naked

Written by India Rochelle

When I first became aware of whom I was becoming, I constantly pushed myself to be better than the person I was supposed to be statistically. Things that enabled me, such as my ability to be a persistent optimist, was foreshadowed by the pain I carried around for years. There was a constant battle between her and I; and the woman I was trying my hardest to get away from was winning. It seemed like no matter how much I fought, I was constantly reminded of her. I soon came to realize that without her, there was no me. It all began somewhere. So here is where I will start.

Some would call my life a tragedy before now. I’ve dealt with abuse from people I loved, and took dangerous falls from people who never cared to catch me. Drugs, abuse, self-hate and loneliness have been my worst enemy. But I always remained optimistic that the hurt in my life would change. Before it did, it would get a whole lot worse before it got better.

I remember a time when I was happy. It was before I was taken advantage of, had nowhere to sleep, and decided to drop out of school to hang on corners. I felt alone, with no other options, but to try and survive somehow.

Growing up, I always had everything I wanted, from dolls to satin dresses, but what I missed more than ever was love. There wasn’t one thing I wanted that I didn’t get. For every frown, I gave seven smiles, and every tear was followed by a parade of laughs. I convinced myself that I was a princess living in the highest tower of a beautiful castle … until one day it came tumbling down.

My father was a good man with good intentions. He wanted his children to do better than him, just like any other parent. He wanted my siblings and I to see more of life than he had. Although all of us lived in different households, he wanted us to know that we had each other. However, when you have seven very different children and seven mothers to deal with, on top of a wild lifestyle headed in one direction; things can begin to close in.

By the age of 8, I was watching the news and saw my father’s face plastered all over the TV screen. “WANTED” is what it read along with some other serious charges that I could barely understand. One thing that stood out most was the fact that he was wanted for selling narcotics. Not too long after the newscast showed him as a wanted man, he was arrested and sentenced to federal prison. But no matter what the news said, I knew my daddy. He was still the man I adored.

My mother was a schoolteacher. She worked hard at school, at home, and was always striving and pushing to advance. When I was younger, she would tell me that she loved me and take me places. She always brought me home something from Dewey’s. Dewey’s is a popular bakery in our small town of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They have the best oatmeal cookies in the world! Because her job was near Dewey’s, she would get some of those delicious oatmeal cookies for my brothers and I. My life was happy.

Though my dad was in prison, I knew he would soon get out. My hope stayed alive as I waited for the day I would get to ride with my daddy again in his yellow drop-top Chevy. I imagined eating lemon heads that he would surprise me with, and hanging with my sisters and brothers. Until one day, that dream was taken from me.

Everything happened so quickly. All I remember is receiving the call that changed my world. After having a heart attack, my father died in prison. My heart was broken in a million pieces. Who would teach me about guys? Who would walk me down the aisle when I got married? At 14 years old, and soon to become a freshmen in high school, I wondered to myself, ‘‘who am I supposed to be?”

Things at home got really rough. My mother couldn’t work anymore because both of my brothers had behavioral and mental disabilities. Anger and rage became something that manifested in my mom, my siblings, and eventually myself. I was different. I felt more alone, even scared sometimes.

I ran away a lot, leaving for days and weeks at a time. Never knowing where I was going. But I knew I wanted love. And with trying to fine love, I endured a lot of pain. Everything hurts more. Everybody pushed me to the side. Everybody was angry with me.

When I was at home with my family, I spent most of the time in my room. I was not to bother anyone or to come out of my room unless it was to use the restroom or eat. My brothers were now teenage boys. And though I knew they loved me, their disability made them abusive sometimes. This left me feeling even more alone and trapped.

As things got worse, I tried different things to subside the pain. The first thing I tried was suicide. At 15 years old, I took seven Adderall that were prescribed to one of my brothers, and prayed that my life would end, but it didn’t. The sad thing about it was that my Mom looked me right in the face and didn’t even know that something was wrong. My suicide attempt was an epic failure.

Where there was pain, depression soon followed. I couldn’t run from it, so I began to manifest within it. The neighborhood kids befriended me. And after a while, I proved my friendship by starting fights, doing drugs, and having sex to stay with the in-crowd. Casual sex soon progressed into prostitution. A world that showed me that my body was all I needed to survive. For this, I am still ashamed.

I knew what I was doing was wrong. I knew there had to be some end result that wouldn’t be good, but I was so naive and wanted someone to feel me. I didn’t mean physically, but emotionally. I craved for someone to hear the truth, but no one listened.

I began to take on a harder demeanor. I was now in and out of group homes. I stopped hanging in my old neighborhood and ventured to new blocks. The city kids related to me. They listened to me because some of them were going through the same things. They taught me how to survive by doing anything and everything I had to do to live another day. I started seeing my future as just living day by day. Goals became oblivious. Street corners and doing drugs, selling drugs, and partying was the new fad for me. At 18 years old, I felt like I was where I was supposed to be, but little did I know this experience was preparing me for changes in my entire lifestyle.

In the spring of 2007, I met a guy. He was sweet to me. He didn’t stand on street corners, but he still had a hard demeanor that I liked. I ended up falling for him; so much so that I got pregnant. When I told him, he told me he was happy as well, but that soon changed. When I was 5-months pregnant, he moved to a city six hours away. The feeling of being alone came back to me. Somewhere inside, I picked myself back up, and thought how happy it would be to finally have someone to love me back. This baby, which I found out was a girl, would be the one thing in my life that I needed. I began to get my act together by pushing toward being a better person. When I visited my daughter’s father, I stayed with my grandmother, but when he and I broke up, I decided to give living with my mother one more try.

I guess you can say it was okay. I still fussed and argued with my siblings, but I was okay. The only requirement my mother gave me for moving back was to go back to school. I knew I needed to finish school. Not just for me, but for my daughter. So I told my mother I would start the next morning and I did. And at 8-months pregnant, I marched across a Wake Forest University stage with my GED. It was such a proud moment for me, but nothing made me more proud than feeling my daughter’s feet tickle my belly as I held my diploma in my hands. This was the moment I let the other me go.

After having my daughter, I felt complete. I had everything I had ever wanted right in my hands. The love of my life, my motivation, my choices, and my everything was in the palms of my hands, and right then, I started making the right decisions. I moved out of my mother’s house. I got a great job at a day-care center where my daughter also attended. I always put her first.

I would say that’s where my life changed, but it didn’t. Just as fast as I gained everything, I lost it. I would say that making bad choices had everything to do with it, but unfortunately it was not my reason for falling. I could go into the details, but that would be another book. So let’s fast- forward to how I got up from falling so hard.

By the time everything was lost, I had nowhere to sleep. The girl that I had buried was dug back up and this new survival was detrimental to me. I began to lose weight because I wasn’t eating enough. I gave everything I had to my daughter, who above myself, needed to survive too. I started exotic dancing, doing private parties, and using drugs again. I was on this path for a while until one day it went too far. I drank way too much and popped so many ecstasy pills, that I slept for 3 straight days. Luckily, my Mom was watching my daughter, but when I woke up, I could not remember anything. It was one of the scariest moments of my life.

I immediately picked up the phone and called my grandmother. She lived in Georgia, but came all the way to North Carolina to get me and move me back with her. When she arrived, I just wanted to hold on to her forever. Every part of me felt broken, but when I held my cheek next to hers when we hugged, my heart began to mend. It felt like everything was going to be just fine.

On the highway to Georgia, I looked out the car window and saw a new me. The girl I saw myself to be one day had risen again. She wasn’t broken. She aspired to inspire others. She motivated herself so that she could uplift those who endured the same pain as her, and she became knowledgeable so that she could teach herself to love every part of her. What I learned about myself was one of the most important revelations I had ever discovered. Sooner or later I had to come to terms with myself. Every portion; The good, the bad, the ugly, and her. That girl that I cast aside had to be loved by me, and I now know why I had to love her. I realize why she mattered. Without her, I was like glass, easily broken. I needed her in order for me to be strong. I needed her in order to triumph. I needed her in order to become what I only thought I could be without her.

I am now the woman who I was destined to become. My dreams of being someone who helps others, loves unconditionally, and most of all, one day fully loving myself, has come true. I have replaced my pain by inspiring girls from around the world with #BelieveInOurQueens. A social media campaign geared towards inspiring Young Queens between the ages of 7–17 years. The purpose is for young girls to find more positive and uplifting content online. I am also a three-time bestseller and female entrepreneurial coach.

I no longer wonder who I’m supposed to be. Throughout the years, since moving to Georgia, I had a son and dove a little deeper into finding out my career purpose. Turns out that I am an awesome web designer and social media manager. So awesome, that I started my own social media company,FlooderBox. There I build online brands, websites, and manage social media for celebrities, entrepreneurs, small businesses, artists, and more. It is something I love and can’t see myself doing without.

Surviving through so much has helped push me higher than I have ever imagined. It reminds me of birds in flight. Before now, I would wish for the day that I would finally get my wings. I would imagine myself weaving through branches and hitting the sky with my beak held high to the sun. I look at myself in the mirror now and I know that I have earned my wings. What I had to discover was that in order for me to live free from the pain, I had to first love all the indestructible parts of me. It was an evolution and beauty that has brought me to where I am today.