Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Letter to my Mother

I am feeling compelled to share this right now. I came upon it in the recent 2 year review I did on the events of my life and my progress in that time. I was surprised how much this really upset me to read again. I guess I have a whole new perspective on it now that I've seen my mother's reaction. I went into it thinking it could change things and make her into the mother I want her to be. I am still grieving the fact that she is not, and will never be, that person.

Preface to paragraph one: I'd asked her to babysit DD and she had other plans. She was very apologetic about it. She also said there was alot of tension in the air and she said she was sorry for whatever part she had caused.


No need to be sorry about tonight. You're allowed to have a life. I have a hair appointment on Saturday morning so if you can watch her then, it would be helpful. I'm pretty sure BXF and I will do a date night at some point over the weekend but I'll let you know when we make definite plans.

What tension do you think you have you caused? You're apologizing but I am not sure you have any idea what is wrong. Tension in the air….yes, indeed. Lots of it. I do not even know how to begin to broach this with you. It's such a small question but there is a lifetime behind the answer. I don't know that this is time to unload it all but I guess there is no perfect time to say such things, is there? I made it through a lot of my life by pretending. Pretending things were fine, pretending I was not hurt, pretending that I could put the past behind me and lead a "normal" life. I pretended so well that I convinced myself of it for a while. I'm past pretending now and everything I never allowed myself to feel is at the surface but I don't know what to do with 30+ years of hurt and anger. I don't know who to direct it at when I've invested so much energy in convincing everyone I was fine. I'm not fine. Not even close.

It is very difficult for me to be this open with you. It's something I've kept from you for a long time. For a while, that was in protection of both of us. I believe that now it is more about punishing you by keeping from you things you want to know, by building a wall. I realize that no one is benefiting from that but it's all I can do with a present manifestation of anger.

You said that no one ever told you what happened. After a great deal of thought, I have decided to share with you my story. I am going to preface this by saying that I understand what I remember may not always be completely factual. I was young; there are some things that I don't remember. I was damaged; sometimes my memories are skewed. Some things I am crystal clear on. Other things, I think I "fill in the blanks" out of my current feelings about the subject as opposed to being a true recollection of the events that occurred. In any case, this is as much as I can tell you.

I have nothing but bad memories of Dad. When you tell me about times that we did fun family things, or how he loved me once, it makes my skin crawl. I cannot think of him in any positive way. It's just not how I know him. I remember him being constantly harsh, angry, violent, withdrawn, intimidating, insulting. I remember his comment that he "liked me until I began to talk"….truly charming words from a father. In his words and by his actions, he told me I was stupid, lazy, naughty, worthless, unlovable. I remember him threatening to cut off all my hair if I did not stop shaking my head, a nervous habit I'd developed presumably in reaction to all that was happening in the house. I remember his irrational physical abuse; when I broke my collarbone and he flung me around by that arm insisting I was embellishing, when I didn't wash his plate and he threw me down the stairs(the incident that brought you home to find me cowering in the garage). When I came home late one night after being out on a date, he grabbed me by the wrists, twisting them so hard that I had to kneel to the ground as he insisted to know "what else" I had been doing with this boy while we were out.

So, in a strange way, the attention from Brother was welcomed at times. It made me feel special, like I had a friend and confidant and someone to share a secret with. All I knew is that my big brother loved me and wanted to spent time with me. It started innocently in California; playing games like "hun" (husband & wife), playing "sleepover" or "camping". I followed Brother's lead.

I have a lot of missing time from those years in California and prior. I am uncertain when and how the games progressed but I am convinced it was so gradual that I was unaware of it. Memories are more clear from the time we moved to CT. I was 9 years old. I knew that this was wrong. When I questioned that, Brother began to threaten and put doubts in my head. "You'd better not tell. No one will believe you. Mom and Dad will be mad at you." I remember a night that he walked by me in the hallway after a particularly upsetting afternoon by ourselves and he pulled out a knife as he was walking by me, touching it to my stomach. In fact, though this memory is hazy, I believe you were ironing in your room across the hall and I was talking to you when he did it. Do you remember this at all? I remember that it made me feel like nothing; I was so insignificant that he could easily get away with doing something so audacious. I remember he played it off as a joke. I don't know that it was.

The innocent games of the past had become serious invasions of my privacy and graphic sexual role plays. He was a teacher, I the student. He was a doctor, I the patient. He was a rapist, I the victim. I feel like I am about to throw up telling you this but just so you know the whole story, the actual acts were manual, oral and though full penetration did not occur, it was simulated closely. When his friends came over, he would coerce me into stripping for them and letting them look at me or touch me, promising they would be nice to me at school and it would make me popular. He would walk in on me in the bathroom, in the shower, while I was changing. This was no longer the attention that I wanted. I no longer felt loved or special. I felt dirty and used. I felt wrong and bad. But I did still want his attention and I went along with this on a regular basis. I wanted attention from someone. He happened to be the person I was most often with and so I took it from him because, I suppose, the negative attention was better than none at all. Perhaps it was already in my mindset that I was not good enough for more than that, or not worthy enough to refuse or to demand the treatment that I deserved. Dad laid the foundation for me to think that about myself. Brother just reinforced it. And through your inaction, so did you. This set an appalling precedent for my future.

It finally stopped when Brother starting dating Girlfriend. I believe we were about 12 and 15. I don't know what prompted me, maybe a desire to get back at him or maybe even to protect Girlfriend from him. Perhaps, in a twisted way, I was jealous of the attention that I no longer got that went to her. I told her what had happened between us. She immediately told Brother, and Brother told Dad. I will never forget Dad's reaction. Out of everything that has happened, I recount this as my most painful and vivid memory. I can see Dad, how he was sitting, what he was wearing. I can smell his Old Spice and his rancid breath; it makes my stomach turn. I remember his dark glasses perched on his nose as he leaned forward, glaring at me with loathing and disgust. I can hear him saying "You told her that he had SEX with you??" He demanded I admit that I was lying and made it up for attention. For me, what my brother had told me had come true. Worst fears confirmed. My father was furious with me. My parents did not believe me. I was made to feel like the wrong one. You questioned this in one of your emails…questioned that Dad did this. In my memory, you were right there. You were in the kitchen also. You were standing at the stove, Brother standing in the doorway, Dad and I sitting at the table. You don't remember this?

You are very peripheral in my memories. It comes across as you being "there" but not really "present", if that makes sense. Perhaps you were not there that night, I don't know. I think one of the very worst things about such a dysfunctional upbringing is the feeling that I cannot trust my memories, like I don't really know what happened. Possibly my recollection of you being there that night but not saying anything is an unconscious statement, representative of my overall feeling that you did not do enough to speak up on my behalf or protect me from these two people who abused me. I know that you knew something was happening. I believe you saw it on more than one occasion. Even if you assumed it was fully consensual, which one of your emails implied to me, you surely knew it was wrong. Why didn't you act when you knew the truth? How did you stand by and allow my brother to molest me and my father to tear me down? Rhetorical questions, as I know your answer. While I wholly disagree with how you chose to handle it, I can't say that I don't intellectually comprehend the choices you made. You looked at your own past and swung the pendulum to the polar opposite, thinking it would "spare" us the childhood you had. I get that but I'm tired of empathizing with it because it leaves me holding all of this within myself.

Unfortunately, I learned to take the blame and the burden on myself. I learned to expect very little from the people in my life. I learned all the wrong lessons about what love is and how it feels, about what family is and how they treat each other. I learned that I was garbage, that my wants and needs did not matter, that I was not worthy of love and protection. I learned how to be a doormat. I learned to excuse other people's behaviors and to reason away anyone else's role or responsibility. My empathy works to my detriment and I walked away from all of this feeling there was ultimately no one to blame except myself.

The cumulative effect of everything that happened is tragic. It took me a very long time to unlearn what I had learned. I still struggle with some of it. I don't know that you have any idea what kind of a young woman I was. I was utterly lost. I had zero self esteem, absolutely no sense of self worth. I gave myself away to anyone who would give me some fleeting attention just to steal one moment of feeling special or loved. I allowed myself to be used and abused because I knew no other way. Because I learned that was love. Sometimes I would meekly refuse, by no means believing I had any right to say no. When a "no" is that timid, I can assure you it is never heeded. It is nearly impossible for me to see "that girl" as myself when I look back. It's like watching a movie in my mind and my heart deeply, profoundly aches for "her". I was so numb and so disconnected from reality and true emotion. But I had to be to survive. I used to cut myself with razor blades. I'm not sure why. Self loathing, maybe, or possibly just the only way for me to feel something. Likely a combination of both. You saw the cuts on my wrists and arms and you sent me to a psychiatrist to whom I refused to speak. Your obligation fulfilled, I suppose?

I have fought tooth and nail for a sense of normalcy. I have fought even harder to find peace in my world. Every time I think I have found it, something else comes crashing down and shatters it. I thought getting married would be a new start for me. True to abuse survivor fashion, I married a cruel, abusive man who thrived on controlling me; a man with the capacity to strike me down with his attacks. I thought getting divorced would be a new start for me and it was, to a large extent. I did a lot of positive work before I left XDH. My intention was for your house to be a transitional place of financial regrouping for me but that all changed when I was blessed with DD's impending arrival. I sincerely appreciate all you do for us but I don't think you can fathom how it feels to live in the place where some of the worst and most painful events of my life occurred. To be surrounded by that on a daily basis is to be locked in my own personal prison. To never have had a place that I consider a true home for me, to not be able to bring DD home to a space that is peaceful, rips me to shreds. It is like a poison that is eating me from the inside out. I fear every single day what that degree of negativity is doing to DD, and her perception of me and of "home", during these critical formative years. I long to provide both of us with a home that feels like a sanctuary….what I imagine a home to be though it has never been that for me, as long as I can remember. It is positively suffocating to look down the road and never see a time I will be able to change this.

I've heard so many women say how having a baby made them feel so much closer to their own mothers. Sadly, it had the opposite effect for me. I look at that daughter of mine and I know for a fact that I have the capacity to kill, without hesitation or remorse, anyone who laid a hand on her. I cannot respect your choices. It used to make me laugh or even feel pride when I'd hear you remark that I "raised myself". Now it just really pisses me off. I shouldn't have had to.

Were you even aware of the things you were saying to me after DD was born? I remember you were on a tangent of telling me all kinds of horrible child abuse stories you'd heard about babies being raped, tortured and abused. I was so stunned that I could not even respond to you. Two years later, I am still in awe that you could relay those things to me without thought of how it would affect me or what it would mean to me because of what I have been through. When you talk to me about Pat's granddaughter and her "tough little life", it makes me want to grab and shake you. What about MY life? I feel like that escapes you completely.

I hate that any of this lingers for me. I want to run away from all of it and everyone who had anything to do with it. I reluctantly acknowledge that is not the answer and I need to somehow work it through so that I can be a better mother to DD. She is my ultimate motivation. I refuse to take the easy way out or to continue to avoid the unpleasantness of this situation. I don't know what I expect you to do with this knowledge or how it will benefit. I only know I've shied away from it in times past and it's not been resolved for me. I think I want a different and better relationship with you but honestly, I'm not sure how that will be. I don't know if it's too late for that. And it's scary to think of making a change or of opening up. I have such a wall built around me from this family. It's horrifying to feel out of control or to think of letting that wall come down. I don't want to give you the opportunity to disappoint me. I completely abhor being vulnerable, particularly in front of you. I would go to the ends of the earth to avoid it. Yet here I am doing just that and I have absolutely no idea where to go from here. I am so, sooooo angry. At this point, I'm not really sure at whom or for what. I just know I am. I cannot look you in the face. I can barely speak to you because I am afraid the floodgates will open. But, I guess they just did.

Well, in the end her replies were too little, too late. She did say she was sorry. She tried to justify some of her decisions. She talked alot about things with my father. She never once acknowledged anything I said about my brother. Her reply to my telling her what happened was "I can no longer say I'm uninformed." Well, how overwhelmingly compassionate of you! What I said in that last paragraph, "I don't want to give you the opportunity to disappoint me", was precisely what ended up happening. I was devastated but it was still important for me to have gone through this and to see that it wasn't me. I can say that our relationship is definitely different. Not sure that I'd call it "better". It's more real on my end. I've come to realize that my mother lives in her own happy-world of fantasy and there is no popping that bubble for her.

1 comment:

Hidden Tears said...

Reading this really touched my heart, I understand your hardships and you have come a long way. I can see that, my hat is off to you...I only hope that someday I cant make it atleast this far in my healing. Odd that I read this, I just today posted alittle about my mother. She is a great source of my pain and struggles, her reactions and action have scared me far worst than the actually abuse. When I struggle it is her that is usually haunting me. The fact that she turned her back on me is something I dont think I can ever forgive her for.

You are an amazing woman and I am so glad that I have gotten a chance to get to know someone like you.

P.s. you wouldnt want to write a letter to my mom for me would you....lol...jk