A woman opens up to show us, The Band, who she is after a tumultuous childhood.
This is her brave, beautiful story:
For a long time, I've wished that someone would listen to my words without judgement or pity. I want you to know me and, for once, see me.
(ed note: we see you and we want to know you as you are. We're the Band. We are none of us alone. We are all connected. You - and everyone reading this - are always welcome to tell your story)
I grew up with a mother without her her full mental faculties; she was unhealthily obsessed with her faith. Don't get me wrong: faith is fine, but when you forget the world around you, you become lost.
This is how my father met my mother.
My father was emotionless, controlling, and cruel. I don't know how my mother fell for my father - maybe she was too naive to see the truth. Maybe she didn't understand that someone who makes you walk three steps behind him, doesn't allow you to sleep in the bed while sick, or tells you he only picked you because you were submissive does not love you. I think she loved him because it seemed he loved her religion.
I never noticed anything was wrong before the age of four - I didn't know any better. The world was fine and I spent it playing; forgetting anything uncomfortable.
I will never forget my sister's face.
I will never forget walking in.
That was the first time I knew something was wrong - I felt it in my gut. Being a stubborn child, I tried to save her as she looked dead beneath him. Alive but dead. Because I tried to help, it happened to me.
Sometimes, I think if I'd been like everyone else, if I'd turned a blind eye, it wouldn't have happened to me. This is the one selfish thought I allow myself to think.
After that, nothing was comforting. Nothing was pleasant. I became a serious, fiercely stubborn child. I spent nights at the table because I refused to eat the giant plates of food father gave me, trying to communicate something was wrong. I didn't think my siblings should have to suffer either.
Yet, my mother did not notice.
When I tried to reach out to my sister, I got blamed - it was my fault; I was doing something wrong. She had schizophrenia and didn't understand that being raped by your father was wrong. She thought, "this is how my father shows me he loves me and if he loves someone else, he does not love me."
I always fought back.
Maybe if I had... I think... everything would have been better.
Eventually, I fought so much my that sisters were afraid I would be killed. So we told someone about what was going on. My mother took action, so I know realistically that she cared.
I've never understood how she - or anyone else - can turn a blind eye? Are we taught to be ignorant? Are we taught that if you express yourself, something is wrong with you? If you talk: you are weak.
I don't agree.
You become weak if you cannot express yourself. You lash out if you cannot express yourself. People deserve to be heard and that we should open our eyes: there is more to this world than ourselves.
Thereafter, I became the hidden caregiver for my family. My mother found us a place to live and I cared for the children. I took the blame for everyone's messes and mistakes.
I was the reason my father got taken away. I was the reason times were so hard; no one bothered to see otherwise.
It didn't matter that I spoke of the sexual abuse so my last sister wouldn't be molested. Or that my brother wouldn't continue being beaten. Or so my sister would never be pinned beneath a man against her will. Or so my other sister might see what love really was.
Nobody wanted the reasons, they only saw the results and someone to blame. I believed that it was my fault; that I owed it to my family to fix it. So I became better.
I read my siblings books before bed. I introduced them to reading and games. When my sister had a violent episode, I took the beating so no one else would have to. After all, it was my fault.
For years, I pretended nothing was wrong: I was normal and everything was fine. If I didn't, there would be trouble. I learned that lesson after my father was sent to jail and a news reporter decided to illegally print an article about our story.
I became a celebrity.
I couldn't leave the house without being recognized. I didn't have a face: I was the girl raped by her father. I wasn't a person, I was a title.
So I pretended.
I'd punish myself for bad things. If I did something wrong, I'd feel so terrible and ground myself for a week. I'd brag about how wonderful my mother was; she cared so much she grounded me. The reality was, she was always at work or on a computer at home.
No one learned it was an act until eighth grade, when a friend's mother figured it out and reported my mother. This made everything harder. The kids were scared. I refused to let them know I was scared, too. We knew foster care would be worse. They knew that I loved them; cared for them but foster care would not. I was asked one of the hardest questions of my life during a second interview with children services.
They said, "We know you take care of your autistic brother, younger sister, schizophrenic sister, teenage sister's baby, and yourself. You don't have to. The choice is up to you as your mother provides a home and food. You may live at the poverty level, but we don't take kids away because they are poor. Would you want to leave?"
I told them I could handle it. This was my life and always had been; I wanted my family. What I didn't say was that I didn't feel my family wanted me; they needed me.
It makes me mad.
You'd be surprised that I can experience anger - most people don't believe I can. I've been told that they've never met anyone more sincere or kind. I'm like this because I care. Sure, I get mad but I get over it - in the end it's not very important.
No one should be put in a position to be sexually assaulted by a parent while people look on, not reaching to help.
Instead of responding in hate, I stop the hate. I balance it out. Even now, I do not complain; I appreciate everything.
I don't ignore people, especially those who love me. Even when the horrible memories swallow me, I face them.
I watch people ignore each other and hurt others and I comfort them. I don't want anyone to feel the way I have. I am human and if I have these feelings so can someone else.
Pain is not owned by one person; it affects everyone.
People deserve to be cared for, shared with, and know they are not alone. You are seen. I share your happiness, sadness, worries, fears, and joys.
This is the part of my story I want people to know most:
You are not alone.
Don't be afraid to express yourself.
We are none of us alone, The Band. It's time to share your story.
Something awful happened yesterday.
Suddenly looking through my Facebook and Twitter feeds I found out that there had been several explosions at the Boston Marathon.
Explosions. Injuries. Fatalities.
Unfathomable situations to consider.
Social media is incredibly informative. We learn news in the blink of an eye, but just as quickly we can receive misinformation and find ourselves giving out incorrect details because we want to share and we want to help.
Social media can also be terribly triggering when it comes to disasters such as these. Sometimes we cannot handle what is happening in the world. Stories such as this horrible tragedy in Boston trigger dark thoughts for many of us. We get stuck in that mindset and can't push it down.
These are perfectly normal reactions to a tragedy such as this one.
But it's also totally okay to WALK AWAY.
We want to remind you that it is perfectly acceptable and often REQUIRED to walk away from the news stories. YOU are most important here. Yes, it's a horrible thing. Terrible. Emotional. Anxiety-provoking. But you need to know that if you are overwhelmed with the news you do not need to watch it, read it or listen to it.
Don't look for it. You'll hear it all eventually. It's not critical for you to know immediately what is happening.
Nobody will judge you for not participating. Nobody will ask you if you watched the Anderson Cooper show or read the latest AP News information. There will be no quiz here.
Social media IS amazing. But sometimes people just jump feet first without actually thinking or researching. And pictures that do not need to be seen get tossed about. Horrible. What for? Nobody needs to see that. Especially you.
If you are a parent, you are probably protecting your child(ren) from these things. There's no harm in protecting yourself, as well. I would recommend you do it.
I remind you, because I know that in times like these we often forget, that taking care of you is most important here. Avoid triggers. Close the laptop. Take a walk. Play with your kids. Eat something chocolatey. Dance around your living room. Sing your favorite song. Buy yourself a fancy coffee. Cry if you think it will help. But don't hole yourself up with the footage. It's not healthy and it's not necessary. Because we want you to take care of you. We want you to remain safe. And we want to help keep you that way.
If you find yourself looking for answers or resources, please consider reviewing some of these Band Back Together resource pages. And if you need to, reach out. We're here.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Resources
Emotional Shock Resources
We, The Band, keep the people of Boston in our hearts today and in the coming days as they face the aftermath of these horrible events.
Okay, maybe not.
The fact that I love my husband deeply might cause problems.
And I noticed you already had a wedding band (don't ask me why I noticed, I just did. I was single for a long time, sheesh). But there must be some way to show the world how deeply I esteem you. How deeply I appreciate you. You have made our family so happy. You are one great doctor.
Are you all wondering whether I've had liposuction? Or maybe if my colitis has been cured? Or that I've grown five inches? No. Dr. Adler is neither a plastic surgeon nor a gastroenterologist. Dr. Adler is a pediatric neurosurgeon.
Last month when we brought Lovebug in for his 12 month check up, his pediatrician was worried about his head shape. Specifically, that the plates might have fused too early. Unfortunately, we were moving less than a week after the appointment so we had to get it checked out in New Jersey.
The pediatrician here was also concerned. He wanted us to see a neurosurgeon - to skip the in-between step of the neurologist altogether. Naturally, our insurance is not accepted by most doctors in Bergen County. The ones that did accept our insurance could see us in October.
By that point, I had done some research. While Lovebug's head did not resemble any of the misshapen heads of babies with craniosynostosis, I was still worried. If they did not fix it soon, there could be pressure on his brain. The pediatricians had barely talked to me about anything else, like his behavior and whatnot, so worried were they about his head.
So between my mother talking to her doctor, a doctor he knew (and his kind appointment maker) and me talking to my insurance company, we found a pediatric neurologist. I made the regular pediatrician give us a referral to the pediatric neurologist.
Yesterday we went to our first appointment. Dr. Adler came out to the waiting room and brought us back to the exam room himself. He was warm, kind and clear.
He chatted with Lovebug and felt his head.
Dr. Adler explained everything in layman's terms and even offered to show us pictures of babies with real problems on his computer. We declined, having already seen them. The bottom line was that while the space between Lovebug's skull plates may have fused early, this had not affected his head size (which is very large, to tell the truth), his head shape, or his behavior (since he walks, talks a bit and does not have seizures).
Dr. Adler declared him perfectly fine.
After imagining MRIs and CT scans, rounds with specialists and surgery, yesterday's appointment could not have gone better. But if something had been wrong, you can bet for damn sure that I would want Dr. Adler to fix it.
I wrote this post nearly 6 years ago. It was the first time I shared something that really worried me publicly on the internet. I will always appreciate the kindness that my few readers showed me back then. Even though I can barely remember the worry and anxiety I felt back then, I still remember the kindness. I hope that anyone contributing their stories to Band Back Together gets to feel what I feel about this post: grateful for the kindness and barely able to remember the pain.
A diagnosis of cancer affects the entire family.
This is her story.
Two years ago, my sister was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.
She was 35 at the time, had a twelve year old son, ten year old daughter, and a three year old daughter. She underwent months of radiation, a double mastectomy and then months of chemotherapy. Six lymph nodes were also affected.
Just a few of months ago she got the all clear from her oncologist that he didn't need to see her anymore, that she was cancer free.
She has been having a lot of pain in her hip the last few weeks and finally had a CT scan on Friday.
At this point we don't know if it's on the bone or in the bone, if it's metastasized, or if it's a whole new cancer. We know the odds are it has metastasized. We have been hoping and praying that it's a misdiagnosis or just a new cancer that can be treated. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst, I guess.
My sister lives about 3500km away from our family. We do have some family where she is, but no one that is close to her. Her husband's mom died in September and she was really the only family they had. Our mom and our brother live where I do.
I want so badly to be there, but I just can't right now. We were planning a visit in June but it seems so far away. I want to be there with her right now. She's scared, her husband and kids are scared, I'm scared. She doesn't deserve this. I know that no one deserves cancer, but she really, really doesn't deserve it. She has already been though enough.
And I'm terrified.
And I'm so frustrated I can't be there.
The day has come.
I am going to be 30 in April.
I wasn't going to be one of those people who freaked out about turning the big 3-0. I was going to take the bull by the horns as it were and ride...or so I thought.
When I turned 20 I freaked because I knew I wasn't a teenager anymore. That meant I had to be responsible. Okay, so you're not a "real" adult until you're 21 (so you can drink) or 25 (when you can rent a car), but for some reason I went through sort of a mid-life crisis then. I know it's funny now; I can laugh my ass off and say "what an idiot."
But now? Turning 30? I'm freaking terrified. Here's why:
1. I am still single - not married, no kids. Most of the people my age already have one, the other, or both.
2. I am STILL NOT in the career I went to school for. I have a degree in Graphic Design and haven't had ANY experience at all in the field. I've been turned down for countless jobs because of that problem.
3. Thanks to said schooling, I am knee deep in student loan hell. Most the time I'm broke, just barely keeping my head above water.
4. I'm in a dead-end job. Honestly. I'm not going to sugar coat it - I really don't like it. Before this I worked nine years at a job that was just as bad, and ended up getting fired.
5. Oh and my awesome 30th birthday plans? They may not happen due to my car having a major flat and costing quite a bit for repairs.
I feel like I haven't accomplished anything great. The only thing I've done that's worth mentioning is that I graduated from college. I lived on my own for three years after the "roommate experience," and I lost 56 pounds in a year and so far have managed to keep it off. Wooo right on track!!
When I look back at my 20's I see a lot of hurt. Losing my last grandparent, breaking up with my then-boyfriend for the final time, putting my cat to sleep, Dad having cancer, moving out of my childhood home, then moving my parents out of it, putting Mom in the nursing home, losing my job and being unemployed for six months, losing my best friend, and most recently the death of my sister...
Right now my life seems to be at a total standstill. I've always stayed in Nebraska because I felt "needed." I never wanted to be too far away in case something were to happen - then I could be right here without needing to spend money I don't have on a flight home or gas money to drive.
When asked, "Why don't you move?" the anwser was always the same: my family needs me. It's what a good daughter does. Dad just has me now. Mom sure as hell can't help and my brother doesn't understand so the decision making is on my shoulders just as much as it is on Dad.
Most women my age are picking out white dresses, china patterns, or colors for the nursery. Me? I picked out what my sister was going to be buried in, casket flowers, what was going to played at the funeral, and what kind of vase she was going to have on her headstone. There is no preparing for that.
Since my sister has passed I find myself wondering what I am supposed to do. Where would I go, and what would I do if I left? I feel like I don't have a reason to stay close anymore. I no longer feel needed.
I have always felt I have put my own life on hold because of what was going on with my family. My motto has always been "family first;" however, I can't keep doing that anymore. I'll never get anywhere.
Yet I have a low threshold for guilt.
On the other hand, maybe my 30's won't be as bad as I'm thinking. I am gainfully employed even if I hate my job. I am perfectly healthy, skinnier (no six-pack abs, but hey), I can wear the jean size I did in high school, and have not had a single broken bone or stitches EVER even though I am pretty damn clumsy. I have some pretty kickass friends and a super cute nine-month-old nephew. I will be getting my third tattoo soon - a memory one for my sister. I drive an awesome car and I have a roof over my head, plus my very own studio so I can create to my heart's content.
The rest is just details.
My 20's are actually the end of a very long era, and the more I think about it, the happier I am it's almost over. It's kind of like New Year's Day - a chance to start over and make things right. I'm sure it's not going to always be sunshine and lollipops but I will lace up my custom designed Converse kicks (this is what I really want for my birthday) and hold on.
I'm ready for you, bull - let's ride.
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