Just another one of her episodes, I tell myself. But another one on Christmas. Usually these episodes last for one week to three. If I’m lucky, that’s getting away easy.
“Ungrateful stupid child, I do everything for you. *Curse word* and you get mad because I say this simple word in front of your son that isn’t even a curse word. All the things I do for both of you, you should be ashamed of yourself.”
It’s kind of hard to shut off that voice from my brain when it’s waking me up at that hour. When it’s shouting at me so hotly, hurting my ears. Still, I ignore her because I’m genuinely tired; I put my son to bed almost at 2 AM and managed to fall asleep at 4:30.
“DRESS UP! YOU’RE COMING WITH ME.”
No, simply no. That’s all I said. There was no power on earth that was going to move me from that bed in that very moment, like there was no power on earth last night that was going to make me do as she said.
This triggered one of her episodes, which I had coming for two days now. My cousin had been staying over for two days doing all she commanded and asked, making him do chores. Simple things she could do herself, she just loves saying to someone “do this” and they go like well-trained puppies and do as they are told. Kind of funny how sweet and nice she was to him and how sometimes she was actually nice to me.
Every night I dream of escaping… getting out of this self-made prison.
It isn’t always the same, but I always make it out. It’s… so sweet… freedom. I seem to have traded it away so easily while awake and I yearn for it in my sleep.
My own double life.
It makes it easier to deal with the reality I’ve chosen.
Sometimes I fashion my own escape. I win the lottery or I write a great screenplay or book. Then I wait, I say nothing, patiently, quietly, until he is out. I take every trace of me from this house.
EVERYTHING of ME and I DISAPPEAR!
GOD, I love that dream most! I fantasize about where I will go, where I’ll live, how I’ll take care of the people I love and how they will love me back.
I play the lottery sometimes, but I’ve never won more than $50.00. That isn’t going to get me very far. I always tell myself that whomever won needed it more. I try not to think about it too much. Or I’ll cry.
Do you think you can run out of tears? You can’t. I read somewhere that tears are toxins leaving your body, so it’s good to cry. I must have a lot of toxins.
I’m making up for lost time.
Growing up, we weren’t allowed to cry. Someone should’ve told my Father that factoid about tears, although he’d probably have smacked you. So yeah, you would’ve had to duck or send him a note or something.
Really, I don’t think he would have given a damn about toxins. He had a very rigid, narrow view of children and their place in life. It’s painful to admit that I married someone who is a lot like my Father.
It’s tragically predictable.
That’s difficult for me to read, and it was excruciating to live, but I found my freedom. I had my freedom the whole time. I simply didn’t realize that I had the power to change my life – I thought I had to be rescued. In the end, I guess, I was. It was the best gift I’ve ever given myself.
As a result of the emotional damage of their actions, there were other bits of damage: mistrust, an inability to let others in. This is the dragon I am battling now, TODAY…
I must be brave and try.
Those who grow up in an abusive family know the counting game. You count the days until you can get out, not unlike a jailbird doing a stint upstate. You mark on your inner calendar: three years, forty-two days and I’m outta here! Those sad, painful days marked the beginning of my dream for freedom. What I didn’t know; what I might not have been able to cope with, was that I would never really escape.
I carry my past with me like an ugly scar. Every time I think I have finally healed it, it gets torn wide open. And I see how far I have yet to go.
Every time I push people away, I’m reminded. I have done – and continue to do – more years in counseling then I care to recall. I believe in therapy – I’ve done the work, put the time in. I’ve come to realize how much my childhood defines me. It is a battle that I fight everyday.
Sometimes I win, sometimes not.
Usually the day ends in a draw.
As long as my mother doesn’t call, or some well-meaning stranger doesn’t ask the nosy questions they don’t want the answers to, I’m fine. I try to remember that they’re making small talk, trying to find common ground. They have no idea the pain the well-meaning questions cause. The way it makes my scar itch and burn. I try to skirt the truth to save them the uncomfortable reality, because I will NOT lie.
I’m trying to make peace – peace with memories, peace with a mother who facilitated abuse, with a family that turned a blind eye. Mostly, though I am trying to make peace with myself.
I’m the reminder and I need to learn to let go.
To accept that I am damaged; that we all are a little damaged.
To live in this moment, this life.
To enjoy my existence, rather than mourning what was and what was not.
Three years ago I started dating my now ex-boyfriend. He was my entire world. I thought that no one would ever be anything close to the level of amazing that I saw in him. He was perfect. I made him perfect in my mind.
We ended up moving in together after six months. It was out of necessity, really, since we didn’t have another option.
I loved everything about him. He was tall and strong and handsome and had beautiful blue eyes. He was the only man I’d ever fully given myself to, and he was the first person I ever had an intimate relationship with.
Everyone always teased me about staying a virgin for so long, but I wanted to wait until I felt I was ready. Looking back, maybe I was and maybe I wasn’t. More likely than not, I wasn’t. But in the turmoil of sexual assault, I wanted so desperately to be loved and wanted that I convinced both of us I was ready.
I took us having sex as us being “serious.” I didn’t know any better. Forget that I was 21 and not exactly naïve… I thought I knew it all. I forgave him for messing around with his ex-girlfriend behind my back. I ignored him trying to hook up with his friend’s sister at a party at my house (when he didn’t live there) right in front of me. I looked past how horribly cruel he was to me the moment he threatened to take his own life. He was perfect. More importantly, I was broken, and the only way I thought I could be put back together was the way he was telling me to.
The controlling started small. He would break things off, leave me devastated for a day or two, then come back and apologize, and swear never to leave me again. He felt insecure when he couldn’t perform when we were intimate, but he would blame it on me. Yep, the sexual assault survivor is to blame for everything that went wrong when we had sex. Even when I thought things went well, he had some problem with it. He never even turned off the TV. Christ, he never stopped WATCHING the TV when we were intimate. He would wake me up in the middle of the night to perform oral sex on him… then tell me to go to bed – I was slutty if I wanted something in return.
Eventually the controlling moved out of the bedroom. If I went out, he wanted to know every detail of where I was. It was casual; I barely noticed it at first. I went to a coworker’s birthday party and failed to mention until the next morning that I had stopped with friends to grab a bite to eat at a Denny’s on the way home. He was livid. Why was I hiding things from him? Was I being unfaithful?
Silly me: that was as much protective nature and affection as I got from him. So I chalked it up to him being romantic. Someone anonymously left me a flower at work one day and when he found out, he threatened to sit in the lobby of my workplace and beat the shit out of whomever it was. I laughed it off, but was never entirely sure he was kidding.
Eventually, I wasn’t supposed to dress-up or put makeup on. If I so much as brushed my hair out, he would make fun of me, ask who the hell I was getting all fancy for. We never went out anywhere. I wasn’t supposed to go out much any more, either, or I’d get lectures: “I was gone all the time” or “neglecting my responsibilities around the house.” Even though we lived with three other roommates, it was my job and my job alone to clean the house.
I was supposed to do his laundry. I was supposed to make sure everything was perfect. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere or do anything. If I checked my mail, I had to give him every detail.
When we went out to group gatherings, he’d purposely act like a jackass so we would leave early. He would go out of his way to embarrass me in public so he didn’t have to stay. Work functions, my family get-togethers (he was a golden child at his family’s functions), even hanging out with my friends. He had to talk down to everyone around him.
I was only allowed to go to the bar on the nights he was working security. He had to be introduced right away as my boyfriend to anyone who talked to me, otherwise he would punish me by refusing to touch me in bed. Any affection was off the table: he wouldn’t touch me. He never held my hand in public. He never kissed me in front of anyone. He never once introduced me as his girlfriend.
He’d tell me I wasn’t an equal part of our relationship – I caused all of our fights. And I did. Mostly because if we were arguing, at least he was paying attention to only me. I’d try to stand up for myself, but it always ended with me in tears. He would say anything to make me cry, then tell me I was always crying and he didn’t sign up for my emotions.
This went on for three years. I slipped into one of the worst depressions I’ve experienced. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t shower, I could barely even get myself dressed for work. He hated when I went to work. Forget that I was the only one with anything close to a full-time job (he got paid forty bucks a weekend to bounce at the bar and went to school full-time), and I had to pay all of our bills. He hated my coworkers. They were all scum – I shouldn’t hang out with them.
On the other hand, his parents paid for everything – his rent, his car, his insurance, his cell phone, and handed him gas money every week. They paid for his groceries. I worked my ass off and was expected to pay our rent, utilities, my own cell phone, my own insurance, and for our groceries. What did he do with his money? Bought knives and guns.
When I was raped, my attacker used a gun in places I won’t go into detail about. My boyfriend kept all the guns in our closet, with the door open, on my side of the bed, so I had to stare at them. He complained that I’d never go to the shooting range with him. I can’t be near guns without shaking uncontrollably and losing it, but I went anyway. I fired guns, broke into tears, tried to improve because he was angry that I was a bad shot. But every time I cried, he comforted me, told me how well I was doing. That made him an amazing and caring man.
I was in and out of major depressive cycles. At the beginning of September, I was hospitalized after a suicide attempt. I didn’t know why I wanted to die, I just did. I tried to take a knife to my own throat. He stopped me. He talked me down. I checked into the hospital. I was transferred under a 5150 to another hospital. When he visited me, I tried to show him how well I was doing, because he was threatening to leave me.
I was discharged from the mental hospital, but he couldn’t come get me. If there was no other way, he’d get to it “when he had time.” So my best friend picked me up. That first night back at home, he was so glad to see me. He recreated our first dates, we were intimate on a regular basis, he was affectionate, and doing everything for me – just because. Our lives were finally on track now that I was finally medicated. Right?
A week later, he came home and told me he wanted to leave me – he didn’t love me and never had. He didn’t want to live with me anymore. We agreed I’d get my own place, and we’d work on us from there.
The next day, he told me he had been having an affair with some random girl from at the bar, so I had to move out of the house that day. I told him he couldn’t legally evict me, and I wasn’t going anywhere. He beat the ever loving shit out of me. I told him if he didn’t leave, I’d call the cops. Paranoid as he is, he finally left.
That night, I had been planning to tell him that I’d found out I was pregnant while I was in the hospital.
Where were my roommates? They’d taken his new plaything out to the casino while he dumped me, so, you know, she’d have a nice time and it wouldn’t be awkward for her. Excuse me?
I was angry, hurt, upset. I’d been sick to my stomach and couldn’t keep my medications down, which threw me into withdrawal. I thought I’d never feel again. I had no family, I’d been out of work, so I had no money, and nowhere to go.
I took every single piece of clothing he owned and threw it off the deck. I threw it up in the trees. I dumped it in the dirt. I emptied the entire contents of the fridge onto them and left them to rot in the sun. I packed up all of what had been ours – the bed, all the furniture, the dog, everything and moved into a girlfriend’s house.
I threw away everything that reminded me of him. It wasn’t much – in three years, he’d never bought me a birthday card or Christmas present. He always had the nicest I could afford, but I never even got flowers or a card.
Eventually, I told him that I was pregnant. He wanted proof; I gave it to him. Then I miscarried.
I called him, not sure what else to do. I figured it affected him, too. His response? “Deal with it by yourself, you’re not my problem anymore.”
I had bruises for weeks. The cops did nothing. When I went to collect the last of my belongings from the house, the new girlfriend was in his bed, and she bitched me out. We live in a small community; he runs his mouth every chance he gets: it’s my fault my roommate’s kids hate him; I tried to stab him to death (completely false); I stole the dog (I paid six hundred dollars for that dog and had him before we got together); I left him unexpectedly for someone else. There are a billion lies circulating that I have to deal with. He attacks anyone who knows me out of nowhere.
In that moment, I seriously thought my life was over.
Now it’s been almost three months. I don’t think about him much anymore, and I can appreciate the good memories we had. The more I look back on it, though, the more I realize how many signs I ignored.
So now I’m single. I am spending time with my friends and the people who matter in my life. I’m not dating yet – but it’s by choice. I want to spend some time letting myself heal and figuring out who I am and what I want not only from my life, but also from a life with a partner. I’m learning to define what values are important to me in a significant other. There are guys in my life, but I don’t feel the need to validate myself through them. I stick with my medications. I still go to counseling. I have started attendingAl-Anon meetings in my area. I’m working on saving up to move to wherever I decide I want to be. I’m living. I’m surviving.
At the end of the day, I’m only 24 years old. The last three years do not define who I am. They will always be a part of me, and I am so thankful that I was able to learn these lessons before things got any worse. Are there still days when it’s hard? Of course. But sometimes shit just happens.
Yet, all of them have always been under my control. I just didnʻt know it.
All this time, I thought they had complete control of me, but the truth is, and has always been, that my demons for me, like yours for you, are ours to tame, name and obliterate (maim). Once they are tamed and named, they can no longer control you.
They can only be your bitches.
While this might seem very simple, I know it is anything but. I know that it is a demon son of a bitch to deal with the thoughts we think, and it is worse when the PTSD kicks in. I know, too, that people think you are pretending, but, I know that you cannot possibly pretend to be the thing that you have been fighting your whole life long – that thing that other people think and believe is your identity, or, sometimes, they think it is your mask.
It is the monster that no one thinks about becoming real in the lives of domestic violence survivors, and the irritating little mother fucker of a demon that likes to rear its head just when you thought you had the shitty little thing tamed. You find out quickly that these demons donʻt want to be tamed. They want to be what you want to be, which is free and wild. They want to be free to run wildly amok in the hallways of your memory, fucking with you until tears fall, and not only do others stop seeing the real you, even you stop seeing the person you always knew yourself to be.
My own demons like to play with me, they like to knock the fuck out of reality and truth, and they like to tell me that I’m not at all what others think me to be. My demons tell me all the time that I am not capable of doing things the right way, because I do things my way, and my demons like to remind me that I am not the prettiest, or the smartest, they tell me I am the most irritating person and that even the people who love me the most also and equally loathe me.
My own demons fight with me, argue the truth until there is nothing left of it, the proverbial pile of mindfuck particles left scattered around my psyche like some sort of diabolical confetti comprised of the memories that made me feel better, or made me feel awful, or made me think things that were not the truth, or made me believe that I was not ever in control of who I am…but that they were.
Then one day I figured out that those demons were askinʻ for it. They were literally, by right of their continuing to pop up in my life at the most inconvenient times, asking to be seen to, to be heard, to be told what to do and how to behave. They needed me to see to them, to stop feeding them the bullshit that, for so long, had made them sick and ugly and loathsome, and just completely miserable, and that kept me under their control.
Lots of times we do not see that we might be dealing with someone elseʻs demons, and ones that they show to us, and only us, for the purposes of healing them, through the power of love and truth all at one time.
Sometimes, the demons respond favorably, and other times, they fight back, wanting to live and be heard until they no longer have voice to scream at us with, or anger to flail through us with, or any other way of being or thinking that lives within us, because instead of letting them become like flying monkeys, we make them into the little fuckers who, no matter what, we have control of.
We canʻt see ourselves as anything but works in progress, and as such, sometimes we need to help those parts of who we are that are not that great. We need them to compare them to what we want to see, what is already there, and what just requires a little coaxing….
I have wanted to post here for a long time. I have a story. It is a painful story. Maybe it’s painful only to me, I don’t know. I’ve been so humbled by the stories I have read here and felt unworthy, like my own problems can’t possibly be as bad. I have followed these writers – I will not call them bloggers because to me they are writers as impactful and as important as any that were found on my bullshit high school reading lists.
They do not know that they have been lifelines.
They do not know that they have given me validation. They do not know that they have made me feel like part of something bigger. And I have felt unworthy to speak in these forums because I have not suffered the same losses, the same blows, the same sickness…how could I be part of this tribe? But today, in this strange world of Twitter that I am still trying to understand, someone gave me the invitation and therefore the permission to post here.
Ed note: Please, you’re all invited to post here. We want you to share your stories, big and small. Your victories, your celebrations, your dragons, and your sadness too. Don’t be intimidated Pranksters. If I’m Your Aunt Becky, that means we’re family (sorry). You are all welcome to come in and stay.
Today, someone fucked with my kid.
Maybe this is the way, the opening of the floodgates, where I feel important enough. Maybe this is where my story gets validation. And I will tell my story, most of which has nothing to do with this incident.
And I want to tell you all so many of my stories because it has taken so long for me to realize that I HAVE a story, that my shit was fucked up, that I got a raw deal, that some of how I am is because of what happened. But right now none of that matters, my story is not important, my hurts are not important, nothing is important except the fact that someone. fucked. with. my. kid.
My kid is gay. I am gay. What these two things have to do with one another, I could care less about. The Bean (my kid) is a carbon copy of me in so many ways. We love hard, heavy and openly. She has been raised as a political kid in Washington, DC, where there is a rally or march every other week, and if it is something we believe in – from gay rights to women’s rights to immigration rights to arts funding to DC statehood – we march for it and we are loud and do not back down.
I taught her that.
I taught her about gay bashing and Matthew Shepard and Brandon Teena and the Trevor Project and all the horrible things that happen to people because of how they love. I taught her to be the head of her Gay-Straight Alliance at school. We matched in our rainbow outfits for the Marriage Equality March. The youth-friendly Gay Pride after-party has always been at our house. She knew she could fight because her mama was always there by her side.
Mama was not with her today on The Metro with her girlfriend.
It was a beautiful day here today. Finally, the humidity had broken and I was down at The H Street Festival, one of the city’s biggest festivals. Bean was supposed to meet me at H street but she is slightly geographically challenged and by the time she figured out where to go, it was time to go home. I told her that I’d meet her at The Metro and ride home with the two of them.
As I got off the train, I noticed that Bean and …we’ll call her Banana…were in the car ahead of me. As I moved to catch up with them, Banana noticed me and said “That man messed with us.”
Oh, hell no.
I bypassed the checkout and went straight through the emergency exit and demanded, “Do you have a problem with my daughter?”
To which he responded, “Children don’t need to see that gay shit on the train.”
I discovered that when he said something to Bean, she said something back to him. So this truly classy gentleman, in his fifties made a fist at my seventeen-year old daughter and told her to “step to him.” This man was also still in his security guard uniform with his name tag. He was a douche-bag security guard at an amusement park.
The details are kinda cliché, but suffice to say I turned into every inch the stereotype of a pissed off black woman.
I grew an extra vertebrae so I could roll my head, my finger grew an inch or two to help me point at his face and I learned all kinds of different ways to conjugate “motherfucker.” Eventually, Bean saw me pulling an Arizona Iced tea bottle out of my bag and pulled me toward the car. That was after he informed me that if I was any kind of mother, I wouldn’t have a gay kid, and what my daughter and I both needed was some of his twelve inches, and I needed to bend over and take some of him because I needed to be put in my place.
I told this story to my friends on Facebook and Twitter, and the tears in my eyes right now are not because of the incident, but because of the amazing outpouring of support, piss, and vinegar that I’ve gotten. My friends are contacting Six Flags, where Mr. Antonio Washington works, demanding that Mr. Antonio Washington be removed from working around kids. My friends are re-posting my note so people know this kind of hatred and ignorance is real. They are sending love to a little girl that many of them haven’t ever met.
And what is that little girl doing ? She sat on her mommy’s lap for about 5 minutes. Mommy was busy yelling on the phone, Tweeting and trying to fix all of her favorite foods at once. And she was okay. I overheard her on the phone.
“He didn’t know who he was messing with. My mom is so mad and you don’t mess with my mom.”
I read her Facebook Status, “Some asshole was dumb enough to bash my mom’s kid. He’ll be sorry.”
I listened to Banana “Man, your mom doesn’t play around!” They just made Pizza Rolls and popcorn and are being WAY squeal-y watching horror movies.
Just got off the phone with Six Flags General Counsel. At 9:30 on a Saturday night.
So I guess, to be cliche and because I love NPR , This I Know Is True:
Just because you were an 18-year old teenage mother with a GED and a crack-addicted mother in the murder capitol of the world, you can still be a good mom.
I’m a good mom because I taught my kid to fight for her rights – her rights as a woman, as a black woman, as a black/Latina woman, as a black/Latina gay woman.
I’m a good mom because she knows her momma is never too far away and will KICK THE FUCKING TEETH OUT of anyone who messes with her.
I’m a good mom because, at the end of the day, she still wants to sit on my lap and play with my hair.
As Aunt Becky taught me, we are, none of us, ever alone. The outpouring of rage and support over this has been amazing. I have seen this story, in the matter of about two hours, be posted, tweeted and spread across states and continents. There are warm and fuzzies everywhere and most of you don’t even know the Bean.
I have a story. And there are people out there to listen.