My life story? It starts and ends with: self-hate. I’m so full of self-hate: everything about myself, everything I am.
I’m the youngest of three children. My dad was a blue-collar worker who never got ahead. My mother was mentally ill and never worked. We weren’t poor, but we were free-lunch people living above our means in a middle-class community where we didn’t fit.
I never fit in.
Home was always pretty dreadful. Mom was mercurial (aka borderline), and also diagnosed schizophrenic, although that was later modified to bipolar with psychosis. Mental health medications back then weren’t very sophisticated; all she had available were tranquilizers which led to horrible rebounds when she used them.
Dad was inept; life overpowered him at every turn. I think – or maybe I just like to think – he did care. Don’t say “Stockholm syndrome” to me – it’s been said, and it doesn’t matter. I feel how I feel. I had a chance for caring, and I never got it right.
She was narcissistic and demanding. Dad was either at work or falling asleep on his feet. (Escapism plus undiagnosed sleep apnea is my best guess). Mom made sure we were clothed and fed and the laundry was done, except when she was “sick” and then the chores were mine to do. When she didn’t get her way, she screamed. A lot. And I don’t mean yelled – I mean screamed.
We had a three bedroom, one bath house. With a basement (but I’ll get to that later). My brothers shared a room, and when chaos would erupt, they’d go to their room and tune it out. I’ll never know how they did that. I never could. Somewhere along the way – and I’m guessing as young as 4 or 5, I appointed myself the fix-it person. I thought I was so smart; I was anything but. Because then began a long, painful game of whack-a-mole. You’d think a person would learn – but, nope.
See, I was always smart. I could see what would mollify mom, when no one, particularly dad, could. I would make suggestions – and they would work, until he’d say they came from me, and she was off on another screaming jag about how I care and he doesn’t. I became a weapon she could hurl at him, accuse him of how bad a person he was with—is it any wonder he must have hated me at times? I would have.
So their fights had a new dimension. I know she’d had broken bones and been in a coma once before I came along – once I joined the triangle, I was the one getting hurt. Whack-a-mole, as I said, and I kept poking my head up for the game. So much for being the smart one.
My oldest brother had it pretty hard, also. Not that I feel bad for him — he was a sociopath by nature. Not only did he love stirring their pot, he also delighted in torturing me. Once threatened to slit my wrists with a knife and fake a suicide note. Used to pop up in my room in the middle of the night, wake me, and say, “Hi sis,” just grinning. At some point, I got brave, angry, taunted him that he would never use it. He killed my pet hamsters in front of me as proof.
And then there was my middle brother. To this day, my friends all identify him “as the good one” and supposedly we were the two who escaped all the madness. Uh huh.
For some reason, he never got touched. No bruises, no broken bones, hardly any discipline at all. Looking back, I think that was hard on him although at the time I wouldn’t have said that. To him, it must have been like he didn’t exist. Me, at least I was sometimes on mom’s pedestal (when I was care-taking her). He spent most of his adolescence checked out; high on drugs, sloshing in alcohol. Invisible.
I hero-worshipped him. From as young as I can remember, I followed his every move. He used to get so mad at me mimicking him. I wasn’t trying to annoy him. I was trying to emulate him. I’d have done anything for him.
I can’t tell you how it began, other than flashes of memory. Standing on the stairs leading to the basement, and him kissing me. Being confused, but kissing back.
Being shown porn magazines – before or after the kissing, I couldn’t tell you. Maybe both.
Both of us naked. Performing oral sex on him. And then the actual sex. I hated it. I hated it with everything I was, and yet I went along with it. Couldn’t tell you why, wish with every fiber of my being I could. But I didn’t fight, and I didn’t say no, and I carried out a charade – letting him believe our activities were mutual.
Just writing that still takes my breath away. There’s the core of the self-hate.
Sometimes I would try to provide enough friction with just my thighs, keep him from entering; sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
Cleaning myself after with Comet and Lava soap – scrubbing until layers of skin peeled off and scrubbing some more.
I started my periods at 12, and lived in agony from that point forward. I wasn’t very regular, and from the time one ended until the next began, I was terrified. I stole a bottle of mom’s tranquilizers – that was my answer if I’d gotten pregnant. I would not have hesitated, either. I’m as certain of that as I know the sun will rise.
Just before I entered high school, I ended up in the hospital with colitis. My stomach was always my weakness. That summer, my parents sent me away to my grandparents. When I returned, things were over and he had a real girlfriend to take into the basement. She even took up residence there for a while.
I was dead inside, though. I tried to vamp a very confused, but willing nerdy guy. I dated another guy who was strong, but with a cruel streak. He hated my dad for the things happening to me physically, but I kept him restrained from action. I also wasn’t in love with him, but unable to break up. And, once again, went along with things that I didn’t enjoy.
I’m married now, and have two grown kids. I have a wonderful husband who has not had an intimate marriage, but he accepts that. After dad died, I resumed my role as mom’s caretaker. That led to decades of turmoil, but once again I wasn’t smart enough to disentangle myself. Not until I entered therapy in my 40’s. I am trying to finally sort things out. Not sure it isn’t a lost cause, though. I learned to set boundaries and have currently cut her out of my life. And learned my middle brother is still pretty selfish – because I stopped existing for him once I stopped taking care of mom. Even our adult relationship was based on my usefulness. That’s a hard blow. See, I still didn’t know. I was still stupid. Nothing changes if nothing changes.
5 Comments Add yours
You were SO smart. You had to be in order to make it through so much. You are brave and worth so much, neither of which can even come close to being affected by the things you’ve survived.
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You are so strong and brave to share your story. Shame cannot survive in the light. You’ve stepped into the light. I pray for hope and healing for you, sister.
If you could write down these words, things are definitely not hopeless. You are brave and you survived. Sending healing thoughts. ❤️
Oh, no, sister, no — you were not stupid. You were trying to figure out how to survive in a toxic environment. Children shouldn’t have to be that kind of smart. You did the very best you could, and you’re doing the best now, learning more and more as you go. Life is not hard because you’re doing it wrong, life is just HARD. Thank you for your courage in sharing your story here.
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You are a brave and resilient soul. Bless you. ❤