I do not remember being held, or cuddled, or read to. I remember my father getting VERY angry at me one Christmas because I asked 'is that all' when presents were over. I was 3? 4? He angrily dumped the parts of a metal scooter out of a box held high above me - they did not land on me but the LOUD *clanking* scared the crap out of me. He didn't like me even then. He had a horrible face that day. I didn't know who he was. I guess he was back for an Xmas morning? Need to ask about that. But see, it was my fault - I had been GREEDY. And UNGRATEFUL. I was the dirty ugly child, the one who ruined everything.
Once in California, pulled from Florida and the life I had led since birth, I was absolutely cut from the new herd. I didn't know ANYBODY, all of these people were strange to me and I had never even heard of them. I was alone, isolated, degraded, made fun of, yelled at, punished, teased - it never ended. I lived in a state of constant fear and stress. I was 6. I thought about killing myself a lot.
I never, ever questioned my existence or the changes. I just accepted that my body was now in THIS weird place, with these new people. It was so easy for me to let go of Florida. Like I was used to being 'beamed' from one location to another with no context, no knowledge. *shrug* I'm here now. very fucking weird for a kid.
People talk about the fight-or-flight thing. But there is another option. FREEZE. Like the rabbits in the book Watership Down, one can also go 'tharn' - you just freeze and your brain loses all input. Goes blank. Like the Blue Screen of Death. For me, it was a static noise and an inability to move my limbs. I could not think. I could not talk. When confronted in a stressful situation, I went elsewhere in my head. There are huge chunks of memories gone, incomplete scenes (like that camping bathroom episode, I cannot remember what happened once I was dragged back to the camper). Somewhere, somehow, I learned to shut the fuck down and all systems went on some kind of disassociation vacation. I never un-learned this defense mechanism. It went on to own me.
Things that got yelled at me with exhausting regularity:
"you're a liar!"
"You're a sneak"
"You're so lazy!"
"We could get a monkey to do what you do around here!"
I was whipped on the back of the legs with my dad's belts. I was the only one who ever got hit. I got thrown out of bed and into the closet doors in the middle of the night from a dead sleep. I got my face mashed down into my food at the table because I wasn't eating fast enough. I had to eat at the counter, isolated away from the rest of the family because I didn't do it right. On every vacation I got in trouble and grounded so that I was isolated from fun outings and had to stand behind a fence or off to the side and watch the others. I lived in a constant state of fear and stress. My sensors were on overload, an attack could come at any time. You're 6, 8, and you had better be ready. Going in your room was no solace, there was no place to hide. Hearing anybody yell anything remotely similar to my name causes my stomach to clench and my head to start shutting down. STILL. At 52 years old. If I hear a dad, a random dad, yelling at his kid named Tracy or Stacy because that rhymes with Casey - I am immediately back to that house, my childhood, and terror.
The smell of cigar smoke can send me to the same place.
I have learned to calm myself quickly, in these cases, and my heart ratchets back down in a matter of seconds. But it still happens. I WAS TRAINED. Mind-control is a very easy thing to accomplish for a narc. We are mind-fucked and believe what they tell us either in words or actions. I WAS AN UGLY WORTHLESS STUPID INCOMPETENT CHILD. I believed those words for the next 45 years.
And the other sisters? There was no way to save me. they were saving themselves. See, dad would use the excuse of my (made the fuck up) transgressions as a reason he was angry and why the family was having a bad time. The sisters couldn't understand why I just didn't get in trouble, stop doing those things! But what they didn't see, in keeping their own heads down, was that I had done nothing. I had been set up, every time. Even if they had done the exact same thing, the reaction would have been NOT angry. They couldn't understand why I always got in trouble. Neither could I. That is what is known as MIND CONTROL and Mind Fuckery and it. was. effective. I had already realized that I got in trouble because I was a horrible, ugly, worthless, idiot of a kid who didn't deserve to be with the family. I was a shit stain, and no wonder I was an outcast. SEE HOW THAT WORKS?
I would sit for hours in my bed and I don't remember doing anything. Maybe reading, once I learned to read. Alice in Wonderland over and over and over. It terrified me, it was strange, I liked it.
It never occurred to me to like, clean my room. I simply didn't see it, didn't notice it. I shut down. There is nothing beyond this disassociated bubble I have created, like the 'nothing' in The Neverending Story (yes, I relate to stories quite a lot. They saved me as a child.) Why clean my room when I want to be dead. And I want my parents dead. I did have chores to do each day - and I will tell the truth here. I usually forgot to do them. I was always saying 'I forgot!'. I know how frustrating that is as a parent, Mike went through that stage. I can't tell you why I forgot so much. They were the same chores every week, like sweep the patio on Thursday, bathroom on Tuesday, etc. I just forgot. I was living with my head inside a ringing bell all the time. I escaped into my fantasy world, my own private world - and I didn't see or remember the chores. I guess I really was stupid. I guess they really COULD have gotten a donkey to do what I did around the house. See how that goes?
By the time I went to school I was so used to being on the outside that I automatically put myself there. I was the only kid who could read in 1st grade, but I also got in trouble for hiding under my sweater at my desk a lot. I have no idea if I played at recess, I probably did. The teacher thought I was strange and singled me out for it. I wasn't allowed (by my parents) to bring Valentines to school unless I made them. BY MYSELF. They refused to buy store-bought valentines for me to sign. So I tried making some. And I saw how awful they looked so I threw it all away (I mean, 30 kids! I was fucking 6 with glue and paper, and no help. I mean, the 'parents' were in another room for the evening - 'here's the crap you need, go for it' I didn't know how big to make them, how to cut a heart, just one took me an hour, so then the whole pile turned into punishment, something so far from fun... so I showed up at school with nothing, with my head down in shame. The fact that the other kids still gave ME valentines made my head spin. I figured I was going to be sitting this party out. And it made me so grateful for the attention. And do you see? That overly anxious GRATEFUL WAGGY TAIL singled me out as weird even further. And that became another issue for me, inappropriate gratitude for the smallest action from someone else. It marked me as subservient and a victim for bullying. And then I don't remember anything until 4th grade.
My point here is that I was so stressed, so freaked out all the time, I was learning to live in panic mode. The red button was always pushed, the sirens and alarms were always going off in my head, and unless I was ALONE (like walking home from school) I was on guard. And I didn't do it right, I always got blindsided, I got in trouble anyway. Praying for my parents to die in a car crash didn't seem to come true.
Me, 6-years old. (my grandmother from Iowa is hugging me, my step-mother's mom, another person who could have been the queen of England for all I knew) Notice my clothes - thrashed, and bought in the boys department. Notice my fucked up hair. Boys jeans and shoes. But oh hey! a barette. Those things sure do come popping out when there is a camera nearby. Other than the barette, this is what I looked like all the time. My hair stuck out to the sides like that in a thin-hair-dry-frizzy way, the other kids called me 'roof-head'. Among other things.
I changed schools in 5th grade because I tested high enough on an IQ test to go to the accelerated school. New school, new kids, who had been together all year, I'm new and outside even more. I have no social skills. These are 5th graders. Kids have personalities now - they have groups and strengths and clothing preferences. I had none of that. I didn't know where the bathrooms were, the classrooms could be opened wide for two teachers to teach at a time - it was brand new and very progressive and WAY out of my league. I may have been 'smart' but I was a terrified bunny - no social skills whatsoever.
I think telling you I was ignored by my family is maybe like saying the grand canyon is deep. You cannot know. I had had no voice for so long I didn't know how to express my opinion, and even doing so would merit abuse of some kind. My hair. My clothes. I was WEIRD and marked from it. It was inside me, what with the fear and stress, and with no social skills - I didn't know how to talk to anyone, how to have a friend or be a friend. Or how to speak to teachers. I was smart and read books WAY past my age level and even though I understood the words, I had no way to grasp the adult concepts, nowhere to file them - I had a vocabulary and comprehension of ideas but I couldn't talk about lunch boxes (weren't allowed to have one) or Twinkies (weren't allowed to eat them) I was dirty and not dressed right (the days when girls had their hair braided before school! boys wore tucked in shirts!) and I had to bring SOUP to school for lunch, not a PBJ - I was practically a walking Asperger's child before anyone knew what that was. Anyone remember Boo Radley from 'To Kill A Mockingbird? Lisa Loopner from 'Saturday Night Live'? Yeah, but without Todd.
Lisa Loopner (Gilda Radner), social outcast
I was wretched and fumbling and scared and home was where the abuse was, school was an endurance test and I didn't understand any of it, except the parts where they read to us the series of 'The Black Caldron', that was pretty awesome. Health class? teaching us to wash? wha...? I didn't even tell my family I almost got RAPED. Why would I ask them about washing my face? There were friends, a couple of kids who SAW me and one of whom I am still friends with to this day (a reconnect thanks to FB). Her parents, god love them, they saw what a basket case I was. They invited me over anyway. There was a boy. Byron Kemper. We knew each other through high school and beyond. We became lovers and best friends. HE DIED when we were 25, the rat bastard.
The principal of that school met with my parents and they all decided to hold me back a grade, because my social skills were so far behind. I got held back in 5th grade.
All the people I had been in school with, who already thought I was so weird, were now 6th graders ahead of me. I had ALL NEW KIDS again to get to know, and I knew they were younger than me and oh my jesus, that was the kick in the teeth to my feeling like I was outside. I never, ever, regained any ground in being an outcast. I was pointed at. I was so. fucking. miserable. Those ow 6th graders who had been my classmates went on through Jr. Hi and High School knowing me as The Weird Girl Who Failed 5th Grade. I mean, I didn't fail, but why else do people think you got held back?
Look how comfortable I look. "Please let me die."
My 'parents' never asked how it was going. If they had, I would have replied 'fine'. Because, what? what else is there but to go to school, the place where ALL YOUR PEER TIME IS, and put on the yoke of the Weird Wagon and just pull it all day, every day. I played by myself. I made up games. I told inappropriate jokes I had heard at the dinner table. I didn't do my homework because I didn't understand it and I wasn't going to ask for help, we were expected to work in our bedrooms alone on our own time schedule, it was our responsibility don't EVER ask questions. I knew answers to odd questions and could talk to grown ups about say, going to the opera, but I couldn't talk about normal kids stuff because what in the fuck is normal kid stuff? Oh man. A sit-com couldn't have this much weirdness in it.
Do any of you know a comedian named Christopher Titus? Mike loves him. I cannot listen to him, it makes me a sobbing, crying mess. His humor comes from his child abuse. NO.
And I haven't even gotten to Jr. Hi yet. Fuck me.