To a better world
I grew up feeling rejected and often humiliated by my parents and brother. I’ve always felt ashamed in a very general, overarching way. There are a lot of reasons I’ve been resistant to speaking and those reasons have shifted over my lifetime. Very early on I remember not wanting to talk because I didn’t know what it would sound like. I remember not wanting to read aloud in class because with dyslexia I would stumble over the words and the teacher’s coaching felt the same as the criticism I experienced at home. And when she approached my parents about the dyslexia they were furious with her and so I learned dyslexia is bad and causes anger and I continued to mask it.
By 2nd grade I was fully dissociated most of the time. My teacher thought I was a day dreamer but I never really dreamed of anything or thought about anything- I would just leave and, as she would go on to mention to my parents, she’d often have trouble bringing me back. I don’t know really how I felt. I wasn’t there. I had the same issue in 3rd grade and would be sent to the principal’s office for reprimand and to have a quiet, empty room to focus. I remember liking how it felt to go through the motions of “getting in trouble” knowing the consequences wouldn’t follow me home, but I also felt ashamed and frustrated that I couldn’t do what was asked of me.
By 4th-5th grade I was depressed. I tried to control my focus more and not mentally wander off (not always successful) since it upset people but then I actually had to feel and experience my life. I missed a week or more of school at a time due to lack of energy and an awful feeling in my stomach, sometimes heart palpitations- I thought I was physically ill. My dad took me for testing for the heart palpitations- the stickers they put on your chest, whatever that is. They couldn’t find any issues and suggested I may be dealing with anxiety. On the way to the car my dad grumbled “you don’t have anxiety this is bullshit just run the test and do your job.”
I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in recent years and it has made so much make sense- like the elated outbursts I began having during classes in 5th grade (and would regret and feel ashamed for in the weeks following), the insomnia starting at a young age, periods of recklessness during teen years. I was never allowed to see a therapist or psychiatrist despite pushing for it. My parents were resistant to my pursuance of it even once I entered adulthood and had several bouts of suicidal ideation and actions.
In my underdeveloped brain, I thought my experience was the norm, the ideal. I thought everyone lived in a house with their mom and dad and siblings and their household worked the same as mine. Everything that happened seemed status quo and I thought I was the outlier. And that easily explains how sad I was and how hopeless I felt. I thought the world was a place I wasn’t suited for because the people who were meant to love me didn’t think I fit, despite how hard I tried to hide everything unacceptable about me. I thought certainly there must be something wrong with me to be treated the way I was, that it was my fault. And I’ve gone through life with that mindset. And I know it’s not true. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve had lapses in empathy, I am just as human as everyone else, but I know I wouldn’t hate anyone else the way I hate myself. But I didn’t know any different, I didn’t know it could be better, I didn’t know they were doing anything wrong. All I knew is they wanted someone different than the person I could be and all I knew was how much that hurt.
When my dad left me out in his car for hours at night I didn’t do anything to stop it or act out because I thought for sure if it was wrong he wouldn’t be doing it. Still, I felt scared, rejected, and abandoned. He was never sorry- never any indication of guilt. I was always an object to him meant to operate at his will and sit in a corner and look nice and shut the fuck up and I don’t think it ever occurred to him that he’d taken it too far. I’d given him and my mother my unconditional trust all my life and all they did was abuse and they were never safe people for me. And if they’d made their mistakes, recognized they made mistakes, and apologized along the way everything could’ve been different but that’s not who they are.
My brother’s offenses caused anger, fear, and shame. I knew it was wrong and I tried to stop it but no one has ever really had success in stopping him from whatever he wants to do. I felt my parents would disregard me (boys will be boys) or shame me further if I said anything to them. I feared my brother’s threats. And I was so disgusted by it that I really just didn’t want anyone to know. I never spoke a word of it until I told my partner and awhile later my aunt asked me point blank. My partner is the only one I’ve ever been truly open with.
I was objectified, generally and sexually, quite early on and often lived in a dissociated state. It was never giving too much of myself to others or people pleasing, but more people just taking and taking. And having all feeling punished out of me, any identity I connected with ridiculed out of me. I remember the idea surviving the next year becoming more and more insurmountable as the years went by. It never occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t the problem. Perhaps because, according to everyone else, I was always the problem.
I wake up naked on a bathroom floor, knowing but with no memory, I’ve had the kind of sex that leaves you naked and alone and unconscious on a bathroom floor. I come out of a blackout with someone’s groin in my face and the voices of angry people who cared more about what was happening than I did. I remember yelling at a friend as I swung at her “well I was just having fun” and I remember her solemnly replying, “no…. you weren’t.” And I didn’t want to believe that. And I continued arguing to her that everything was okay, screaming for her to make him come back, trying to convince everyone and myself that the situation wasn’t what it was. As if they weren’t the ones awake to see it. And even now remembering what she said makes my chest tighten and it brings tears to my eyes and it’s confusing and I think maybe it was easier to be angry at her than it would’ve been to process what happened.
When things really came full circle is when, after coercing me into a place I said I didn’t want to go and thence disregarding my repeated refusals, my ex told me he loved me while raping me. And it felt so familiar. I was trying to separate myself from an unhealthy relationship. And then I met my ex who was so nice to me and I thought maybe I could have that, maybe I deserved that. But he put my in my place- my familiar powerless, helpless, scared, worthless place. It was almost like a symbol from god himself, like “this is supposed to happen to you, this is all you deserve, this is the most anyone will ever be capable of loving you.” I heard those words in my minds ear or whatever and I swear it’s all I hear every waking moment of every fucking day.
I am not taking the blame, not anymore; however, ironically, I didn’t get into the situations, both described in this letter and otherwise, by respecting myself. So what does make me worthy of the upmost respect? Well, I am not cruel. I could’ve been. It is so easy to misdirect retribution. It is so easy to be hardened by the experiences I’ve had and to fall in line with the modeled behavior to get by. Yet, I still have a naivety about me, an idealistic viewpoint. I’ve had every bit of evidence imaginable that the world is primarily cruel and I have a steadfast refusal to believe it has to be. There’s a merciful, loving, compassionate world I want to live in and I’ll never have the chance; however, I can be an example for my children and the people around me so maybe kindness will be a little less sparing by the time the earth explodes or whatever. I think there is strength in that, I think that is worthy of respect.
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Voting ends September 1, 2024 12:00pm