Discovering our Hearts of Gold

Story of Hope: Holly and Izzy

May 23, 2022

“Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold.” – Leo Tolstoy

My mom and I know what it’s like to be trapped. So much of our life for the past 15 years is heaped with trauma and abuse; it buried us. Even when we tried to move away from California to Washington state in 2016 to escape a bad situation, we found ourselves caught in another web of lies and sexual abuse from a boyfriend living with us. At only 13 years old, I was exploited and abused. It lasted for 2 years.


I coped the only way I knew how: I shut down. I self-harmed. My anxiety skyrocketed and I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone, especially my mom. The smallest thing would set me off and I could get physically violent. My mom knew she needed to help me and we were referred to the WISe program in 2020. 


Honestly, the pandemic was a godsend. I didn’t have to go out in public and be triggered by things that brought up my trauma. My WISe team worked really hard to connect and engage with me. I started to open up and feel safe. My team encouraged me to use my talents to cope when I was feeling anxious or triggered. I started to realize that below the surface of the really hard stuff, I was discovering who I could be. I loved art and music. I especially loved to sing.


My mom also learned some really important skills while we were in the program. When I would act out from a trigger, she learned how to react and talk to me so that I could calm down. It was becoming easier to rely on her to help me get through my challenges. I didn’t feel like I was on my own anymore. One of the best things we got from the WISe program was the chance to strengthen our relationship and learn how to rely on each other for support. Now we know that any challenge we face, we’ll face together.


Life is so different now. We have a home to ourselves. It is safe and somewhere I want to be. We feel like we got a life back we never knew we could have. It turns out we’re really different people when all the hard stuff is stripped away. We love to laugh, sing, and be goofy. At the end of our time in the program, it finally felt like we were free. 


At our last appointment with our WISe Care Coordinator, I sang her the song “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis. I wanted to show her how far I’ve come. Without the WISe program, I would still be hurting, lost, and alone. The support my mom and I received helped us to discover the hearts of gold we had inside. It was hard work, but it was so worth it.