Skip to main content

I Can’t Believe I’m Not Dead: Escaping Abuse, a Cult, Attempted Murder and Other Insanities…A Story That Cannot Be True, But Is

April 2, 2024

Written by Kendra Petty

I Can’t Believe I’m Not Dead. Seriously, I cannot believe it! I have escaped death on a number of occasions. It baffles me how many times I ended up in situations where I could have or should have died, and I didn’t.    In addition to all the near-death experiences, I have lived a lifetime of so much other trauma and tragedy as well. 

The absolute worst tragedy of my life happened when I was a child,  when my brother, who was my best friend, died. He was ten and I was eight when he was killed in a tragic accident in front of me. He died protecting me and making sure I was safe. He died and I lived and for many years, I could not believe that he was dead, and that I was not.   

That loss made my already mentally ill mother go even madder, it made my dad leave us, I developed survivors’ guilt and blamed myself for my brother’s death. Witnessing his violent death gave me horrible night terrors that have lasted a lifetime. His death also created an environment of blame that my mother took out on me for many years. She was extremely physically, emotionally and verbally abusive to me and I accepted the abuse as my punishment for my brother’s death. 

My mother remarried, and she and her husband started a church in our home that morphed into an extreme religious cult, shutting us off from the real world for years and providing a haven for yet more abuse. 

After high school I left Oklahoma, where I was born and raised and moved to NYC. I was determined to leave the crushing traumas behind me and build an amazing adult life for myself. I worked three jobs to put myself through college. I finished college and focused on building a career. I quickly climbed the corporate ladder. I had put my life on an incredible track far from the tragedy and chaos.  I had a successful career, and I thought my life would be smooth sailing from then on. But it wasn’t. That cycle of trauma started all over again. 

I married a woman who I had no idea was an addict — an extremely abusive addict. She broke my bones on multiple occasions. I have scars all over me from her abuse. There were times I thought I might die at her hands.   All the while I continued to build my career and move up the ladder, hiding from everyone the hell I was living in at home. 

Because my career was always my focus and because I gave it the utmost care,  I thought I was safe at work – until I was not. Now this may seem unbelievable to you, but it is unfortunately very real and very true. I took the #2 position under the CEO at a firm. As the Executive Vice President I oversaw several of the companies this group owned.  As it turns out, unbeknownst to me, I had joined an organized crime style firm involved in many illegal activities.  

As their illegal activities started to reveal themselves to me, things started to really go sideways for me at work, getting very strange and scary. Then, my employer tried to kill me. They put poisons in my office, in my car and in my  home, I was unknowingly inhaling the poisons, wearing them on my clothes and ingesting them.   The poisons made me extremely sick and led to several diseases and illnesses that I have had to fight for many years. The experience of almost being killed scared me almost to death and led to me shutting down and living in solitude and extreme fear for years. I trusted no one and shut so many people out.  

Then, five years ago I hit a wall, hard. Almost being murdered will do that to you. You know the saying, sick and tired of being sick and tired? Well, that was me! I was sick of being afraid, I was sick of the drama and trauma, and I was sick of being sick! I was done. I had to get to the bottom of why my life continued to be a cycle of tragedy and trauma, so that I could change it. I started reading, learning, and digging in to understand how I could heal myself and shift my life. I wanted to be happy, free of pain and drama. I decided I did deserve happiness and most of all I deserved peace.

Amongst the very long list of changes I made, here are just a couple of the things that I did to heal.

First, I started practicing gratitude on a whole new level. I had always been very  grateful for my career and success and never ever took any of that for granted, but I really ramped it up and started focusing on gratitude daily for all things in my life.  

Second, I started practicing openness and love, letting my walls down and letting people in, as hard as that was and still  is to do, I continue to push myself to allow that in my life and in my heart. 

Finally, and this is the most challenging for me,  I started focusing on forgiveness.  Forgiveness for all those who had harmed me. And there have been so many. I am not 100% there yet, it is work I do every day. 

My message to you is if you are on a merry- go-round of trauma, heartbreak and loss, as I was, you can get off of it. You can heal. You can find peace and joy. You deserve to NOT just survive in this life, you deserve to THRIVE.

Because I have survived so much, I know just how lucky I am. I am lucky not just because I survived an insane mother, tremendous abuse, a cult, injuries, trauma, disease and sickness and attempted murder, I am lucky because I have learned how to THRIVE in spite of it all. If I can do it, you can too! 

Kendra Petty is a woman who has succeeded in an all-male industry, becoming an executive vice president at two firms. Kendra is a dynamic public speaker, powerful negotiator and dealmaker. She loves bouldering and scrambling in the mountains of California, Nevada and Arizona. A boater for many years, Kendra also loves fast cars and traveling. “I Can’t Believe I’m Not Dead” is her debut memoir. For more about Kendra, visit

More On These Topics:

More From This Issue: