Born into a family of dysfunction, I navigated my world the best I could, hoping to be loved, cherished, valued, held and heard. Instead I was met with disregard for my life, repeated, long-term invasion of my body, my innocence, violence disguised as love, safety/security masquerading as control. All at the hands of my parents and male siblings. I was doomed. A shell of a human. Existing in the dizzying cycle of being tossed around in the surf of life – only occasionally able to take a full breath, surface. Pieces of my personality chipped off, the tide taking them far off, away. Never feeling the ground beneath my feet. Becoming dead inside, broken. Accepting the abnormal as normal. As violence, invasion came over me again and again I became familiar with rage. The rage that was growing inside of me. Rage that would never be recognized. Undercover. A secret rage, thoughts of revenge that would bring a sweet, savory smile to my perfect little-girl face. Rage that was invisible but if detected, was discounted and downplayed as “something we don’t do in this family”. Once, I attempted to tell my mother about what was being done to my body… She left the room. – Maybe I was imagining things, maybe I made all of this up with my “overactive imagination” and nothing was going on. maybe I was being “too much”. Maybe I was being too sane and needed to be talked out of that. It worked. Congratufuckulations. Over time, this mindfuck of a family looked “normal” to me. Yes, the crazy was out there, I began to believe what I was fed. Whew, WE weren’t THAT family…we were sane and safe. Jk
Come on now, I was a good girl. Good girls didn’t get angry. Shame-shame on me. Good girls didn’t dare name what they saw. For Christ’s-sake, that would make people uncomfortable if I told the truth and called someone out on their disgusting behavior… What would the neighbors, school, the ever important church community – think? OMG, my mother would die before she would let anyone think our precious house wasn’t perfect. A good girl wasn’t angry or sad. A good girl needed to look pretty and smile and be smart and help others – only this was acceptable. A good girl could never make her family look bad. We were perfect. I had the perfect parents. They loved us so much. We were so lucky to be born into fabulousness. The real evil existed down the street in the projects, across town, in some other house, some other family. Not in THIS family. We were safe, sane, loving and extremely fortunate.
What a fucking joke, seriously. What an injustice, an insult to our beautiful little impressionable souls. The RAGE was unspeakable. As children we bond to whatever light and dark our parents are made of. We have no choice but to suck it up – we need a tribe to survive. We need parents no matter what they’re selling and we learn very quickly how to organize ourselves to survive in the face of constant, relentless assaults on our existence, privacy, body, feelings, needs, etc. Little soldiers, reporting for duty, sacrificing who we are, who we came to be just for a drop a love and connection.
We were very poor, living with the essentials and not much else. Too many mouths to feed. Anxious, alcoholic father, usually irritated, moody, short on time, 3 jobs. A controlling, devouring, seductive, crazy making/non-reality, critical, judgemental and suffocating mother. 8 children, seriously? WHY?
Physical boundaries were frowned upon – we did not talk about our bodies, feel our bodies or show our bodies. The only acceptable way to “be” was to was to deny what was going on with our bodies. Pain, illness, rashes, injuries were never an issue unless mom said they were. The way to bond was to have no needs – nothing that would need attention from a parent. Only happiness existed and was praised. Otherwise I was a problem. Nothing was real. If my mother said something didn’t exist or was not anything to be “concerned about” then that was the final word. I learned well, in order to fit in and be tolerated, I questioned everything I thought, felt, perceived, preferred – everything was fucked with, nothing felt real, I had no self. She didn’t have to twist me up anymore. I had learned well, I was doing it to myself now….
Just a shell of a person. An adorable shell at that. One thing that my mother did that was beneficial, she took a lot of pictures. Capturing the vacant, dead look in my eyes. The wasting away of my body on my 54 pound frame as a 5th grader. If I could have disappeared, I would have. I tried my best to keep living. auto-pilot. survival mode. being a good girl. with a seething, firey monster just under the surface. But visibly shy, unassuming, sweet, smiling, making the honor roll, making my family proud. All the while flirting with the idea of dying. Maybe I could end the misery – that was the one thing I could control…if I died then that would be the end to the madness. No one would get one-more-piece of me. But that would mean that they won. I couldn’t live -or die- with that.
I stood in my bedroom one day, a twisted bed sheet, long as a rope, wrapped around my neck and pulled snug. I stood there, feeling the constriction in my 10 year old neck. Pulling the ends tightly until my vision clouded. Until I blacked out. just no feelings around this. blankness. No fear, no elation, nothing. deadness. never attempted this or anything like it again, I forgot about this until today, as I write. I’m glad my spirit had other plans for me. Turns out that I had so much more to accomplish in my life. Using this tragic existence and the wisdom that comes with it – for good – as I would discover many, many years later.
At 11 I decided that I would tell my brothers that they were never touching me again. I have no idea where that strength came from but it was a much needed move to put an end to the abuse. I don’t remember feeling relieved or elated or proud. I remember feeling nothing. It was like a “pass the salt” exchange. It baffles me that despite all this b.s. going on that I was able to LEARN a thing in school, play sports and basically function as a relatively intact human. So strange. so dead. I remember distinctly stopping saying “I love you” to my mom because I had felt so betrayed. unprotected. thrown away. invisible. If I told ANYONE that I loved them, it was just because I thought that’s what people say to each other. I was supposed to say it, that it was expected. What a good girl!
I DIDN’T LOVE ANYONE. How do you learn to love when you are surrounded with dark, violent energy disguised as love? I never trusted what I saw – the truth was coming from what I could intuit/feel. Surrounded by people who were not available, it all felt incredibly dark and destructive. I couldn’t trust that these people would have my back. My heart was closed. Too much betrayal, damage, disregard for my situation. What a beautiful mess I was.
Shortly after I turned 13, my father got cancer. I was kept out of the loop regarding how bad it was and that he was going to die. Instead, I was told to go out and play while my older siblings all cried privately, knowing the inevitable. The energy in the house was colder that usual but I just went along with it. I could feel that something was very wrong. I stuffed what I sensed, as I had mastered by now… and continued to go outside and play so no-one had to deal with MY feelings on top of everything else. sigh.
My father died right before Thanksgiving. He was 45. 45. I was so angry. I could have burned the world down to the ground with the rage behind my eyes. Burn everyone and everything to the ground – how could he do this to us? How could he just give up and leave? I totally blamed him for abusing himself (and our mother for not stopping him). Leaving us with a mother who was never gunna see me, feel me, understand or truly love me. A mother who made me feel like vomiting every time she touched me – gag. I always got the sense that my father didn’t want to be here, that life was way too aggravating, a bitch, why bother fighting to stay here? Fuck it, I’ve only got 8 children who depend on me, no biggee. When he died I hardly cried at all – I. Was. Angry. Enraged! Pissed that she didn’t die instead. The wrong one died. The. wrong. one. died…..WHO THINKS THAT???? WHO SAYS THAT??? How the fuck bad do you have to be as a parent for your child to wish it was you in the grave? I knew from that point on there was no-one coming to help me. There was no-one coming to save me.
I was on my own now….a beautiful fragile shell.
7 thoughts on “Just A Shell”
Reblogged this on A Fish Named Karen and commented:
I think it’s so essential to remember what and where we came from and most importantly, how we have transformed ourselves. I feel the highest honor for those of you who are battling your way to sanity and personal power. You have my support to be who you came here to be. Fabulous.
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Also rage hides grief deep inside of it. My father died at 64 of cancer as well. I only started crying over it at 10 years of sobriety as I dealt with my pain with booze prior to that. But my Dad did painful things to me too so my grief was tinged with so many other complex emotions too.
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It’s great to be able to express our rage. It’s all in there anyway, waiting for expression. We are entitled to all of it. Take back what was taken from us- our power. Grief is monstrous also – let it flow. It’s beautiful when validated by someone with us. It was THAT bad when we were kids. Validation is QUEEN !
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Its great that you can own your rage fully when is so very legitimate. Its a very sad society we were born into and sadly our parents had to be so strong or stoic and deny hurt that they passed that on. I truly don’t believe its intentional but still if you are only half awake or alive you aren’t feeling fully. I do believe its for the generations from 1960 onwards to own the full power of this as what we do to ourselves we do to nature and the planet too and we need to wake up so we stop doing it. Although this post is raw and full of such pain I really applaud you for speaking your full truth. <3<3
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I have no words – just a deep, deep sadness for this young girl who turned into a strong, resilient, courageous woman.
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It’s a story that needs to be told. It’s as real as it gets. I am honored to be on the other side. 💜
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