I Still Can't Cope.

I will try to keep this short and not too graphic, but I am having one of those many days where it just won't leave my mind, and today I am going to try to share it.

There is something about sharing it with strangers that makes it seem easier. I have tried to talk with family, friends, and my partner, but no one really understands. I know my partner tries, and it isn't his fault that he can't relate.

For the sake of clarity, I have 5 half-siblings from my father's first marriage. The closest to me in age is 22 years older than I am. One of them is a drug addict, one of them has cut off the entire family and moved over 1000 miles away, and three of them go about their business and claim that my father was some sort of wonder-dad, a really great person. It is my personal opinion that those three are in denial, and there are three of us who can at least face the fact that it happened. I was raised as an only child.

My father (Earl, from here on out) was a very unhappy man. He grew up with an alcoholic father who would beat him until he couldn't move. I suppose that's where he learned his own sadistic habits, and I am sure it is the trauma that led him down his path.

My earliest memory in life is of him hitting me. I was no more than three years old at the time. I think I was closer to 2 and a half. I can't get confirmation on this, because my mother swears to all she considers holy that "she doesn't remember any of it" and that "she really didn't know". Whatever the case, he came at me to hit me, and I remember being scared and running, and so he chased me, and I guess that made it worse, because he beat me until I couldn't even get a breath before he finally stopped. I don't remember what provoked it; all I remember is the stark terror I felt when I saw the look on his face and he came at me.

Naturally, it didn't stop there.

There are so many pictures of me before I learned to talk, with my parents holding me and looking like they were happy. I was an early walker and talker, though, and those kinds of pictures stopped (along with being sung to and read to and played with) around the time I could speak in complete sentences. I've noticed that trend in a lot of parents - loving their kids until they're old enough to walk around and talk, and then wanting to have as little to do with them as possible, or seeming angry with them just for being children. I think sometimes I must have been a very obnoxious toddler, because I am pretty sure that is when my parents stopped wanting to protect me or spend time with me in any way.

It wasn't long at all before I realized that no amount of keeping my mouth shut and following the very poorly outlined and always-changing "rules" would save me from his fury. He would hit me with whatever was handy - fists, hands, belts, a length of lead pipe he kept by the door in the umbrella holder.

The neighbor kid from the first place I can clearly remember us living in must have had pretty awful parents, too, because when I was only about 3 he would come over and make me have sex with him or perform oral sex for him. He wasn't much older than me, and it isn't as though he forced me through violence or intimidation - I just didn't know what it was we were doing, so I had no idea it was wrong. Earl found out and instead of going over and beating the living hell out of the kid's parents (which is exactly what I would do now), he beat me instead, and told me that I was disgusting and that Jesus was very angry with me. It was like he seriously thought that I'd gone up to this kid and seduced him. He even said something about "the nature of the beast" while he was beating me for it. I am glad that stuck out in my mind, because it led me to understand him a little better later on.

Another experience I will never forget from when I was about 4 or 5 was being at my grandparents' house (maternal grandparents) one day. We were all in the living room watching TV, and since there was not enough furniture for anyone but the adults, I was on the floor. I must have decided I'd lie down at some point. My parents had me in some silly little dress, and Earl thought I was exposing my panties intentionally, so right in front of everyone he kicked me very hard, right between the legs. I screamed out in pain, but he gave me that "shut up for your own good" look, a look I learned to be very grateful for in time because it meant I still had a chance at avoiding a beating. No one said a word.

And then there's the time when I was 5 and he decided he was going to teach me to make some sort of candy or another... I was excited, I thought he really wanted to spend time with me and have some sort of "togetherness". I have always had this habit of hair-twirling, it doesn't seem to be triggered by anything, but at some point I guess I started doing it and a piece of my hair fell into the candy he was concocting as it sat on the baking sheet. I reached down to pull it out and throw it away, and he grabbed my hand and twisted it all up and knocked me to the floor, where I was unconscious for an amount of time that, of course, I cannot to this day be sure of. He fractured my wrist - for the first time.

He must have loved twisting that hand, because he ended up fracturing it twice more. I guess that weakened the bone, because one time I was playing outside with some relative-kids and I fell down and broke it. That was, ironically, the first time the doctor asked my parents to leave the room. He asked me if my parents had anything to do with it. That being the one time they hadn't, I wasn't exactly lying when I said no, though I would have liked to tell him everything - I was too afraid.

The more I grew up and matured, the more I realized he relished the power he had over me, the fear he could inspire with just a certain look or a couple of words. He started to tell me that I was too fat, too stupid, would never amount to anything. He told me to drop out of high school and get a job at McDonald's and that if I was lucky I might "snow them into thinking I was smart enough to be a manager by the time I was 30". I wanted to go to college... I wanted to be a teacher or maybe a public defense attorney or a social worker or psychologist, but we didn't have much money at all and so I guess in his mind he was trying to prepare me for the fact that college was not in my future. I decided to finish high school, anyway. He looked disappointed more than anything else.

He didn't care who was around when he was beating me or saying/doing any number of awful and humiliating things to me. There was one time when one of the "denial siblings" was around for a visit and she SERIOUSLY asked him why he didn't beat me as often as he had them, (like she lived there and knew what was going on at all times) and so he beat me in front of her and her daughter just to show them that he'd do it.

Once, when I was about 7, my mother held me down so he could beat me because I was trying to get away. She knew about all of it, but trying to talk to her about it in my 20's, she's always denied any knowledge of it. She has what I imagine she considers an easy out, because he was disabled due to heart disease, so she was the one with a job. But she was only working 8 hour shifts and so she was home most of the time. Sometimes I think that's even worse. Sometimes I just feel sorry for her. He didn't hit her, but he wasn't very good to her, either. I do remember once when I was about 10 I complained to my mother in tears that I was always afraid of him and I didn't think I could take it anymore. Her response: "Your daddy is a good man. His health is bad and he probably isn't getting enough oxygen to his brain. He could drop dead at any moment. Don't you dare say a word against him to ANYONE, EVER!" I started hearing about how he was likely to "drop dead at any moment" pretty often, actually. Anytime I did or said anything my mother didn't like, anytime I tried to run and lock myself in a room to avoid injury, anytime I dared to "back-talk" him when he was telling me how stupid and worthless I was. That was like her mantra - "He could drop dead at any minute". It started to become mine, too. It was the only source of hope that I had. He did not drop dead.

Sometimes he would talk about beating me, giving very graphic descriptions of what would happen and how it would feel both for me and for him. He only looked happy to talk to me when he was talking to me like that. It felt dirty. He never did anything sexual to me (though I have had a couple of nightmares to that effect that others have suggested might be suppressed memories because of their very graphic and real nature, I can't say I know or want to know), but I swear him talking that way made me feel molested on a whole lot of different levels.  It was the gleam in his eyes, the calm pleasure in his voice... It was sadism.  

When I got to be a teenager, he just got worse. I got a little more defiant, but for the most part I was still afraid of him. I'm so ashamed of that now. I wish I'd just clocked him, picked something up and defended myself, killed him, SOMETHING... but I was afraid. It was around this time that he realized he could no longer indoctrinate me to be racist or homophobic, and my outspoken defense of other human beings earned me quite a lot of physical and verbal abuse. Eventually, I stopped speaking very much around my parents at all. It didn't stop him from beating me, of course. Once, he even went across my breasts with that lead pipe, as hard as he could, because I hadn't buttoned the top button on my polo shirt.

He started acting like I had done something to hurt him. He got very sullen and depressed (moreso than normal), and he would tell me at least twice a week that he wanted to die and/or was thinking of killing himself. I'd learned very well by that time that there was never a "right" thing for me to say, so I would just frown and try to look sorry and go hide in my room. He would say the same thing to my mother, though not half as often, and I kind of felt that if there was to be help gotten for him, she was more capable of providing that than I was. I remember feeling very sorry for him and being mad at myself for that- and also a big part of me wishing he'd stop talking about it and just go on and do it, and being mad at myself for that, too.

At 18 I landed a very decent job doing medical transcription in a hospital, not half bad for a girl my age. I moved out just as soon as I saved up a couple of checks. I lied to my parents about how much I was making, because I knew that they'd want at least half my pay-checks if I told them the truth. At this time, I also started doing a lot of drinking and drugs and partying. I became bulimic, then anorexic. I was probably making too much money for my own good, but I managed to keep it up for a few years before it finally cost me my job. I've recovered from that, now, but sometimes I honestly miss that feeling of being above it all, out of reach of all those memories, too tired to have nightmares on the rare occasions that I did go to sleep, and always with a very strong guy at my side to make me feel safe in case he ever came looking for me.

I cleaned up my act and got a job doing the same thing at a small private company. The money was nowhere near as good, but I was making it. I was about 24. That was when his health finally did take a turn for the worse.

My mother begged me to leave my job and move home to take care of him. They couldn't afford to put him up anyplace or to hire a care-taker full time, so I eventually let her talk me into it. For whatever reason, they both decided that rather than admit to having begged me for the favor, they would tell all the relatives that I'd gotten FIRED FROM MY JOB AND BEGGED THEM TO LET ME MOVE HOME. He was mostly bed-ridden by then, but I will admit here that I was still pretty scared of him. I would wake up every morning to fix him breakfast, and most mornings he would throw it on the floor, or eat it and then tell me how disgusting it was. Once I lingered by his bed a bit longer than I should have, and he spat a mouthful of scrambled eggs right into my face because they weren't hot enough. I didn't tell my mother. I'd given up on telling her anything long before that. He would threaten to get out of his bed and remind me who was boss. I hate myself for not having put him in his place while I had the chance. He finally died in 2006, and I never did a damn thing to assert myself. I am more ashamed of that than of anything I've ever done in my entire life.

I still have nightmares about him. Usually in the nightmares my mom is doing something wrong or saying something cruel to me, and when I try to stand up for myself he comes barreling out of some other room, armed and dangerous, and beats me until I go asthmatic. Sometimes I can wake myself up. Sometimes it's like I don't even realize I'm dreaming. There are days when past experiences play over and over in my mind, and there's nothing I can do to stop it. There are days when I can think only of what a fool I was for never having given him a taste of his own medicine, and then I hate myself for thinking those things because maybe I should feel more sympathy than anger towards the both of them.  Luckily, there are also days when everything is okay and I manage to not think about it at all.  

This is the most detail I have ever shared with anyone, and I hope that anyone reading will forgive me if it is too much or seems scattered. I wanted to get it out before I lost my nerve.

AquarianShe AquarianShe
26-30, F
5 Responses May 4, 2012

This whole story being as comon as I hate to admit happens more often than not. It scares me to thinkt at one day I wouldn't be shocked there for not being human. I can't begin to imagine the serious hardship, physical and mental abuse. I'm a dad of 6 wonderful girls and I love them with my entire heart.<br />
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Not all dads are like that texas, its unfortunate that you eneded up being the daughter of a sick a sedisic SOB. I truly hope that you come to grips with this.

Its hard to add anything to what texastomgirl said, but after therapy—including individual and group therapy, and self help groups, with some very insightful help from the works of John Bradshaw—I did manage to find happiness and the joy of life. I don't have nightmares or panic attacks anymore, nor do I baffle myself by doing things that aren't good for me. I wish you every success and happiness sweetie.

You've taken an important step forward by writing your story. I hope you find inner peace and reconciliation as the process continues. You are a Survivor and deserve great credit. You are Special and someday will realize it when you look inward.<br />
My best wishes on your

I want you to know that you are not alone. You are, however, one of the most well-written authors I've seen here.... there's nothing scattered at all about your story. I hope you feel at least a little peace putting your thoughts in order. You gotta let it out in order to let it go, after all; and you really have a brilliant command of the English language. Writing is your gift, my dear. <br />
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Have you ever read Dave Pelzer's autobiographies? He's the one who wrote the books called, "The Boy Called It", and the two sequels. You're a better writer than he is, but he wrote his story in very simple language; pretty much in the age appropriate language for his character at that age in his stories. But he, like you, survived some pretty brutal experiences being the 'targeted' child... the emotional whipping post for his mother, and he too fell through all the cracks of 'the system'; and his own father stood by helplessly at first; then finally left the marriage, abandoning him there. <br />
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I remember being ******** down to my panties at both of my elementary schools, bruises from the belt stretching from shoulder to shoulder, and all the way down to my calves...the humiliation of being nearly nude in front of these women strangers; not understanding their requests, until I realized what they were looking at; which gave me a few moments of false hope of being 'rescued'. But then, nothing. No one reported anything to anyone. No one came to save me. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" was a very acceptable practice in the deep South in the 70's, after all. I do remember my grandmother seeing bruises when we were in the tub once, very young; and her telling my mother, "You shouldn't let him do that to your children." Well, there you have it, Grandma.<br />
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I waited my whole childhood for my real dad to show up and "rescue" me; he showed up, all right; when I was sixteen; and proceeded to molest me and finally rape me in my early twenties. While I was still in high school, I told people about the abuse. No one responded; other than a counselor I saw who said, "You're just not comfortable with affection, considering your childhood." I remember my grandmother saying, once he'd finally raped me, "You tried to tell us something was going on back then. I just wish we would have believed you." Believed me? BELIEVED ME? That statement itself was yet another violation, to my spirit, my self worth. What kind of person makes these things up, after all? Is that really what they thought of me?<br />
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I can very much relate to the anguish of your Mom not remembering those things, either; and your needing validating by her and the other adults in your life that failed you. I remember shouting at my mother, finally, just a few years before she passed away last year, that it must have been awfully convenient for her to not be able to recall the events that left us literally scarred for life. She, at least, had the excuse of being over-medicated. The look in her eyes? Made me wish I'd kept my mouth shut. My needing 'validation' had wounded her much more deeply than I'd anticipated; and that did not feel good. Not like I thought it would.<br />
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When we grow up surrounded by so much dysfunction, it CAN takes years to overcome. I remember when I was pregnant, buying books on how to give your child a healthy self esteem, because God knows I was clueless. And one of the things I read was that you cannot have a healthy sense of self worth if you have no "self identity"... no value of worth in your own mind.... no idea of what you "are", what you're good at. And as child abuse survivors, our only self identity is that of child abuse survivor. It's all we know. So now, you have to form a new self identity; determine what it is you ARE good at; what it is you DO want to accomplish in your life. I could see you writing, personally.<br />
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But I also think you might consider doing a few things: hole yourself up with some self help books on surviving child abuse; and maybe even find a group therapy session. I always hated the thought of group therapy; I felt I had enough problems of my own without listening to other people's sappy stories. But the couple of times I went did make me realize that not only are there others out there, but that those demons can be overcome. I'd like to see you try some hypnotherapy with a good licensed counselor in that area, too... your nightmares tell me that you have much unresolved conflict there, and like you said, maybe some repressed memories. I think you have these recurring dreams because you DIDN'T ever stand up for yourself, and even went home to care for your abuser. I know how hard that was; at least my mother was much more kind and gentle in her old age; and I felt empathy for her.<br />
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Part of this childhood is that it leaves us being "people pleasers", walking on eggshells and always trying to behave in a way that keeps the peace; always trying to make others happy. And that will probably be the hardest part of this to 'get past' for you. That need stays with you; makes you untrue to yourself; allows you to put everyone else's needs ahead of your own; lets you settle for cruddy relationships; etc.. You might read up on the dynamics of that pattern of behavior, too, and see if you can't relate to it. I think once we understand WHY we're a certain way, it can help us to break that cycle.<br />
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But the good to come from it, if there is such a thing, is that it causes us to be very perceptive individuals. Diligently watching 'human behavior' becomes a survival mechanism early on... . It causes you to live much more consciously aware of what's going on around you in life, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The point is, there's good to be had from all this bad.<br />
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But I see you even still trying to justify their abuse; feeling helpless for not standing up for yourself, and not being able to forgive yourself for that, either.... for abandoning your inner child. And I want you to remember that you were just that: a child, a helpless innocent child who desperately needed rescuing and yet never received any such help. So now, you have to forgive yourself for that; remind yourself that the abuse 'programmed' you to be that way, and then learn a better way. <br />
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And your story? Was taking the first step in that direction. I hope you can learn to see what we see: someone who is extremely intelligent and genuine; who is talented and beautiful inside and out. Just remember, everything in life is temporary; and you will move past this in time. I hardly even think about it, until I read a story like yours. Life will get easier for you as you work your way through it. It might require some professional help; don't be fearful of that. And if you don't like a counselor, go find another until you find someone you're comfortable really opening up to. You could show them your story.... save yourself a lot of talkin'. :) Peace and love to you... I know how lost you feel in this world, and I also know you will find your way.

I "liked" this, but that doesn't even begin to express... what a wonderfully awesome comment you made—WOW.

Thank you very much for your reply, and for taking the time to share a bit of your story, as well.

I really appreciate the compliment, too! It cheered me up more than I can express.

I know what you mean about the deep South's ideas on acceptable child-rearing practices. My story, in fact, took place in Louisiana.

I also can relate (in a very roundabout way) to your feelings of waiting for your real dad to come save you. I say a "roundabout" way, because as a little one I used to imaging that Bob Ross (the painter with the afro whose show used to be on PBS all the time) was my real father and that someday he would come and take me away. While I never lost touch with reality to the point that I actually expected this to happen, it got to the point of near-obsession and I used to VERY sad when I allowed myself to contemplate that fact that it was only a dream. Isn't that silly?

It's not silly at all. Abused children often escape into an imaginary world for survival. Your brain just created a situation of 'hope'... something to cling to and look forward to. I can remember being the "princess" in the top of the tower (second story bathroom). I'd go to great lengths to find a stick or a pencil (an object to focus on); and I'd mentally 'dress' that thing... the long flowing gowns. I think I even talked out loud; I remember my brother teasing me once. It made me very self-conscious about it after that; I then had to hide my escapes. Did you 'zone out' a lot as a kid? I felt like that's when I 'slept', so to speak... for brief moments, my mind rested, I think. I read A LOT as a kid; twenty or thirty books a week, I'm sure. But now, I realize I've learned everything I ever needed to know from books, and am greatful for the knowledge I gained. And the love of the written word. Keep writing.... keep moving forward.... Peace and love.

Yeah, that sounds a lot like me as a kid. I was always daydreaming or walking around with my face in a book. Those got me into some real trouble, too, actually. I loved horror stories, all that old RL Stine stuff, and when my dad caught me reading anything scary or anything about ghosts or haunted houses I would be "punished" and my books thrown out or burned and replaced with college-level chemistry and math books that for some reason he felt sure I could understand. At some point he even called my school and told the librarian not to let me check out anything "inappropriate for a proper Christian upbringing". At some point he finally decided The Babysitter's Club was okay, I think mostly because my niece had, like, ALL of them and would let me have the ones she'd already read. When people ask me why I "talk so proper" (I got picked on A LOT for my speech patterns growing up), I usually tell them it was because books were my best and only friends growing up. Plus, I think I must have read Gulliver's Travels about a bajillion times. If they'd known about him peeing the fire out on the Lilliput's Castle, they probably would have made me throw that one into a fire, too. LoL

Thank you so much for sharing and all your kind words! It is nice to feel not so alone anymore.

There you are! I'd wondered how you are doing. Yep... everything I ever needed to know in life, I learned from a book. Pretty much. And yeah, we had book and record burnings at our church, too. I got good at hiding things.

2 More Responses

It will take more time for you to let go.<br />
And if you think about it it will never be completly gone.<br />
Abuse of any kind is wrong let us try to do our part in helping other's sure helps me not an education anyone wants but after you got it might as well use it for good.<br />
Thanks for sharing, hug's