Jaycee Dugard Interview: Five Lessons For Your Life

From holding hope to adapting to finding beauty in squalor.

July 11, 2011, 2:01 PM

July 11, 2011 — -- Jaycee Dugard gave an unflinching and unsparing look into her life while held captive by kidnappers Phillip and Nancy Garrido. Now two years into her freedom, her triumph in her healing process and her bravery in recounting the horror she's overcome teaches us all valuable lessons for how to be survivors in our own lives. Here's a few of them.

1. Hold On To Hope: Even though Dugard was stripped of her name and subjected to horrible abuse and manipulation, she proudly proclaimed to ABC News' Diane Sawyer that Phillip and Nancy Garrido "didn't get all of me." She said that she had to "hold on to any kind of hope to survive."

Throughout her 18 year ordeal, Dugard held onto hope that she would see her mother again. When Phillip Garrido took her pink clothes and the backpack that she wore the day she was kidnapped on June 10, 1991, she hid a butterfly pinky ring given to her by her mother. She'd hide that ring for nearly two decades.

Simple things like a glance at the moon reminded Dugard of her mother and the life that she hoped to return to. Before her abduction, Dugard and her mom, Terry Probyn, used to sing a song about the moon together and debate which moon was prettier: a crescent or a full moon. Staring at the moon became a way to remember one another. The two women ironically looked at the same moon just two days before Dugard and her daughters were rescued in August 2009.

Dugard still marvels at the hope both women held onto. "Being a mom now, you know, I know that she never forgot about me because I could never forget about my kids... But she kept…her hope. I don't know how she did that. You know? How did I keep my hope? How did she keep her hope," Dugard said.

To read more about Diane Sawyer's interview with Jaycee Dugard, click here.

Click Here to Watch the Full Episode of Diane Sawyer's Exclusive Interview with Jaycee Dugard

2. Find Meaning in The Day, Even if it Is a Day in Hell: Dugard told Sawyer that the life she lived under Phillip and Nancy Garrido seems "unimaginable" now. She and her two daughters lived in squalor in a backyard compound of dilapidated sheds. There was no toilet. Dugard didn't stand in the sunlight until six years into her captivity.

Still, Dugard found ways to bring beauty into an unfathomable situation. She turned a tent into her sanctuary. "I felt like I had something that was mine. So I have, you know, good memories of my tent if you can believe that with all the leakiness." Dugard planted flowers outside the tent, making a garden. She also tried to make life as normal as possible for her daughters. In the corner of the backyard prison, she made a school.

3. When There Is No Way to Escape, Adapt: Dugard said that there was a "switch" she had to shut off to survive. "You just do what you have to do to survive," she told Sawyer. Dugard learned that surviving meant keeping her feelings to herself so that she didn't rile the emotional and delusional Garridos. She found a way to channel her emotions by scribbling on scraps of paper that she kept as a journal. "It helped me get through a lot of days, my imagination."

Dugard named the spider in her room – Bianca. She came up with stories about the tree outside the lone window in the soundproof studio the Garridos first locked her in. She made doll furniture out of milk cartons.

The things Dugard couldn't say out loud, she wrote in her journal. She described dreams of seeing her mother. She set goals of riding in a hot air balloon, being a veterinarian and even wondered if one day she'd find a soul mate.

4. Do Not Forget What Real Love or Goodness Is: Perhaps the greatest reminders of real love and goodness was the birth of her daughters in 1994 and 1997. She writes that having her first daughter meant that "I wasn't alone any more. [I] had somebody that was mine... And I knew I could never let anything happen to her."

Dugard said that caring for her daughters helped her remember her mother. She worried over the 18 years that she was forgetting what her mom looked like, but she'd see her mom in her daughters' faces. She said that gave her "another little piece of my mom to hang onto."

Dugard also said she gave and received love from the many cats she cared for over the years. She was so fond of one, she kept a journal for him: "Eclipse's Journal." Excerpts of the journal are in her memoir, "A Stolen Life." One journal entry reads, "last night I started to cry and she heard me and she came to me and sat next to me and after that, I felt a little better…when she looks at me I see love, curiosity, intelligence, but most of all I see her love for me."

5. Stare The Past Down With Strength, Not Shame: Dugard has spent the past two years with her therapist, Dr. Rebecca Bailey, learning that what happened to her is not her fault. "It is not her shame. Those things happened to her," Bailey told ABC News. Dugard said that she is telling her story so that there are no more secrets. "Why not look at it? You know, stare it down until it can't scare you anymore," Dugard told Sawyer.

In giving an honest account of how a predator operates, she's giving voice to the many victims of sex abuse and a glimpse into the rare occurrence of stranger abduction.