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Jennie’s Story: Transforming a History of Tragic Trauma

Written by Samantha Carter

Jennie has lived through unimaginable trauma. In the APN podcast episode, Discovering My Autonomy After Trauma: Recovery x Jennie, Jennie opens up about her experiences with sexual and physical assault, losing a child, witnessing suicide, multiple deaths of loved ones, and her struggle and desire to live. Despite it all, she has found her way through the darkness and hopes to help others do the same.

Jennie discusses the role APN Lodge played in her recovery by highlighting some of the transformative assignments and alternative treatment plans available. While her road to recovery may have been long, she’s here to encourage others to never give up, no matter the hardships they’ve faced. To learn more about Jennie’s story, continue reading the article below or watch the full podcast episode on YouTube.

Touching on Childhood Trauma

While Jennie didn’t go into the extent of her childhood trauma on the podcast episode, she did highlight some significant events that played a role in her mental health history.

“Starting at eight was when things got really apparent that [they] were not normal,” Jennie said. “In third grade, I went to four schools [and] had a really tough year. In fourth grade, I ended up staying home and being homeschooled on suicide watch. That’s when things started getting really challenging for me. Back then, they didn’t know that bipolar could be in kids, so they thought I had depression and they put me on [medicine that made things worse]. Finally, [I was] diagnosed with bipolar properly when I was in high school as well as ADHD, which are common together.”

Unfortunately, receiving a correct diagnosis was not the happy ending she thought it would be.

“When I was 15, I went to a party that I shouldn’t have been at,” Jennie said. ‘When we walked in there were a bunch of 20 or 30-year-old guys and I was really uncomfortable. I knew I [shouldn’t have been] there, but I didn’t listen to my gut. I ended up being date raped with GHB and then had seizures. I was thrown out into the lawn and they threatened our lives if we turned them in. [It] took three of them to get me to a vehicle to the hospital and they didn’t think I was going to make it. So that was the first time that I was almost killed for my body.”

If I Can Choose to Die, I Can Choose to Live

As Jennie said, it was only the first time. Once is enough to traumatize a person for life. However, Jennie had the misfortune of being raped to the point of near death two different times.

“In 2008, I was attacked by three guys and taken to a cabin [where I was] sexually assaulted and beaten within inches of my life,” Jennie said. “They threw me in a snowbank to die and I was life-flighted from Bozeman to Billings. I had frontal and occipitalo bruising from the Ricochet effect from having my head bashed down and then I had brain hemorrhaging and cerebral edema … I still have a skull fracture [to this day].”

After that experience, Jennie struggled with her will to live.

“I got to a point where I just couldn’t live anymore and I was just hanging on by the skin of my teeth,” Jennie said. “I prayed to God to take me and to take care of my daughter [who] was nine months old at the time. I’d fought those days for her and I just literally didn’t have any gas left in the tank. I prayed that God would take me and that he would take care of my daughter … [Then, I felt] my soul start separating from my body.”

In that moment, Jennie had an epiphone.

“That’s when I realized that I just chose to die,” Jennie said. “And if I chose to die, I can choose to live. Like, this is a choice. I have power here. I have agency. So I prayed very rapidly in my head … and I said, ‘I take it back God! I take it back! I can do this. I can fight.’ [Then, I felt] my soul just snap back into my [body] like a tot rubber band and that’s where things really changed for me as far as my perspective on life.”

Trauma on Top of Trauma

While Jennie fought hard after that – engaging in therapy and other mental health practices to improve her overall well-being – she just couldn’t seem to catch a break.

“In 2014, we lost a baby,” Jennie said. “Then, less than a year later, my best friend died. Then, a few years later, my friend Eric shot himself in the head right in front of me. So I [had] all of these traumas that [were] building and building and building and when one thing happen[ed] I [didn’t have the] time necessary to work on the next thing. [Also], I didn’t feel safe until I moved from Montana to Idaho. I was always afraid that [my gang rapists] were going to come back and get me … they knew where I lived.”

After Jennie moved from Montana to Idaho, she started to feel a little safer again. Still, her traumas continued to compound.

“So I started doing a lot better just moving to Idaho but then it was just one trauma after the next,” Jennie said. “Someone very close to me – he was only 26 – [who] was like a little brother to me hung himself. They waited for me to drive down to be there when they pulled the plugs. So I watched two people die in a matter of eight months. So all of that really built up.”

It seemed that death and tragedy were ruling Jennie’s life.

“So I got really sick November of 2021,” Jennie said. “[At the same time] I found out two [of my] friends commit[ed] suicide on the same day.”

To make matters worse, Jennie’s dog also died that same weekend. As anyone might imagine, Jennie was not doing well and her body was beginning to illuminate the score it was keeping.

“I Just Couldn’t Do it Anymore”

“[After that funeral], I never got better,” Jennie said. “I just kept getting worse and worse and worse. I lost 45 pounds in four months. I wasn’t eating. I was throwing up all the time, passing out, and my brain wasn’t working. [I’d have] coughing fits where my lungs were on fire. Essentially, everything in my body was shutting down. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me so they [started] searching for cancer. [I was] getting MRIs and x-rays and ultrasounds and mammograms and [even] had a colonoscopy. [We were trying] to find out what [was] wrong. I [was] getting flooded with all of these emotions and I became rapidly suicidal.”

Before she knew it, Jennie was on the brink of survival.

“I ended up at a bridge,” Jennie said. “I don’t even know how I ended up there. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was so sick. I didn’t have my mental health and I didn’t have my physical health. Nobody could find out what was wrong with me and I just broke. I went to this bridge and the dam was open. It was roaring, it was pouring rain, and I was soaking. The damn vibrated my whole body–it was so intense. So in that moment, I got terrified. I was like, I can’t jump. So I called my friend and they helped me. I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I wouldn’t have been in close vicinity of these people who I knew would help … For weeks, this voice in my head [said], ‘Kill yourself. Kill yourself. Kill yourself. Kill yourself.’ It was just incessant all the time. [But], I woke up the next morning and for the first time in weeks I didn’t hear it.”

Fight or Flight Mode Affecting Her Relationship With Her Daughter

While Jennie had won the battle for her life, she still had some more fight to get out of her.

“[One of my daughter’s best friends’] committed suicide by gun end of summer last year,” Jennie said. “So I believe that helping her through this experience triggered me back into fight-or-flight mode. All of a sudden, things [between my 16-year-old daughter] and I just started getting a lot more combative. I was snapping really easily. Next thing [I knew], I [was] going into full-on fight or flight mode. I found myself one day on the floor kicking and screaming … like a toddler having a fit. And I’m like, what is happening right now? But I realized that there was so much pent up energy in me that I was gonna explode if I didn’t somehow physically get it out … My body [was] preparing to run from a bear, but really I [was] just trying to talk to my kid.”

When she wasn’t in fight mode, she found herself in flight.

“So then I had another experience on the road,” Jennie said. “I called [my daughter] out on something and then went to the car. I fled from the store, like I left her in the store and I went to the car … [When] she called me out on it while we were on the road, I noticed that I [was] starting to speed up and going in and out of traffic … I realized [I was] fleeing. [I was] literally trying to get away from my kid who [was] in the back seat.”

After that, Jennie decided to seek treatment.

“Once I recognized what was happening, [I realized I had to] get help before I [did] something I [couldn’t] take back. [That’s when] my mom sent me a link to APN.”

APN Assignments–Validating, Powerful, and Transformative

When Jennie came to APN, she was ready to jump right into the healing work. While she had done many different things in the past – including shadow work, psychotherapy, energy healing, and more – she found new tools at APN that took her deeper into her recovery stage. In particular, Jennie talked about the APN assignments and how they impacted her during and after her stay.

“I did my trauma body map and that one was really intense,” Jennie said. “In fact, I didn’t share that with the whole class. Instead, I hand picked the people that I wanted to share it with because some of my story is so extreme I just wanted to make sure I was a safe. I definitely encourage everybody does the body map. There’s a big roll of paper they have here and you put your body down and trace it [and then add on things to represent your trauma] … What’s really incredible about [it] is – especially if you’ve had a lot of trauma – seeing it all together. [It] was like, whoa … no wonder I’m fucked up. It was really validating to see images representing my pain and be like, yeah, this is a lot. My whole body was just covered.”

Jennie also spoke about the trauma timeline assignment and how that impacted her perspective on what she had been through.

“[My] trauma timeline was as long as twice the distance of this room,” Jennie said. “It was five of those big sheets and it filled up the whole room. That was just validating for me because I’ve never before met anyone who has a conglomeration of trauma like mine, so it feels unbelievable and unfathomable to me a lot of the time. To see it on paper and be like, I went through that shit and I’m still here. It was just very validating and very powerful and an incredible way for me to communicate to my loved ones the pain that I’ve been going through that they couldn’t understand.”

Speaking on the assignments, Jennie had an important message she wanted to share with current or future APN participants.

“If anybody gets an assignment and it piques your interest at all, just do it,” Jennie said. “Doing those assignments is a lot of the value and then sharing them with your peers, too, because they validate you, they support you, they ask good questions, they make good suggestions.”

Taking Advantage of APN’s Unique Therapeutic Experience

The assignments weren’t the only things Jennie found helpful during her stay at APN Lodge. She also took advantage of some of the supplementary and alternative treatments they have available.

“So TMS I found so interesting because … as soon as they put that little cap on you, it like cradles [you] and it’s like you’re in the womb again,” Jennie said. “I just [felt so] safe and [I’d] just go into kind of a meditative state. I really enjoyed that.”

Additionally, Jennie tried out the stellate ganglion block treatment.

“When I came in [to APN] my phq9 score was 22 and I believe the highest is 27,” Jennie said. “Before I got the Stella, my phq9 score was 8. So all of the work I did while I was here plus the TMS had already gotten me from severe down to [a much more manageable level]. [But], when I got home, things that would put me into fight or flight before I left [didn’t]. [So] now I have more control over my peace.”

With so many different approaches to try, Jennie talks about the uniqueness of the APN treatment paths.

“One of the things that’s great about APN is that you don’t have to be struggling with substance abuse to get help,” Jennie said. “A lot of the facilities all across the country are tailored towards people who have substance abuse problems. If you have mental health or trauma issues but don’t have a substance abuse you can’t get that help. That’s what’s beautiful about APN. You’ve got the addiction track. You’ve got the trauma track and the mental health track. And you can do one or three or two and they customize your treatment.”

Then Versus Now

Looking back on her life before coming to APN versus now, Jennie reflects on how different things are.

“It’s really nostalgic coming back here,” Jennie said. “It almost makes me emotional because I think about when I first came here how broken I was. Coming back here with like this massive smile on my face and doing so well–it really is a moment of a lot of gratitude … when I came here my brain was controlling me. I was not in control of my brain. I was not in control of my emotions. I was not in control of my behavior. Now, I feel like I have total agency and autonomy.”

While Jennie’s been through an incredible amount of trauma and hardship, she never gave up. She hopes that by sharing her story she can inspire others to keep pushing through the darkness.

“When we can shine a light on the things that [are] hiding in the dark, [they] lose [their] power,” Jennie said. “[Then], we have power again. We regain our control. So we just have to be courageous and disciplined to go back to those places that are difficult and say, ‘bring it on.’”

If you’re interested in learning more about All Points North and our addiction, trauma, and mental health recovery programs, submit our confidential contact form or call us at 855.934.1178 today. You never know how good your life can get when you shine a light on all the darkness.

More From Jennie

Listen and watch Dusty’s episode of Recovery x APN below, and find more episodes on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.