So… a lot of us are passing the time during this pandemic by learning new things, cooking, arts and crafts, getting outdoors, going within, or reading. I decided to get a couple of books recently. One on Rocky Mountain National Park (an in depth look at trails, hiking, camping, etc), one on 150 of the greatest poems of all time (LOL I don’t have a clue what most of them mean and will likely need some Cliff Notes or Google to understand them) and then a book on true crime (like most people, I’d rather fall asleep to Dateline than to a movie).
The book is “If You Tell – A true story of murder, family secrets, and the unbreakable bond of sisterhood” by Gregg Olsen.
So…the further I get into this book (I’m on chapter 15), the more the memories of my childhood and my own abuse start to bubble to the surface. Things that I hadn’t thought of for years (for good reason) and wasn’t ready to think about or even deal with at this point in my life. These are moments that I have tried to forget, move on from, and never repeat as a parent to my own children. There are some very graphic details that were eerily similar to the things that my mother put me through.. and I’ll never forgive her for.
To say that I am emotionally damaged is an understatement and I’m, only recently, coming to realize is a result of my childhood and the abuse I had to tolerate. Silently. No one listens to kids. Even if they would, it was made crystal clear if I opened my mouth about anything that happened inside our house, it would be worse when it got back to my parents.
As an adult, I swear I can’t ever remember being genuinely happy as a child. I was either being yelled at, beat, ignored (which was a blessing sometimes), grounded, insulted, embarrassed, or denied. I have tried to give my mother the benefit of the doubt based on the stories she told us of her upbringing (which turns out was all lies when you talk to her 5 siblings all in the same room) but she’s in her 70’s and still acting like a fucking bully to this day! I was taught not to “hate” growing up. Ironically, by her. But I genuinely fucking loathe her. I can feel my pulse rise and my heart race and my blood pressure start to get a little out of control just thinking/talking about her. Physically shaking from the inside out.
I remember her going into fits of rage that would result in her dragging me by my hair (even at a young age), screaming at me, beating me as hard and rapidly as she could, barely able to catch her breath, red in the face and just sheer hatred in her eyes. Some days I had no idea what set her off. As I got older, I hid in my room every day just so that I didn’t say or do something to set her off… or just being in the same room with her. I did everything I could to make sure things were calm.
My sister hated me, my dad hated me, SHE HATED ME. I simply was a kid, but because she was always pissed at me about something or on the verge or a tirade, my dad and sister blamed me and hated me for the drama that it caused in the house. If I was allowed out of the house, I was usually on my bike on the other side of town or in the woods… anywhere that she couldn’t find me. I hated being at home. Even on the good days when we would leave as a family to go somewhere, the excitement of getting out was short lived because I knew we had to go home eventually, and her fake syrupy attitude would end about the time we got in the car to head back to the house.
I wasn’t allowed to cry, be upset, have feelings, talk about ANYTHING (kids are to be seen). If I so much as let a tear fall down my face or act out in any way, the yelling and beating started. I can feel the fear in me to this day. It’s just too much. She would tell me that I should consider myself lucky… there were kids in foster homes who had it so much worse than me. In being the kid who always had to argue (or that’s what I was convinced of), I silently wished they would send me away just to get away from all of the abuse. I even went to the extent of begging them to send me to boarding school in Connecticut when I was maybe 5th or 6th grade. I even tried to argue that the house would be happier, she wouldn’t have to deal with me anymore. Fail.
Starting at nine, right before we moved to the other side of town (where her inner Princess Diana could thrive), she started using dish soap. The first time she used this as punishment, it was on a toothbrush. Dawn. I’ll never forget that. Or the dozens of times growing up that I was made to drink Joy or Sunlight as punishment. Back then, the only dish soaps I hadn’t been forced to ingest was Dove and Palmolive. To this day, the smell of lemon makes me want to yack. To top this off, if we took a road trip, I would always get car sick. Her cure for this was lemon Jolly Ranchers. Just a snide little reminder to me that even though we were having a little fun, if I so much as breathed the wrong direction, I was getting my ass beat. It was nothing for her to get pissed at me for the smallest things and make my dad drop my pants in the middle of the mall/public and “blister” my ass.
One of my earliest memories as a kid and her lashing out was me running from her to avoid being hit for “rolling my eyes”… As she went to grab me, I turned to run, tripped and hit my face on our oak coffee table. My face instantly swelled up to look like the Elephant Man. She proceeded to yell at me that it was my fault for running, then bizarrely put me in her bed and pretended everything was fine and took care of me. She even went to the extent to bring a puppy in for a little bit to get me to stop crying. I WAS SMALL! Once I was better, it was back to normal.
When she didn’t want to deal with me when I was little, she would take a brown paper bag out of the closet, that was filled with styrofoam balls, and throw them all over the carpet in my room. She would then close the door and tell me that if she came back and there was a single ball on the floor, she was going to dump the bag again. Believe me when I say… there was more than one day that I spent, into the darkness of the evening, trying to pick up all of those fuckers (and in a static rich environment with carpet and a brown paper bag… FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE) out of my carpet.
Another day, still small, I have no idea what I did, but she made me sit in my room and brought me a “cup of tea”. In it was tea… and beef bouillon. So gross. But I was made to drink every last drop. Right around that same time, I had cut my own hair. This resulted in me sitting on the beach while everyone else got to swim. I wasn’t allowed to play in the sand, leave my chair, nothing. Meanwhile she got the thrill of telling everyone around her what I did, turned it into some dramatic event, while everyone would sneer at me or chastise me for her. Further solidifying in her mind that I was a horrendous child who deserved everything I ever got from her.
Still here? Let’s continue.
Once I was older, the beatings included belts and welts, more dish soap (now having to swallow), dishes broken over my head, flicked in the head by my dad (oh, trust me, he dished it out too, but mostly because she would scream at him until he bent to her wishes .. part of me forgives him because she was just as much of a nightmare for him, and part of me hates him too for not taking me out of that environment when he had the chance) chokings until I passed out (as early as 9… right after we moved to the coveted north end), being kept in my room for days at a time – only to be let out for dinner and screaming. She loved choking me … and my dad… and a coworker. Choking is her thing. It’s a wonder I never died. I wanted to, that’s for sure. When I was in the 4th grade, she gave me soap before school one morning and I got sick at school. I begged the teacher not to send me home because it would be even worse if that happened. Mrs. Zellar patiently put me in the back of the room, lying on some coats, until I felt better. Did she call anyone? Report my mother? Do anything to help? NOPE.
As the years went on, I learned to just stay out of the way or take the abuse. Nothing was going to change. No one was going to save me. Maybe one day she would just stop. Nope. This all went into my young adult life. To this day, if she had the chance and I had the balls to confront her, she would immediately go for my throat. She is MEAN! RUTHLESS. Conniving. A liar. A narcissist. A psychopath.
I ran away one night. Tank top, flip flops (that I kicked off after getting out of the house), and shorts. She was going to give me soap and I couldn’t take it any more. It had become a daily thing. She used it for all of her punishment for the most part, by this point in my life. She screamed out the door at me that I better get my ass back in the house or it was going to be a double dose. I ran for HOURS. Ultimately, I was smart enough to know that I had nowhere to go. I eventually went home. They weren’t waiting for me. They had called the cops and were letting them search for me. Looking back now, I should’ve let the cops pick me up. She wasn’t lying either, double dose, the minute I got in the door.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever swallowed dish soap but let me describe it to you. It’s a thick viscous liquid that sticks to everything going down. It burns, it causes your throat to shut, and once it hits your stomach, you spend the next hour or 2 throwing up. Does wonders for weight loss! I can still taste it and feel the sensation of trying not to taste it but the unmistakable watering of the mouth and nausea still haunt me. This went on until I was a Junior in high school. Which starts a whole new snowball of events that will have to wait for another time.
Weekends weren’t for relaxing in our house. Mornings were met with her flinging open the door to wake me up, screaming at me to get my ass out of bed, and chores all day long. One fun filled Saturday, my dad had gone away for the weekend, and she decided to teach me and my sister manners. Suffice it to say, it was a weekend of walking with books on our heads, proper posture, she put us into the tub and SCRUBBED us from head to toe (we weren’t dirty kids. She couldn’t have that embarrassment) and then dressing us in dresses, etc and teaching us how to be “ladies”. At 10! To this day, I have the best manners! LOL
On the days that she wasn’t screaming at me, I locked myself in my room (as if I was allowed to have locks on my doors… but you get what I mean). If I spent too much time in there, I’d get yelled at to come downstairs. I would sit on the floor, next to the loveseat, hiding and not speaking, but in the room to make her happy.
I didn’t get good grades. What kid on earth could, in those conditions. Even under the threat of being grounded or beat, I simply stared in class. I wanted to just escape. Any trouble that I got into at school can be directly related to my home life and not a single person took the time or energy to just stop and ask me if I was okay or if I needed help. Until High School when my boyfriend at the time came to see me at work one day. He could smell the soap on my breath (my mom found out that I used the phone that day after school and before work, she gave me a nice dose to get me through the night). He went home and told his mom and she called CPS. HAHHAHAHHAHHAH! The school called me to the office, I told them what happened, CPS came to the house… my mom invited the woman in for tea and they had a nice little chat about how awful I was and that I lied all the time and this was all made up. OH MY GOD! The minute that woman left, it was WWIII. I was told that I couldn’t date him, call him, see him. PERIOD. Weeks later, he shot himself and I got the call at work. When I got to the hospital, I was in the waiting room with all of our classmates. She came storming in and screamed at me in front of everyone “I thought I told you that you weren’t to see him anymore!”. Most people just stared at her. She went to speak to his mom, and it turns out that they grew up together. NOW it was suddenly okay…. but they pulled the plug 2 days later. Devastating. She didn’t go to the memorial, support me in any way, everyone blamed me… just another day to her.
In my attempt to find love from ANYONE and acting out from his suicide and the whole school pointing fingers at me … I dated someone much older than me and got pregnant after my first time having sex. She had always told me that if I ever got pregnant like a whore, like my aunt, that she would kick the baby out of me. I wasn’t about to tell her and went about getting an abortion without her knowing. I got there, and back, without her having a clue. A few days later, she was rummaging around in my room and found the doctor’s excuse for the school. AS IF I was going to tell the school what happened. LOL I should’ve thrown it away but I had to work and forgot. She picked me up from work and I immediately knew something was wrong. She pretended to be my friend, support me, until she found out who the father was. 3 weeks later, she was driving me, him, and one of his friends to Kentucky to marry me off. Oh what fun. I was wearing sandals, a sun dress, and panties. While we were gone, my dad had changed all of the locks. That was it. The worst and best day of my life. I got away from her (albeit briefly), and was now a married junior in high schooler. She didn’t want to have to deal with me anymore. Nothing better than missing prom to get married and having to explain to teachers why I would have to miss finals or make them up.
After about 5 months of that, he moved us to a few new towns and I enrolled at a high school for my senior year. I came home one day to him with a gun, threatening to kill both of us, and my parents came to pick me up. Turns out I was pregnant again. I lost the baby shortly thereafter and while I was still mildly under anesthesia from the DNC, I could hear my mother talking about me to the nurse that she couldn’t stand me and couldn’t deal with me anymore. She kicked me out 3 days later. Homeless.
After senior year ended, I moved in with my aunt. (skipping over a lot, I know, but it’s a bunch of the same stuff) Got a job. Met a medical student. Got pregnant again. Eventually, my cousin got sick of my aunt doting on me and came in my room one morning and told me to leave. I did. I didn’t have much choice but to go back home. The med student wanted nothing to do with me or our baby. Once I had the baby, it was clear that I was simply a surrogate for her . She had never had a boy and always wanted one. She had taken custody of 3 male cousins and a female cousin (who she told one day that she wished had been her daughter instead of me… they didn’t know I was 10 ft away listening). Once my son was born, I was forbidden from holding him unless he was awake or eating. I tried breast feeding but that was a nightmare. He seemed to hate me and love her. I was just a built in babysitter to a brother I gave birth to. I eventually moved out and tried to put him in daycare. She called me at work one day screaming that I was not to take him back there, that she had gone in and didn’t like that he was the only child in a highchair while the other kids played. He was eating. It was their rule. When I went to pick him up from her, she pinned me down on the stairs, by the throat, telling me I wasn’t leaving the house with him. I had to file charges against her, which she answered with taking me to court for custody. The judge basically told her to pound sand, that her attachment to him was unhealthy, and that she would get grand parental visitation.
It went down hill on so many levels, in my life, from there… Good lord, all of the shit I have gotten through. I genuinely can’t type any more. I did have to get this out, even for me. I have to move on from this stuff so that I can let it go and figure out what “happy” is supposed to be for me. So far, I have no idea. Happiness up until this point has been a result of fear of making someone else unhappy and them abusing me too. It’s a sick and twisted circle that I have tried so hard to break.
I wish I could say that I’m sorry for this long winded bullshit but I literally have no one to talk to. I refuse to pay someone to listen, I have no friends or family that want to listen to all of this, and I’m at a loss. I have to let it out. If I start crying, the pain is so bad that I can’t breathe. That small child in me is still in there somewhere and has never had a voice. I have to fix that.
** I purposely left my sister out of this .. for a few reasons. She was nowhere near treated like me, I don’t hate her for that, and I’m sure she has her own story. She was 20 months younger, but very clearly favored. It wasn’t her fault. I love her more than a single other relative in my life (aside from my kids and her family).
Part 2 will have to wait. It will cover family vacations, the cousins, relatives, the “almost divorce”, bed rest, my son, my daughters, and life up until now. Stay tuned!