Happy Birthday, Golden Child

Yesterday was my brother’s 37th birthday.

I thought for sure I was going to be emotional about it; birthdays have been a reminder of the family I lost when I ran away. But I really didn’t feel anything at all. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t anything. I just said today is my brother’s birthday and then I went on with my day.

I used to feel sorry for my brother. I used to feel guilty for leaving him behind. But all of that changed last month when I finally saw my brother for who he really was: my mother’s son.

I know it isn’t all my brother’s fault. I think he drank a little too much of our mother’s Kool-Aid throughout his life and he continues to see the world through the distorted lenses that she prescribed to him. He lives in my mother’s version of reality, a reality devoid of truth and decency, a reality full of lies and artificiality.

But that’s not an excuse for all of my brother’s actions. He’s had choices, yet he has continued to make the wrong ones time and time again. He’s chosen to be a follower instead of a leader. He’s chosen to be a user instead of a helper. He’s chosen to be a boy instead of a man. He’s chosen to be a husband instead of a son. He’s chosen to be greedy instead of fair. He’s chosen to hurt instead of heal.

My brother didn’t have to be that way. He made those choices on his own, and he will have to live with them. I no longer carry any guilt. I no longer feel sorry for him. I only feel sorry for the little girl who lost her brother. Her brother, the only person who was there with her through some of the pain, and the one person who should have understood more than anyone what they went through. That brother is gone, though I’m not sure he ever really existed.

I wanted my brother to be someone who I now know he will never be. I wanted him to choose good over evil. I wanted him to be better than what she wanted him to be. But that’s not who he is, and I can’t change that, just as I can’t change who my mother is, or who my father was. I can’t change any of them. I can only change me.

My brother and I share parents. We share the same last name. But that is where our similarities end. We are vastly different people, who have taken completely opposite paths. My brother chose complacency, and I chose rebellion.

My brother will always be the golden child, never doing wrong, always getting whatever he wants. But he will never realize that all of it comes with the cost of his freedom.

I will always be the black sheep, doing everything wrong, getting nothing I need. But that’s okay because I have my freedom, and that freedom hasn’t cost me anything I hadn’t lost already.


I had to have a stress echocardiogram yesterday. I’ve been having chest pains, and my primary doctor wanted me to see a cardiologist to rule out anything heart-related (my lung issues put me at a higher risk for certain heart conditions). My PCP is aware of my PTSD and my issues with medical stuff and warned me that it wasn’t going to be easy for me to do. She even said that I may have to be sedated to get through it. I thought she was joking. Now I don’t think she was joking at all.

When I went to my cardiology appointment a few weeks ago, I wasn’t expecting anything major to happen. I thought the cardiologist was going to tell me I was okay and send me on my way. I think he may have thought that, too, when he looked at my record. A 30 year-old with no high blood pressure, no diabetes, and no high cholesterol. No risks. But then he started asking me questions, and by the end of the medical interrogation, he told me I had a lot working against me. Smoking, drug use, medications, family history, and past overdoses were all fucking me over in that moment. There was enough concern to schedule more testing.

I didn’t really know what was going to happen aside from getting hooked up to wires and running on a treadmill. It didn’t seem like much, so I tried not to stress about it. I didn’t even bring it up in therapy the day before because I wasn’t expecting anything bad to happen. I thought I had it all under control.

I didn’t even make it to the first part of the test before breaking down and crying.

A nurse took me to the room and gave me a gown to change into. I knew I had to do it, but it was difficult. My layers of clothes help me feel safe, and now I had to let them go. I stood there, completely naked from the waist up, trying to wrap myself in the gown and holding it closed. But the nurse had to get in. She had to put patches on my skin so I had to uncover.

I stood there, completely vulnerable, trying to hold myself together. I felt the skin of her hands touching the skin on my chest. I wanted to tell her to stop but I couldn’t. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. I froze. Then she reached her arms around me. I felt her against my body just like I had felt my mother just years ago. And I lost it.

I felt so sick. I couldn’t say a word. I just cried. All I could think about was my mother. All those times I would stand there and let her touch me and I never said a word. I never told her to stop. I never made her stop. I must have wanted it. 

How sick am I to have let this happen. Does she think I wanted this? I wonder if she know. Does she see how disgusting I am? Does she know what I’ve done? 

I don’t even really know all that went on during the test. I was so lost in my mind that my body became automatic. I know I stopped crying after a while. I finished the test. My heart was okay. My cardiologist was happy. I remember him asking me if I was excited to have a perfectly healthy heart, and I couldn’t answer. All I wanted to do was run to the nearest bathroom to throw up. And I did.

I needed to wash the filth off. All I wanted to do was scald my skin in the hottest water. But I was afraid to go home, because I knew I wouldn’t be safe being alone with my memories. So I took the bus to clear my mind. I fiddled around on my phone. I went to the movie theater to distract myself, only to end up crying in the bathroom stall for half an hour instead.

I wandered and cried for hours until I finally ended up at home before dark. I got in the shower and cried even more. I washed myself a dozen times but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to rip off all of my skin and scrub away all of the filth hidden underneath. I felt it everywhere. I just wanted it to go away. But it wasn’t going away.

I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I needed clean. I couldn’t clean my body anymore, so I started cleaning my surroundings. I washed everything down with vinegar. I scrubbed the baseboard. I spent hours wiping every surface. I got a garbage bag and threw away everything that was dirty. Dirty clothes. Dirty shoes. Dirty knick-knacks. I needed everything to be clean. I rid myself of everything dirty because I couldn’t get rid of the dirtiest thing of all: me.

I can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking. I can’t eat because my stomach feels so sick. I’ve taken four showers today and I still feel so disgusting.

I don’t think any amount of showers in the world would make me feel clean right now. I just want to feel clean.

Endless fear

When the doorbell rings, normal people stop what they’re doing, see who’s there, and answer the door.

When the doorbell rings, I stop what I’m doing. My heart races, so much that I can hear it beating in my ears. I can’t breathe. I don’t want to breathe, because I’m afraid if I do, they will know I am here. Five different scenarios run through my head, and none of them are good (or even rational). I always end up hiding in the closet or the bathroom, waiting for the worst to happen.

One incident is enough to drain me for the rest of the day. By the time I’ve calmed down (minutes, sometimes hours later), I have no energy left to do anything but sleep.

But yesterday, the doorbell rang (and was followed by several knocks on the door) not once, not twice, but six times.

I was a wreck. The first two times it happened, I was downstairs and locked myself in the bathroom. I was able to calm myself down after ten or so minutes. Then when it happened a third time, the panic was overwhelming. It was too much. I didn’t feel safe. I locked every lock and closed every window, then went upstairs to my room and locked my door.

Then it happened a fourth time. My mind went into overdrive. My mother found me. She knows I’m here. It’s the only thing that made sense. Who else would be ringing the bell and knocking so consistently? Not the mailman. Not a solicitor. It was someone who wanted me to open that door. It’s her.

By the time the bell rang a sixth time, I had barricaded my door with so much crap that no one would be able to push their way in. But I still didn’t feel safe. I knew where I was. I knew I was in my bedroom. I knew the doors were locked and I was blocked in. But I still felt in danger. I was scared of my mother. My mother, who doesn’t even know where I live.

I was still on edge even after the ringing and knocking stopped. Every single noise made me jump. Every car passing outside. Every creak of the floor. Every step the cat took downstairs. Every sound was magnified and I couldn’t make it stop.

My body was tired, but I couldn’t sleep. I spent hours fighting battles inside, trying to stay in the safe reality while my mind was tied to the dangerous past. After several hours, I gave up. I took just enough medicine to knock me out, because I knew that was the only way I was going to make it through.

Now as I’m sitting here, a day later, I’m wondering when it will stop. When will I not have to hide? When will I feel safe? When will I not be afraid of my mother? When will I not live in constant fear?

Is any of that even possible?

People don’t understand the fear I carry with me every day. You’re free now. Yea, I’m physically free. Mentally, I am still in prison. I am still a scared child. I am still in danger. Your mother won’t hurt you anymore, you got away. Exactly. I got away. I was never supposed to be able to leave her. I committed the ultimate sin, and now I am perpetually waiting for my punishment.

I’m tired. I’m tired of hiding every time there’s a knock at the door, because I’m afraid she will come in and get me. I’m tired of wearing four shirts and three pairs of underwear every day because I’m afraid she will come and hurt me. I’m tired of sleeping with a knife under my pillow every night because I’m afraid she will come and kill me.

I’m tired of living my life in fear, because it’s not the life I want to live.


I’ve been struggling with a memory for the last couple of days. It came up inadvertently in therapy on Monday.

My therapist asked if I could smell anything. I have issues with smell, due largely in part to a deviated septum I got as a child when a classmate accidentally kicked me upside the face. I never went to the hospital; my mother insisted I was fine. I just sat in the office with ice packs covering my bloody nose and face.

I found the need to justify my mother’s inaction. She cares. She’s taken me to the hospital before. I recalled several visits to the ER to have Lego blocks removed from my nostrils (my mother wasn’t happy about those incidents). Then I recalled the major hospital incident of my youth: the time I walked into the wall.

My brother was playing a video game. Super Mario Bros. 3 on Nintendo. I can remember that part.

Then I remember sitting in the backseat of the car, surrounded by bloody wash cloths and towels. Don’t look. Just keep holding it there. We were driving for a long time. We lived just minutes from the hospital, but that’s not where my father went. He drove all the way to a hospital in the next county.

I remember laying in the hospital bed, staring at the lights above me. I couldn’t feel anything, but I knew what was going on. I just focused on the lights as the doctor stitched up my face. No more bleeding.

What I can’t remember is what happened in between. How did my face get like that? My parents always told the story that I walked into a wall. I was just being clumsy and careless and smacked my face right into the bedroom wall. I never really questioned it as a child. What child would?

Saying it out loud the other day made me realize how bizarre the incident was. How I could have walked into a wall and caused that type of damage? How could a little girl walk into anything with that much force to cause a deep cut across her lip like that? How was my nose spared? Wouldn’t that have hit the wall first? And why did we drive so far away to get help? I have all these questions that I don’t have the answers to.

I still have the scar (thankfully less prominent) 20+ years later. What I don’t have is the memory of how I got it. All I have to go on is a story.

The last couple of days have been full of memory flashes of what happened after, but nothing of what caused the damage. It’s frustrating for me. I want to know. Why can’t I know the truth?

Maybe I did walk into the wall. But why can’t I remember doing that?

Maybe I did walk into the wall. Because why would my parents lie?

I ask myself that last question and realize that my parents have lied most of their lives. They’ve lied to themselves. They’ve lied to their family. And they’ve lied to their children.

There’s been so many lies, that I can’t even figure out what was truth. Even the most insignificant things were lies. My mother lied about where I was born. I didn’t find out until I went to get a Social Security card after I ran away, and ended up giving what I found out to be inaccurate information. My birthplace was wrong. My mother’s name on my birth record did not match what I knew her name to be. I haven’t been able to get my birth certificate because I don’t have the right information to verify who I am. As if I didn’t struggle with figuring out who I am enough, I can’t even figure out the most basic components of my identity. I know my name is the truth. That’s about it.

I was a child who believed what my parents said because that’s what children are taught to do. Trust your parents. They don’t lie to their children to hurt them. Sure, parents lie about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. But they don’t lie about birthplaces and bleeding faces.

Maybe I’m just overanalyzing. Maybe it wasn’t a lie. Maybe I did just walk into the wall in just the right way. But how the hell can I know truths when so much has been lies?


I envy my mother.

She hid who she really was so perfectly. She was (and still is) a brilliant actress. No one suspected she was abusing her own children. They only saw what she presented to the world.

She was a true Catholic woman who went to Church every weekend.

She was a devoted mother who was involved in all of her children’s activities.

She was a kind, good-hearted, charitable person who never hesitated to give what she could to others.

The truth was that my mother only went to Church because membership was requires in order to get discounted tuition for the Catholic schools she sent her children to. Her stoic Catholicism  disappeared once her children finished school. The schools she sent her children to, not to give them a better education or strong faith, but because it made her look good. Bad parents don’t send their children to private school, right?

The truth was that my mother was involved in every activity not because she was devoted, but because she needed to be in control at all times. She was a Girl Scout troop leader not because she believed in what the organization stood for, but because it put her in an easily obtained power position.

The truth was that my mother brought gifts and donated to charities because it made her look good. She would buy lavish gifts for friends and extended family with money she didn’t have to spend. We’d often sit at home with no power because she spent all of the money she had buying things, and had no money left to pay the bills. But that didn’t bother her, because no one saw that our power was off, but they did see the nice things she bought for them (and for herself).

As an adult, I envied my mother’s ability to present whatever she wanted to the world, even when it was a lie. I could never do that. I wore the truth on my face without even trying.

But I’ve come to realize, I am pretending just like she did. I am hiding behind a false presentation I give to the world.

People see that I have it together. I go to work, I go to school, I write. I’m functioning so well. People read my articles, they see what I’ve done and they look up to me.

The truth is I am fucked up. I can barely get out of bed most mornings, and even though I manage to make it to work, it sucks up the little energy I have. I don’t even know how I’m making it through school because I have no fucking clue what’s going on. I know I’m reading English, but it might as well be Chinese because I just can’t understand it. I write articles that give people with DID hope, showing them that they can live a normal life, when I am spending so many of my days in a black hole of hopelessness, questioning if my life could get any more fucked up than it already is. I tell people to accept their diagnosis, while I wake up and tell myself I don’t have DID. I’m a fucking hypocrite.

And in the moments that someone sees that I am not together, I pretend like I am. I don’t want them seeing the mess that I am. So I tell them I am okay. I put on a smile. I do my work. They think I’m okay. There’s nothing to see here. Please go, and care about someone who matters.

People see that I look better. I’ve lost so much weight, but they assume it’s okay because I’m overweight. They give me compliments about my appearance, and tell me how great and healthy I look. I smile and thank them.

The truth is I am not healthy. I’ve lost so much weight because I starve myself. No one thinks anything of it, because they only think eating disorders happen to skinny people. It’s just like childhood. You don’t look like you’re starving. Oh, but I was. And I still am. The only difference is now I am the one in control, not my mother. I learned to shut off my hunger like a switch. If I don’t feel it, then it’s not a problem. I am in control now.

And in the moments that someone shows concern about my eating, I eat for them. I take their offers of food. I act like I enjoy it. Then I go in the bathroom and throw it all up. But they don’t see that. They see me eat and they think I’m okay. There’s nothing to see here. Please go, and care about someone who matters.

People see that I am planning a future. I’m working hard. I’m continuing my education. I’m going to therapy in order to heal. I must be working towards a better life.

The truth is that I’m just going through the motions. I am not planning my future any more than I am planning my death. I’m working because I have to. I’m going to school because I need the money. Therapy isn’t going to heal me. You can’t heal a person that’s been broken so many times, just like you can’t repair a shattered mug. I’m not working towards anything. I’m just waiting for the end.

And in the moments when someone sees my hopelessness, my depression, I tell them I’m fine. I tell them they’re wrong. If I were so hopeless and so lost, I wouldn’t be working,  going to school, or going to therapy. If I were so hopeless, I would have killed myself already. I make valid points. They think I must be okay. Please go, and care about someone who matters.

I am just like my mother. I’ve become so good at acting normal, that no one can see who I really am.

A fucking disaster.


I am constantly on high-alert. I am (painfully) aware of things that other people don’t notice, or don’t think twice about: sounds, people, cars, everything. I know that is related to my PTSD.

In some ways, it benefits me. I had someone following me in the dark a couple of weeks ago and I noticed right away and took action.

In other ways, I can do without the hypervigilance. It’s tiring. I am constantly questioning every little noise and every movement. It makes it impossible to focus.

You would think that, with being so aware of my environment at all times, I would be aware of what is going on within me. If I know the outside, I should know the inside, too. It seems like common sense. It seems like it should be that way. But it’s not for me.

Yesterday, I was putting labels up at work. I started noticing splotches of reddish-orange. I thought it was just marker or something, so I tried to rub it off, but that just seemed to spread it more. Then I noticed my hand, which had the same color splotches on it. Then I noticed my finger, entirely covered in it. It took me a minute to realize that it wasn’t marker on the labels. It was me.

I was bleeding. Profusely. I didn’t even notice I had cut my finger. How, I don’t know. I didn’t feel a thing. No pain. Nothing.

I could understand if this was a one time thing. I could rationalize it by saying that I was just too tired. But this wasn’t the first time something like this has happened. Years ago, I leaned over a burner while it was on and burned my abdomen. I didn’t feel anything. The only thing I noticed was the smell of my burning shirt. I’ve injured myself countless times and not felt any pain.

Why can I notice everything going on outside me, but I can’t notice anything going on inside me? I notice the blood on the paper, but not the cut on my finger. I notice the smell of burning fabric, but not the burns on my skin. It doesn’t make sense.

It scares me. How can I know when something is wrong if I can’t feel anything?

It frustrates me. People ask me how something feels and I just don’t know. Isn’t it hot in here? Well, I guess it is hot since you asked. But I have no idea. What does this pillow feel like? I don’t know, but since I can see that it’s silky, I’ll take a guess and say that it’s soft. I use context clues so I can seem normal. The truth is I really have no fucking clue how anything feels to my body half the time.

It worries me. You could cut the head off of my body and I feel like I’d still function the same. I don’t feel connected at all. There is no mind-body connection here.

I feel like a robot. Robots can’t feel, and neither can I.

Failed dreams and a graduation

I technically graduated college in December of 2015, in the middle of the academic year. There was no celebration. I got my degree and award in the mail and that was that; I didn’t think much of it. In many ways, I still felt unworthy. I felt like I didn’t truly earn it.

At that time, I had no intentions of attending the graduation ceremony that would be held in the Fall. It wasn’t local, it was nearly a year after I finished, and I’d have to go alone, because I had no family. The whole thing seemed like more of a burden than anything.

It also wasn’t how I dreamed I would graduate.

Growing up, my academic prowess was the only good thing I had. I was intelligent, and it was consistently recognized. While in high school, I had dreams of going to an Ivy League school. I dreamed I was going to graduate as valedictorian. I dreamed of finally being free.

Going to college was supposed to be my ticket out. I applied to colleges all over the country. I got accepted into some of the best schools. I had full scholarships. Any reasonable parents would have been thrilled at their child’s achievements, and thankful that scholarships would relieve the financial burden.

But my parents weren’t reasonable. They took my achievement as an insult, that in some way the acceptances and awards made me think I was better than them. I never said or acted like I was, but that didn’t matter. Nothing I ever did was good to them, even when it was good to everyone else.

My college dreams fizzled away.

My mother started hiding my acceptance letters. I found a collection of them after I had graduated from HS, mysteriously “lost” in a convenient, hidden away pile. Every letter was an acceptance. Every school I applied to was ready to welcome me. Yet I ended up at a school I never wanted to be in.

I was disillusioned to think that my parents would ever let me go away to college. I couldn’t even leave the house. I didn’t have any choices. My mother decided my college career for me. I had to go to a local university, one that I could still be within my parents’ control. My father drove me to class, and picked me up as soon as I was done. I didn’t have any freedom, but I should have known that was going to be the case. I was foolish to think otherwise.

Even though I hated that school, I made the most out of it. I excelled once again. In my second year there, I was already receiving honors. I was top-ranked. My picture was in the papers. I was on track to be valedictorian. A part of my dream started to come back. I can still be something.

And then I lost that dream again. I forfeited my scholarship and gave up my academic achievements when I dropped out of school with a 4.0 GPA. My father was sick, and it was selfish of me to think of my education when my family was struggling. It was just another failed dream.

Whenever I thought about this recent graduation, all I could think about were those failed dreams. I should have been graduating at 22. I should have been up on stage, making my valedictorian speech. I should have been surrounded by family and friends who were just as proud of me as I was of myself.

Instead, I’m graduating at 30 years old. I won’t be making any speeches, and there won’t be any family in the audience cheering for me. I am alone. Why would I want to celebrate that?

But part of me did want to celebrate. Part of me knew all it took for me to get my degree.

Through it all, I finished with a 3.9 GPA. And when I say all, I mean it: several long-term hospital visits for pneumonia, a surgery, and four psychiatric inpatient hospitalizations. I had no breaks. I couldn’t take any sick leave. I had to get it done. I wrote my thesis in the midst of my escape to freedom. Through the chaos, I still did it.

I earned that degree just like I earned my freedom.

But I didn’t want to celebrate alone. I had no family. My new friends were too new. My old acquanitances were distant. I didn’t think it was possible, so I gave up my plans. Then, just weeks before, I decided I needed to do something positive for me, and this was my chance. I (hesitantly) asked my best friend from my old life if he would like to go, and to my surprise, he said he would. So I spent the last two or three weeks scrambling to get everything together.

This Saturday, my friend and I traveled to my graduation ceremony. It was overwhelming at first. Within minutes of entering the arena, I started to panic. There were hundreds of people around. I was in a new place, and the noise was so loud I couldn’t even hear myself think. I had to calm myself. I tried to find a spot away from all of the people. I wanted to put on my headphones and drown everyone and everything out, but I couldn’t. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. It took everything in me not to have a meltdown right then and there.

But I got through it. I put on my cap and gown, and my honor cords, and walked out to the arena. I tried to look down at the floor instead of up at all of the people. It was the only way I could stay calm. I thought about what name I should use. Do I use my old name, or my new name? I hate my old name, but it’s still my legal name and the name I went to school with. I can’t just go up and give an alias. 

I debated with myself for an hour. I finally got up on stage, walked up to the microphone, and announced both of my names. It felt right that way, recognizing both who I was and who I am becoming. I shook a few hands and made my exit off of the stage. It was done.

I sat and waited for the other graduates to finish, not really feeling anything at all. Then the president of the university made his final speech. He took time out to acknowledge and thank students’ families for helping the students get to where they were today. I watched the audience as mothers and fathers stood up to be applauded. Then spouses, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, etc.

In that moment, I realized I had no family out there for me. Not just at graduation, but in the years leading up to that very day. My family didn’t help me get an education; they took it away from me. My family didn’t push me to succeed; they wished for my failure. Everything I did was on my own. I never had support.

I started crying because I realized what I had lost. I thought about all the shit I went through getting to this point. I thought about all the slaps to the face, all of the put-downs and the insults my mother threw at me just because I was trying to be a better human being. I remembered how my mother used to always tell me, “You think you’re better than me? You think you’re smarter than me because you went to college? You’re nothing.”

Her voice replayed in my head just as if she were there, sitting in the chair next to me. I stopped crying. I wanted to yell, but I knew well enough that my mother wasn’t actually there to hear me. Her voice wasn’t going away; it was like a broken record repeating the same part over and over. I couldn’t take it any more. I wasn’t going to let her ruin the moment.

As I stood up to take the final walk down the aisle, I closed my eyes and answered my mother’s voice back, in a way I could never answer her back before. I am better than you. I am a better person. I am a better human being.

I always was.