By S.E. Fleenor
Stephanie Rogers has had a difficult life. She has survived abuse, addiction, and mental illness and has come out on the other side a kind person. “I don’t have a shiny story, but at least I [have] an honest story,” says Stephanie.
Physical abuse was rampant in Stephanie’s childhood home in Mount Pleasant, Texas, but when a family friend started sexually abusing Stephanie, she ran away. “It was safer to be out on the street than to be home,” she said. Stranded in Tucson, Arizona, at 11 years old, Stephanie was taken under the wing of an older homeless girl, Jester. The next three years were a turnstile of being picked up by the cops, flown back to Texas, and hitchhiking back to Tucson.
At 14 years old, Stephanie was raped and became pregnant. Consumed with despair, Stephanie decided to take her own life and avoid motherhood by swallowing pills.
She awoke in a hospital still pregnant and was immediately placed in the psychiatric ward. She returned to Texas, but was unable to stand the abuse at home. A married couple took her in and when the baby was born, they asked Stephanie to sign over provisional care of the infant. She did so without realizing she had given them permanent custody.
Shortly thereafter, Stephanie married her husband, Adam. When their first child (Stephanie’s second child) was an infant, Stephanie and Adam went to the store, leaving the child behind. When they returned, the police were there and had taken the baby. At first, Stephanie didn’t understand why she was arrested, but she and her husband were charged with child endangerment and each served two years. The infant was taken by Child Protective Services.
For a few years after she was released, Stephanie’s life was peaceful. She had a beautiful home, had two additional children, enrolled in a computer technician certificate program, made Dean’s List, and worked as a waitress. Then one day, as if a switch had been flipped, she started blacking out and losing time. Her life began to unravel. Out of concern for her children’s safety, Stephanie gave her mother temporary custody.
The next couple of years, starting around 2012, are a blur for her. She entered a state of severe psychosis, experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations, schizophrenia, agoraphobia, and depression. Most of what she knows has been pieced together from stories from her family and police reports.
Stephanie lived all over the country during that time, but ended up back in Mount Pleasant, where she believed she was in a holy war, fighting against demons. “I thought we’d come down to the last days and this was it,” Stephanie said of that time. She locked herself in her apartment for days on end and only came out for liquor and groceries.
Everything reached a head when a neighbor came over one morning to check on her because Stephanie had been screaming. Mortally terrified of the monsters she had seen following her and trying to kill her, Stephanie panicked at the sight of a stranger in her home.
According to the police report, Stephanie snapped and pulled an unloaded .22 pistol on the woman. Holding the gun to her head, Stephanie “told her I was gonna splatter her brains all over the porch if she said anything else about my daughter.” The neighbor didn’t know what Stephanie was talking about, but got free and called the police. Stephanie served two years for aggravated assault.
Since her arrival in Denver in February of 2016, Stephanie has been sober from alcohol, started using antipsychotic medications, and now works as a vendor for the Denver VOICE. In a short period of time, she has rapidly turned her life around. She is currently applying for disability, seeing a doctor, receiving support from Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, reconnecting with her family, and attempting to have her youngest son placed in the custody of her aunt. She has fearlessly faced her illness and wants to let others know they are not alone. “I’m not afraid of telling people [my story], even though it’s not real pretty.” ■