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.


Making choices

You’re making a choice.

I hear those words a lot lately, but I’m not sure I understand them. I’m not sure I know how to make choices. I’m not sure I ever had the chance to.

My mother decided everything for me: what I wore, who I spoke to, when I bathed, what I ate, when I ate, where I worked, what I used, where I went to college, what I bought (really, what she bought with my money), where I went. I never had the opportunity to have choices. My entire life had been chosen for me. I was not a human being; I was a system running my mother’s commands.

And now, in my mother’s absence, I have no idea what I’m doing. In some ways, I feel lost without her. She has done everything for me for 29 years. Who will make my decisions now?

I just want someone to tell me what to do. Tell me what buy. Tell me what to eat. Tell me everything I need to do.

Don’t ask if I am thirsty. Just tell me I need to drink.

Don’t ask if I need a break. Just tell me to stop what I’m doing.

I can’t answer questions, but I can respond to commands. I’ve done that my whole life.

You’re making a choice.

My mother used to say  I had choices. She’d tell other people that, too. She’d tell them that I could have friends, but that I chose not to have any. She’d say I could leave the house at any time, but I chose not to go. She’d tell them I could do whatever I want with my money, and I chose to support her. She wanted people to believe I had choices, but they were never choices. I couldn’t have friends because I couldn’t talk to anyone. I couldn’t leave the house at any time because I didn’t have house keys. I couldn’t keep my money because she would take it.

My mother ruined choice for me. She made me believe for so long that I had choices when I never really had choices at all. Now, I don’t know how to differentiate reality from my mother’s warped sense of reality. Now, every choice I make is complicated, even when it’s supposed to be easy.

You’re making a choice.

It doesn’t feel like a choice. It feels like what I have to do. You say I have the power, but where did it come from? It didn’t fall from the sky. It didn’t arrive in the mail. If I really have power, then that means I always had power. I always had choices.

And once I arrive at that point, my thinking goes to shit. I turn the ability to choose into the need to self-blame. If I am making a choice now, I must have made a choice back then. I must have chosen to be abused. It was my choice to let it happen. It was my choice to keep letting it happen. It was my choice not to tell anymore. It was my choice not to fight back. It was my choice to shut down. It was my choice to self-destruct. It was my choice to stay. It was my choice not to say no.

But were those all really choices, or were they acts of self-preservation?

It’s exactly how my mother wanted me to think. She wanted me to think everything I did was a choice that I made, and not a decision she had imposed on me. My mother wanted me to think that everything was my fault, when the reality was that she was the one to blame.

If I really had choices then, I would not have chosen to be abused. I would not have chosen to be hurt. I would not have chosen to remain in that prison for as long as I did. I would have chosen none of those things.

I did not choose to be abused. My mother chose to abuse me.

I did not choose to be hurt. My mother chose to hurt me.

I did not choose to stay in prison. My mother chose to take away my freedom.

It may have taken me 29 years, but I finally made a choice. I chose to take my freedom back.

And while the initial act may have very well been an act of self-preservation — a choice between living or dying — it isn’t any more. My choices are different now. Complicated, but different. I choose to speak. I choose to feel. I choose to write. I choose to heal. I am choosing to do things I couldn’t do before.

I just wish other choices came so easily, too.

It wasn’t their fault

I used to hold a lot of anger against the people in my life that did not help me. Then I realized that was a lot of anger to hold onto, and a lot of people to be angry at.

There have been a lot of people throughout my childhood that failed to act when they should have, or they acted in a way that just made my situation worse.

My elementary school teacher severely underreacted concerning my sexual inappropriateness. I don’t have to tell you how that went over. Knowing what I know now, I don’t think my teacher’s response was appropriate.

Perhaps if someone had intervened, I could have been rescued. Then again, who would believe that a child was being sexually abused by her own mother? In the 90s, mother-daughter sexual abuse was just beginning to be studied. I was so programmed, I doubt I would have had the courage to tell the truth.

Then there were all of the teachers and guidance counselors who I begged not to talk to my parents, the ones I expressed fears of going home to, the ones who didn’t really know how to respond. No one ever got involved. No one questioned why I regularly peed my pants throughout elementary, middle, and high school.

The doctors and nurses never picked up on my panic whenever my mother was in the same room. They saw my unwillingness to be examined as just being shy rather than my feelings of fear and disgust. They never questioned why I seemed to have a UTI at every physical.

Family members either never realized what was going on, or chose to remain ignorant. My parents were very skilled at appearing somewhat normal, so I don’t blame people for not noticing, or not being 100% sure what was going on.

Was I that good at hiding the signs? I doubt it. Looking back on the times I remember, I think there were multiple instances in which something should have been reported. But nothing ever was. I continued to endure the pain and people continued to turn away. Maybe they were confused. Maybe they didn’t know it could happen. I don’t know.

But none of this matters now. I can’t change what happened to me. I can’t continue to hold on to the anger I have felt towards these people for so long. I hope they never feel like they were at fault; I hope they never feel guilty. It wasn’t their fault. It wasn’t my fault. It was my mother’s fault, and it was my father’s fault.

I can only use my experiences to initiate change. No child should have to endure abuse. The signs should not be ignored as they were in my case. People should not be afraid to report their suspicions. Ignoring it does not make it go away.

She’s sick…

Something has been bothering me for a while now, and it has come up quite a few times in the last week or so.

Whenever some people talk about my mother, they feel the need to mention “she’s sick” or “she’s mentally ill.” Well, first of all, do we really know that for sure? Has she been diagnosed? No. She hasn’t. I’m not saying that she isn’t, I just don’t see the point in jumping to that assumption, as if it was supposed to be comforting to me or something. My roommate mentioned it the other night when I was having my breakdown. “Your mother is sick, you know that right?” So what? So what if she’s sick? Is that supposed to mean something? I don’t get it.

My therapist also brought up the likelihood of my parents being mentally ill. Again…so what? Is that supposed to negate all of the shit they put me through, my mother especially? Regardless of mental illness, my mother knew right from wrong. She knew what she did wasn’t right. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have tried so hard to hide it. She wouldn’t have lied about it. You don’t cover up something unless you know you’ve done wrong. So what difference does being mentally ill make? I’m mentally ill. I’d like to think I would never physically, sexually, or emotionally abuse another human being, especially an innocent child. My illness doesn’t change that.

Being sick or mentally ill is not an excuse for what my family did. Yet every time someone says something like that, it seems that they are trying to find an excuse for what happened to me. There is no excuse. There is no reason. There is no logic. There is no explanation.

If I turned around and did some horrible shit to my parents, I bet I wouldn’t be hearing “she’s sick” or “she’s mentally ill.” But that’s okay, because I wouldn’t be acting out because of any illness.  I’d be acting on the pure hatred and evil that lives inside me. And I’ll readily admit that. My illness doesn’t control me. Her illness (if one exists) didn’t control her. She made those choices on her own.

Glorifying parents

I was checking some random news stories on my Facebook this morning out of boredom.  I came across the story of an 18 year-old who witnessed a woman in danger of being run over on a highway and came to her rescue.  I thought to myself “What a great man, with courage and bravery.  He made the right choice.”  Then I read through the comments on the news story and came across multiple people congratulating the man’s parents on doing a great job raising him.  What?  What did this man’s parents do?  They weren’t in the car.  He didn’t call them and ask what he should do.  This man made his own decision.  So why are we thanking his parents and not thanking him?

By that same logic, do we blame the parents when someone does something absolutely unthinkable?  Not that I have seen.  No one blamed the parents of Adam Lanza when he shot up an elementary school and killed so many innocent people.  No one blames the parents of murderers or rapists.  I don’t blame my mother’s parents for the traumatic abuse she inflicted upon me.  She made that decision. Just like the 18 year-old man in the story above made his decision.  No one else did that for them.

Unfortunately this is a common occurrence.  I’ve had it happen to me personally more times than I can count.  Whenever I won academic awards in school, people would tell my parents they had done a great job parenting.  Excuse me?  I won the award.  Not my parents.  Neither of them did anything.  They didn’t help me with my homework.  They didn’t encourage me to study or do better.  I chose to do that on my own because I needed something positive to hold on to.  When teachers told my parents how kind and driven to help others I was, they always included “you’re doing a great job as parents.”  No.  No they weren’t.  If these people only knew the horrors I was living through.

I was parenting myself.  I had to parent myself.  The only good thing my parents ever did for me was showing me everything NOT to do.  My mother never wanted me to succeed; I wanted that for myself.  My mother and father never showed me how to be caring and compassionate; that came from never wanting others to feel the same pain and despair I had felt all of my life.

I can’t tell you how I ended up becoming the person that I am, considering what I came from.  What I can tell you is that some of the most kind, compassionate, and exceptional people I have ever met have had the shittiest upbringings.  We raised ourselves to be everything our parents were not.  We raised ourselves because that’s what we had to do to survive.

Stop assuming that everything a person is, is because of their parents.  It is so invalidating to do something good, only to have someone else be recognized for it.  You wouldn’t want that for yourself, so don’t do it to others.