Dana's Story: To Ashes We Were Born & To Ashes We Will Become
I feel what makes me a Beautiful Disaster the most is that I have had so much happen to me, starting when I was seven years old. I was inappropriately touched by someone who was six years older than me that, throughout my life, started a domino effect of disastrous relationship beliefs such as equating sex with love or attraction to love. Then, my parents got divorced and so much has happened from that point that I have to give you the abridged version leading up to the last 10 years of my life. Relationships were very tough for me and I was diagnosed many years ago with borderline personality disorder. I self mutilate, meaning self harm. I am a cutter. I was diagnosed not long after that with bipolar disorder, but I continue to struggle on and off with having those labels and was in an out of treatment for many, many years after several failed relationships and not valuing myself completely by being with all kinds of men who didn’t really love me or care about me because I didn’t love myself enough or feel worth much. My self-esteem was very low. I was always a very cute child I was told and a beautiful woman, but that’s what I based everything on, outer beauty, very vain growing up as my mother‘s family is off the boat from Italy and they took very much pride in their looks. Being that I was on all kinds of medication, I fluctuated in weight and never felt like I fit into my family. Not only was I labeled the bipolar misfit in my family, but my relationships obviously attracted the attention of my family and I became the redheaded, not step-child, but the black sheep I guess you could say of the family. Self-esteem and self-confidence I only had when I was at work and I defined my value then through work. I was doing well, so I thought, but each time a relationship failed I became sick lost many jobs and started cutting. Well, after many years of treatment and back-and-forth, I realized that maybe my therapist was right. I needed to stick to a plan because the one I had for many years was not working (on and off medication etc.) In 2009, my mother got diagnosed with stage 1B lung cancer and I had been on the welfare program and was getting help from the state to pay rent and food etc. Now, I felt even more worthless as I’m sure you can imagine since I defined myself through such work ethic throughout my life and not being able to even take care of myself was horrible and made me hurt myself more by acting foolish, making bad decisions, drinking too much promiscuity etc. Anyway, back to my mom, she then got treatment and things were looking good. I applied for a job with the National Basketball Association as I was in accounting and retail management most of my life making decent money. I got the job and my mother was never so proud of me. It’s probably one of the only times she cried and told me how much she loved me and how proud she was. She wanted me to take the job as she was going through chemo for preventative measures, so they said they were meeting the doctors and she said there was plenty of family members to help and she wanted me to go to work for the NBA, after all, "who refuses a job?" my brother said on the other line when I called to tell them the good news with the Basketball Association. So, I took the job. My mom was getting better and I thought my life was on the best path possible. One day I was at work and I received a phone call from my sister. This was about six months later and my sister had told me that my mom was in the hospital from the night before and she had pneumonia. They did tests on her as she hadn’t been eating and they called the ambulance the night before. She said she’s waiting for the doctor and it doesn’t look good, they did some bloodwork and it looks like the cancer was back with a vengeance. I should have left work because I started crying and fell on the floor, knowing this was really bad for my sister to call me at work, and said she needed to sit that night with me and my brother and talk about some things. It turned out my mother passed away in 2011 from lung cancer because it spread and she was not telling anybody that she was still smoking here and there and that her breathing got worse and it was attacking her immune system badly and it’s spread to her lymph nodes and she had limited time to live. The NBA laid me off in time because there was a lock out and I was able to spend the last eight months of my mother's life with her. It was a horribly ugly thing to watch. She suffered so much and was so strong prior to that. Her whole life she had been through hell herself, she was a tremendous woman with a beautiful soul, but she was a tough cookie being off the boat from Italy. Emotions were not something that were allowed to be shown in our house as children . Anyway, after losing my mom and watching her suffer, it was a traumatic experience for all of us. She was really a beautiful soul and one of the strongest woman I ever met in my life with little or no help from my father, she did the best that she could to keep a roof over my head and my siblings. With that being said, once I lost my mom I thought I was OK, but I ended up going off the rails and when I thought I was OK, I went back to work to do taxes because I do have a personal PTIN number meaning I am certified to do income taxes with the state of New Jersey. While I thought I was OK, I ended up meeting a guy and he ended up being bisexual and had a whole other life outside of me and that sat me off the rails again. It wasn’t until I received some strange inbox from a man who later on became my husband, who was in recovery, and he sent me a private message/inbox on Facebook because we were in a motorcycle group together and we commented on the same picture. He tried to be nice to me and I was rude being that I was bitter etc. Well, moving forward to more recently, I ended up giving him a chance after all and he loved me so much that the first fight we had I drank myself into oblivion and left him all kinds of crazy messages when he was sleeping and he woke up the next day very upset and said, "What is wrong with you? You’re not OK. I think you need to go talk to someone now". Mind you he was in recovery at this point, still working a program as a recovering heroin addict. He was very supportive and told me that he was already starting to fall in love with me and didn’t want to lose me. He told me that I needed to get help full-time or I would never truly feel better about myself, my mom, what has happened in my life, my past, my being sexually abused as a child etc. He moves in with me and helps me financially. I answered myself as for he gave me an ultimatum - it was go get help or I can’t be with you. Being so independent it was tough for me to trust him or rely on any man for money as my mother couldn’t do so. But, there was something about Rich, which was my husband's name, that I just trusted. There was something in his eyes telling me that it was all going to be OK, that he really truly loves me and understood the pain that I was going through. His perseverance as a heroin addict was amazing to me and how vulnerable he made himself to me in the very beginning of our friendship which became later on a full-fledged marriage we got married in 2017. We had our ups and downs, but he never went back to his addiction and I got better, as better as I could be. and of course, it’s a rocky road. It's never consistent, but I went to complete a program at St. Mary’s Hospital and met a great team of people who saved my life along with my husband's support. I learned about what’s called peer counseling and the community of peer support. I went to some classes and then later on became a peer specialist. For the mental health community, I took several courses etc. that is what I want to do with my life, but somehow it always seems to get pushed aside from external circumstances such as people dying on me that I love so much and that are either family or close friends. So with that being said, I went to work for the Mental Health Association of New Jersey and after having an argument with my husband on a Friday, I ended up getting into a car accident while drinking and driving and was back to my destructive patterns as for my husband and I would fight because he works very hard as a craftsman building cabinets and MRI rooms etc. but I wanted to live life on the weekends and my lifestyle prior to meeting him. I was able to maintain it while working because I made enough money to take care of myself and yes, I like nice things, but I’m also very responsible and practical when it comes to priorities. It was a big adjustment for me to get married, but I loved him and I believed in him as he believed in me. We were two puzzle pieces that just met each other whole. Backtracking two years prior to getting married, I lived in a building in Passaic which was owned by a property management company that were slumlords. There were roaches everywhere, unbeknownst to me, the first year I lived there, they did construction and everything started to come up the building was infested with bed bugs roaches etc. I freaked out, cut myself, stabbed myself in the head seven times and my bedroom door fighting with my soon to be husband. I had to apply for disability, so in the interim with the help of my husband paying for a car and the state again, I attended the program at St. Mary’s Seton Center, the power program and had fantastic counselors. I was there about three times and it was a partial hospitalization program that was 90 days. Without them and my husband, I don’t feel I would have ever made it this far. My husband being my biggest supporter. I also lost my father in 2013 which really threw me again for another loop, only this time I had a better support system with my counselors and my husband by my side. Although it was a devastating blow, I was able to try and manage it a little bit better this time, and I did and continue to work on myself. Then, my grandfather passed away and he lived a great life. He was a hard-working man who was amazing and he took care of my mom as if she were a daughter and took care of my sister, myself and my brother as if we were his children, not his grandchildren. He was an amazing man. I don’t know what my mom would’ve done without him. He lived a great life. He was sick and died of natural causes at the age of 93, but it was still killing me inside because I felt like now I am an orphan, I have no family, not that my sister and brother and cousins were not important, but I had no parents and no grandparents and I just felt abandoned . Although I had continued the relationship and obviously married my husband through all of this chaos, I always felt a sense of just being a huge mess. I was beautifully broken. I was told how smart I was and when I worked at jobs I gave it my all. When I loved I loved hard, but I never got any fulfillment completely in my heart and there was always a void on top a void on top of all of the traumatic complex complicated grief and loss of my family members. Bringing you back to the present tense because I told you this was a horribly long story and thank you for your patience and this is the abridged version if you can imagine. My husband and I married in 2017 and he was still sober going on nine years in June from a heroin addiction that he beat and persevered over, which is so hard to do, I became an upstanding citizen taxpayer. I helped him build up his credit and we were building a life together. During the pandemic, he got laid off and we got a puppy. Her name is Savanna and she is my world and my husband actually needed her more than I did because he was laid off and used to being busy so the puppy kept him very busy and myself lol. Well my husband tried to find work through the pandemic, but there wasn’t much out there that wasn’t considered nonessential in his field. Finally, when things started to get better, he submitted his résumé to several people and my dream was to move down south Jersey and live the short life because we both had had so much stress and trauma. I just wanted us to live the best life we could and have peace and tranquility. I love the water and that’s what it does for me (that’s just a sidebar). Anyway in August 2020, my husband died suddenly. He had been complaining of stomach pains and went to the urgent care two months prior and they told him it was acid reflux. They didn’t test him for Covid when it was mandatory, they didn’t give him blood work, they didn’t do a chest x-ray and they would’ve seen all the buildup in his lungs. It ended up that he had clogged arteries very badly, He was a heavy smoker and from all the damage he did prior years with his addiction, his body just gave out and the pains he experienced were heart pains. His lungs filled up with fluid and while I thought it may have been Covid and ran to the store cause he looked very pale on a Sunday morning, which was August 16, I was gone for one hour and seven minutes. When I got home he was dead. I am truly broken!!! He was my biggest cheerleader, my biggest fan, and though we could be toxic at times, we just made each other‘s lives better and whole. He accepted my beautifully broken and I accepted his, and together through our chaos and no matter what, he stuck by me and we loved each other just as much. I am on disability and my husband passed on August 16, 2020 and I went to work part time two months later because I was in fight or flight mode, scared that I had to feed myself and the dog etc. I needed help paying rent. I had to get a different car, they repossessed my husband‘s etc. I needed to go to work is all I kept telling myself. Nothing has been right in my life for many years, but I can say he was the only thing that kept me feeling like I did something right for him and myself. I chose him to trust and be my husband, and now my only strength, so all I felt was, "God what do I do from here?". It has been a year and six months and I am more broken today than I was on the day he died and I found him on the couch with the puppy biting his shirt, trying to wake him up. She is also traumatized. She is very high anxiety, but she is my lifeline. She’s an Australian Shepherd mini and she is beautiful . Anyway, that brings us to the current situation. I am exhausted. I am truly a Beautiful Disaster and beautifully broken, but I don’t feel beautiful and that’s the problem. While I've had plenty of people I have met along the way who can relate to the loss of a spouse, it’s just been too much throughout my whole life. From seven years old on, it wasn’t all bad there were a lot of good times. I had a best friend who made my life throughout my young years, named Stacie, and her family who kept me grounded. They were a normal family and without them I don’t know what I would have done. Coming from such chaos, she is still in my life and calls me almost every day and I see her sometimes once a month because she lives further away from me. Aside from her and a handful of friends who have been in my life forever, I truly just feel empty and alone and I am completely broken. I believe in your brand and your movement for all of the reasons that I mentioned. I suffered from depression, was molested, self harm etc. and still rose from the Preverably speaking ashes and kept becoming the Phoenix. Only now I feel that my wings have been clipped for good. Seeing some of the stories that I have on BD and the website makes me feel not so alone. I can relate on so many levels to so many different women and some men some men. I truly believe in the BD brand and I love that you help people in the community and this is such a powerful clothing line with such beautiful sayings and stories. I believe in what you do and I believe in the movement and your community. Please keep doing what you’re doing, it really does reach people and thank you for giving back to those and sharing your stories as well. PS while my favorite collection used to be the Bella Rose collection, it is now the Angel collection because my husband is my biggest supporter, or was, and he is now an angel, so anything with angel wings catches my eye. Also, the Phoenix because that was my husband‘s favorite thing symbolically. He always said to ashes we were born and to ashes we will become and of course he wanted to be cremated and he’s with me in the house where he wanted to be. So, there are so many collections that I love and sayings that go with it, but those are my two favorites. Love you all - stay true to you.