Joyce's Story

I am the oldest of six kids. My mother was incredibly abusive to me. If any of the younger kids did something wrong, it was me who would get in trouble for it. And when I say, “Get in trouble” – I mean she would take me and beat my head against the wall like a battering ram, she would even say, “I'm, going to use your head like a battering ram!” I can still hear her saying it.

And when I say, “do something wrong”, I’m not talking about something like sneaking out at night, or stealing. I’m talking about crazy stuff. One time she thought I had eaten one of those little gel packs that come in a bottle of pills (why would anyone eat that?) and when I told her I didn’t, she slammed my head against the wall again. Then she found the little gel pack in the trash can. Things like this happened all through my childhood. My mother’s second husband was a pedophile. Of course I didn’t know what that meant back then, all I knew is that I would wake up and he would be in my bed. I was 6, 7 something like that. When that happened, Mom would surely beat me soon.

She would take my head and claw me. My arms, my neck, my face and she would send me to school that way. One day she even bit me in my mouth and on my lower jaw. That took forever to heal. I began to have seizures. One side of my body would go numb, and then the other side would go numb. I was scared; I didn’t know what was happening to me. I tried to talk to the school, to the teachers, to my grandparents, uncles, anyone - but no one would believe me. Instead they put me in a psychiatric hospital and put me on phenobarbital. After that I never said anything bad about my mom because I was too afraid. And, you know? You just get to a point when you stop saying anything, especially when it is so damn obvious and no one even notices.

When I was twelve she was on her third husband. He is the one who put a stop to it. She beat me again and he said to her, “Nancy- If you beat Joyce Ann one more time, I am leaving you.” Thank God. Three years later we were in a car accident. This woke up the blood clot and cellulous mass in my head and I began having seizures. The blood clot was the size of a green lime. It was actually green, but the outside was red. I had two brain surgeries when I was 15. When I was 16 they went into my groin and arteries with a camera and dye and all that. The doctor said to me, “You shouldn’t be alive – you should have been dead when you were 7. But you are alive for some reason.” Then they did the last surgery and took out all the mushy stuff in my head. It was bad. Staph infection, all that. But I lived. The doctor finally believed me. Someone finally believed me, but look what it took to get there!

My mother was bipolar, she didn’t know it then. She finally got on medication, but she would be on it, be fine, go off it and be scary crazy. You have no idea how scary.

As an adult I tried, again, to have a relationship with my mother. She was in trouble and my sister couldn’t take her in. I didn’t know she was off her meds and so I agreed to take her in. It didn’t last long. I have taken care of many foster children and I adopted two girls who are my daughters and I love them. My mother came into the house one day; not long after she got there, she needed something from the garage. It was a DVR player and she wanted it for her room. We couldn’t find it and she started screaming at me and calling me a “fucking bitch” and calling my daughter a “fucking bitch” and then stormed at me and told me I needed to beat my daughter. She just had to go there. She had said to me earlier, “If I did now to you what I did then, I would be in prison”. I was shocked, I thought, “Wow! She is finally sorry!” But she wasn’t sorry; it was something she just needed to get off her chest. When she went crazy again and “offered” to “help” me beat my girls, I lost it. There is no way in hell I would even think about beating my girls. No way.

We got into it. That was the day I finally stood up for myself. She left calling me names and the sheriff picked her up and put her in as a 5150. I refused to pick her up. I have not seen her since.

I guess I hit critical mass at that point. I was very lonely. I have headaches every day. The kids were moving on. I was divorced, I had no income, and I couldn’t get a job. It seemed very bleak. So I took my dog, Ellie May, and I drove up to Arrowhead Drive. I looked over the cliff. There was a house down there and I didn’t want to hit the house, so I had to figure out that part. Then I looked at Ellie May and asked her if she wanted to go. She said no, and I was afraid that if I went, nobody would take care of her, so I didn’t go either.

My mom thought she had killed me a number of times. I would slide down the wall like a human puddle, bleeding and barely conscious. That was my mother’s goal for my life, not mine.

She isn’t going to make me take my own life. I have found ways to get around it. I have a great boyfriend, I’m glad I’m alive, and I have my happy places. I love my beads. I taught myself how to do beading. I have my girls. I have my life.

If I was going to say anything to anyone who is walking through the loneliness and abuse I went through, I would tell them that if they get hurt and it really, really hurts, they should tell somebody. Don’t try to talk to the person who is hurting you because whoever that is, is only going to hurt you more for it. But talk to somebody. I think these days the schools listen more. Just keep trying to find someone who will listen. I think there are people who are able to see behind the walls now. At least better.

I don’t want to live in and with all that anymore. I want to get out and live my life. It was a hard path, but it was worth it.

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