no idea what you did wrong, but I have hated you ever since. I don't want an apology, or for you to fix it, because frankly, it's too late for that. It won't do me any good, in fact, it will probably just add to my hurt. Your actions changed the course of my life forever, and you can't give that back. I am not writing this letter for you, I am writing it for me, so I can finally, hopefully, let go of this hatred that I have held for too long. Part of me hopes that you will spend the rest of your life with regret for the damage you caused, but I don't care enough about you to care if that really happens or not. I will never forgive your actions, but maybe now I can forgive myself for not being stronger.

22 years ago, you told our bishop, my great uncle, that I had gone and gotten myself pregnant. He then called me and the father into his office to chastise us and tell us we needed to get married or give the baby up. I don't know where you heard, and I don't care. I can only imagine, based on your actions, what you thought of me (as if you had any right to judge, based on your poor choices that landed you in legal trouble), but you had no right to tell your version of MY story to anyone else. That single act of telling someone something you had little facts about…changed my life in more ways than you will ever know.

Well, let me shed a little light. I was engaged to the father of that baby, but he was a monster. I thought I was in love, but I was wrong. It wasn't love that I felt for him, it was fear. My family, like you, thought so little of me my entire life. I could never live up to the greatness of my brothers. Mom never understood me, I was nothing but the problem child who needed to be controlled. After high school, I moved, well technically I was sent away, to live with my Aunt and Uncle, my dad's little sister, to help them care for their kids. I stayed there for a few months, but didn't earn the money I expected, or needed, to and was always asking mom for money to buy the things I needed. Another opportunity came up to help that uncles sister with their child. This would mean another move, but promised more money and time to work another job, so I took it. I watched their child as often as they needed me to, and got my first real job working at a gas station. I eventually quit that job and started working at a bowling alley cooking in their snack shop and babysitting kids in their drop in care.

The bowling alley is where I met JR. He was a handsome red head who said all the right things, and made me feel like a million bucks. He took me on adventures, taught me a little about cars, bought me things that made me feel pretty, taught me things my family never did. He was amazing. I moved home, and brought him with me. His family didn't much care for him, very similar to how my family felt about me. We bonded over that. For a couple of months, he lived with us in the old family home. He shared a room with my brothers and slept on the floor. He found a job close to home and would come home to see me every day. My friends became his friends. He proposed to me at my favorite restaurant. Everyone in my family was excited (maybe just excited to get rid of me, I don't know), but they all had their reservations about him. Shortly after we got engaged he started becoming emotionally abusive. I chalked it up to him being stressed at work, and thought it was my fault for not being a better fiancé. My family was emotionally, and physically abusive to me, so why should he be any different. The physical abuse started shortly after. Then came the sexual abuse. He would come home on his lunch break, when I was home alone, and he would demand sex, and when I would say no, I would get beaten. He would rape me and tell me he loved me. He would apologize for the beatings and the rape, and buy me flowers and tell me he was weak, and that it wouldn't happen again, but it did. Repeatedly. For months. Until I got sick. I had the flu and was constantly throwing up. My friend was worried because I wasn't getting any better, and after being sick for 3 or 4 weeks, my friend bought me a pregnancy test. It was positive. He told me I had to tell JR. My friend didn't know what JR was doing to me, and I didn't know how to tell him that I was scared and needed protection for me and my baby. I told JR, who immediately stormed out of my friends house. I didn't tell anyone else, so how you found out is a mystery to me. But you took it upon yourself to tell bishop your version of my story.

Do you realize what you did now? Can you see how that was not ok? Because of you, I was called in to my bishops office with my rapist! My attacker sitting next to me while my bishop, who listened to you, asked us what we were going to do! What the hell was I supposed to do? JR still lived with us. If I outed him as my attacker the beatings would get worse, and I couldn't jeopardize my innocent, unborn child regardless of how I got pregnant. Based on that farce of a meeting, I went to my mom and told her I was pregnant. But now that the rumor mill had started, anything I said to the contrary of your version of my story would've been seen as a lie. I had no support from my family, or protection from JR, and it was all because you had to start shit. JR moved back home with his family shortly after that meeting, and we "postponed the wedding indefinitely". My best friend from high school sent for me to visit her in California. She was the first person I told about everything. She was in the navy and introduced me to people and took me out to have fun to help keep my mind off of everything. I met a man who was nice, and didn't care that I was pregnant. He offered me a business proposition: marry him, his pay would increase which he would share with me, I would have military benefits for me and the baby, and before our first anniversary we would have the marriage annulled and we could go our separate ways as friends. Desperate and alone I jumped at the chance to get a head start at a life for me and the baby, and to have the support of someone through this. Before the baby was born my new husband came to me to tell me that he was falling in love with me and that he wanted to raise the baby as his own. I was on cloud nine! Life with him was rough from the beginning, but I was a romantic and naively believed that as long as we love each other we can make it through anything. He was a drug user, and I later found out he also made drugs in the apartment we shared. He was an alcoholic, and not a friendly one. He too became abusive. But without my families support I felt stuck. I couldn't call home and ask for help, because I was already a failure in their eyes. I couldn't stand the thought of me proving them right, again. So I stayed, and I suffered, hoping that one day his apologies would truly mean something.

My beautiful daughter was born, and I finally had someone in my life who needed me and truly loved me. Mom made plans to come visit, and I wanted her to see me being a good mom so she would be proud of me. With days until moms visit, my husband gave me an ultimatum: either the baby goes, or we both go. I wanted, more than anything, to keep my baby, but the only options I could see were to find a home for her, or be homeless with her knowing the state could come take her away because we were living on the streets. I figured it would better if I could pick her new family, rather than leaving that up to the state. I found a woman who wanted to adopt her, but found out she was lying to me about her life, so I kept looking. I called Uncle Wayne because I knew I could talk to him. I told him of my situation (about needing a home for my daughter), and I asked his advice. He asked me to give him some time and he would get back to me. He got back to me and I don't remember if they asked, or if I offered, but they agreed to adopt her. I called mom to tell her that I was placing my daughter for adoption, and as predicted, she got mad at me. I just could never do anything right. I was ruining her trip already, and it hadn't even started yet. But she came anyways. While visiting we came up with a game plan: mom would take the baby back to Oregon with her, and grandma would deliver the baby to Uncle Wayne when the legalities were figured out. I had made the most painful, life altering, and least selfish decision of my life, a decision I fully believe I would not have made had I had the support of my family, which you took away from me.

One month, one week, and day after giving birth to the light of my life, I said goodbye to her as mom drove away with her. I wanted to die. It would be over 8 years before I would finally get to see her again. I was a failure, just like everyone knew I would be. I convinced myself that I deserved whatever abuses I got, and I stayed with my husband. I stayed because I didn't deserve to be happy anymore. I was so desperate to fill the hole in my heart that I would beg my husband to get me pregnant. Regardless of the abuse towards me, I needed another baby, one I would not give away.

I finally got pregnant and had another baby. I was abused during the pregnancy but did what I could, short of leaving (because I believed him when he said he would kill me if I ever left) to protect the baby. I was pushed down stairs; burned with boiling water; emotionally, physically and sexually abused. I was depressed and sick after delivery, eventually needing an emergency surgery, but was still expected to do everything for him and the baby and keep a perfect house and do all the cooking. Unable to keep up with his demands, he took the baby and moved to his dad's house. I was alone, and desperate to get my baby back. I went to a judge with his violent history and the judge ordered the baby be returned to me. Still, when he came back I stayed with him. When J was just over 4 months old, he turned his attack on her. That was the day I found my strength. I packed up what I could carry of hers, and I walked from 11 pm until 3 am to get to the bus station. Grandma had bought me a one way ticket home. I had no money for food, just enough formula for the baby, and a 6 day bus trip ahead. I made it home, weak and ready for change. I told mom the whole truth, and I finally felt her support. J and I stayed with her until I could no longer stand living with her husband, and I got an apartment. A piece of shit place that backed up against an all night business with no insulation in between. I barely slept. I got a good job and started my new life. I went to visit that same friend from high school, and help her with her kids, when I re met Jay. We started dating and got married. To this day I still struggle with believing I deserve to be happy. I still struggle with feeling like a failure. I still struggle with knowing the consequences of my silence. I still struggle to know that I am strong enough to fight back now.

I do not blame you for my lack of strength or the decisions I made when I was weak, but I blame you for adding to the negative view that my family had of me, and for starting something you had no right to start. Because of what you did, by telling bishop your version of facts, you took away my ability to tell my mom the truth. I was planning on getting mom alone and telling her everything, and asking for her help, but you tainted my story. I have to live everyday knowing that I gave up my child because I was too weak and insecure to do whatever it took to keep her, and I have regretted it ever since. As one of the few father figures I had in my life that I thought I could trust, you were the one who I needed to be most wary about.

You're decision to put your own selfish need for drama and attention ahead of all else, sent my life into a tailspin. I have struggled to find peace ever since. I pity you, almost as much as I hate you. I pity you because clearly you were so unfulfilled in your own life, that you saw fit to meddle in mine. How sad for you. But I have to thank you. Because of you, I don't trust family members to stay out of my business. I know to protect myself from them and not allow them into my life more than necessary to maintain certain relationships. I was far from a perfect child, and I didn't deserve much, but I still had a right to my business, and my story, which you took from me. I truly hope you feel some level of regret, now that you know the truth it took me years to tell. I will always have hate in my heart for you, and regret my decisions, but at least now that the truth is out there, I can find the peace I've been missing.

Because I will protect my first born, at all costs, even though she is no longer legally mine, I will never be able to send this letter. I never want her to know the circumstances behind her conception. And I know I can never trust you to protect her, because to you, my story will always be whatever you want it to be.

Your niece.

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Most of the people in my life…

…want me to be a quitter. But I'm not a quitter. I am a fighter. My life has become a constant battle to remain physically mobile, mentally alert, and to help others as much as I can. I fight these battles even though most people tell me to quit. They tell me I'm fine, but my body and mind are failing me, and I know it. They tell me to give up on helping someone because it's hard. Yes, it is hard, but it is also something I am, at least for the time being, capable of doing. I have cried every night so far since this adventure began. I have cried tears of frustration, tears of anger, tears of sorrow (because I really miss my family), and tears of pain. My body hurts so bad that I cry when I lay down to relax. It takes me so much longer to get out of bed, and my joints and muscles are stiff beyond belief. Getting dressed is painful as my range of motion lessens. Breathing is harder lately. I feel myself struggling to catch my breath on a regular basis, and reach for my inhaler often, which only makes the constant shaking worse. Still, I push through. I want to drink to ease the pain and calm my mind, but I know that drinking will not make it better, it may mask the pain and the emotions for a short time, but will not make them go away. I've thought about taking my pain meds, but they leave me feeling "off", and I need to be at 100% (or as close to it as I can be) to do all the driving and work that being here requires.

The work I'm doing is physically demanding, and most of the time I have not had help with setting up, which I must do every day I work. I have to go pick up a trailer, drive it to the market, unload everything, set up a booth, and start cooking while I wait for the other employee to show up. He is a great worker and is beyond helpful when he's there. The clean up is much better, because I have help, and we're getting pretty fast at it too. Yesterday we cleaned up and were ready to leave in about 40 minutes. That's way better than the hour and a half of the first night. Then I have to return the trailer, and then head to my camper. I get "home" any time from 9:30-midnight. I'm not making the money I need to make to have this work out, yet…but I have to believe that business will pick up soon. It has to. It would be easy for me to walk away and just say "Sorry, this isn't working out." But I'm not a quitter. If I walk away now, both my brother and I are out a lot of money, which is not something I can handle being responsible for. I don't want to let my brother down, and I don't want to let myself down. I know what I am capable of, and doing any less than that is unacceptable.

My emotions are trying to get the best of me. I need company, someone to talk to out here. It's lonely and gives me too much time to think. Ya know, when your thoughts tend to go to extremes and you start trying to reevaluate your life based on these extreme thoughts. Yup, not a place I should be going right now. I've been taking baby wipe baths, and driving around trying to find something to do that doesn't involve a lot of strangers (because I don't want to deal with strangers right now) but not having much luck.

I need a shower, a hike, and a friend. I wish I was more confident in my abilities, maybe then I'd be brave enough to try a hike alone. I know that I don't want to go somewhere where I won't be found if I get into trouble, but not knowing the area makes that a lot harder. As for the physical and emotional pain…I keep fighting…one minute at a time…one hour…one day. I draw, and write to escape my thoughts, and try to ignore the pain. I know I could be a lot worse off. My daily drives into town (where cell service is available) to call home both helps and hurts. They seem to be doing fine without me, which gets my mind going to those dark places again. I wonder if they need me anymore, if they want me around. I contemplate staying here. Not in the camper, but finding a second job, and renting a place just for me. I want to see the familiar face of someone who doesn't judge me. I have a very select few that fit that category, but none of them live here, and it's selfish of me to ask them to come see me, so I don't. I might drop hints (subtle or not), but I can't be upset if no one shows up. After all. I am the one who put myself in this situation. Still, the alone time and meager accommodations have made me more thankful for my family, friends, and modern conveniences.