As unfortunate as it is, my story is not unique. I am the product of an abusive childhood. My mother is bipolar and my dad… well, he is not well either.
I walked on eggshells my entire life when it came to my mom. Her moods swung from high to low and could change on the drop of a dime. Life with my mom was unpredictable at best. I quickly learned that making her happy, staying out of the way, cleaning and trying to be perfect were the keys to my survival. Although these things did not save me from the emotional and physical abuse, they did redirect the hurricane of emotions and anger that was my mother to pass by me on occasion.
My father, well, where do I start? I’ve always viewed him as a weak man – a shell of a man, actually. Mom ruled the roost and he said “yes dear.” I think we all were in some sort of survival mode when it came to my mother. But that is no excuse for what happened. I became the surrogate wife to my father. He came to me to fulfill the needs my mother could not, which led to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.
It’s funny. I spent years in therapy trying to recover from and deal with my mother. I knew some of the things that happened with my dad, but not all – I still don’t. But none of that therapy prepared me for what my mind had kept hidden.
It’s amazing the power of the mind. Its ability to go on autopilot when you need it; its ability to block out pain; its ability to shield you from the horror you aren’t able to comprehend. That’s what it did for me. But when that veil on the pain is lifted – WATCH OUT!
For me, the veil started to lift for some of my memories in 2009. It was the night of my first nephew’s birth and the eve of my 39th birthday. I went to sleep in blissful excitement of seeing my adorable nephew and woke to immense pain beyond description. My mind had started to reveal the truth of my childhood – a truth I had always known but had guarded myself from.
Let’s rewind a bit… I had always known some of what I call “the small stuff” that happened to me. And believe me, they were enough. Enough to be uncomfortable around my father, enough to not let him be alone with my children, enough to watch his every move, enough to not want him in my personal space. The problem for me for years was what would I do once my brothers started having children. Would my “enough” be enough for them to protect their own children from my father? How would I tell them? How would they react? Well, that night helped answer some of those questions. I remembered what I had always feared to know with 100% certainty. My father had raped me.
On that beautiful October night, I went to bed ecstatic and woke in terror. The horror of finally knowing what I always been afraid to remember was terrifying. I now had a vivid memory of the extent of the sexual abuse that I endured at the hands of my father from the ages of about 4 to 9. I screamed. I cried. I sobbed. I shook. I trembled. I ached. I groaned. I mourned. I laid in a ball on my bedroom floor. I could not move.
I will never forget that night… the hours of agony. That night changed my life. It forever changed who I am; how I relate to the world; how I view myself; how I viewed God. It helped bring about the end of my 18 year marriage and the perfect little world I created for my children. It left me in a tail spin in a struggle to just get through each second of the day. Each minute I was still alive was a win.
It’s amazing how raw it feels just putting this in writing for the world to see. And the fact is that I have now shared my story more times than I can count, but I don’t think the emotions will ever fade when speaking of that night. It forever changed me and the world I live in.
“Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” – Psalm 27:10