There’s no goodbye forever to that

I came home from work today and checked the mail. There it was: the packet I knew would eventually get here. I knew nothing of what was inside, other than a letter.

I came inside and did what I normally do. I washed the dishes, fed the cat, and took out the garbage. Then I came upstairs, changed, and checked my e-mail. I wasn’t feeling any type of way. I was in a good place. I had a good day at work. I felt okay enough to open my mail.

There was a brown envelope inside. I pulled everything out. There was my birth certificate. My old social security card. And a bunch of cards and notes from my First Communion. It was sort of an odd assortment.

Of all the things that were supposedly saved, of all the things that could have been sent, I get a pile of religious bullshit. I’m not a Catholic. I was never a Catholic at heart, only by parental indoctrination.

Then I see papers folded up with my mother’s handwriting. I waited a few minutes, then I started reading the letter, part by part, along with my friend.

Here are the important things you will need in your life no one was keeping them from you and you never asked for them. They were kept in a fireproof box so if there was a fire they wouldn’t get destroyed.

As for the story of your lip I was working that night as almost every night at Kmart till 10:30 PM. That night there was a really bad storm you walked into the door of the bedroom dad called me at work but Kmart would not let me leave so him and R drove to St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken at that time we had HIP insurance and that’s the hospital you had to use. The HIP health center was in West New York, NJ cause that was the only place close they had. No one was trying to hide anything to doctors because no one had anything to hide you weren’t abused you were at doctors for checkups as a child needed you never were rejected health care. And no one lied where you were born. You were born in St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken, NJ cause as I said that was the hospital used on the HIP health plan.

You have nothing to fear I’m not coming after you I have no desire too. You made your decision to disown your family and thats your decision and if thats what you wanted then so be it. I know your plans were encouraged by your friends and a certain family relative who’s name I will not mention because if certain family members knew this they would not be happy and I am not out to ruin peoples lives so that secret I will die with. But do tell me why did you come to the hospital to visit me while you were telling people how happy it was with me not in the house and how they recommended you toss my stuff out to the street. Was your visit to see if I was dying??

You broke your fathers heart when you left because of the way you left and the lies you told him when you did walk out. He didnt care much about himself or anything after that.

As for your brother and the truck its not paid for by your father’s life insurance. You failed to forward the registration to him when it went to your new address and motor vehicle would not renew it unless you were there with your ID. The loan company’s advise was to take you to court and sue you for title take over is that the way you would have wanted to go. He went to car dealer and they suggested refinancing so he did in his name alone. The jeep is considered paid off because the one dealer paid the finance company off but your brother still has to pay what was left on the jeep plus the other truck. Instead of it being repo’d and your credit n his being ruined cause he wasn’t going to pay for something he couldn’t drive. This way this benefited you it shows on your credit report the truck was paid off which gives you a better credit score and your not attached to the family anymore which you wanted. But you did not forward him the registration and this was the only sensible thing to do. So you are totally free from your family now no strings attached this is what you wanted.

I asked (my friend) to forward these things to you because I don’t want your address or anything from you ever.

So you dont have to worry anymore with anyone coming after. No one has that desire to contact you especially not me

Have a happy and good life. Good bye forever

Your Mom,

Lori

P.S. Your Dad was your real father there was never anyone else in my life but him.

You have your freedom as you always wanted and the responsibilities in life that come with it.

And the finance company gave the dealer your number and address that they had on record not your brother.

Not entirely what I expected from her, I will admit. I expected a lot of heavy and outright denial and anger. Instead, it seemed like a lot of random defenses to things that were and are really unimportant. I thought this letter was going to crush my emotions. I didn’t even cry; I actually laughed at some parts. The letter is such a textbook example of a narcsoc.

Here are the important things you will need in your life no one was keeping them from you and you never asked for them. They were kept in a fireproof box so if there was a fire they wouldn’t get destroyed.

Important things? My birth certificate, okay. But nine or ten First Communion cards? Why do I need them in my life? They serve me no purpose other than a reminder of someone I was forced to be, a person who I have not been for a very long time now. And I have nothing against religion. But being religious isn’t about going to Church every Sunday and sending your children to the best Catholic schools and nailing up crosses in your child’s bedroom to remind them that Jesus is watching. By the way, if Jesus was watching me (supposedly) be bad, was he also watching my mother rape me?

Those cards could have burned in a fire, along with everything else. I don’t care.

As for the story of your lip I was working that night as almost every night at Kmart till 10:30 PM. That night there was a really bad storm you walked into the door of the bedroom dad called me at work but Kmart would not let me leave so him and (my brother) drove to St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken at that time we had HIP insurance and that’s the hospital you had to use. The HIP health center was in West New York, NJ cause that was the only place close they had. No one was trying to hide anything to doctors because no one had anything to hide you weren’t abused you were at doctors for checkups as a child needed you never were rejected health care. And no one lied where you were born. You were born in St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken, NJ cause as I said that was the hospital used on the HIP health plan.

I knew it! I knew I walked into a door. It makes all the sense. Let’s be real. Your child suffers a pretty severe injury and your job wouldn’t let you leave so you stayed there? Your child is supposed to come first, last time I checked. But that was never the case, so why would this instance be any different.

It’s really helpful to know that we had HIP insurance and that I went to Saint Mary’s hospital. Because it was important enough that it seems to be the focus of an entire page of the letter. Why so much focus on the unimportant details of the situation? Deflection. The hospital didn’t matter to me. The insurance plan didn’t matter to me. THAT’S NOT WHAT MATTERED.

And yes, I did go to the doctor. Because physicals are required to attend school — I couldn’t go otherwise. That doesn’t mean I was medically neglected. I was. There is no doubt about that.

And I was abused. There is no doubt about that, either.

You have nothing to fear I’m not coming after you I have no desire too. You made your decision to disown your family and thats your decision and if thats what you wanted then so be it. I know your plans were encouraged by your friends and a certain family relative who’s name I will not mention because if certain family members knew this they would not be happy and I am not out to ruin peoples lives so that secret I will die with. But do tell me why did you come to the hospital to visit me while you were telling people how happy it was with me not in the house and how they recommended you toss my stuff out to the street. Was your visit to see if I was dying??

I disowned my family, yes, but it was well after my family had symbolically disowned me. Because you sure as hell don’t treat family like I was treated.

My plans were supported by the people that truly loved and supported me, the people that wanted better for me. My amazing support group. Great therapists. Awesome friends, both online and offline. And yes, some members of my family did support me. But I want to make it clear, these people supported my decision. It was my decision to leave. Not a family member’s. Not a friend’s. It was my decision.

Not out to ruin people’s lives? She already has. No favors are being done here. Anyone in their right mind would support my decision to leave. They would be happy to know I was supported. I never disowned the people that didn’t hurt me. None of this is a secret. It never has been.

Out of the month or two my mother was in the hospital, I visited her once. Because my father made me go. I just got out of my third inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. I didn’t want to be in a hospital at all, let alone near her. Trust me on that.

My mother referenced a post I made on my Facebook. Creepy. She really had to have someone dig for that one. A lot of effort. Sad. They certainly did recommend that. And many were also hoping for my mother’s sickness to progress. I won’t deny that. I wanted her to die because I didn’t think I would get my freedom any other way.

You broke your fathers heart when you left because of the way you left and the lies you told him when you did walk out. He didnt care much about himself or anything after that.

I didn’t kill my father. My father had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, a history of blood infections, lymphedema, three heart attacks, and congestive heart failure. He had been dying for a very long time, and honestly, he lived a lot longer than he should have, given his conditions. He had given up on life long before I left. He talked about wanting to die every time he ended up back in a nursing home. I didn’t break his heart. His heart was already broken.

I left in a way that was safest for me. I left with two bags, and I left most of my belongings behind. That was hard for me. I wish I could have just said “I’m moving” and taken all of my things, but that would have never been allowed. I lied to live. Don’t dare put his death on me.

As for your brother and the truck its not paid for by your father’s life insurance. You failed to forward the registration to him when it went to your new address and motor vehicle would not renew it unless you were there with your ID. The loan company’s advise was to take you to court and sue you for title take over is that the way you would have wanted to go. He went to car dealer and they suggested refinancing so he did in his name alone. The jeep is considered paid off because the one dealer paid the finance company off but your brother still has to pay what was left on the jeep plus the other truck. Instead of it being repo’d and your credit n his being ruined cause he wasn’t going to pay for something he couldn’t drive. This way this benefited you it shows on your credit report the truck was paid off which gives you a better credit score and your not attached to the family anymore which you wanted. But you did not forward him the registration and this was the only sensible thing to do. So you are totally free from your family now no strings attached this is what you wanted.

I’m not even going to attempt to try and understand half of what this is supposed to mean. How is this important? Of all things to care about, the jeep is not on my priority list. But yet, over a page dedicated to the jeep. My mother and brother didn’t do me any favors. They didn’t take me to court to sue me for my own jeep. Congratulations. Such great people. There’s no mention of the attempt to fraudulently sign my name to the papers. Let’s just focus on how much of it is my fault and how they helped me out so much by doing this while still being burdened by paying two vehicles (yet not having both) and not with my father’s insurance policy (right). Okay then.

And his credit was already ruined, which is why the jeep was in my name in the first place. He had no credit. No one in my family had credit. This was not a martyr action. This was not moral.

It’s what I wanted? No. It’s not what I wanted at all. I wanted a family. I wanted decent parents. I wanted a fucking mother. I wanted a fucking childhood. I didn’t want this shit. Fuck you. This wasn’t for me. You’ve done nothing for me; you never did and you never will.

I asked (my friend) to forward these things to you because I don’t want your address or anything from you ever.

So you dont have to worry anymore with anyone coming after. No one has that desire to contact you especially not me

Have a happy and good life. Good bye forever

Well, we all know this is a bunch of lies, considering the gravestone posters she mailed to me not that long ago. None of these sentences are true. She searched for me specifically to send those gravestones. That’s contact. Where’s the goodbye forever?

And I am having a good life, as much as I can. I have great care for the first time in my life. I am surrounded by people that love and support me. I may not be happy all the time, and that’s okay. I am trying to have the life I deserve, the life I was never allowed to have before.

Your Mom, Lori

I don’t have a mother, nor did I ever have a mother that deserved to be spelled with a capital M. I am my mother now. My friends are my mother. Not this person.

P.S. Your Dad was your real father there was never anyone else in my life but him.

You have your freedom as you always wanted and the responsibilities in life that come with it.

And the finance company gave the dealer your number and address that they had on record not your brother.

I know I have my freedom. I deserve it. What I don’t deserve is the struggle. I don’t deserve having to go to therapy multiple times a week because of how fucked up I’ve become because of the shit I went through. Because of her. Not me. I am the one paying for her mistakes. I am the one being punished for her sins.

And there we go, the final sentence. About the jeep. A sentence that doesn’t even make any sense. Because my brother had my phone number, and so did she. I’ve had the same phone number I’ve had for years. I never changed it. That was the point. They told people they tried to contact me, but I had changed my number. I never did. They lied. They’ve always lied. They are still lying.

And this letter shows that. In so many ways. I don’t think she understands how obvious it is in her writing. Her deflection. Her avoidance.Her focus on unimportant details. Her lack of acknowledgement. Her denial. Her displacement. Her distortion. Her playing the victim. Her blaming the real victim.

I wish I could say goodbye forever to my pain, as easily as she said goodbye forever to me. Unfortunately, while she may be gone, I will forever have to live with what she did to me.

There’s no goodbye forever to that, is there?

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.

Don’t shatter my fantasy

I’m juggling a lot of emotions right now. Anger. Sadness. Mostly anger, though. I’m not really sure I want to feel any of it, but I think I have to. I’ve buried enough anger throughout the years to know that burying it doesn’t make it go away.

Anger is not a dead body that stays forgotten beneath the surface once you bury it.  Anger is a seed that grows into weeds that grow and take over until you dig them up. The anger seeps into everything you do, until the day you dig it back out. But by then it takes so much effort to get rid of the anger, that you start to question why you buried it in the first place. It takes much more effort to bury and dig than to embrace and release.

So I am letting myself be angry. I’m not burying anything. But now my problem is directing my anger in the right place.

At first, I directed the anger towards my therapist. I left our therapy session on Thursday uncomfortably angry. I felt the walls of my life breaking down and she was the one doing the breaking.

I shared a part of my childhood with her, a part that I had never connected to anything other than childhood oddity. I’ve shared it with other people over the years, largely because it was one of the very few parts of my childhood that I didn’t associate with anything bad, so never felt any pain in sharing it. Some people thought it was funny, and some were grossed out. But no one ever thought it was sad. That is, until Thursday.

Don’t you think that’s sad?

What? Why does she think this is sad? It’s not. Please laugh. Please be grossed out. Please be something, anything, but please, don’t make this sad.

The thoughts started running through my mind. Why didn’t I realize this all before?  This wasn’t just a weird childhood behavior. Healthy children don’t save their poop and hide it. But I did. I held on to it because I didn’t want to lose any more pieces of myself than I already lost. It is sad.

But I couldn’t connect with the sadness right away. Instead I connected with anger.

I spent all these years believing in the innocence of something only to have it all turned upside down. Why? Why is this being taken away from me? I’ve already lost so much, and now I’m losing things I didn’t even realize I never had to begin with. I lost my good family. Now I’m losing my good childhood. This wasn’t just about the poop. This was about all of the snippets of my childhood that I held onto as being good and innocent. They’ve all been ripped away from me.

I believed in a fantasy, much like children believe in Santa Claus. But children don’t believe in Santa forever. Eventually someone comes along, tells them the truth, and shatters the fantasy.

And there my therapist was, telling me the truth and shattering the fantasy of my childhood. And I was mad. Mad at her for taking this good away from me. Why did she want me to see the truth? Why couldn’t she just let me believe in the magic a little longer? Doesn’t she know I’ve lost enough already?

I didn’t say anything. I swallowed my anger and let it burn, because part of me knew that this really wasn’t my therapist’s fault. It was mine.

I didn’t see the connection all this time. It all became so obvious when my therapist started talking about it, but it was everything I should have already known, that I did already know but chose to ignore. It was my fault. The truth was there and I avoided it the whole time. I rationalized what shouldn’t have been rationalized. I minimized something that wasn’t minimal at all. This was my fault. Now I am angry at me.

I have been putting so much time and energy into holding onto pebbles, holding onto the smallest bits of seemingly neutral life experiences, that I’ve been ignoring the giant mountain of trauma right behind me. I don’t want to acknowledge that those pebbles aren’t really just pebbles; they are actually pieces of the mountain that managed to break off and roll down without hurting me.

The realization that those parts of my childhood that I have been holding on to for so long are not what I thought they were is hard to accept. It’s another loss, in  my already overwhelming abyss of all I’ve lost already. It’s a deep sadness that I am not sure I can ever get out of.

I am angry. I am sad. Now make it all go away.

The Good Family

I want my daddy to come back to life so I can tell him I’m sorry. I don’t know what I did to be bad, but maybe he will forgive me.

I want to go back home to my mommy so I can tell her I’m sorry. I don’t know why I was always so evil, but maybe she can just love me.

I wrote those words one month ago and could not bring myself to post them. How could I miss people that caused me so much pain? How could I still want love from the people who broke me? Maybe they weren’t that bad after all. Maybe they were good enough and that’s why I still miss them. I want everything to be my fault. I don’t want to let go of the wish that I had a good family.

It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense that they were bad people. It doesn’t make sense that they were good people. I’m forever trying to rationalize a situation that was never rational.

My brother wasn’t hurt as badly. My mother loved him. He was allowed to have friends. He could eat most of the time. He had so many good things. But I didn’t get any of that. If our mother was really a bad person, then she wouldn’t have treated my brother so nicely. He would have been tortured, too, but he wasn’t. So then maybe I was the problem. Maybe my mother was a really great mother, and I was just too bad of a child.

Part of me doesn’t want to see what that really was. That I wasn’t a bad child at all, and my brother was no more deserving than I was of good things. That my mother treated my brother that way because it was all a part of her game. That she used him to make me feel like I was the bad one. That my brother and I were both pawns in my mother’s sociopathic game — my brother the apath, and I the empath. It worked out perfectly.

My parents could have kept me at home, but they chose to send me to school. They could have kept me starving, but they always ended up feeding me. They could have let me bleed, but they took me to get stitches. They could have ended my life, but they chose to let me live. Bad people wouldn’t make those choices. Good people would.

Part of me doesn’t want to see the other side of all of that. That I went to private school because it fed their need to feel superior, not because I deserved an education. That I should have never been starving, because a child never deserves to go without food. That I would have never needed stitches had they not made me bleed. That letting me live only to continue to hurt me wasn’t really letting me live at all.

I don’t want to accept that reality. I want to live in my fantasy world, where my family was good and I was the bad one. Where I was the reason that everything happened the way it did. Where I was the cause of all of their problems. Where if I had just been good, if I had just been a better child, my parents wouldn’t have had to do what they did. 

That was the world they created for me. That’s what I was made to believe as a child, and I carried those beliefs right into my adulthood.

I still want that good family. I still want to believe that I can in some way erase everything that happened and make it all better.Maybe if I just apologize, if they can just see how sorry I am, they will love me and we can be a family again.

But my family doesn’t even want me. They never came after me. No one tried to make sure I was okay. They went on as if I never existed at all. I became a topic of conversation to be avoided, a topic worse than politics or religion. I offended them by escaping, just like I had offended them for existing.

If they really loved me, if they really cared, they would have looked for me. As much as I live in fear of them, I also long for their love and care. I want my mother to love me. I want to be the good child. I want the good family that children are supposed to have.

Sometimes I fantasize about my mother finding me. I imagine her knocking on my front door. I open it, and she’s standing there. She reaches out to hug me, and I start to cry. But she doesn’t really hug me, she stabs me in the heart. 

In that moment, I’m not sad or angry. As I stand there bleeding, I am happy. Because I know my mother cared enough to come and kill me. She loved me enough to end my pain.

And all I ever needed was her love and care.

Lies

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?

Dear Brother Explained

The other day, I posted a letter I had written to my brother: Dear Brother.

It wasn’t very well thought out. It was Sunday afternoon, and I found myself still struggling with my emotions about the situation that happened on Friday. I felt paralyzed by them, in a way. I couldn’t get anything done because my mind was set on thoughts about my brother. I needed a way to get my feelings out, because they weren’t serving me well by being bottled up inside.

I walked to the card store, still not set on what I was going to write. I walked through the card aisles, and came to the sympathy section. Loss. That is exactly what this felt like. My brother was still very much alive, but everything else about him was gone. My image of him: gone. My hope for him: gone. I lost him. He died in my heart.

There were only five or six cards dedicated to the loss of a brother. I picked up each one and read it. Unfortunately, none of them captured the type of loss this was. Then there was this card, describing the brother I always wanted: a brother I could depend on, a brother I could share good memories with, a brother I could love.

I started to cry as I looked through the card. I knew this was the right one. I put it in the envelope, wiped my face, and went to the register to purchase it. I left it in the bag until I got home, because I didn’t want to get emotional in public. Even so, I was already going through some of the things I wanted to write in my head. It wasn’t until later that afternoon that I sat at my desk, pulled out the card, got my pen, and wrote what I needed to say to him.

Even though I knew this was going to be just another card left unsent, like the cards I wrote to my father and to my mother, I found it oddly therapeutic. I didn’t need him to respond. I didn’t need him to give me an answer. I just needed, for myself, to say what I needed to say in the best way I knew how: through writing.

I didn’t always feel this way towards my brother. In fact, I struggled with feelings of guilt over leaving him behind. Every so often, the guilt would come back full force. It got especially bad after my father died. I knew that with my father gone, my brother was the only person my mother had left. I was scared for him. But there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t financially help him — I am barely surviving myself. I couldn’t risk my own safety by directly reaching out to him, because his closeness to his mother made it too dangerous to even attempt. I was (and still am) a mess myself. I needed to focus on me. I didn’t have the energy to devote to his cause. And I felt horrible for it.

Then the situation on Friday happened, and everything changed. I realized he didn’t care about me at all. He never once called me, but he still had my number. He couldn’t even contact me himself to ask for what he needed; he had someone else do it for him. And he didn’t even need to do what he did. He wanted to trade that Jeep in so he could pretend like it never existed, just like my family pretended like I never existed.

He could have offered me back even some of the money I put into buying that Jeep. Instead, he used all of it to get something bigger and better. The money from my father’s life insurance? Nothing. My brother and his mother have kept it for themselves. Because that’s who they are.

I realized that my brother is just like her. He is an adult. He can make choices. He chose to spread lies about me after I escaped, just as his mother did. He could have denied it, but I know that would have been hard to directly defy her. He could have said nothing at all and been okay, but he instead chose to fuel the fire his mother set for me.

He could have reached out. He knew my phone number, and my e-mail address. His mother would not have found out. But he chose not to try.

My brother could have just paid off the Jeep. Money was not an issue. Instead, he chose to trade it in, and trade it in for something better. There is something symbolic in that. He traded in that Jeep just as he traded me in.

My brother could have gotten away. He always had more financial resources than me. He worked full-time for a long time. I figured out a way to get out. He could have figured out a way, but he chose not to. He could have taken my father’s insurance money and left, but he chose not to. He chose to stay with his mother.

Together, they have chosen to take what isn’t theirs. They are opportunists. They are takers. They are liars. They are users.

My brother is just like her. Her training didn’t work so well on me, but it has worked on him. I didn’t see it before. Well, no, I did. The truth is that I didn’t want to see it. I wanted my brother to be a true and good person. I wanted him to be the brother I needed, the brother I always wanted.

But I realized he’s not that person. He never was, he’s not now, and he won’t be able to be. I can’t change him. I can’t show him something he refuses to see. I can’t save him. So I have to let him go.

It’s another loss. But sometimes, losses are for the better.

 

Dear Brother

Dear brother,

I wish you were the brother described on the front of this card. I wish I could have depended on you. I wish I could say “I love you” without it feeling so complicated.

You were my big brother. Seven years older, taller, and stronger than me. I looked up to you. You were the only friend I had. You were the only person that knew my reality, because you were living part of it, too.

I wonder how hard it was for you to stand by and watch me get hurt. You were there all those nights she came into our bedroom. You knew what she was doing to me in the shower. But you had to close yourself off from it all, you couldn’t help. I understood that. You were just a child, too.

I grew up and watched you struggle. I watched you get beaten, just like I had been beaten. I watched you slowly self-destruct. I heard you crying in your room at night. I was crying, too. I watched you make yourself bleed, and I bled, too. Those scars on your body that you still bear, I know how you got them. I have those same scars, too.

I still remember the night you locked yourself in the bathroom. You banged your head against the wall until you were bloodied and bruised. You couldn’t even speak. All you could do was cry. Hurt and cry. I understood, because that was the language that I spoke, too.

We didn’t know any better. We weren’t allowed to have voices. We shared the same silence. We shared the same hurt. We shared the same pain. I understood you. I thought you understood me, too.

But then you turned against me. You became her adjutant. You pretended to be my brother only to report everything back to her. You helped her terrorize me. You stood by her side as she treated me like a prisoner. Why? You are her son, but you were also my big brother. I needed you. You could have protected me, but you didn’t.

I wanted so badly to help you. I felt horrible leaving you behind. I was weighed down with guilt for over a year. Did you ever feel any of those things when you chose to work against me? You never reached out. You never once showed me that you cared. You told lies about me just like she did, when you could have just said nothing at all.

I used to envy you. I wondered why she loved you so much. Then when I got older, I realized that’s not love. It’s abuse, too. I hope one day, for your sake, you will see that she doesn’t love you. What she’s done to you, what she continues to do to you — it’s not love. It never was.

Part of me fears that it’s too late for you. You’ve become so much a part of her that you don’t even know who you are without her, and who you could be. There’s a great big world out there waiting for you to see. I hope you see it one day.

We have chosen different paths. I chose to be nothing like her. I chose to be free. But you’ve chosen to follow in her footsteps. You’ve chosen to stay.

I’m grieving your loss, because I’ve realized you will never be the brother I needed you to be. I held out hope that you would make the right choice, but you haven’t. I don’t blame you, but I hope you understand why I have to let you go.


Failure to communicate

I struggle to get my words out of my mouth. People assume it’s easy for me. I’m decently intelligent, I can write well. But I can’t always speak. It’s hard for me to communicate.

I didn’t have the best resources growing up. My parents didn’t communicate anything to anybody, even within their own extended family. Little socialization gave me little opportunity to learn from others. I didn’t have very many options, and I ended up being socially stunted. Then there was the regular threats not to speak to outsiders, which after a while just made me fearful of speaking to anyone.

My brother was nonverbal for a few years. He had extra help in school to catch up. He eventually did catch up, but it really set him back quite a bit (and I think that, in many ways, it allowed him to be manipulated to the severe degree that he was). Even so, everyone sort of just accepted that he wasn’t the best or the brightest. He had that rough start. Whatever he tried, he would get coddled and encouraged.

But me, no, it was different for me. I was the smart kid. No excuses. Whenever I couldn’t get words out, I was called dumb and stupid. You think you’re so smart, but you can’t even speak. I’d freeze in school, not because I didn’t know the answer; the answer was in my head the whole time. But I couldn’t get the answer from my head and out through my mouth. It would get muddled up in something — I don’t know what exactly — and wouldn’t come out right.

People didn’t understand. They just made it worse because their words hurt so much and only made it harder to speak. I’d say things only to have people confused about what I was saying. Then I’d get frustrated and give up. I felt like I was speaking a language no one else spoke. I felt alone. I’d tell myself that my mother was right; no one understands me.

It’s no different now that I’m an adult. I can hold conversations sometimes, but other times, I am quiet and don’t respond. I’m not being rude, but unfortunately that’s how most people take it. I want to respond, I so badly want to respond. But I can’t get the words out and I don’t want people to think that I’m dumb. And seeming rude doesn’t hurt nearly as much as being dumb.

It’s a problem. Because no one wants to deal with my verbal vomit.

It’s a problem. Because I have so much to say and don’t know how to say it.

It’s a problem. Because I can’t ask for help when I need it, so I suffer in silence.

My therapist and I have been working on communication for some time now. There are many times I don’t speak in session because I don’t know how to say what’s inside of my head. My therapist knows that I’m thinking (apparently it shows on my face), and gently pushes me to speak about it. I tell her no, I can’t, it doesn’t make sense. She always assures me that it doesn’t always have to make sense.

Eventually I muster up the courage to talk out loud, but even still, I apologize profusely at the end of every sentence. My therapist sits and listens, and encourages me to keep going. But it’s dumb, I tell her. I’m not good at talking. She reminds me not to judge myself. She reminds me that there’s no such thing as being good at talking.

I’ve reached a minimal level of comfort with my therapist, a level at which I don’t always feel so afraid to speak out loud. She never judges me. She never calls me dumb. Sometimes it takes a while for us to translate what I’m saying, but other times she understands what I mean right away.

But how can I take that out in the real world? How can I get people to understand how hard it is for me to communicate my thoughts, to communicate my needs?

I need patience and understanding. Society doesn’t have time for that.

Falling apart

Do I exist? Do I matter?

I feel invisible. Just like I did before. I ran away. Different surroundings. Same feelings.

I quit my job. I didn’t want to. That job was everything to me. It was my safe place. It was my family. It gave me a purpose. But it was too overwhelming. I tried voicing my concerns, but no one would listen to me. I asked for help and didn’t get it. I spent day after day struggling to get my work done, all the while watching other coworkers get away with doing next to nothing. I must be invisible. It feels like I’m invisible again.

I’m weeks behind in my work. It bothers me, because I strive to be the best. But I can’t work miracles. I blame myself for my inability to get my work done, even though on some level I know that the problem doesn’t lie with me. I’ve been going to work every day stressed out before I even walk through the door, because I know the piles of work that need to be done and I know it’ll be another day that it won’t get touched. I cry in the bathroom. I talk myself out of bashing my head against the wall. I contemplate walking out of work and running into the highway. Because I am a failure. I can’t even work right. So I gave my notice, because I would rather leave than be told I fail at my job. And no one said a word to me about it. Because I’m invisible.

So I no longer have work to lean on.

Home. I can’t lean on that, either. I don’t want to be home as much as I don’t want to be at work. It’s a consistent source of frustration. It’s a home full of triggers.

I try to be reasonable, but I have limits. I don’t need to be talked to like I’m dumb. I don’t need to be called retarded. I endured that long enough from my mother, and I couldn’t say anything then, I had to just absorb it. But now that I am free, I try to stand up for myself, I assert my needs. I asked her to stop and she just kept on, and then I had to deal (and am still dealing) with the emotional backlash. It may have been a different person talking to me, but it sent me right back to being at home with my mother. Why can’t people just stop when I ask them to stop? Why does no one respect my boundaries? This isn’t even the first time. I must not matter.

And then I go to eat dinner, my only meal of the day, only to find that my food has been eaten. Three days worth of food gone. So I sit and cry, because no one realizes the amount of effort it takes me just to get to a point to want to eat. No one realizes how complicated food is for me. They don’t understand that I eat an entire plate of food in minutes not because I am hungry, but because I am afraid my food will be taken away. They don’t understand that my mother took away my food because I didn’t deserve it. They don’t understand that she would take the food that I bought away from me because she said it was selfish not to share with the family. They don’t understand that I still struggle with food every day.

I’ve explained all this before. I didn’t think I was asking for much. But no one listens. Now I have to repair the damage yet again. Now I have to convince my parts that we deserve food. I can buy more food eventually, but that’s not the point at all. It’s hard to convince myself and my parts that we are safe and can have things if those things are taken away from us. My needs don’t matter. I don’t matter. I exist only for the use of others.

I wanted a different a life, not just different surroundings.

No job. No family. No purpose. No safe place.

I’m tired. I’m emotionally drained. I’m lost. I’m gone.

Everything is falling apart.

Can nobody hear me?

I regularly make excuses for the poor behavior of others in my life, especially when their behavior directly affects me.

I excused my father’s part in my abuse because I told myself my mother made him do it (as if she held a gun to his head). I excused my coworker’s behavior a few weeks ago when he called me a bitch several times, telling myself he didn’t know any better because he was raised to treat women that way. I excuse a close person’s consistently offensive behavior, telling myself she just can’t help the way she acts.

I do this not as a way to defend these people, but to defend myself. If I didn’t excuse them, that means I would end up angry. And I don’t want to be angry.

But making excuses only works superficially, because on an intellectual level, I know that my excuses aren’t viable, that these behaviors were/are wrong, and that I really should be able to feel angry and hurt and however else I want to feel. Eventually, my feelings come to the surface, and I can only push them back down so many times before they come out full force.

Last therapy session, I couldn’t push my anger down any more. We were discussing the aftereffects of the letter, about how it made me feel sad. Then my therapist asked what else I was feeling, because it seemed like more than just sadness. Without thinking, I said “I’m angry. All of those fucking idiots, why didn’t they do anything to help?”

I immediately felt bad for what I had said, and apologized to my therapist. When she asked why I was apologizing, I told her I shouldn’t have used those bad words. I said, “it’s not their fault. They didn’t know. I wasn’t their problem. I shouldn’t be angry.”

“Why don’t you want to be angry?”

“Because if I’m angry that means I’m like her, like my mother.”

“Anger isn’t the same as abuse. What your mother did to you, she didn’t do because of anger. Anger is something that everyone feels, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re going to abuse. It’s okay to be angry.”

I sat there for a minute, still trying to push down what was trying to come out. I looked around the room, trying to think of something else to talk about.

“No, no, I can’t do it.”

“Yes you can. It’s okay to be angry. Anger makes you human.”

I repeated what my therapist told me to myself a few times. Anger doesn’t make me like her. Anger doesn’t make an abuser. Anger is okay.

And then it erupted. Through tears and clenched fists, I let it all out.

I don’t understand. I don’t understand why nobody helped me. I never wanted to go home after school, I tried to stay with the teachers but then the teachers sent a note home and said I couldn’t anymore and then I got in trouble. None of them ever asked why I didn’t want to go home. None of them asked why I wore so many layers of clothing to school, why I was always covering up. No one questioned why a six-year-old girl tried to drown herself. Children don’t just try to kill themselves out of curiosity. No one wondered why a girl would scratch off her own skin. No one questioned my injuries. How many times could a child walk into walls? I wasn’t clumsy. But nobody did anything! They just nodded their heads and moved on!

There it was. My anger. Finally free and out in the open. The anger that was rightfully mine to have. I was a child who had no other way to communicate. A child who was threatened never to tell. And I didn’t. So I tried every other way to speak without using my words.

I could see just by looking at my therapist’s face that she understood. She got it. And she was okay with my anger, and my hurt. “There were all these red flags, all these ways you tried to ask people for help…”

“And they still didn’t hear me!”

There were so many red flags in my childhood. So many. Yet no one wanted to see them. I could have set those flags on fire and waved them an inch away from their faces, and they would have just stood there and talked about the weather.

I am angry. I am angry that these people just perpetuated my hell by not intervening. I am angry that I spent my childhood thinking that it was just normal to be hurt like this, thinking that no one is hearing my cries so this all must just be normal. No one should ever believe that abuse is normal. It should have never had to be my normal.

It’s an anger I am not sure will ever go away.