Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fragile

(A Note from SSG:  This post is not for the faint of heart.  If you've come looking for the light and occasionally witty banter that is normally found here, it will be back tomorrow.)


I got asked about my high school experience recently.  What I was like--if I was good or kind of bad.  I had a few different options.  I could ignore the question, I could highlight the good parts or I could tell you the truth.  Oddly enough, those were the exact three scenarios I found myself in on a daily basis during those years.  Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, back then I ignored the truth.  

Today I choose to tell it. 

It is impossible to talk about high school without talking about my parents.   When I started 9th grade, they had been divorced for about a year.  My mom decided she no longer wanted to be a wife or a mother.  Our relationship prior to that was never easy.  She was abusive--verbally and physically--and you were never sure what would set it off. 

My father is a "nice" guy.  Moral, ethical, kind.  Everybody loves him because of how "nice" he is.  He never hit me and rarely raised his voice.  But he also never stopped her from doing it.  When I would ask him about it, he'd say "your mom is just jealous of you."  

Can we say MAD parenting skillz?

I started to live smaller.  I never wanted to do anything that would garner attention from anyone for fear she would feel threatened.  When I'd bring friends home she'd sigh: "You have such nice friends.  I was always alone growing up."  When I would get praise from my horseback riding instructors at shows or clinics, she would just smile and then tell them, yes she knew.  Later that day or the next, she would turn their praise against me, tell me how wrong they were, follow it up with a slap and then tell me how selfish I was.  When a boyfriend brought me flowers when I was living with her during a summer in college, she said "I'll take them for you and put them in a vase."  She shredded them. 

She unfortunately, is still the same.  When I bought my house in Portland, she bought one right down the street, though she lives in San Diego and had no plans on moving.  She simply let it sit empty for three years and then decided to sell it.  Just because she could.  

When my freshman year of high school started, I was living with my mom.   

I had also been the victim of rape earlier that year.  I knew him.  I trusted him.  It was horrific and awful.  He called me the next day, sobbing.  Apologizing profusely.  It was confusing and scary and I had no idea how to handle it.  I hung up on him and told no one.

I went into my freshman year of high school wanting only to be invisible.  But I had signed up the year before to be on the student council which was HEAVY into events.  So I avoided school at all costs.  So much so that as a gag gift later that year the ASB gave me a package of those stickers you get at conventions that say "My Name Is ..."   

My first two years of high school I was so beaten down--between my life at home and what had happened--that I became a victim there too.  I got in a fight because a girl liked a guy that liked me.  My "friends" were horrific--aiming for social status and trying to figure out who they were themselves at that age.  Incredibly nasty, mean spirited and just ... bitches.  Though who knows what was going on with them at home, they had no idea what was happening at mine.

Eventually, I could no longer take it.  I asked my mom if we could go to a counselor to try and get our family back on track.  She spat "I'm not the one with the problem.  You guys are the ones with the problem."  I started to get angry.  I called her out when she brought home guy after guy.  I started telling my dad when we didn't have food in the house.  

Eventually my mom kicked me out.  

And it was the best thing that could have happened.

I moved in with my dad, stopped talking to my friends and started rebuilding from the ground up.   My dad traveled a lot for work and I was at home alone for weeks at a time.  I had to learn how to cook for myself, how to grocery shop, how to do laundry and how far the car could go with the gas light on.

I came home every day and relished not being yelled at.  But I was, most of the time, alone.  When my dad was in town he'd leave for work at 5 a.m. and get home at 5:30 p.m.  We'd eat dinner together but then he'd go and work in his office.  I had a lot of free time on my hands.  Looking back, it was probably the best thing for me.  I don't know that I could have survived any more pressure.

I hooked back up with an old group of friends, a few of which I had known since elementary school.  They were the same sweet girls that I grew up with and it was like coming home.   It wasn't always easy though.   There was a group of 10 of us that hung out.  9 of which had boyfriends.  Guess who didn't?  They couldn't figure out why I didn't want to date Shane or Jeff or Brian or whoever.  Because it would be, like, SO FUN ohmahgah!  There was NO WAY I was going to tell them.  On the weekends I went out to parties while they went on dates to the movies.

My senior year I was (almost!) done with parties.  I randomly ... nay, serendipitously ... found friends in three people on the speech and debate team.  Teresa and I had been in student government together my freshman year.  I think she was surprised I knew how to talk and show up to class everyday.  The four of us became fast friends and they convinced me to join the debate team.  

To this day, Ryan, Teresa and John have no idea that they helped me find my voice or the powerful effect that had on my life.  

I had been silenced up until that point.  Never able to speak what was on my mind.  Never able to question.  Never able to argue.   I banned both of my parents from coming to see me speak at events.  I brought home trophy after trophy.  And I didn't look back.  I thought I could run away from all of this forever.

It was a good run.

It allowed me to get some distance.  

Going back through this time period over the last couple of years with a therapist (because let's face it, SSG NEEDED one ... someday she'll tell you what led her there.  THAT'S a fun story too.) was, in a way, more difficult than the two years I mention above.  At that time, I blamed myself.  I honestly felt everything that happened to me was my fault.  So it was simple.  I worked on becoming the best person I could be.  I tried to be the perfect daughter, friend, girlfriend, student and employee.

As an adult, it took a long time for me to even admit that my parents did anything wrong.  It took me even longer to believe that I didn't play a part in it.  Same with the sexual assault.  Where that might seem easy ... to place responsibility where it belongs ... it SHATTERED me.  If I didn't deserve those things, and they still happened, what was lurking out there waiting to get me again?  My entire belief system had to be looked at, evaluated and redefined. 

I am almost at the end of that very long road.  And have found it an awful lot like breaking my elbow.  Which I managed to do a few years ago.  (So NOT serendipitous.)  My elbow was shattered.  It required surgery and tons of physical therapy.  But I made it back to 100% range of motion despite my doctors saying I couldn't.  "You'll still have that scar though,"  they said apologetically.

"I'm fine," I smiled at them.

I already knew that even the deepest of wounds can heal ... and the scars they leave behind?  They eventually fade too.

11 comments:

Living on the Spit said...

The uncanny thing here, is you realize through sharing, that you are never alone...you and I ARE sisters...we have walked a similar walk and while I am not reaady to discuss it openly...I am close to gaining that cleansing breath where I can just say, this is what happened to me in my past.

I know "today" that what happened was not my fault and that my father did everything he could to protect me from her wrath except takes me away and leave her.

I traveled a very long road to get to where I am at today. To be able to say, the past is the past and I choose to leave it there.

Read the lyrics to DMX's "Slippin"...these words saved me from just checking out of hotel life more times then I care to count...(there I go with that rap thing again...I am so not that cool.)

I love ya, sister...and truly what does not kill you makes you stronger. Of course, you already know that...

Marlene

Fabulously Broke said...

I got shivers just reading that.

I didn't grow up or share any similar experiences other than my parents being neglectful.. but that was really powerful.

You're a stronger woman for it today, and that's what counts.

Fabulously Broke in the City

"Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver."

Molly said...

To pour yourself out like this is a sign of immense strength. You didn't have to...but you did. Thanks for sharing, for sending your light out into someone else's darkness, because who knows who might be reading your story and learning they aren't alone.

It is crushing to learn that one's parents aren't superhuman but flawed human, particularly when that realization hits far sooner/younger than it is supposed to.

belladella said...

Thank you.

kimmyk said...

alot of people in this world share your experience.

i like to think that who i am today is because i chose a different life and left all that behind me.

my relationship with my mother is a good one now. i've forgiven her and her craziness. i honestly dont believe she knew how to be a good mother. but then again, no one ever does. you just do what you think is best. sometimes her best wasn't that great...but, i'm okay now. just like you.

kudos to you for talking about it. i think i've spoke about it once on my blog...and honestly not sure why i opened that can of worms that day...it is good to purge...

what happened to you your freshman year is heartbreaking...i have a daughter and i think about how differently her life is compared to mine at the time. hard to explain.

how is your relationship with your parents now?

(Sometimes!) Serendipitous Girl said...

Hey Ladies! What a nice surprise to come home to this afternoon. THANK YOU! I wrestled with the idea of turning off comments to erase the anxiety of readers wondering "Ohmahgah, do I say something? Do I not? I'm uncomfortable and never coming back! Ahhh!" (Which by the way is EXACTLY what I SSG does in these types of situations, so trust me, she GETS it.)

I'm glad I left them open. Someone might happen upon this post at a time when they need it most. And I know that your comments will strengthen them as they have done me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And to answer your question Kimmy--I am currently not speaking to either of my parents. That might change eventually, but it's the right spot for me now.

kimmyk said...

my mom told me something when i was going through a rough time when i was in my early 20's emotionally and it has stuck with me every since...she said "you can't save the world kimmy, you can only save yourself." i believe that's true-and in your case or the case of anyone going through a rough time....you gotta take care of yourself and if that means cutting the people out of your life that bring the pain? well then, ya gotta do what you gotta do.

i haven't spoken to my sister in almost 3 years now because that's all she does. sadly, most of it stems from our childhood and her inability to let the past stay in the past and move on. she finds her happiness in bringing it up and dwelling on it and playing the blame game. it's too much emotionally to deal with those people ya know? best to cut 'em loose.

as such the case i'm sure with your folks.

i'm sure it's hard at times, but you sound like a strong girl...and i think (hope) that you'll be okay.

The Incredible Woody said...

You are my new hero. I want to be at a point where I can place the blame where it belongs. Sadly, I still place it mostly on myself and there are issues from my childhood that make me very, very angry. Thank you for sharing.

Candy said...

What an incredible story, SSG. I have had a girlcrush on you for a long time but now I just wanna come out and paint your toe nails.

Seriously, though, I am always astonished by what the human spirit can handle and use to its advantage. I know it's been a long road for you, but you really are amazing, and kudos to you for being more than what that story could have made you.

Suz Broughton said...

You are a brave person. Not just for writing this, but for facing it long ago. I don't know what to say other than "I'm proud of you." That sounds silly. But I am.

Predo said...

This is not new to me. You have shared this already, but I did not dream it would be in writing. I am very proud of you!

You are amazing! I think we have to look back on our past and embrace it for what it made us become. We can not worry or hide from it anymore. I love you Princess, and you are never alone as long as I am alive!

Big hugs to you!!!!