Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the young girl walking along the seashore, who noticed hundreds of starfish that had washed up along the beach with the incoming tide. Knowing they would soon dry out in the hot sun and die, she quickly started picking them up and throwing them back into the sea. One by one, the starfish was returned to safety.

“What are you doing?” inquired a nearby fisherman.

“I’m saving the starfish,” the girl replied proudly. “If they don’t make it back into the water, they will die.”

The fisherman, shaking his head, looked at the girl and said, “You can’t possibly save all these starfish . . . there are so many you can’t even count them!” And then he asked, “What difference can you possibly make?”

The spunky girl, looking down at the sand, picked up another starfish and tossed it into the ocean. “It made a difference to that one!” she exclaimed. A parable by: Inspired Ministries

I first heard this story when I was about 17 when I first moved into the King’s house. This little parable becomes more and more precious as I get older. At 16, I became their starfish who they returned to the ocean.

I can say that at nearly the age of 25, I love my life. I live in a beautiful home here in Moscow with a loving man that I have been with for over 5 years. We spend our days loving on each other, cooking delicious food, loving on our cats, and create novelty memories. My family has never been so big and full of love. I have worked as a caregiver who specializes in Dementia care for the last 5 years. I take pride in the work that I do and the life I have created for myself. I finally am experiencing peace and happiness. But this took a lot of hard work. And it took a lot of time, healing, and responsibility.

Eight years ago, my life was completely the opposite. I thought I never would be where I am right now. At this moment. I thought my life was nothing but chaos and uncertainty. I was living in a home where my mother had an unmanaged mental illness and struggled with alcohol and sex addiction. I am the oldest of 4 children as I watched my mother struggle with not having the knowledge, tools, or responsibility to be the mother we needed her to be. Us kids suffered greatly. What made matters worse was the men she brought around to get her fix. I suffered 14 years of sexual trauma from 3 men in my childhood that she brought into what was supposed to be my home.

I remember showing signs of Complex Post-Traumatic Disorder as early as 5 years old. Plagued with fear, paranoia, nightmares, and anxiety. Being outspoken about the ways of which I was suffering was swept under the rug. My trauma and emotional pain became so much a part of my identity and reality that I started to developed physical illnesses in my body. But I was unable to get the medical help that I needed. I was neglected in all the ways that a child should never experience.

When I was 16, the fights with my mother got worse and worse. She would gossip about my personal stories with her friends, and when I became “too much to handle” she would make other family members to “deal” with me. No one listened. No one cared to acknowledge the ways my trauma was making me suffer. My experiences isolated me from my peers’ alongside with my family ignoring my calls for help. I never felt so alone in my life.

I finally got sick of it. One day a fight happened. It was me backed against a wall with my mother and aunt screaming and yelling at me. Instinct took over and I pushed through them, and I ran. I ran with one of my brother’s hand in mine who followed me. I decided that day I was never ever going back. And I didn’t. The more I reflect, the more I learn that I never really was alone.

The situation was so dire, that I was willing to settle for another abusive household to get away from my mother’s nest. I was drowning. I was willing to climb on top of a shark to get away, not even considering that the shark could bite me. As long as I got to the surface, I didn’t care how I was going to get there.

By some miracle, Ed and Michelle came into my life at the right time through school activities I participated in. In my most desperate time of need, they offered me to stay in their home. I lived with the King family for nearly 2 years. During the time, I never would have thought how much that time saved my life until later. Because during that time, I never thought I would see the age of 20. I hated my life and myself that much. I thought I would never see the end of this war that I was born into.

Living at the King’s residence was an intense experience as a severely traumatized child who never got to know what safety was. It made me question everything that I have ever believed in or known to be true. They first made sure that I had all my basic needs met. Which is something that I never experienced. Eating wholesome dinners, getting the medical attention that I needed, clean laundry, and everything else that a child could ever need.

Seeing what should be normal in raising a child, was so abnormal for someone like me. I never thought a family could be some loving because mine was not. I can say that in some ways, it got worse before it got better. In a lot of ways, they saw the worse of me after leaving my mother’s home. My grades were awful, I struggled with using Hydros to escape the emotional and physical pain, and I had a horrible case of headlice that never got better for years. They also got to see my defense mechanisms of disassociation, laziness, lack of responsibility, and selfishness. I could go on and on about what I was like. The point is, they saw me through it all and loved me anyway. Something which I never got to experience.

They even gave me tough love, and there were times when I thought I hated them for it. But come to find out, it’s normal to think you hate the people that actually give a damn about you. That means they are doing their job. Living with them my relationship with food started changed, I started to live my life without physical pain, I started taking better care of myself, my grades got a little better, and I started to have friendships.

Even now as an adult, I am still processing what all that I learned from living under their roof. When in survival, my perception was narrow. My focus didn’t go very far away from myself. But now as I have gotten older and grown, I am seeing more and more lessons that Ed and Michelle taught me.

Then came the time that I had to leave the King house. Which was one of the scariest moments of my life. I had no faith in myself. I did not think I could make it through the world on my own. I was at a point where I was stagnant in my journey of healing. But they saw something in me that I did not. They did everything in their might to teach me all they could, but it was time to prove to myself that I can create the life that I desired.

At this moment, one of the greatest lessons that they taught me is to be responsible for my own happiness. I am the one who has to answer for my life choices once I was an adult. Happiness comes from responsibility and being an active participant in my life. If I wanted to have a family, I had to be an active participant. I had to do my part in maintaining those connections.

It all started with a choice. A choice that I was not going to participate in the chaos of my old home. A choice that to this day I do not regret. It was the best choice I ever made for myself. I had to save myself, before I could save anyone else. Ed and Michelle helped me lay out the start of the foundation that will hold the rest of my life. They put some much love and devotion into me, and as I get older it shows more and more. They were my beginning to my new life.

I know they will do the same for you too. And I hope you are ready. Because this is going to get you ready for the rest of your life. It will make you question everything you have ever known about life, family, relationships, and love. It may get worse before it gets better. But I can promise you, it will get better. I have been where you are. Experiencing the first tier of safety will be scary. But healing and growing is never comfortable. But that’s how you know that you are on the right path.

I think as time goes on, you will find out that it takes a village to raise a child. Especially a child who carries stories like ours. Ed and Michelle will not be the last. There will be more and more people that will step up and assist you to piece together your beautiful life. When I heard the King’s were opening LC Valley Youth Resource Center, it drew tears to my eyes. Knowing that there are kids out there who have similar stories like mine hurts my heart. But I am so happy to know that there is an option.

The King family is apart of my ever-growing family. And I am so blessed to have people like these two in my life. Through ups and downs, we have always come back together with more love and compassion. I applaud anyone who decides to take control over their life and happiness and starts somewhere. This is the first step.

Victoria Nicole Bergman

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