Jessica Rodriguez went through an abusive childhood, drug addiction, teen pregnancy and more to now dedicating her life to helping others. We’ve often thought that the best people to help others are those that have been through difficult times in their lives because they understand what it takes to turn a life around. Jessica is one such person.
Living With Bipolar Disorder, How I Turned My Life Around To Help Others
By Jessica Rodriguez.
Since the age of fourteen I dreamed of helping others. Currently, I am a graduate student studying mental health counseling at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX. However, there was a time in my life where college, and furthering my education, was nothing more than an unattainable fantasy for me. Much of my reality growing up was quite literally, what nightmares are made of…
I was taken away by the state of Connecticut at eleven years old after enduring abuse and neglect by my parents. My siblings and I were separated my older sister and I went with my aunt and my younger siblings went with my grandparents.
I was in the sixth grade and had began to hang out with the wrong crowd. I would often skip school and my grades were slipping. My aunt felt I was a bad influence on her daughter who was around the same age as me.
I became a runaway from various foster homes throughout my childhood. The last time I ran away they put me in Connecticut Youth Detention Center. I was locked up 23-hours a day for six months, then placed back into the same shelter I ran away from.
I really wanted to do something different this time, so I stopped running away in hopes of finding a permanent placement. While in high school, I was sent to a group home in Wolcott, CT. The owner of the group home was also a former foster kid.
He understood our struggles, was empathetic to our situation and was a loving man. The home we lived in was beautiful and built just for us. Looking back on it now, I see the beauty in it all; I just wish I could have seen it then. My tenth-grade year was hard, I was struggling to find myself and still had the desire to engage in risky behaviors.
I would lie about where I was going and meet up with my mom, putting myself in an unhealthy environment. My mom was my best friend, she would drink alcohol with me and let me do whatever I wanted to do which made me believe there were no real consequences for my actions.
Shortly before my sixteenth birthday, I ran away from the group home after getting into an altercation with one of my peers. I ended up spending the night in jail after being detained by the police.
At that point in my life, I had no interest in finishing school and in the tenth grade, I dropped out. By the time I reached nineteen-years of age, I had two sons from an abusive husband and nowhere safe to go.
I moved in with my older sister who had achieved more in her young life than I thought I ever could in my own. She helped me to get on my feet and I even got a job. For the first time in years I had found something beautiful: hope.
But my husbands’ parents convinced me to come back to Tennessee and live with them again. Promises were made and I eventually succumbed to their pleas. Shortly after we returned, my in-laws, whom I had trusted and thought cared for me as much as their own child, fought me for custody of my own children. They were a wealthy, well-known, and respected family in the community we lived in and it was very easy for them to claim me unfit to the court.
They won custody, and my world was shattered. Beyond the bereavement and hopelessness, I felt with my only children torn away from me, my ex in-laws decided to take their cause a step further and ended up adopting my children a year later.
The finality of it, knowing I could never have my children back again, became the foundation from which my drug addiction was born. I spiraled out of control with nothing and no one to stop me from getting high to forget the pain and was left homeless on the streets.
I gave birth to my daughter, Kaylee while serving time in a correctional facility in Houston, TX, and Grace while I was in rehab.
Kaylee, Grace and I lived in a transitional women’s center in Houston and I began to build my life with them. Eventually, I met my husband at a church in Houston and we began to raise our four children together.
He had two sons and I had two daughters. Like me, he also had a daughter who lived out of state. We began to rebuild and repair our relationships with our estranged children. Josiah, my oldest child and his younger brother Jeramiah and myself, began to skype almost every day.
It was a beautiful time in my life, and one I never thought I would have. At this time, almost ten years later, my sons now come and visit me twice a year, and I go visit them twice a year.
Despite what their grandparents did to me, I was able to move past the pain and resentment and replace those negative feelings with gratitude for the life my kids had with them; one that I now know could not provide at the time.
One of the biggest lessons I learned was that children do not ask to be here and deserve to have their parents there to support them, love them, and raise them. One thing I never wanted for my children was to have a childhood that I had. Now I can say they do not that because I am here for them all including my nieces and nephews.
Throughout my sobriety I had volunteered at the rehabs I attended and even went into the prison where Kaylee was born to spread hope. In my new life my challenges never stopped, in 2016 with 7-years of sobriety I was diagnosed with a mood disorder called bipolar 1.
To me this was a death sentence and I was engulfed with guilt for my children who would never have a “normal” mother. But instead of giving up, I took the meds and sought therapy.
I created a blog where I would document my journey of being a bipolar mom, creating social media platforms as well. I decided I wanted to pursue my dreams of helping others and enrolled into college to study psychology. I graduated in June of 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology with a GPA being a 3.4.
I still do volunteer work mostly with the National Alliance for Mental Illness. My long-term goal is to obtain my doctorate in psychology and open a non-profit organization called Grace2Fight. I will provide services to those who cannot afford it, psychoeducation, counseling and provide them with resources needed to rebuild their life. I want to open a Grace2Fight community center where at-risk kids have a safe place to go.
I do not let my disorder, or my past define me The struggles and insurmountable challenges that I endured throughout my life do not define who I am, but they influenced me to gain wisdom and perseverance.
I have learned one valuable lesson from my struggles and that is to keep moving forward and never give up. Every day, every second even, is another chance we must get it right. It’s never too late, and the only real failure would be to fail to try.
At the end of the day, it takes a plethora of variables and experiences to change a human being. We can decide what we take from our life, good or bad and what we make with it.
I am grateful for my struggles, because without them, I never would have found my strength. There were moments in my life where I felt weak, hopeless, unwanted, unlovable, broken, scared, selfish, and all sorts of other ugly things. But those moments were fleeting, and they passed because I never gave up.
I am strong, loved, uniquely flawed, but genuine, and I have a hope for a better. My life was hard. Some days are still hard, but I preserve through it. I know this too shall pass, and tomorrow brings a light. I am resilient and have rebuilt my life, one brick at a time.
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Jessica’s story proves that no matter what challenges you face in life, you can turn things around from hopelessness to helpfulness, where you can make your misfortune a positive for yourself AND for others. There is no doubt that once Jessica shares her story with those that she will help as a counselor, that they will listen and absorb the lessons she will share. We salute Jessica for being strong enough to turn her life around, with the understanding that if you fall down seven times, rise up eight!
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