Whenever a group of people gets together and starts talking about their childhood years, I end up sitting there silently, listening to stories of loving families and wishing that I could relate. I rarely share my own stories, because honestly, there are few that are full of happiness—and who wants to ruin the fun with a sob story? Until today, I have trusted very few individuals with the specifics regarding my time as a child, but I'm tired of lying to people and constantly trying to pretend that I had a normal upbringing. I didn't. I was abused, and later, abandoned as a child; and I'm sick of pretending that I'm okay and that it doesn't affect me anymore—because it does.
When I was younger, I didn't get the normal spankings as a punishment for my wrongdoings; I got hit, hard. If physical abuse with bare hands wasn't enough to satisfy the anger of my mother, then she would use a belt or other metal objects. I would have bruises for a week or two and have to lie to my teachers saying that my brother and I got a little too rowdy when we were playing around. I assumed, in my childlike naivety, that my mom was just really angry and that I deserved the punishment I got—even if I didn't actually do anything wrong. I didn't feel bad lying to my teachers and other concerned adults because I assumed my mom loved me and wouldn't hurt me unless it was absolutely necessary.
My stepdad never really hit me much—only when my mother made him—but he always just stood by and let it happen. He rarely said a word against it for fear that my mother's wrath would turn towards him, so he stood by and let my brother and I take the abuse. I can't say for sure just how often my brother experienced these things, after all, he was just a toddler at the time, but I know that he had to witness atrocities that I wouldn't wish on anyone.
While I hold a vast amount of anger towards my mother for abusing me, I hold an equal amount for my stepfather for sitting idly by while I took on undeserved punishment. I understand his fear of the abuse turning on him, but how can someone just watch a child experience so much hurt?
My parents spent a majority of the family money on drugs and alcohol, so we rarely got decent meals. On the off chance that we received a few extra bucks, I would walk to the gas station and pick up a few snacks that I knew would last us the week. If we did have a proper meal, it would end in screaming, dishes being broken, and one or both of my parents leaving the house. This would often leave me to babysit my brother—which I did frequently between the ages of 7 and 10 (my brother was 2-5)—and figure out a way for us to survive until our parents decided to come back.
Occasionally, the yelling and violence would warrant a neighbor calling the cops. I used to be so happy when they came to the door because it meant that there would be no arguing or threats for a few days. These incidents would lead to my mother putting all of the blame on my stepfather while my brother and I were threatened to stay silent.
As I grew older, I found myself wishing that the cops would be called to our house so that I could feel safe for just a few minutes. I would pray that if they came I would be able to tell them the truth—that my mother was a monster, that she scared us, and that while my stepfather didn't intervene, he didn't deserve all the blame.
When I entered fifth grade, I wanted to have some friends come over to my house, but the first time I tried my stepfather was missing, my mother was in a drunken sleep on the floor, and there was a random drug dealer—who frequently came over to sell to my parents—on the couch. I had to lie to my friends, telling them that my mom was asleep so we would have to go over to their house instead. I would tell them that my house smelled funny because my mom used weird perfume rather than the reality of the situation—there were open bottles of vodka everywhere.
Eventually, I learned to only invite my friends over when my mother was high on her drug of choice because then she actually acted like a mom: she cooked, cleaned, asked me about my day, and didn't threaten anyone with physical abuse. I would often tell my friends that my mom was just really sad, and that's why they could only come over on certain days.
I would sometimes disappear to a friend's house for days or even a week or two at a time just to get away from her. She wouldn't even notice until after the end of the second week that I was even gone. In fact, sometimes she would drop me off at someone's house herself and leave me there for an extended amount of time. These became my favorite vacations. I finally got to have a normal family life with games and food every night. My friend's mom would always ask me what I was learning in school and I could imagine what it would be like to have real parents.
I was pretty good at hiding my malnourishment and bruises by the time I was in the fifth grade, "Oh, I'm going through a growth spurt! I fell down the stairs." On the other hand, it got even harder to explain my hesitation to go home. I would stay with my friends more than a few days, I would get off the bus at the first stop and walk the rest of the way home, or I would hide out in my backyard.
One day, I guess parenting became too hard for my mother and stepfather to handle because they left us. They dropped us off at my grandfather's house, stayed one night, left for the day and then never came back. Eventually, I went to live with my grandmother who became my legal guardian. I didn't hear from my mother for another year, and when I did hear from her, she acted like nothing was out of the ordinary.
A court hearing happened right before I turned 13. They wanted to decide if I should go back to my mother, stay with my grandmother, or move to see my father. I wrote a letter refusing to live with my mom, and one saying that I didn't want to live with my dad because he smoked. The court ruled in my dad's favor which led to a screaming match outside the courtroom. I won't get into specifics about what was said, but it wasn't pretty. All I remember thinking is that I wanted to get away from my mom—I was scared of her, for good reason—even if it meant leaving my grandmother.
My grandma and father saved me from a miserable existence. I wouldn't be the person I am today had I stayed in such a negative environment. My mother still pretends to be a mom and texts me once per year, acting like she was never a monster that haunted me in my dreams. My stepfather flat out refuses to acknowledge my existence unless it pertains to my brother who now lives with him. My mother attempts to buy my love around the holidays and then continues to disappear. My stepfather allows his new wife to call me names and make up lies about me.
I seem successful, even happy, these days—and truth be told, I am—but it would be a lie to say I am completely unaffected.
I'm still afraid of the dark. I flinch whenever someone raises their voice or moves too fast. I'm terrified of being abandoned again, even though I know those anchors in my life will never leave me. I'm afraid of being a bad daughter, sister, and girlfriend. I think everything is my fault and that I deserve anger or to be lashed out at. I feel like I am the cause for every bad thing that happens to everyone I care about.
I feel like I am undeserving of love and affection.
I feel this way because as a child, I was abused—both physically and emotionally—and left without a second thought. Because I lived through horrors that no one should have to experience. I saw parents who either hated their unplanned children or couldn't care less about their existence. I watched a man who was a father figure to me stand by while I was beaten and verbally abused. I watched my mother punish someone she supposedly loved.
I grew up fast while my friends were enjoying their youth. I watched my childhood die.
As a child, I was hit, yelled at, ignored, starved, abandoned—and I'm not okay.