Tuesday, 28 July 2009

A little mid-morning introspection (and more about me than you ever wanted to know)

I don't know exactly what triggered this inward discussion. But on the weekend, I started thinking about myself, prying inside my own mind. And I... I don't even know how to put this into words so that it makes sense... So expect much nonsensical rambling.

Basically, I'm... largely unable to articulate my emotions. I can't say what I feel. And a lot of that has to do with being so bound and oppressed for so long that I no longer feel comfortable doing so. It's hard for me to say how I feel. On here is one thing, because it's anonymous and I can say what I really think without fear of backlash. But reality is another issue altogether.

Growing up for me was hard. I didn't have a particularly happy childhood, and I know that same thing can go for a lot of people in this community, too. I had to grow up at a young age, and before I was a teenager I was playing the adult. At the time there was nothing odd about this, it was just how my life was. But looking back, I never really got to experience a real childhood, to live life the way every other teenager does.

My mom was only 17 when she had me, and I hate to say this but I think she was too young, and somewhat ill-equipped for the job of motherhood. She married my father when I was a couple months old, but they divorced before I was 2. My father could be abusive, and one of my earliest memories is of hiding underneath a table while my dad choked my mom in the kitchen - then, my mom crying and getting me to go stay with my grandparents.

When the marriage eventually and inevitably ended, we lived with my grandparents and my aunt. I may have mentioned this before, but my aunt was only 14 when I was born, and maybe that relatively small age gap is one of the reasons we're so close. And also because she played a big role on my childhood.

Almost immediately after divorcing my father, my mom started seeing who is now my stepfather. I have very few memories of my early life - I remember getting horrific sunburn on my back when I was living with my grandmother, around the age of 3 or 4. I remember a drawer at my dad's house that I used to keep a ton of stuffed animals in - a parrot in particular - although I don't remember my dad's house or my weekends there with him. I do remember playing Uno with him, and riding on the back of his motorcycle with my fingers tucked into his beltloops.

I don't remember much. But I remember always hating my stepfather.

Maybe my life would have been a little different if he had stuck around, but I honestly don't think so, nor do I like to waste my time on the "maybe"s and "what if"s. To make a long story short, the last time I saw my dad was on my 6th birthday, when he turned up to tell my mom he didn't want to see me anymore. By this time we were already living with my stepfather and my half-sister had been born.

My grandmother constantly tries to push me to get back into contact with him, but I don't actually want to. I don't see the point. She professes that probably my stepfather threatened him to stay away or something. But in the years following, my dad still did some pretty shitty things that can't be blamed on anyone else but him. For example, when I had to apply for a new passport when I was 12 or so before I came to England for the summer. My dad had to sign the application form, and when my mom called to ask him to, he laughed and refused. Until my mom told him that if he didn't, she would be suing him for all the child support he hadn't paid since I was 6. Stuff like that.

I never really thought about him over the years, until I found out when I was 16 or 17 that he had adopted my cousin, who was a girl the same age as me. Suddenly, all the feelings came flooding forward. Because it wasn't just that he didn't want to be a father, he didn't want to have a daughter who was a teenager already at his age. It was that he didn't want me.

But I couldn't tell anyone how I was feeling. How, ten years later I was finally feeling the sting of his abandonment. Because by this time, I had already learned how to master and suppress my emotions, to a fault. I didn't know how to let myself feel it or vent it.

I should skip back a little and explain. When I was a kid, I used to tell my grandmother everything. I used to spend weekends at her house and we used to talk through the night about everything and nothing at all. I used to vent to her about all of the shit going on at home - my stepfather is an abusive asshole and always had been.

I vividly remember him screaming and shouting at me, just because I was there. My brother and sister had been fighting and of course I would ALWAYS get pulled into the crossfire, even if I wasn't at home when the reason for his rage had happened. And he ALWAYS overreacted to a ridiculous degree. I remember that he used to threaten to give us away, tell us to pack our bags because he was going to call child welfare to take us away because he didn't want us. I remember actually keeping a tally chart hidden behind one of the small posters by my lower-level bunk bed in the room I shared with my sister, of the number of times he made this threat.

The tally had reached 13 in the space of a few weeks by the time I gave up.

I remember being so completely terrified of him that I would shut down, I couldn't think or talk or move, could only cover my face with my hands and sob and tremble uncontrollably, hyperventilating until I felt faint. But of course, if I cried I got screamed at more, got slapped because I "needed a reason to cry".

My stepfather stopped hitting for the most part by the time I was a teenager. Me, anyway. He used to use whatever was around to hit my brother and sister, and I used to tell my mom and she would yell at him. My mom always said that she believed in corrective smacking - but NOT in hitting your hid with an object or anything other than an open hand. I actually can't remember my mom ever so much as slapping me. I never gave her a reason to.

My stepfather however, grew up in a house of alcoholics, where his father used to beat him with leather belts and his mom used to hit him with wire coathangers. My stepfather is an alcoholic with serious rage issues, and he used to take that out on anyone around him. The doorframe around his bedroom door broke, and he kept a large, long piece of wood to hit my brother and sister with, until I told my mom and she made him break it and throw it away. I even remember one afternoon where my stepdad was shouting at my brother over something trivial, and he called him a "fucking cocksucker" and picked him up by the throat and threw him onto the living room couch.

He used to lock our dog in the basement when we went out or while he was at work and we were at school - for HOURS at a time. And then he used to beat and kick the shit out of that dog when he got home from work and he had pooped on the floor.

I was SO GLAD when that dog ran away.

I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't hate him with my entire being.

Before my mom married him, when I was maybe 8 years old, I remember taking her aside and asking her not to marry him, begging her not to marry him. Of course, I was ignored. Maybe, if she'd listened to me, I would have been able to save her life.

When I was in high school, things just got worse. When I was 10 or 12, my grandparents and aunt moved back to England, leaving us, in a sense, alone. I remember having to work on the weekends at my mom's place washing dishes just so I would have enough money to replace the single pair of black trousers that I had to wear to school, in which a huge hole had worn through the inner thigh. I remember being in high school and having to walk to school through hip-deep snow in -50 degree weather in the winter, with shoes that barely had the soles hanging onto them. I remember coming home from school having not eaten anything all day, and having nothing in the cupboards - having to wait until my mom got home at 9:30 at night so we could have something to eat when she brought fast food home with her from her job.

Because buying beer and marijuana and making sure my stepfather had everything he wanted was much, much more important.

When I was in 10th grade, the shit hit the fan with force. By this time, I had shut down. I lived in my basement bedroom and spent as much time away from the house as I could. I stayed at my friends' house on the weekends, and if my stepfather was on the day shift, I would go to work with my mom if she was working evenings. I used to sit in the back and do dishes, even if I wasn't getting paid for it, because by god, it was better than being at home without my mom acting as a buffer from her husband. When she wasn't around he was always worse, and would almost always bitch at us ABOUT HER. As if her numerous failings and incompetencies (as numbered by him) were a direct result of our existence.

One night in particular, I'd gone to work with mom. My stepdad had stopped by for something to eat around 6 and was in a good enough mood, then. But when he picked us up after work around 9:45, it was immediately obvious he was in a mood. He tore off before my mom's door was even shut and ignored her when she cheerfully greeted him. Speeding dangerously home, he suddenly started shouting at me, saying I was not to leave the house until he told me it was okay. That I was grounded and would not be going to work with my mom again.

I had NO IDEA what I had done. But I was unsurprised.

When we got home, I went to my room and cried silently in the way I had learned long ago. To this day, I can't have a proper cry, I can't sob. All I can do is sit quietly as the tears roll rapidly down my cheek.

The house was tense and we all walked on eggshells. Which was, again, nothing new. For years, whenever he was on the night shift, more nights than not I would be woken up when he came home at 4 in the morning, slamming the door, stomping around, and then bashing through the kitchen so noisily I expected to find the entire living and kitchen area destroyed when I finally got up. I was always SO terrified that he was going to come wake me up - he had been known to wake everyone up to yell at us in this manner before.

For so, SO long, all I wanted was to die.

But anyway, a few days after the after-work incident.. it was a Friday. Fridays, my brother and sister's school finished at 12ish, and my high school got out around 2. So we were all at home in the afternoon. Mom and Him were at work, both due home around 6:30. I'd filled the sink with dishes and soapy water, and my brother and sister were in the living room playing (I'd been babysitting them since I was around 9 years old), when someone knocked on the door. My brother ran down to answer it (he was around 10 or 11 at this time) and next thing a woman walked into the kitchen.

Turns out my sister had told her guidance counsellor at school what had happened That Night, and she had in turn called child welfare, who had in turn called the police - about an hour later two police officers turned up.

That Night, my brother had gone to a friend's house after school. My stepfather told him to come home at 7, but he didn't. My stepfather called several times and my brother refused to come home. So he drove there. He physically dragged my brother out to the car, where he hit him several times, both open and closed-fisted. When they got home, he pulled off his belt and hit him again. So hard that the leather snapped and he left a huge welt on one side of my brother's ass. When the belt snapped, he picked up my brother's hockey stick and hit him with that.

Yeah. If I had known what had happened, I would have called the fucking police myself.

My brother and sister gave statements and my mom cried and glared accusingly at my stepfather - it was the first she'd heard of what had happened. He'd told my mom he's "smacked" my brother, but not that he'd beat him with fists, a belt, and a hockey stick.

After that, my stepfather had a huge vendetta against my sister. He would overreact and scream at her more than usual over any little thing. That summer, he made her stay at a friend's house for a week so he wouldn't have to see her. Even now, my sister blames herself for all of the shit that ensued in the family. My stepfather blamed her - but she had done the right thing!

In the end, he got off with a suspended sentence and community service OR a fine. He paid the fine, and bitched at my brother and sister and I because he couldnt' afford it and it was our fault he had to pay it.

I remember before the trial, my mom taking me aside and saying "if the judge wants to talk to you and ask about what kind of a person is, please tell her he's a good father etc etc." To keep the peace. YEAH. FUCKING. RIGHT. In the end, because I wasn't present when it happened and had no knowledge of it, I had no part in it at all. And I kind of wish I had.

That was when I decided I needed to get the fuck away. That's why, when the opportunity presented itself to MOVE to England instead of just going to stay for six months, I fucking leapt.

All of this is to say that I was forced from a relatively young age to shut down and not show my emotions. I couldn't tell people what I thought or felt because I had to "keep the peace". Lord only knows what would have happened if I had actually stood up to His Assholishness. It took me years to work through some of those barriers, but a lot are still in place.

The year I moved here, I was talking to a friend over the phone and we were joking around when I realized I couldn't even LAUGH properly. I'd laugh closed-throated, so there was barely a sound. It was more of a kept-inside snicker. And I had to physically make myself stop doing that. Because it was okay!

I still can't cry properly. Even after my ex left me for another woman and my world came crashing down around me, when everything hurt so much worse than it ever had in my life before, I couldn't give myself over to the breakdown that wanted to happen. That probably NEEDED To happen so that I could move on a lot sooner than I did.

And I can't say what I feel. I can't say I love you unless it's already been said. I can't tell someone when they make me angry. I can't tell someone when something they've done has upset me. Because in the past if I ever did, there was always a backlash. Even telling my ex that I was upset by something, he used to get mad at me for crying and say I was stupid for getting upset for some stupid reason.

And I can't bring myself to tell someone when what they're doing is hurting / annoying / whatever-ing me. Because I've got some deep-rooted survival instinct that stops me from doing it. Deep down I always expect there to be some huge backlash everytime I say something. Whether it's going to come or not, I can't help it.

This is a lot, lot longer than I was anticipating. It was originally meant to just be an explanation of my emotional ineptitude - actually, that's not right. I'm a very emotional person, I'm pretty moody, I get irritated easily and I can cry over anything. I guess what I mean is just my inability to show it or say it. But in order to explain that I felt like I had to give some background information as to why that barrier is there.

Maybe one day I'll get past it, but I don't know.

Also, I want to add that writing this was painful. Because it felt a lot like reliving it. And writing about my mother's husband made my chest constrict with such a high level of anxiety as I haven't felt in a long time.

Oh yeah, I'm so looking forward to visiting my mom and her husband at the end of August. =/

**PS: although I said that "maybe if she had listened I would have been able to save her life" I want to clarify that my mom is alive - but she has no "life" to speak of. He's crushed her down so far that she no longer feels worth anything. She doesn't bother to take care of herself because she's not worth the effort. She has only one or two friends, who she rarely sees, and she does absolutely nothing but sit at home and take care of his needs.


Yum said...

I'm so, so sorry about your family. The good thing is, you can talk about it now, and recognise it for what it is. It's something to go on.

It's common, from what I understand, for people with eating disorders to have trouble expressing their emotions. I feel the same way. We all have different reasons for doing it, but it all boils down to family in the end.

When you have to visit them, just remember: you're free now.

Vee said...

Thanks hun.

And, you're right. As I was writing this and rambling on (the whole backstory about my family and it's crapness was not originally intended to be a part of the post, but what happens will happen!), I was thinking that... I know a lot of the people who read my blog will understand where I'm coming from. And that's one reason I keep coming here. Sure it's nice to have a place that's anonymous to vent and rant and ramble. But more importantly is being a part of a community, to be able to connect to someone who understands and feels the same =]

It sounds horrible, but when things kick off back there (as they are currently doing very greatly right now), I always thank my lucky stars that I'm not there and don't have to deal with it. When I go there, I'll be in the middle of it... but you said it so well. I'm FREE. I can turn around and leave after two weeks and not have to deal with it anymore.

I've never been happier to have moved half a world away than I am when times get bad. Sometimes it makes me feel guilty but then I think... they made their choice to stay there.