My story begins as a child growing up in the Bronx. I was the youngest of 8 children in a low-income, Puerto Rican family. My parents divorced when I was 2 years old, and my mother remarried. We later moved to Miami.
I grew up in an abusive home. Unbeknownst to my mother, I was being sexually abused from the age of 2-10. I also endured physical abuse. I was tied up and raped at the age of 12. I dropped out of school in the 9th grade and started consuming an array of different drugs and alcohol. I drank and drugged every day, often from the moment I woke up. I also became promiscuous. I wanted so badly for someone to love me. This led to a long history of abusive relationships.
All of this left me feeling embarrassed and ashamed. I thought it was my fault. I felt horrible; like damaged goods. And, in my mind, everyone would agree. So, I locked these horrific secrets away for many years and pretended none of it ever happened. These feelings of worthlessness stayed with me well into my adulthood.
I believed I overcame all of this when I started achieving success and accomplishments in my life. I earned my GED, a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Master’s in Clinical Social Work. I also owned a successful real estate company, nightclub, and became part owner of a mortgage business. I was very satisfied with these achievements, but I still carried the weight of my unresolved trauma. I couldn’t fully enjoy my achievements.
The beginning of my healing began with the passing of my mother on my birthday in July of 2010. My mother was my hero, my everything, and when she passed it left a gaping hole inside of me. I’ve always been a visual person. I envision everything I want to do before I do it. When she died, I lost that ability. I couldn’t see; I was blind to my future. But, I know she is still here with us working her magic. She loved us too much and worked too hard to give up on us. It was during this turmoil I remembered the 2 most valuable lessons (of many) she taught me:
1) Love conquers all. I had always believed this with all of my heart though I had no idea
how to apply it.
2) Never give up. When you fall or fail, get up every single time. Never stop trying. Never stop fighting. Dust yourself off and move on.
At the time I was working for the Army as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), specializing in trauma and suicide ideation. A year into my service, one of my patients came into my office and took his own life. This event, along with my mother’s passing, opened the vault that was already busting at the seams. No matter how much I tried to keep it closed, I couldn’t.
As an LCSW, I have worked with people who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I knew the definition/criteria and knew it well. I saw it every day. But I was in complete denial about what I was going through. Even with all of my education and qualifications, I was suffering. It worsened for me with every client I counseled, being exposed to their trauma. I was helping them but it was killing me.
Over time, the signs started to present themselves. I became more and more anxious. I began having panic attacks, nightmares, and flashbacks. I started avoiding people, friends, and family. I wasn’t the social butterfly anymore. I avoided places that triggered past events. I became forgetful. I lost interest in activities I loved. I even contemplated suicide. I was screaming at the top of my lungs on the inside, but no one could hear me. I had full blown PTSD.
I now had a new dilemma. I was a Behavioral Health Officer in the Army. Who could I turn to? How could I tell anyone? This can’t happen to me! I didn’t want to lose my job or my mind in the process of therapy. Plus, I still didn’t want anyone to know my awful secrets. So, I went back to denial because I wanted it to stop. I wanted it to go away.I talked myself into thinking surviving all of it meant I never had to face it again. I truly believed in my heart (not in my right mind) my education and my faith in God would spare me. I knew too much about how the mind worked and how to handle my emotions. More importantly, I hadn’t become another statistic. I was FINE. But I wasn’t. As a therapist, I knew these things may never go away but, in the thick of this torment, I wasn’t a therapist anymore. I was once again that child who had been abused, beaten, and raped. I could no longer hide from it. It was coming at me like an unstoppable wave and I was going to feel every bit of it again.
I could end my life. I could take my secrets to the grave. No! I couldn’t do that. I loved my children too much. Deep down I loved life and I loved helping people. I truly believe it’s my calling. Besides the finality of it, what message would I leave my clients when I worked so hard to keep them alive and they worked so hard to survive? More importantly, what message would I leave to my children and family? It certainly wasn’t the message my mother left me.
I went back and forth like this for some time, then I finally started opening up. I shared my trauma with a few people and made the decision to see a therapist. But old habits die hard, and I was very guarded. I’d tell my therapist one or two things and wait to see the reaction. My therapist would react and I would shut down. As time went by I shared more, though I still haven’t shared everything. However, eventually I started EMDR and I benefited from it tremendously. This started the healing process. My journey began here!!!
Healing is an ongoing process; a journey that may never end. It takes time; as much time as it needs. But that’s OK. There is no deadline. I’ve learned valuable lessons along the way and I want to share them with you; how I overcame my obstacles and how I can assist in helping you overcome yours. I am committed to creating balance through healing, not only for myself but for others as well. The modalities of healing that were truly effective for me were Individual Therapy (Brief Solution Focus and EMDR), Gerson Therapy, Thomas Hanna Somatics, Massage Therapy, Tai Chi, Yoga, Meditation and Nutrition. You can’t heal the mind and not heal the body and spirit. You have to tend to all three in order to truly recover.
While creating this balance, I continue on a journey of healing, which reinforces my motto, “To Make a Difference in Life You Have to Make a Difference in Someone’s Life”. My work and this website accomplishes my goal; turning my pain into purpose. I hope you’ll share it with those you feel might benefit from it.
• Officer in the US Army - As Behavioral Health Officer I had the opportunity to work with servicemen and women who were defending our country. I believe that, besides being a mother to my children, this was the most important role I played in my life because they are so valuable to this country. Of all of my experiences as a therapist, it was truly the most gratifying to me. I want to thank all the soldiers who touched my life by allowing me to help them.
• Small business owner - I successfully owned and operated Jazzy Realtors Corp., Co-owned JP Bryant Mortgage Company and owned the Salsa Lounge in Lakeland Florida.
• Program Coordinator for the Full Service School at Miami-Dade County Public Schools.I was elected (by public vote) to the City Of Miami Overtown Advisory Board where I served as Secretary.
• Master’s Degree in Clinical Social from Barry University.
• Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Florida International University.
Licenses & Certificates:
• License Clinical Social Worker (Florida)
• Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW)
• Florida Districts Educator’s Certificate
• Florida Notary Public
• Florida Real Estate Broker
• California Massage Practitioner