“If I die before you, will you write my eulogy?”
So began a text I received from Alice in the summer of 2017. Alice continued her plea for understanding:
“Please explain to my family what happened to my body, mind and spirit when I was kidnapped and was rejected by them, my own family. I have picked myself up over and over and I am exhausted. Tell them that please.
They have suffered too, but they were held when they were babies, and they were never attacked by a schizophrenic criminal twice their size, nearly strangled to death, and finally empowered to fight like a superhuman when the sick man was trying to rip off their pants. They were never fugitives in the sub freezing winter with no shoes or jacket. They never almost froze to death, then somehow rose out of a roadside ditch to survive, only to be hatefully rejected by the family, haunted by terrifying memories, and judged by everyone for not handling life well. I have been trying to heal myself for decades. Tell them how hard I have worked to recover.”
This is Alice’s story as I have come to know her over the last four years.
Alice is two years younger than her sister Jill, who was born with a hole between the chambers of her heart, a faulty heart valve and myriad, complex health problems. Though not expected to get out of hospital alive, the frail baby was sent home to her parents at two months old.
Jill was unable to walk until well after her younger sister Alice was born. She spent her childhood in her mother’s arms or walking a few steps, periodically vomiting, and crying with exhaustion due to a lack of oxygen until successful experimental open heart surgery at the age of eight.
As I see it, Alice began to be traumatized in the womb as she experienced the terror her parents were feeling about Jill, and the anxiety they felt about possibly having another child who was ill. Alice’s mother reports that she was always taking care of Jill so she had no time to hold Alice when she was a baby. Her parents neglected her, innocently ignorant of the impact on their child’s development.
Growing up in a family of seven children with parents who had suffered severe abuse as children and were struggling to cope with their big family, Alice and her siblings all suffered. Like any neglected or abused child, Alice deeply believed there was something drastically wrong with her, that she was fundamentally bad. Multiple incidents of sexual abuse outside the home solidified her self-hatred and depression.
Alice was drowning in shameful secrets. She had no protector, and no escape.
At the age of twenty-one, Alice was kidnapped by an escapee from a maximum security institution for the criminally insane. He attempted to strangle her to death and rape her. As his hands wrapped around her neck, choking her, Alice’s fight survival reflex kicked in. She fought like a wild animal. She escaped and ran away, through snow and freezing cold, until she found help. The police said they couldn’t believe she was able to escape her attacker, a seasoned criminal who had trapped her in his car.
After the abduction, Alice’s mother and younger sister made initial attempts to comfort Alice. But this was decades before our current understanding of the profound effects of trauma, and emotionally ill-equipped as they were, her family became enraged at her for being victimized. Alice left home days after the abduction to escape their wrath. She struggled through the constant flashbacks with no support, no sense of safety, and a broken heart. She had survived the attack, but her entire organism was in terrified disarray and she wanted to die.
Alice, now in her fifties, no longer has constant flashbacks and she has repaired relationships with her family. Her struggle with daily life continues. Depression and self-loathing, although waning, deflate her confidence to do even the most basic life tasks. She has a fierce binge eating disorder. It is difficult for Alice to trust people so she is isolated socially. People pick up on her fear, and not all are kind to her. She rarely sleeps at night because her nervous system is stuck on red alert. Exhaustion makes it difficult to function during the day. Her system is too agitated for her to work full time.
For four years, I have met online with Alice every week. She tries harder than anyone I know to recover and heal from her PTSD. She is intelligent and committed to learning about trauma and recovery. She has discovered that walking, yoga, dancing, and being outdoors help her be in the world in a healthy way.
People who are highly traumatized need a lot of support to heal. We now know what helps. I am starting this fund to help Alice and others who need healing and are unable to pay all of the costs on their own.
Paying it forward: Alice is committed to working with other people who need support. She has a natural empathy and compassion for vulnerable people.
Return to Alice’s Fund main page