Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas-- Growing up, I had to learn to be tough. I was surrounded by individuals who attempted to tear me down at such a young age and I had to learn to take care of myself.
So I hardened myself to the world.
I threw myself into work, providing for myself as I pushed through high school. After graduation at the age of 18, I began working at a local call center. This chapter of my life lasted about a year, until the center was shut down and I fell on hard times that led to collecting unemployment.
It was then I would meet the man who altered my life forever.
As someone who was over ten years older than me, I’ll admit that I was attracted to him because I felt like I was receiving the love and affection from an older male figure, something that I had always longed for and was that the kind of attention that I was denied during my childhood.
Our relationship progressed which led to us moving in together and it was then I was first abused.
I was abused verbally, physically and sexually. I found myself in a terrifying situation that left me wondering what I had done wrong to be treated this way. While I knew that none of this was my fault, I turned inward and placed the blame upon myself.
During this time, I turned to food for comfort and over the course of the next several years, I gained a serious amount of weight – going from 160 to 250 pounds.
I lost my self-confidence and self-esteem. I didn’t want to be seen in public or outside of work. I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror and I began to feel like a prisoner in my own home.
But still, we got engaged. I actually felt that even though he was physically and emotionally abusive, only the weak would leave their significant other. And once that ring was on my finger, I was fully solidified in an endless cycle of abuse that so many victims find themselves in.
My fiancé started to became more and more abusive and unfaithful. The infidelity became a common occurrence and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of hopelessness.
In the midst of that darkness, I found out I was pregnant.
Six months into my pregnancy, I was home alone one evening and I decided to pray. I asked God to help me and give me strength. I bargained with God, asking him to give me a baby boy or a clean slate. I told God that I never meant to have a child out of wedlock and I couldn’t be another single mother raising a daughter.
What I didn’t know was my fiancé was home and he had overhead my prayer.
While I was still praying, he came up behind me and beat me. I was pushed and punched and broken within an inch of my life.
I received regular beatings after that.
The next few days were my rock bottom and a turning point in my life. I woke up in the middle of the night and thought I needed to use the restroom, only to discover I was bleeding. I called out to my fiancé for help and instead of showing me compassion, he was angry, screaming and ordering me to shut up. In-between shouts, he called both of our mothers and finally 911.
In the bathroom, I began to fade in and out of consciousness, the whole time telling God that he could take me now. I was done with this life and I didn’t have enough strength to push on.
In the middle of the darkest time of my life, my mother arrived and was trying to keep me awake. She was begging me to open my eyes and to fight. But at that time, I didn’t have any fight left. As she tried to pull me up to my feet from off of the toilet, she fell apart and at that moment, I knew my baby was in the toilet.
The ambulance arrived and the emergency medical technicians cut my baby’s umbilical cord. The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital.
When I woke up, a nurse told me that my baby had died but still asked if I wanted to see him. As I unwrapped the blanket and saw his face, I instantly fell in love. It was the baby boy that I had prayed for and at that moment I lost my mind. I wanted him to live so badly. I wanted to protect him and love him and it was at that moment that I found myself. I found my purpose.
God had blessed me with the son that I prayed so hard for and I was given a second chance at life. At that moment, I promised my son I would build a life that I would have wanted for him. As I held him in my arms, I learned grace, mercy, and forgiveness and ultimately, found a new passion for life.
Once out of the hospital, I made the decision to start repairing my life. I told my fiancé we could no longer live together. This was the first step in separating myself from the man who had caused me so much pain and starting my new life. I removed the toxicity he brought to my life. Continuing the momentum, I began working out regularly, losing much of the weight I had managed to gain.
In the coming weeks, I met with an Air Force recruiter and got on track to enlist. Within a year, I found myself on a plane to basic military training and it was there I found my confidence. I used my experiences and hardships to push through any obstacle and I kept telling myself if I can survive all of that, this will be nothing.
I actually excelled during BMT and found myself acting as a mother figure and mentor to the younger women in my flight.
It’s been nearly three years since I enlisted and I take every opportunity to tell my story. For every person reached or made aware of life’s challenges, I am motivated to push further than the expected outcome of my past.
Now, I am stationed at Laughlin Air Force Base, working and excelling as a team member of the 47th Medical Group. A lot has changed in my life since my rock bottom but I have used my past to inspire others. I’ve grown to be a resilient, strong woman and I am proud to wear this uniform and represent the United States Air Force. Today, I’m able to make a positive impact on Airmen, my community and my Air Force each and every day.
While my past has transformed me into who I am today, it no longer defines me.