NYC native to speak about overcoming rape, abuse, PTSDWritten by Holly Tuey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Every month, Epworth United Methodist Church hosts a kind of healing service. Church leadership arrange for speakers to talk about the obstacles they’ve overcome in an effort to help others deal with their own issues.
This month, that speaker will be New York City native Julia Torres Barden. The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 14 at the church, 4855 W. Central Ave. The event is open to the public.
Barden, who now lives in Toledo, describes her life as a triumph over trauma. Abducted and raped at just 9 years old and growing up around drugs, alcohol and abuse, Barden admits she beat the odds by going on to be successful and raise a loving family.
“I’ve watched the poison that comes from repressing and denying conflict,” she said. “I really had my own moral code and decided I would raise myself and plan my escape when it was appropriate. It was too volatile, too dangerous, too violent for any child to experience. … I was a child put in extreme emotional and physical pain. I can’t do that to my children.”
Among her obstacles were a mother who denied her Puerto Rican heritage and Catholic upbringing, forcing Barden to be adopted by a Jewish stepfather and being on lockdown in Manhattan on 9/11, away from her husband and children, seeing the planes crash into the World Trade Center. It’s not surprising that after an adverse reaction to Prednisone in 2004, Barden was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“My talk will be about that background, but also go into detail about literally how terrifying the onset of the symptoms were,” she said. “You can’t distinguish between reality and a flashback sometimes. … When your brain can’t figure out the difference between perceived fear and real fear, you’re aware of how vulnerable we all are.”
Barden said it was during that time of healing that she relied on a spiritual community as a crutch.
“I had to put my vulnerability on the table and say it’s up to whatever’s in charge,” she said. “You turn over circumstances of your life to a higher power and you relinquish control because to fight about really being in control clearly is a waste of time.”
Barden moved to Toledo in 2009. She has since published a book and launched a website, both called NewYoricanGirl (newyoricangirl.com). She has spent her time serving as a role model and representative of the Hispanic community, often the only Latina serving on a board or in a managerial position. More than that, Barden has become a strong advocate for mental health and coping with trauma. She even visited abduction victim Gina DeJesus and her mother after DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight were rescued from the Cleveland home of Ariel Castro last year.
“I’m doing my best to be out for the sake of those women (rape victims, etc) who aren’t in a place where they feel safe enough to talk about it openly,” she said.
As Barden pointed out, it may be common for people to call off work when they have a cold or their arthritis is unbearable, but they can’t easily take a day off when their anxiety, depression, PTSD or other mental issues are too much to handle. She plans to talk about that issue and other services that aren’t easily accessible to those with mental health problems on Jan. 14, as well.
And although Barden is still living with PTSD, she has learned to manage it. She even flew with her family in a helicopter over Ground Zero last September, on the day her book was released.
“When you face your fears, you come out the other side,” she said. “To not let your fear manage your life is the greatest gift of all, but you have to go through the fear, stare it down, look it in the face.”
Barden said she plans to continue advocating for mental health awareness and Puerto Rican rights, as well as embracing her culture and who she is.