Updated: Jul 13
|This is the 51st story of Our Life Logs|
People look at me and think they see a girl that has it all together. I rent a condo on my own, I have a loving boyfriend, and a good-paying job. Though I’ve created a good life for myself, it came from my desire to overcome the tragedy I faced in my youth. I can finally say at the age of 20, I’ve regained control of my life and am living as my best self.
1 | Raised in Conflict
I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1997, when my mother was only 18 years old. When I was still very young, my parents moved to various apartments within the city of Cincinnati. Because of the constant uprooting, and because my parents were still going to school, I spent a lot of the time with my paternal grandparents. My grandpa taught me how to play computer games and how to fish. We’d also watch movies together; my favorites were horror movies and Star Wars.
Many of my early memories are of my parents fighting. My father would often abuse my mother. When I was in second grade, my parents got a divorce. I spent most days with my mom and saw my dad on the weekends.
As a single parent, my mom did her best to provide for my younger sister and me. She worked in marketing for a few different places as we grew up. My mom’s parents helped us a lot when my mother was in-between jobs. My grandpa was more like a father to me than my own father. To this day, I call my grandpa when I have a problem or need to talk.
About seven years ago, my mom got a marketing job at the local museum and is currently still working there. Even when she had a job, she was never good with budgeting money. She often had to get help from friends and family to pay our bills. She was never able to help me with any personal expenses. I had to pay for doctor’s visits, medications, and tuition on my own.
2 | Developing Depression
Around the age of 10, I started developing symptoms of depression. I can’t really pinpoint what caused it. I wasn’t motivated to do much of anything. I felt hopeless. I got put on five different medicines for depression and anxiety, two of which I’m still taking today. I was put in therapy at 10 and stayed in therapy until I was 16.
My mother didn’t handle my depression well. She didn’t know how to deal with me, so her form of punishment was sending me to my dad’s house more often. His house was a very negative environment. By middle school, my dad started dating someone new that had a son and daughter. My father showed more affection to her kids than to his own, so I never developed a close relationship with him. I also hated going over there because I didn’t get along with his girlfriend’s children.
The son was a year older than me and abused me. He’d hit me and force me to have sex with him. For three years between ages 13 to 16, he was raping me when I’d go over to my dad’s house. I told my dad about the hitting, but he never did anything. I never told him about the sexual abuse. My father was aggressive, and I didn’t want to make him mad or accuse me of lying. I never tried to tell my mom because I was terrified of her reaction. She was already angry at me most of the time, and I didn’t want the consequences of her anger.
During this time, my depression got worse. I started smoking at 16 and have continued to do so. My mom didn’t like one of my high school boyfriends, so she took my phone from me in my freshman year. I didn’t get it back for three years. I felt alone. I wasn’t allowed to have friends over or go to their houses. Because of this, I didn’t have close friends in school.
Though I saw a therapist, I never told her about the sexual abuse, because I didn’t trust her. My depression was pushing me to the edge. I was put in the hospital a few times for suicide watch at the age of 13, and again at age 15. My mom’s solution to dealing with me was to continue sending me away to my dad’s, which only made things worse. When I was 17, my dad split up with his old girlfriend and was engaged to a new woman. I never had to see my rapist again, but the damage was already done.
I tried to heal. My senior year of high school, I lost over a hundred pounds and felt confident. I started dating more, but none of the relationships worked out. I started to let my guard down. A week before my graduation, a guy I’d had a crush on made plans to hang out with me. He came over to my house when my mom wasn’t home and raped me. This time, I tried to press charges by purchasing a rape kit, but I never got to pursue anything. I put my guard back up again, barely letting anyone in.
3 | Building A New Life
Right before leaving for school, I met a guy that made me question if blocking everyone out was healthy. He showed me that I didn’t have to put up a front anymore, and we started dating.
For college, I went to Hanover College in Indiana for art education. My mother couldn’t help me pay for school, so I had to take out a lot of loans. I only stayed at Hanover for a year because it was expensive, and I didn’t like the environment. I transferred to The University of Cincinnati with the intention to go into the DAAP arts program, but I missed the deadline, so I just took general education classes, never declaring a major. I started working multiple jobs to help pay for tuition and daily expenses.
When the new semester arrived, I decided not to go back to school. I had been making a good amount of money and I realized that the art education degree I was pursuing wouldn’t be worth it. I wanted to get out of my mother’s house as we were constantly butting heads. I got a few more jobs on top of the ones I was already working, so I could start saving up money. I had little to no free time, but I was making incredible money. At one point, I was working 5 jobs working from 8am to 11pm, sometimes 3am if one of my jobs took longer to finish.
By September of 2017, I bought a condo, and was fortunate enough to be able to live alone. I’m proud of my hard work. I never wanted to financially struggle like my mother. I’ve learned from her mistakes and make sure I pay the important bills before doing anything else. In October, I quit the various jobs I had accumulated and started at a quality logistics company, where I currently work. I don’t feel that this is my last stop. Maybe in time, I’ll pursue something in the arts again. It’s what I’m truly passionate about.
4 | Moving On
I had a childhood full of terror and anger where I often felt helpless, but I got through it. My way of coping with everything was diving into art. My mother always made sure we were cultured as kids by taking us to plays and art galleries. I loved to draw, and like doing it to escape the harshness of reality. As an adult, I started getting art on my skin as tattoos. I have a tattoo on my back that I designed myself. I see the tattoos as my new form of therapy. It’s more effective for me than talking to a therapist. I also have cats to keep me company.
I’m not glad some of the things in my past happened, but they did make me a stronger person. I got through the hard times by setting goals for myself then achieving those goals. Some were as simple as remembering to getting out of bed on time. No matter the size of the goal, when I reach them I feel good, like I’m growing as a person. I overcame my past, so I believe things will only get better from this point.
This is the story of Kristen Begley
Kristen currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio in her own condo. She had a difficult childhood full of fighting, violence, rape, and control. As she grew older, she desired a chance to break away from those restraints and create a better, happier life for herself. Kristen loves listening to music and going to concerts when she can. Some of her favorite artists include Panic! at the Disco and Weezer. She plans to have her arms covered with more tattoos eventually. She’d like to get the chance to live in another city and see the country. Kristen hopes to one day use her art skills as a profession again.
This story first touched our hearts on March 29, 2018.
| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editor: Colleen Walker; Manqing Jin |