TW: child abuse mentions
You ever hear someone defend corporal punishment with asinine comments like “I was spanked as a child and I turned out fine!” Or defend their parents’ shaming, belittling and yelling at them as children with asinine comments like “Kids today are too soft! My parents were hard on me and I turned out okay!”
Needless to say, they didn’t. I know this because I didn’t.
I was born to 20-something parents in 1987, in Buffalo, NY (a land well-known for its tundra-like winter weather conditions). I was the second-born of what was eventually five children. My parents…I hesitate to say they were bad parents. A lot of the time, things were okay. Sometimes, they were even great. Trouble is…those aren’t the only times that stick with you.
I’m 32 years old, and only recently came to the realization that in addition to my other fun psychological disorders, I likely have C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder). How did I realize this? Well, I moved out of my folks’ home and onto the campus of the university at which I hope to eventually earn a Ph.D. back in late January of this year. I thought things would be better after moving out. But…then the nightmares and flashbacks started.
Did my parents beat me and my brothers with a belt every day? Did they force us to do all the housework like Cinderella? Did they fart in our faces like Peter Griffin or basically forget our existence like Matilda’s parents?
Nope. None of the above. And a big part of my problem is that I failed to recognize abuse at the hands of my parents (especially my dad) primarily because it DIDN’T look like the type of abuse we see in pop culture so prominently.
I remember as a little girl, always being afraid of my father. He’s a big, burly guy, and always has been. From the time I was 6 years old, he’d be very physical with me if I did something that made him angry. He turned me over his knee and spanked me when I was 6 when I lied about taking some extra taco meat (I wasn’t raised vegan) when my mom and aunt still hadn’t eaten. He grabbed my wrist and yanked me through the kitchen then screamed in my face when I took some extra breakfast potatoes once. He made comments on my weight when I was as young as 12 or 13. He occasionally barked at me to shut up when I cried and yelled at me when I was 8 and he thought I’d not washed properly when I took a bath. He shamed me over anything he thought I did that was even slightly wrong (such as asking my then-best friend if I could stay for dinner one night when I was 13; gee, why would I ever not want to come home?). Needless to say, I didn’t want much to do with him most of the time, which ALSO annoyed him (I’d do such things like turn off the TV and start to leave if he entered the room, at which point he’d bark at me [or just snap exasperatedly] to turn it back on and stay put).
What did my mother do about this? Honestly, not much.
She’d tell him he’d gone too far once in a while, but as I got older, it seemed like both my parents thought my brothers and me where spoiled because we had parents who weren’t constantly at each other’s throats (like my grandparents were), and who occasionally gave us emotional support (never mind that providing support of all kinds to your children, especially emotional, is part of a parents’ job description, not an act of charity for which a parent deserves a pat on the back). Never mind that the effects of the emotional abuse I received were becoming more apparent (in hindsight), like becoming increasingly suicidal and getting into toxic friendships with people who barely treated me better than my schoolyard tormentors, a pattern that started in my preteen years and continued into my 20’s.
At 19, I ended up getting kicked out of the first college I attended after my friends called the police after I told them I was suicidal. My dad screamed at me about that, too, even as I cried. I went to community college for four years, a time that was punctuated with another toxic friendship (with a woman who I think was in love with me, and that’s all I’ll say on the matter), a car accident at 20 that left me with lingering short-term memory problems, and getting a job that turned out to be really toxic that I ended up staying at for nine years (that’s a story for another day). I was only pressured to stay there for so long because I lived with my parents and they told me if I quit before finding another job, they’d kick me out, and for a long time, I had nowhere else to go.
This is all I have the energy to write at the moment. I wanted to write this because I’ve had a very hard few months and I thought writing this out would make things better. This isn’t the end.
Until I get there…peace, love and stay hydrated.