My name is Jessica Rodriguez, I am a full-time graduate student at The University of St. Thomas, studying Mental Health Counseling. Here is my story of how I overcame many obstacles in my life and my plan to help others overcome theirs.

            My story is not one that will bring upon the feeling of joy, it begins when I was a child. My parents were active drug users and alcoholics. My father suffered with severe anxiety and OCD, he still to this day is un-medicated. My mother suffered with bipolar 1 and my grandmother has bipolar 1, they both are treated and medicated for these disorders. There was not time for dolls and dresses, bows and Barbie’s, my siblings and I took care of each other and our mentally ill mother. Often missing school or attending school in dirty clothes with dirty faces. I never could do girl scouts or school sports. My grades reflected my life at home and the physical and emotional abuse we endured left me struggling to make friends. By the time I was 10 years old I had endured every type of child abuse there is and was a trained expert by my parents on how to answer questions the teachers or guidance counselors may have. At eleven years, old my father went to prison, leaving my drug addict, unemployed mother with four children. It was not long before the Department of Children and Families showed up separating the four of us. The abuse I had endured had been what molded my borderline personality. Being a child who was borderline in the foster care system left only one thing that could happen; the shuffle from home to home then group homes and institutions. No one could handle my abandonment issues that made me a clingy child, then a promiscuous runaway teenager. By the time I was sixteen I was diagnosed Manic Depressant and Borderline Personality. Every therapist I had fired me and the ones that were still available rejected my case since then in the late 90’s borderlines where considered incurable, untreatable, and dangerous for therapist because of their ability to manipulate. After I was kicked out of yet another home and had a DCF file that was four inches thick the Department of Children and Families felt I was too much trouble and beyond their help, at 16 I was left homeless and alone. I slept on friend’s coaches and friends of friend’s coaches, I even slept in Fountain view park in Waterbury. Until I called my Aunt in Tennessee and found out my Father had been released from prison. My parents were together living at my Aunts and my grandmother whom had taken in my younger siblings had given them back to my parents. I assume they felt like after that length of time they had gotten it together enough to be parents, but they hadn’t. Moving to Tennessee was the biggest mistake of my life, I went from a bad situation to even worse. Their seemed to be no hope for me. My parents looked at me like an adult and I soon became a “friend” to my mom, she partied with me and experimented with drugs with me. I did not know then that the drug and alcohol abuse was just me self-medicating my mental illness. The life of drugs carried on for way too many years ended up costing me custody of my two sons’ and the death of my third son while in utero. At twenty-four, I had lived in seven different states on a quest to find myself and had somehow landed in Houston TX. I was dead inside, yet a part of me so desperately wanted to live. Kaylee my fourth child who was a year old, had stayed most of her little life with her paternal grandmother as I struggled through my addiction to cocaine. I was five months pregnant again and knew from experience if I did not find a way to stop, I would kill this baby too. I couldn’t live with myself if that happened, I called every rehab in Houston until one said I could come in with no insurance. I left for rehab, it took three weeks to go 20 miles, but I made it. I prayed so hard for God to save my baby, and if he did, I promised to love her and be a good sober mother to her and Kaylee. I named her Grace, in the bible Grace means “undeserved kindness from God”. I knew I did not deserve my Grace and I would live my life in such a way that God would know with certainty he did not make a mistake. My drug and alcohol counselor at the rehab told me I would never stay sober. Her exact words were that I didn’t have what it takes to maintain sobriety it’s been over nine years now, and I proudly told my story there on numerous occasions. But my story doesn’t end there. I always had issues with highs and lows and would brush it off and say it’s just my personality. My husband, who I met at church in 2010, is an even keel type of man. I would always tell him I am an extremist when the truth was, I was suffering with bipolar disorder. I was a yeller; I didn’t abuse my kids physically, but I am sure the screaming negatively impacted them. I hated yelling and the guilt I felt was continuously eating me alive. My fear was to end up like my mother and grandmother, then one day I realized I had. The rage attacks for a while only happened when my husband was not home. The kids were easier to handle when he was there; because looking back now he did most of the parenting. Then the rage attacks became more persistent and the depression darker. I honestly thought I had postpartum, my last daughter that we decided to have together before tying my tubes was Vannessa and was just a year old. My PCP prescribed me Prozac, which I had taken as a child and teenager, so I felt comfortable with it. It made a difference, for about a week. Then came full blown psychosis. Driving home from work I thought about killing myself, as thoughts of inadequacy filled my mind. My foot hit the gas harder and harder, I was going to kill myself by driving into something, anything this would have been at least the tenth time in my life I attempted suicide. Then something stopped me, the thought of Kaylee and Grace and the fear that if I died their biological drug addict father would rip them away from the only dad they knew, my husband. When I got home, I cried on my bed, I yelled and screamed at my husband and children. There was a darkness that had engulfed my very being. My husband called me the next day at work and told me if I didn’t get help, he would take all three of the children and leave me. I called every psychiatrist in Houston, they all said

the next available appointment was four months out. The last call I made I told the secretary I would be dead if I waited that long, she had me come right in. I was then diagnosed again with bipolar 1, which was once known as manic depressant, post-traumatic stress disorder, ADD/ADHD and borderline personality. I was ready to get better, but as many symptoms persisted despite the medications my psychiatrist insisted it was borderline personality and only a therapist could treat that. The therapist who was the cheapest with my insurance still cost me out of pocket sixty dollars a visit for DBT/CBT therapy. The visits I could afford to go too, was just what I needed to know that it was helping. But bills need to be paid and the cost was not something we could afford along with the psych appointments and four medications I was on. I refused to give up, even though I was crying and desperate. I took deep breaths while trying to figure out a solution. Then I got online and read everything I could for days on DBT and CBT, I went on therapist help sites and printed out worksheets for patients and did them on myself. I did packets and packets daily while monitoring my thoughts and using contradicting tactics to eliminate negative thinking. I even created the non-judgment circle to repair the damages in my marriage. I was getting better every day, until I realized one day how different I was. The old me was gone and I was new, the negative thoughts where gone. Somewhere amid all this I wanted to document my journey, so I bought a domain from WordPress where I blog, and I named it Grace2Fight. During this time, I also decided I wanted to help people. I enrolled in college to study psychology, I want to be a clinical psychologist. I left my position at an automotive software company to take a lower paying position at a psychiatric hospital to help people like me. Also, it’s what I consider to be my own scientific research. It is like a very long naturalistic observation study of different psychiatric disorders.  I am good at my job better than most, the patients feel loved, accepted and safe because of me. I get very close to my patients with schizophrenia, I imagine that has a lot to do with my mom. I am a mother, a wife, a fulltime employee that works graveyard, and a full-time graduate student with my BA of ARTS in psychology with a focused concentration in human development and a minor in Human Services. I am an overcomer, a survivor, a superhero to my kids. I am almost complete with my first semester of graduate school with A’s in all four of my classes. I have been seeing the same psychiatrist since 2016, I take my meds every day and practice self-care. I am an artist, a lover of animals. I am thirty-four years old and have been through more than one person goes through in a lifetime.

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