I didn’t know what happened to me was abuse until I was an adult. No one told me I was being abused, and I was too young to understand what was going on. I definitely had no idea that the way I was treated would lead me to getting a severe mental disorder.
When I first met my Step Mother her and my Dad were already living together, and I’m pretty sure they were already engaged. I had (and still don’t) no idea how my Dad met her. She was pretty much brought into our (me and my sister) lives without warning (what if she hated us?).
They got married (I remember having to read a passage in the Bible), and things just went downhill. From day one her mentality was always, “my boys” (she has 3 sons), “your girls.” (As a side note, I do not blame my step brothers for any of this, they were very young and also had no idea what was going on.) We were always treated like guests instead of family.
The thing about abuse is it isn’t always big and obvious, and that can be dangerous. For example; giving my Dad an “allowance”, telling him he had to ask her permission to buy stuff for us (and I mean stuff like ice cream or a movie), and at the same time ordering him to do things for her kids at the snap of a finger. It may not seem abusive, but it is.
When my sister and I went to visit my Dad (I was middle school age, so was not old enough to say no to going. Plus, I was really close to my Dad and only got to see him every other weekend and on Tuesdays) we slept on a pull out couch. When they moved, we slept in a bedroom the size of a closet on these tiny beds what were basically connected couch cushions.
All of this I could tolerate, but that’s not all there is to the story. At some point during that age I was caught stealing a pack of baseball cards from a grocery store. I was a minor, dumb, and basically got a slap on the wrist. Well, my step mom made it seem like I was criminal. After it happened whenever I went over my Dad’s house she would walk around, clutching her purse, as if I was going to snatch it away at any moment. We lived in a two story house, and I was not allowed to go upstairs (even to use the bathroom) unless I was escorted by someone. I was not allowed to be in the house alone, but I also couldn’t go inside places with her. So, she’d take all the kids to the mall and leave me in the car (sometimes in the hot summer sun), windows rolled up, for hours at a time. For those of you asking, “why didn’t you just get out?” keep in mind I was a kid (14? 15?), and had no idea what the repercussions would be if I did.
Sometimes at the house she would make me sleep on the floor outside her bedroom. No blanket, no pillow, just the carpet. I remember my older step brother coming home one night and giving me a pillow and a blanket. She constantly swore at me, threw things at me (a fork and clicker come to mind), and the only time my Dad has hit me (like, slapped across the face) was when I swore at her.
I remember one time we were fighting, and she left the house in her usual dramatic fashion. When she came back she spoke about how she was going to drive her car into a tree, but she thought of her boys and she couldn’t. It was her usual display of theatrics, and I wasn’t having it. We argued, and my Dad (for the first time ever probably) spoke up, and the next thing she said I will never forget. She turned, looked right at me and said, “if your Dad and I ever get divorced it will be your fault.” Who says that to a kid?! Especially a kid who’s gone through divorce already!
The worst part? She fed her family these stories about what a terrible person I was, and how I was so mean to her. Never mind that she was the adult, I was a kid, and the worst I could and did do was yell and sometimes swear. But, did anyone berate her for the way she treated us? Of course not. I remember one time being so upset and scared that my Mom had to drive to Beverly to come get my sister and me.
As I got older I stopped going over as much. There was even a period of time where I stopped talking to her and my Dad for a long while (though, I stopped talking to her for much longer). It basically had to do with my Dad slut shaming me for modeling, not standing up for me when I was threatened (I won’t go into details about that), and basically taking her side again and again.
I few years ago, my step mom wrote a letter to my sister and me. It was her apology, only there wasn’t a real apology in there. Just, “we both made mistakes we should move on.” No, I made mistakes, like kids do. You were abusive. What I did after the letter is a testament to just how forgiving I am. I went over my Dad’s house (for the first time in months, maybe years), and patched things up. I forgave the past.
But I didn’t forget. The damage had been done. There is a well supported theory that Borderline Personality Disorder (the mental disorder I have) is caused by environmental factors. I started experiencing issues around the age of 14. This is about the age my step Mom came into my life (I was also severely bullied in middle school). I have no doubts in my mind that her treatment of me is a large reason why I have so many mental health issues.
Any abuse is terrible, but it doesn’t always come in the form of black eyes, screaming, or anything that’s obvious (although, when you’re an abuse victim any type of abuse may not seem obvious when you’re in the situation.)
What happened to me was child abuse, and the fact my Dad never really stood up for my sister or me, infuriates me, it put a strain on our relationship, but at the same time it’s made me a stronger person.
I wish I knew back then that I was being abused. Maybe things would have turned out different.