The last time we talked, you had so much blame. So much disdain for my decisions and actions. You had guessed my motives from the biased stories told to you from people who were angry with me at the time.
At no point did anyone say to me, “Katie, these things we’ve tolerated from you are no longer acceptable to us. It needs to stop or you need to leave.”
I respected the boundaries Casey gave me without any realization that my behavior was triggering Hali. Why would I think that Billy’s appearance would trigger her into a panic?
After several weeks of living peacefully – with both Lee & Hali’s permission to live in their backyard, coming inside only to shower and heat up microwave meals… suddenly, I received notice that I’d violated their boundaries.
I’d been coming by to shower in the dark of night, and I always announced myself when I arrived during the day. Rationally, I explained the reason for each person that I’d invited in. You thought that I didn’t deserve the opportunity to fix it so that I could ease Hali’s mind. I did not even garner enough of his respect to let me know by text, call, or taking a moment to walk into the backyard to tell me to my face that my presence was creating panic in his mom. He acted without taking into account my feelings, situation, or ability to show respect WHEN ASKED TO.
He says I disrespected him and his parent’s house. Did I? Partially, yes.
I acknowledge that I did not understand that my actions within my surroundings (and the authority to bring guests (even short-term ones) in) were triggering others, but I was NOT incapable of rational understanding. My behavior was deemed unacceptable by Casey who never told me.
I am deeply hurt that everyone around me was so offended, angry, and unable to deal with my choices, yet too afraid for my sanity (or lack thereof) to confront me from a place of care, love, concern, and protection.
I am hurt by your actions and inactions as well, Sir.
You talked to people who knew me without explaining my version of those events and should have told them that my motives shouldn’t be impugned, as I wasn’t being malicious.
And when you diagnosed my “irrationality” to Casey, you didn’t tell him that we had had a conversation a while later (after my rational ability to understand had been restored by the State) when I explained my ACTUAL intentions and acknowledged that I could see now that people did not trust my ability to make sense at all.
I was hurt that you made no effort to tell Casey that I had given reasons/excuses as my actions were based on a skewed and warped sense of reality at the time.
EVERY ONE IS THE PROTAGONIST OF THEIR OWN STORY AND HAS A BIASED PERSPECTIVE.
I cannot accept that you understand me “better than anyone” because NOT A SINGLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION YOU SOUGHT HAD ANY CONTACT WITH ME AND AT NO TIME DID ANY OF THESE *IRREFUTABLE* SOURCES actually understand my motivations.
They cast me into a pile that they deemed “unacceptable to have any contact with” and I was left even more alone.
You resent that I – from your perspective – manipulated Mom & Dad into giving me money that I should have been ashamed to ask for?
You actually have the nerve to tell me that you love me and care about me SO much that you MUST protect yourself from any contact with me. Those two statements are BOTH true I understand that, and I’ve respected that – you’ll notice that I haven’t asked for anything from you since.
You are NOT a professional psychologist trained to diagnose whether or not I was, at the time, able to understand reality. You said that your experience shook you so badly and made you believe that I cannot appreciate any viewpoint but my own. This is not true.
What I find ironic is that you actually believe that you have SUCH a powerful brain that you – taking Casey’s word for what happened – are the SOLE AUTHORITY of your Sister. That is SICK AND OFFENSIVE.
You have no understanding of any person’s story but your own. This summer, I tried to understand the motivations of people around me and compare motives with actions.
Was I naive and taken advantage of?
Yes, however, I learn from my mistakes.
Unlike the people I was hanging out with, I had no problem acknowledging my mistake, explaining the reason for it, and promising that would not do so again. I truly believed that ALL people have dignity and value in this world and I believed that everyone’s decisions MAKE SENSE TO THEM at that moment.
I’m able to see others’ actions, disagree with them, but acknowledge that their perspective makes sense to them, even if I find their logic or assumptions wrong. Validating their actions were reasonable to them and then offering a minor change of perspective or asking a question to clarify their motivations and feelings at the time. Unfortunately, people began to think I was manipulating them. They distrusted who I was; they began to treat me as a a threat to their understanding of the universe.
I was very much hurt that my *only* natural sibling was incapable of contacting me for the 18+ months that I found myself homeless.
You offered no indication of care – or acknowledgement of gratitude – that you’d lived with me for 2 years without any income, you understood and appreciated my explanation for wanting you to stay – that I couldn’t live with my only brother homeless – while it was in my power to prevent it. I’ve strived to make you feel as though you were family and I’d always do all I could to ensure that you were safe and loved. You threw my generosity into my face. When I expressed ANY expectation that you contribute to the well-being of the household, in the form of dishes, other cleaning, money (when you had it), or an indication that you had any interest in adding to the comfort and happiness of the people around you, all I got was silence.
How did your sense of “honor” survive when presented with the *exact same* circumstances, but reversed? When I became homeless, you found yourself incapable of allowing me anywhere near you for longer than a few minutes at a time; you insisted upon resenting me for my inability to take responsibility for my life.
Throughout, you happily took Matt’s side. Your sister’s understanding of reality was so far removed from any you could comprehend based upon your limited experience and NO training or treatment experience. You disregard any external wisdom I have learned from talking to others about their experience.
You are so terrified of mental illness that you hide in your monastery of ceramic and Sony PlayStation and justify that being without any responsibilities to anyone – not even those (you say) you love and value – somehow makes you a superior judge of the human condition and supremely qualified to pass judgement upon those who fail to meet your standards.
I accept that my actions have landed me in this situation, and I am aware that your response to stress and drama is escapism and distress-avoidance. You run the fuck away from a situation you cannot fit into the neat little compartments that you believe all humans should conform to. Any deviation from those neat little boxes you quickly label, categorize, then promptly disregard terrifies you. You become a shadow of who you want to be, and my insanity terrifies your sense of the destiny you believe you control.
You are disappointed in me; that I did not meet your expectations for what you “expected” from me. It’s as if you felt no guilt about fucking off all of the family because Mom & Dad could fall back on me – a child they could be proud of.
Somehow you believe that I’d had some kind of idyllic life for a small moment. This meant that you were absolved of any guilt for your own lack of ambition and sloth, because you avoided confrontation and uncomfortable emotions your entire life, and sunk into early drug use to escape your feelings.
You don’t understand my life and my choices. You’ve never asked me (without accusations) about my life.
The only real message I got last month is that you do love me and were aware of my existence and the lifestyle I had fallen into. You had so much anger and disappointment in me, but honestly, you weren’t acting like caring family member reaching out to see if he could help, without approving of my choices I’d made, but that my behavior was so frightening that you avoided me. You wanted an acknowledgement that I hadn’t made good choices and an apology for the pain you’d been through because of it.
You take my choices very personally, Mike, though I’ve never held you responsible for my fuckups. I have respected your desire for distance and no contact. I had no desire to make you uncomfortable. I’ve only experienced your encouragement and care after I’ve made a mistake and you believed it wasn’t your place to say so, though your mindset is truly remarkable. It’s too bad you’re a coward for not speaking up.
You’re a smart person, Brother, but you don’t show respect to me.
Respect is believing what I tell you – or at least giving me the benefit of the doubt that I am not lying. Your experience of living through my mania is valuable to me, especially. However, you expect me to understand events EXACTLY the way you do.
I had my reasons and I went through enough hell – without any indication that you cared. You took over ten years to find a full-time job and never asked for anything that would inconvenience anyone else. That is your code. But you have NEVER even ASKED me how I define right and wrong – because your understanding of the world is rigid, all or nothing, black and white, and while you understand that other people have different needs and desires, you have no respect for my choices because I don’t adhere to your rigid belief system.
You have no interest in understanding me or my story, Mike. You’ve never asked me for my motivation behind a choice you didn’t like, you only told me I was wrong after I’d done it. Life isn’t easy and I don’t have all of the answers.
You say I destroyed you. If this is true, I sincerely apologize that my crazy was so traumatic that you feel I have irreparably damaged you.
What I don’t understand is how you continue to internalize and make my choices ALL ABOUT YOURSELF.
Do you understand that my choices were made without you?
You are not my victim, Brother. And I am not yours. People do change over time – we heal and grow or we stagnate and stop learning because we are comfortable and complacent. I don’t know at what point you stopped believing that you were capable of change, growth, or positive change for yourself.
i don’t know when you decided that YOUR experience was the only one with meaning or value. I don’t know when you decided that you were too far removed to add any perspective or for your insight and opinion BEFORE I made decisions. We are evolutionary ultra-social creatures designed to live in community with one another. But researchers are wrong, in your opinion, because the fittest survive what?
Hell. And come out stronger.
The strongest people I have come across over my plethora of identities and lifestyles, the strongest are those who’ve been through the kind of hell that I put myself through. But they made a choice not to be victimized by their life story. They found the lessons and found ways to contribute – I have struggled with this.
Leslie asked me on the phone in January, which was “what does Brody (my boyfriend) give you, Katie?”
I paused briefly and answered: he gives me an interest in the future and a vision for what kind of life I want. He gives me a reason for the struggle and value for the journey that brought us together. He’s the smartest man I have ever known and the only man whose perspective I use; his viewpoint is a barometer of my ability to interpret reality.
He gives me safety and respects my viewpoint. He’s the only man who’s EVER told that me I was wrong and why. He cares about me and loves me – not in spite of my crazy, but BECAUSE of it. He has no reservations or “despites” in his love for me. I love, accept, and understand him in of fundamental way that NO ONE has ever done.
But you don’t care about that.
You believe that you’re “destroyed,” but that was not my doing, Little Brother.
The only control we have is in our response to the things we perceive. You’ve never had an interest in anyone else’s perspective. You don’t care what anyone thinks. You don’t get value from painful reflection.
You are dead.
Because you don’t value any other person’s existence, and because you have declared yourself the sole arbiter of Morality and Honor without any interest in what others might think, you are, indeed a God to yourself.
And I have my own understanding of how the Universe operates. You have no use for my concept of God and your memory of me is not what you heard or were told about.
Sorry to disappoint you.
I’ve learned and grown and changed and I have more understanding than you EVER will of the way people DESERVE to be treated. I find value for their experiences and perspectives. You aren’t interested in my experiences and I think you’re terrified that the role you’ve put me into isn’t accurate, that you cling the me that you valued but never treated with any dignity.
I will always hope and pray that you find some growth, happiness and/or reason for your existence beyond your pain and escape from it. I will always hope that any report I get of you will be positive. You don’t believe in Luck either, so I hope you find what has eluded you.
–Your “Big” Sister
Once upon a time, I had a narcissism blog I never published. Mostly because it had a lame name and most of the posts were responses I had written on a message board where I was once a member. When the service was shutting down, I wanted to keep some of the things I had written, so I put them in the draft heap. There they sat.
See, to me blogging isn’t just a medium to get ‘my story’ out. While there’s a certain catharsis to that, it’s more the conversation and feedback I get from you guys, the readers, that I treasure most. There’s nothing more validating and healing than that. It’s where we learn that we’re not alone and the tricks our Narcissists used to make us believe they were so special and unique fall apart. We all have stories to tell, and countless nights I’d stay up way too late reading, commenting, and nodding my head in agreement.
There’s so much I don’t have to explain to you. You already get it.
Years ago, all I knew was that my parents weren’t normal. My mother was a totalitarian dictator who thought that somehow my life belonged to her. When she tried to ‘punish’ me for not adhering to her life plan, my husband stepped in and told her off. He gave me a choice…either it was my family or my marriage. In retrospect I don’t blame him. My mother is an absolute tyrant, enabled by my narcissistic father who fears her. But honestly, at the time I was scared to death. I understood that in going cutting all contact with my parents, it would also be with the rest of my family as well.
My mother would make sure of that. My husband did what was necessary.
What I couldn’t do myself.
What saved my sanity was a little tiny blurb on the sidebar of a crafting blog. It was a link to information about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). I hit it out of curiosity, and spent the whole night, and many nights thereafter, learning and researching. I finally had a term I could plug into a search engine that explained my mother’s behavior.
After 30 years, I learned it wasn’t my fault.
In our ‘real life’ exchanges, narcissism is like a dirty little secret. To explain it, most people can’t comprehend how a parent can be so predatory. They can comprehend it only on a ‘it-happens-to-other-people-they-don’t-know’ level, but not as it happening to someone in front of them. And certainly not to the kids that lived on the nicest house on the street, or the ones who went to church every Sunday. No, it’s much easier to believe the mother who complains about her ungrateful children who keep her grandchildren from her. It’s so believable after all, because they live in such a nice house and go to church every Sunday. The hypocrisy of it all leaves us silenced.
I don’t know the person who wrote the blog I happened across, but I am forever grateful to her. It was a small voice in a barren land of silence. It led to exchanges with others seeking the same healing we seek. A virtual hug of sorts, where we lean and learn from each other. We don’t share to play the victim card, we share to heal. We feel compelled to write for our own healing, to comprehend our past and somehow move forward from it. We lend our listening ears through our eyes and offer our experience to help others.
Compassion and courage.
It’s the people that have brought us to this place out of the FOG (fear, obligation and guilt), not the countless psychology articles we’ve read. We’re used to feeling alone and afraid. Together, we’re a beacon of sanity. It’s what our narcissists feared the most: people in our lives that can positively influence us. They sought to destroy any of our relationships, but didn’t count on the rallying cry of a rag-tag unit of strangers on the internet. Blogging is powerful because it’s real.
Real people writing truth the only way they know how: in their life’s experiences.
It’s a far cry from the overly produced stage we grew up in.
I remember my hair sticking to my lip gloss as we walked across the street to the courthouse.
I remember thinking that one day, I would start a story with this sentence. My mother added the following line: this isn’t where you think your relationship will end up when it starts.
What still gets me is that, deep down, I did know. I knew the entire time that things couldn’t end well.
I knew it was strange that he never seemed to have any close friends – and that he didn’t know anyone in my friend circle. I knew it was immature that he didn’t take our music teacher seriously; I knew that, eventually, he’d need to grow up. I noticed how it made me uncomfortable when he started asking me personal questions after we’d only known each other for a few weeks.
But I consciously ignored all of it, and thus began nine months that ended in that dreaded courtroom.
The first of those nine months was May, when we started dating. I turned sixteen the day after it was made “Facebook official.” He was seventeen.
I was happy; he was happy.
We texted and talked on the phone, we spent every moment of free time together. The warning signs seemed to fade away from my sights, and I enjoyed maybe a few weeks of bliss.
He took my virginity in either the late spring or early summer. He was gentle about it, and I was confident in my choice to give it to him. He was caring. He loved me, and I loved him. That’s how it’s supposed to be when you share something so intimate with someone.
I’m not capable of saying exactly when the abuse began, but at some point, it did.
He would pin me down and pinch the backs of my arms until he drew blood. He’d lay his 200+ pound frame on top of my 125-pound one, which bruised my hips and stifled my breathing. He got angry any time I told him to get off of me; that he was hurting me. He got angry because I was “lying” when I said those things. He could see things in me that I didn’t see in myself:
I was tough, he said.
I could handle him.
The emotional abuse started around this time, although it’s harder to draw a hard line around it. I will never know what our first fight was about – it was pure nonsense; they always were. What I do remember was the yelling, the way his eyes would narrow at me, his voice would deepen dangerously, the way he broke things.
But I wasn’t weak.
I could handle him.
Over the summer, I steadily learned to be afraid of him. I learned not to deny him sex, because if I did, I was rejecting him. I must’ve been in love with someone else. I learned not to wear skinny jeans to work, because that was the one place where he didn’t get to see my fine piece of ass.
I learned not to correct him about anything – whether it was whether green was a primary color or if being gay is genetic – he hated to be wrong. That’s why he was always right.
I learned not to fight when he held me down and pinched me, when he held me under the water in his friend’s pool. I learned to go limp and deny him the satisfaction of overcoming me. I learned not to panic, because that only made it worse.
I learned how to act like everything was okay in front of my friends. I learned how to let him pinch me and slap me in front of them, because I knew he wouldn’t stop if I told him to. It would only make things awkward to draw attention to it.
It would confirm what I knew deep down; something was terribly wrong in our relationship.
I learned to take out my frustration on my family instead of him. I learned how to yell at my parents instead of listen to them; I learned how to never cry in front of them, in case they asked questions.
My boyfriend didn’t like my parents – he blamed them for everything he didn’t like in me. If I let my guard down; if I acted weak, it was because I’d been raised that way. If I told him I couldn’t stay out past three o’ clock in the morning, he asked me if I always let them control me: when was I going to grow up?
When I told him my mom started noticing the yellow-and-purple bruises on my arms, he asked if my parents disapproved of harmless roughhousing. Did they coddle me? Was that why I was weak? This was why, in the heat of the summer, I didn’t wear tank-tops. It was easier to change my wardrobe than to change the way he treated me.
Late in the summer, I received the four scars that will stay with me for years to come.
The one on my forearm was from a ride at a county fair, when I was so offensive enough to “crush” him against the side of a spinning-ride. By this point, it was already established that I was weak, so of course, it would make sense that I was unable to stop physics.
And I was severely punished for it. He gripped my arm and refused to let go, tearing his fingernails into my skin and holding on until his hand was trembling. My arm bled, and for weeks after, it hurt to touch it and it turned a horrid color of yellow.
Now, I have a pretty little gray dot the size of my pinky nail to commemorate the event.
The other three scars are on my back.
They look strange, and for months, I was convinced that I would never wear a swimsuit again. There are three quarter-sized grayish-pink circles in a straight line.
I want to say two things before I go on.
One: it wasn’t rape. I never told him to stop.
Two: it was four letters away from being rape. I knew that he wouldn’t stop if I told him to. I knew that the moment I let my emotions take control; that the moment I felt the pain, that I would panic. I knew that I would try to get him off of me, and that he would force me back into it.
Call me naive for dating him, call me stupid for staying with him, call me whatever you want, but don’t ever tell me I didn’t know him. I knew what I was afraid of.
And I will never be convinced that it wasn’t four letters away from being rape.
We were having sex in his basement. He was on top. As soon as it started, I knew something was wrong. I could feel the carpet starting to rub against my back – and not in a good way.
I will never know for sure if this happened or not, but I swear I remember telling him something was hurting. Of course, I was tough. I could withstand the pain. So I waited. I closed my eyes, I gritted my teeth, I blocked it out like I always did. When he was finished, I sat up and saw what he had done.
My spine had rubbed against the floor like a cheese-grater, giving me three bloody, gaping holes in my skin. I was horrified to see it. I still have the shirt that has the blood spots on it. I had to hide it, should my parents find out.
Of course, he thought this was hilarious, and insisted that we have sex against a door right after. The next time you skin your knee, rub the bare wound up against a piece of wood. That’s more-or-less what this felt like.
When a boy pointed to the marks at the pool weeks later, my boyfriend laughed.
He made jokes about what the marks looked like, about how the scars would never go away. He humiliated me, showing me off to everyone.
But I didn’t cry; I never cried.
I was tough.
The only time I ever stood up to him about his abuse was when he hit me hard enough to knock the wind out of me – twice in a row. He slapped me in the back and taunted me when I sat down to catch my breath, because I was acting weak.
As soon as we got into his car and out of earshot, I told him to never hit me like that again.
He was quiet for a long time, but I could see the signs of his anger that I knew were only there to psych me out. He clenched his jaw, he tightened his grip on the steering wheel, and for a moment, I wondered if he was going to get us into an accident. But finally, the explosion came when I told him to man up and tell me what was wrong.
“It’s like you think I abuse you,” he yelled. “You know I would never hit you out of anger!”
And there it was.
There was the moment when abuse was defined by my abuser: If it wasn’t out of anger, it didn’t count.
All he’d ever done was foolishly roughhoused with me; all he’d ever done was belittle me to get his way. He’d never slap me across the face. He would only slap me on my legs, my arms, my stomach, my chest. But never the face.
Imagine my relief to find that I wasn’t in an abusive relationship; just a complicated one.
By the time school started again, my boyfriend came to me with news. He was in love with my best friend, Anna. He wanted to date us both and decide which one he loved the most.
I’d put up with a lot of pain at this point, but this was too much. As long as it was just the two of us, I could withstand any emotional or physical torment. I had given him my soul and the rights to use my body as he wished. But now, I was learning that it wasn’t enough. He still wanted someone else, and he wanted to share me with her.
So I said no.
He broke a window; he yelled at me, he demeaned me in every way possible.
But I said no.
And the feeling I felt after that; the pure, shaking abandonment, was the most painful thing that ever happened in our relationship. It felt like every bone was breaking.
Only when he left did I see what he had truly done to me; the destruction he’d caused in my life. In order to be with him, I’d silenced myself. I stopped standing up for myself, I no longer understood what it meant to have self-respect. I, as I knew me, was gone. He’d filled that hole for some time, but now, he was gone, too, and I was the only one left to blame.
All of this happened in late August, maybe early September. If you remember right, we still have four or five months to go. And any abuse I’d suffered from him couldn’t compare to what he did to me next; what he did to my family.
He decided he loved me more than Anna, but they were still “together,” whatever this meant at the time. So he cheated on her with me. I hurt her by doing it, and I knew it. I justified it by saying that she knew what she was getting into with him; that she’d hurt me first by dating him.
But I knew I was just being selfish; that I was intoxicated by him. Before this, I never understood why women stayed in abusive relationships.
As it turned out, that wasn’t the thing that destroyed my friendship with Anna. That came later, when the court got involved.
He wanted to take me back after he broke up with Anna, but he’d already made his mistake. He let me go for at least two weeks, maybe even a month, without him. It had been tough, but I had started to wake up and come to my senses. I turned him down; I told him I needed time.
That was when things truly got bad. He’d always told me when we were together that he had an ugly side he hoped I never had to see. I should’ve realized at the time that I one day would.
He threatened me. He threatened to ruin my life in every way he could imagine. He threatened my family; he told me that he didn’t know what would happen, but that I shouldn’t be surprised if his mom or dad showed up on our front porch one day and “did something.”
He told me that I needed him to protect me, because I would only fall in love with another abuser in time. He told me that I would get raped if I slept with anyone but him. He publicly humiliated me at school, yelling at the top of his lungs personal things that I’d only told him; how I’d felt broken after being diagnosed with ADHD years before; how I no longer felt like I could trust anyone.
At this point, I’d come clean about many secrets to my parents, and they stepped in. We went to the principal’s office and told my ex that he was no longer allowed to contact me. I’d wanted space before, but now I needed it. It wasn’t just for me. I knew what he was capable of, and I wasn’t going to let him hurt my family.
So he stalked me. He followed us home in his car, he skipped class and kept his eyes on me at all times during school. He ambushed me at our home and screamed at me in our driveway, blocking the door so that I couldn’t get inside. I had an anxiety attack after that happened.
In December, we had the first court date.
We’d filed a restraining order. Here’s a piece of news I didn’t know at the time: if you file for a restraining order and the defendant doesn’t show up to court, it’s immediately granted.
If he does show up to court, he has the choice to either agree to it, or to contest it, meaning he would come back at a later court date to dispute the charges.
Guess which one he did.
The next court date was set for late February. We hired an attorney and a private investigator. I was forced to pick through every text, every email, and every Facebook message we’d ever exchanged, looking for proof that he was a danger to me, and that I’d been clear that I didn’t want anything to do with him.
Everything that was supposed to stay private about our relationship; our sex life, our fighting, our most intimate moments, was torn open. The story of how I lost my virginity to him is now known by countless people who have a copy of the full restraining order; my boss, an attorney, police officers at my high school and college.
That’s why I’m okay with sharing my story with the world. The people I wanted to keep this a secret from are now the people who know everything about it.
And in the end, it wasn’t enough. We didn’t get our restraining order, and at the advice of our lawyer, we dismissed the case.
I lost four of my best friends in the world after this happened, leaving me with one.
I lost Anna when I read over her testimony that she’d given to the private investigator. She didn’t think I had anything to be afraid of. She knew that he slapped me, that he hurt me, that he taunted me. But I never told him to stop in her presence, and in her mind, that made it okay.
She saw the mess I’d become after dating him; she knew that he’d threatened my family. But she was on his side; under his spell. If she’d said that she thought he was a danger to me, we could’ve had a shot at a restraining order. I knew that I would never trust her again.
I lost a third friend a few months after the whole thing happened. He’d had a crush on me for some time, and we had a very close friendship, texting 24/7 for months. I’d told him every detail of what my ex had done to me, and he’d been supportive.
I started college in January – at the age of sixteen. I had a job. I was stressed and emotionally wounded. I stopped talking to him every day, and shortened it to just once or twice a week, until eventually we were hardly talking at all.
He always wanted to hang out, and when I did agree to do something, I was exhausted and not as “playful” as he wanted me to be. So he gave me an ultimatum: either put in more effort, or don’t bother talking to him again. I knew better than to think that giving him more was the way to make things work; that was the entire nature of the relationship I had just escaped. So things ended.
And, lastly, I lost a fourth friend; my boyfriend. Before this, I never understood why women stayed in abusive relationships any more than I understood why people did drugs.
Both things were harmful and had potential to ruin your life.
But they have another thing in common; people run to them when they’re week. Just months before I started talking to my now-ex boyfriend, our house had been burglarized while we were home. I couldn’t sleep in my own room for months without the light on.
I had also been diagnosed with depression. I was unhappy with school. I lacked a sense of purpose.
No one talks about the good side of abusive relationships. He was my best friend in the world. We shared everything together; opinions, thoughts, feelings. When he wasn’t tearing me down, he was the most supportive friend in the world.
When I admitted to myself that his abuse was worse than his good side could ever be, I lost the best friend I had in him.
Getting out of that abusive relationship was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
It was painful, and I haven’t even begun to imagine how it will affect my future relationships.
It made me stronger than I ever was, but I will never be thankful for it.
Not a word I ever thought I’d associate with myself. And yet here I am, writing this post.
It’s a little confusing; it didn’t always feel like it does now. I’m the eldest of four kids, and I remember my dad, for the most part of my early years as a different person. He was sweet and funny, he taught art and gave us drawing lessons on weekends. We lived on one farm, then moved to another. He sang this song about a little baby duck. He watched movies with us. He bought us watercolor paints.
Unfortunately, that’s ancient history. And it stops somewhere – I’m not for sure of the date, but I do know that it stops around the time I was seven.
It’s been a long time coming, or it feels like it, but that’s not my dad anymore.
These days, he has almost constant migraines, he treats his kids like something that should be “useful” to him, is critical, cruel-worded, and dismissive.
It’s eggshell territory – I’m always stepping on them, can hear them crunch under my feet when he’s around. He’s not friendly and there’s no camaraderie and joking. There’s only what we’re supposed to be doing, and that we’re not doing good enough.
I don’t know if that was always his personality or if it’s a new thing. I do know that he’s gotten progressively worse, so much so that now, if I didn’t know him before, I wouldn’t realize it used to be different.
My sister, who’s 12, doesn’t realize it. And I remember what it was like the first time I realized that not only was he being abusive in an emotional way, but that I was scared of it.
It was Father’s Day, 2014.
He had a headache, which wasn’t news, and everyone was done with breakfast and scattered around the house. Some tiny thing flipped him out – and it was my fault. I’d been in my room, reading quietly out loud because it helps me concentrate.
My family calls me out on it and doesn’t like it, so I try not to do it often, but for the most part they ignore it.
This time he didn’t.
I guess it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, or something. He blew up, stormed around, slammed stuff on the kitchen counters, screamed his fucking head off at my mom.
Normally when he’s angry, critical, trying to correct something, or give us a job or order, he doesn’t shout. He uses this *reasonable* and patronizing tone that says he’s disappointed in you, that you’ve really just been incredibly incompetent and useless THIS time, and he hopes you’re happy with yourself.
It’s the worst thing in the world.
Well, the shouting was worse.
My sister ran into my room and we hid under my desk until he left the house and my mom found us there. She was half-laughing, half-crying, like she wanted it to not be as big of a deal as it was.
I ran out and hid in the field crying for the better part of an hour, not wanting to be in the same airspace as him. When I got back, he was waiting on the front porch. I remembered that he wanted to talk to me. I sat there feeling sick as he went on and on, this self-victimizing speech I couldn’t stand hearing.
I wanted to tell him it didn’t excuse his actions, but I started crying instead. He put his arm around me, which just made it worse. I wanted to get out of the entire situation, and he wasn’t trying to comfort me. He was using me as a way to comfort himself.
Since I’m at school, I don’t see as much of him. I think my second-youngest brother realized that, because he got a job away from home this year and his own apartment. I don’t have a license, so I couldn’t make that happen, and when I’m not working I’m home all the time. It’s not much different that it was that day or before that day, except that now, I notice it.
Today, it was towels in the bathroom. He called all of us in to see how there was a towel on the floor and another one *improperly* draped over the rack. He gave us this lecture on the *correct* bathroom procedures, and as we were leaving I said something to my sister, which I’ve been using to comfort myself and get myself through the constant tension in my household:
I’m a spy, just witnessing and gathering data.
He heard it and asked me what I said, so I said I hadn’t spoken. He told me I was being childish, acting like a “whipped puppy.”
And the thing is?
That’s EXACTLY how I feel, and I can’t stop it.
I don’t even know if it’s as bad as I think it is. Nobody else in my family goes on crying jags about it. My sister’s a feisty little fireball and fights back. My younger brother doesn’t give a shit. My mom doesn’t like his attitude, but also she defends him and sympathizes somehow.
It’s just me, hiding in the bathroom choking on tears. Because every day in this house I feel judged and afraid and anxious. I don’t like to go anywhere with my father.
I don’t feel I HAVE the same father I did when I was six and loved him. I don’t feel like I love him now. I don’t respect him anymore, and I don’t even particularly LIKE him.
And for some reason the same thought keeps going around and around in my head.
Someday, if I get married, he’s going to want to walk me down the aisle, this person I don’t respect or even particularly like.
And I won’t be able to tell him “no.”
I’m so sick of how alone he makes me feel; how he tries to control who I talk to.
We both have iPhones so you can see when messages to each other are delivered and read. If I don’t read his messages right away, he asks where I was or what I was doing. I’m too scared to say that I was talking to a friend, so I’ll say that I was changing my alarm or checking on a game. If I do say that I was talking to a friend, he says, “Fine. I’ll let you go.” Then I have to assure him it’s okay; that I want to talk to him.
We both play the same game – you can join a group and talk to people. Last night, I saw one of my favorite people had just been on 5 minutes earlier. So I said, “Hey ____ are you still on?”
My boyfriend wanted to know who I was asking about. My boyfriend was at work late, so he couldn’t text very often. It was past midnight where I was, and I had fallen asleep. When I didn’t respond, he got sassy about it and said something along the lines of, “Fine be that way, good night.”
I have texted him back today. He hasn’t responded, but he is three hours behind me because of time zones.
Am I being isolated?
Preface: This got extremely long and emotional, but I’m not making it friends only because I’m sick to death of hiding and being embarrassed by this part of my past. There are some things in here that are very sensitive and some that are probably a little too blunt. Some parts of it will doubtlessly make me sound very self centered, but I really think all of it needs to be said.
I somehow ended up spending over 2 hours last night talking to a friend about my mother and my childhood. I so rarely have these conversations anymore, but when I do they come completely out of nowhere. She was so good though, just let me talk it out, agreed with me when I needed her to, but didn’t try to comfort me either. I’m at a place about all this, I think, wherein I don’t need to be comforted nearly as much as I need to be heard. And since she won’t listen in real life, here’s another of my open letters:
It’s not right. Our roles have always been so ass-backwards, I’m sick of feeling like your mother instead of the other way around. I don’t think any of my friends, as many times as they’ve heard me say it, believed me when I told them your emotional growth was stunted at about age 13. They believe me after the last couple of weeks. You didn’t get what you wanted, sometimes that happens when you treat people like shit for no reason. I wanted you to come out here, I wanted SO badly for you to come out here, but not at the risk of your health or sanity.
I found a way to save $1300 and not have you and C (my brother) have to sit in a hot, miserable U-Haul truck for 4 days while still getting my stuff out here. A way that I talked to you about, and you agreed with at least twice, before I made the arrangements. How, exactly, is that “unilaterally changing the plan without discussing it with anyone”?
And as far as not making this move on my own, no I absolutely did not. Paul drove with me, your sister (even after all the bad blood between the two of you) let me live with her for almost 6 months until the house opened up. Yes I had help, but I haven’t asked you for a damn thing since I moved out here, and you have done nothing but go around quietly undoing everything that I have tried to do to get my stuff out here. You’ve taken things that weren’t yours, you’ve unpacked and gone through the boxes that I left there.
Every suggestion that I’ve made, everything that I’ve tried has been unacceptable, but you’ve yet to come up with a workable solution. You’re holding my stuff hostage, but I will not be manipulated. I meant every word when I told you that for all I cared anymore you could just call Goodwill to come pick it up. It’s not worth it to me. It’s not worth the aggravation, not worth fighting with you over stuff I’ve lived without for a year. I’ve had so many people tell me recently that I’m one of the most independent, self-sufficient people they know.
I suppose I should thank you for making me fend for myself (and for you, and my siblings) for so many years. It kills me, though, that you seem to be the only one who doesn’t see that I really am trying (and succeeding a vast majority of the time) to stand up on my own two feet.
I told B (my college roommate) last night that it just makes me sad that the one person that I’m trying so hard to be enough for is the one person who I will never manage to please. She said that you were the one person who I shouldn’t have to do anything to be enough for, and she’s right.
I’m sick of trying to earn your love. Of working myself half to death and never making you happy. Love is supposed to be unconditional, especially maternal love. I am not a bad person, I was NOT a bad child, I did and said some stupid things sometimes, sure, but so have you.
I’ve been told this by so many people that I’ve actually started to believe it and now I’m going to tell you:
I deserved better from you.
I deserved to be put first sometimes. I deserved to be protected from the man you chose to marry. I deserved to be allowed to be a child without having to carry the weight and the fear of your unhappiness. I should not have had to be a co-parent to my younger siblings. I should not have had to protect you from him. I should not have had to hear you make excuses for him or tell that police officer what a hoodlum I was ( I had just been named student of the month a couple of days beforehand!). Do you know how hard it was to sit in that kitchen with the cop who was taking my statement and taking pictures of the bruises and hear you in the other room actually taking his side?
It’s not fair to expect me to have all the responsibility and none of the decision making power. It’s not right to, in one breath, tell me to act like an adult and in the very next say “I’m putting my foot down and this is what you are going to do.”
You don’t get to say that anymore. You just don’t. I’m 23 years old, I haven’t lived in your house for nearly a year, I pay all my own bills, and deal with the consequences of my own decisions. You don’t have to like those decisions, but if you would like to remain a part of my life you do have to accept them.
I had no option but to be treated this way as a child, but as a woman if I continue to allow you to do so – now it will be as much my fault as it is yours. I am making the conscious decision to no longer be a victim. I want to have a relationship with you, but I will not be manipulated and guilt-tripped and screamed at for no reason. I don’t need it, I don’t deserve it, and I will not tolerate it. I will speak to you when you can do so like a civilized adult, but I refuse to expose myself to you when you cannot do so.
I hope someday you’ll understand that this is not about not loving you, it’s about finally beginning to love me. It’s about realizing that I’m worth standing up for and understanding that I’m the only person I can count on to do so.
I truly hope that we can find a way to move past these wounds and have our relationship change without ending, but I’m afraid they may take a very long time to heal. I think I am going to seek counseling and I don’t think it would hurt you to get some, either.