Ana's Story

The first time I tried to hang myself I was in the third grade. I wasn’t getting the attention I needed as a nine year old. I wasn’t getting any attention at all, actually. My dad was working a lot and, although my mom was at home, she was mentally and emotionally absent as she was dealing with severe drug addictions. I was “in charge” of my little brother and sister as well as trying to take care of my mom. I was also in extreme body pain and no one knew why. I would go to my friend’s house and I see how happy their family was. They would laugh, the house was clean, and they looked to me like the family you see on TV. Then I would go back to my house. A place I wouldn’t dare bring friends over to because, even at that age, it was a complete embarrassment. We didn’t have hallways, we had pathways. It was the house of horrors, so dirty, so filthy.

In retrospect my life was weird, I didn’t know any different back then. My father was a biker. My mother was a drug addict. My entire life was filled with this. For me it was normal for my mom to take my friends to her room to do cocaine. Every adult in my life would disappear into one room or another and I was simply trying to take care of my siblings and my self.

I had seen something on TV about a girl who hung herself. I thought, “Wow, she doesn’t have to deal with the pain anymore.“ For me it was as though she had gotten out of prison. I decided I was going to hang myself. The next morning I went into the garage, threw a rope over one of the beams, stood on a stool and kicked it away. I hadn’t put the rope around my neck correctly, so I was just hanging there, waiting for my breathing to stop, or whatever was going to happen. My friend, Ricky, came into the garage and asked me why I was playing “army man” without him. I said, “I’m trying to die.” He then told me that I was doing it all wrong and that we should just go play. The way he acted got me out of the situation.

I never told my parents. My body pain was getting worse. When I was eleven I went to my mother and said I wanted to try pot. Drugs were her world and she always told me that if I wanted to do drugs I should come to her first so she could make sure it was “pure”. She gave me my first joint and then the body pain went away.

By the time I was thirteen I was smoking a lot of pot. The family was in transit again and we were living, all five us, in a hotel in Livermore. It was constant chaos, constant arguing. My mom would be locked in the bathroom doing drugs, and my dad would zombie out watching TV with his beer. There was no escape. I felt like I was in jail again; trapped. If I went to the lobby no one would know me, if I went back to the room, no one would know me either. I found a janitor’s closet. There was an extension cord in there and I tied it to the top shelf. I was wrapping it around my neck when the janitor walked in, grabbed me, and said, “No way – not on my watch!” He untied my neck and threatened to call the police. I ran outside and sat in the bushes alone, crying.

That was the first time I started cutting. I found a sharp rock and just rubbed it over and over on my arm. It was painful, yes, but it was a different kind of pain; different from my depression. For me it was good to know that I could feel something different. When I went back to our hotel room my mom asked me about my arm; I told her I had slipped and fallen. Dad was more suspicious because my palms weren’t scratched up. I made up something.

I began cutting from that point on. I would cut my legs and my stomach so no one would see. It wasn’t good. When we moved again I met someone who helped me. My friend, Jessica saw the cuts on my stomach. She did not mess around – she just took one look and slapped my face. She said, “I don’t want to ever see that again. You are done with that.” I don’t think she knows how much that helped me.
After that I was in a relationship with an angry guy named Joel. I think that I was replacing one form of self-abuse with another. He would hit me every day. In the morning he was fine, after he started drinking he wasn’t fine. But it was like some odd appointment I needed to go to. Every day I would go and get hit. It was my lunchtime gig.

I was sixteen when I made my last attempt. I was working two jobs; one of them was for a photographer. The second time I came home from a shoot with her, my boyfriend, Joel, tried to run her over with a car. Mercifully she avoided the car by jumping over a nearby fence. I was in hell at home. I had said I was going to stop drinking and mom was hurt because I had already quit without her making a “thing” of it. She had a daiquiri party for me. Things got worse. It just went on and on. Dad was better for a while, while mom was constantly loaded; he managed to keep it together on some level.

My (then new) boss picked me up and told me to bring my stuff. I was essentially living in her house, all my clothes in her bathroom closet. I was so sure that I brought the bad things with me. I thought if I were dead no one would have to deal with the burden of the pain and disaster that came with me. My boss was in the process of renovating her bathroom. I sat in the bathroom, a sharp piece of mirror in my hand, slicing the main artery in my leg. She walked in, asking: “What the hell is taking so long, I need you!” I gave her some story about the cut, the piece of mirror and she dismissed it, took the shard from me and we left the room.

After that we were in her studio talking about stuff to do and the fun we had already had. She was right. A 25-year difference, but we still had fun together. I saw then that it wasn’t too late for me to have fun in my life Just because I had had a shitty childhood did not mean I could not have a happy life.

That was the last time I tried to kill myself.

A few years later my friends and I were out at a club, and we met a nice guy who turned out to be a Mormon. I found the “Book of Mormon” on his table and asked if the reason he had all three of us spend the night was because he was going for the “sister wives” thing (I had no idea what I was talking about at the time, just sounded good!). He did not get defensive; he just shared with me how he felt about his religion. I was curious and he took me to church the next Sunday. I was impressed with the people, they didn’t want to shove religion down my throat or disrespect me; they were just friendly, nice people. They told me I should pray for guidance, I didn’t even know how to do that at that point, but I managed. It took me months of meeting with the bishop and visiting with the missionaries several times a week, before I was comfortable. I decided to make a commitment to the church and to trust that this time I would not be disappointed.

I became part of a church that is all about backing each other up. It’s all about family. A big “Wow” for me, a big one, I was so scared that it would just be another empty boat, but it wasn’t. It never has been.

I met my husband a couple years later. I knew right away he was going to be my husband. He, on the other hand, needed a few more dates. It was the time we went out to shoot skeet and I kicked his ass at it that he knew we should be together. He told me later that he kept thinking, “Wow. She’s hot. She goes to my church. She can shoot. She’s hot. She can shoot. She goes to my church. She’s hot.” He wanted me to give up all my old friends because they drink. I couldn’t do that; I won’t. I will never turn my back on the people who saved my life. He grew to accept that they are a part of me.

We have two boys now, the most amazing boys ever, Andrew and Samuel. These are the children I was told I could never have. I am determined that they will have happy memories, not just with their grandma, their photographer boss, or their friends, but with their family. I get to have those memories too.

I am so happy. I have a great business, and a great life. I am so glad someone stopped me every time I needed someone to. I can’t believe what I would have missed. I had no idea … just hold on… it gets soooo much better. But you won’t know that if you don’t hang on. Talk. Just talk to someone. Life is worth living. Just because you don’t think so for a day doesn’t mean the next day will be the same


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