First of all, I need to tell all the editors of bandbacktogether.com how amazing it is that they’ve set up such a platform (slash soapbox) for all of us to yell from. So, thank you. As a new writer just getting the feel for things, it always helps to have a friendly place to scream and shout. (ed note: We’re so glad you’re loving the venue. Keep writing and contributing!)
I know it seems really lonely right now, but it’s only going to get worse.
Sure, your father is getting remarried and you feel especially fearful of your place in the house since he said that she was just as important as you are. But, listen… You’re going to put up with a lot before you feel like yourself again. First, you’re going to find sex and then later alcohol. (Just so you know, this will be backwards from the way most people do it.) Then, you’ll fight with the new woman of the house. Constantly. And everything her kids do wrong will be your fault. Until the day you die. Trust me on this one.
Or, you know, trust yourself…
By the way, your mother is a drug addict. You don’t understand that now, but she’s killing herself slowly. Love her from a distance. She’ll eventually set your apartment on fire at two in the morning while hopped up on the Xanax.
And don’t expect much from your sister. When she comes back in ten years she will not be the person you envisioned. You will not find what you thought you needed.
As for family, remember to call Kimberly every chance you get. Tell her you love her endlessly. You won’t have her much longer. I know. I’m sorry, sweetie.
Once you get out of the house, you will choose not to become a doctor after all and, in fact, you will skip college altogether. But this will ultimately be a major plus as people will have more respect for your position in your career. When you’re twenty-three, you’ll hear the words you’re a smart one for not going bankrupt like the rest of us three times in one day.
But before this, you’ll lose every friend you ever had to the college experience. And you will ultimately lose yourself in the bottom of a bottle. Which bottle you ask? Depends on which night. Usually wine but often tequila or Jack. Pack aspirin in the future. And tampons. Just bring the white wicker bathroom baskets with you. Trust me.
When you hit nineteen and move to Houston to be closer to that boy, he will break your heart but you will move on just fine. When he comes back two months later don’t bother. He hasn’t changed. It’s the only way to avoid the disaster that will occur eight months later when you’re in the shower and he wipes out the entire loft.
Don’t go to that strip club in Culver City. Avoid any bars in San Antonio. Period. And keep close with Jessica. She’s the only friend you’ll ever have. Treat that guy you meet at twenty-two like you’re supposed to, but keep him distant. He will hurt you but in a way that keeps you strong. Also keep your emotions in check.
And when you’re where I am now, you’ll embark on a thirty day journey to find yourself again.
It will be scary but you will spend a lot of time writing. And it will be cathartic and it will make you happy. Enjoy your wine slowly. Enjoy the occasional smoke but don’t become a smoker. And treat your body the way you do in this very moment at your young age. Yes, you are pretty. No, you are not too tall. You will grow into your looks and people will appreciate them so enjoy the freelance modeling. You’ll do few shows but you’ll meet some great people.
Finally, be wary of people. They will use you and lie and inflict their own life problems onto your plate. The only way around this is to always be in control. If you feel a little larger than life, it’s okay. That’s who you really are. It’ll take a little bit of time to understand why you feel so cold and empty, but it will carry you at times.
Oh, and one more thing, you’ll start a website.
The first time I was molested, I was 6 years old. My step-dad was a controlling, abusive asshole and had been grooming me over the few years he’d been married to my mom. It started as tickling, then moved to a touch here, me touching him there, and everything you can imagine in between.
At 6, I had no idea this wasn’t normal interaction. He was the only dad I knew.
At 8, I knew how to give a blow job, at 10 he was attempting penetration (poorly), at 12 when I got my period, I got worried. A substitute teacher covered a chapter on sexual abuse in health class and I realized that this wasn’t normal at all. I told my mom that afternoon, he moved out that night, I got lots and lots of counseling.
I remember he had big speakers under his mattress and he put on something with a shit ton of bass and it made me so nauseous that I spent 20 minutes puking on his back porch. I didn’t tell anyone. In fact, I continued to date him for an additional 6 months.
During that time he fantasized about moving to Alabama (where 14 is the age of consent) getting married and having babies with me. At the end of those 6 months he nearly got arrested for threatening a secretary with bodily harm for not allowing him to bring me flowers to my class… in middle school.
At 15, I walked over to a boy’s house that I had a crush on to “hang out.” We were making out and he got my pants off. I let him know I wasn’t interested in having sex so he decided that putting his belt inside me was a better option? I was known as “belt girl” (probably still am, honestly) for a number of years after that, to our group of mutual friends.
These are of course only the major offenses. I’m not including the literal hundreds of unsolicited dick pics, “accidental” gropings, catcalling, and unwanted sexual advances that occur from randoms quite often.
Why didn’t I report it at the time?
Well it depends on the occurrence. The first time I didn’t know any better, the second time I was in love, the third I was embarrassed and ashamed, the fourth I was terrified of ever seeing him again. I definitely didn’t want a court case. I never filed charges on any of them. Even the long-term ones.
I remember vividly talking to a counselor who warned me of the long court process to press charges against my dad, how it was my decision (AT 12), and whether they should file charges with the DA. Seems like something an adult should’ve decided, no? That stayed with me through all of my assaults. I felt powerless and guilty. I blamed myself for my poor decisions. Surely, I mean, it was my fault, right?
So now PTSD is a real thing I live with every day as a survivor of multiple sexual assaults. The triggers are never expected or convenient. Depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand with that. Once, a psychologist mentioned her surprise that I didn’t have a personality disorder, so there’s that, I suppose?
This is why the #MeToo movement is so vitally important.
The shame, the bureaucracy, the headaches, the guilt, it’s not worth reporting. This is what I’ve been told time and again as a victim. Maybe not in those words, but certainly with that intent. Someone didn’t want the paperwork and i didn’t want the trauma of retelling my story time and time again.
someone tries to bullshit me on what repairs my car needs
I’ve just been told “go to Hell” (the implication being, been there done that)
people are having a grand time trying to place my accent — for some reason, no-one has ever guessed right, so I just give up after a while and tell them this is 30 years of living in and around Detroit talking. Thank you for guessing that I’m maybe Irish, but the truth is gonna make you make an “Ugh” face.
Saying “Detroit” makes everybody make the “Ugh” face. If you live there, it’s your resting face: Either you’re constantly consciously aware of how much of a deliberately-constructed torture-machine of poverty and racism and environmental awfulness it is, or you’re unconsciously aware of it and your Ugh face is hiding a half-inch behind a desperate Midwestern smile.
It took two years after I moved away for my face to reconfigure away from the constant pained expression of a person trying to live a life among a seething ruin after rubbing shoulders every day with people on the absolute edge of desperation. And no, I don’t mean the homeless and the addicts. There are far more, and equally desperate, people in southeast Michigan who are still, for now, managing to live indoors. You won’t notice them unless you live there, and they outnumber the ones wandering the street by a wide margin.
Since I was a tiny child, I’ve been trying to say, “Oh my gods y’all — This is where the whole country is headed if we don’t wake up…this right here is industrial capitalism’s next phase! Let’s stop and change while we, while anybody, still can!”
But after you grow up a while, you realize that telling people doesn’t matter: they either know it full well, and think it’s worth it – probably because they’re wealthy, or privileged enough that they think they will be one day – or don’t simply don’t care (because, I’m guessing, it feels inevitable…or maybe I should say “they’ve bought the lie that it’s inevitable”).
I’ve now lived in Boston almost a decade, and while my inner Cassandra will still come out in heated discussions, I’ve mostly given up on sounding the warning-siren of Detroit.
It’s tiring and depressing, and if I’ve ever opened anyone’s eyes to what Detroit’s absurd segregation, its grotesque violation of one of the most gorgeous natural environments in the world, or aggressively anti-human city-planning means to the rest of us, I’m not aware of it.
If you’re not from Detroit, you don’t think it could happen to you, and/or you’re buying the perennial line about how “making a nice expensive spot in the middle of downtown will fix it. And if you are, you’ve probably given up – or will soon.
I’m an expat / refugee of Detroit, and I gave up SO MUCH to get out.
After 30 years I finally realized that if I ever wanted to be mentally “okay” (never-mind healthy, just…okay), I had to get away from the constant background scream of hopelessly-flailing-against-awfulness that is the D.
The biggest thing I gave up was being near my family — my only family in this world; we’re a small handful and we’ve always been very close. I had high hopes that I could “get them out” too, once I was established here, but my older parents and mentally-disabled brother (who, I stressed, could have reasonable health care here — hell, if they were homeless in Boston, their options would be better than in Michigan) just weren’t up for that kind of life-change, and they’ve decided to stay.
I talk to at least one of them every day on the phone. I travel back to D-town four or five times a year (my spending every holiday in Detroit is a fun “you’re so hardcore” joke for my friends here), and every summer they take a vacation (their only one) to come visit me and Boston. The pain of that separation is a little easier now, for the most part, but not really.
I have survivor’s guilt. I miss them like crazy, and I hate that if something bad happened I’d need to make an 800-mile journey to reach them. I struggle with the moral implications pretty much daily: Is it okay for me to have done this, to have found myself a home that makes me incredibly happier and miles healthier, and to have left my loved ones behind in Hell, USA?
I’m not going to talk, here, about the details of growing up in Detroit; about what the background of intense violence, racism and poverty does to a person – though maybe I will later. This one is about getting out, and where that leaves you…partially because I’m sick to death of the sensationalism around it, and can’t quite handle yelling about the realities of it yet.
I hate Detroit, still, the way you hate an ex-lover; instead of Ugh-face I now have Rage-face, but at least it’s not a constant thing.
It’s SO difficult to have your hometown, the place you grew up and will forever know best, be the embodiment of modern evil; to feel like you’re walking into Mordor every time you go back; to have a wonderful family Christmas and then gasp with relief when it’s over and you can leave, even though your chest burns because you won’t see your family again for months.
I left my daughter there too, Band. My only child. I’ve always shared joint custody of her with her (thankfully awesome) dad, and when I left I had to decide if seeing her every holiday and having her live with me here in the summer would be enough for both of us…and that, I think, is probably the worst and hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.
But eight years on, I still feel like I made the best decision I could. Her situation is pretty well-protected from the worst of it: She lives in a rural area safely far outside the city, in a nice house, and goes to a great school with her three half-brothers, and again, we talk almost daily (she’s a teenager now, and getting too busy for daily :P) — and we have a great relationship. She loves Boston, and I’m SO glad she gets to have more and broader experiences than I did…my hope is that she won’t feel trapped in Michigan, and won’t have to make a decision to either stay in shit-town forever, or rip her life in half to get out and have a chance at happiness. Also, she isn’t stuck there with one of her parents being a miserable, grotesquely depressed mess, like she would have been if I’d stayed. That was definitely my experience — my Mom hated Detroit too, with every breath, but she never could stomach the hard change of leaving, so we never did. And now she seems resigned to dying there and just…hating it the whole way.
I guess we all do whatever we can to do better, to provide better for ourselves and our kids, any way we can. Sometimes that means cutting your own roots, and giving yourself a chance, however much a long-shot it is, to grow in better soil, to be nourished instead of constantly poisoned by where you live.
It’s important to say this, before I wrap up this topic (which I’ve needed to get off my chest for so long now; THANK YOU BAND I’M SOOO GLAD YOU’RE BACK) — and that’s that I carry a dark fear with me always, a terrified certainty that at some point, I will likely have to give up my better life here and go back to D-town.
Everyone in that place is precarious, and like I said, my parents are aging and my brother needs pretty constant care and support; and we’re all we’ve got, really. I’ll be in a better place to help them thanks to the good career and vastly better health (physical and mental) I’ve been able to cultivate here in Boston — but I very well might need to give up all my progress here in order to give them that help, and I know that if they really need me to, I will.
So every time I walk back into Detroit, I know that I might get trapped there again someday. If I think about it too long, I’ll start shaking and crying, so I try not to. But that’s another angle that may be helpful to remember for all survivors of nasty situations: A lot of the time, you don’t just get to leave your Hell.
People who got stuck there for a while can get out and never look back, but those of us who were born and raised in Hell can sometimes never get free.
Detroit is a place I’ll live with, even if I don’t live in it, for the rest of my days.
And it’s so hard to write that, because the rage, the ungodly anger at everyone who caused it and is keeping it going and is punishing all of its people with it every day, has never let me go. It’s even somehow scarier, now that I’ve gotten some reprieve from having that rage as my resting-face, to contemplate being immersed in it again…but it’s not a dragon I can slay; it’s too big. It’s my hometown. It’s in my blood and my voice and my life, no matter how hard I work to cut it out of them.
Every once in a great while my job requires me to go out of town, fine and dandy… extra money and all that jazz. Today I had to go to Cedar Rapids. Good enough…Today I’m driving… listening to my favorite morning radio talk show, laughing my ass off… Then I look over I see a sign.
Iowa City 40 Miles.
I stop laughing.
My chest tightens.
I can’t breathe.
My mind turns off.
I no longer hear the banter of the D.J.
I’m back there.
It’s the 4th of July and I’m back to the back seat of my mom’s Kia. My step dad is driving, my younger brother next to me, my mom in front… 85 miles an hour. I see that sign… Iowa City 40 Miles… There is no way we can beat the helicopter…We are all blank. Dead inside. They have my bubba… My sweet baby brother. We speed up. Hoping there are no cops… maybe hoping there are so we can drive faster.
My mom’s phone rings. It’s the hospital… They need a recorded permission to take him to surgery… My mother speaks with the courage of a thousand Roman soldiers. I hear the wavering in her voice. She’s not crying though. She can’t… None of us can. The Doctor. or whoever was on the other end of the phone asks for the details… What happened? We don’t know… He fell of course… how do you not know???? Everybody must know by now….How far??? We don’t know 50 – 75 feet maybe further, maybe not as far… The Doctor tells her nothing.
But we’re closer now…. Iowa City 27 Miles…
My mother is pleading with the surgeon to please not take him back yet. Let us see him… Let her see him… Before the surgery… It’s brain surgery for crying out loud… Just 27 miles… We’re almost there just please wait another 27 miles. They can’t. They have to take him back now…My step-dad drives faster…. We’re not going to make it in time. We all know it’s a waste of energy to try to make it there before they have to take him back… We still drive faster.
Iowa City 6 Miles…. 6 MILES we’re only 6 miles away from where he is… From where the doctors are performing miracles.. We are too late to see him. He’s already in surgery. We know this… We still drive faster… We’re there… FINALLY we’re there… We can’t find the entrance… There’s no “Panicking People To the Left” sign… There should be… (remind me to put that in the suggestion box). We go in… We can’t see… Still blank… It smells like sick people. Like fake real flowers and wax… There is a player piano… (I will later find this very disturbing and somewhat humorous.) Elevator… up… Okay, waiting room… We sit… and wait. The lady at the desk is clearly ready for her shift to be over. She tells us the surgery will last up to 4 hours…
4 hours… OK… 4 hours… How do you function for 4 hours while an 11 year old is having brain surgery??? We pace… We get a Pepsi… It has no taste… I think we talked about who was going to drive what car when this was all over… I don’t think we knew if this was going to be all over. Then my husband was there. The one who saved him, the one who scaled almost 45 feet down a bluff without shoes to save him. Blood stained and covered in mosquito bites. Blood. So much blood….
Then over the P.A. system my mothers is called to the triage desk. He’s done… He’s in post-op… He’s okay… or at least will be.. They won’t be able to tell until the next day or so if he has any brain damage, but the outlook is good. Over 200 stitches. I’m terrified to see his face. His sweet cherubic face cannot be tarnished. Post-op… The second worse place in the entire world. (Only to be outdone by the children’s cancer ward in Peoria… story for another day.) It’s sterile and cold. Dead. It smells worse than the lobby. Like saline and metal. They try to make it pretty with florals and leafy shit. It doesn’t work..
They let us see him, my mom first. He doesn’t say anything. Then me… Bandages cover his head. His face is swollen. He has a drainage tube coming from his head. It’s so cold. I lean down to kiss him, his warmth radiates through my entire body. My sweet bubba. He says nothing… He can’t; the drugs are still doing their job. Then my husband… He comes out crying. My brother told him thank you… The first words he managed were to tell him thank you. That still radiates deep. It was then I knew he would be OK. My bubba…
It all came back to me. In a red hot flash… Like a ton of bricks…The day my little brother fell 45 feet from a look out point at a park in a nearby town, while at a family reunion picnic. Thank God for my husband who scaled the bluff to try to rescue him and for my son who alerted us and for the amazing rescue team who was able to get him out. It was straight out of a Rescue 911 episode. Except real… and not re-enacted for your viewing pleasure.
I wasn’t afraid to drive to Iowa City. In fact the thought never had crossed my mind that it would sneak up and haunt me. But it did. I don’t do that. I don’t freak out. I deal well with most things. I cope well with most things. I think what scared me most was how it took me off guard. Then it was over as quickly as it started. The rest of my drive was fairly uneventful. Maybe this was my mourning. Maybe this was my way of closure and coping. I really don’t know. But now… He sleeps. On my couch. I had to go pick him up… I had to be with him tonight.
His face isn’t tarnished, except for a small Harry Potter-esqe scar on his forehead. His back is still sensitive. He did suffer a compression fracture to his spine after all… But HE his fine. He is still my sweet amazing cocky little brother. He still gets in trouble at school and gets mouthy with my mom. We are so lucky to have him. I could not imagine my life with out him. I thank the good Lord every day for that. My sweet bubba.
I don’t think that I can ever forgive you. I want to so badly, but I don’t think that I can. We’ve come through so much together. You didn’t have to be there for me; you didn’t have to be my father. You didn’t have to love me. You chose to. You chose me. You chose me for a long time. I hate that you let things change. I hate that you were so blind to what was happening around you. I hate the words that you said to me.
I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.
I want my dad back. I want the man who loved me despite my illnesses, despite what my birth certificate said, despite all the shit I put you through.
I hate you for choosing a woman over your daughter time and time again. I hate you for it, but after many years, I forgave you.
I forgave you for it, but I stopped putting up with it. I will never forgive you for the actions that you took once I put my foot down. I hate you for saying those horrible things about me. I hate you for saying them about my mother. I hate you for not realizing that both of us were, and are, suffering from mental illnesses. I hate that you look away. I hate you for placing all of the blame on me. You say that your wife has done nothing wrong? You clearly are also suffering from some sort of mental illness.
You are the most passive man I’ve ever known. That used to be something that I loved about you. But it seemed so easy for you to tell me that you were done with me. That you couldn’t have a relationship with me. That you were once and for all choosing your wife over you daughter.
Do you feel anything at all?
Did this choice hurt you like it hurt me?
I’ve listed a million things that I hate about you, but I could just as easily list a million that I love. Those things will never change. I will also love the man that you were, just as you will love the girl that I was. But we will never have the relationship we once had. No matter what happens, I can never forget the words. They are scars on my soul. I think about them everyday.
Your words were horrible. They were not words that would ever come from the man I knew. I’ve done some digging, some looking around and I’ve learned a lot about you. I’m amazed at the things you’ve said and done. I guess you were just sheltering me. Now I know the real you. I don’t like that person. You said that if I didn’t change, you couldn’t have a relationship with me. I’m saying the same to you. Just know that even if you do, I will never trust you again. I can’t.
Of all the people in my life, I never expected to lose you. It is a loss that I will never recover from.
First of all, because you’ve been in our lives forever and you are the mother of our grandchildren, my husband and I will always love you.
But girl, you need to get a grip.
So, it didn’t work out with you and our son. I’m sorry. I wish you two could go on forever and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, that’s not how it worked. You’re hurt and angry and bitter and I get it. I’ve been in your shoes. Luckily, I was in your shoes before Facebook. I had plenty of people see me go through the process, but it wasn’t the whole freaking world.
That said, let me tell you how you’re coming across. It’s been over a year and you’re still posting things from Pinterest about how men need to treat women and how to let go of that one person that hurt you.
It’s time to stop worrying about what he did or didn’t do and accept that it’s over and move on.
But that’s not really what this letter is about.
That was my recommendation as one who has been there.
What this letter is really about is the rampage you’ve been on lately about your ex’s new lady. See, here’s the deal. You keep talking about karma and you can’t wait until the karma bus hits her.
Sweetie, you need to look both freaking ways before you cross the street because karma truly is “you get back what you give out.”
Yes, he cheated on you. But it wasn’t with this current girlfriend. It was with someone else. This one has done nothing to you except show you that your relationship with him wasn’t the dream you thought it was.
You went all psycho on Facebook about her taking pictures with your daughters and posting them. But here’s the thing: would you rather have him with a woman who loves and adores your daughters or someone who doesn’t care about them? You are doing everything to make her job with them miserable.
Let me tell you. Being a step-parent or the significant other to someone with kids is HARD. You’ve watched me struggle with it for a decade. When your partner’s ex is treating you like crap for it, it becomes almost impossible.
Here’s the thing with karma. I hope you don’t start dating a man with kids. Because the karma bus could hit you like a ton of bricks. The way you’re treating your ex’s new lady is the way you could be treated later.
You might want to think about that.
Oh, and you may want to look at your friends that have been encouraging your behavior.