I'm a woman incarcerated in the United States, and this is my story

I had to tell myself that I’m worth something, that I have a purpose!

From the beginning of my life, I was under the impression that I wasn’t wanted, that I was a mistake. My father told me the story of how my mom had my sister and then my brother and when she got pregnant again they decided to have an abortion. That took a major life-altering toll on my mother– Depression ate her alive. It ate at them both.

From that day forward they decided to use condoms. One night they were being intimate and the condom popped. My mother ended up pregnant once again, this time with me. The abortion had them so depressed that they refused to do it again, so they had me. A couple of months after I was born my mom started having severe headaches. Doctors didn’t know what it was and she ended up with a chemical imbalance and permanently losing her mind. I never remember spending one day with her normal and I grew up blaming myself for years. I regretted being born because I felt like my birth took her life away. I lived feeling like a walking mistake.

My mother’s mental unstableness made my father leave and it got us taken from her. She had been living in motels with us and when she’d run out of money she’d end up sleeping on a bus bench with us and that caused him to file for custody. My mother, my brother and I were in a motel one night enjoying and loving being with each other when we heard a knock on the door.

The man said 3 letters that I didn’t know the meaning of but my mom obviously did because she broke out in the loudest cry I ever heard til this day. At the age of 5 it made me ask her if she wanted us to hide. She said “No, they already know you’re here” and I started crying. I felt in the pit of my soul that my life would never be the same. She let the two men in who said they were from HRS. She told us to go with them. They told my brother and I that they were taking us to see Ninja Turtles.

My brother got excited, but even though I was three years younger than him I knew better. The car ride was long and I knew we should’ve been there by then– My foolish brother was still excited until we ended up at some random house a foster home. It was only for a week but it felt like much longer and I cried the hardest cry that I’ve ever cried for my mother. I couldn’t imagine the emptiness and sadness that my mother felt.

But years later I would feel the same sadness for my own daughter.

HRS wouldn’t be the ones to take her from me. My own mistakes would.

I first learned what it felt like to be lied to thanks to those two HRS guys. After my father married my physically and mentally abusive stepmother I then learned what it felt like to have pure hatred for another human being. I remember getting beat like a dog when I was just in preschool for not wearing underwear when actually I did– I was embarrassed about peeing on myself during nap time so I threw them away. Either way it was a beating that no child should have to endure at that age.

Later on in my childhood I’d been beat with my own crutches in the parking lot at school for bringing a stink bomb to P.E. I’d been kicked in the stomach into the wall leaving a huge hole for the sink being wet after she had me clean the bathroom, not knowing that my brother had just washed his hands. I’d been beat badly for a piece of her favorite ice cream cake being missing when I told the truth about it not being me– My brother admitted to it a little to late. I got beat with a broom, an extension cord, a belt til I had weps, had a butcher knife pulled on me. She attempted to feed me raw chicken one night all just because I was a child that she didn’t conceive. I felt her hatred towards me and in turn I had it back for her.

My stepmother did have a daughter that she conceived in a previous marriage whom she and my father spoiled. When my stepsister went to college it was an out of town college that also came with a car. When I made it to college it was a community one that came with a monthly bus pass and the same clothes I wore in middle school. This brought me to the feeling of envy and jealousy that sparked every negative criminal thought in my mind that I try to ward off til this day.

The beatings stopped when I turned a crazy fed-up 16-year-old and stood my ground.

It was around the same time when we caught her sneaking around, smoking cigarettes and doing cocaine in our backyard when our dad was at work. Years later I would learn the cocaine rage when I became addicted to it. The beatings stopped but other hateful things kept happening that brought me to the point of actually plotting to murder her in her sleep. But my father who I loved having been in the bed next to her– that saved her.

But it didn’t save me, because once my mind and soul let those thoughts through they kept coming. I had started hating people, period. I felt like if my stepmother hated me so much then surely complete strangers did as well. I grew numb, cold, calculating. I plotted on robbing everyone from strippers, to banks, to old helpless people. I never did, and I felt bad about even thinking about doing that to old people and I never let that cross my mind again. I dropped out of college for being too embarrassed about the bus and middle school clothes and joined the Coast Guard. I requested to be stationed in my hometown of Miami but was stationed in Charleston instead.

I had never been away from home before, so I stayed in for a year, but I began to suffer severe depression, terrible seasickness, and separation anxiety for my dad and brother. It got so bad that for the first time I contemplated suicide and again, once those thoughts entered, they would remain. I got out after feeling forced to get a dishonorable discharge since there was no other possible way to get out. It was like joining a damn gang– once you’re in, you’re in.

I moved in with my oldest brother, one because I messed up and didn’t save any money (I blew it not thinking about my future), and two because my stepmother made my father move into a one-bedroom so that I couldn’t move back. My brother stayed in what is known as the hood. His spot was where a major number of drug dealers and users came, which led to my newfound fondness for selling drugs and using some as well. When I saw my other brother whom I always looked up to, the one that use to get abused alongside me, snorting cocaine, I wanted to try it just to feel closer to him because his addiction drew him from me. So I did and it was the biggest mistake of my life! He introduced me to smoking powder cocaine in cigarettes which made me not want any other drug. It took full control over me, and I did things I never would’ve done sober. I sold people fake drugs, stole, pulled a gun on two different guys attempting to rob them, became homeless, and lost my apartments several times. I even slept outside once.

Then, I created a child when I was at a point in life where I didn’t even like men sexually.

I was high, drunk, and did something with a friend that I wouldn’t have done on the regular. But I love my daughter, and I refuse to call it a mistake, especially since I know too well what it felt like to feel like a mistake. I’d never tell her that story.

I raised my child alone– her father went to prison and I never heard anything else from him. I struggled with postpartum depression, addiction, and raising her. I took us through a lot, even ending up like my mother, sleeping in motels. I sold drugs to keep a roof over our heads but used most of the money for an addiction I wished so many nights to kick.

I landed in jail for stabbing a customer in the hand for owing me money for drugs and telling me that he would pay me “when he felt like it, if he felt like it.” I lost it– I snapped from the lack of sleep, the cocaine rage, and for the complete disrespect. I’d been nothing but respectful and generous when every other dealer treated buyers like scum. I was arrested and then bonded out. When I got out my dad had me released to a halfway house/drug program, and kids weren’t allowed which had me depressed once again.

My daughter stayed with a distant cousin who really didn’t want to take care of her. One day when my cousin dropped my daughter off I noticed how hungry she was and how she kept scratching her legs. I asked why she kept wearing pants every time I saw her and if she’d eaten and taken a shower. She told me that she barely eats anything, that she’s always hungry and that she doesn’t get to bathe every day, which made my heart drop. So I told her I would give her a bath before they came back to pick her up and to be patient, that I would work on getting my own place so I could get her back. When I took her clothes off to put her in the tub my soul almost left me when I saw the huge golf ball size ringworm looking sores going from both of her thighs all the way down to her feet.

She couldn’t stop scratching.

My poor baby girl had been suffering because of my failure, because of my addiction, and because of a lack of love from another family member. It crushed me, it made me snap beyond how I snapped when I stabbed the customer. I saw red. I wanted my cousin dead but did nothing to her; instead, I plotted a robbing spree to get the money up as fast as possible to get my own place. I had to get her out of there fast.

The night that I went to do the robbery I stopped by to visit my daughter first, and the room where she was staying felt so spooky and lonely that it fired me up more. When it was time for me to leave she clung to me crying– the same cry that I remembered doing when HRS came to the motel for my brother and me. It scared me to the core. It was like she knew her life wouldn’t be the same either.

I forced myself to leave her side despite my gut telling me not to. When I arrived in the area where the robbery of a drug dealer that I dealt with was supposed to take place he wasn’t answering. It made me want to turn around. It was a sign. After blowing up his phone he answered, changing the location from a gas station to his house. I was afraid of the guy that was driving me. He didn’t want to turn back so I felt forced to go through with it. When we arrived the person who answered the door for me gave me the warmest greeting ever. When he turned his back for me to follow him in, I pulled out the gun with tears in my eyes. When he turned around I told him that I was sorry, that I’d replace everything I take.

He tried to grab the gun from me, and then he went around on the side of the bed reaching under the bed for his gun. I kept asking him to stop moving, and when I tried to adjust the gun in my hand cuz I had been holding it up for a good minute it fired. He screamed, which made me run outside. I thought damn I can’t leave him like that so I ran back to see if he was hit and instead of him being where I left him he was in the doorway, smack dead in front of my face which startled me and caused me to fire two shots for real this time. I blacked out after that and emptied the clip on him as he kept repeating to me “you killed me, you just killed me.” It took his wife who was sitting up in bed yelling my name to snap me out of it. Once I heard her I grabbed a huge plate of cocaine and ran out because I thought about the killer in the driver’s seat who I didn’t want to explain a complete file up to so I got it for him and the person who’s gun was used.

I couldn’t stop crying.

I knew my life was over. I knew I let my daughter down worse than I ever had and I wanted to die in that moment. I tried to tell my dad who I knew would love me no matter how far gone I was, no matter how bad I messed up, but he said the less he knew the better.

I was on my own on the run and weary. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I regretted it so bad because it was someone that I didn’t want to hurt, I had considered that drug dealer a father figure at one point. I was so affected in more ways than one but the most so spiritually– I did what only should be God’s doing and almost took a life. Every day that I walked the streets after that no matter the time of day the sky was literally dark, like it was a rainy day every day, until the day that I went on my victim’s Facebook page and found out that he was in stable condition.

I prayed, thanking God for saving him. I prayed from my soul in a way that I’d never prayed before. I knew in my soul that I meant that prayer, that I was truly grateful that I didn’t take his life. And in that very second of me praying — God strick me dead if its a lie — I saw with my eye’s a black veil literally lift from in front of me and everything around me the room, the sky, everything was brightly lit again. Everything around me had literally been dark and gloomy, like it was about to storm outside, and the second I said that prayer it was gone and I felt my soul again.

I felt that I still had my life, but not the life on earth.

No, I was feeling that I would still have a promised life beyond this world. When the guy whose gun it was told me that he found out the person was stable I responded saying “I know, thank God” and he looked at me like I’d lost my mind. From that point I knew I wouldn’t let no one else lead me in the wrong direction, and I knew that I was done with my cocaine addiction permanently and I never touched it since.

I was arrested, sentenced to 15 years away from my precious daughter which was and still is devastating, but in the midst, I was spiritually awakened. I’ve changed mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I’m not depressed and suicidal or full of anger and hatred like I used to be. I’m mature now, I’m far more patient, caring, loving, and opened minded. I also know that I’m not a mistake, because I too changed a couple of lives at one point in time. I stopped a young boy in the middle of a robbing spree as he rode around on a bike, pulling a gun out on people, walking around demanding cell phones and cash. I boldly approached him, both hands in the air with complete disregard for my own life, just to talk him into the right path. He put his gun down, he listened, and never went back out robbing again.

My daughter is in awesome hands and standing strong waiting for me to come home. She’s not a mistake. It was her that took me off the even more reckless path that I was on before her birth. She’s been my calming point, and my motivation. I have a purpose!

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