Nashville, TN

Aaron: When I was nine years old, I watched my mom get murdered. She was really bad on drugs, and alcohol. But honestly, I would rather have had a bullet take her than the drugs.  

I started raising my two brothers after that. We  lived with my grandmother and she helped us out for a little bit, but she was abusive too. We ended up moving in with my dad for a little bit too, but that didn't work out. I was in and out of foster care. I got kicked out of every school in Mobile county, Alabama for fighting and selling drugs.

It was bad for me. I was diagnosed with severe PTSD, severe anxiety, severe bipolar issues, and severe compulsive anger issues. 

I ended up having a child when I was 17.  My son was the one that made me realize that I needed to clean my shit up. I needed to get my life back on point.

I did. I tried to pick up extra classes in high school to graduate early. I had a job. I was making a way. I was doing better than most 17 year olds. They were asking Mommy and Daddy for diapers. I was getting diapers on my own. Then foster care took him from me saying that I was too mentally unstable to have a child.

When I lost custody of him, I left my foster home and I started hitchhiking. I went from Mobile, Alabama,  to Denver, Colorado. Hitchhiked all the way up. I was on drugs the whole time. I was shooting meth.

Then I joined the carnival in Jackson, MS. The worst carnival [ever]. I worked there about six months, before I met my husband.

 [The carnival went to] Texas after a while. When we got to Texas, a friend of mine was like "Hey, we're going to the bus station to pick up a friend of mine. Do you want to come with?" Sure, why not. It would get me out of work. I'm game.

The moment he got into that van, I fell in love. I didn't say anything. I just looked at him, stared at him for a second, went back to sleep. The whole time I was thinking about him.

It was weird. He was from Mobile Alabama too.

The next thing I know I'm moving into his trailer. I quit doing drugs. I laid those down. I barely drink. We try to have friends. The only reason why we're homeless right now is because the carnival we were working for stranded us.

BW: How long you been married?

Aaron: We've been together for a couple of years. We've been married half that. But he's my knight in shining armor. It's because of him that I'm not who I used to be. Because of him that I don't have a needle in my neck and a fifth of vodka in my hand anymore.  

BW: How do you feel like you've dealt with the mental health issues?

Aaron: It could be better. I just got out of jail for stabbing somebody. It was self defense. Got into an argument and the guy swung on me, I stabbed him. They put me in jail for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. I wasn't trying to kill the guy. He swung on me. I stabbed to hurt [not kill]. It has a lot to do with my PTSD l ... I'm so used to it. Most of the guys I've dated, they abused me. My grandmother, my dad, my uncle, like that's all I know. So when someone swings on me, my first instinct is bam, they are trying to hurt you. Do whatever you can to hurt them. Hurt them before they can hurt you. Whatever it takes. I'm tired of that being my mentality. I'm trying to get help for it and he's been very supportive.