I was born in Mexico and came to the United States as an immigrant when I was four years old. I was born into poverty, and my early years were marked by violence and neglect in my home at the hands of my father. I faced many challenges and obstacles in my life.
When I was five years old, the fights between my parents were violent and dangerous. I have five other siblings, but my father treated me differently because of my skin color; I was the darkest one in the family. I didn’t know why my father treated me more violently than my other family members. He gave me insulting nicknames and abused me, both physically and emotionally. I dealt with self-hatred and was convinced that I was not good enough.
When I became a teenager, I learned how to stay out of my father’s way and hide my feelings. I became aggressive. I got in trouble often for bullying other children. My father would call me names because he thought I acted like a “boy.” I unconsciously began to imitate my father’s behavior. I became involved in destructive activities and eventually dropped out of high school. Soon after, I was incarcerated at the Santa Clara Juvenile Hall and spent years on probation.
At the age of 16, my eldest sister sent me to Casa by the Sea, a boarding school in Ensenada, Mexico. My sister hoped that the program would help me graduate from high school and become a more positive individual. Unfortunately, when I returned home from the program, I went back to the same household, and the violence in the family continued. When I was 17, my parents separated, and everyone moved out of the house; I was now living on my own. My mother moved back to Mexico, and I began living with friends or in my car. At times, I was able to stay in a vacant home that my sister owned.
Later, I became involved with a man whom I thought I loved. He was violent and dishonest with me, but I depended on him and wanted to be loved. Soon after, I got pregnant and we tried to work on our relationship for our child, but things didn’t work out how I imagined.
The huge red flag was that Martine had been incarcerated during the gestation of my son. I found condoms in his car. When I found out that I was three months pregnant, we were not together. We were off and on to such an extent that I was distressed about the relationship I would have to maintain with this person. We didn’t live together initially because he was on parole.
We moved in together just before my son was born. I wanted my son to have his mother and father living together. I was also scared to raise a child on my own. Martine would receive late calls and step out of the house to receive them. He would go on trips to Vegas from the San Francisco Bay Area. He suddenly had two cell phones in his possession. I was in college, and he would ghost me when I needed childcare. I was often in a position of finding last-minute childcare. I went through depression and anxiety and felt alone with this newborn. I felt shame that kept me from going to my family for help.
Martine and I were advancing in therapy. I learned his triggers and shared my own. We were able to gain an understanding, as we did not live together. I became empathetic to his story. I felt more connected to him. I realized that he had his own journey that supported his insecurities. He was struggling with his own being. Previously, I thought he had an addiction to money. I learned in therapy that the addiction could be corrected.
We had something in common that we both loved: our son. I found that Martine was a gentle man and a great father to our son. I had not known this before. He seemed to genuinely want to face his past to be a better father for our son. He seemed to understand that he could get there, and I believed him. We would meet in my home and spend time with our son. He did not live there but would parent while I was in school or had other activities.
One day, Martine told me that he would not be able to pick up our child from school. It was raining, and as I drove up to the driveway to the house, I noticed all the lights were on in my house. I immediately called the police. “Please help me. Someone is in my house.”
“Please hold, ma’am. Someone will call you back.”
These were intensely stressful moments. I thought that this must be the process for a 911 call. It seemed like forever as I sat in the car waiting. Finally, there was a call.
“No one has broken in. This house was scheduled for a sting operation. We left you a note on the table.”
I remember walking inside my house through the door with a broken frame. I fell to my knees after noticing the destruction of my living space. I began to sob. I was angry. I felt confused. I felt powerless. My couch was ripped into pieces. I felt violated because my electronics, as well as other items, had been taken. I felt violated by everyone, including the officers. I especially felt violated by Martine. It was incredibly difficult as I made my way to the note left on my table. At the same time, I was relieved that nothing had happened to me or my son. The damage to the house reminds me of the trauma. I feared driving home for a long time after that.
Martine was apparently a part of a cartel. He had stored drugs in my attic. I didn’t know about this. The DEA destroyed the house looking for the drugs. They had been following him and had wiretaps. The police told me that I should stay away from the case but assured me that they knew I was not involved.
I was angry and did not want to be with Martine. After the shame and betrayal, I felt like I was blessed with another opportunity. I was grateful for a new beginning to establish a new life for myself and my son. I decided to begin to forgive and work forward. I began to grow and become a woman. I began to look for healthy relationships.
I decided to take control of my life. From that moment forward, I was clear on my expectations for myself, my son, and my potential partners.
I want to inspire people to love themselves and express gratitude. They can find their voice and share it with others. It is my right to have a voice. It is everyone’s right. I want to share my message of learning to leave the past behind, finding forgiveness, daring to hope, and discovering the inner strength to achieve dreams, no matter how large the obstacles may be in life.
Everything starts with self-love.