Today’s #SameHere🤙 Hero: Kelley Small
Great example of how you can take bits & pieces of someone’s story & relate almost entirely to some of it while having almost no experience in other parts. For me – the similarities to having a sick family member early in life resonate tremendously in terms of how it makes your mind think of worst case scenarios. At the same time, I’ve never been married, and Kelley talks in detail about a challenging marriage & obstacles with her children. The big takeaway, however, is – when we share, there is often at least something that resonates that can tie us all together in some way – bc while life & relationships are complex, there are many similarities in our interpersonal experiences & how they affect us. Maybe for some of you, the marriage & children aspect of Kelley’s story will resonate more.
“Oh, I have so much to pull from, where shall I begin…….I watched my mom go through 2 years of chemotherapy & radiation after being diagnosed at 37 w stage 3 breast cancer. I was 3 & my sister was 1 when she was diagnosed. I am confident that this was a traumatizing experience for me that begun my lovely battle w fear & anxiety, all surrounding dying.
Thankfully, she survived, although it was touch & go for a while. She is now 73 years old & cancer free. However, my mother is a lover of all things that help you escape from real life. She has abused prescription drugs & alcohol my entire life. Actually, every female on her side of the family suffers from addiction issues & ‘awesome’ personality disorders;). It is unfortunate that my mom always needed to be the victim & lived a life that she was constantly putting herself in a position to need to be taken care of. Her preference was getting surgery after surgery.
Not only would this feed into her abuse of medication; however, she would also get the much-needed attention she so craved while she was recovering. I don’t have enough fingers or toes to count how many surgeries she has had. About 11 years ago, she had just had her 4th reconstructive breast surgery; I had recently given birth to my 3rd daughter a couple weeks prior. We were living at my parents home while waiting for our new home to be finished. I walked through her room after my dad had mentioned that she was deep in sleep, snoring like a brigade of soldiers. I grabbed what I needed out of the bathroom & walked back out. I developed a sinking feeling in my stomach & decided to walk back in & look closer at her. She was not breathing, blue, & swollen from lack of oxygen. I ended up saving her life by performing CPR until the paramedics got there.
She accidentally overdosed & was given an injection of Narcan to stop the reaction. One would think that she would learn from such potentially catastrophic events, but not so much. She continues to use & abuse substances until this very day. Neglecting all her responsibilities as she always has, & also putting countless lives in jeopardy each & every day she makes the choice to get in her car & drive under the influence. I have given up at this point. I can’t tolerate that kind of behavior. I have done everything in my power to help over the years & she won’t help herself.
Next event that had a dramatic impact on my mental health was when I was 16 & I woke up one November morning unable to walk. I was an elite gymnast w unlimited potential. It was my everything. My identity, my passion, my love, & just like that, it was over. I was underweight, underdeveloped due to the lack of body fat and the 15+ hours a week of intense training. If I could ever rely on anything in my life, it was my body, up until that point. As it turns out that year was the first of many major debilitating back surgeries I would have. I wasn’t able to complete high school without homeschooling but did graduate on time.
I begged my surgeons to allow me to go to graduation because I was in a body cast & used a walker. From there bounced around to several colleges & finally landed on ASU my junior year. There I met who would become my future ex-husband. He played baseball & was highly competitive. It wasn’t long before I realized something was off w him. However, I thought that I could love him through anything. Yes, it was incredibly naïve; however, I was young & dumb. That relationship started the next decade of pure hell. I was being sexually assaulted in the most violent of ways every day. I learned that I was pregnant on two separate occasions and both pregnancies ended at his hands. I was heartbroken & devastated & the only thing I could think about was having a healthy baby.
I finally achieved that my senior year of college. I ended up marrying that man & living the next several years in abject terror. I was convinced I would never make it out alive w my children. I tried over & over & kept getting pulled back by the courts. Finally, I escaped after he attempted to choke me out while holding my youngest daughter at the time in my arms – she was just a year old.
I was able to return home & he wasn’t allowed near us for the next year & a half. However, as soon as he was able he began to sue me for sole custody. He was always trying to prove me unfit due to my physical limitation w my back which rendered me disabled in the eyes of the government.
Once he was granted visitation the brainwashing started. He had our girls so twisted & mixed up that they hated me & worshiped him. I fought like hell for them not to have to be exposed to him without supervision & lost every time. It wasn’t until 2009 when I was able to finally free my girls from him. I had spent 150k on attorneys fees & was no better off than when we started, so I knew the law so well at that point I represented myself & finally was able to prove that he was emotionally & psychologically abusing out kids w physically & sexually.
Although that was a huge victory, it was far from over. As it turns out my older daughter was his chosen one & was being raped & sexually assaulted by him for years. My beautiful younger daughter was being neglected & pawned off so that he could be hyper-focused on the oldest. Both children suffered from PTSD & had been in therapy from the time they were 3/5. I was not prepared for everything that would come out years later after the oldest began to disassociate & flip out after being triggered by something. I had no idea what was going on, all I knew was that it was my job to protect all of them & to get her the help she so desperately needed. She was arrested many times, placed inpatient at the psychiatric hospital, charged with assault on me & finally committed to a psychiatric prison for a month while they did an eval, house arrest for 3 mos & residential treatment for a year. While she was there she disclosed all the abuse that she had endured.
I was only allowed to see her once a week for 30 minutes in a locked concrete room & talk on the phone 5-10 minutes when she had earned it. Although I was relieved she was safe, I was devastated it had to come to that. However, I was willing to do whatever it took to help my children recover & lead happy, healthy, & productive lives. Our lives haven’t gotten much easier but they are certainly different. My oldest daughter is a junior in college & continues to suffer the lasting consequences of this life. My younger daughter took all her pain & aggression & used it to motivate her to do great things. She is an incredible lacrosse goalie & received a full scholarship to the division one school she is attending as a freshman.
I am sure anyone can imagine how the trauma could & would trickle down to affect the younger children. My youngest son suffers from extreme anxiety w so many maladaptive behaviors, zero emotional regulation, & is completely antisocial. I am still actively fighting to get him the proper help that he requires to lead a happy & healthy life.
To top it all off, I was diagnosed with a connective tissue disorder 5 years ago that explains all my body’s ailments &dysfunctions. I suffer from chronic dislocating joints, constant all over widespread pain that is unrelenting, continued degeneration in my neck & the rest of my spine which already I suffer permanent nerve damage from, POTS (post orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), mast cell activation syndrome, brain fog, extreme anxiety & there isn’t much to be done for it accept to manage the symptoms.
All this trauma has taken a toll on my current marriage & we are currently separated. I have been through more therapy than most people would ever imagine going through in a lifetime. It’s nice to have someone who understands your fight & to be such a strong and stable sounding board. Of course, there were times that I was battled fatigued, but she always reminded me to keep my eye on the prize–safety & freedom. I owe everything to my trauma therapist & continue to see her today.
Trauma like this doesn’t go away. it changes & morphs but it is always there. After my ex was released from jail after only serving a fraction of the time set, he went on to get his name made private on the national sex abuse registry. The blows just keep coming. It is my job to protect & maintain some semblance of ‘normalcy’ in this out of control crazy life that we continue to live.
I know that one day, it will all be better. Just continuing to try and keep my head above water until that precious day comes. I am convicted to help others help themselves. I hope that through that work, I am able to heal some of the open wounds that remain within myself. I will never turn my back on anyone in need if I can help them. I had backs turned on me left & right. I had no one most of the time when I was going through all this. I don’t ever want another person or child to feel that sense of fear of the unknown because they lack the support needed to feel safe.
I suffer from PTSD, ADD, & anxiety. There are days where I remain in a constant state of panic with little to no relief. It’s hard to breathe, think, & function. My physical body is made worse by all the stress & anxiety that I suffer from. There isn’t a day that goes by that isn’t challenging, but I continue to put one foot in front of the other & move. To stay still would make me the literal sense of crazy. Therefore, I am constantly trying to figure out new & improved ways to cope for myself & all those around me. I am emotionally & physically exhausted all the time, which leads to days I can’t get out of bed because it is a physical impossibility
I decided as soon as I was free in 2001 & had a permanent order from my ex to get help. I contacted the YWCA & have been involved in their organization ever since. I started going to group therapy 2x per week & individual counseling 2x per week. That lasted a couple years until I was ready to drop it down. Both my daughters were receiving play therapy there, as well, when they were old enough. I have no shame in my game, therefore I couldn’t wait to analyze the situation. How I managed to get into it in the first place & secondly how never to repeat that same horrendous discovery. My daughters deserved the best mom I couldn’t be. There would have been no way to be complete for them, having not worked so hard on my self.
I have been slowly telling pieces of my #SameHere🤙 story, & I have two books coming out that tell the whole story. One through the written work & the other through pictures. However, people have been incredibly receptive to what I have spoken about thus far.”