Trigger warning – sexual abuse

My name is Brittany, and I’m 26 years old.

My start in this world wasn’t the best and was rough but I didn’t let that determine who I was or what I was capable of. I was able to fight my way through life, landed on top many times and become very successful in life and continuing to follow my dreams. I struggle with many different mental health issues that don’t make my daily life any easier. I don’t consider myself any different than anyone else in the world – maybe just special. Everyone has their own differences and that is what makes us all unique.

On a daily basis, I struggle with an eating disorder called bulimia with restriction. Eating disorders fall under the category of addiction. Many people are very undereducated about them and only think there are two types of them but in fact, there are many different types. It’s a battle and a struggle every second of the day. When I see food, it gives me anxiety and sometimes the feeling of being overwhelmed and panic.
I also struggle with PTSD, bipolar-depression, anxiety disorder and attachment disorder. With these disorders, it leaves me with nights without sleep and days where I don’t want to get out of bed. I live with flashback and nightmares. I have social anxiety so it’s hard to be around people and to make friends but with my attachment disorder, the few people I have in my life I attach to them and it gives me panic attacks thinking about losing them and server panic attacks and erratic thinking when I do lose people in my life.
These types of things are hard to overcome but not impossible and I’m not ever giving up on the hope of overcoming them. I’ve been in therapy since I was six years old and still to this day I go weekly. Some people are shamed to be in therapy but to be honest I’m not ashamed at all. For me, I know that this is what I need to be able to function and live through my daily life. I had a hard life growing up that led up to these issues. Not all mental health issues are contracted or passed on from parent’s others are brought on by life events. Overcome these illnesses you need to process through the event that brought them on.
Life is never going to go the way we want and will always come with roadblocks no matter how good we are at playing the game of life. These struggles will test you and make you question life and what you truly want but have faith that in the end, you will land on top just like I did. Nothing will be thrown at you in life that you cannot handle, just like it did for me.

It all started when my mom was pregnant with me. My dad left my mom and took my two brothers and moved away. He decided to start a new life with someone new. When he left, he didn’t believe the child she was pregnant with, which was me, was his. My mom ended up giving birth to me and was a single mom. Life is hard as a single mom and it takes a lot of sacrifices. She did the best she could to raise me with the help of her family. They did everything to make me feel loved and special just like a family would do for any child such as celebrate holidays, family get togethers, and little vacations.
My family wanted me to have a relationship with my father, so they tried to get him to be apart of my life. Since my father never came to the hospital and my mom never had a man sign my birth certificate as my father, he had strong feelings he wasn’t the father still. My father wanted a DNA test first of course so one was ordered. The DNA test did confirm that I was his child and then the journey to my life truly began.
When I was 4, my grandpa took me to my dad’s house to try and get him to spend time with me, he took me from my grandpa’s arms and took me inside and shut the door. He then contacted the police and stated that my grandpa was there trying to steal me from him, and he had the papers to prove he’s my father. The police came and told my grandpa that if he came back, he would get arrested. That was the last day I ever say my grandpa and my mom’s side of the family. In the beginning, I felt love for the first time from a father. My two brothers had grown up a lot and were doing very well.
My dad and his new wife were expecting a little girl during that time which would be their first child together. I had some behavior issues because I was scared and confused. I would act out and throw fits. I had trouble sleeping because it was a new place and wasn’t my bed that I was used to. I did cause trouble and extra stress that they defiantly didn’t see coming. Why did they just take me from my family? Will I ever see them again? At that time the answer was a big fat no.
Even though I had those issue they were open to adding me to their family in the beginning which was very exciting for me. We had some good times together as a family. We had movie night and family dinners. We played games and just spent time together like a normal family should. Everything was going well, at least I thought. After a year of living with my father and his new wife, they decided they didn’t want me no more and I was too much for them to handle. They now had their own biological daughter and no need for me. So here I am again abandoned by my father. Abandonment is the key reason to developing attachment disorders and I didn’t just deal with it once it happened many more times.

Instead of sending me back to my grandparents and mother they decided to find a different family. A different family nobody knew anything about and was a total stranger to everybody. They just packed up my stuff, the little bit I had, and shipped me off to some strangers. Maybe just maybe if they had done their research for an actual good family or returned me to my real family my life would have been totally different. But there is one thing I tell everyone, I would not go back and change anything that happened to me in my life because everything that happened in my life has turned me into the strong beautiful women I am today.
I was scared, confused and didn’t want to leave because I didn’t know these people. All these questions floating in my head while tears poured down my face. They said they were Christian and that’s all my father went off of. They must be the perfect family because they are Christian and go to church. They had two daughters of their own and wanted to add one more to the family. Everything was arranged and I was off to a new home with a new start at life.
Could this be even better than it was at my dad’s house? I missed my two brothers because they were my biological brothers and we had started to build a connection. In the beginning, everything was like a fairy tale. It was like I was one of their own biological daughters. We would go out for family outings, family dinners, celebrating holidays and camping. I got to play sports and be a regular child. Things were going better than expected but I was just a kid so what could I expect from a family at that time of age.
About a year later, they considered to permanently add me to their family. At first, I was confused and thrown off. I didn’t understand what it meant because of course, I was only six at the time. What I did know was that I enjoyed all the time I had with them and I have connected very well with their daughters. Actually, one of their daughters was six months older than me and we connected very well. We did a lot together. After some discussions, the decision was made that I would be adopted into their family.

When we went to court my grandparents, from my mom’s side of the family, had showed up to fight for me to get me back. The reason they didn’t win was because grandparents didn’t have rights at that time, so the adoption went through and I was finally apart of a family forever. For the first two years after my adoption with them, I felt loved and was treated well. All my troubles and fears had gone out the window. We had many more family camping and fishing trips, and even moved to a farm with some cool farm animals.
After two years of making memories, enjoying family time, and going on adventures things started to change. I started to be treated different than their two biological daughters and it was hard. We were the perfect family. Why did it have to change? It felt like they were more special than me now. They got gifts, a party with a big cake for their birthday but I didn’t get any of those things for mine. For Christmas they got big piles of presents and I didn’t get anything. It was hard to watch them open their presents and play all day. I couldn’t join the Easter egg hunt and just like Christmas I didn’t get a basket. What did I do so wrong? Why am I being punished like this?
I got stuck with all the animal chores and housework. If things were not done on time or as perfect as my adopted mom wanted them to be, she would hit me or grab me by my hair and drag me to the other room where I had to sit in the corner for hours while I cried. When my sisters needed clothes and shoes they got to go shopping and get brand new items. When I needed clothes, I got all their old clothes all stained and stretched out. I would be forced to go to school and out into public in stained and torn clothes, while they looked cute and fancy.
It hurt even more because they found it funny and when people looked, they would say I wasn’t theirs I was a foster child and walk off laughing leaving me crying. When people would ask if I was ok my mom would give me a mean look and pull on my arm meaning, “You better tell them yes or you will regret it later.” I learned that the hard way. Then it kept getting worse and it turned into I couldn’t eat dinner with them. They ate a good hot meal and I got stuck with the leftovers. Some days there was nothing left or just a small amount of food that you couldn’t even call a meal.
The physical abuse from my adopted mother got so bad I was left with cuts and bruises. People started to ask what was happening, but I had to lie and say I fell because if I told them it was coming from my mom, I would get it even worse the next time. My mom only hit me when my dad was at work. He would pretend he didn’t notice and wouldn’t even ask me what happened. That’s how I knew that he was aware of what was happening, but he didn’t care. Even their daughters ignored it even though they saw it firsthand. They would even lie to people saying I fell or did it to myself just to protect their mom. They never got one hand placed on them.
There were nights I went to bed with no dinner or they would want to go out and do something fun and I would get locked in my room while they were gone. I tried to jump out my window one day while they were out, but I didn’t get far because I hurt my ankle by jumping off the roof. After that, they screwed my window shut. I felt like I was in the movie Cinderella; having to do everything for everyone else and always must be alone and treated differently. It’s the only way to describe it.
In my head, I thought things couldn’t get any worse than what they already were, but I was wrong. I thought that my mom was the only bad person in the picture but later my dad showed a different side of him no one else knew about or at least pretended to know about. He started to molest me. Every night my dad would come up to my room and crawl in bed with me. It started off with him just touching me and making me touch him then it increased into full intercourse. I would cry and try to get away, but he would pin me down and tell me if I made one sound, he would beat me. He said if I told anyone I would regret it and would never see the light of day again.
Why did this have to happen? What did I do to deserve this? A little after the sexual abuse started, I turned 11 years old and hit puberty early. My father knew that but continued to sexual abuse me which led to me becoming pregnant. Now they had messed up and found their selves trapped. They took me to the doctor and made me get an abortion. Soon after DCFS opened an investigation and someone finally believed me when I told them what was happening. My eating disorder began shortly after my stay with this family. From being denied food, going long periods without food, and the sexual abuse with the abortion affected how I looked at food and saw myself on the outside.
Even though I was saved from all the abuse I was placed into foster care. Growing up in foster care is rough for many reasons. As we get older its harder to find families who will take a teenager into their home. You are brought into a family’s home that you don’t know, and they know very little about you. Sometimes they have their own children and sometimes they have other foster children. If a family has other children, we must get to know them on top of getting to know the parents of the home. We must learn how to share space, toys, attention, and love from the mother and father.

It’s even harder when they have biological children living with them versus other foster children because they have that love and bond that we will never have. The biggest fear is that one of the other children, biological or foster, will be favored and treated better. If it’s another foster child, you kind of fear that they will be favored more since they had it worse than you. If other foster children are there, it’s not as hard to get along because we both have had a rough past so most the time we can relate and use each other for support.
When you move around a lot and have nothing stable it is hard for us to trust anyone so not only can we be a support to each other we can finally feel a little peace because we are dealing with the same issue and understands you more than anyone else. It’s hard to talk to the family about your past which means we are holding in everything so it’s nice to have a little relief. One other hurdle that comes with changing families is remembering the new rules and new routines. There are some that are the same at each home but there is always something new to add.
Those are the two biggest hurdles that come along with foster care but then you must factor in the child’s age. There are toddlers, young teens that are under 16, and then the older teens that are over 16. Toddlers have no idea what’s going on so it’s not as confusing for them and they settle in faster and adjust easier. As we get older and can understand what is going on around us such as teenagers, it creates more trust issues, anger, hurt, being scared and confusion because they still have no control or say over what is happening.
When I entered the system, I was old enough to register what was going on so as I got older it was the same thing over and over. To me, it was like the new norm in my life which caused a lot of anger. I could not trust anyone and because I tried in my past and just got cut off and lied to it just made me quit trying and built up a wall. Again, this is where part of my attachment disorder came in once again. Being thrown away like I don’t matter.

I remember lying in bed at night tears pouring down my face because I was all alone and had no one. I felt invisible and there were times I didn’t want to live no more because I saw no end to this. I would pray to God asking him why this was the life he wanted to give me. Telling him I give up, throwing in the towel because I’m hurting and suffering too much. Just asking him to take my life away and let me rest in peace with no more pain and suffering. It got so bad I tried to commit suicide and started to self-harm. I was scared to sleep because I feared my foster dad would come in and treat me how my adopted dad did in my past had. I also feared what tomorrow may hold and if tomorrow I would have to pack my bags once again and be moved to a new home. This was where my PTSD really started to kick in. I feared everything even the smallest things such as just sleeping.
I would always wonder when this cycle would end. Will I ever be good enough to be loved like I deserved to be? Why can’t I be loved like everyone else out in this world? Why don’t they love me? Why do they not see I’m a good girl who just needs to be loved for the first time? Why won’t you keep me? Please just tell me so I can fix it! I promise I’ll be better and will change whatever you want me to! I’ll do extra chores and make the house sparkle because it’s so clean. I’ll be quiet and won’t ask for anything. I promise, just don’t send me away! It’s all my fault. All I want is a forever home where I can settle in, make friends, and feel that never-ending love every child deserves to feel.
These thoughts are not just the ones in my head but almost every child out there living in foster care experiencing this same never-ending cycle. It’s sad and hard to hear or even think about but it’s the truth.
Now I was a teenager and don’t have a single family that wants me. This situation happens to teenagers because we aren’t small and cute no more. We have some anger and have behavioral issues because of our past and no one wants to deal with, so they say. We don’t just eat and sleep like babies. We are active, eat more, need more and must go to school. The only other option for us is to be placed in a residential or group home. For me, I didn’t end up in a nice one. I was placed in a lockdown residential that felt like jail. What did I do so wrong or bad to be put in a place like this instead of a nice one with more freedom?
I had to ask to do everything, even as small as going to the bathroom because it was always locked. In order to shower, do laundry, or make a phone call we had to sign up on a list and there were only certain times during the day we can do any of these things. I couldn’t even be in my room when I wanted to. We had groups all day every day and it was always the same thing. For our meals, they were scheduled and had less than 30 minutes to eat because we had to be out of the cafeteria for the next group of kids came to eat. The food that was served was cafeteria food that a public school serves and looked like jail food at times. If you didn’t like what was being served for that meal or not hungry then you don’t eat. If we are going to a different area in the building, we had to stand in line facing front and don’t even think about making a sound. We never got to go outside unless you were on level three which was hard to earn.
I know your probably shaking your head right now thinking there is no such place like this except jail or mental hospital but there are. Not every place out there is this bad, but they aren’t fancy and let you do whatever you wanted either. Everyone teaches different or think certain ways of raising kids are better than other ways, so you won’t find a place that is the exact same. I remember if we missed behaved or tried to fight, we would be restrained by big men until we settled down or would listen and most the time, we were given medication that makes us relax and most likely sleep for a few hours.

I did have bad anger issues and would take my anger out on other people and staff that didn’t do anything to me just because I was hurting so bad inside. The cycle just would never end. This is something that needs to be fixed because no child should have to feel like we are being punished because their family wasn’t fit for having children. You take us away from them to help us have a better life and not have to be hurt no more but then we are put through all this craziness and have nothing stable. Yes, some children are very lucky to get adopted and find the right family but those are usually the young ones leaving teenagers with no family to love and love them back. For the unlucky ones, they must struggle with the pain and hurt till they are old enough to live on our own and even after that we still are set up to fail and struggle.
I will admit my anger problems, behavioral issues, and my way of coping was not acceptable, but I had all that pain from the environment I grew up in where they took their anger and feelings out on me. As we get older, we learn it’s not right to handle our feelings in that way and must try and change that but its ten times harder than a child who grew up in a loving home with their parents by their side the whole time because they had all the nonstop love and support.
As I got older and was in the residential for about two years, I started seeing people being discharged to their family or to a group home with more freedom and it started to make me rethink my life and behaviors. I was just going in circles with my behavior and treatment and it wasn’t landing me anywhere. I started to think what I wanted in my future and where I would like to be is five or ten years. In the beginning, I couldn’t see much and even the stuff I wish would happen I didn’t have faith it would or could happen. My independence had been taken away from me for so long that I didn’t know what I wanted and if I would ever make it out on my own. I wanted to succeed and get better but I didn’t know how to get there.

I struggled with excepting what happened to me when I was younger just because it felt like a punishment. I was the one who had to suffer not them. While I was checking myself and figuring out what I truly wanted in the future it finally settled in my mind I had no control when I was younger, but I am in control of my life at this moment and everything into the future. I can sit here and continue living the way I was by fighting, acting like a child, and continue to point the finger at other people or I can stand up for myself and fight to get better and have the future I want to have since my childhood was chosen for me.
I started gathering myself together by changing my attitude towards people and the way I looked at certain things in my life. At that point I was able to get better control of my actions and anger. I started to be open about my abuse and all the feelings it came with. For the first time I was smiling, laughing, and enjoying the day instead of wishing it would just end. I didn’t feel all the pain and suffering anymore because I wasn’t letting my past control me anymore. I finally felt hopeful and saw the light at the end of the tunnel for the first time. I was making so much progress with healing that I finally made it to the day I would be transferred to a group home that would give me back my independence that I had worked hard for. It would be another place to adjust too but it was going to be a lot easier and faster than all my other transitions. The only concern going into this new place was going to a new school because at the residential I was coming from; the school was super different and didn’t allow me to get my credits that I needed to graduate.
When it comes to school and education while growing up in foster care it can be hard to keep up and on track. The main thing that makes it hard is how many times you must change schools. The more transfers you have the bigger chance of being behind where you should be for your age and grade in school. The more behind you are the harder it is to catch up and makes it harder to able to graduate on time and get that diploma. I had changed schools about five times and every school was way different and that can also be part of reason you’re not where you should be in school. Children who grow up in these situations are more than likely to drop out due to lack of faith, determination and not having the option to get extra help or tutoring.
The group home really helped me become independent because their groups were not all therapy type of groups. The type of groups they had focused more on independence and how to express yourself and cope in a positive way. I loved the activity therapist because she always had something extremely fun but also educational. I feel I learned more from that group home than I did at the residential.
Before going there, I never knew how to manage money, buying all your needs instead of wants and how to keep track of the money you spend and have. We got allowances based on the chores we did and in order to be able to except the money you had to add it to your checkbook and have the correct balance. They kept all your money but if you needed some cash for fun or personal reasons you had to only fill out a money slip, then subtract it from your check book and have it match their records. I loved that method because it helped me, even today, to keep track of the money I had and where its being spent.

For my school situation it did turn out I was behind, but I just kept thinking of my future and what I wanted. I even laid out a plan of how I was going to do things and what I needed for me to have everything to graduate. My main issue was my reading level. I was more advance in math, science, and especially gym because who doesn’t love gym. Since my reading level was lower than it should be at, I really struggled reading out loud. Sometimes in class we would take turns reading out loud and I would struggle on small words that they knew so they would laugh and make fun of me. It was hard but I didn’t let it get to me, I used that anger humiliation to push myself harder. The more reading I did in my free time the better I got. I asked for extra credit and extra homework assignments to help me get to where I needed to be in high school.
The second year at that school and group home I had all my credits and could graduate but I ran into a big issue, the whole time I was in institutions I never attended any of the meetings regarding my future, which was a huge mistake. I didn’t know how serious those meetings were and that I had the right to go. If I would have known I would have been in those meetings every single time. The only one I attended was about my transition to the group home. These meetings are very important, and I learned the hard way. My advice to every teen or child that is old enough and growing up in DCFS is to go to those meetings and to take full advantage of them because then you will be able to voice your needs and help plan everything coming for you.
Since I never attended or asked questions I didn’t know that as soon as I take my high school diploma, I would have to leave the group home and I had no family or friends on the outside, I would need my own apartment. I had no money saved and no job. When I went to the meeting, I found out I could push my diploma back a year and continue to take extra classes while I found a job and saved money. I made the decision to push my diploma back one year, so I had a place to live.
I tutored students in the morning because there were students about to fail that year and I wanted to see them graduate with me. In the afternoon I went to Community of Lake County College and took the certified nursing assistant program which was a 16-week course. My school paid for my program and I was very appreciative of that. Other students at my high school saw I was taking college classes and it motivated those students, that had all their credits, to go take a college course. Since a group of students were taking college classes I created a college support group in the morning once a week before we left that day to help support each other, learn how to deal and talk through problems that would pop up at the college they needed help with or addressing.
My school also helped me get a job shadow at an assistant living close by to see how it is to work there and hopefully land a job there after I finished my college course. I was very honored when they offered me a full-time job. I worked my hardest every shift because I didn’t want to lose my job and wanted to prove to everyone, I was a fighter. When I took my board exam I passed and scored top 5 out of 300 people that day.
Soon after I got my job at the assisted living and I started saving money for my apartment I needed to learn how to leave on my own and take care of myself totally on my own. Learn how to cook meals, shop for my food, and even pay my own bills. The group home put me into a little apartment program that taught me how to do all of that. Also, they taught me how to take public transportation because when I leave and I’m on my own I won’t have people to drive me around and I had medical issue that prevented me from getting my driver’s license.
It was hard to get use to entertaining myself, getting up without staff waking me up, getting to work on time and everything else. At the end I felt confident I could make it on my own and I knew all the things I needed to know for me to succeed on my own. I eventually found an apartment and thanks to the community and the teachers at the school I was able to furnish my place and have the basic needs. Shortly after everything was lined up, graduation day came, and I graduated top of the class. I was even lucky enough to become the class speaker, but the best part was that the two people I tutored graduated with me. That made me so happy that I was able to help them succeed.
The day I moved into my own place, it was very scary because I didn’t have a lot of outside support. All I had was myself and my job. I stayed on track with my bills and made it to work every shift on time and picked up extra shifts because I wanted to make sure I had money to keep everything on the right track. I was lucky to make a few friends at work because it’s hard for me to make friends and keep friends due to my anxiety and past.
One of the people I made friends with at my job made a huge impact on my life. CB and I became very close. We spent a lot of time together and it was nice because I never really had a real friend before. It made me look forward to going to work every day. He was aware of my situation and the group home, but he was ok with it. He accepted me for everything I had going on in my life.
After about 6 months of leaving the group home and being on my own I got laid off work because of my health issues and missing a lot of days of work. I didn’t know about unemployment benefits or any programs that help in a situation like this. Sadly, that was one thing I didn’t learn and wish I had. I had no income or any way to pay my bills and rent so I ended up homeless. I thought I was ready and knew everything I needed to know but I didn’t. I didn’t know about unemployment that could have helped me with money and keeping up with my bills. CB had tried to help with small stuff, and I was so grateful for it.
But about a month after I got an eviction notice and lost my apartment and became homeless. I was back to square one. I put all my stuff in storage and landed in a teen shelter on the northside of the Chicago called Night Ministry. The place was decent and full of nice people and I landed with a nice caseworker, but I felt like I was back in residential and I hated it. I ended up meeting someone at a park and decided that I learned I shouldn’t have and moved in with that person.
It was a big mistake and regretted it later. That person kicked me out and threw all my stuff away. CB had warned me about making decisions like that, but I didn’t listen to him I just wanted out of the shelter. After the person kicked me out, I was back to on the street again. I ended up homeless for three years. I was in and out of shelters, sleeping in the park or on the CTA trains on days I couldn’t get into a shelter or didn’t have enough money for a motel room.
I didn’t want to rely on CB all the time. He did so mush for me already that he didn’t need to. He had his own life but went out of his way to make sure I was good. I was losing hope and feeling I would never have my own place of mine and will live on the streets the rest of my life. After a while of feeling hopeless I remembered how school made me feel because I loved to learn and thought there was always something new and helpful to learn. It gave me motivation, so I found a school to do medical billing and coding online.
While I was in school for that degree, I made a friend at a library who offered to help me get back on me feet and offered me to stay with her. I was so grateful for the help. Now I had two friends. Gave me a little more faith that things could turn around for me. I didn’t want to lose her. Soon after things had started falling into place a big tragedy happened.

During the fall of 2013 me and my friend were heading back to her house after Sunday dinner with her family. We got into a bad car accident on the south side of Chicago. It was a four-car collision and it was caused by two separate drunk drivers. I was the only survivor out of 5 people. My friend made it to the hospital but died the next day. I woke up four days later in ICU with a breathing tube and many other things. The biggest and hardest thing I was told was that I was paralyzed from the waist down and my left arm. I had memory loss and a brain bleed. The bleeding stopped on its own and didn’t need surgery, but it left me with seizures for the rest of my life.
I lost my best friend. I couldn’t remember anything. I was so scared because they couldn’t tell me if I would be able to walk or move my arm again. I was in the hospital for 2 months and then transferred to a nursing home for physical therapy and because I had no home to go to. I was depressed and wanted to die. I lost all I had and might not be able to walk again. I was only 20 and had so much life to live.
I had to take a break with school, and they gave me the option that if I return within one year of my last day, I would be able to start from where I stopped at. I laid in bed for weeks hardly talking to anyone or eating. I didn’t want to do physical therapy or anything. Then I started to remember everything I have been through in my life and reminded myself I made it through that, and I can make it through this.
After several months in the nursing home and doing physical therapy there I began to be able to my arm. I was still not able to move my legs or feel them, but I could move my arm and my memory was coming back. I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel and started to fight for what I wanted hard. I was for sure I would lose CB through all of this. Who would want to be a friend with someone in a wheelchair, on oxygen, and can’t walk?
While at the nursing home I decided to go back and finish school online. School gave me hope that if I keep fighting anything could happen. My doctors told me there’s a “Possibility” I wouldn’t be able to walk again which meant maybe one day I would. I started to put everything I could into physical therapy and about six months later I was starting to feel my legs and my arm but most of all I could walk with help and support.
It was still a long road for me, but it was happening. I fought through all the pain and finally after almost a year and a half of nonstop work I finished school and was almost done with physical therapy. I was walking again with no help and even off my oxygen. Then I was hit with the news my insurance gave out and I couldn’t stay much longer. They got me into a medical shelter, so I wasn’t totally out on the streets.

I stayed there for a few months trying to find a way to get into my own apartment and to find a job again. I found a nanny job on craigslist and called up the family. I could live there in exchange I just need to watch their kids during the day. It sounded easy enough and I loved kids so for me it was the perfect match. I packed up my stuff at the shelter and headed out to the family’s place. The only thing I didn’t like was how far on the southside it was.
At the beginning I loved it. It was wonderful. The kids we super easy to take care of and watch they followed directions well and caused no trouble and they seemed to love me too. But after a few weeks’ things started to change. They took my medication from me and wouldn’t give it to me. Medication I needed everyday for my sleep, PTSD, and seizures. Then the man of the house became abusive. It was like I was back at my adopted families house all over again. I wasn’t allowed to leave the house or anything. CB would come by to pick me up and go out and I wasn’t allowed to leave they would lock the door.
One day I managed to escape. The man of the house was at work. I sent the kids over to their neighbor’s house and packed a bag and went to the hospital to get help. I didn’t care if I got my other stuff back, I just wanted to be safe. The hospital called the police and a case was opened. The father was arrested, and the kids were taken away while there was an investigation. It turned out that he was a very abusive guy. He used to beat the kids and had a long history of domestic violence. I was safe at last and was a sent to a domestic shelter for my safety.
The shelter was amazing. The people were so nice. It was just a huge house hidden so no one could find an of us. My caseworker was the best. They helped you find a new safe place to live and help you get back on your feet. The other residents there were also so nice. They knew exactly how I felt and was on the same page. It didn’t feel like a residential it felt like a peaceful place to just come and relax and figure your life out.
About two months into this shelter program I fell down their steps in the house. I was rushed to the hospital in so much pain. I was scared what just happened. My hip relapsed and became week. Test were done and it turned out my pelvic had shifted and I need rehab again. I did all this work for nothing. Everything was finally going well. Was closer to getting my own place again and now I can’t walk and must go back to a nursing home.

I was in the hospital for a month doing their intense rehab program and made some progress while they found a nursing home that would except me and my insurance. I spent my 22nd birthday in the nursing home just like the 20th and 21st. I was grateful for everyone who was on my side and helping me, but I couldn’t help the keep thinking this was just going to be the same cycle my whole life. I only had one person in my life, and I kept thinking soon that would be over just because of the life I live and all the bumps in my road that I have hit.
The first day I arrived I just kept to myself. I was scared and already didn’t like it because I thought it was a full medical nursing home, but it was only one medical floor and the rest of the building was a physic nursing home for people with mental health issues and can’t live on their own. Is this what they think I am. Someone who has mental help issue and is homeless because of them. They don’t know me I remember saying to myself. I just wanted to do my physical therapy and just leave and didn’t care if I was back on the street because it wasn’t for my mental illness it was because I lot my job and had health issues that made it hard to work and now be not being able to walk.
The second day there really shocked me. I was taken up to my caseworker’s office, the one who will be working with me while I stay at the nursing home. After speaking with him about my life growing up and how I ended up homeless and what I wanted out of life he put a referral in for low income housing. I was still young and eventually would be able to live on my own. About a month after putting in my referral for housing they came and did my assessment and they agreed I qualified.
Shortly after moving into the nursing home I decided to look for my biological family on Facebook. I came across my father and his wife and reached out to them. I didn’t expect a reply but after three days of waiting I got an answer. They were happy to speech with me and wanted to get tot know me. I was hesitant and couscous going into it because of my past with them. The main reason I wanted to find them and reach out was that I wanted answers.
About a week or two after we started speaking to each other they decided to drive to the nursing home to meet me and talk. I was super nervous, but I had a bunch of support from the nursing home staff and caseworkers. The first visit went well which then led to three more. I even got to meet my brothers again and their two daughters. One of my brothers is a firefighter and the other one is a tattoo artist. I even got my first tattoo from my brother.
Everything started to fall back into place after that. I fought through therapy once again and while I was in therapy, we looked for an apartment I liked. I finally found a big nice one on Chicago’s northside that I really likes and put in my application. The building manager excepted my application, and I was so excited. It had been almost four years since I had my own place. There was so many worries on top of all the excitement, but I knew this time I wouldn’t lose my apartment.
The program bought me everything I needed for my new place because I lost everything from my first place. I got new bedroom furniture, living room furniture, all the kitchen supplies you could ever need, plus $300 worth of food. I wasn’t expecting all of that, but I couldn’t be anymore grateful. I think they got tired of the words thank you. I remember the day I moved it. I couldn’t have been so excited. I was scared because I would be on my own again and only have myself to rely on, but I did have a case management team that would check on me every day.
The first year I didn’t want to leave my place because I was scared something would happen to me or my place. I was just homeless for three years I didn’t want to be homeless again. After a while I got use to my apartment and I got over the fear of losing my home and started to leave my house and have fun. The only thing that wasn’t going well no more was the relationship with my dad. Things started to fade, and they became distant. They wouldn’t let me come meet other family members and they also wouldn’t let me come to my sister’s wedding. It was like they were trying to hide me. I ended cutting things off because I was tired of being hid from the family and they just weren’t trying to spend time with me anymore. It hurt because all I wanted was to be loved.
Even though it hurt to let them go I had to because it would just hurt me more than benefit me. I decided to keep my head up and keep pushing forward. Down the line I started meeting people and I met another special person to me. Someone who changed me for the better and to this day continues to push me to better myself. Darren came into my life and things were different, he was my strength when all I saw was weakness. He pushed and motivated me when all I wanted to do was throw in the towel and give up.
There have been multiple times where life has become too much for me to bare and I have made bad decisions. My mental health has taken over sometimes. Times where I can’t think clearly and just want to end it all. Even through all that Darren was there for me. He was there when I was admitted to the psych hospital and everyone else judge and left me. He never switched up. He pulled me put of the house after the year of not wanting to leave my place.

2018 my biological mom’s side of the family found me on Facebook. My aunt found me and sent me a message. I was scared to respond because I feared it would be like the reconnection with me dad and his wife and children. I didn’t want to be set up to be ripped apart again. As soon as me and my aunt started to talk the word got out to the rest of the family and I started to get messages left and right. It was overwhelming but nice all at once because I had many family members no just one or two. Only my grandparents lived by me everyone else lived in different states. To me it was more of a relief because not everyone would be trying to rush me and meet me.
It’s been four years since the nursing home, and I’ve done so much stuff to better my life. Since moving out of the nursing home I have made friends and have a good support system. I worked with a few different animal rescues and shelters. I fostered many cats and dogs and even had two foster fails which left me with my two spoiled kitties Lola and Princess. I’ve done a lot of volunteering at nursing homes, nurseries, and animal shelters. Lastly and shockingly I’ve held a few jobs. I still have some health issue that I struggle with every day, but it doesn’t hold me back.
I’ve gone back to college became a surgical technologist. I offered for part of my family to come and see me graduate because I never had anyone come see me finish or graduate school. Thankfully my grandparents and one of my aunts and her two kids came and saw me and that was the best day of my life.
I did my externship for surgical technologist and was even offered a job at Lurie Children’s hospital downtown Chicago in 2018. After exploring that field for a little bit and seeing that my body can handle the standing, I had to move on. I just started school at Coyne college to become a medical assistant. My biggest life lesson was to never give up. There were so many times that I did give up on life for a little bit, but I got back up and proved to myself and others I am a fighter and if you fight you will win.
February of 2019, I got to meet my biological mom. It was scary and it gave me a ton of anxiety. Its been over 20 years. It went well though and we continue to talk every day. It was scary at first, but we have a lot in common just like a real mom and daughter should. It weird how much we have in common for how long we have been apart and no connection.
I have learned that family doesn’t have to be blood. Family can be whoever you want it to be if you love and care for each other and never leave each other’s side even during the hardest times in life. Today I am still living and pushing through life. I am proud to say I have 5 things in the medical field with a job offer at the best children’s hospital in Chicago and the place I have always dreamed of working at. I do have my days that I still deal with anxiety, PTSD, my eating disorder and depression.
I still go to therapy weekly and not ashamed of it. I will always be proud of how far I have come in my life. I never saw myself making it this far in life and standing where I am at today and I couldn’t be happier. I was a victim of many bad things but today and forever I will be a survivor. I have made it through everything thrown at me and continued to fight because I had faith. If I can overcome all these things, I know in my heart everyone else can live and survive anything if they continue to have hope. There were three people who have made me look at life differently and I don’t think I would be here if it wasn’t for them.
I want to thank Susan Smith from North Shore Academy in Highland Park for helping me get into college and made sure I had supported all the way through. She pushed me and encouraged me while I lived at the group home and she has made a big impact on my life. I am very happy we have stayed in contact. I’m also thankful for Darren Beasley who has been my rock and my shoulder for the two past years. He was with me all through my college program and watched me graduate in March 2018. If I didn’t have him I would have dropped out of school but he wouldn’t let me. He is my family and I couldn’t ask for a better friend and support because he is everything I need.
The best advice I have for the world is to not give up. I have hit rock bottom so many times and gave up many times, but I followed that very small amount of hope I did have and now, I’m on top. It doesn’t matter how small or big the roadblock is you can overcome them. It doesn’t matter how minor you think your needs or wants are it doesn’t hurt to speak up and ask for help. Asking for help or admitting you need help doesn’t make you weak. This is your life stand up tall, own it, and take control. You know what is best for you and only you. I want to see more children succeed and be able to say, “I did it’ and that you are a survivor. Keep your head up you got this.
My life was a huge rollercoaster and didn’t know where I would end up years from then, but I would never change anything that happened to me or anything I had to go through because it made me who I am today. I am a strong, beautiful, independent, women but most of all I am a survivor.

Brittany Bedford is a mental health and abuse advocate from Chicago, Illinois. She enjoys motivational speaking and standing up for those who may not have a voice or suffer in silence. She currently attends college to seek a career in the medical field. She has lived with mental illness her whole life but never let it stop her from living her life dreams. No bump in the road is too big for her to overcome. She was once a victim of many horrible things but now and always will be a survivor.