After lifetime of trauma, Palmyra woman 'finally ready to invest in this life I never thought I wanted.'
Behind every phone call to LCCM is a story. This is Amy’s.
Amy was physically and verbally abused by her first stepmother. She and her siblings were sequestered in their bedrooms for three years where they studied and ate food on the floor.
They wasn’t allowed outside to play. She got lost in books and lost in her mind as her only means of escape.
She was given 30 minutes to eat with a timer put in front of her.
“I was beaten if I didn’t finish in time,” she said.
She was given huge portions and sometimes inedible meals.
“I figured out I could stop in the bathroom on my way to take my tray back to the kitchen and scrape my food into the toilet,” she said. “It began as a means of survival around age 9 and it became a lifelong battle with anorexia.
Though her stepmother eventually left and the physical abuse stopped, a new form of abuse began when her grandfather began molesting her at age 11.
This is when she made her first suicide attempt.
Amy was unsuccessful in her attempt but told herself that she didn’t want to be alive past the age of 18.
Her father remarried, and shortly afterward Amy was reunited with her mother at age 13. However, she didn’t feel safe at her mother’s house because different men would stay the night.
From age 16 on, Amy lived with people she babysat for, coworkers, and even lived in her car.
She became increasingly more self-destructive as she approached her cutoff age of 18. Already anorexic, she began exercising for hours every day and cutting herself.
After coming down with a stomach illness, a teacher noticed Amy’s absence and began to see all the signs of a mental health crisis. Amy was admitted to an inpatient psychiatric hospital.
“That saved my life,” she said.
Though she continued to struggle, Amy eventually married and became a stepmother herself – something she always feared due to her own childhood experience. But her fears were alleviated when Amy connected with the child and loved her as her own.
But six years into her marriage, Amy and her husband divorced.
“So I ran,” she said.
And she ran from Texas to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
It was here she decided to reinvent herself as a singer.
She found much success in Pennsylvania, performing with her band as the opening act for several major recording artists, seeing her name and face on billboards and even writing and recording her own songs.
“To everyone around me, it looked like I really had things together and was on my way to big things,” she said. “But in truth, it was all a persona. I got to pretend all those bad things had happened to someone else. But the real Amy underneath that persona was drowning. I sabotaged my own success.”
Amy was raped in 2005. Shortly after that her mother died. After the traumatic events, Amy was hospitalized at age 33 at what was then known as Philhaven, today known as Wellspan Philhaven, a comprehensive behavioral and mental health facility headquartered in West Cornwall Township.
“They educated me, they ministered to me, they believed in me, and they refused to give up on me,” she said.
It was at Philhaven where Amy was connected to outside services that helped her rebuild her life.
Philhaven arranged for her to stay at Lebanon Rescue Mission’s Agape Family Shelter until an apartment opened through a housing program between Philhaven, the Housing Authority and Mental Health and the Lebanon County Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention program.
She was able to utilize LCCM’s food pantry and Emergency Food Assistance Program. Recovering from anorexia meant her body changed and her clothing became too small. She couldn’t afford new clothing, so she used LCCM’s clothing bank as well.
“I was embarrassed and ashamed to need their help,” she said. “But at LCCM I wasn’t treated like the lose cause I believed I was. I was treated with such kindness. Like a real person worthy of their time and effort.”
LCCM met Amy’s basic needs, which was foundational for her to address other areas of her life in recovery.
She used a few of Wellspan Philhaven’s outpatient programs. The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation offered her assistance in education. Compeer, a nonprofit that focuses on friendship and support for people living with mental illness, provided a sense of community in Lebanon where Amy didn’t know many people, and SARCC provided specialized counseling for the sexual abuse she endured. When she moved to Palmyra, she was able to use the Caring Cupboard food pantry as well.
Today, Amy continues to work hard in therapy, learning new ways of thinking and coping. She still has a strong relationship with her stepdaughter, and has built a strong support network. She continues to rely on her professional supports, though to less necessity. She gives back in ways she can through ministry, volunteerism, and activism.
“God showed me I am capable of having a happy and productive life that I don’t have to give up,” she said. “I don’t know what the future holds for me, but at 50, I’m finally ready to invest in this life I never thought I wanted.”
Lebanon County Christian Ministries