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A card came in the mail from my mother the other day. I pulled it out of the mailbox while sitting in my car, and then sat in the driveway looking at her handwriting on the front of the envelope. It felt thick, like there might be money or a gift card in it. I held it for a long time, so filled with different emotions, totally and completely unsure of what to do with it.
You see, it’s been 11 months since I have spoken to my mother. It has been 11 months since I have spoken to anyone in my family actually. It’s been 11 months since I was finally freed.
One of my earliest childhood memories was listening to my father put a lock on the outside of my bedroom door to lock me in. My mother didn’t want me anymore, so the next logical step would be to lock me away. I was three. The rest of my childhood was a culmination of outright physical abuse, and the just plain abusively strange.
Like the punishment I got when I was six, where I had to sit on the edge of my bed for two weeks straight, 8am to 8pm, and read the encyclopedia. If I was caught lying down, a full day would be added to my time.
Or the time I was made to cut my parents entire half acre backyard, with a pair of scissors. I ended up with third degree burns on my back, and it probably would have been much worse had a roofer a few houses down not noticed what was going on, and called the police.
Or there was my favorite time, when our family traveled down to Florida for a vacation. There was one day we were going to Universal Studios, and I was SO excited. It was 6:45 am and we were all walking through the parking lot toward our car, when my father asked me to run back and make sure the hotel room door had locked. I remember telling him that “Yeah, it locks when it shuts itself,” but he insisted that I run back and look anyways.
I ran back, verified that yes, the door was in fact (still) locked, and then ran back to the parking lot. The car was gone.
Thinking that they must have pulled around to meet me somewhere, I walked the lot for two hours until I finally accepted the reality that they had left without me. I sat outside the door of the hotel room until they came back, at 1am. I was 13.
Apparently my mother had decided that she wanted “a nice day with the children she loved.” We spent the next two days driving home, where my parents ordered that no one in the car to talk to me. When they would stop for meals or ice cream, I was instructed to stay in the car.
You see, my mother never wanted a daughter. I was damned from the minute I was born and she realized I had a vagina. Traumas from her past were passed down as my problem. In the chaos and unknowns that were my childhood, the only thing I never doubted, the only constant that I had, was the knowledge that I was not wanted. “Just go kill yourself,” was thrown around at me a lot.
“If you are not perfectly behaved tomorrow, I will send you away to a place where people will cut you up and kill you” was whispered into my ear at bedtime. Day after day when I would get beat, the only defense that I would have would be too yell back at her “One day I’ll be big, and you won’t be able to hit my anymore!” She would laugh in her maniacal laugh, look me dead in the eyes, and say “Well you aren’t big today.”
I was removed from the home several times, and at one point we were ordered to attend family counseling. After talking to us for a while, the counselor asked everyone to leave the room except for me. She didn’t waste any time before she got to the point.
“It’s my job,” she said, “to get teenagers to understand how their behavior is negatively affecting the family.”
“Oh great,” I thought, “here we go again.” But then she said something that would change the course of my life forever. “Do you ever feel like your entire family is crazy and you are the only sane one?”
“Every damn day of my life” I spouted back at her, in my sassy teenager tone.
“Well, I am really not supposed to do this, but I just can’t keep my mouth shut. You aren’t wrong. Your entire family is crazy. I have never seen so much dysfunction in my life. Your entire family is insane, and you are the only sane one. I would report this to the state, but I know that you have already been in and out of the system and that they just keep returning you to the home. My best advice to you is to remember this conversation. Remember that you are not crazy. Stay strong, and when you turn 18, get the hell out.”
I left that day, for the first time in my entire life, feeling validated. Unfortunately, I took that and decided why wait? I packed a bag and the next day I hit the streets. I lived on couches, and in cars, on benches and under the awning of a Taco Bell. I flirted for food and I worked odd jobs where I could them. When I turned 17, I met the 25-year-old man who would become my abusive husband.
I ran too fast. I ran without thinking, I made choices without planning, and I ran straight into an awful situation. It didn’t take me long to realize that the man I had married was even more of a monster then I could have ever imagined. He was so awful that I went crawling back to my parents, begging for their help. But they refused.
“You will not shame our family by getting a divorce. Maybe if you had more sex with him, he wouldn’t have to rape you. Maybe if you were a better wife, he wouldn’t have to beat you.”
I was so stupid. I believed them. If I wasn’t good enough for my parents, and I wasn’t good enough for my husband, the problem was obviously me. I did whatever I could to please them. If they said jump, I said “Yes sir, how high, and what else can I do for you.”
Eight years later, my husband disappeared. Lost in a world of sex and meth, he was gone.
I was left with a seven-month-old and a 3-year-old. I had no money, no job, no help, and no hope.
Again, I begged my parents for help. My husband was gone, I had been abandoned, and the only help that I got from my mother was a bag of frozen uncooked chicken, with the reminder that “Don’t you ever say I didn’t do anything for you.”
Over the course of the next year, I struggled to put my life back together. I was destroyed, and yet, every time I would make a little headway, they would remind me of just how little I had really accomplished. When I started a home cleaning service, I got a text message telling me “Congrats, you sure did make something of yourself, cleaning the homes of people that feel sorry for you.”
At Christmas dinner, as usual, I was asked to not eat with the family, but to play the piano instead, because it would be good ambiance and they wouldn’t have to actually look at me. When I had a little trouble losing some pregnancy weight, for my birthday they got me three cases of Slimfast.
Eventually I met a new man. He wasn’t right for me, and I knew it. But both my mother and father told me to not let him go, that I was unlikely to find anyone who could handle the mess that was me, and that this would bring redemption to the family.
So, I stayed with him. Ignored the nagging voice in my head telling me that this wasn’t right. The yearnings of my childhood convincing me that maybe this was it, this was my chance for redemption. This was my chance to prove that someone did, in fact, want me.
So again, I jumped in with both feet. And when he moved on to greener pastures, the hellish torment that unleashed itself on me came in the form of well over 300 text messages, and 40 plus voicemails, from my family, all tearing apart the person that I am. I had once again failed my family, and they weren’t going to allow me to forget it.
The turning point finally came when I agreed to let my daughter spend a little time with my mother, and she came home telling me “Grandma said you were going to hell since you got divorced, so my brother and I need to go live with her.”
I immediately called my mother, and with the spiteful cold tone that is her, she confirmed what my daughter had said. “Your father and I have decided that you are in no position to parent your children. You are not raising them in the Christian way, and we can give them a better chance. We are going to go to court and try to get custody of them.”
That was it. I had absolutely had it. I might not be a lot of things, but the one thing I am, the one thing I am certain of, is that I am a damn good mother. And here are two people who locked me in a closet, have been in and out of mental hospitals, have beat me until I bled, locked me outside in the snow with no shoes or socks, abandon me in another state, claiming that they are better parents then me? Oh hell no.
I made a choice.
I disowned my family. I stopped talking to them completely. There was no big parting of ways, no big discussion, I just deleted their numbers from my phone, and I had the phone company block their incoming calls. When my mother finally got a hold of me, wanting to make sure her grandchildren were alive, I told her that I was through with them. That I had had enough. That I was responsible for my own bad decisions, but that they had led me to them. That they never equipped me with the skills, or self esteem to be anything but a total mess, and that I needed to figure things out on my own, without their twisted advice. That I was ready to be the person that I was meant to be, and that I couldn’t do that with them in my life.
My mom cried. Begged me to let her see the children. She told me that I was right, she had never loved me, and she didn’t want a relationship with me, but that she wanted my kids. I told her if she really loved them, if she really wanted what was best for them, that I needed her to let me go. That I needed her to let me be the mother that they needed. And then I hung up the phone.
These days I get letters. I don’t open them. I know her enough to know that she plays twisted mind games with me. Whatever she is sending me is just part of a greater plan to draw me back into her life. Like an abuser throwing crumbs at a puppy she just kicked, watching the puppy be oh so grateful for the little snack and show of affection.
The loss is apparent. I spend holidays alone. I have no family to call when I need help. I know that if something bad happens to me, I have no back-up plan. But I have to keep reminding myself that there never was. The only thing that was ever there was the idea of a family, but that was always just a mirage. It is strange when people ask about my family, and I reply that I have no family. Their look is always one of surprise and confusion. How can someone have NO family?
I have no family, and I am happier then I have ever been in my life. I have found my happiness. I have found my confidence. I have found the person that I was meant to be. And I have done it alone.
As I sat there in the car, turning the letter over and over in my hands, I took a deep breath and reaffirmed my choice. I got out of the car, and threw the letter away, unopened. I’m not willing to reopen my past.
I’m big now. You can’t hit me anymore.
More of the author's story and crazy life can be read at http://itisnotmyshametobear.blogspot.com/.