I had a friend over my place yesterday for a decent amount of time. In our conversation I started talking about something that I had forgotten about and realize now is still very painful for me. As I was talking about it I stuffed back tears, but I am surprised I am still so affected by it almost 20 years later.
I have mentioned that I was brought up in a chaotic and abusive household as a child. I tend to harp on my mothers alcoholism, but there was a time when I thought the majority of the abuse was not from her. At the time she was married to my second step-father and getting divorced because of her drinking and his gambling/drug habits. It was one of those situations where we lived in a cookie cutter neighborhood with a pretty house, but everything inside was ugly. There was always yelling, verbal threats, violent physical fighting and the police. This was a daily occurrence and it all took place right under my bedroom.
Normally, when these arguments would occur I would get very upset. I remember one time being scared and crying so hard that I was so shaky I couldn't walk. I had tried walking into my closet and I collapsed on the floor. I am not sure why (because it did not help block anything out) but I had developed this new habit of closing myself into the closet when I was crying. It's something I still do, but only in extreme situations. When things with my ex were very bad I did the same and cried in the closet. It's strange but I think it might be the idea of being in a small closed in space. Somehow I find it comforting.
While all of this was going on my brother was only about a year old. One evening an argument was going on and it was clear from the yelling that he was in my mothers hands hysterically crying (his crying was fairly normal too). I am not sure what got into me that evening because while I would normally try to block everything out I decided to go downstairs into the battlefield (which it was often), scream myself and rip my brother out of my mothers arms and take him upstairs with me. Oddly enough, my actions ended that nights dispute. Normally if I even sounded like I raised my voice even the slightest rage would come down upon me, but not that time.
Now that's just a piece of the back story to what I had spoken about last night. As bad enough as the fighting was after my mother was forced to leave the house I was told to stay. I had to live in the house with the man I had witnessed do and say awful things. I was scared to death of him. To the point that even my dreams were nightmares of him. I lived in constant fear. My step father made living at the house very difficult. The idea was to hurt me in order to hurt my mother. He threatened to take my parrot outside and let him out of the cage (that one got me as my parrot was my previous amazing step fathers). He left the house a mess. Refused to purchases grocery's and I had no way to do so I was only 15. So when the house was empty I would find random things to eat like making pancakes or eating frozen peas (this is why I love frozen peas, I find them comforting). I did not mention these things last night.
What I did mention to explain in the easiest way possibly and the little bit that I had unblocked last night was to explain to my friend why I do not like my brothers father and his family. I was tormented by them and years later when I was in my early 20's the only way to be involved in my brothers life was to deal with them. It's not a simple thing for someone who has been abused to be around the abuser and I did try for awhile, but it got to a point where I couldn't do it any more because I was still being handed emotional abuse from several members of the family. But for my friend to understand I had to tell him why.
When I was living in the house my step father and his brothers while I was in my room moved me out. They took my bed. They took most of my belongings. They took a good portion of my clothes. I then remained living there (because where could I go) sleeping on the floor in a child size sleeping bag with my land line phone, disc-man, alarm clock, and the few clothes I had left. When this didn't work he took my door away to make me uncomfortable. All of this worked of course. One day he changed the locks on me. I had to wait for him to come home and let me in, but he would not give me a key. I had to call the police. After telling my stepfather he was not allowed by law to lock me out and was required to give me a key the policeman took me out to the car to write the report. I did not like being walked out of the house. I was very fearful something was going to happen in retaliation because I called SCPD. When I got back into the house I found my fears validated. My step father took my phone out of my room while I was outside. This way I would not be able to contact the police in the future or my mother. To explain further all the other phones in the house had already been removed and the actual number to the house had been shut off. So I couldn't actually call anyone. I could call SCPD and I could receive calls. He did give me a phone back but not the same one. Maybe somewhere in the back of his head he realized what he was doing was very wrong and had a tiny bit of remorse. From that day on when I went to school I brought with me what I needed for school, my disc-man, cds, and the wall phone every single day.
When my aunt caught wind of what was going on at the house she put herself in debt to pay for movers. That was why I was staying at the house. My mother had found a place and unknown to me when my belongings were moved and when my parrot went missing they had been moved there. But because of my mothers problems and inability to be near the house I had to stay there to pack the house up. This all happened in 10th grade for me. I remember being called down to the principals office and being told I was being sent home for something to do with court. When they gave me the phone my mother explained I was going home to pack the house up because my aunt had movers coming to get me out. So in a panic because I was scared my step father would come home during this and while I had witness so much violent behavior I was still waiting to have it taken out on me. For all the damage he did do, he never laid a finger on me, but I never thought it was not an option.
So then I was moved to the new apartment which was actually a really nice place, but it was not in the same school district. I was a really good student. Despite all the chaos in my home life I still kept really good grades (minus history). Being in school was the one place I didn't have to deal with the chaos and actually had something positive. When I used to live next door to a different school earlier in life when my home life was also just as bad but I wasn't being abused, I would walk to school hours early and leave late because I did not want to be home. But in 10th grade after I moved it was near the end of the school year and I was no longer in the house, so this is good right? I was taking cabs to school in the morning and then two Suffolk Transit buses home after a good mile walk to the bus station. I had to commute to high school. In yet another effort to hurt my mother my stepfather called the school to report that I was no longer living in the district. He tried to get me expelled from school. Being that the school year was over the school decided to allow me to stay until the end of the year and I was not allowed to re-enroll the following year without moving back into the district which did happen.
When I was brought to court in my mothers divorce and custody battle over my brother, my step fathers family was very menacing towards me. His mother was highly offended when I did not say hello and refused to look at them. Apparently I had poor manners, meanwhile I was doing everything I could to keep myself together. I never want to see those people again and I had no reason to communicate with them and every reason not to. Despite the things he did and her other sons, I was the bad person. I never understood at the time why I was being treated the way I was, I knew why, but I didn't understand it. Now being an adult and looking back on it I really don't understand it. I don't understand how an adult can treat a child in the way I was treated.
What confused me more as a child was that in the custody battle over my brother both my stepfather and my mother were deemed unfit as parents, but only for him. I was not involved in the custody battle. It's rather confusing for someone to be unfit for one child but they never question the other child. It's interesting because I had two opportunities when I was very young to get out or try to but I didn't understand what was going on. Twice in my childhood Child Protective Services were called, not by me but by people that knew her and what I had to deal with. I remember being prepped, told to lie, that when I was being interviewed my mother would be listening at the wall, and if I don't lie I would be sent to Maine (when I was young I hated being in Maine so it was a very valid threat). So of course I lied to the social worker. At the time because of the threat of being taken away I thought the social workers were the bad people. I didn't understand they were trying to help me.
I also just started watching Dollhouse a few nights ago and they first episode with the child abduction hit me hard. Especially when Echo comes face to face with her abuser (or the person she believes herself to be). Watching the reaction of the character reminded me of myself at moments when I have come in contact with an abuser or just missed the person. It's paralyzing and everything comes back. You feel as though it never ended. I feel as thought I have escaped three very specific abusers and even when I think I see one of them it's like I never got away.
My purpose in writing this is not "woe is me" but relationships are not easy. When is comes to children, being involved or around, having compassion goes a long way. Don't neglect or abuse any child in any way regardless if they are yours or not for any reason but especially not in an attempt to hurt someone else. I never did anything to these people. I didn't even fight back. I figure someday karma is going to get them. I also did not realize until yesterday how much I had forgotten and how much it still affects me. I don't think I have thought about this or spoken about it for years. When it ended, it ended. That was it.
I let it go because it was over, but I think it's important to talk about especially with those I am close with. These are the kind of things that say a significant other needs to know about because without that knowledge how are they going to understand who I am. When getting to know a person you have to get to know them and that includes their past good or bad. I think we have all been through tough times and we are all capable of understanding, it's a question of whether we want to or not.