Welcome to Wednesday’s Women of Wisdom. Today’s guest post is by Patty Valentine, who in addition to having a very cute name, has a big heart and amazing story of survival. I met Patty on a mutual online support group and I can attest to the kindness and empathy she has provided to others. Here is her story.
My Bio, What do I want to be when I grow up?
By Patty Valentine
My life was complicated right from the start, at conception really, as my mother was 13 yrs old and living in Alabama with an alcoholic father and a mother who had been in and out of her life since she was 6. Starting at that age, she was responsible for taking care of her brother and sister, cooking, cleaning, etc. Her mother had tried to force her to “terminate” me twice, even taping her to a bed while she fought, but she wouldn’t have it. I was born 2 wks before her 14th birthday. She did the best she could to take care of me and moved to Texas with her mother, but eventually her mother “won out” when, at 2 1/2, she left me with some “friends”, abandoned me really, and told my mother I was stolen. I was eventually adopted by a nice family down the street from the people I’d been left with. I remember very early times, like my 3rd birthday but nothing of my mother from that time. My new family was full of love and kids. I had 3 brothers and 3 sisters. My new mother always told me I was special because they had chosen me. They weren’t looking to adopt, like I said they already had a bunch of kids, but because of my circumstances, they wanted to keep me. I had a pretty good childhood overall, but I did have one teenage brother who sexually abused me a few times. I had pretty much tucked that little memory away though, thinking I’d done something “naughty”.
My teenage years were difficult, and although I was a strait A student, cheerleader, gymnast, etc, I never felt like I really fit in…not in my family or with my peers. Once in high school, I quickly took up drinking, drugs and promiscuity….and Nightlife! Dallas was the place to be in the 80’s as far as the club scene and I fell deep into that scene…of fashion, music, and most of all more drugs. In fact, there are currently 2 documentary movies in the works about the Starck club where they sold ecstacy at the bar (that is until they made it illegal)….the “Studio 54 of the 80’s”, designed by Phillipe Starck and investors such as Stevie Nicks and Grace Jones. It was the place to be…where anyone who was famous went when they were in Dallas. I thought I was really something…I could walk in past the velvet ropes while other people would wait on those stairs all night trying to get in, and if they were deemed cool enough, they could pay the $10 cover to get in. We’d be up from Wed thru Sun, living on pills and powder, and the occasional little pieces of paper that made everything more colorful. 😉 I’ve recently reconnected with these friends on FB and reunions are being planned…actually, I’ve already missed one. It was in Jan, and being on tx, I was too sick to go. It has become another place for me to share and talk about hep c and educate and advocate which is good. We all know people who have passed, from drugs, aids, suicide, etc, so there is no judgment there.
Eventually, the scene started to fade, I became restless, and I wanted more. So, me and a friend just up and hopped on a Greyhound bus to LA during the summer of ’89. My dad gave me $50 and said “you’ll be back”. Well, I was gonna show him, and I didn’t come back! I really hated LA, where I suffered a couple rapes, and after about 3 months, some people told me “Go to San Francisco. You’ll love it there!” and I did. Although I had experimented with the needle a few times in Dallas, SF is where my love affair with it really developed. This was a completely different and exciting scene than the one I’d come from. My “friend” left me there a couple weeks after the earthquake in ’89 and I took up with the street punks and met my first husband. He had a big mohawk, sold drugs, and was crazier than anyone I’d ever met…certifiably crazy, but that was the allure after all. We lived in hotels when we had money and squatted when we didn’t. Eventually, the habit grew and I took up dancing to pay for it all while he sat at home and waited for me to bring his fix. Occasionally, he’d “disappear” for days on end, not remembering where he’d been. He was manic-depressive and told me that I saved him and if I left, he’d kill himself. He was a cutter, so I believed this. After a couple yrs of this, I knew if I didn’t get out of SF, I’d die there, so when the opportunity came up to dance in a club in Hawaii, I took it! We both went “cold turkey” off heroin in Hawaii, while each night I had to go dance. Once my head was clear again, I told him to go away, because I knew if we’d stayed together, we’d be using again before too long. Besides, there were lots of cute military guys there 😉
I ran so far from my past at first by joining the Air Force at 25 and was stationed in Las Vegas. It was now 1994. Within that 1st yr, I met my husband and became pregnant with my 1st child. My husband was/is pretty much completely opposite of me and didn’t have the same kind of past experiences, but was strangely fascinated by and not turned off by my past. He had joined the AF straight out of high school. This kept me grounded, although we did party/drink alot. We were married when my daughter was 7 mos old, then I was soon pregnant with our 2nd daughter. She came when my 1st was 19 mos. He was constantly back and forth between “home”, and “the Desert”…Saudi, Kuwait, Turkey, etc, protecting the “no-fly” zones during the 90’s, between the 1st and 2nd Gulf wars since, at the time, his job was to load and maintain the bombs and weapon systems on the fighter jets. My military “career” which was Medical Admin, stopped at 4 yrs while his continued. I had messed up my back pretty bad while in training though, so within a yr of leaving the AF, I had my 1st back surgery. Then before the end of that year, we got orders to our 1st choice of overseas bases…Aviano, Italy! Perfect! After 5 yrs in Vegas, I was beginning to get “bored” and was ready for a new adventure, and there couldn’t have been a more perfect place!
We moved to Italy at the end of ’98 and shortly after, the whole Kosovo situation started up, and Aviano was the center of that conflict…at least that’s where all the NATO troops were flying their missions out of. It was strange to think that during the day, my husband was loading live bombs onto planes, then coming home at night for dinner, putting the kids to bed, etc. Anyway, that passed over pretty quickly, and he went back to the desert a couple times. I can safely say that the 3 yrs in Italy were the best, happiest yrs of my life. I had 2 beautiful little girls was newly married, and living in Italy of all places. I was still able to be spontaneous, as we could just wake up Sat morning, and think, “Let’s go somewhere…Ok, Austria’s only a couple hours, let’s go there!”…or Venice (1 hr), Florence (4 hrs), Verona (2 hrs), Rome (hop on a plane in Venice and you’re there in about an hr). One weekend we went to Pisa and camped near the beach…we did alot of camping in Italy actually. We were 45 min from the Adriatic, Italian beaches in the summer, and at the base of a mountain where we could go ski, sledding, etc in the winter. I didn’t get bored there. Unfortunately, though, my back wasn’t holding up very well, and in 2000, I had to be “aerovacked” to Walter Reed Army Hosp in DC for my 2nd surgery. They had to bring my husband back early from Kuwait so I could go. Anyway, that surgery wasn’t successful either and I was becoming more and more dependent on pain meds. My husband decided to go into recruiting then, so he wouldn’t be sent away anymore. He completed recruiting school in July of 2001…right before 9/11. We really lucked out on that one. He would’ve been gone for sure if he’d still been loading bombs.
Next, we moved back to Dallas, which was where I was from, so it was like going home for a few yrs. It had been almost 12 yrs since I’d left Dallas. He was recruiting at the high schools there, so we weren’t at a base at all. Within the next 2 yrs, I had 3 more unsuccessful back surgeries, including a double fusion and spiraled into chronic pain and major depression. The drs had be on so many meds, I didn’t know what was going on half the time. Here is where I learned I have hepatitis C, and although I was upset, not knowing much about it, I just thought “Thank god it’s not aids” and went on about my life. Also during this time, I found and started a relationship with my birth mother who had “lost” me and thought I was dead. Having 2 little girls also brought up memories of the sexual abuse I’d suffered when I was around 5 yrs old, so things started getting really dark and gloomy. I even spent a month in an inpatient facility during this time to deal with my past traumas…sexual abuse, rapes, etc that I had always blamed myself for.
I eventually ended up isolating myself, depressed and unable to make any “real” new friends. I think I felt trapped in the role of housewife/Mom, unable to relate to the other women I met. I couldn’t understand those who were content to just be the “keeper of the house”. Not that I don’t enjoy being a mother, I do, but it became so constricting. No longer could I just pick up and move whenever I felt like it, and even worse, I was forced to live in Alabama for 4 yrs which is where the AF moved us to next. I started fantasizing about going back to San Fran and heroin, where I had fought so hard to leave, and just leaving everyone there. Of course, I didn’t, but it was a real fantasy. I guess I really shouldn’t complain too much, most of the people in Alabama have never left the state, which brings me back to why I couldn’t relate to anyone.
I’ve lived in and traveled to places all over the world, and I experienced more in my first 30 yrs of life than most people do in their entire lifetime…good and bad. How could I relate to these “simple” people, content to live in the country where Walmart was the center of everything, driving the kids around, cooking, cleaning, etc. All most people cared about was if you like Auburn or Alabama and Nascar…ick! Most people hunted went “mudding”, and camo was in fashion even with the teens. My kids didn’t “fit in” there either, and were called “weird”. Even at their young ages, they’d experienced more than most people there. The nearest “big” city was 30 min away in Montgomery, which btw, is NOT a big city at all, but just the closest place with a mall. I lost myself there and now that I’m in FL and going through this tx, I’m trying to find myself again. My husband will retire soon and he’s looking into new careers. We’ve had our problems, but somehow we’ve kept it together. It is still a work in progress though. My daughters are teenagers and have been and still are challenging. My older daughter was raped by a “friend’s” dad from the church in AL at 13. She is also bipolar with zero impulse control, and my baby…14 yrs old, is pregnant and due to have her baby in May. My tx will be done in April, so starts a new chapter in my life. I know I’ll always have to contend with the chronic back pain that has disabled me and was the beginning of my slide into depression to begin with, but who am I? Who do I want to be, what do I want to be when I grow up? I just turned 43, and I still don’t feel like a grown-up, yet I’m going to be a grandmother!
© 2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard