Growing up in a home filled with emotional verbal and occasional physical abuse, and then going on to experience bullying and sexual abuse from multiple people, my life has not been free of drama and trauma. I remember fear, confusion, helplessness, terror, unease, nervousness, anguish from an early age. That is not to say my life was 100 per cent miserable.I did not know poverty or deprivation. My parents were not hugely rich but we were comfortable. I went to private schools- a lower middle class upbringing, really. My parents were not monsters. They were deeply flawed people. My abusive father has a trauma story of his own that would make your hair stand on end. At least my mother loved me. At least I was not a product of a botched abortion. I did not always feel loved but I do believe my existence was wanted to begin with. To a certian extent. Then things went badly wrong. My father had to give up the job he loved in the country he loved. He had only worked in the US for 2 years but he always said that was the happiest time of his life so far. Engineering is mainly contract work and so the contract ending could not have come as a complete surprise. But somehow it shook him.
My mother would say that she first saw signs of my father’s temper and instability after she married him. But my father says his anger really started when he moved back to the UK. My sister had been born, my mother was pregnant with me. They rented a house in the south west of England. Mercifully many details of my earliest years were blocked out, or maybe, due to my young age, I never would remember anyway. I do have some vague memories though. Screaming arguments, raised voices, fear, feeling empty and anxious. Even at a young age I ate, to fill a void. an empty void. I see pictures of me from that era, a chubby (although not excessively so for my age) toddler, cheeks full of food.
A i grew older, i remember the fights the screaming, the fear that my father might hurt or evn kill my mum. I remember being screamed at harshly, blamed for imagined or perceived wrongdoings. My sister and mother suffered the same treatment. It did not happen every single day, the screaming. My father did have periods of being kind to us. And also periods when he withdrew from us completely. Ignored us or put us down or sat alone in the living room in a rage. I also remember the name calling, the teasing us until we cried, the invalidation “you don’t really have a cold, you are faking for attention/being manipulative.” The threats and screaming I would get if I made a mistake in my schoolwork, forgot to say please or thank you, or spoke when I was meant to be quiet. And being the kind of kid who has never been good at boundaries I often failed to stick to the unwritten “rules.”
I remember the school telling my parents I needed to get tested as I was struggling in some areas- especially with maths and understanding how to toe my shoelaces, telling the time etc. But my father could not have shame on the family for having a “defective” child. He would criticise or yell at me for any abnormality in my behaviour or academic work. He told my clinically depressed sister at age 14 that she had brought shame on our family for having a mental illness and that no one in our church would want him ministering if they knew his daughter was “loony.” I remember him pulling a knife on my sister at around that age and chasing her round the house with it because she questioned his opinion on something. I remember him threatening to cut her body into pieces and bury it in the local woods whilst she sobbed and sobbed.
It should not have surprised me when my own mental health began to fail (As regards the borderline PD, i mean- I had already been suffering OCD and anxiety since age 7, not diagnosed until much later, but dismissed by my mother as “being difficult” and my father as “being naughty”) When the self harm got worse and the extreme mood swings and meltdowns and erratic behaviour, it should not surprise me that my father would label it “attention seeking behaviour”. Or that when i developed ME/CFS after a virus in my early teens, that I was just feeling sorry for myself and should not be a burden on society by seeking support with my work and education etc. And yet, somehow it hurt. It even hurt when my family found out about one of my sexual assaults (this one from a stranger on a holiday abroad. this man had followed me and tried to put his hands on my private parts. He fondled me for a good few minutes- I was afraid to scream in case I was accused of making a fuss) My father was livid when he found out and kept questioning me and then twisting what i had said “he only pinched your bum” my father said “don’t make such a fuss- if you report it to the police they will laugh at you. Stop trying to cause trouble for us by saying these things.” I agree that what happened to me was not rape, it was not devastating. It was not the first time it had happened to me either. For a long time I believed my father was right- after all, I had not been raped or injured in any way. Inappropriate touching cannot scar someoen for life, can it? And yet somethign about my father’s dismissive attitude HURTS. Maybe because it has been a drip drip drip over the years of minimising, gaslighting etc…Years later when that incident of the fondling was mentioned again by father denied I had ever mentioned it happening, again accusing me of making it up to cause chaos. He often accused me of that.
That is not to say I did not sometimes cause drama to get attention or “feel” something. I would be lying if I claimed I never did that. By my late teens I felt I wanted to matter to somebody so I would exaggerate things that had happened to me as a cry for help. I honestly did not do it to cause chaos or harm or “for LOLS” kind of thing. I really was a needy, greedy little girl who did not feel loved or safe. Even as a young girl, I had a sense of being like a bottomless pit, a void. I knew my mum adored me. But somehow I still did not feel loved enough. And I have to be honest. I have to own this- I was selfish. I was full of my needs. I admit it. But even as a little girl, I was yet to act out these scenarios of creating drama to be rescued or loved. As far as I can remember, though I always did enjoy a bit of amateur theatrics. But I never wanted to maliciously cause chaos. Yet I was often accused of it. My father in his rages, frequently accused me of malice. I remember my sister and I went to a Christian youth group. My sister wanted to be a worship leader there but did not go to the sign up meeting as she had a school activity she was taking part in. I was not fussed about leadership- I am not great at organising people. I was musical, but to be honest I was more a performer than a true worshipper. I went to the meeting nayway, my sister asked me to tell her what happened.Well, i went there and little was said about electing leaders after all. I lost attention on the other bits of the meeting- was tired and wished I had not come. The next day my sister asked me about the meeting. I told her they had not mentioned much about the leadership thing. My sister became upset- she had a GCSE exam that day and my father found out she was crying. She told him and he screamed at me saying i was trying to upset my sister before an important exam, that I was malicious.I did not even know what I had done. To this day I still don’t know.
I know I lack empathy and awareness of others. I know I can be inconsiderate. I feel emopathy for someone if I know they are hurting. Then i can relate to what they are feeling. But when it comes to understanding the right thing to say or do in any given situation socially, I am terrible. Really bad. But it is not malice. I am not a sociopath, Just in my own world most of the time. I learned from a young age that people would hurt me eg the kids at school, etc so I withdrew from relationships for the most part. I was all “wrong” and sensed from an early age that I was “different”, “defective” “bad” inside. dirty. Shameful . I was actually shy in some ways as a child (except when I was onstage singing solo, but I was shy in relationships. I found it hard to initiate social interactions and could not make eye contact. I always felt I had a huge wall around me- other people used to say I a had a wall, too. I felt if they knew the real me they would hate me. why? Firstly I did not trust anyone, due to the bulllies. Often kids would pretend to be nice to me, only to turn on me again. Also because I fel;t shameful. I had nasty thoughts towards the bullies- bitterness and self pity and I felt the guilt of that. I now know Jesus has taken my guilt- I have confessed my sins- but I still feel shame and self loathing on a deep level. When towards the end of my primary school I was sexually assaulted by a couple of boys in my class, whilst my best friend (And only real friend) held me down while the boys did their thing, I did not feel violated. Just ashamed, defective and embarassed. That gawky stupid kid I was with a bad haircut and a head full of weird obsessions, had made the boys do this. Somehow what they did to me was because of ME.
Am gonna stop writing now, I feel a bit shaken up by writing this.