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The List – Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, Abuse and Pain

My therapist has asked me to write down a list.

A list of all the traumatic experiences that have happened to me in my life, that have contributed to my Bipolar Disorder and PTSD.

Right now, my therapist doesn’t feel as though I’m ready for the therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). As far as I understand, I have to relive my traumatic experiences, have the proper emotional response, get over it, then have Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) so I can develop some sort of coping mechanism for the future. But until my medications are adjusted and I’m in a better place, I have to wait.

So, here is my list:

Sexual abuse around age 3 by a family member. I repressed this memory until it slapped me in the face at age 12, causing an intense anxiety attack.

Constant arguing between my parents, thanks to my father’s alcoholism, gambling, and pain issues due to needing a hip replacement. The pain issue turned into an anger issue; turned into a power tool being thrown at my mother, missing, and going through the window and landing at my feet; followed by an argument on a holiday with my father resulting in me taking a heavy duty power torch to the head.

As a “gifted child,” I was bullied a lot in primary school and high school. I still carry some of those emotional scars with me.

Funnily enough, my brain is currently trying to stop me from accessing more memories. Suck it, brain; stop being a whiny bitch and let me write this shit out.

When I was 16, my mother – being severely depressedattempted suicide several times. The last time she tried, she had an argument with my father (now a better man, nothing like his days in my earlier life), and downed a ton of pills. I found her and her suicide note. I actively suppress the things written on that note, but if I actively access that memory, the note started with “I no longer fear death. In fact, I embrace it.” That sentence haunts me in my dreams. She is fine now, thankfully, but I refused to talk about it with anyone and pretended it never happened.

I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder when I had a panic attack at high school so bad my heart rate was 180, and I had to be rushed to hospital for fear of doing damage to my heart. Since that day, I regularly have palpitations.

I had a psychotic episode at 17, when voices told me to stab my mother. I became paralyzed in my own bed while lights shone down from the ceiling, and I was convinced aliens were coming for me, despite my logical brain telling me I was being stupid.

I was diagnosed with endometriosis and told I should probably have children before 25. I’m currently a week away from my 24th birthday.

I moved out of my family home to the capital of my state to attend university. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at this stage, and promiscuity, sleepless nights, shopping sprees, and severe irritability kicked in.

I dated a Muslim man for eight months. Toward the end of the relationship, I was emotionally abused, when he called me a dog. I went running into the arms of a male friend.

I decided I was the worst person in the world and went off screwing any guy who looked my way, drinking myself into oblivion, and eating pills like candy, just to numb the pain. I wanted to be used. I asked my male friend – now my fuck buddy – if he was using me for sex. He replied yes. I cried and said, “good.” Turned out he wasn’t using me: he was in love with me; as a result of my promiscuity, and his inability to tell me how he felt, he quit university, broken-hearted.

I started dating my current partner, whom I have been with for five years now. We lived with his sister, her fiancé, and their daughter. His sister is a lazy bully who cannot look after herself, let alone children (currently a total of three). Her fiancé is a violent, alcoholic gambler. After being made a prisoner in my own bedroom, we got our own place.

My diagnosis of fibromyalgia explained my constant pain and tiredness. Yay for inheriting every single shitty illness my parents have.

Recently, I have started to have feelings for a close friend, who also has a partner. While drunk, we have made  out twice. I have feelings for him, but he is just attracted to me. I have immense guilt over betraying my partner, who is emotionally stunted. I think I’m just attracted to my friend because he has the social and emotional skills my partner lacks.

I was severely bullied at my last job until I began having daily panic attacks and getting into a screaming matches with a higher-up and former friend.

I decided to self-harm and contemplated suicide when the medication I was taking for five years stopped working. Unfortunately, while the medication stopped working, my now non-existent libido did not return.
Have also suffered Dermatillomania (chronic skin-picking) for most of my life, particularly my feet. It is disgusting.

Currently, I am plagued by insomnia, headaches, anxiety, shame, severe depression, guilt, and every other horrible feeling imaginable. According to my therapist, I have feelings of low self-worth. According to my friends, I have a much lower opinion of myself than everyone else does of me.

I am both numb and emotionally unstable. I can’t cry, even though I really want to let it out. I think of myself as selfish and horrible, a terrible person who doesn’t deserve what I have. I theorize that I have some subconscious need to sabotage myself.  Every time something is going well, just to add some drama in my life. Why I do this, I don’t know. And as I have written this list in such a cold, emotionless manner, I find it odd that I can be so numb and feel so many negative emotions at the same time. I feel like a robot.

I don’t want sympathy. At least, I don’t think I do. I am just tired. Tired of struggling through every day with these issues. I want the problems to just magically disappear because I’m tired of fighting.

I know it’s a long road ahead to my recovery. And as much as I don’t want to relive the aforementioned memories, I am also excited for the first time in ages because maybe, finally, with proper therapy…

…maybe I’ll finally get some peace and closure.

Ask The Band: Here We Go Again – The Rewind

I am an only child – an accident. My parents were married, but my mom never hid the fact that she’d never wanted kids. She said she was glad she had me; I was the best thing that ever happened to her, but that she never wanted kids.

I guess when you’re young, you say things you shouldn’t.

My mom got married at 17, had me at 19. She says it wasn’t young at the time, but yeah, it was.

She got married to get out of her mom and step-dad’s house. Married a guy hoping another guy she had “loved” before would come rescue her.

He didn’t.

She didn’t plan on staying married. But then I came along; she tried to make it work.

It didn’t.

I was blessed. Two weeks later, she met, and we moved in with, the man who would become my step-dad – the only dad I’ve really known.

Life was good. I was loved. There were fights, but they stuck it out.

When I hit 5th grade, my mom started talking up boarding school. Started looking at different schools for me. Figuring out how to afford it. I didn’t understand, but I was young and it sounded like an adventure.

Talk of it fizzled out. Life continued.

One of my chores around the house was the dusting, which included moving all books and magazines to clean under them. One day, I found a spiral bound notebook with a green cover.

I flipped it open. It was my mom’s handwriting, full of information about boarding schools:
“I want to find a Christian boarding school for Charity so when I kill myself she will be with people who can take care of her.”

My world changed that day. And I couldn’t tell a soul.

I’d been snooping. I’d read my mom’s journal. But now I knew there were dark things in my mom’s life.

Honestly, I’d known that as long as I could remember. I don’t even know how young I was when she told me about trying to kill herself as a teenager.

But that was then…this was now. I had to take care of my mom, but keep our family secret. What would people in our Church think, at my small Christian school, how could I tell anyone without confessing that I had read my mom’s journal?

The years went on. I thought about it sometimes, but shoved it down. I graduated from school, went off to a small Christian college. Found out other families were messed up too. Maybe mine was pretty good.

I got a summer job at the same place my mom worked between during summer break. I hated it, but it was a job.
My mom wasn’t in good shape. She was sleeping and crying – a lot. She wasn’t eating much. I got her up for work in the morning, ate lunch with her to make sure she ate. She went to bed as soon as we got home.

I took care of the house, then would head off to bed until I heard my dad come in late at night. I would get back up and talk to him. I figured somebody in the family should be talking to each other, they obviously weren’t, so I decided I better.

A bright spot of that summer was dreaming about going to graduate school.

The end of the summer came; I went back to college. I went early to get settled in and start working. My dad drove down to help build my loft and get my stuff set up.

He had said he wasn’t coming; he didn’t see a point in going to college, I was old enough to do it myself (um, old enough, but definitely not big enough to build that loft).

The only thing I remember my folks talking about that summer was fighting about whether or not he would help me move back to college.

To be honest, I felt guilty, but free to be going back to school.

Then, I couldn’t get reach my mom. No matter what time I called, she never answered.

I tried other family members – no one answered, until my cousin did on Monday night. When she said, “Hi Charity,” I heard my uncle yell in the background, “whatever she needs, tell her we will help.”

That seemed weird, I didn’t need anything, I just wanted to ask my mom a question about my car insurance.

“Your mom is in the hospital. She’s in a coma. They pumped her stomach. I found her in the chair. She had taken 150 pills after I told her I was leaving her Sunday night.”

I said I’d drive home.

“No, just stay at college, there is nothing you can do.”

By the time I got off the phone there was nothing I could do. I just sat there.

Thankfully, my roommate talked me through getting dressed, each step. I missed my first class. All I could see was my mom sitting in that chair, taking those pills.

I couldn’t tell a soul. What would everyone think?

I went to class, I went to work. My roommate kept my secret.

Three days later I told a friend. In class. In a written note.

The demon of depression was alive and well in my family and now people knew my life wasn’t perfect.

She came out of the coma. She was in the hospital a few days. My dad tried to stick it out for a few months. I told him I would come home at the end of the semester to take care of her.

He didn’t make it through the end of the semester. She moved out.

When I asked him why he gave up, when I begged him to stay until I finished that semester, he said, “but you’d been talking about graduate school. I was afraid you wouldn’t come home and I couldn’t bear the thought of staying in the marriage that long.”

I worried about my mom. I cried, I didn’t sleep because every time I closed my eyes I saw her taking those pills.
Slowly, she got her feet under her. They divorced. She started dating and met her now husband. It seemed like third time was the charm.

I got married and had three kids. Developed severe postpartum depression and anxiety.

I was terrified of becoming like my mom, but at least she had beat the depression.

Fast forward 15 years.

I am battling my own depression, but unlike my parents, I am getting help. I am fighting. If my mom could beat it without help, I should be able to with help, right?

Just after Christmas, my phone rang. It was my mom. Her husband wanted her to tell me she’d been really depressed again. Crying all the time. Doctors wanted to put her in an intensive outpatient program, but insurance wouldn’t cover it.

My world crashed. Thoughts of reading those words in her journal came back.

Images of her taking those pills invaded my mind. She hadn’t tried to commit suicide – yet – but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

When will the phone ring again?

How do I protect my girls when that day comes?

I’ve lived in fear of my mom deciding I wasn’t worth living for as long as I can remember. I have lived knowing that I have to protect her.

I don’t want my girls to worry about me like that. I don’t want them to feel like they have to take care of me. I fight every day to change myself for them.

Tell me, Band, how do I rewrite my girls’ future when my past is coming back to haunt me?

Ask The Band: Abuse

Here at The Band, we believe in kicking stigmas to the curb, flinging glitter, and shining a light into the dark. And now?

Your bandmate needs a sounding board.

It’s time to Ask The Band!

Hello, The Band. I’m afraid to share my story, so this is really hard for me.

When I was nine, I was sexually abused by my step-dad – the only father I’d ever known. I was born to a fourteen-year old mother who really didn’t want me. She was married at sixteen and had my brother, and at the age of twenty-one.

The sexual abuse happened every other day beginning when I was nine. I was so scared; I was afraid to tell anybody.

He manipulated me; convinced me that if I told anybody of the abuse, my brother and sister wouldn’t have a dad. He told me that my mom wouldn’t be able to make it without him – it would be my fault if they divorced. I prayed and prayed that that that abuse would stop.

I hid from him. I’d hide in my closet, under my bed, in the cubby holes in the walls. Wherever I could when I heard him coming up the stairs. Sometimes it would work, but most of the time it wouldn’t.

He’d normally find me and make me “perform” for him. I’d cry, begged him to stop. I’d beg him to just stop and told him that I didn’t like it. I told him that it was wrong of him to touch me in private areas, but he didn’t care. The abuse continued for a year. I kept trying to tell my mom and grandma by dropping hints and complaining of stomach aches. He kept my mom busy working and taking care of my dying great-grandmother.

She figured he was cheating on her; he always did. He was a drunk, a womanizer, but my mother was determined to make the marriage work. She took me to the doctor who asked if someone was touching me in private areas. I was so shocked that I stumbled across my words and couldn’t give him a straight answer. Right then and there my mom knew. When we left the doctors office and got to the car, she looked at me and asked me if someone was touching me in private areas. She was so upset that I couldn’t lie to her. I told her yes and broke down crying.

I thought I was going to be in trouble. I was so scared of how she would react. She asked me who had been touching me and I told her “dad.” She was furious, but not at me. My mom immediately took me to my aunt’s house and made me tell her what my dad was doing to me. My aunt was married to my step-dad’s brother. I told my aunt and then my mom took me to the police station to talk to a detective and fill out a report.

I did.

The next thing I knew, my dad was being arrested.

I’ve learned a lot over the years. I learned that pedophiles usually target children who don’t have a close relationship with their parents. If the pedophile is a parent, he or she will target the child that isn’t closest to the other parent. I’d always thought my mom favored my brother and sister. She was just too busy for the three of us. I was so relieved when my dad went to prison. The abuse finally stopped. I didn’t have to worry about him touching me ever again. My mom went through a long depression and refused leave her room.

I needed her more than ever but she locked herself away in her room – day and night. I didn’t know how to cope with the abuse. My abuser ended up serving eight years in prison. He got out shortly before I turned 18.

My mom began dating another abuser. He was very verbally abusive. My mother was also VERY verbally abusive – a skill she taught me. She told me that I needed to “toughen up.” My self-esteem was in the toilet. In my teens, I didn’t take any crap from anyone… except from my mother. All I ever wanted was her support, her love, her attention, and quality time. I needed her to proud of me. I needed her approval for EVERYTHING.

Thankfully, I had my grandmother who loved me unconditionally. My grandmother had been raped when she was younger. It was a double rape – not only did he rape my grandmother, but he raped my mother too. My grandmother was often the target of my mother’s verbal abuse.

In my teenage years, I started drinking and smoking marijuana. I started hanging out with boys and “giving them what they wanted.” I thought I was in love with them and that “love” would feel the void in my heart.

I was very wrong. Finally I was pretty, I was wanted, I was loved. I eventually dropped out of school and worked. My mom would take whatever extra money I had for herself, or make me spend it on her one way or the other. I paid my truck payment, insurance. I had to buy all my own clothes, and everything else I needed or wanted.

My mother was also financially abusive. She never wanted to buy me anything. If I needed something for school, I usually didn’t get it. I was told if that if I wanted something, I had to work and earn it. I began my first job at thirteen when I lied about my age. Soon, I got another job – this time I took total responsibility for myself. Who else would provide for me? She gave me a roof over my head, $100 a year in clothing, and one pair of shoes every year.

When I was working, I was happy that I could finally buy myself some of the things I needed and wanted. It felt nice. I had a truck payment, insurance, and money for my necessities.

I could buy food. There was hardly ever food in our house growing up. I usually was able to eat a meal at work for free and a bowl of cereal in the morning. I worked as many hours – picking up extra shifts – because I was only making minimum wage. I eventually took on another job and juggled the two.

Working nearly three shifts a day had become too much for me. I partied A LOT. I continued to drink, and occasionally smoked some marijuana. I’d have sex with my boyfriends – I felt used by other guys who only wanted sex. I experimented with women. Women were more comfortable sexually, they were more complex emotionally.

I started dating guys again – I found a really good guy. We got our own place, found really good jobs. Things were starting to look up. Things didn’t work out with us, but I had hope for a better future. I moved back to my mother’s house and remained focused upon getting my own place. That’s when I met my now-husband of twelve years.

He took me out of my mother’s house and brought me to the other side of the state to live in the country. He took me to church with him. I hadn’t believed in God and I didn’t know what to expect. We continued dating and eventually I saw a brighter future for me. I gave myself back to God.

My husband was verbally and emotionally abusive – but it was better than going back to my mother’s house. After a while, we moved out of his family’s house and got our own place. He proposed to me. A couple months later I found out I was pregnant. There were generally happy times for us. We’d still have fights in which he would belittle me and call me names; I just told myself that the first five years were the hardest and we would get through it.

After my son was born, things changed. He found another woman he was interested in and He became really mean to me. He would tell me that my son would be better off without me and better with him. He wanted me to move out so he could get a roommate. I was so depressed that I contemplated suicide. If I had to live without my son, I decided I wouldn’t live at all. I didn’t succeed at killing myself. At the last moment, I decided that I wouldn’t leave my son without me. I took my son and moved into my aunt’s.

I had no job, no money, nothing. He controlled all the money, he did then and he does now. He would take all of my paycheck and leave me without a dime. He still does.

We almost divorced, but instead got Christian counseling. Things became MUCH better around home. We both made life-long commitments to each other and decided we would become better people.

I’d been known to be verbally abusive during arguments in which I felt attacked. I quit – I knew it was wrong. While my husband had never physically attacked me, he remained verbally abusive. We hardly ever fight and get along pretty well, but when he lashes out the words, they cut me so deep that he might as well just swing on me. It hurts deeply.

He has my family and friends convinced that he is Mr. Perfect. They don’t see the control, the financial abuse, and the occasional verbal abuse.

I’m convinced that I can’t make it without him as I’m disabled without disability. I’m currently trying to get disability and should have an answer sometime this year. I should be seeing a judge sometime next month.

While disability isn’t that much money, it’s certainly much more than I have. I promised to myself that I will NOT allow him to take my money this time.

The financial abuse has to end.

In a lot of ways I feel I married someone similar to my mother – just not as bad. He is a great father to our two children. He spends the money on our bills, our bills are always paid, the children always get whatever they need and a lot of what they want.

I tell myself “at least the children are getting what they need and want” and “at least I have a roof over my head,” “we always have food and our bills are always paid.” I feel greedy, selfish that I am so unhappy.

I’m stuck at home under lock and key all the time. We have two vehicles and he’ll leave me one of the vehicles, but the gas tank light is always on, and the gas gauge is always well below empty. My wallet is always empty. If he gives me $5, he will make me spend it. He is very quick to take it from me.

Over the years I have reached out to the church for marital help. My husband usually convinces them that he is Mr. Perfect and I am the bad guy, so they come down hard on me. My family tells me I should stay with him as they are convinced that he’s so wonderful.

I wonder is it just me?

Is there something wrong with me?

Am I in an abusive relationship?

I am turning to Band Back Together. I need help, badly. I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m on an antidepressant. I honestly do not know where else to turn. I wish I had my own place so I could leave with my children and find myself.

I know I have to step outside my current situation and because something is just not right.

The Story of Me

My story all begins in August of 1976. My birth mother was 17 years old and pregnant with me. My mom already had one child, my sister who was four years older than me, so my mother was 13 when she gave birth to my sister. My sister was taken by the state and was considered unadoptable because she sat in the corner and rocked back and forth.

Fast forward to 1976. I have been told that my birth mother’s parents informed her that she had already made one mistake (my sister) and if she had me they would disown her, so she threw herself down two flights of stairs. She went into labor from the fall and, because she was only seven or so months along in her pregnancy, I only weighed 4 lbs. 5 oz. at birth, but I survived.

My birth mother took me home and life began. It was said she was a drug user and abuser, and while she was under the influence, she would hold me underwater to watch the bubbles come up. I was told she used my bottom as her personal ashtray, and that she used her food stamps to buy drugs (at that time food stamps were like paper money, and were traded for real money or drugs).

Elsewhere, my adoptive mother was telling her best friend that all she wanted for Christmas was a baby. The best friend had a sister and that sister knew my birth mother. One day, when my future adoptive mother’s husband was at work, he came out to his car and there I was. I was dressed in a dirty T-shirt that had been used as a makeshift diaper. He zipped me up in his coat–it was winter in Charlotte, NC–and took me home. He walked into the house and unzipped his coat to show me my future adoptive mom.

Adoption proceedings began, but I was returned to my birth mother. She burned all the dresses my adoptive mother bought and didn’t use the burn cream for my bottom. My birth mother tried to stop the adoption because she would lose her welfare benefits. The judge approved the adoption and at 14 months old and 11 pounds, I was finally adopted.

When I was about two, my mother’s marriage ended; her husband threatened to kill me because I wouldn’t stop crying. We moved back home with her parents and we lived with them until my mom remarried. Her husband adopted me to give me his last name.

Every time I was adopted, my birth certificate was legally changed to represent my current parents and their respective ages at the time I was born. However, many years later I told my mother than I had been abused by a family member and she confided in me that her father, my granddaddy, whom I called daddy for years, had molested her. Only after she returned home with me after the end of her marriage, did she confront him and say it was over. I think she got pregnant by him, moved away, remarried and had me.

Every time I tried to talk about my adoption and wanted to search, she would tell me to talk to my granddaddy; he was supposed to have all the paperwork. When I asked him, he would tell me to go see my mom, that she had the papers. This man never threw anything away, so it’s odd to me that the papers were never found, which also makes me think something shady happened. But no one in the family who is left will talk about it.

My granddaddy was a raging alcoholic for years and only stopped drinking when the doctor told him if he didn’t he would die. He abused my uncles and my mom.

My records are sealed, as it was all considered a private adoption, and unless I have a terminal illness or need an organ that my children can’t provide, I’d have to petition the courts to unseal my records, and they can still deny the request.

I don’t know the truth for sure and it doesn’t really matter, I guess, other than to finally have answers. I hold no ill will toward anyone involved, no matter which story is true. I feel bad that my mom suffered that abuse. I’ve been abused sexually and I know how that feels. I just wish I could know the truth just so I’d know where I belong. I have an awesome husband and three great kids, so I have a family. I’d just like to have medical information. So there it is my story I hope it helps.

Ask The Band: What Would You Do?

Hi The Band,

I feel kind of dumb typing this out, but I need to talk to somebody – out of respect for my husband and his feelings, I can’t tell the people I’d normally go to for support. I’m not even sure where to start, so forgive me if this is disjointed.

I’ll start here: I have an incredibly complicated situation with my in-laws.

Some background: my in-laws are lovely people, and I genuinely love and care for them, BUT they drive me a bit crazy. Sometimes, my in-laws act in a less than socially appropriate manner – they want to be as close as possible to my family and me.

Before my husband was born they had a stillborn daughter, followed by my husband (who is healthy), followed by 10 miscarriages. Then, my in-laws adopted my brother-in-law, who has had mental health and behavioural problems from the get-go.

I don’t think they’ve ever really dealt with the death of their daughter. Back in those days, baby losses weren’t really acknowledged, you know? So when we got married, I was embraced as the daughter they’d never had, and frankly, I felt smothered by their desire to know everything – to be a part of everything in my life. I’m a private person and feel uncomfortable answering questions about my sex life (why in the world would you want to know what your son and I do in private?!) or other personal stuff from my husband’s parents.

Anyway, the smothering got worse when my daughters were born. I totally understand how precious it is for them to have granddaughters, particularly after the pain they’ve experienced, so we tried to be understanding. Although there have been issues over the years with boundaries being crossed, we’ve worked hard on getting along, and my girls have a good relationship with them (I’m super careful not to say negative things about them).
Fast-forward to a few months ago.

My father-in-law came over, and as we had some errands to run, he offered to look after the girls. No big deal; that’s happened plenty of times before. This time, though, while we were out, my oldest daughter called, upset, and begged us to come home NOW. We did. She was settled; everything seemed normal, but after my father-in-law had left, I asked her about it. She said she had felt really uncomfortable around him and didn’t want us to leave them with him again.

I felt sick.

She assured me several times (and has when we’ve discussed it since) that he didn’t say or do anything wrong, didn’t touch her or anything like that, just that she felt really uncomfortable. She’s very open with me, and I am confident she’s not lying; she seems really confused about why she felt that way, but is adamant that she did feel that way. Thinking back, I wonder if it was a culmination of my in-laws’ more “natural” approach to things (e.g. they had a naked photo of themselves kissing on their fridge for a while (just a Polaroid, not an artsy one) and on one occasion my toddler had gone into the toilet with him and he didn’t send her out (I called her to come out and he was cranky about that).

I wonder if it was something like that.

I genuinely don’t believe that he would molest a child. One of the things I really respect about my in-laws is that they supported a childhood friend of my husband who had been molested by their minister and went to court to testify, despite enormous community and family pressure not to. They lost “friends” through that process, but did the right thing.

I really don’t think he has done anything to my daughter. HOWEVER, obviously, I will never leave her in a situation where she isn’t comfortable, so my in-laws won’t be babysitting any more. That’s really awkward, though, because they’ve babysat before.

My husband and I have talked and talked about it and just can’t find a good way forward. My in-laws want as much contact with our kids as possible and now want sleepovers, too. We won’t let that happen, but how can we possibly explain it? They would be SO hurt, and I think their good relationship with our eldest daughter would be very damaged. It would be impossible to explain in a way that doesn’t hurt their feelings, and honestly, there is NOTHING they could do that would make it okay to look after the kids again. My father-in-law will forever have this question mark lingering around him – since I don’t know why my daughter was upset and uncomfortable with him. My mother-in-law has MS and can’t cope with them on her own. It’s just a nightmare.

My husband is so sad that we’re in this situation. He loves his parents and wants them to be happy, but what they want isn’t a possibility. My littlest daughter is only 2, so I see years and years ahead of conflict about access to our girls. It’s meant that we never leave the kids at the moment because if they hear that we’ve used other babysitters they’ll be even more hurt – no more dates or possible weekends away. I don’t see a good way forward.

*sigh*

I don’t actually know if I even want this published, but I just needed to get it out. I don’t want to go on and on to my husband because it’s so hard for him but it bothers me everyday, and I just want to bounce it off of somebody, you know?

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, thank you for your time.

What would you do? Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Or am I not reacting enough? I’m going nuts just thinking this out!

A Letter I Can’t Send: Edge Of Crazy: Lesson #12

my dad was, and still is, a serious control freak. he wants everything to go his way, all the time, forever. His need to control + my rebellious streak – any display of love or affection = a seriously fucked up child.

dad,

i’d love to write this on my regular blog, but it would upset the people who know me (and we both know that i shouldn’t upset others, right?), so i’m writing it on the down-low. anyway, this is more for me than for you, because you would never admit to fucking up. mom has put up with a lot of shit to stay married to you for 44 years, but i don’t feel sorry for her because we both know she loves to play the martyr. you two are a textbook case of how not to raise a daughter, and i’ll get to mom in another blog. this one’s for you-

i know that you and mom “had” to get married. i know that you weren’t thrilled about it. i also know that you really wanted a son, but you got me instead. while i made do with the john deere tractor and matching wagon, you and i both know i really wanted the barbie corvette. so barbie and her friends went on lots of hayrides, no biggie. because i loved you.

lesson #1- be happy with whatever i get and don’t be disappointed; any affection i may receive depends on this.

we had fun when i was little. we played football with pillows in the trailer that i grew up in, you pretended to be a horse so i could ride on your back. except you always bucked me off, every time. you’d hide in the bathroom down the narrow hall and call to me and when i came to you, you’d jump out of the dark and scare me. i hated that game, and tried to refuse, but mom would insist i go every time. when mom called that dinner was ready, you’d always hold me back and say that i didn’t get to eat. even though i knew it was a game, i didn’t like it. now that i think about it, your sense of humor was somewhat sadistic. but i didn’t see it that way at the time. because i loved you.

lesson #2 – play along, even when i don’t want to.

when i was small, and did something wrong, you whipped me. you had that fucking collection of belts and always made me pick one. i took a long time choosing, hoping you would change your mind, but you never did. i always chose the red, white, and blue one, because if i had to get whipped, it should be with a pretty belt. and it wasn’t just one or two times. no, you beat my ass. and bare legs. and back. and arms.

i stole some of your coin collection to use in the gum ball machine at the trailer court. it was only a couple of wheat pennies and a dime, but you found me at the gum ball machine and my heart got stuck in my throat. you had a wire coat hanger in your right hand and it was summer and i was wearing shorts. you beat me with that wire hanger all the way to the trailer and that was a long way and i couldn’t run fast because i was only 4. and still, i loved you.

and that time you got mad ’cause mom made chili in july. i was still in a highchair, even though i was 3. i dumped my chili onto the metal tray and you swore at me for wasting food. you grabbed me by my shirt and pulled me out of the highchair. my legs got all cut up because you didn’t take the tray off first. then you threw me on the floor of the living room, and that’s how my favorite top got ripped. then you grabbed a belt from your collection and started beating me and you wouldn’t stop. mom finally pulled you away and threw you out. she let you come back, though. because she needed you more than she loved me. i asked mom to fix my top, but she threw it away instead.

lesson #3 – i am bad, and being hurt by someone i love is acceptable. in fact, i should expect it. i need to learn the art of survival, nobody else is going to protect me.

you have never told me you loved me. never. not once. you have never told me you are proud of me. not ever. not when i graduated from college, or grad school, or got straight a’s, or stuck with my crappy marriage for so long, or left said crappy marriage when it was time. i craved your approval like an addict craves that next hit off the pipe, knowing it will never be enough. and i chased after your approval the way a child chases their shadow, knowing that they will never catch it but always hoping against hope that this time might be different. and i never hated you for it. instead, i hated myself for not being enough.

lesson #4 – it’s not you. it’s me. and it will always be me, even when it’s you.

you had a girlfriend on the side, beginning when i was 5, and ending around the time i went away to college. i know this because i rode the bus with her son in high school. he told me all about how you’d come over on christmas day when he was little. i always wondered why you left after we’d opened presents. you were going to your other family. the one with two boys.

remember that time when i was a senior in high school and my friend viki and i saw your truck at your girlfriend’s house? i rang the doorbell and asked your girlfriend if you were there and i told her who i was. after viki and i drove away, we hid in a driveway and watched you speed past us in your truck, racing towards home. and we laughed because we knew you couldn’t touch me. not unless you wanted to tell mom what you were so pissed about.

mom still doesn’t know about that time i called your girlfriend at work and called her a whore and a bitch and demanded that army picture of you back. the one that mom kept asking about and you kept telling her that you’d left it in your locker at work. only it wasn’t in your locker, was it? it was on your girlfriend’s tv, because her son told me. you brought the picture home that night. that’s when you stopped looking me in the eye and started hating me. because you’d been caught by your daughter. and i began to hate you right back.

and when you suddenly decided not to pay for grad school, i became a stripper to pay for it myself. because i had learned the art of survival.

lesson #5 – i have nothing to lose and it feels good to be a bitch.

you stopped hugging me when i turned 10, and i’m pretty sure it had something to do with my going through puberty. especially when you went on a trip and brought me back that cleveland browns sweatshirt, threw it in my general direction while averting your eyes and said, “here, this will cover up your bumps.” nice way to encourage a young girl to have pride in her body. so i started covering up my bumps, all the time. when i was in my late 20’s, i got rid of my bumps altogether by developing anorexia. then i had to cover up my bones. i began to loathe myself.

lesson #6 – my body is sexual, and sexuality is bad.

the only birthday of mine that you ever came to was when i turned 5. i still remember it because that’s the birthday i got my first barbie. you took her away and wouldn’t give her back. you thought that was funny and i played along so you would stay. to this day, i occasionally find myself playing along, for fear of being abandoned or pissing someone off. when i was 17, you never came to my high school graduation. i know this because when i got home after the ceremony, the ticket i’d left for you on the kitchen table was still there. you were still pissed about me finding you at your girlfriend’s two months prior, and calling her at her job. because i’d stopped playing along.

lesson #7 – when i stop playing along, you will hate me.

in high school, you started to have me followed, instead of sitting me down and asking me about what was going on in my life, you got kids from the trailer court to tell you shit about me, a full $5 for each bit of information. that’s how you found out i smoked, drank, got high, and had a black best friend. you even sent two guys on my fucking spring break trip to daytona beach. i know this because on the last night, we all got drunk together and they told me. then they proceeded to tell me your name, my full name, where i lived and what you wanted to know. i wasn’t even safe from you 1,000 miles away.

can i just tell you how fucked up that is? that is seriously fucked up. i was the most paranoid teenager i knew, even without the pot.

you made me stop being friends with kim, you beat my ass when you found out i smoked and you grounded me for three months for drinking. fuck you. i started getting high with my dealer’s 16-year-old wife before school, i went through the bottle of vodka you had hidden in your cupboard, filling it with water instead. that’s right dad, the more you tightened the screws, the more i fucked up. i went to school drunk every day, or high, or both. i hid beers in my bedroom and drank them when you were asleep. i smoked in the bathroom after you and mom left for work. i feared getting caught, but the rush was incredible.

lesson #8 – my father is out to get me, and he will always find me.

you wouldn’t let me date the same guy twice, because you didn’t want me to get pregnant, the way mom did. you wanted me to get an education and be someone. or something. not for my sake, but so that you could say you had a college-educated child. and i was so terrified of getting pregnant that i didn’t had sex until i was 19. and then i slept with every guy i wanted to when i went away to college. because i could, and you had never taught me to respect my body. you had only taught me to get away with whatever i could. i never enjoyed the sex, but being sneaky felt awesome.

lesson #9 – sex is about power and revenge.

when i was in my final year of grad school, i met my future husband, only i didn’t know it at the time. i was smart and i knew about birth control. but when you should have taught me confidence, i learned fear. where self-esteem should have been, there was an empty well, waiting to be filled by someone else’s ideas and beliefs. fear of abandonment took the place of knowing my own worth. standing my ground was replaced by an aching need to please, at any cost. so when my future husband said “no rubbers, please” i said “ok”. because i needed to be loved, and i was afraid of losing him.

lesson #10 – do whatever i have to do make other people happy. my thoughts and feelings don’t count and should be kept to myself. they will only make others stop loving me.

and then i got pregnant. your biggest fear. and because you were my biggest fear, and because i didn’t believe in myself, and because my boyfriend didn’t want a baby and because i didn’t want to be abandoned, i had an abortion. then the self-hatred really kicked in.

lesson #11 – all decisions should be based on fear.

it has taken me 20+ years to undo what you did to me. everyday i untangle a bit more of the knot, trying to smooth out the yarn. it’s still good yarn, and everyday i knit myself.

lesson #12 – you made me stronger, smarter, tougher and braver. so fuck you.