I’ve been wounded once again. Through this
wounding I am finding my strength and my voice again. When you grow up in a
home with mentally ill parents, with substance, emotional, and domestic abuse
problems, you learn quickly that the best way to stay out of the line
of fire is to blend into the background. To tip-toe quietly, being careful not
to disturb or make waves.
This is an extremely difficult thing for a
child to learn, but you do what you must survive. My childhood was lonely, my
mom was in bed asleep every night by 6 or 7. The house was always dark and my
brother, sister and I were left to our own devices. Today my past still lingers
in ways that you would never expect. Even as an environmentally aware adult, I
turn on every light in house at night because my home, though equipped with a
loving boyfriend and a lap dog, will still feel lonely if it's dark.
As a woman and a painter, I so badly want to
be seen but my deepest-rooted survival tactic is to be invisible. This drive to
be invisible has kept me from real friendships, from excelling at my passions,
and has left me with a need to compete, and an explosive temper.
There are scars that I have chosen to keep hidden over the years, for fear of
“rocking the boat”. I chose to speak about the sexual abuse in my childhood for
the first time when I was 18. I spoke only because one of my siblings and I
went through this experience together and I was led to believe they desperately
I would throw my body onto hot coals if it
would keep my younger siblings from suffering. Growing up, all we had was each
other. Up until I was 13(when we were separated into foster homes) my
11-year-old sister would climb into my twin bed with me every night and my
11-year-old brother would sneak into the room and make his bed on the floor
beside us. Though irritated as a teenager I never turned them away, even though
two people in such a small bed was quite uncomfortable. This was our nightly
Believing that one of them was hurting was
the only circumstance that could motivate me to speak the truth. I confided in
my mother about the abuse in hopes that my brother, who I loved so much,
would get the help that he needed. This was a life defining moment for me. This
moment would shape how viewed myself, other people, and how I viewed the
world. My thoughts and actions would be molded into the person that I would
spend my 20’s being. I spoke my truth, and after that moment the abuse was
never spoken of again and I would spend the next 10 years being called a liar,
a drama queen and an attention whore.
These labels stuck with me over the years but
the events that left me with these labels faded. I thought they were long
forgotten until about a month ago my mother started asking questions about the
abuse again. I was caught so off guard; I can’t even remember the words she
spoke. In that moment, my faced flushed with heat, the wine glass I held so
delicately in my hand shattered to pieces, and I felt like I was floating
outside of my body. Just above the surface of my head my soul sat and watched
the conversation play out as if I was watching it happen to someone else. It
was a complicated conversation but in the end, I heard the words that for so
long I had been desperate to hear. “I believe you.” “I believe you.” I thought
these three words would be the final piece to my healing puzzle, that I spent
so much energy trying to solve. But nothing in life ever works out the way you
These words left me with more anger than I
had felt in years. The next day I took my first mental health day, ever. I took
time to process my anger. I sifted through my feelings looking for a root cause
like I was panning for gold. Finally, it rose to the surface, glimmering with
intensity and depth. I realized I was angry because she took something from me.
She took my voice, my vulnerability, and my truth. There had been a piece
ripped out of me and I wasn’t even aware of it. For the first time, I realized
why I share my experiences through blogs or artwork and then delete them from
social media the following morning. Why I analyze every conversation, every
word I spoke the morning after being out with friends. Why after being
vulnerable I may ignore the situation, text messages, or even seeing the person
for days or weeks afterward. Part of me was expecting to be called a “liar”, “a
drama queen”, or an “attention whore”.
After looking at these wounds and accepting
them, I watched them glide away like the leaf boats I would race in the runoff
water on rainy days as child. I thought that was the end of this woven line in
the tapestry of my life story, but just when you think you are over the hill
and it’s a period of rest there is yet another hill that pops up under your
feet and you are expected to climb once again.
Four days ago, I had a nice conversation with
my mother. I was dead heading the blooms in my container garden in the small
backyard attached to my apartment. We discussed my plants and the plants my
grandmother is growing in her garden this year. My mom brought up the past and
suddenly a switch flipped, so abruptly that I stood in silence for a moment
trying process what was happening. The label “liar” had resurfaced. Just like
that wine glass I had shattered a month before, so did my heart. I tried to
reason with her, explaining that I had nothing to gain, that I looked like a
freak by admitting to the sick, stomach curdling truth. I quickly realized
there was no reasoning with her and got off the phone in hopes of remedying the
direction of the conversation.
I awoke to her phone call at 6:20 the
following morning. She stated that she was going to call my brother to get the
story straight. I tried to tell her that it’s painful for him and that she
should let him be, she hung up on me. I text my brother and explained the
situation. His replies consisted of “I don’t dwell on the past” and “Who
cares”. I let him be, just like my mother should have. I got out of bed, I pulled
myself together, wiped away my tears, and locked away my anger as I prepared to
go into the office for the day.
After going through my morning ritual of
detangling my hair and applying various make-up products, I wandered out to my
car. With each step I took, the urge to numb my pain grew. So badly I wanted to
go out, drink, and pretend like this wasn’t happening. I wanted to pretend that
the abuse hadn’t happened. But I already knew that ignoring wounds causes
infection, and infection causes sickness, in this case sickness of the soul. I
knew in that moment, that if I didn’t make a conscious choice, to care for my
wounds I would end up reflection of her. Like my childhood of pain and abuse had
already reflected her childhood of pain and abuse
It was a busy morning; I took command and
barked orders at the Tier I Technical Support Specialists, trying contain my
anger and simultaneously control the technical problems occurring that morning.
All the while my brother ducked my mother’s phone calls knowing her end goal.
With every missed phone call to my brother, she taunted me through text telling
me that she was going to get the truth and saying she was the “queen bitch”,
whatever that means…. I did my best to ignore her and then my cell rang. I
gazed down at the caller ID and I felt my stomach drop, almost hearing it thud
like it was hitting the floor. My baby sister was on the other line,
I stepped outside and answered the call,
tears already welling up inside of me. She said “Mom called me. She left an
angry message saying that you were making accusations about sexual abuse and
that you were a liar. What is she talking about?” All the strength that I had
spent the morning gathering, dissipated into thin air. I had spent the last
twenty-three years protecting my baby sister from the ugliness that she was not
fated to experience, and now she knew. I lost all self-control and I broke down.
I spent forty-five minutes crying in my office parking lot, before packing it
in and telling my staff members that I was going to work from home for the rest
of the day.
I left work, stopped for cigarettes and TWO
Jack Links Beef and Cheddar Sticks. Sometimes the worst things for you, can
bring the most comfort. I chomped down on my beef and cheddar sticks on the
drive home feeling again numb and like my body did not belong to me. When I got
home I slept, my staff knew to call me if they needed me.
When I woke up there were text messages
informing me that older brother was now aware. Something inside of me either
clicked or snapped, I’m not sure which one. I told my mom that I didn’t care
anymore who she told. That she could tell the world, all my siblings, my
grandparents, my aunt’s and uncle’s. I told her it was the truth. I told her
that she was selfish, that she only cared about her feelings, and that this
bothered her so much because in her mind, it equaled a bad mother.
The truth is she wasn’t a bad mother; she was
just too wrapped up in her own story to see what was happening. To see that she
had a severely depressed thirteen-year-old. An 11-year old boy that was getting
in fights all the time, and smoking weed. Children that were failing out of
school. Children that would rather sleep with their older sister than with their
own mother when they were scared in the night. I told her she was so wrapped up
in herself that she wasn’t there when we needed her. I told her that even in my
adulthood I’m still caring for her wants and needs and bending to her feelings.
I told her that she could tell herself whatever she needed too, to make herself
feel better, even if it meant calling me a liar. I told her that our
relationship always starts off feeling good and then come full circle, it ends
up with her hurting me. I told her that we didn’t have a relationship, that we
had a perpetual cycle of damage, that I no longer wanted to participate in.
As painful as it was, for the first time in
my life I did not blend into the background like a quiet wall flower. I did not
fear “rocking the boat”, or standing in the line of fire. I found my voice, I
stood in my truth, and I did not give two fucks about what her or anyone else
thought. My meditation teacher, Sarah Entrup, once told me that I would find
liberation through my mother. It wasn’t in the way that I expected, but I have
been liberated. I’m finding My Way. My Voice. My Strength.
@elloblog #liberation #blog #mother #wound
#child #abuse #voice #struggle #growth #healing #journey