135 Years, 135 Stories title image

From Abuse and Depression to Health

DANI, Michigan

My mother was my angel and my life began to unravel when she got sick. After being diagnosed she went into a coma and was placed in a nursing home. She died soon after. After my father became very physically abusive and though never formally diagnosed, probably was mentally ill. He’d done two tours in Vietnam. He drank a lot, and home was an abusive environment, my dad and I even had a physical fight. I was 12 years old and I called my aunt for help, and because my uncle was involved with social services there was an intervention. My dad was given the option of having charges pressed against him or giving us three girls up.

I went to live with my aunt, and my sisters went to live with other relatives. At age 13, my life became more complicated. I was diagnosed with major depression and was placed in a facility for 45 days. After that I went to live with another relative. By this time I was an angry 14-year-old. My dad was dating a woman who didn’t like me and didn’t want to deal with me. There was drinking, drugs and I was not coming home at night, sleeping instead on friends’ porches.

One night while I was walking home late, three guys in a car pulled up beside me and I got in. They gave me cocaine, and they raped me. It was bad. After that, I went home and my father ended up beating me so severely that I went to school and told a school counselor what had happened, and that I wanted to kill myself. I was placed in a psychiatric unit again. In the hospital, I flourished. I started taking the techniques they were teaching me and using them. By this time, my dad had given up all rights to me except for medical authorization for treatment.

Since I was better but it was obvious I shouldn’t—or couldn’t—return home, I was given the option of going to a group home. I moved into Crittenton in Jackson. I went from a failing student to the top of my senior class. I was there from age 14 to 17. There I learned to be a whole and healthy person.

While at Crittenton, my grandmother often visited. It was during one of those visits she unveiled that my dad was adopted from Crittenton. That was a great surprise.

I got my life together. I started competitive bodybuilding and I have won awards for my work. I’m two weeks away from being a certified personal trainer and have actively supported a friend open a gym in Michigan, including teaching a number of fitness classes. Working in the fitness industry is an opportunity for me to support other women feel healthy about themselves.

Dani