This is actually happening features real experiences that often include traumatic events, please consult the show notes for specific content warnings on each episode and for more information about support services.
Today's episode is the second in a two part series, last week's episode featured Britney, who told the story of an unthinkable decision involving her and her mother that dramatically altered both of their lives.
Today, we hear from Britney's mother, Jessie, who shares her perspective on her own life and her own experience of what happened. Also, a quick reminder to check out the newly revamped website for the show. This is actually happening, dotcom there in the store, you'll find a number of new designs for T-shirts, posters, stickers and postcards that we just launched last week. That's this is actually happening. Dotcom, thank you for listening.
I close my eyes even to this day, reliving it over and over in my head like that really happened. I wasn't sure that it was really real in my mind. I know that's what I saw, but I don't want to believe that's what happened. From London, I'm with Misalign you are listening to this is actually happening episode one, Avita. What if your daughter committed a seemingly unforgivable act? Conference tournaments are tipping off, bubble teams are making their final push, top seeds are preparing for what they hope is a long run drapkin sportsbook.
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I grew up in a little town that just about everybody knows everybody or they're related to each other. I'm the oldest of three, the only girl. I had a lot of responsibility growing up with my parents. They both worked. So I helped a lot with my brother. My parents are old school. They were pretty strict, so it was do what you were told, no back talk. I don't want to say no opinions, but you had to watch how you said or did things just really do what you're told, how you're told then there wouldn't be any issues.
Probably when I was 15 or 16, my brother was in some trouble, he had run away from home and he ended up going into foster care. Basically, one day we're a family of five and then we're not it's just me and my younger brother and my mom and dad. We didn't talk about it, it just kind of happened and that's the way it was. Being that we were the kids, we didn't have a whole lot of say in it one way or the other.
One day, your brother there and the next day he's not there, and all you know is that there was some sort of trouble and there's no conversation at all at home, not even that he can be visited and they choose not to. So it affects the way you think concerning any relationships that you have on whether you talk or not. And I just grew up that you didn't talk about a lot of stuff, but growing up that way, I didn't know any different.
It just kept everything in. And it's something that I'm still learning how to deal with. Overall, I mean, I probably had what was a typical childhood for that generation. I love my parents death and they I know they did the best that they knew how to do. I think that they felt like they did better than what their parents did or they try to anyway. I lived with my parents for about a year after high school, I was 18 and ended up moving out, renting a room and living there for a while before I ended up getting married the first time in nineteen eighty nine.
I had known my first husband since sixth grade, I was working at a little cafe and he lived down the road. I get off work and he'd be sitting at my car just making an annoyance of himself at that time. That's kind of how we got started seeing each other. And we ended up getting married in January of that year. Basically, we were still just kids, but by the time our first anniversary came around, I was pregnant with my first daughter.
After I had our first daughter, I was working and then he wasn't working, he wanted to play video games and hang with his buddies, so we had a rough time. We ended up having a second child together. It was kind of one of those situations where you think that having another baby will make it better and it never does. So number two was planned, and that's when we had our son. I ended up kicking him out, so I was divorced probably a year and a half, two years.
When I met my second husband, we probably knew each other about six months when we got married. Everything was OK. It wasn't too bad, but in the first few months of getting married, I realized that he was an alcoholic and I had never been around anybody that drank. So it was a whole new experience. The longer I was in it, the more I realized how big of an issue my husband's drinking was. Our bills were always paid.
That was the one good thing, but it was the uncertainty of what kind of mood he was going to be in when he got home. Within the first year of our marriage, I got pregnant and had my third child, my second daughter, Britney. Once Britney finally got here, she was very loved and very welcomed. She was pretty smart from the get go. With her being the baby of the family, she pretty much got what she wanted and she learned very quickly, she crawled and she walked really quick, she tried to follow her brother and sister around the law.
I'm thinking that she was about three whenever I filed for divorce from her dad. I just felt like I couldn't do anything right. I was I had three kids and soon to be two ex husbands. I was depressed, I was anxious, I had a hard time keeping a job because trying to find somebody to help take care of the kids so I could work, I depended too much on other people, especially relationships at the time. I'm not making the association to it, but my anxiety of where am I going to live?
How am I going to take care of my kids? Just trying to go day by day and get through the day and just make sure that my kids are all right. That was my main goal and just not knowing exactly how to go about it. At that point in time, I had met somebody else and we were dating and me and my kids ended up moving in with him. I'm about thirty one, Britney's about for the other about 10 and six, and there's two stepchildren that are about the same age.
He's a truck driver, so he's gone most of the time, so I'm just taking care of five kids at times. I ended up in the middle of trying to move from this boyfriend's house because things had gotten stressful and there was a lot of conflict and had a trailer that made the down payment. And then I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child. I ended up not moving and then I ended up married again. While I was with my third husband, who is the father of my youngest son, we had a situation with my oldest son and we discovered after having a conference with the teacher that he had close to 30 assignments missing.
I was helping him with his homework. So it wasn't like he wasn't getting it done. He just was not turning it in.
My then husband suggested that he get paddled. He suggested one paddle for each missing assignment. I'm not exactly sure how it came about, but my brother was the one that administered the paddling, I was in the house. I knew that it was going on. I just kind of went along with what was going on because I was frustrated. I didn't know what else to do with my son as far as school. After the paddlings had been administered, I thought everything was OK.
The next day my son went to school and the bus driver had told him to sit down on the bus and he said, I can't. My butt hurts. I then found out afterwards that they had called CPS and had taken pictures after that, the police were contacted by CPS. My brother ended up being questioned by the police and then there ended up being charges on him and I. I was in the house when it happened, but I was not in the room, so I did not physically observe the paddling, I did not realize the paddling was as hard as it was, but I got in trouble because I allowed it to happen.
The charges that were brought on me were initially felonies, and I was in jail for three days before my parents bailed me out while I ended up pleading guilty to lesser charges, which ended up being misdemeanors and ended up on a year's probation. There was actually an organization that came to the house every week for at least a year. It was like nothing I had ever been through before, and I hope to never go through again. From that point on, my two older kids didn't live with me again, they stayed with their dad.
I just felt like I couldn't be the parent that they needed me to be, that they were better off without me. I felt like I was in another situation where I had failed again and I wasn't doing anything right. At that point in time, once that happened, it just it just seemed like everything spiraled even worse.
After my oldest son and my oldest daughter moved with their father some time later, my oldest son came to visit us and he stayed with us for a while.
We hung out, kids played together, and we did the family thing and nothing out of the ordinary. It was just a visit. A while later, we were watching TV and it was a talk show and they were talking about molestation. This is when Britney tells me that my oldest son had molested her. It obviously shocked me. You know, he hadn't been in the house that much and it was just that week and I was at the house the whole time.
I contacted his dad and his grandmother and let them know what she had told me. I called the CPS in the town that we lived in.
It was recommended that my son got counseling also and I'm not exactly sure on the follow up with the. I know we went through the counseling and trying to get her to understand that it wasn't her fault and that she didn't do anything wrong, but I don't think she ever really believed that at that time. I totally believed her. I totally believed her, but I was I shock my mindset was I didn't do something right because I allowed this to happen to my daughter.
The thing that I probably could have done was maybe let her confront him, but I didn't think that was a good idea. I just I didn't know what to do for her. I knew where she was coming from. I understood what she was saying.
But I don't know that I conveyed it in such a way that she understood that I knew what she was saying and that I believed her.
I feel so torn about it because growing up, you didn't talk about that kind of thing. I didn't want to rehash it. I didn't want to remind her of it by talking about it. I didn't want to inflict more pain on her. And it's your own children, both the perpetrator and the victim. So how do you handle that? You just do the best that you can and hope it's the best. My relationship with my son, whenever he was growing up, I wasn't around him.
He was out of state most of the time. And so most of the contact that I had with him was on the phone. And there was no confrontation. There was no conversation about what happened with Britney. As he got older and we got closer, but I worked with him, so I had the opportunity to be with him every day, so it was learning him as a person and an individual.
It doesn't mean that he didn't do it, and it doesn't mean that I don't believe that he did it to her. It's just there's more to him. And it took a long time before we even got to that point to have that kind of relationship. Today's episode is brought to you by Babille, so let's pass them on in case you don't speak French, that means this is actually happening. And I just learned it from Babille, the number one selling language learning app.
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My third husband had an ATV accident, ended up losing sight and his eye, so he was unable to work anymore. Probably about a year after the accident is whenever I started my divorce proceedings with him. Part of the divorce, I ended up leaving my youngest son with him because I did not feel that I could be the mother that he needed me to be. By the end of my third divorce, I was thirty seven and Britney was nine years old, and she and I ended up moving into a trailer next door to her dad and started the beginning of the journey of just her and I together.
I believe she had started taking the advanced classes in school by then. She's very, very bright, very, very intelligent, and with us living next door to her dad, it gave her an opportunity to be able to see him still. In that time, I was just existing. My anxiety and my depression was really bad. It was a struggle every day to be able to even get out of bed. I wasn't working, I was having a hard time with my health, a lot of it was the anxiety and depression.
But then I found out that was I was diabetic. I had had some form of depression or some form of anxiety for as long as I could remember. I didn't know how not to have depression. I didn't know how not to have anxiety. I did do some counseling, but I don't think that I ever got any kind of medication for my depression. I felt like I was doing the best that I could, but I'm sure there was more that I could do.
For those five years, that was pretty much just Britney and I and then two thousand and eight is when I met what would end up being my fourth husband. I know it was rough on Britney because we were moving to another city, new school district. Things at first were pretty mellow, she seemed to get along with him, he seemed to get along with her, everything seemed to be going OK, and then he lost his job. He didn't work for a year, I still was not working at that point in time, so it was really, really stressful.
Again, the marriage fell apart. We were married about three years. I think it was about August of 2011. I moved out of the house with Britney. We moved back in with my third ex husband, which is the father of my youngest son. Britney was not real happy with that because she remembered how he treated me previously. About April of twenty twelve is when I started noticing behavioral issues, mainly her self-harm, her anxiety, I didn't think that it was normal the way she was acting.
In a way she was behaving. I ended up taking her to the hospital to be evaluated, and I believe she ended up being there for at least five days and then it just seemed to be a roller coaster ride for months. We were getting her counseling visits, trying to medicate for her symptoms. She was causing herself self harm to the point of opening sores on her arms. I had gotten a call from the school, from the counselor stating that Brittany was talking about not being afraid to die.
I ended up taking her back to the hospital. I lost track of how many times she was admitted. What led up to the last hospitalization was that she had gotten a hold of her medication and she had taken an overdose, but she had told me that she did it. And I got her immediately to the E.R. I found out after I got her to the E.R. that she had taken a razor blade and cut her thighs, in addition. And someone at the hospital had recommended a long term facility and that that was probably what was going to be best for Britney.
So I agreed. I looked into it and thought maybe this will help. I did not know what was causing her to start acting out so physically. At the time, I had no idea what was happening between Randy and Britney. And I didn't understand the outbursts and the arguments and the behavioral changes, and all I knew was I was working. I was the only one working in the household at the time. So I was depending on Randy to take care of Britney while I was gone to work.
I had no idea of what she went through while I was with Randy. I'm completely lost, I kind of like on automatic pilot doing what I know I need to do for her, but I'm not processing what's going on. I guess I'm not letting myself think about what's going on, because if I stop and think about it, I will fall completely apart because all I know is my daughter's hurting and there's nothing that I can do. And all I can do is get her to a place where she can't hurt herself anymore and that wasn't even working.
It's heart breaking because there's nothing I can do for her. I can't take it away. I can't I can't hurt for her. I can't take the pain that she's feeling and the emotions that she's feeling. I can't take them away from her. And I can't there's nothing that I can do except try to get her help and hope that they're helping her. Not only did I have to try to make sure that she was getting the help that she needed, but I still had to maintain my job, so I didn't allow myself to think about it.
There's a lot of days that's like, what have I done differently, what didn't I do or what did I do that made it worse? It's bringing back to the place that nothing that I do is right now I'm not good enough to be my daughter's mother because I can't take care of her and I can't keep her from her. She did end up in the long term facility where she ended up OD'ing and ended up down in Indianapolis.
Then I ended up bringing her home with me. By that point in time, I had gotten an apartment and moved out of my ex's house. So this was September of twenty twelve. We got settled in an apartment and started trying to have somewhat normal life. We were still getting her to our counseling and her medication and her doctor's appointments. We got to the end of October and she kind of got out of control one night and I told her that if she wouldn't let me take her to the hospital, I would call the police and have them take her.
I wasn't physically capable of restraining her. So we ended up back at the hospital and she spent the night. This is the twenty ninth of October, so I pick her up on the 30th and bring her home. So on Halloween is her follow up appointment with her doctor. I went to go pick her up from school so we could make her doctor's appointment. Pretty much uneventful, she gets in the car, we're on our way, we're talking.
Nothing major, just conversation, and I've got both hands on the steering wheel driving down the road and out of the corner of my eye, I saw her hands freaking out and grabbing hold of the steering wheel and pushing it. That thing I know, the steering wheel has moved and I just remember a big crash and the smell of antifreeze and the car spinning.
In my mind's eye is slow motion, but I know that it was an end set and I know it just happened in a heartbeat. I remember the airbag blowing up in my face, the glass shattering my window, the driver's side window, as well as the windshield broke.
My glasses had been pushed off my face from the airbags. I could feel the cold air after we stopped moving. It registered with me that she had pushed this across the center line, but it didn't register with me the extent of it. I remember looking over at her and asking her if she was all right. I don't remember what she said. I remember reaching over and hitting her shoulder go on, why did you do that? She was like, I can't do this, I can't do this.
And I remember grabbing her hand and holding her hand and telling her that if I had to go through it, she had to go through it. But it would be OK. All I can think is why did she do this? It just keeps going over. She did this. I can't believe she did this. Why did she do this? They ended up removing her from the car first. The other vehicle drove up and over my side of the car, so it smashed everything on the driver's side.
There was just no way to get the door open, so they had to cut it out of the frame. So basically, I'm just sitting there in the cold and in shock and I just remember the noise. And I just remember once they started moving me out of the car. Immense pain. Up until that point, I haven't had any pain, I was just cold, but once they started moving me, I had just agonizing pain shooting up my right leg.
It got colder getting out of the car and getting moved to the ambulance. I close my eyes even to this day, reliving it over and over in my head like that really happened. I wasn't sure that it was really real in my mind. I know that's what I saw, but I don't want to believe that's what happened. I don't even know how to put it in words to try to describe it to somebody, because it's just so incomprehensible that somebody almost nonchalantly I mean, even now, there's no way to explain it and to comprehend it.
And it's just it's just what happened. I was hooked up to all sorts of machines once I got to the hospital, a police officer comes into the room asking me what happened. And I got hysterical telling him that my daughter caused the wreck and the nurses had came in and to check on me because the machines were going nuts because I was getting so hysterical over it. Britney finally came into the room I was in and she had her arm in the sling because she had broken her collarbone.
I don't really remember a whole lot of conversation with her, but I do remember her thinking that she was going home with her dad, but somebody affiliated with the psychiatric unit and said she's not going home with her dad. And yes, I did have to sign the papers for her to be admitted. Up to that point, she had only harmed herself, and that day it took a different angle whenever she involved not only myself but the people in the other vehicle, and it could have turned out so much worse.
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I had broken my right leg, my tibia and fibula and shattered my ankle. I ended up being transported to Indianapolis to have surgery down there. It required two surgeries and a metal plate and screws to put my leg back together and not walking on it for over five months. I ended up moving back in with my parents, it was physically exhausting to try to do anything because it just required a whole different mindset to be able to even walk.
I'm also worrying about my daughter. I saw her once and I believe it was on her birthday. I was in a wheelchair that day. I don't know if there was any impact for Britney in seeing me in a wheelchair, and I don't know if it registered. We had phone conversations, but pretty much no talk about the wreck. There was no acknowledgement. What little bit of relationship that we have, because I had been so strained over the past six months, was I felt obliterated because there was no acknowledgement of any wrongdoing.
There was one conversation that we had that she apologized for wrecking my car. And that was the only acknowledgement up to that point that was made. And I felt that she was very flippant in her attitude about the whole thing. In my mind, I'm thinking, when you wrecked my car, you wrecked my life, I lost everything that day, lost my car, lost my apartment, lost my job, and I lost my daughter all in the same day.
I was very angry, I was very hurt. I don't even know if I can think of a strong enough word. I mean, pissed is pretty good. I guess I couldn't wrap my head around the thought, but she almost killed people, herself included. She kind of acted like she was being punished for something that she had no control. I didn't look at it as a punishment. I was looking at it as a way for her to get help.
There was no way for me to put it into words, to get her to understand how severe it was because she didn't see the physical part of it for me.
But I also took into consideration she was a 14 year old teenager, but that still didn't make it right and it didn't make it any easier.
I kind of had to distance myself from the situation to keep it from hurting so bad because I knew there was nothing that I could do, I couldn't change the situation. I couldn't make things any easier for because I was having to get better myself, because I couldn't do anything for anybody if I was unable to do anything. Once she got established into another long term facility, I made the trip once to go up and get her paperwork signed and I never visited her up there and she couldn't understand why I wouldn't.
I told her I couldn't. I physically just could not emotionally. It was it was hard to deal with, too. I just couldn't imagine being in the same room again with her. From that day on, our relationship has not been the same at all. There's still a sense of disbelief, and I knew it happened and I know it happened, but without acknowledgement on her part and just kind of have to accept it and go on, because how hard do you fight to try to get somebody to understand something if they're not literally emotionally able to understand it?
And I don't know that she would have been capable at that age and at that point mentally, even because she was dealing with everything on her own anyway. It literally took a while to get back on my feet, and then it was a matter of am I going to be able to work? Am I going to be able to stand for long periods of time? I have this knack for just putting things in the back of my mind. This was something that wasn't going to be getting dealt with any time soon.
So there's a lot of tears. But I had to get to a point where it didn't hurt so bad to think about. It is still hurt. It just didn't hurt as bad. Just came to the conclusion that I may never, ever have any kind of closure with it, not that I would have been OK with that, but it wasn't anything that I could change. Once she got out of the long term facility, she lived with my oldest daughter for a little while and I saw her for the first time.
It was like almost like strangers sitting in the same room, we didn't have anything to say to each other at that point. So it was just a matter of being available to her whenever she was ready to talk or when she wanted to talk and just basically kind of left it at that. Our contact with each other has gotten better over the last couple of months. I think it has a lot to do with this podcast. It's opened up a door that I thought was closed for a long time.
She contacted me, letting me know that she had reached out about the wreck, which surprised me because literally it was the first time we had had any sort of conversation about the wreck. So it led up to her and I having a phone conversation and both of us kind of telling each other our sides how we felt. And we've probably talked more in the past two months than we talked in the past eight years. She apologized to me for not just Barack, but a lot of the emotions and everything else surrounding the whole situation.
It was an inner battle with me all the time. I'm her mother, I shouldn't feel that way about my child. I shouldn't feel such anger. I'm a horrible person. But to get some acknowledgement that I had every right to feel that way, it felt good to get that acknowledgement to know that that I wasn't a horrible person for feeling the way that I did. And I still feel like I was an awful person because of the way I felt sometimes.
But I had the right to feel the way that I felt and most of the circumstances, and that she understood that. And that that helps a lot, knowing that she understands. I think that I was more hurt and angry that I was unable to do something more for her. Yeah, I blame her, but I don't know that I ever let myself think that it was all her fault. I felt that she had some responsibility and being able to control it.
But I also understand in the state of mind that she was and she really couldn't. And I know that being a teenager and having the mental problems, too, is a bad combination all the way around. I do remember having a conversation with her one time that she had been bullied that day at school and that she had remembered thinking that if she could get outside and get to the road and if a car hit her, then it would take that responsibility from her that she didn't hurt herself.
Somebody else hurt her. That as a parent, as heartbreaking that she was thinking about it in such depth, I understand she was in a state of mind that she was just trying to get her to go away and it just kind of transposed itself into the car ride. She wasn't thinking about anybody else or the consequences. I found out just within the last couple of months about what happened with Brandy and Britney. She didn't go into detail, but she did tell me that he had been inappropriate, and then I just found out that he had actually raped her.
To hear the terror, I don't know what to say. I don't know what to do. It's heart breaking, I swore I'd never let anything like that happen to my kids and the worst thing happened to them and I couldn't do anything about it. I had no idea. I really did not have any clue. It makes me feel like the one thing that I should have been able to do, I wasn't even able to do that. It breaks my heart.
It reawakened the guilt that I felt for feeling like I didn't do what I could and it just felt like another instance of it wasn't good enough, I didn't do enough. I just totally was not prepared for what I've been through and what I went through. I guess it was just always understood that I get married, that I have kids, that I would raise a family, I wasn't made aware that it was OK not to have somebody in your life.
I guess I always thought that I needed to have somebody and that it was necessary and I didn't know what it was like to be alone. I had never been alone. I graduated high school. I got married. I had kids. Rushing into relationships and rushing into marriages, it just put me in a lot of situations. There for a while after I got back on my feet, I was working and did pretty well, got my own apartment and had my job and I had a new car, and then I had some pretty serious health issues.
And so I kind of had the rug pulled out of underneath of me again. So I'm four years past the quadruple bypass now. I'm on disability and just kind of taking care of myself and going day by day. I do my best and try to take care of myself and and try to be good and and I try not to let the negative thinking get to me. I hope that I can understand a little bit more and I hope that there comes a time when I can look back and not feel like such a failure.
Some days it's like, yeah, I just can't do nothing right, but it's not as overwhelming as it used to be. I'm still learning a lot, and I don't know that I've learnt to forgive myself yet. I do stuff to try to compensate for what I feel like are my downfalls and my faults. If I'm in a position financially to help, I tried to do that, I have a bad thing about not being able to say no if I can help my kids.
They try. I've learned, but really the only one that I can depend on is myself, and I'm getting a little bit better at being able to make some halfway decent decisions anyway. And I'm a little bit better about being alone now, but I'm still learning, I'm still learning how to live with myself at times. From London you're listening to, this is actually happening. If you love what we do, please rate and review the show. You can subscribe on Apple podcast, Spotify, the Wonder App or wherever you're listening right now.
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I'm your host witness Aldine. Today's episode was produced by me and Andrew Waite's with special thanks to that. This is actually happening team including Ellen Westberg. The intro music features the song Alabi by Tipper.
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