Cover – Nicole Erb – Jan/Feb 2020

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NNearly a life-long resident of the area, Nicole’s childhood was shaky from the onset. After a lengthy hospital stay after birth, Nicole was sent to live with her grandparents, while her mother quickly moved to the Medina Lake area when she was 7. Unfortunately, as Nicole started her life with her grandparents and her mother had remarried, trauma entered her life.

“As soon as I began visiting my mom and her husband out by the lake, the molestations began by him. I also had a cousin that molested me. I ultimately told my mom about it, and my mom admitted that she had been molested by a family member and my grandma admitted to it also. My mom ultimately left him, but I always felt like it was overlooked. It seemed like it went on until I was 10 or 11. I remember it happening at the Medina house, and then also when they moved to Lytle, so I would have been about that age.”

While her tormentor was gone, Nicole and her mother moved in together and things didn’t necessarily improve. She continues, “I moved in with her when I was 12 or 13. It didn’t go good. I acted out a lot, I was drinking, smoking weed, I had no curfews, and I could do anything I wanted. She was dating and I was just on my own, which built up more and more anger inside of me. I was in trouble at school, I was a mess – so I was put into a private school which is now Vanguard.” Nicole ultimately graduated in 1995, but not before giving birth.

She explains, “I was just winging it – I had no plan at all. I had met my then husband when I was 15, and figured he was going to be my savior. He was 21. My mom allowed it. I got pregnant, got married, and THEN I graduated. Clearly this was not a great situation for me to start my life”.

While she described him as her savior, he turned out to be anything but. She continues, “A year or so after we had our son, things started to decline. His father was abusive to him, and so he just repeated that. It started with simple things, but he had a ton of anger. I had all these bruises on my arm, and my mom asked, and I said I just fell down the stairs. It started with smaller things like holding and grabbing, but it was a few years before it got really bad.”

As Nicole struggled with her young life and big responsibilities, she turned to alcohol, and made an attempt on her own life. “When I was 18, I started to drink. By 4pm, I was drunk. Every day. We didn’t get along at all, and I guess I got more and more depressed. The alcohol just added to that. My whole life was shit, and right before I was 19 – it was Valentine’s day – I took every pill I could find in the house and I was completely wasted and I only remember my ex shaking me and trying to get me to throw up. He wouldn’t call the cops, he doesn’t have a good reputation with the cops, so he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t take me to the hospital, either. He finally got me to throw up, and I only remember that for days I was out of it and slowly came back to conscious.”

While this should have been a wake-up call for young Nicole, she felt stuck. It was many, many years before she was able to break free. She explains, “I felt like I didn’t have a way out and I was with him for 13 more years. For those 13 years, I pretty much drank. I just stayed at home with 2 boys and drank. I would be beaten off and on for who knows what reasons. I wanted to leave him in 2004, and I was planning it. I found out I was pregnant again, and it just devastated me. I’m certainly thankful for my daughter, but I was really trying to figure out a way to leave him. I was with him until 2010. His mom passed away, and it might have been that night she died, but he beat me worse than he’d ever beat me. Kicked me, hit me, I had to hide from him and he was at the neighbor’s house looking for me. I honestly thought I was going to die that night. I hid until morning behind the shed. I said I just can’t do this any more. I told him that we’re not going to be together anymore, and I figured he’d either kill me and I’ll be free, or I’d kill myself. Or he’d let me out. Thankfully, he moved out into his mom’s place and I stayed in our house. 3 months later, my neighbor was going through a divorce and said ‘Let’s get an apartment’. I didn’t even say anything to him, I just left. 6 months later I was on my feet and the kids were with me.”

While free of the abuse, Nicole’s life is still far from ideal. A single young mother with bills to pay, she had to quickly buckle down. “I’m a maid at this time. I had started in ’08 just to make extra money so I could get away. I’m still a mess at this time. I’m still thinking negative – how am I going to do this? Maybe I should just go back because it’s easier. But my roommate started to show me that I just needed to get certain people out of my life and thinking positive. I started going to church – St. Elizabeth. I knew I needed answers and figured that’s where I should start. I knew I needed to get people out of my life. I was still drinking, but I was starting to realize that it was a crutch. But I did start to see the sun shine, and I started to heal.”

As she healed, Nicole was blessed with a new relationship, and with it, things truly began to change. “His name is Tony Erb. We talked for 3 months before we started dating. He was a manager at Rudy’s. He’s the most positive person that I have ever known – I didn’t even know why he wanted to be with me at that time. He just was different. He genuinely wanted to get to know me to help me. I told him I wanted no more kids, that I had no money, and that he could walk away. But he just kept getting me to grow. Something changed in me and I went out and got a real job as a Chiropractic Assistant simply because I just wanted him to be proud of me.”

After their marriage in 2012, Nicole’s children grew, her career flourished, and most recently, her children began to move out and begin their lives. However, she experienced more trauma as her middle child Kyle made an attempt on his own life as well. She continues, “My husband now was in the military, and my son wanted to follow him. My oldest is in the military also, so Kyle wanted to do it too. He got mad because he didn’t get his job of choice, and he went into the Air Force. He started having panic attacks and he was in the bathroom one day. He wouldn’t tell me how he tried to kill himself, but the Air Force put him in the Red River Hospital for a month in Wichita Falls. He was then released from the military – they said he was manic depressive and a lot of trauma with PTSD.

He comes home and starts to work for Albany. We were very delicate with him, but things seemed to be ok. In April, he took all of his medications. ALL of them. He was in his room and I had sent him a message that dinner was ready and he responded that it doesn’t matter anymore.

His friend is in there and is holding him. His friend said ‘HE TOOK ALL HIS PILLS!’ – we called 911, and they put me on hold. We threw him in the car and got him to the hospital and they pumped him as fast as they could. From there, he went to the hospital in San Antonio and he was there for 5 days including the psych ward.”

Since then, their son has improved and is moving forward in healthy ways in his life. Their other two children, Jessica (14) and Eric (25) are as healthy as one could hope. However, the family has been touched far too often by trauma, and they try to give back as best they can. “I do Suicide Awareness Walks – I’ve lost 3 other friends to it. We are constantly trying to raise money and do what we can for this issue. People are scared to come out about this because they think that it’s their fault, but it’s not – they feel shame. They think people will just say ‘Why can’t you deal with this? You can figure it out!’ But they always feel so alone.”

So what message does she have for the people reading this? “To the reader, come out about it. Tell one person or 10 – but tell somebody. Start talking. You’ll find out that you’re not alone – someone is going to help you. I had kept it in so long that everybody around me thought I had a perfect marriage. I was dying inside. More people are like you than you know, and if you’ll share it, you’ll feel better.”

Besides the charitable works, Nicole is very open about her story and shares it to anyone that will listen. She finishes, “I would love to actually start some sort of foundation or something – anything where people can come talk and just open up. I want to continue to help people through Facebook, and I’m helping 2 people right now by just checking in and giving people an open ear. I want to start a walk here in Boerne because this community has been hit hard by suicide and whatever I can do to raise awareness about this, I want to do it.”

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