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Enduring sexual assault while in the U.S. Air Force, homelessness and food insecurity were my lemons. Economic empowerment as a Spoken Word Artist and a yoga instructor is my lemonade.
How did I turn Lemons into Lemonade:
When I was asked that question by friend dear friend Amy Malin, I started to think back to how the events of my life have enabled me to turn lemons to lemonade, and I think I have made lots of lemonade. I could probably sell you a case or two.
Before I open up a case for us to share with the block, let me tell you about myself.
My name is Jessica-Patrice Dorsey Coulter, aged 33 years, I am a divorced mother of two pre-teens, one of whom as Aspergers, I am a Spoken Word Artist(performing poet) Yoga Instructor, and Disabled American Veteran.
I teach all kinds of innovative and creative arts with Yoga in Newport RI and Boston MA.
I am on the National Campaign team for the Wounded Warrior Project, sharing my story of Military Sexual Trauma and economic empowerment as a Female Veteran with the world. I am an ambassador for the Veterans Yoga project and Fatigues Clothesline, and Team Red white and Blue. These nonprofits are wonderful empowering, and I am happy to be a part of them.
I am an Entrrapanuer, a dreamer, a tattooed mom who wears yoga pants bought from the goodwill and can make vegan meals from the food pantry I frequent because I make 33 dollars over my eligibility for SNAP benefits. I am skilled at making a dollar outta 15 cents.
Now, that you know me, and my writing style a little lets get into the lemons, and lets jump into the rabbit hole of my life prior to my 30’s.
When I was 18, I decided to join the Air Force. I felt life called for an adventure, my brother was in the Army, my Parents were in the Navy, so I chose the Air Force. I’m a rebel like that, and I like creature comforts and dry land.
While I was in the Air Force I was sexually assaulted by a male friend after a party. I never reported it, I never dealt with it.
Soon after that, at the age of 19, I married a man, who, turned out to abuse my trust in ways that would bring me back to that trauma of being assaulted. Somewhere in-between the breakdown and implosion of my marriage, I got out of the military after my terms of service were up, and my two boys were born 15 months apart.
When my youngest was 3, we found he had an Autism spectrum disorder called Aspergers. I made it my job to get my son the help he needed so that the world could adjust to him and he could adjust to the world.
I was in therapy, and sometimes we would go to couples therapy. We went to a church. I was desperately trying to figure out how to fix myself in order to fix my marriage. It seemed like I was the only one going to specialist appointments, school meetings etc. I’m sure my ex husband was processing it in his own way.
It was a dark time. I felt as if all the lemon trees in the world were growing deep with my heart, weighing me down. I thank my higher power for my boys, as many times, they were the only reasons for me to keep living. I did, however attempt suicide twice.
I did what many women in tumultuous marriages and relationships did, I poured myself into my work, my children, advocacy and I managed to get a degree, and I managed to save face, and make it look like everything was “perfect.” I was on a lot of medication in order to tolerate my misery. The medication also took me off the edge of suicide.
Then, one week before my oldest sons second birthday my father died from complications of alcoholism. His disease was something my family never spoke of. He was a functioning alcoholic, and I have found culturally, for some families, these things are simply hard to talk about. I had been a told a year or two prior, a few years after both my parents knew he was sick and was in need of a liver. Eugene Coulter died March 09 2004, one moth after his 50th Birthday. I miss him sometimes, but I know he has a hand in my life now, and has never left us.
You have to want to get better for yourself. It was a lesson my father taught me in his death, and a lesson that I would soon teach myself.
I was 25 years old. I was miserable. I was alone. I was always sick. I was depressed. I was a shell of the woman that types this. Two years later, I would discover another affair, and I would decide to leave my husband, take my kids, and start a new life. I would go back to my mom’s house and figure IT out.
It sounds so easy? Just start over. That process took me into homelessness, depression, and what I now see as an initiation to the woman that types this, but at the time it was just crazy. If you are in a space like that, go get The Women who Runs with Wolves By Dr. Estes. Read it and dog ear the pages.
I was 29, and working on getting stable when I found the Wounded Warrior Project through the Veterans Administrations Social Workers. I started to get into counseling and for the first time, just for me. I was in therapy for me, not to fix my marriage or how to parent a special needs child. I found women that were artists, we did shows together. I started performing and writing again. I even created an Album about this whole process called “Lovers&Autimattic Weapons;Tha Meditation Mix tape. It was finished and put out in 2013.
One of those Women who I used to create art with, is an amazing Rapper, who was also a yoga teacher. B-Mor7 aka Hanna encouraged me to become an instructor. I decided to take all my money from savings, and went to Teacher Training, This was 2011. My divorce was Final and I was at Amrit yoga institute. I went into the Ocala National Forest and was able to integrate all the parts of me that had been hidden for so long. I was able to find them before the trauma. I was able to process and let go of the trauma.
I was able to not only love myself, but to fall in love with myself, no matter what hell I went through. I was able to accept who I am as I am. I was able to have the courage to change from within, my father’s lesson in death, I was able to practice in life.
That was 2011. I was getting more stable, teaching yoga, finally having stable housing, learning how to do the single mother shuffle with grace and humor.
On 2012 I had a freak sub arachnoic hemmorage brain anyrsym in the back of my head. It was a surreal experience, and I thank my higher power, Genesha, the guru mantra and my circle of friends who got me through that experience. I was lucky and have been told that only 33% of people who present with what I did have an experience that did not warrant brain surgery. I was in the hospital for 3 days. I had to re-learn how to walk, and relearn how to parent, and live my life once more.
Yoga is about union, and about accepting what is as is. I had to slow down my life once again, and recalibrate. That winter was mainly spent housebound, and I started to see my life if a new light. I have had all these experiences and I have lived to tell them and I have came out still laughing, still shining, and still hopeful. If I can come through all of what I have come though, so can you. I hold no super power, I have been through the tough stuff and have had help along the way. It takes a village to raise children, and it takes a village to re-love someone.
So in 2012, I started saying yes to what I have been afraid of. I was afraid of my Big-ness. My ability to not hide anymore. I created my Debut Album of Spoken Word Called “Lovers and Automatoic Weapons;Tha mediatation mix tape. Its about my life up to that point, and how we all love, get angry and work it out through our higher power. I have a website, you can buy it.
Then in 2013 I started my volunteering with the WWP as an Alumni member and part of the National Campaign team. My image and story gets told, its totally voluntary, and I love that other single mom and Female Veterans can see themselves in the campaigns.
In August of 2014, I was featured on an MSNBC Program called Taking the Hill in a documentary series called “the Battle Back home” to commemorate the tenth year of the WWP. The 22 minutes covers what its like to be me, and my experience as a Single mother, a Militrary sexual assault survivor-thriver and a yoga teacher. My story needed to be told, because why not? I am alive, I didn’t die through massive depression nor when a blood vessel decided to burst!
Everything happens for a reason. I mean, how crazy has my 33 years of life been? How amazing is it that I can tell you “I get it”, “I understand where you are at”, and I can see how great you can become. Why not let others know, it’s ok to get angry, sad, and when the word around you crumbles, it will be ok, you can rebuild your life.
Now in 2014, I am re-leaning how to make a make a career out of telling my story of my journey through poetry, Inspirational speaking, and yoga. My intention is to share my story so that people don’t feel so alone, and to give hope.
I have used all of these LEMONS, the assault, the abusive marriage, disability, divorce, poverty, illness and made enough lemonade for all of us. I have created a career that uses my creativity and my passion for yoga. I was able to make the lemonade and sell it! I have been able to make custom blends of lemonade, and I made lemon scented oil! I could really go on with the analogy (I am a poet after all)
No matter where you are in your life’s journey, trust the process, make the lemonade, reformulate it comes out too bitter or sweet and remember to love the mess outta yourself while refining your blend.
In Oprah Winfrey voice “and you get a glass, and you get a glass and you get a glass..” You must remember to laugh.
You can find yoga at www.j9yoga.org