It's not pretty or eloquent or melancholically desirable. It's also not so tragic as many things in this world. Countless individuals endure tremendous suffering in their lives, and I know that my experiences are not nearly as horrific or heartbreaking as, sadly, so many in this world are.
No. But it is my story. It is incredibly important to me – it has affected nearly every part of my life, my development, my relationships with others, my view of myself, and my perspective of the world.
And I share it with you now.
I beg you, sweet readers, to be gentle. Here I am baring myself to you, heart and soul, in the most terrifyingly vulnerable and fragile way. Be gentle. I have closed comments for this post, but if you would like to write me I would love to hear from you. You can contact me either here – it can be anonymous, but do leave your email address if you'd like a response – or email me at mypeacetree2 (at) gmail.com. If you have nothing kind to say, please quietly continue with your day and refrain from sharing your thoughts.
A small note: I have included a "jump break" in this post; this means that if you do not want or are not prepared to read a story about heartbreak, damaging mind games, emotional abuse, and depression, please skip this post and find other material to read for the day. If you are willing, please click "read more" below.
I am the eldest child of what were once two poor young individuals. Born under the tall, magical redwoods in beautiful California, I inherited from my parents a love of teaching, theater, words, and art, and learned from them generosity, imagination, and to always ask questions. From them I also learned, however, to hate myself with a burning passion, to distrust every relationship I forged – be it romantic or plutonic – and to consider myself a blemish, a mistake, unwanted, unneeded, unnecessary, and unlovable.
You see, I am the only daughter of an emotionally and psychologically abusive alcoholic father.
I love my dad. I do. He is incredibly smart, funny, creative, and adventurous. Simultaneously, however, I fear him, abhor him, and desperately wish I were able to make him suffer the way that he has made me suffer.
I remember it began early. When I was about 7 years old, he burned a favorite painting of mine and my mama's. Another night, I remember waking up in the care as my mom drove my brother – three years my younger – and me to safety in a nearby hotel; I can even remember I had been dreaming, of all things, of applesauce.
When my mom was out running errands I would ask my father if I could do forbidden things like watch television; his response, always, was "Do whatever you want. Just don't bother me." He also – according to my mom – would ignore me, my questions, my endeavors completely and give his attention and love to my brother instead.
Messages of fear and powerlessness, of being a nuisance and in the way.
I remember arguments between my parents, how upset my mother often became and how angry my dad was nearly all the time. I remember how I was told, again and again, that my dad absolutely hated his job and that I should be grateful for all he'd done for us. (I later turned this around and told myself that, had I not been born, he would not have been forced to take the first job he could find, one that would trap him in unhappiness forever.)
I remember when I realized how much my dad was drinking when he would bring home a six pack every night and finish it in just a few hours; he became so angry, sarcastic, and sneering. I remember the mockery, the mind games, the belittling, and the comparisons with my "perfect" brother. I remember the smirks at my upset protests.
I was too irrational and too emotional, he told me. I overreacted and was too angry. I wasn't logical enough. Messages of being flawed, broken, a black sheep, hated, detested, the cause of all my father's sadness and unhappiness and worries and anger.
For years I stood up for myself. My brother, being younger, never realized what the dynamic in our house was, perhaps in part because he was never the target of my dad's vicious attacks. My mama, I thought at the time, stood back watching, silent. In my eyes, this silence indicated her approval of his actions: she agreed. She hated me, too. (Just this summer, she told me her own story – that she was also so broken down by the monstrous bully in our home that she couldn't react the way she so desperately wanted.)
After years, feeling that my whole family was against me, I gave up and turned on myself. If my brother wasn't receiving the brunt end of all this hate, why was I? If my mother stood by as my dad said to me – at 14 years – such things as "fuck you", did it mean that I actually was in the wrong and that I deserved it? Indeed, if my father told me every single day how flawed and troublesome I was, couldn't the only explanation be that I was flawed and troublesome?
I withdrew. I stopped fighting. I came to hate the world, to hate myself deeply for not being – and for not being able to become – the person that my parents so desperately appeared to want me to be. I was furious at my brother for being perfect enough to escape the torment I was going through.
And, ironically, the more I stewed in hatred, attacked continually by myself and my dad, the more I lashed out. I deserved this ugly punishment, I thought, and with time began unconsciously acting in a way that would warrant it. Do you know what is called the self fulfilling prophecy? I was the very definition of it. Told for years and years that I was no good, I gradually stepped into the shoes of someone who was bad and mean and undeserving of love. I yelled; I said cruel things to my brother; I was unkind. I reflected the monster I saw every day in my dad, and, ironically, this made things even worse: my mother now found fault with me, too, and my father had a reason to raise his voice. I was accused again and again of being like my dad, and this in turn made me hate myself even more – a vicious, plummeting cycle.
I thought about death often. I dreamt of a place where I could be alone, surrounded by nature, free from caustic words and from people as a whole, both those who made me feel incredibly small and those who could never understand who I was and why I was, where I could live in peace with my imperfect self.
By high school, I truly wanted to die.
* * *
Loves, I'm going to stop here for the moment because this post has already become very long. While this part ends on dark and painful note, I want to assure you, dearests, that I have found hope and joy and healing once again. But that journey comes later in my story.
The rest is coming soon. I promise.
All my love.
Read part II.
Read part III.
A few links: