I'm not witty or quick with my words and sometimes, I admit it, I'm entirely too verbose. Given that my childhood has several horror stories in it, I tend to not chat about my youth too terribly often. This past week, I was asked to revisit my youth and figure out how to tell and scrap about my childhood without sharing a photograph. This is a journey I took with a therapist nearly 19 years ago.
It began one cold December evening when I lost my sanity over my oldest son's refusal to do as I asked him. I came very very close to physically abusing him, and it wasn't the first time. Now mind you, my second son was not quite 6 months old and yes, I was suffering from Post Partum Depression, but that is no reason for physically abusing my child.
I removed myself from the situation and went upstairs to cry and try to figure out where in the world this behavior was coming from. It was the beginning of a lengthy and difficult journey that went way way back to when I was 8 years old.
I share this journey in bits and pieces sometimes, when I think it will be helpful to someone, or when it shows the mind's ability to heal from traumatic events. It shows how love and faith can heal the most damaged of spirits.
If you're interested, I'm going to relay this journey into my past with you. It's not all bad, it's not all good and some parts of it are downright scary. I've been purposefully sketchy, not naming the names of the participants because it just doesn't matter any more and I don't want to answer any questions from anyone else. Nor do I want to incite speculation as to the participants. After all, it's my story, I have that license, don't I?
Grab a coffee and put on your glasses. I thank you for reading if you're inclined to do so.
I am eight years old. My sister and I have lived in our new home for just a few months. We have made friends with a number of neighbors, boys and girls, mostly boys. One boy in particular has two much older brothers. One of them is a drug addict. Daddy and his dad are becoming friends. Momma and his mom are also becoming friends. Truth be told, because we have a pool in our yard, we made a lot of friends. Most of them were really genuine.
It was nice to see my daddy relaxing after being away so much in his other job in the town from which we just moved. We were a happy family. Mom and Dad loved each other dearly. They loved us girls and were devoted to teaching us all the lessons life had for us, showing us how to learn, grow and thrive in a changing world. They took us to church where my sister and I both sang in the girl's choir and attended Sunday School. My parents were very involved in the church. They took us on family vacations and we lived life surrounded by love. My parents were exceptional people and excellent role models.
My school was not in the greatest area of our part of the city but it was a good school. Mom and Dad were careful to purchase our new home in a good school district. Typical of most "chubby" girls, I was picked on in the usual way, but so was my very tiny petite sister. When I was belittled for being chubby, she was belittled for being small. It was all okay though, because we had each other. When it was too hard to play with the neighborhood kids, we happily played with our dolls, played school, colored and practiced our piano lessons. Momma was a piano teacher so she was pretty relentless when it came to our practicing.
Our life was good. We were happy. All was right in our world.
Until the day one of the boys decided to play ugly. You see, he was feeling quite threatened at home. I, of course, didn't know this. But as an adult, I figured it out thanks to a wonderful therapist. He was physically and verbally abusive to all us girls in the neighborhood and could be to the boys who were less that physically fit too. We all tried to be nice and he was close in proximity to our house, so he was there often. One day, he was playing in our room while my mom was teaching piano . Without being too graphic, he demanded I do things and if I didn't, he would get his drug addict brother to kill my parents.
We all knew that his bigger brother was a drug addict. After all, he was a hippie and weren't all hippies drug addicts? We had found his needles and his funny cigarettes and his pills. We had seen his graffitti and his clothes and had smelled his sickeningly sweet oder. The look in this boys eyes, as he made his demands of me, told me he was serious.
While you may be imagining the worst, don't. It wasn't rape. It was close, but it wasn't rape. After all, he was only 8 years old too. How? you ask. How is it possible for someone so young to abuse someone the same age as he? When he threatens the life of the people you love most in the world, you do what he asks you too. When you're little, you depend on those people. They are your world. They take care of you when you're little and they love you when you're hurt and they kiss your boo boo's and make everything better. That is if you're one of the lucky ones, and I was. I couldn't imagine someone killing my parents, so I did what I was told to do, thinking it would all be over soon and it would go away.
But it didn't go away. It stayed around for five long horrible years. Almost daily for 5 years, I was demanded to do and to endure unimaginable things and the threats got worse. When his older brother overdosed on heroin, my dad was the one they called to help. His discovery of the needle and the drugs at that moment solidified my fear. The idea that this person was capable of obtaining the means by which to kill my parents had now been revealed to my parents. My next fear, and yet hope, was that they would discover what was happening upstairs in their own home so it would all stop. Unfortunately, that never happened.
In the mean time, I was growing up, my body changing, my heart and mind wanting and wishing to be somewhere else. Being away from home was a blessing, and fortunately, my being away from home consisted of two places "he" could never be. We went to church every Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. Sundays were Choir, Sunday School and church. Monday's were choir rehearsal and Wednesdays were piano lessons. Their family didn't go to church, much less that "stuffy place downtown", so I was safe there. The only other place he couldn't bother me was school. I loved school. School generally loved me too. I had lots of friends and while I still got teased it wasn't for being chubby. Now it was because I was built like a grown woman. Somewhat tall and buxom with curves that developed way too soon along with the other things a "woman" gets too. All received by this little girl way before her mind was ready for the hormonal rages my body went through. But at school, I could just be me. I could play my flute, I could be involved in school activities and get home late and he couldn't bother me.
It was the weekends and most afternoons I despised. I felt unsafe no matter where I was when I wasn't at church or at school. I felt like the world could see through the exterior of the little girl struggling into my mind and it made me suspicious and weepy. I began to get paranoid and sad but nobody wanted to see a little girl cry so I was always told, "There's no reason you should be crying. You should stop that." Mom was always wonderful about it, asking me questions about what was wrong and stroking my hair. Giving me momma hugs that only momma's can give the right way was a forte. She was the best momma. I love her so so much and miss her dreadfully. But momma couldn't help me. Momma would die if I told her what was happening, so I just kept my mouth quiet while my heart continued to cry.
And so, as I matured and grew, so did the intensity of the abuse. It got more emotionally abusive as he became more filled with rage. I often wonder, even now, what could have caused such rage in a child so young. The only thing my therapist and I could discern was that he was abused also. While I tried to always comply, there were just some things I couldn't do. I refused his demands on more than one occasion and his anger was terrifying. I was always careful to stay close to my parents during these times so he couldn't get near them. If they went to "his" house to visit with the other parents, I always went with them and stayed right by their sides. I wouldn't let them out of my sight. They claimed I was being clingy and I should go off and play. It typically took a good bit of coaxing to get me to leave their sides, but eventually, I would go and continue wandering in occasionally to put my mind at ease that both momma and daddy were alive and well.
When I was 13, we moved. We moved into a completely different school district and I wss free! "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I am free at last!!" These words were on the tongues of everyone during those times and it became a phrase of significant importance to me. No one could know how happy I was. That year in school was wonderful. While I was the new kid on the block, my musical skills brought me some much needed positive attention and recognition. I excelled and became part of the All County Bands and went to state level competitions for my musical skills with my flute. Momma and Daddy bought me a new flute, trading in the gorgeous sterling flute that had been my mom's for this brand new model that held the pitch better and longer.
I was doing well in school and at church and my vocal skills were improving along as my body and voice matured. Music became the focus of every day. I was still taking piano lessons and practicing both piano and flute as well as continuing with the Church choir. We were all doing well and we were all happy. While being a young lady during the era of "Free Love", "Making Peace, Not War", teens smoking at school, marijuana and speed and a rise in teen aged sex, I was happy... I was faithful to my Lord and growing in my faith. I just felt as if God had finally delivered me from all the horrible things the last 5 years had brought me through. I learned in church that God heals all your wounds if you ask him to come into your life, repent of your sins in all earnestness. I wasn't sure what I had done to deserve what had happened to me, but I was sure that God wasn't upset with me. The one thing I couldn't get away from was the feeling that I'd never ever, no matter how much I washed or showered or took care of myself, I'd never be clean or free of the reminder that my body was nasty. Just when I'd start to feel good about myself, someone would say something derogatory and those feelings of unworthiness, being dirty, lacking in what ever social graces I needed to survive the new world of beautiful people, would come flooding back and I'd retreat into my own world. Each night, I'd pray that God would take these things away from me.
They always came back... always...
When it came time for me to enter high school, it was my sophomore year. This was in the days of experimenting with Middle Schools, covering grades 7,8 and 9 as opposed to Jr. High schools covering grades 6,7 and 8. I had begun in the Jr. High system but had moved to a middle school, so I was not going to high school until 10th grade. I was further told that we would be starting marching band practice before school started so we would be ready to march in the opening football game. This was a most exciting thing for me and I was so thrilled to become a member of a new "more sophisticated world" of High School.
We began practice in early August. The hot sweltering sun helped me to maintain a more svelte body style as I got in even better shape learning to hold my body straight, my arms high and march. We marched on the streets in the neighboring subdivisions to the high school. We marched on the football field. We marched on the track. We marched in the auditorium. You name a place near or on the property and we marched on it. Our legs had shin splints and our stomachs were tight. Our lungs were hot with the air outside and the workout they got playing while we marched. I LOVED HIGH SCHOOL!!
About three weeks into marching band practice, I received a coveted invitation to a gathering after practice to go to Pizza Hut with the "in crowd" of the band. This crowd was filled with upper classmen and sophisticates. The captain of the wrestling team was handsome and a senior and first chair tuba. The trumpet section had a gorgeous first chair who was in the Key Club and very popular. The friends I'd made in the middle school band were among this crowd of new "inductees". And friends I'd made at All County band were in too. I felt like I'd arrived! Momma and Daddy said I could go but that if I were in need of a ride because my friend from our neighborhood couldn't bring me home by 10, I should call and they would come and get me.
It's a shame I had become a trusting person after only two years. I admit it. I wanted to be a part of something so badly, I had become reckless. I trusted this guy, the first chair tuba player. I thought he was handsome and I knew he was charming with good manners, after all he had opened the door to me when we entered the restaurant and he held my chair for me at the table. Only good boys raised in good homes did that kind of thing. And he was a senior! And Captain of the Wrestling team! And he was talking to me! I was elated to say the least. It might even be an understatement.
It didn't even cross my mind to object when he offered me a ride home. Didn't occur to me it would be something wrong. I had him know I had to be home by 10 and when 9:30 rolled around he reminded me we needed to get me home by 10. Even though I was only 10 minutes from home, I thought he was great for being so conscientious. I happily told my friends good night, I'd see them tomorrow and got up to leave with the person I thought was very sweet and kind.
He drove me home "the back way". He took me down a winding road that yes, led to my neighborhood but was more undeveloped than the main thoroughfare off which my neighborhood turned. About half way home, he took out a baggie of something and put it in his mouth. It smelled nasty at first, too sweet and eerily nasty pungent too. He began to chew it and I knew his prospects of getting a thank you kiss on the cheek good night had just ended because I wouldn't get near that smell. His prospects of a future date were slimming. When I asked him what that smell was, he nonchalantly replied, "Pot. Want some? Most people smoke it but I chew it. Not as much of a high but it's good enough for me."
Drugs??!! Are you kidding me? I thought I'd escaped all that! Fear began to well up inside me and I think he could probably smell it. He began to laugh and berate me for being so naive. When he asked me about my experience with drugs he was hysterical over the fact I had never tried a single one, nor did I choose to. I did tell him that the little exposure I had had to drugs was not good and I had no intention of becoming involved with someone who had a "habit" of chewing them or ingesting them. I suppose my "uppity air", as he called it, made him mad. He got nasty and told me that it wasn't my decision. After all I was JUST a sophomore and he was a senior and he dated who he wanted. It wasn't my choice. My fear started to get stronger and I breathed a sigh of relief when the turn to my house came up on the left side of the road. But he didn't turn left. He turned right.
He turned into a school parking lot. He got out of the car grabbing something from the back seat as he did. I sat in my seat refusing to get out. He put a blanket on the ground and came to my side of his car. I refused to get out. He yanked me out of the car and threw me onto the blanket. No amount of fighting him helped. It just made him determined. So I just stopped struggling and laid there. At least my arms and wrists and mouth and neck and legs weren't being beaten or held or strangled any more. The skin burns on my body wouldn't be visible for a few days but I could feel the burning under his grasp like fire from a hot campfire. If I stopped struggling, there was only so much pain involved. While he left me pure one way, he nearly choked me to death the other way. All the horror of my childhood welled up and exploded in my head. I was 15 years old.
When he was through, he told me if I ever told anyone what had happened he'd kill me and my family. That he was a black belt in Karate and had a license to use and carry nunchucks and would use them if he had to. I had no idea what he was talking about but those threats were very real. I'd lived with them for years. The idea that this had begun again made me acutely aware that I must be the ugliest, filthiest, most unworthy girl that was ever born. How could two such wonderful people as my mom and dad have had such a horrible daughter. What ever I had done, I must have been pretty bad to have deserved all the retribution I was getting.
This horrible person violated me with his hands and his mouth and his body for five months. In school, on school property, at band rehearsals he would track me down and lock us in a room near the band room and do what ever he wanted to me. He was horrible. And I grew more and more weepy, and more and more unsure of my self, and more and more sad. Just simply sad. I couldn't let people see me sad. If I did, they'd ask questions. If I cried in front of my friends, I'd blame it on a sad movie I remembered, or I'd make up a story about someone I knew being hurt. I'd pretend to be tired. I'd pretend to be worried about something. I told no one. He would continue making remarks about how easy it would be to kill me, how simple it would be to break my sister's neck because she was so tiny. She would be no match for his strength. He would tell me my mom was really pretty and how he bet she was a fine piece of "..."; how he would rape her if he'd get half a chance. So I told no one... I lived in fear and silence once again.
One night he came to my house when my parents were away. I was trying to break it off with him and was talking to him in his car. He got rough with me and told me to shut up and kiss him. I refused. He took his nunchucks out from under the seat and told me if I didn't, he'd go after my sister. About that time, my sister and her friend were walking down the street and saw me in the car with him. She saw him being rough with me. She was MAD! As tiny as she was, she was huge in fight. She and her friend jumped onto the car and started rocking it up and down to get him to leave me alone. He jumped out of the car and started swinging the nunchucks in the air screaming I'll get you! I'll kill you you little bitch! She was little and quick. He was MUCH bigger and high. She got away from him, thank God, and locked herself and her friend in the house. I escaped his car and ran and hid at a neighbors house where I watched him hit a tree in my yard with his nunchuck over and over, destroying the bard, and cried.
The following day, he broke up with me at school telling me he was setting his sights on my best friend. She was darling and pure as the driven snow and I told him if he hurt her the way he hurt me I would tell her father what he did to me and then we'd see what would happen. It was an idle threat and he knew it. He tried to go out with her repeatedly over the next five or six weeks. Thank God her father didn't trust anyone 18 asking out his 15 year old daughter and refused to allow her to go anywhere with him unaccompanied by her older sister and her boyfriend. They never did go anywhere together. Thank God.
I knew then that it was my fault. I was the dirty one and for some reason, I deserved what had happened to me. I prayed about it, a lot... all the time. I prayed that God would take these terrible things from me and make me clean.
When I was 16, I had an ethereal experience at camp. Five other people and I were visited by the presence of Christ. We SAW Christ in the chapel and the only thing we could do was pray, cry and thank Him for sending his Son so that we would be freed of all that was unholy in us. I knew then that God had forgiven me for what ever I had done and I would be fine. Things got better at home. I got much better in school. i was less moody and more active. I began to make new and better friends and my jr. year I met the guy who would be the love of my life.
I went through a series of bad choices, depressions, abuse of my body with anexoria, bulimia and other destructive behavior with alcohol. I didn't like myself, much less love myself but I was okay. After all, I was the happy one! I was Ann Landers and Dear Abby for everyone. i was the one who gave the best advice, had the best shoulders and was the best listener. I was the one everyone, my friends and my aquaintances and people I'd never met came to for help. I must be okay, I had friends everywhere!
So why was I so so sad? What could have grabbed me so hard inside that on that day, that sad, cold day could I have nearly hurt someone so small, so precious and so helpless. How could I, lover of all children, favorite most well paid and most sought after baby sitter for 10 years, have come so close to abusing my darling little boy. How is that possible? It was absolutely inconceivable to me that I could have done it, but I had. The Post Partum had dredged up all the unresolved events and feelings from the past
I spent the next three years in therapy. It was the greatest three years of my life. It was the road of self discovery and to forgiveness. It was a path of maturation to the adult I should have been rather than the little girl who had already graduated college, gotten married and had a child. I became the mother I had always wanted to be. I was successful in my career, a good and loving mother and a good wife.
I have since had a lot of obstacles in the road and lots of trials too. But my faith is unwavering. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, God did NOT cause those horrible times in my life but was, as I had always known, riding on my shoulder keeping my head above water. When I'd lose my mind into the abyss of my sadness, He was there to pull me up and keep me going. He carried me when I needed it, saved my life when I didn't want it any more and delighted me with a beautiful baby boy, a second baby boy and a joy inside my that I thought had been extinguished. Years later, he blessed me with a second chance, another beautiful child and even more joy. Yep, I've been through the gammit. So much more than is written here. But through it all, the one thing that has carried me was the knowledge that God put me here for a reason. There are lessons that I learned through my life that has empowered me to help others who have suffered as well, empowered me to learn how to take control of my life in productive ways, empowered me to love others and to know I'm worthy of and can now allow myself to be loved.
I am a child of God. I am lovable, joy filled, intelligent, wise, somewhat witty, charming, beautiful, Child of God. No matter how horrible my childhood and youth, no matter what anyone has done to me, no matter what illness takes my body away from me, no one can take away the freedom I have in knowing GOD is always there for me. While He does not lead me to all the situations in my life, with my faith and trust, He will lead me THROUGH it all.
Today I am strong. Today I have a strong open communication with my children. Today I've been able to effectively counsel young people, male and female, who have encountered similar atrocities as I have. Today I am a woman who is worthy. Today is today and a gift for me to go forward, fight, be strong, stand up, be heard and be loved.
I'm married. My relationship with my children is strong and pure. My love for them is stronger and deeper than anything I have ever known. My children tell me everything and they trust me with the information. I should have trusted my mom and dad. I should have. But that was then and this is now. I can't change the past, only learn from it. Today, I have such an amazing faith, a loving relationship with the Lord that has been growing since I was a very young child.
Thanks to God, I am loved, I am blessed and I am one of the lucky ones........