TRIGGER WARNING This article contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.

Julie

I am going to share with you how my passion for My Free Hamilton came about.  I will tell you some of the more powerful and challenging life changing experiences that have occurred in my life.  I will also share with you the circumstances that led me to reach out for help, and some of my experiences as I was going through the process of seeking out and going for help.  Last I will share how these experiences have changed my life for the better and how My Free Hamilton came to be. 

Growing up life was great, happy and loving.  I come from a large family with 3 brothers and 1 sister.  We were always loved and provided for with a safe and comfortable home.  My perception of life changed dramatically when my grandmother died at age 11. I no longer saw a safe, loving world as much.  The world started to look much darker.  Shortly after her death when I was only 12 years old I was raped by a family friend!  Again my world was shattered and not only did the world seem darker but it seemed like the darkness was all I saw anymore.

I was so sad, lonely and miserable.  I wanted guidance. My parents had their own challenges and didn’t know where to turn for help either, so in turn they could not show me how to reach out for help.  I became very self-destructive. I used coping skills like promiscuity, drugs, eating disorders, cigarettes, marijuana and I loved to shock people with my knowledge of darkness.  I surrounded myself in hate and anger all the while pushing down all my true feelings.  I just wanted to love myself and others.   I wanted to spread light and happiness.  I wanted to feel loved, accepted and understood.  Instead I tried to find power and guidance through darkness. Although I always seemed to get and do what I wanted I never felt truly happy or at ease. 



julie

I became enthralled with true crime (Charles Manson especially), skin heads, Satanism or any darkness I could get my hands on.  I do believe my instincts kept me safe from very dangerous situations as it would seem at times my head would scream NO, and my physical body would not function when I wanted to do something dangerous I would become too ill to participate. It now seems to keep me safe! During this time I was so torn up but I kept a pretty innocent respectful demeanor. I’ve always had very strong instincts to be loving, respectful and honest.  I was ignoring all these instincts, pushing them away so hard most of the time. The only time I honoured these true feelings was when I cared for children. I have wanted to be a mother as long as I can remember. I have always loved babysitting and later became the nanny for a few families.

During this time I used to call my “dark days” I was preyed upon by men.  I believe not loving ourselves leaves us open to many challenges and hardships.  I’m not too sure who came first but one of my parents friends (at least 30 years my senior) was going through some very hard times and found solace in talking to me, and then kissing and trying to start up a sexual relationship with me.  I stopped that situation with the leverage of telling my parents.  Also during this time I started babysitting and later became the nanny for a young family.  I had a crush on the father but was 17 and never would have said anything or acted upon my feelings.  As it turns out I didn’t need to!

One evening he asked if he could kiss me and I was shocked and flattered. I was also 17 at this time and of course said yes to my crush.  Almost frozen it was like a dream.  This adult man was interested in me!  He thought I was beautiful!  I felt so mature, I was infatuated.  This was the ultimate acceptance for a girl who looked for external love and acceptance from the opposite sex.  This super-hot man found value in me!  Little did I know at the time what he saw was an easy target.  Someone he could have power over and teach his sexual desires to.  This resulted in a 2 year sexual relationship even as I lived in their home!  It took me many years to realize that the relationship was not just a foolish teen decision that stole a whole lot of my childhood away it was abuse!

Sexual and emotional abuse I was shocked to find out only after I began using the free help I was getting from the city.  As well as a young girl he could control and have sex with he would also brag to his friends all the while sexually, emotionally and mentally abusing to fulfill his own desires for power and control.

I got out of that horrible situation with the leverage of telling his wife or family.  Although he did threaten me and scared me intensely making me believe that if I did tell he would hunt me down and ruin my life. He told me things like he would be able to find me anywhere if I ever told. I moved on and continued to struggle with many other life challenges that I won’t go into here or I could be writing for some time. 

When I met my current partner it seemed my life was turning around.  After a year of dating we moved in together.  One year after that we moved back to the wonderful city I grew up in.  We lived together for about 6 years when I bought our first house.  We had our son a year later.  Everything was amazing.  I was happier then I had ever been.  I was a mother!!!!! I was in my glory glowing and rarely did I let my baby out of my arms or my sight.  This was the best time of my life.   I was on cloud nine I had finally become the mother I had always dreamed of.  So we decided to try for our second 10 months after having our first son.  We were successful right away. 

This pregnancy was much harder on me and my partner.  He was working so hard to support us and I was staying home.  I was so sick for the first 4 months that I lost 20 lbs.  I had a hard time taking care of my baby, being so sick and trying to keep up with the house work.  It was very challenging.  We had our happy healthy baby, and like most lives I think, we had our ups and downs.  I was in my glory as a new mother.  I was doing all the things I had dreamt of. Breastfeeding both babies, making them home made organic food, taking the toxins out of my house (household cleaners mostly). My partner supported us so I could stay home and devote all my time and energy into raising my boys, just what I had always wanted. 

When we decided to move into our second home and life seemed to become more challenging.  Then more and more the problems seemed to start compiling and our home life started to become chaotic.  Everything seemed to be getting worse, nothing seemed to be going right and I didn’t know where to turn for help. This was supposed to be the happiest time of my life.  I was a new mother, the person I had been dreaming of being for as long as I could remember. 

Instead of being happy I was stressed out, tired,  we were fighting all the time, nothing seemed to be getting better and I wasn’t sure if we could ever be happy again.  This was supposed to be the happiest time of my life.  I was finally a mom.  I had become who I always wanted to be.

The big red flag came for me when I got so angry that I spanked my toddler!!!  It scared me, it wasn’t me and I didn’t know who I was becoming; I didn’t know what to do or where to turn for help.

So instead of looking at myself I turned all the blame on my partner.  I decided he needed to get help.  He needed to go to anger management.  Of course it wasn’t me who needed help!  My solution to our problems was to fix him and everything would be fine.  Little did I realize at the time I cannot fix or change anyone in this world except myself. Now I was sure my partner would never go for help being the strong and silent type.  Now low and behold one morning I woke up and the phonebook was left out, when I asked why, he told me he was looking for anger management classes!  Well now if he could get help so could I!

When I started looking for counselling for myself I discovered the cost was way out of my price range.  $90-$110 an hour!!!  Then a friend of mine let me know about Catholic Family Services.  She told me they had geared to income counselling and would not turn me away if I could not afford anything!  I was still am so thankful for that conversation. It was the answer to my prayers.  

Once I began using the counselling service I started to learn about ALL of the amazing free resources in the city. So I jumped right in to all of the programs that applied to me. 

This brings me to meeting my partner for My Free Hamilton, Angie.  We met at a free program in the in the city for survivors.  We discovered we were both passionate about collecting and sharing information regarding all the free resources in the city. When our survivors group ended we stayed in touch and learned we are also both determined to grow and practice all the coping skills and tools we are learning.

Some of the coping tools I used and still use are: how to process emotions, how to take care of me, how to reach out for help when I need it, I was learning self-love and respect.  I WAS GETTING MY POWER BACK!

So this leads me to now.  Angie asked me to join the Neighbourhood Leadership Institute and through this amazing learning adventure we both honed our leadership skills as we further developed and formed My Free Hamilton.  I am so thankful Angie asked me to share this wonderful experience with her.   I look forward to all of our wonderful adventures exploring and creating our passion My Free Hamilton. 

Julie.

 

Click here to read Angie's story.

   

Please contact us at info@myfreehamilton.ca or through our Facebook page.