Voice of Soles – Vol 4 – Girl Unseen

Voice of Soles gives girls a place to empower themselves and others by giving voice to their stories. It’s written by girls, for girls, providing a safe space to share heart felt thoughts and ideas – and as a result – inspire others to do the same.

If you would like to share your story on Voice of Soles – please email Liz Ferro at liz@girlswithsole.org. Your story can be emailed in a Word doc, and be sure to include your age and how you would to be identified. (For example, your first name, first and last name, initials, or anonymous)

Many Soles; One Voice.

Girl Unseen

Leonard was the name of my first perpetrator. He was 17 and I was 6. He and his brothers lived in the house behind me….I’m so glad we weren’t there longer. We moved around a lot as kids because my dad was thief and a drug addict. He always had big dreams but never a paycheck. Because of this, we lived well below the poverty level and spent much time moving about the country in a school bus, which was our mobile home. Leonard took advantage of a very young girl, whose parents didn’t supervise her. Unfortunately for me, this event would be the beginning of much tragedy in how I would view myself. There were plenty more inappropriate situations between me and other men as well as my brother over the next 6 years….all that would finally come to an end when I was about 12. Why it stopped, I really don’t know- but it did. What I remember and what I don’t haunt me…because I have blocked out so much. I can only begin to imagine what I don’t remember during those years.
As a teenager I began to struggle with never feeling good enough. I was always a good kid, had good grades and rarely got into trouble. I lacked the ability to make friends, since we moved so much and really struggled to maintain any kind of relationships, even to this day.

When I was 15 I met this guy and he seemed to be everything I wanted, until I wouldn’t have sex with him and then he broke up with me. I took that hard. I was depressed and spent a month sitting in a dark room writing poetry. My mom barely noticed. Over the course of the next few years, I would fall in love many times and get my heart broken just as fast…I began smoking and cutting. I was depressed and felt alone. This feeling would linger for years. For the next couple years, I was always looking for someone to love me and for awhile I was looking for love in all the wrong places!

When I was 17, I met my first husband. Although I spent 6 years with him and had two beautiful daughters, he was poisonous to my already delicate sense of self. He was an alcoholic and treated me badly. We fought horribly and he always told me I was stupid and fat and ugly and not what he wanted. I believed him and to this day I struggle with who I am. I always feel like there is something wrong with me. I am constantly questioning myself, despite my successes.

9-11 was the turning point in my life. I realized that life is delicate and short and I would be damned if I was going to let this man make me feel worthless. I was haunted by all the things in my past and how that was what I was going to remember…how everyone else defined me. I would no longer be a victim, I hoped. I initiated divorce and it was difficult. I often found myself asking why. Why is it no matter what I do, I end up alone, hurt and questioning my purpose. Two years later, my divorce date was Sept 11. This date holds so much emotion for me that I can tear up about it to this day.

Even at my weakest moment I was not going to let anyone else win. I am a survivor and did what I had to do to survive. Something I learned at a very young age. You cannot depend on anyone else to help you- figure it out yourself. Feelings of isolation and aloneness are at the core of who I am. Having come from an estranged family there has never been anyone there for me. I have always been alone and had to handle life without support or guidance from anyone. Because of this, I am an amazing mom and work hard to be there for my kids. They know they can always count of me and that they will never be alone in life. Some really great things come from tragedy.

In time I would meet my current husband who is a good guy. But unfortunately, my trust issues and lack of self-esteem would create chaos in this relationship too. It seemed the only toxic thing in my life, was me.   The struggle is real. Even after 13 years of being together, I still expect him to leave. If he so much as talks to another woman, I feel threatened. Anxiety takes over and I question everything. I am that little girl all over again and I hate it.

At this time in my life, I had just spent the last few years doped up on depression meds, anxiety meds, Ritalin and ocd pills. I was a walking disaster. Everything was coming down on me. I was not living, I was barely functioning. I had no idea who I was supposed to be.
Something had to change and it was going to have to be me….but how?

Two years ago I tried running. I could barely make it up half my block and I was dying. I wanted to give up. I did. I felt worthless and pathetic. I had allowed myself to fail. I felt like everyone else was right and I would never amount to anything. Even though I had proven to myself time and time again that I am capable, (i.e. I have a master’s degree) I still doubt myself in everything I do. Even as I write this, I think to myself it’s not good enough.

In 2013, I met Angelena. She was my savior. She pushed me to be a better person and encouraged me to eat right and exercise. I was very overweight and miserable. She is the reason I am who I am today. I cannot give her enough thanks.

After months of Angelena bugging me to get healthy, the switch flipped in my brain and I began my journey; the one that brought me to write this. As I began losing weight and slowly gaining some confidence, I tried running again. This time I didn’t allow my failures to overtake me. I decided that I would not give in and keep trying. It is amazing what happens when you have someone who believes in you and for the first time in my life, I did. My husband has always been supportive but isn’t very vocal. Someone as fragile inside as me really needed to hear it, a lot! Now my daughters root for me too! Its such an amazing feeling.
This year I ran 15-5ks, a 10k and a 15k. Every race compels me to want to do another. I’m slow but I finish. The feeling at the finish line cannot be given nor taken away. It is mine, and mine alone. I earned it. Next May I will be running a half marathon.

Every time I run, I run for me and for the girl who was hurt and for the future me. Every race is a reflection of who I am becoming. I will no longer allow the past to rule my life. Yes, I was raped and molested and abandoned and hurt…but I am a survivor. I am not a victim. They will no longer win. I am resilient. (It’s even tattooed on me)

What I have learned through all of my tragedy is that you are who you choose to become. I know it is difficult to move on and at times our experiences creep up on us and we freeze in our tracks…but it is so important to know that life goes on. We must be stronger than the abuse. I can focus on everything I do wrong or I can rejoice in all the wonderful things I do right. Because of my experiences, I thrive on control and praise; but that’s ok. I am also an overachiever and love it when I succeed at something that I doubted myself on. There is no greater feeling than saying I did it! In the last few years I have chosen to bask in the glory of all that I can do. I no longer believe the voices in my head telling me I am stupid and incapable (most days). I may not succeed at everything, but I am no longer afraid to try.


Girls with Sole is an amazing organization. One that I wished I could have known when I was a struggling teen. Organizations like this exist because we are not alone. There are many people who have been through what I have and they need to know that there are others like them. Every experience is an opportunity to grow. They aren’t always pleasant but we can always find a way to become a better person because of them.
I ran my best time this year at the Girls with Sole 5k. I totally earned a Personal Record and cannot wait to run it again next year!

My story is not unique but I am. I want girls to know that you can overcome the things that happen to you. You are greater than your perpetrator. You are not the voices in your head.You are unique and beautiful and capable of great things. I am you. You are me. We are amazing.
Shannon Mandolesi
Age 37

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