Home is a feeling. A feeling of love, comfort, and warmth. Growing up, home had no meaning to me, except that it was the last place I wanted to be. I grew up in dark places, screams, and threats. I knew the term “punishment” all too well. My feet worn and cut from the eggshells I had walked on every single day. My head flinched at every crash, scream, or hand that moved in my direction. All at the age of five. I was forced to grow up earlier than I should have. I learned how to act and what to say as a form of survival. I behaved accordingly or my world came crashing down at the drop of a hat.
My mother had not been your ordinary mother. The word mother is soft. It’s inviting and “safe”. My mother was not. She was cold and on edge. Ready to jump at the chance to let the anger brewing inside her out every chance she got. One slip up, added another scar that would haunt my future self. I was the best child I could be. I was the quiet girl beaten down to the point where she no longer had a voice. I was nothing. I knew that. I was often reminded of how inconvenient I was.
My grandparents were my saviors. They were the parents I wished were biological. They taught me about love and acceptance. They were the bright spot in my darkest days. They were what kept me pushing and hoping when I felt like I could not bear any more. Through the pain, the thought of seeing them kept me strong.
I was beat. Emotionally and physically. I didn’t know then that my “parents” were wrong. I thought I would never be good enough for them. I blamed myself. An accident as small as spilling milk (yes, spilling actual milk) bought me a one way ticket to my room for the night with welts. I also remember whenever I had a coughing fit, or coughed “too much” according to my parents’ standards, I was threatened and sent away again. Turns out I had asthma. I have been drug by my hair, bruised, spit in my face, called names no child should be called, and my lips broken from their fists. It was wrong. I know that now.
With every punishment came not seeing my grandparents for weeks at a time. The only people that made me feel like I could be something. The only hope I had left. If I failed a test in school, I was to live without my grandparents and electricity. I would go home and sit in my room. I would not even be allowed to turn the lights on. If I defied my parents in any way I was beaten and sent to my room for hours or days at a time. It was nearly impossible to remain strong.
I recall once, when I was around ten or so, my stepfather threatened to leave my mother. My mother assumed I was at fault. She stood before my stepfather and hit me over and over again begging him to stay. Hoping that if she beat me enough, he would see her love was greater for him than for me. Then, maybe he would stay. He did.
Unsurprisingly, my parents fought on a daily basis. One fight was so horrible that I remember my mother running into the bathroom with a knife. “I told you if you ever do that again I’ll leave you!” my stepfather shouted from the other side of the house. I waited patiently outside the door for my mother. Sobbing, she flung the door open and looked at me. “You can’t ever do anything right”, she said “you were the worst mistake.” They finally resolved their fight. It was time for my stepfather to go to work. He told me to hug my mother so that he could leave. I hugged her body as she crossed her arms and looked away from me. He left. I spent the rest of the night in my room, alone, wondering why I was such a waste of space.
When I got a little older, my stepfather talked about adopting me. He thought on it for a few months. I asked if I could keep my last name, and add a hyphen. I shared the same name as my grandparents. The only people I thought had loved me. This was out of the question. We fought. He pulled the truck over, whipped my door open, and got an inch from my face. “I will never adopt you” were the words he spoke. One more blow to my pre-pubescent self-esteem. I will never be good enough.
My mother’s alcohol addiction got worse. Much worse. So bad, in fact, that my stepfather left. Actually left. When my mother caught wind she threw me in the car and we sped to my grandparents. She said “stay in the car”. I watched her go in as she pinned my grandmother to a wall and screamed in her face. She had assumed my grandmother had a part in my stepfather leaving. She did not, but my out of control mother was too blind to see that she only had herself to blame. I jumped out of the car and ran toward the glass door of my grandparents’ house. My mother saw me before I could get there and locked it. I had to sit there, begging and crying, as I watched my mother beat the only woman that ever loved me. When she was done, she opened the door as my grandmother laid there, drug me to the car, and we left. My grandparents did not press charges out of fear that my mother would keep me from them again. I didn’t see my grandmother for a week. When I was finally allowed to see her again, she was still black and blue. She cried for weeks. My heart broke for her.
Sixteen. What a magical age. You gain that little bit of freedom and it’s exhilarating. My parents were the type to care more about their image that what lies behind closed doors. They wanted to be that picture perfect family. They were always hungry for money and the approval of their peers. So, of course they had to let me drive myself to where I needed to go to avoid any questions. The feeling of relief I got when I could leave at the turn of a key was one of the best I had ever felt. One night, I was driving myself and some friends’ home. I hit a bump that sent me to the shoulder of the road and then I overcorrected my vehicle. The car flipped multiple times. Luckily, everyone survived, but not everyone was uninjured. I remember waking up in the E.R. My parents showed up. My mother was only interested in scolding me. There were too many nurses around to do so. So they left. I spent the night in the hospital alone. I woke to my mother storming in the room screaming at the top of her lungs. I simply stated that if she couldn’t just be happy for a minute that I was alive, to leave. She left. I didn’t see her for hours.
One girl almost died. I won’t go into detail about the accident, but I will say how it changed me. I was there for that girl every day waiting for her to get better. I would’ve traded places with her in a heartbeat. I blamed myself for everything that had happened. It was one of the worst periods of my life. I saw a counselor regularly for severe depression and PTSD. My parents did not take this seriously. They had only sent me to get help because another parent had noticed I was self-harming. They must remember their image. Every chance they got they used the accident against me. They used it in during fights to kick me while I was down. They treated my depression as a form of punishment.
Luckily, at the age of 19, I finally said I had had enough. It was a cold winter night. My little brother let our dogs inside. One of them had gotten snow on the carpet. My mother exploded. It was a full blown fight. I wanted to leave. To escape what I knew was coming. My mother pulled my hair so that I could not reach the door. She screamed, “Come here you little B*tch!” as she pulled me down to the ground. I pushed her to get her off of me as my stepfather came through the door. He held me down as our German Shepard tore my legs to shreds and he spit in my eyes while he busted my lip. Out of fear, he choked me so hard I pretended to pass out so that he would let me go. He picked me up by hair and literally threw me out of my house onto the cold snow covered sidewalk and told me never to come back. So I didn’t.
I moved in with my grandparents. The one wish I had when I was little finally came true. Life was good. I was free.
I worked a full time job along with a part time job to support myself and save money to go back to college. I knew that my parents, who owned multiple businesses and were more than well-off, would have to provide me with some information to fill out my FAFSA form so I could afford to go to school. I asked them to simply fill out a form so I could have an education. They didn’t feel comfortable with sharing that information. Their negligence towards filing out their portion of FAFSA caused me to be dropped from classes not once, not twice, but three times. After finally getting everything in order, my stepfather stated I should have thanked them. I no longer needed my parents. For anything. The thought freed me. At 23 years old, I stood up to my parents for the first time in my life. I let them know just how selfish and rotten they really are. I stood up to my demons.
Since I took my stand against my parents, they have not spoken a single word to me or let me contact my only brother. I should’ve seen it coming. They kept me from my grandparents every time I was “in trouble”. I wish I would’ve thought about this before I told my story. I would not risk my relationship with my brother for anything. Now, I have to hope that when he is old enough he’ll seek to hear both sides of the story. Unfortunately, I have to come to terms with him believing whatever my parents have chosen to tell him.
I cannot say I hate my parents, even though it may seem like I should. There were good moments. They did not happen often, but they were still there. I do not, however, believe they outweigh the bad moments. It’s a daily struggle trying to determine exactly how I feel. What I do know is that I am proud of myself. I made it. I survived my childhood. I am supporting myself and putting myself through college. I have the best grandparents in the world to look up to, a cozy home of my own, a loving boyfriend, and an adorable puppy. I made a life of my own and I am happy. I would not change a thing.
I do not want pity. I do not want attention. My goal is to tell my story so that other kids that were taught that they had no value and could never amount to anything can overcome the feeling of hopelessness. Do not listen to whomever is beating you down. Your time will come. You will rise up and prove them wrong. Believe in yourself. You can achieve anything you set your mind to. Don’t let the negativity projected on you from others effect who you are and what you stand for. Do not be a victim. Be a survivor.