My name is April. I was born in Sacramento and raised by a well-intentioned, but emotionally and intellectually disabled mother, and, for the first three years of my life, by a father who turned out to be a child molester. I begin my story here to set the stage for the troubles I faced in the years to come, and to paint a picture of how absolutely doomed I was from the start. I know how negative and self-pitying that sounds, but bear with me.
When I was three years old, my mom discovered my father’s dark secret, and made one of the most important parenting choices she would ever make for me. She packed up my sister and I, filed a restraining order, and got us out of there. The next fifteen years of my life, safely protected from my father, were not all sunshine and roses as one might expect. This choice my mom had made, while wise and brave, sent her into a deep depression, and she slept for what seemed like the majority of my childhood. With that said, I had about as many responsibilities and boundaries as a stray cat. I had no chores, no rules, no guidance. As a child, I would often boast about my freedom, but inside I was screaming for someone to reign me in. I craved discipline, but never found it. Attending school and church were about the extent of my required activities. I never turned in any homework, and rarely participated in class. Nevertheless, I was passed from grade to grade without a lick of work done to deserve it.
As those my age around me learned and thrived, I was rapidly losing my sense of self-worth. I vividly remember at the age of eight, while other girls were imagining the fairytale weddings and Prince Charmings they would most certainly one day marry, I silently experienced my very first “reality check.” I realized that I may never get married. I worried that if I did, it would likely be to an abusive, alcoholic husband of whom I would live out my days in an old broken down trailer. While I recognize that material possessions and the house one lives in is not what defines us or our lives, at eight years old, it was a clear illustration that essentially meant my life–which had already gotten off to a bad start–was only going to get worse. The thought was intensely frightening, and it stayed with me for a long time stripping away any trace of hope.
A few years later, at the age of eleven, I was molested by a neighbor. I told my mom, we went to court, but we lost. By this time, I had gone through enough to build up quite a tall “I’m-too-tough-for-anything-to-hurt-me” wall around myself. I responded to this disappointment with a shrug of one shoulder and moved on. But as the years went on, I found myself angry and lost, pulling away from God more than ever. By the time I was eighteen, I hadn’t been to church in a year. I had been drunk and in dangerous situations more than my share of times. I was quickly realizing that I learned absolutely NOTHING during my eighteen years on this earth. That rusty old trailer with the mean husband inside it was becoming more and more like a best-case scenario.
After I turned eighteen, things really went downhill between my mom and me. My home quickly became a scary and unstable place, so I began staying at my best friend’s house across the street. One morning, after staying the night there, I lay on the floor thinking about my life and how much trouble I was in. My mother was essentially gone. I wouldn’t be able to stay at my friend’s house much longer as space was already cramped, and I had zero know-how of any kind–educational, real world, you name it. My worst fears were unfolding right before my eyes: I was going to be homeless. Terrified is the mildest way to describe how I felt at that moment. It was then that I stood up in a panic, and decided that the only answer was to kill myself. I stood there looking around the room, frantically scanning for anything that would do the job. There were some pills on a shelf in front of me, there were a number of items off to the left and right that showed potential, all just out of arms reach. I just stood there, my legs literally unable to move. A life of failure, and now I couldn’t even succeed at dying.
That’s when I dropped to my knees in tears and prayed for the first time in what felt like an eternity. I prayed a simple, albeit panicked prayer, over and over. “I’m scared, God. There’s no way out, there’s no way out, there’s no way out!” After a short time continuing like this, I felt a peace wash over me, and my outlook on my situation changed. Things that had seemed impossible now seemed like glimmering opportunities ripe for the picking. A few weeks later, I found myself back in church, had a job, and I was renting a room from my sister.
Immediately, all was not sunshine and roses. There were ups and downs; a few very bad relationships came and went. But at 23, I met the man I would eventually marry. He brightens my life, inspires me, and he causes me to wake each and every day thankful beyond words for the blessing I have in him. Twelve years after that panicked prayer, I find myself blissfully married, financially stable, confident, happy, healthy both mentally and physically, plus I’ve developed a great relationship with my mom.
Over the past few years, I’ve taken a number of psychology and human development classes, and every one of my text books is riddled with statistics that insist my life should not be what it is. I lived fatherless, in poverty, lacked education, was a victim of bullying, neglect, and sexual abuse. All of these factors spelled out doom for me. According to statistics, I should be a sexually dysfunctional, self-mutilating, drug addicted alcoholic prostitute living on the streets. That is, if I’d even lived to make it that far. As I read these books, my head spins with the staggering odds that were stacked against me.
I wonder how on earth I ended up where I am today. The answer is simple: my mom kept me in church. Of the many not-so-great choices she made, that one washes them all away for me, because without that, I wouldn’t be alive today. I wouldn’t have dropped to my knees in prayer on that fateful day twelve years ago, and I certainly would never have met my amazing husband. I am alive and well; the only explanation is God. There is no amount of luck that could have brought me to where I am today. I was destined for death in a world with no God. But He’s there, and because of that, so am I… against all odds.