This special post was authored by Jessica Guillemette by request of Path Made Clear
I must warn you - the memories I am about to recount are difficult to read. In fact, they have been difficult for me to write down. See, my life has been marked by betrayal, loss and trauma.
It started around the age of five when I was molested by my babysitter's son. That day I learned how to kiss and to this day, I still remember what he tasted like. I remember not understanding what was going on and not feeling comfortable; just following instructions. I can't say if my parents knew, but it wasn't very long before my parents found another babysitter.
Shortly after, my parents were in a really bad accident that caused my dad severe pain. For some reason, the doctors didn’t prescribe him any pain medication, so my dad soon started over ingesting Advil. This eventually led to kidney failure and when I was six, he started needing dialysis. My dad had grown up an Army brat and was abused by his dad. In response, he turned to alcohol and drugs at an early age and left home to join the Navy as soon as he was eligible. Now on dialysis, my dad vowed never to drink again. I struggled seeing him this way. But, in the midst of his pain, the church became a source of hope for my dad and he made a decision to follow Christ.
My struggles continued throughout middle and high school when I was bullied by other girls for being too skinny and not pretty enough. They said such cruel things, and the worse part about it was that these were my best friends.
One night, at the age of fourteen, it went too far. I was staying the night at my best friend's house. I didn't know it, but she had made plans for some guy friends to come over. We were outside and one of them pulled me into the grassy area next to a retention pond and held me to the ground. I told him no, but he didn't stop. That night I was raped, and my life changed. I felt so setup and betrayed. When it was over, I went back into my "friend's" house, laid down and cried.
A DEEPENING DARKNESS
My dad was a powerful anchoring force in my life. In July of 2004 he was suddenly rushed to the hospital. My eighteenth birthday was coming up and I was praying he’d be able to come home. On July 15th, I was scheduled to work, but something told me to stay home. I didn't listen and instead, ignored the still small voice inside. I wish I hadn't. It turned out to be the last opportunity I would have to see my dad while he was alive. On July 16, 2004 at 3 AM my dad was pronounced dead. That day I felt as if I had died with him. I blamed myself for missing the chance to say goodbye and held on to that guilt for many years. In an attempt to manage the emotional pain, nine days later on my birthday, I began going out to night clubs almost every night. My life spiraled downwards and I drank until I didn’t feel the pain anymore.
One night in May 2007, I met up with a male friend of a friend. That night I remember drinking way too much, too fast. I ended up passing out at his house. When I woke up the next day, it was apparent that he had also raped me. I reached out to our common friend for help because I didn't want to hang around him anymore. But no matter what I did, he refused to leave me alone. Soon I was caught up in a toxic relationship that was on and off for three years. This man was mentally and physically abusive. While part of me wondered if I deserved more, my mind kept telling me that I didn't deserve any better. Reluctantly, I stayed with him. In 2010, I found out that I was pregnant with his child. It was horrifying to think about bringing a child into the world like this. I decided I needed to get out of the relationship. Motivated by the baby, I somehow mustered the courage and finally left.
THE TURN AROUND
It was around that time that I started looking for answers and returned to church. The lead pastor was the same pastor that had previously led my dad to Christ. At church I felt safe. I began learning about Jesus in a way that I was never taught as a child. As a kid I thought of Christianity as a set of rules to follow. But at that point, I started to realize that it was something altogether different; more like a close relationship with a father.
Thankfully, things in my life slowly began to improve. Although I still struggled with my self image, depression, anxiety, and worthiness, I had discovered a source of hope to make it through. In 2013, I went back to school to learn business. I ended up graduating college four days after my daughter graduated from Pre-K. It was an accomplishment that I was very proud of. I believe that courage is contagious, and I wanted to show my daughter that she could do anything, no matter the odds.
I would like to say that things were consistent after that, but in truth, they weren't. There were seasons I found myself falling back into dysfunctional relationships and cycles of drunken partying. One night, at a particularly low point, I drove home extremely intoxicated, yet somehow arrived safely by the grace of God. Once home, I went in to check on my daughter. I kissed her on the forehead as she slept and immediately broke down crying.
The next morning, I dragged myself back into church and did everything I could to try and avoid being noticed. The reality was, I was doing everything I could just to keep myself together. I felt worthless, like I wanted to die. I decided to sign up for a multi-day event the church was hosting called The God Encounter. Although I was nervous to attend, I desperately needed God to intercede in my life. That weekend, I attended The God Encounter and received several encouraging confirmations; but it wasn't enough. On the final night of the event, I begged God to change me. The next morning, I received the powerful insight I was waiting for. I discovered that not having fully grieved the loss of my dad was stopping me from moving on. We prayed together that morning and I felt as though God was taking my broken-heart and mending it back together.
My life changed again that day; this time, for the better. My attitude and outlook was suddenly different. Inside I felt worthy and I could experience peace again. There was joy in places where there was once was deep pain.
In 2018, I went back to school to get my master’s degree. I graduated in just under a year with a 3.82 grade point average while also working full-time and caring for my daughter. After graduation, I began looking for a new job, but nothing was happening. With two degrees under my belt, I was still having trouble finding a job! I remember praying consistently for nearly a month for God to give me a job. One Wednesday night at church someone I knew walked up to me and offered me a part-time position with EB Management, a Christian-owned property management company in Orlando. The job has been a huge blessing. Little did I know what God had in store for me.
God continues to father me, day by day. And today I choose to live my life not afraid, but willingly surrendered to his will.
ABOUT JESSICA GUILLEMETTE
Jessica was born in Orlando, Florida and holds an MBA in Business from DeVry / Keller University. She is a single mom to a beautiful girl. Her dream is to one day own her own business and use her life experiences to help others overcome trauma and abuse.