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Public Employee Press

Everyday Heroes

Overcoming pain and anger


Vanessa Y. Reed likes to speak about her “brokenness.”

For Reed, the word encapsulates the self-loathing, pain and suffering that characterize what she has endured over virtually her entire life, feeling trapped within a cruel and heartless world.

Her dark years involved a struggle with parental neglect, child abuse, drug addiction, teenage violence, domestic abuse, losing her daughter (a crack-addicted baby) to forced adoption, and poverty.

She spent years on welfare and in rehab.

At 49, Reed is finally at a peace with herself and on a road to recovery she expects will last a lifetime. She has found happiness and purpose.

Reed credits her relationship with God and, to a lesser extent, the stability that comes with a civil service and unionized job for rescuing her from her demons. She has worked for the city for 29 years,

Her religious awakening, which began seven years ago, has opened a whole new world for her, a world where she finds solace by sharing her struggle with community groups, friends and coworkers.

Her work on a book about her life has been therapeutic, providing her with an opportunity to look back on and come to grips with her struggle to overcome the brokenness that destroyed her self-esteem, ruined relations and left her impoverished. The 164-page book, “Red Storm,” was published in 2016 by RoseDog Books.

Reed is a Clerical Associate level 4 at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn. She keeps busy with her job, but she also uses her free time to reach out to patients who receive mental health treatment at the hospital. The kinship with the patients allows Reed and them to share life experiences, including charting a way out of their despair.

A member of Clerical-Administrative Employees Local 1549, Reed is the shop steward at her worksite and a sergeant-at-arms for the local’s Hospital Division, and she regularly attends local meetings and participates in union activities.

She regards the union as a safe haven from a heartless world.

“Writing the book has allowed me to get in touch with my anger and pain,” said Reed, who plans to write two more books.

“I finally found a reason to live,” she said. “I began to like myself. I realized I wasn’t just a crackhead or a man’s tool.”