“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” ― C.G. Jung
Throughout my childhood, I found myself struggling with my identity; of not knowing who I was and who I was destined to be. Being shattered with emotional, physical and sexual abuse, in addition to being neglected at a very young age, my dreams and aspirations were hindered for many years. Nevertheless, I’m glad to know “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” So regardless of my circumstances, regardless of what others made me out to be, and regardless of being picked out to be picked on; that “Broken Nobody” that I once was, has become that “Somebody” that I never thought I would get a chance to see. Therefore, my mission is to empower and give courage to others so they too could become somebody!
A Summary of my Story
As far as I can remember, I always felt like a broken nobody and I knew deep within myself that it was a reason for my feelings.  I’m sure this was due to me being born into a poor and unstructured family, to a mother who was addicted to drugs, to a father who already had a family, and to being repeatedly sexually assaulted by those I trusted.  Maybe it was because my mama wasn’t nothing and I wasn’t going to be nothing. Some of these words I would hear before going into defense mode in my mind. “Don’t be talking about my mama,” the words I wanted to tell folks as they sat around discussing her drug addiction and how bad of a mother she was. Not caring about mine or my sister’s feelings, they would go on and on about how she left us in the house alone and how she sold all her food stamps to support her drug habits without buying us one thing. Even though these saying were much true, they were still hurtful. The most hurtful part was to hear these types of words come out my own family mouth. Family is known as the ones that love you, care for you, the ones that are there to lift you up, and protect you from others. But instead, this unintentional verbal abuse was just the beginning of the damage that was destined to be done within my heart.
After hearing that I would never amount to anything nor to anybody, from my loved ones, teachers, and people in my neighborhood (who knew my mama had a drug addiction), had me feeling like I was a nobody for many years.
With no support and no guidance, around 6th grade, I found myself alone, sad, depressed and inexplicably angry all the time. I was so angry to the point that I would lash out at anybody; anywhere. Teachers, family, friends or whoever; didn’t matter to me because that’s the only way I knew how to deal with my brokenness.  I used to be so overwhelmed with guilt, shame, and embarrassment that I would go into the back bathroom of my grandma’s (the woman who practically raised my sister and me) and desperately cry out and asking God questions. “Lord why did I have to be born in this family? Why do my mama have to smoke drugs? Why can’t I have new outfits like my cousins?” Many times, I would even wish I wasn’t even born. I was about fed up with my peers calling me poor and saying my mama was a crackhead, I was tired of my teachers sending me to the office because my clothes were too short or too tight without understanding that was all I had, I was tired of being forced to take baths in my cousins’ bath water because their mom paid the water bill and my mama didn’t (in my aunt’s voice), I was tired of having to run for my life in the middle of night because my uncle wanted drug money, I was tired of sleeping with rats/roaches, I was tired of having my legs gapped open while I slept, and I was tired of not having a (real) mama.
Being a social work student – as I think about it now, I was tied into “Identity and Role Confusion” by the time I reached 13, which makes Erikson’s Stages of Development, in fact true.  With no sense of direction and a heart filled with so much pain; I turned to another force of abuse; the self-inflicted. Hoping to fill these painful gaps. The gap of not understanding why my mama would crawl on the floor looking for this little white rock she said just spent her last on. The gap of not having a father-daughter relationship with my daddy because he didn’t want his wife to know about me. The gap of living in the house with a pastor for grandfather, yet being sexually assaulted by another man right in his living room. The gap of not understanding why I had to wash a grown man’s body as he sits naked in the bath tub. The gap of not understanding why my uncle would threaten to kill the whole family if he couldn’t get money to buy drugs. The gap of embarrassment and being called names at school because I couldn’t afford to wear the same clothes and shoes as the other kids did. The gaps of my teachers telling me that I was dumb because I didn’t have a pencil at home to do my homework.
At the age of 15, my 9th grade (repeated) year, I dropped out of high school. Which is the same year I found out I would be a mom and not long after miscarry that baby. Now on top of everything I was going through and everything I was experiencing, to be told “God knew you didn’t need a baby anyway” by my aunt, made me angry with not just my circumstances but even with God. BROKEN and the last “hope” inside of me had just slipped away.
That nobody feeling I had felt for so many years, had become reality right before my eyes. A broken nobody indeed I was! Not having a care in this world about nothing and no one, I tried almost anything that I thought would ease the pain.  The drugs, the alcohol, the clubs, the fast money, the sex, the fighting, the lying, the stealing, and even allowed myself to be bruised both mentally and physically by different men who would always apologize and say, “I love you” (three words, I never heard as child). How to admit that these things did, in fact, make me feel better, but only for a moment though. Because as soon after I finished having sex, getting drunk at the club and after my last high would go down, I was back at square one; struggling to find out “Who I am.” Not what people said I would be; but “who am I” is the question I yet asked myself repeatedly.
By the time I reached 20, I thought I finally found the answer to my question. I thought I had it all figured out…. I finally accepted that I was this “Nobody” that everybody and my circumstances made me out to be. Here I was a young, single, black mother of two. Force to give my baby over because I was struggling to raise the oldest one. Many times I had to make bottles from the store shelf. I was on welfare, but I would take the money to support my habits and buy me a new outfit for the club. I was uneducated, jobless, carless and staying from here to there. I would start fights so people could think I was a “bad chick.”  One of them fight almost killed me as I bled from a blow to head with a bottle. I had guns put to my head and one put to my face (during an attempted kidnapping) and I constantly placed myself in situations where I could have been raped or even killed.
Now doesn’t that sound like a broken nobody to you? I thought so too until my life looked like it was finally headed in the right direction (at least I thought)…..
Twenty-two and I finally got approved for my low-income apartment, my sister gave me her old car, I finally got a good job (part-time sale associate) making a few cents more than minimum wage and I had a drug dealer for a man. Winning! I thought to myself. Yet, I was still wondering “Who am I” and still asking God questions concerning my life (I just knew it had to be better out in the world than what I had right then).
March 6, 2007, that one knock on the door that changed my life forever.  As I was in the shower and my then boyfriend – sitting in the room rolling up our blunt to get high. “Knock, Knock” is what I heard. Shouting from the shower “Get the door,” the knocking begins to turn into a bang, bang. “He doesn’t hear that knocking,” I’m wondering to myself as the bang, bang turns into a boom, boom. Jumping after the shower with nothing on going toward the door with curiosity, there I stand pulsed as the door is being knocked down by 10 men (or more) in all black holding guns and badges in my face telling me to get down. “Lord, if you get me out of this,” is what I whispered to myself after seeing the police grab my children and handcuff my boyfriend while my face is smashed to the cold, dirty and hard tiled floor.
Who am I? A “Nobody” I told myself, after being denied bond for possession of drugs charges/child neglect. Twenty-six days of not knowing when or if I would ever get to see my children again; forced to sleep on a cold cot, get up when told, and being treated like a mass murder, I can see my life headed into a cycle of my childhood memories. All I could remember is my granddaddy (who died while I was behind bars) saying that “God sometimes has to do things to get our attention. He must shake us up a little to change our ways and cause us to be uncomfortable to change our minds.” I didn’t always agree with granddaddy back then when he would talk about that church stuff, but, this time he was right concerning my life.
Growth and the Start of a New Beginning
During this chapter of my life is where I began to assess, plan, implement and evaluate “change” into my life. I finally realized I could no longer use my past as an excuse to not do better (We all could make excuses). For many years, I used what I been through, how people treated me and how I was told I wasn’t going to be anything as a reason to not strive for greatness. So, I knew if I wanted this “Better,” I had to change my mindset and go get it! My first step was admitting that I was wounded, I needed help getting well and I needed help right then. This kind help didn’t come from doing the same ’ol things. But “If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done,” so I did. I began to speak over my life and tell myself that I was somebody (This is because words have power and whatever a person thinks, so shall they be). Therefore, I got out of my feeling and how I felt and took steps to become better. It’s started with my soul, then with my attitude (Your attitude determines your altitude). Letting go of the past, the hurt and the un-forgiveness that laid deep within my heart, was one of the greatest feeling in the world! Realizing the only person I could change is the person in the mirror, is what taught me to love myself when no one else would. Having the power to say no to drugs, alcohol, and anything or anybody that’s going to destroy me on the inside, is why I’m able to share my story.
Long story short… I had to change my mind in order to change my life!
So today, with the help from God, supportive church leaders and inspiring mentors… who am I?  I’m Cassie Marquita McDuffey, a Child of God who’s saved by grace. I’m a wife, a mother, a (honor) college graduate, a federal government employee, a domestic violence survivor and drug and alcohol free. But most of all I’m HEALED (from my past), DELIVERED (from my painful memories), and SET FREE (from the guilt/shame & embarrassment) because I AM SOMEBODY!
You too are Somebody!

January 2, 2018

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