The Stones She Thinks I Deserve

I don’t believe it’s coincidence.

I’m sure she knows. I’m sure she reads this blog.

The gravestone poster she sent me, mailed the day after I wrote here about the stones I gained, lost, and gave away. It was the stone she sent to me. The stone she thinks I deserve, maybe.

She always told us she would hurt us, that she would kill us if we told anyone what she was doing. Telling was the ultimate sin. She instilled so much fear in us that we knew no other way. But children grow up, and while my brother still sees the world through her glasses, I saw the truth in all she had done. I found my voice. And I told. I told those close to me. I told therapists. I told my doctor. I told my friends. And now, people know. Family knows. Her associates know. Everyone who stumbles upon this blog knows. And in a few weeks, everyone who reads the Grief Diaries will know.

And you know what? I will not stay silent. I will keep using my voice, because it is mine to use. It has always been mine. I will no longer be made afraid. I will no longer be silenced. I have spoken, and I will not stop.

I deserve a gravestone? For speaking the truth? For finding my freedom? For trying to heal? No. I don’t deserve that.

I didn’t deserve a sociopath for a mother. I didn’t deserve to live in constant fear, anxiety, and pain. I didn’t deserve to be hurt and abused. I didn’t deserve to be beaten and burned and violated. I didn’t deserve to be threatened and cursed. I didn’t deserve to be used and manipulated. I didn’t deserve to be broken. I still don’t deserve any of those things.

I deserved a childhood. I deserved decent parents. I deserved love and respect and care and affection, and attention. I deserved safety and security and trust. I deserved to be nurtured and kissed and hugged and taken care of. I still deserve all of those things, and I am just starting to get them.

And I deserve to live. Not only live, but thrive. I deserve a life without struggle, a life full of love and support, a life with purpose.

I sure as hell don’t deserve to die. I don’t deserve to be looking at gravestones. No one I love has died. I haven’t died (and I’m not planning to die any time soon).

There are no gravestones needed here. These stones have been misplaced.

She doesn’t know

I sat on the toilet Thursday afternoon, fully intending just to pee and go back to work. Instead, I ended up crying. Alone. In the bathroom stall. For 15 minutes.

I was okay before all of that. It was Thanksgiving day. I went to see a movie in the morning just to engage in something to pass the time. Then I went to work, and I was busy but being busy was good. It kept my mind occupied as much as it did my body.

But it was in that moment, sitting alone in the bathroom in silence and inaction, that my mind began to wander. Then my reality sank in. It was Thanksgiving day and I had no one. Everyone else was eating with their families, and here I was alone, crying on a toilet.

It took me awhile to get myself back together. I managed to stop crying a few times before bursting into tears again. I told myself if I just went back to work, if I went back to being busy, that I wouldn’t have to think about the sad stuff and I would be okay. I got up, washed my face, and went back out.

I noticed my manager looking for something in my area, so I went over to see if I could help. She was checking something I had already fixed. No problems. Then she looked up and noticed my face, still red from my earlier crying. She asked me if I was okay. The question I’ve always dreaded.

I could have lied in that moment. I could have said I was fine just like I said I was fine so many cries before, for the last 30 years. I could have pushed her away and that would have been that. But I didn’t. I stumbled with words for a minute, before I finally said no, this is a hard time for me.

I felt myself starting to cry again, but I tried to contain it.  She came forward to give me a hug, but then stopped. Then she asked me, is it okay to touch you? I could have cried in that moment, but not out of sadness. Here was someone offering me support. Here was someone respecting my boundaries, respecting me. This was different.

I told her it was okay, so she continued to give me a hug. I needed the comfort, as awkward as if felt for me. I felt supported and cared for. I knew I didn’t have to hide. If I needed to cry, I didn’t have to go and do it alone on the toilet.

And I did cry, a few more times that afternoon. But the sadness didn’t consume me. I wiped the tears away and went on. My coworkers supported me. They told me it was going to be okay. You are here with us, now. They were right.

There were several hugs that night, in the moments I desperately needed them, but also in the moments I didn’t know that I did. My work people were there for me. They made sure I was okay. And even though I was only scheduled to work until late afternoon, management let me stay a few more hours so I wouldn’t have to be alone.

When I finally made it home that night, I sat in my bed and cried. But I wasn’t crying from sadness. I was crying because I realized I had found what I thought was missing. I thought I had been without a family, but I have a family. It’s a family made up of amazing coworkers, great friends (online and offline), support groups, sometimes frustrating roommates, and weird people I’ve met along the way. But it is my family, and more of a family than my parents ever were.

And that’s what my mother doesn’t know.

She only knows the weak little girl she hurt and abused.

She only knows the broken woman she took advantage of.

She doesn’t know I have love and support and acceptance and understanding and all of the things that I didn’t have before I ran away.

She doesn’t know I found strength.

She doesn’t know I’ve been gluing myself back together, piece by piece.

She doesn’t know she can’t break me anymore.

It won’t work. I won’t let it. And neither will they.

She knows

I checked the mail today.

A few pieces of junk mail. A credit card bill. And one envelope with my name and address handwritten on it, in familiar handwriting.

I told myself, this couldn’t be. She doesn’t know where I live. She said she doesn’t know anything; that’s why she gave my friend that letter to give to me. It’s just a coincidence.

I hesitated for awhile. But then I opened it.

There was a single piece of paper inside, with pictures of gravestones. No letter, no note, no explanation. Just a paper with different gravestones for me to choose.

I looked at the envelope again. My mother has always had a distinctive way of writing certain letters of the alphabet. The writing was the same.

My mother wrote out that envelope. She knows where I live. She lied to everyone.

Whose gravestone am I supposed to be choosing?

I am scared. My hands are still shaking, and I can’t stop crying for more than five minutes before I break down again.

She is coming for me. And I don’t want to die.

I’m sorry.

500 Days of Freedom, Part 4 (The Stones I’ve Given Away)

I went through what I’ve lost.

I went through what I’ve gained.

But there were still things I needed to get out, things that weren’t really losses or false beliefs or truths uncovered. These were feelings, feelings I had for a very long time that I no longer wanted to feel. Guilt. Shame. Fault. Blame.

I took the stones I had left — all 50 of them. I wrote those four words down, over and over again, one word on every stone. Then I stared at them for a while. I didn’t want to keep them. I didn’t want to hold onto them any longer than I already had. These were heavy stones. They were weighing me down too much. I didn’t need them.

I could have thrown those feelings into the ocean, just like I threw the stones of my false beliefs. But it didn’t feel right. These feelings had a place. That place was definitely not within me, but it also wasn’t somewhere in the bottom of the Atlantic.

I knew where these feelings really belonged. They belonged to my mother.

My mother is the one who should feel guilty. She is the one that hurt me. She is the one that abused her children. She is the one that broke the rules. She is the guilty one, on so many levels she is the guilty one. Not me.

My mother is the one that should feel shame. A normal person doesn’t abuse their own children. The things she did to me do not exemplify who I am as a person; they show what she is. She is the sick one. Not me.

My mother is the one at fault. She knew what she was doing was wrong. I was just a child. I didn’t choose this. She took away my power. She took everything from me. She was the wrong one. Not me.

My mother is the one to blame. She was the adult. She was my mother. She had no right to do what she did. She was supposed to protect me. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t cause this. She caused it. She is the one that should be taking the blame. Not me.

I gathered the stones together. I tried to think of what I could put them in. I had an extra craft jar, and started putting the stones in there. I wanted to make sure I fit all 50 of them; I didn’t want any left behind. Then I noticed the jar of peanut butter I keep in my desk drawer. I try to eat a spoonful a day, because it’s the only food I can always tolerate. It also happens to be one of the only foods I wanted as a child, but couldn’t have.

So I finished the peanut butter. I cleaned out the jar and made sure it was dry. And then I started putting all of the stones inside. And it was a perfect fit. I put the lid on the jar and sealed it. It was done.

The jar may have been small, but it was heavy. Just like the weight of the guilt, shame, fault, and blame I had been carrying with me for so many years.

Those feelings don’t belong to me anymore, and neither does that jar. I packed it all up in a box and sent it to my mother (re-routed safely through another location).

They belong to her now. It doesn’t matter if she accepts them; that’s not on me. All I know is that those stones are no longer mine. The weight of those feelings are no longer mine. She will have to carry that weight, even if it’s for just a few minutes before she realizes what they are and throws them out the window.

They are the stones I’ve given away, or really, the stones I’ve given back. My mother put those feelings on me, and I don’t want them anymore. She can have them.


500 Days of Freedom, Part 3 (The Stones I’ve Gained)

I am good. I have worth. I have power. I have hope. I have a purpose. I can have feelings. I can say no. I can live. I deserve care. It wasn’t my fault. I am safe; we are safe. I am free.

These are the stones I’ve gained. They aren’t false beliefs. They are the truths I learned from being free.They don’t weigh me down like the other stones.They don’t need to be thrown out to sea, or thrown out of my mind. I hold them close to me. I hold the beliefs in my mind everywhere I go, and the stones in a jar I keep with me. The stones remind me of what’s already growing inside: my new beliefs, the truths that I’ve gained from the lies I threw away.

I am good.

I was a good child. I am a good adult. I am a good friend, a good colleague, and a good human being. I was a good daughter, even though I never got the good mother I deserved. I do good things. I think good thoughts. There is goodness inside of me that was never allowed to come out. But now it can. And now I know. I am a good person, inside and out.

I have worth.

My body matters. My thoughts matter. My feelings matter. I matter. I am a human being, and human beings have worth. I am worthy of respect, kindness, and love. I am worthy of family and friendship. I am worthy of so much. I matter.

I have power.

I can make choices now. I may not always know how to, but I am learning. I have the power. My mother can’t make decisions for me anymore. I make my own decisions. She took my power away from me, but I got it back. Now I am learning to use it.

I have hope.

I see opportunities. My mother wanted me to be nothing, but I am going to be something. I used to live in the darkness, where there was no light. But now I know that light exists, so I try to talk towards it. Even if I still stumble in darkness, I can remember that there is a flame.

I have a purpose.

I try to believe that there are reasons that things are the way they are. There is a reason I’m still alive when I should be dead. There is a reason I found my way here, in this city, at this job, writing this blog, telling my story. I am not useless, or a waste of space. I have a purpose, and I will make a difference to someone, even if that difference is small.

I can have feelings.

I can be angry without being my mother. I can be sad without being punished. I can cry for as long as I want. I can feel without fear. I can feel something other than constant fear. I don’t have to hide my feelings anymore. I am learning that it’s okay to feel.

I can say no.

I couldn’t say no before, because saying no never worked. No one listened. I became powerless. I lost my ability to say no, and it caused me a lot of pain. But I can say no now, because I have power. I don’t have to comply with other people’s wants at the expense of my own needs. I can say no without feeling bad or wrong for doing so. I can be assertive now, and no one will punish me for it.

I can live.

I don’t have to die now. I am not destined for a life of pain. I still hurt, but hurt is not my life. I no longer wait for death. I no longer wait for an end to the pain. I find relief in the every day. The little things are the reason I can keep living.

I deserve care.

I deserve to receive care from others. Friends, coworkers, doctors, therapists. I am worthy of others’ care. I can go to the doctor. I can ask for things I need without having to feel guilty. And I deserve my own care, too. I deserve to take care of myself, in the ways I should have been taken care of as a child.

It wasn’t my fault.

My family’s failures were not my fault. My father’s death was not my fault. The abuse was not my fault. I was a child. I wasn’t to blame for any of this. It was never my fault, no matter what she said and still says. I didn’t do anything to deserve any hurt.

I am safe. We are safe.

I got away. I escaped. My mother can’t hurt me now. She can’t hurt my parts any more, either. I try to let them know that. I try to let me know that. I don’t have to be scared all of the time now. I am trying to learn how to be not scared.

I am free.

I can leave my house. I can walk down the street. I can lock or unlock my door. I can buy what I want. I can eat what I want. I can do all of the things I should have been able to do before, but couldn’t. I am free now. She can no longer control me.

They are the stones I’ve gained.

500 Days of Freedom, Part 2 (The Stones I’ve Lost)

I had a good family. They didn’t know better. My mother loved me. I can’t live without her. I am bad; I am evil. I am just crazy. I am worthless. I deserved to be hurt. There is no hope for me. It was all my fault.

These were the beliefs I carried with me for so long. These were the beliefs I held on to because I had no other choice. I didn’t know any better. I couldn’t know any better.

And those beliefs weighed on me. They kept me from moving forward. They kept me stuck. Even after I ran away and found my freedom, I still carried those beliefs with me, every day. But as time went on, I realized those beliefs were not the truths I thought them to be. They were just lies my mother wanted me to believe. They were lies I needed to believe so I could survive without breaking.

I realized I had to let those false beliefs go. I didn’t want to carry them anymore. I had enough weight to bear already.

I wrote one belief on each big stone. Each stone was heavy on its own, but as I gathered the stones together, the weight was tremendous. I wasn’t going to carry these stones with me; I needed to send them away.

So on my 500th day of freedom, I took the stones to the beach. I walked out to the ledge of rocks where the waves were breaking. I watched as the tide washed everything away. I wanted it to wash my beliefs away. I picked each stone out one by one. I felt the weight of the stone in my hand. I read each belief to myself, and thought about how each affected me.

I had a good family.

The wish, the belief that my family was good, was one my mother provided for me. It was all an act; they only played a good family in public. It’s why I couldn’t think any differently. Everyone would say what good people my mother and father were, and I took that in and believed that it must be true. It wasn’t true. It was never true.

They didn’t know better.

I’d tell myself maybe they just didn’t know any better. Maybe they were hurt, too. Maybe they think this is normal. How can I be mad at them if they just didn’t know? But how the hell couldn’t they know? Any person in their right mind knows you don’t beat a child bloody. Any person knows you don’t sexually abuse your own children (or any child). It doesn’t matter if that was their normal. It should have never been my normal.

My mother loved me.

Mothers love their children. It’s what society says. It’s what movies and books says. The bond between mother and child is special. Maybe this is just how she shows her love. But love isn’t supposed to hurt like that. You can’t tell someone you love them and then turn around and break them over and over and over again. That is not love.

I can’t live without her.

She told me no one would ever love me. She told me I would never survive without her. I became so enmeshed with her that I lost my self in the process. And that’s exactly what she wanted. She planted the seed of insecurity in me and then she fed off its leaves for decades. I thought I could never get away. I thought I could never live without her. But I have been living for 500 days without her now.

I am bad. I am evil.

It’s why she always had to hurt me. I was a bad child. I had to be punished. I had evil inside me. I had to be cleansed. It’s the only way her hurting me made sense. I believed what she said because no one else was there to say any different. But I am not bad. I am not evil. I am good. I have a kind heart. I have empathy. I was not the bad one. My mother was.

I am just crazy.

It’s what she’s told everyone for the last 15 years. Don’t believe her, she’s crazy. She lies, she’s crazy. She’s bipolar and crazy. Just don’t listen to her, she’s crazy. I was not crazy. I was dealing with things a child should never have to deal with. I was struggling with emotions I wasn’t allowed to have. I wasn’t crazy. I just wasn’t being what my mother wanted me to be.

I am worthless.

I don’t deserve to eat. I don’t deserve nice things. I am a piece of shit. These were things my mother told me, and I believed them. Because mothers don’t lie to their children. She knows everything, so she must know I’m worthless, too. That’s why she treated me that way. If I could just be worthy, maybe she would love me. But I’ve had worth this whole time. She didn’t want to see it. And she didn’t want me to see it, either.

I deserved to be hurt.

She’s hurting me because I am bad, and evil, and worthless. That’s why I deserve all of this. I was put on this earth to be hurt. This is God’s way. She is trying to help me. But she wasn’t helping. And I never deserved to be hurt. There is nothing a child can do that would ever warrant the abuse that she unleashed on me. I deserved to be nurtured and nourished and loved, not hurt and abused.

There is no hope for me.

I need to just die. I can’t live in pain like this. It’s never going to end. She is never going to stop. I just want to get out of here. Please, just end my pain. I believed I was never going to get out. I believed my mother was going to abuse me until the day I finally succeeded at killing myself. But I got away, and now she can no longer hurt me. I don’t need to die anymore. There is hope for me.

It was all my fault.

It’s what my mother wanted me to believe. I ruined the family. We couldn’t do anything because of me. She couldn’t pay bills because of me. She got in trouble because of me. She was hurting me because of me. She got angry because of me. Her life was ruined because me. Her life was my fault. My pain was my fault. Everything was my fault. But none of it was. It never was. It was her fault. I was just a child.

One by one, I threw each stone out to sea. I cried, not because I was sad about losing them. Rather, I cried because I was sad for the little girl, the teenager, and the young adult me that had to carry these beliefs for so long in order to survive.

These stones are no longer weighing me down. They no longer belonged to me. They are lying at the bottom of the Atlantic now. They belong to the sea.

They are the stones I’ve lost.

500 Days of Freedom, Part 1

I still count the number of days since I ran away.

I started counting the day I left. I didn’t really know how far I’d get, but I still kept counting. Every morning was another day of freedom gained, every seven days was another week I made it through.

And now I have made it 500 days.

I realized I was getting close to 500 days a few weeks ago. I noticed it was also very close to the Thanksgiving holiday, which is a difficult one for me. I knew I needed to do something to celebrate. It would not only be good for me to acknowledge how far I’ve come, but also to be able to celebrate something meaningful for me while other people celebrate something meaningful to them.

I wanted to do something different. I brainstormed for a few days. Then one night, I was sitting at my desk and saw the stones of what I (thought I) lost. They have been sitting on my bookshelf since July, when I made them at the workshop I attended. As much as I wanted to do something special with them, I realized that they were made in a moment of hopelessness. I was plagued by a horrible memory, and it cast a dark cloud on my mind. I believed in that moment that I had lost hope, love, support, and purpose. But they weren’t really my losses. I had those things. I still do.

So I decided I was going to have a do-over. I was going to make new stones. I went to the craft store and found the biggest, heaviest, stones and put them in my basket. Then I saw a bag of small, smooth stones. I thought, I can do something with these, too. And then I grabbed another bag of stones as well. They were small, but not smooth; they were disfigured and heavy. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do just yet, but I know I would come up with something.

And I did. I separated the three groups of stones. The big, heavy stones were going to be the stones of what I’ve lost. The small, smooth stones were going to be the stones of what I’ve gained. The heavy, oddly shaped stones were going to be the stones of what I’ve given away.

These stones were my progress; five-hundred days summed up on 72 stones. I felt something with every word I wrote on each stone. I cried. I got angry. I grieved. But I kept going. Just like I’ve kept going for 500 days.

I know there are many people who don’t understand why I still count the days, who don’t understand what I ran away from, and who don’t understand why I celebrate seemingly meaningless things like 500 days of freedom. But I know. I understand. And that’s what matters.

I spent the day with my stones. Some are gone forever now. Some are still with me. And some have found a different home. I grieved today. I cried. A lot. But I also smiled. I sensed relief. I felt the burden of what I’ve been carrying for so long lifted away.

There is a song by Thousand Foot Krutch, called Give Up the Ghost. I listen to it every day. The words speak to me in ways a song rarely does. It reminds me of my struggle. It reminds me of all of the things my parents kept hidden from me, the things they took away from me. But it also reminds me of the freedom I found. I am no longer caged. I am no longer the enemy. I am me, and I am free.

They never told me that I could be

free from the hate that’s inside of me.

They took my place, took my dignity.

They kept me caged like an enemy.

But I know now, I can be

free from the pain that’s inside of me.

You took my place, gave me air to breathe.

Opened the cage, and you set me free.