I have not had an easy road. My mom had a lot of mental health issues that she didn’t deal with properly, so I, as an only child, was usually the target of her screaming, anger, and hatred. My father was there mostly as disciplinarian, but at least I felt like he loved me.
As I got into my teens I searched for attention. I was always looking for male companionship to boost my self-esteem. At age 15 I met, dated, and lost my virginity to a jerk that was a year older than I. He was my first boyfriend.
After we broke up, I started being pursued by a guy friend from school. I’d always thought he was fun to be around and he seemed the warm, friendly, protective type. One day he showed up at my house and asked to take me out, but his idea of “taking me out” was to take me to his house where he had been drinking with some friends who were a couple. I guess he was just looking for someone to be his drinking/sex partner for the night. I’m guessing that my ex-boyfriend had done a good job letting others know that I had willingly slept with him.
Sex with this guy was disgusting. He really just wanted oral sex and plied me with beer until I consented. That was my first experience with it, and I was so disgusted. I felt really used when I realized that he didn’t really “like” me like I had naively thought. I don’t really remember him taking me home. That bad experience got worse when he started spreading rumors around school, claiming I had done more things with him than I actually did.
There was another guy I worked with at a local fast food place, and things were just as bad there. He would alternately flirt with me, and yet urge on a co-worker who was treating me badly. This other guy would grab my chest or shove me around. He seemed really angry, and I was scared of him. I was also afraid to tell my manager, because he was a favorite of hers.
Not long after all of this, I also dated a guy that was 23. I thought an older man would be more mature, instead he was controlling. I ended up breaking it off with him on New Years Eve. I promptly started dating a guy that I’d had a crush on at work. He was 21. And he was a little weird. We dated on and off for a few months. When I broke up with him for good, he started stalking me and mailed me this crazy letter along with all the drawings I had done cut up into little pieces. My mom had to change our phone number because he wouldn’t stop calling.
About a month before I turned 17, I was invited by a friend to stay the night at her house. Our plan was to sneak out the window, after her parents were asleep, to go to a party at her boyfriend’s uncle’s house. This was a small, ramshackle house in a very, very small town out in the country where no cops would interfere with the underage drinking.
I remember sitting by the fire listening to Zeppelin (that probably shows my age), drinking beer and smoking weed. Somewhere along the line the guy that had spread rumors about me showed up. He immediately sought me out. Maybe I sought him out. I’m really not sure. My self-esteem was so low that if anyone was friendly to me I loved the attention in spite of past offenses.
He had brought a bottle of whiskey and I remember adding this to six or seven beers I’d already had. I went into another room and started talking with the older brother of another friend. He was a very nice guy. I’d always wanted to hang out with him, but again, my low self-esteem told me he wouldn’t like me. The alcohol told me he did.
Some time later the uncle barged in and accused us of having sex in his house. We weren’t, ironically. The guy was always a real sweetheart. I can’t blame him for what happened next.
We all went outside. One of my friends was sitting in a chair by the fire. He talked me into sitting in his lap, and I remember drinking some more. I remember kissing him. I also remember him trying to put his hands down my pants and me telling him to stop. I remember trying to pull away his hands.
After that, all I remember is waking up on the wooden floor of the dining room wearing nothing but my t-shirt and some shorts that were too small. I smelled like vomit, so I stumbled to the bathroom and washed my hair.
I had no idea what had happened. I think I was still drunk. I laid down by my friend’s boyfriend because I couldn’t figure out where anyone else went, and he was like an older brother figure. When he woke up, he asked me if I remembered what had happened. I said, no.
My friend showed up and told me what had happened. Apparently, when she came in the house, she saw me laying there with just a shirt on, so she took her shorts off and put them on me. I kind of put two and two together and so had she. After she found me she freaked out and told her mom that I had been raped and her mom called my parents. My dad was on his way.
To make matters worse, she had also called my crazy ex-boyfriend and he showed up and demanded that I get into his car. It got a little intense, so I decided to just go, because we were making a scene. We drove about a quarter mile away where we fought for a few minutes. When I demanded he take me back to the house, he refused to let me out of the car. My dad pulled up just as I punched the guy as hard as I could.
The ride home in my dad’s truck was the longest drive of my life. Total silence. When I got home, my mom left me to take a bath and actually let me go to bed in piece. Any other time she would have delt out punishment in the form of chores, criticism, and lack of sleep. I guess maybe she felt sorry for me. But said something I’ll never forget, “Well, that’s what happens to girls who sneak out to go to parties.” It was just a done deal after that. Life went on. I never forgave her for that.
I had a nightmare of a boyfriend after that who got me pregnant. At age 18, I had my first child. Six months later, I met my husband. It’s been a series of ups and downs with him. Fifteen years of drug addiction, two more children, and some domestic violence. I turned to dancing at topless clubs when I was 23 to feed my drug addiction. Working in the bars made me think that I was in control of the men, but it was just a farce. It made me feel more degraded and used. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to overcome that feeling.
In 2000 we moved to a different state. I halfway tried to get my life together, but I couldn’t fight the addiction. In 2006, I lost my mom in March, and my dad in May. It was somewhat expected, yet unexpected at the same time. I have always struggled with depression, had attempted suicide once seriously and one half-heartedly, but losing my parents sent me into a downward spiral. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to pull out of that one, but I did.
In November 2007 I got on my knees and asked God to forgive me and to help me get clean. As of today, I’ve been clean six and a half years. I still take anti-depressants off and on, and I struggle with depression and anxiety.
Last year I was diagnosed with Rapid-Cycling Bipolar, Type 2. Fun. Good times man. I’d like to be doing better than ok, but I’m working on it. That is what led me to The Band. I saw an article on Rosa Parks which mentioned a rape trial that she helped defend. In the process of reading about the trial, I realized, not for the first time, that I really need to deal with my past. A Google search for help dealing with date rape brought up this website.
One of the first things I saw mentioned was agoraphobia. Yeah …I haven’t been able to go outside or leave a door unlocked when nobody is home in a very, very long time. At 40 years old, I depend way too much on my kids to do things like call people or go in the store with me. It really sucks, and I’m tired of being a prisoner in my own home. A prisoner of my own making. If I get really depressed I have a space between my bed and the wall that I can lay down in that’s nice and dark and secure. My past is affecting me to the point that I’m not enjoying my life anymore.
I’ve decided to go back to counseling, and I am determined to work on this. It can’t get any worse. It has to get better. It has to.
It seems that in the last month, the mental block I once hid worries, pain, and hurt has fallen away. My life has been a roller coaster of emotions and difficulties.
When I was four, I was sexually molested by an older cousin; someone I trusted. The abuse corrupted my life and tore at me – I’d cry with guilt and shame. I believe it was at this time I set up my mental block.
When I was eight, my mother was diagnosed with a terminally debilitating physical illness and delusional paranoia. She’d just given birth to my sister and was so ill that I became the mother to my sister; I cleaned up cuts and cooked dinner. My mother didn’t like this. When her mental illness reared its head, she’d abuse me physically and emotionally while my father was at work. Eventually, he had to stop working to look after her.
As a teenager, I was severely overweight; I was paid no attention by boys other than disparaging remarks about my appearance. My best friend was the total opposite – pretty and bubbly, however she controlled and dictated my early years. She controlled a variety of sexual experiences that I wasn’t comfortable with, but was too afraid of being called frigid or that our friendship would end.
I’ve been with my current boyfriend for five years and he is my other half – he’s brilliant with my sister, kind and patient with my mother, and dependable. During our relationship, I’ve lost weight and look like a different girl. Still, my self-esteem is so low that I’ll avoid a deserved argument, afraid that someone will pick my appearance apart – fearful that I’ll be fat and fifteen again, crying in my bathroom.
Last year, my life took a turn for the worse.
I was being intimidated by my roommate’s boyfriend and felt so unhappy, lower than I’d ever been. My boyfriend and I were fighting and I was sure he was going to dump me. I’d found out that my father may have fathered a child with one of my mother’s closest friends and the child is very, very ill so the woman regularly comes to my house begging my mother for handouts and sympathy. My world had crumbled, so that when a friend – someone I considered to be like a brother – offered to take me out for a drink, I accepted.
At the bar, this friend of both myself and my boyfriend told me he’d broken up with his girlfriend and wanted to drown his sorrows. I got drunker and drunker so when he said he should go back to his place and get on Chatroulette (something we’d always done while drunk) that sounded fun.
When we got there, he realized he’d forgotten his laptop and mentioned we should probably go to sleep – I was too drunk to walk home, I should stay over. I had no issues with this – he was my “brother” after all – so I drunkenly pulled off my jeans getting ready for bed. On the verge of sleep and too drunk to know my own name, all of a sudden I was fifteen again, feeling pressured to allowing something to happen. I lay there not realizing that what was happening wasn’t right before shouting “stop!” He may have stopped, I think he probably did, but I was already unconscious.
I woke up later to him touching me, my pants pulled to one side. I lay for a second and the only thing I remember before I had the urge to vomit, was disappointment. Disappointment that he’d done this, for instigating this while I was drunk. Disappointment gave way to numbness. I stumbled to the bathroom and vomited. I looked at my face in the mirror – I wasn’t connecting thoughts together, I felt I was a completely different person – lost and bewildered. I stumbled back the bed, still too drunk to walk home. Besides, I reasoned, he probably didn’t mean to do it. I lay as far away from him as I could, my thighs clenched like a vice and my back to him.
He wouldn’t dare do it again.
I fell into unconscious or a heavy, deep sleep again and woke up to him doing it again. I was afraid he’d say something mean about the way I look or emotionally blackmail me into silence. So I just lay there, my head turned to the wall, my eyes glassy, my face pale as I vomited until I bled and my friend molested me. I was a child again, not understanding what was happening, merely knowing that it was outside my comfort zone and that I wasn’t enjoying what was happening.
I gathered the urge to say stop in a way that I knew would draw his attention. I don’t know why, but I knew that something was holding me back from telling him that what he was doing was wrong; a hunch that he would turn nasty. I told him to stop. He replied, “come on, no one will find out,” to which I replied “no!” once again.
My memory is fuzzy with pain, drunkenness, violation, numbness. I don’t think that he stopped, despite keeping my back to him, despite saying no, despite showing my discomfort. My brain told me that it might be over sooner if I pretended to play along, but I couldn’t keep up the act beyond a few seconds. I lay there, shivering, clutching my stomach while he rubbed his penis along my back.
Eventually I woke up feeling well enough to get away from him. Numbly, I informed him that as far as I was concerned that nothing happened; that I wanted to forget the whole thing. In my mind it was true, during those horrible few hours I never kissed him, touched him, or was in any way sexually excited.
Six months later my numbness is fading – now I’m having panic attacks and crying every day. What happened as a betrayal I see as a betrayal of my boyfriend. The guy who molested me was his friend. He assures me that he forgives me but that he wants to know who assaulted me.
I can’t tell him.
I want to. So badly.
I want him to know that the person he smiles when he mentions was my attacker. I want to come clean to him – tell him everything. The logical side of my brain tells me that if I do, my life might be over. I’d lose a lot of friends, my abuser could say that what happened was a fling – anything but the truth. My family and his would be at logger heads; not a good idea in our small community.
I hate him, but I miss the friend he was. I’m writing this because I’m sick of feeling depressed, full of guilt and shame. I’m sick of looking at my male friends and wondering would they hurt me like that? would they touch me while I threw up?
I worry I’m victimising myself when I wasn’t actually a victim; my memories of that day change like crazy – I can’t be certain what actually happened. One minute I see I was sexually assaulted while the next an evil voice at the back of my head cuts me down.
How do I even begin to move on from this?
My life feels like a black hole that’s physically and emotionally destroying me.
I am finally coming to accept that my mother has a variety of mental illness. I’ve known all my life something was wrong. Mostly I have ignored it, and even joked about it, trying to blow off steam.
Nothing was ever good enough for my mother. If I came home with B’s on my report card, she would want to know why they weren’t A’s. She would say that I could have done better. My father only talked to me about how to fix something. He never shared much about his life, other than stuff about his job. He would tell stories for hours that went on about nothing. In lieu of parenting us, my mother just bought stuff for my sister and me.
Mom was also a bulimic. Day after day when I was growing up, I would hear her in the bathroom throwing up after every meal. If we asked about it, she would deny it and change the subject. Dad defended her and said it was none of our business.
My grandmother knew they were incapable of parenting so we stayed over at her house as much as possible.My grandmother basically raised me from the time I was 12 years old. I moved in with her and took care of her after her first heart attack. Sadly, I was an adult from that day on. I cooked, cleaned and ran her house. We had a great relationship.
Then, my grandmother found out I was gay. She told me I was a sinner, an embarrassment, and told me I wasn’t her grandchild anymore unless I was “healed”. I moved out on my own for the first time. We didn’t speak for years.
After granny died, and later, my father, mom was on her own. For the first time in her life, she had control of the bills. It took less than two years until she had spent all of the money in the saving accounts my dad and granny had left. She then mortgaged her home in order to go shopping and go to the bingo halls. She recently moved in with me because she had no choice. She couldn’t manage her money and had gambled it away.
Mom has always been controlling, She gets mad if I go someplace or even leave the house without telling her where, when and why, even calling my friends to find out where I am. She argues with me over everything: the food and even the type of trash bags I buy. She says I owe her and refuses to chip in with the utilities. If she is driving in the car with my sister or me and she doesn’t like the music or the conversation, she will tell us she’s going to ram the car into a tree.
She is home all day alone while I go to work. When I get home, if she hasn’t already called me ten times, she has had the whole day to get worked up about something. She will unload on me as soon as I walk in the door.
She gets “nervous” about some story on the local news, or something she heard on the police scanner she listens to all day, or something horrible a friend told her about, and has to tell me it could happen to me so I must be careful.
Almost every night is a war and a screaming fit complete with her shaking her fists and slamming my door. The next day, she says “Good Morning,” like it never happened. Tonight she screamed at me, told me to go to hell and stay there and slammed my bedroom door. I cant stand it anymore, she refuses to go to a doctor. Tonight I told her if she didn’t get help, I would call an ambulance and force her to see a doctor. I have no support, no family to help. She badmouths me to her friends, and they always act like I’m such a jerk.
Despite how it sounds, I love my mother. I know there is help for her, but she will not go. She says therapy is stupid, and she just bites her nails when she gets upset.
Is anyone else going through something similar? Does anyone have advice for me?
A childhood steeped in hatred and abuse can threaten to break us.
And yet, we go on:
I was six months old when I was beaten the first time.
This beating required an Emergency Room visit. When you are beaten from such a young age, you learn that your body has no boundaries, you are not entitled to safety.
I was molested before six years old, my mother witnessed this at bath times…and did nothing. I was raped from six to eight years of age. Mom reminds me, regularly, that she was a victim, too. Therefore, I do not have permission to blame her for these things.
Back then, violence was a multiple days a week occurrence. Dad was quiet most of the time. And then, without rhyme or reason that I could detect (and I tried to identify the cause, to stop it), BLAM! Heaven forbid we did a normal kid thing that was bad.
Nighttime was parent fighting time. From my bed, I could hear the screaming, Mom crying. I could hear bodies tumbling and grunting, from him reaching for her and hitting her. He would rape her. He would break furniture on her.
By the time I was six until I was eight, he stayed in the guest room on a frequent basis. EVERY night he was in that room, I was too. I got to hear graphic details of Vietnam, before the touching and raping.
When Dad moved into his own home, this decreased to weekends.
But then Mom started. She was depressed and suicidal. She couldn’t handle our noise, our needs, or even us asking for permission to do things. She would strike out, smack us with books, knock our knees with her foot, pushing us away in frustration.
When our bodies were dirty, she would bathe us. She washed my vagina so hard, her nails or the edge of the washcloth would leave slices in my labia. She would pinch between my toes, hard enough to hurt. We had to “get the dirt out.”
Dad ran off when I was eight. Counselors had identified that I was suicidal; what he had done to me. He was confronted and fled to avoid prosecution.
By the time I was nine, Mom had started studying the Holocaust. We were made to watch documentaries with gruesome footage of violence. We had to see pictures of the piles of dead bodies.
We went to museums to meet Holocaust survivors, to hear their stories. The same graphic documentary pictures were always hanging on of the walls.
There were never other children to find, to play. We had to stay by Mom’s side, to witness these things.
We were not permitted anger, or to be sad. No tears, no screaming. We could smile. Or, we could be quiet.
When encouraged, we could explore mud puddles or play on the beach and laugh and giggle with Mom. There were the good times.
We’d always been very poor – with Dad around we were poor, but always had food. After he left, we’d have times of hunger. No food, or too little. I would dish out more to my sister first. Then Mom. Sometimes, I would sacrifice my food so that they could get more. I had become the family cook by the time I was nine. I cleaned. I helped with my sister’s homework. I helped with Mom’s college homework. I was an A-student on my own studies.
Mom used a wooden spoon to spank us. She hit so hard, she would crack handles. We had bruises and welts in the perfect shape of a spoon head on our bottoms and thighs. Sitting in a wooden chair at school was uncomfortable.
When she smacked our heads with her open hand, she would hit our ears. The ringing would startle me.
Her verbal abuse was astounding, sharp and biting. She told me that I was so annoying that it drove her to drink. (Subtext: Daddy was an alcoholic because of you, and I drink because of you too.)
All of these things struggled to silence me, shame me, and remove my human dignity. All of these things demonstrated that I had no rights.
And yet, I persist.
Addiction is a beast that spins yarns of lies that we often believe.
These are the struggles an addict faces:
Encased in a swishing bell jar of beer, my brain screams at me. Hungover. Again.
I am a professional. It would astonish my co-workers to know that I am holding back vomit while they talk to me, that I was awake mere hours ago, drinking, drinking, drinking.
My body is almost used to this dull feeling of the next day. I used to take a day off when I felt this shitty, but now it’s more often than not, so I am accustomed to this silver fish headache razoring my head.
Addiction is the root of my family tree, and I tell myself, I am no where near as bad as most everyone else in my family. I justify the excess even though I know this is not healthy.
Healthy should be my goal… But, I poison myself.
When it’s not alcohol, it’s food. Consumption is key for me, it seems.
My beautiful friend has been working on her dissertation for years. She explained to me once that her inner voice tells her only smart people deserve a Ph.D., so she doesn’t deserve this distinction. She is brilliant, but her mind lies to her.
I feel like I don’t deserve to be healthy. To be sober. To be thin.
If I wanted those things, wouldn’t I just achieve them? I have always achieved everything I have set my sights on.
Instead, it seems, I’m content to wallow in the murky bottle, to deny myself nutrients and instead eat processed garbage.
I have worked so hard on so many areas of my life that I feel like I just need a break. My breaks include booze and fried food. Why?
Comfort food makes me feel very uncomfortable. And yet, I choose to eat this way every day.
I want to be my best self, and yet, maybe this is it.
Maybe this is who I always will be.
She left him this morning while he was at church. My brother drove five hours to come and take her to stay with his family. After seven years, she finally got up the courage and bailed. I have never been more proud of her than I am in this moment.
She left the abuse, the control, the hate, the mind games. She left the drugs, the crime, the lies and the stealing. She left him for going through her things and screaming at her every day. She left him for punching her in her sleep when she snored. She left him for telling her when she could or couldn’t eat or leave the house or come visit me and her granddaughter. She just… left.
History has a way of repeating itself, especially when it comes to relationships. And her history has been on repeat since 1970. Every man she has ever been with has treated her like the scum of the earth: my dad, her boyfriend of 10 years (after divorcing my dad), and now him. I would be lying if I said I thought none of this was her fault because she chose this. She has continually chosen this, but that doesn’t mean she deserves it. Nobody deserves this.
Her bouts with mental illness have plagued her for most of her adult life. It’s like the men she chooses know that she is weak. They prey upon those who seem to “need some help.”
My mother has been homeless on the streets, homeless in shelters, fed by soup kitchens, and by the kindness of strangers. She’s been in and out of mental hospitals and failed relationships more times than I can remember. She has been raped, assaulted, kidnapped and abandoned on the side of the road in her underwear in a blizzard. And through all of that, she lived. She lived through it.
But today? She finally ended it on her own. She didn’t wait to be kicked out or told that he was done with her. She didn’t wait to end up in a hospital or shelter or on the side of the road… or worse. She left on her own, by her own free will. She didn’t wait until she was no longer strong enough to go.
I always used to tell her the analogy of the frog in the pot: If you throw a frog into pot of boiling water, he will instinctively know that the water is too hot and leap out. But if you put a frog in a pot of cool water, and gradually increase the temperature, he won’t notice that things aren’t right, and will let you boil him alive and kill him. She was that frog. The one who started out in a relationship being wined and dined and showered with gifts. But soon those things started to go away, and slowly the little jabs at her self-esteem became major blows, both mentally and physically. She didn’t notice… or maybe she did but soon nothing became shocking; nothing “burned” her.
I asked her this morning what finally made her snap. She said she heard them talking outside her door when they thought she was asleep plotting how they would “off her.” Whether it’s the illness talking, or the truth, I will never know. And it does not matter.
She is free.
I am so proud of you, Mom.