The last time I visited San Diego and saw her, I realized that there was no more room for her in my life. It happened casually over tea, while I sipped on earl grey and listened to her and my grandmother speak nostalgically about the abuse they perpetuated on one another and me, with my grandmother chuckling about a cat o’nine tail she used to apply her punishments with, and my mother chiming in like it was just another day in the life.
In case you don’t know what a cat o’nine tails is you can click here. Now mind you, I was lucky enough to have not seen one of those, but Mother Dearest was more than creative enough to find other ways to administer her judgments and insecurities onto me. My childhood was a conflicted blend of good and bad, with general feelings of anxiety and fear dominating even the best of memories.
I grew up never able to trust my own judgements, afraid of my own shadow and so insecure that I still have trouble believing people when they say anything nice about me. At thirty years old, I’m as uncomfortable in my own skin as I think may be humanly possible, and I feel the scars and tattoos of all of the horrible slurs she and her sidekick flung my way tattooing my skin in an ink that only my eyes can see.
The physical abuse was the part I was able to manage, because at the end of the day, flesh heals and the mind can travel elsewhere while it happens. Books became my escape, their words woven magic, and the familiar smell of the pages wafting towards my face a homecoming that I never knew in real life. I lived most of my childhood buried under the spell of someone else's dream.
I’ve been so afraid my whole life to be honest about how broken I am, how broken she made me, because of the shame she instilled in me from the first time it happened. These bad things happened to me because I was a bad girl and I made her do it. I was a beast to be subdued, broken, trained to be a monster just like her.
Mother Dearest always reminded me how lucky I was to be with her, threatening to cast me onto the streets like an unwanted piece of trash if I ever told anyone what was happening to me. And so I smiled, and lied, becoming a master pretender. I told child protective services that my friends parents were lying, that no I did not have bruises covering my entire body from beatings, that I’d had a skateboarding accident and my she was the best mom a girl could hope for. And when they came back and told me a teacher had reported me for being covered in black and blue, I put my bravest face on and let the lies pour forth like an unstoppable force.
I can be extremely charming when I wish to be, and with my easy smile, infectious laugh and sharp wit I was able to convince them so well they never came back. And with these lies I lay down inside the coffin I had built for myself, nailed it shut and closed my eyes. I sealed my fate in sixth grade and stayed with her until I was 18.
Now, at thirty years old, I finally decided it was time to seek help, before the darkness took me under and I never found my way out of the grave I dug for myself all of those years ago. But what I never realized is that the pain would still be fresh, the lack of understanding as present now as it was back then, and that inside of this grown responsible woman is a frightened little girl who just needed to be nurtured and loved.
If I were writing this on paper, tear-stains would blur the ink, and make my already questionable writing illegible. Because it still hurts, the truth of who I am and what I have been hiding threatens to overwhelm me, nearly everyday I struggle to look on the bright side of life.
Being happy is a still a very conscious challenge for me. I have to ritualize my mornings to remind myself everyday to be grateful for what I have achieved in life, for my friends and loved ones, to ensure that each day I take her victory away. Because that is what she wanted me to be, unhappy, unsure of myself, and dependent on her approval to find my self worth. This recognition is progress, trust me.
It’s a funny thing to realize that you are addicted to the poison that is killing you. I stopped battling with her when I left home, and only recently realized that she ingrained enough of herself into me that I now constantly am fighting myself. The venom she once cast on me is the rhetoric I whisper to myself within the recesses of my mind.
When I can’t sleep and the darkness I stare out into matches the feelings I carry inside, I hear the cruel banter demeaning me, cursing my being and daring me to cause even more hurt in my life. These seductive thoughts woo me like a vampire hypnotizes a victim to succumb to their death willingly.
And so I decided it was time to take the lid off of the coffin and shed some light on the struggles I deal with on a daily basis, the journey of healing, and that while I am imperfect, I’m still human.
Over the next little while, I’m going to introduce you to the cast and share my memories of our story together. A patchwork quilt that has made me who I am today, the good, the bad and the hideous.