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Never Turn Back

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

| This is the 557th story of Our Life Logs® |

Twenty-seven winters ago, in Southern California, I was the fourth born out of (the eventual) five kids, all boys except for me. You would have thought that as the only girl that I would be the apple of their eye, but no. My skin was darker than my brothers and my mother thought that beauty belonged to the light-skin girls. My father, however, loved me for me, and we were always close. When my mother made me feel small, my father made me feel special.

My whole family moved to Chicago when I was almost nine, and my parents separated shortly after that. My father could not handle my mother’s mood disorder and temper. My father left us in Chicago, moved back to California, filed for a divorce, and began a new family. It was a cold windy winter that year and my heart was as chapped as my lips—cracked and dried out.

Being a daddy’s girl in a house without a daddy meant nothing. My mother resented me for having a connection with my father. After my father left, my mother never let go of her scowl. It became my new normal for her to cuss me out in passing conversation. She whooped me with any and every object available, unprovoked. I began to get used to answering to the obscene curse words that my mother used like they were off a sad list of nicknames for me. Each phrase, each slap, each cut to my self-esteem sunk my heart.

I developed an inferiority complex and clinical depression. I started to believe there must be something wrong with me. My mother’s vulgar and condescending tone cut me like knives, and I was made to believe that I was never allowed to have any emotion except happiness. If I was mad, sad, scared, or showed any emotion besides happiness, I was called ungrateful. My brothers would never dare to speak against my mother, or they too would feel her conditional love.

I was always respectful to my mother, but at 16, I could not take her abuse any longer. I could no longer stay in a place where I was made to feel like I shouldn’t be alive. I just ran away. A part of me had already died living in that house, so I got out before I lost myself completely. Anything would be better than that home, even the streets.

For a while, I bounced from home to home until my grandmother heard of my situation and took me in. I’m so grateful for that. As a runaway, I could have easily fallen into prostitution or drug addiction on the cruel streets of Chicago. My grandmother knew that my mother treated me poorly and she wanted to love me back to health. If it were not for her, I do not know where I would have ended up. My grandmother always told me that if I feel in danger, leave and never challenge my gut instinct.

After finishing high school, I moved into my own apartment, but because of financial issues, I didn’t stay put in one place for too long. As I struggled to find my way as an adult, I kept hearing the bitter voice of my mother in my head, telling me I couldn’t get anything right. I was still living through the eyes of my judgmental and critical mom no matter how hard I tried to block it out.

I carried so much brokenness into my adulthood that the only person who was attracted to me was another broken-hearted soul. The abrasive and rude nature of this man seemed ever so familiar that my soul clung to him. I recognized a spirit in him, and it felt like we already met. But this spirit was the abusive one that I had run away from in my youth. That’s the trouble with growing up in abuse. It’s all we know, and we don’t know what else to look for when it comes to being loved.

I was so wrapped up in him that I moved to Las Vegas with him. When the abuse began, it didn’t really bother me at first. Getting called names and knocked upside the head for “speaking wrong” was normal for me. I was blind to every red flag. But something deep down in my soul knew that I was in over my head. I knew I had to cut the shit and be real with myself and admit that I was miserable, but I couldn’t for a long time.

As the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic crept in, I saw my partner getting worse. He was always a drinker, but the stress of the pandemic sent him over the edge. As time passed and Halloween came, and I wanted to do something special to try to lighten the tension. I thought we could dress up as Bonnie and Clyde and take pictures after work. But when he saw me all dolled up, we got into a huge fight.

The rage emanating in that room was fiercer than I’d ever seen from him. It was like trying to escape from a bull. On this night, he hit me with such a force that, for a split second, I wondered if my breath would return.

I had seen that fiery look in his eyes before. I had seen it in my mother’s. I remembered my grandmother’s advice to trust my gut if it tells me I’m in danger. That’s when something clicked. I feared for my life.

The demonic chase in our home was scary enough for me to run and keep running. Quickly, I grabbed the dog and my purse and fled, leaving behind everything else I owned.

I was free from my abuser, but I had left with nothing but the clothes on my back, my purse, and my dog. I had less than $20 to my name but my brain seemed to kick into gear, keeping me focused. All I needed was a little gas. I knew I got paid from my job in a few days and I also knew he would not come up to my job again. They had already caught him on camera attacking me and had called the cops in the past. Of course, he was never arrested because I stopped it, but now, his safety net was gone. I put $10 in my gas tank and ate at work for a few days until I got paid.

I was now on the streets of Las Vegas with no family and no place to go in the middle of a pandemic. Nobody opened their doors to strays except high-risk areas like shelters. I figured many were closed because of the virus anyway. So, with no other choice, I slept in my car. I felt like a loser. I cried and drove around for hours. For the first time in my life, I was homeless and had nobody to turn to…except God and my dog of course!

It was hard to get through the days. I would go to my job at the convenience store and my job was thankfully supportive, so they let my dog stay in the back. But they did not know I was sleeping in my car. I remember washing my armpits in the sink of the bathroom at work, layering on the deodorant, all while hoping nobody would notice the days I’d been without a good hot shower.

On good days, I’d spend hours with my dog, walking around the park and getting fresh air. On bad days, I’d cry to my dog while flying through a bottle of wine. On the really bad days, I’d reach out to a suicide specialist on the phone because I just felt like quitting. I did have those moments, wondering if this pain was all even worth the effort. But something inside wanted to keep going, knowing I would get over this hump. And as I spent more time free of the abuse, I grew stronger and more confident.

After three weeks of sleeping in my car, things started to turn around. I saved up enough to move into a weekly hotel. I started being able to see reasons to smile again. For the first time since living with my grandmother, I started to see a glimpse of what a good future for myself could look like. I started to see the possibilities of a good outcome. I started to feel safe. I started to feel good. I have now been safe for 30 days. It may not seem like a long time, but it’s a big step for me, and I know it’s the right one.

I still feel very alone at times, but I do not feel dumb or unworthy of happiness. Not anymore. I’ve realized that my abuser is never going to change. I am better away from all the toxicity that has always followed me in my life. Waking up alone every day is hard. But it is not as hard as waking up with a black eye and the person who did it is walking around fine and dandy. Tears may sting cuts, but they heal them too. It’s hard some days, but I am a survivor. I am making it. I do not see myself as the weakest link anymore. I am me, a survivor.

This is the story of Shicoya Mercer

Shicoya was raised in a toxic environment where she developed low self-esteem and wound up in an abusive relationship in adulthood. The abuse reached its peak during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was able to escape with only the clothes on her back and her dog. She has been gone a month and now spends her days working as much as she can while staying safe in her weekly hotel when she is off work. In her free time, she enjoys planning her future once COVID-19 has passed. She plans in moving into her own apartment by the spring. Shicoya has reached out to her father and they have rekindled their relationship. She is still estranged from her mother and brothers. She is thinking about joining a support group for domestic violence victims and going back to school. She has had no contact with her abuser and remains in hiding.

Shicoya, 2020.

This story first touched our hearts on December 3, 2020

Writer: Melodie Harris | Editor: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker

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