My depiction of childhood is simple. Imagine a green meadow, the grass dewy and soft with pink and purple flowers grazing bare feet, gazing upon the weeping willows waving in the cool breeze.
A child lay on the ground with scrapes on their knees, a helmet held by their side and one of those almost too-tall-to-ride-safely bikes resting against the beautiful willow, ready to ride home to a table full of dinner and a cozy bed to sleep on after their adventurous trek through the fantasies of their innocent mind.
Most of us have many memories as a child, some great and some not so much, but very few of us can remember our early trauma as children.
When I was two-years-old, my biological father hung himself from the ceiling of a torn up shed on the famous Daytona Beach. I don’t remember it, better yet, I don’t remember him, but I do remember how it affected me growing up in a broken home.
My mother bounced back quickly, and by “bounce back,” I mean she had a rebound by the time I was three. They fell in love, and all was right in the world in my mother’s eyes. She was a preschool teacher at the time, working with kids my age at a Christian school, while my newfound father was (and still is) an exterminator.
They both grew up in the Big Apple, the heart of NYC in Brooklyn and Queens, and both came from the same heritage. From the eyes of an objective observer, they seemed absolutely perfect for one another. But sure enough, signs of incompatibility reigned, and my life was at risk.
My mother is the cookie cutter version of a “good girl.” Catholic, never drank or did drugs, lost her virginity at 17 to her high school sweetheart on prom night. (Fun fact: She was almost cast as Annie in the broadway musical in New York City, but my grandmother didn’t want to chop off her beautiful long, black curly hair.)
She had it made — everything she could’ve asked for was handed to her. My stepfather, on the other hand, grew up a cocaine addict in Brooklyn, dropped out of high school in 10th grade, and moved to Florida with $50 and a train ticket just to get away from the drugs. My grandmother instantly despised him, but I didn’t.
I loved being around him — he was so fun and courageous. I remember being thrown into the pool so many times I’m surprised I don’t have any sort of physical disability from hitting the water too hard. My heart felt full. I had two wonderful parents who loved and cherished me.
That is, until one night when I had a nightmare and couldn’t sleep. I ran downstairs and found my father sitting on the recliner watching TV. I sat on his lap for a while, when he asked me if I’d like to “play a game.” Now, to this day I love games, so my child mind must’ve been raging with excitement at the mere word “game.” I said yes, and he proceeded to tell me the rules which were as follows:
1. Take off Daddy’s pants and play with his two friends down there.
2. Don’t stop until Daddy says so.
That’s right. My father made me play with his junk. A lot. So much, in fact, it became a game of permission.
“Daddy, can I go to Mary’s house?”
“Yes, but you know what you have to do first, Goose.”
Now, this went on until I entered the 1st grade when I blurted the game and its rules out to my friend while we were swimming one day, and she told her mom all about it.
Her mom called DCF, and POOF! My dad was gone, and I was living at my grandmother’s house, leaving school earlier than the other kids once a week on early release days to go to a Children’s Advocacy Center to “talk about my trauma.”
Trauma? I wasn’t traumatized. I was 6. The only thing on my mind was getting the hell out of this place and playing with my friends. They’d ask me about my dreams and if I had any nightmares, and I vividly remember drawing some weird shaped monster on the whiteboard to shut them up (it had a triangle body and square hands. I don’t know). I didn’t like going there, but I liked leaving school early.
Eventually, time passed, and my mother came to me with a request I’ll never forget: “Tell the nice women you talk to that you lied about Daddy, okay my baby? I miss him so much and I want him to come home.”
That’s right, my mother asked me to lie for her, at 7-years-old, about my father molesting me, because she wanted him to come home. So I did. I told them everything I said was a lie and that my father never did any of those things I told them he did. At a very young age, I was taught that lying was okay, and so was sexual abuse.
A couple weeks passed and my father came back into our house, our lives, leaving me confused and thinking that I’d have to touch him again. Thankfully, it didn’t happen. I never laid my hands on his parts after he came back.
Instead, he touched me. On the morning of my 12th birthday, I woke up with his hand down my pants, innocently rubbing my newly grown bush thanks to puberty. “Shhh.. don’t tell your mother. Let’s go get you that surfboard you’ve been asking for.” My mother to this day has no idea about that incident, and I wonder if it would have even made a difference.
A year later, I started dating a boy named Daniel. That’s when the sexual abuse came to an end (reluctantly on my dad’s side), and the abandonment and neglect came into fruition.
As I continued to grow into a teenager, I gained knowledge on a few key attributes in the life of a high school abuse survivor: Money, sex, and drugs. I learned a few different scams to attain money so I could eat lunch at school (one I used a lot was an animal cracker one-liner that gained me a dollar every time it worked. I also stole gum from gas stations and sold the pieces to my peers for a dollar each).
I was promiscuous in high school, and definitely an “I love you” slut. I sought out attention from men, you know, the kind my father would give me, unknowingly of course. I didn’t have the emotional depth to understand what I was doing.
During those years neither my mother nor father were around, so most of my decisions were made on my own. Due to my high need to feel accepted by my peers (and men, thanks to cliche daddy issues), my decisions weren’t smart and I got into drugs, specifically Xanax. I barely remember my sophomore year of high school, because I slept through most of it.
My mother ran away to live with a pretentious pilot six hours away, and my dad would sleep during the day and go to work overnight to exterminate restaurants and other businesses, so I had no real sense of guidance or discipline when I truly needed it.
My grandmother and I didn’t get along, and the rest of my family was hidden from me, because my mom is — for lack of a better term — private.
I barely ate (hence the con-artistry I came up with just to eat a bag of Jalepeno Cheetos), I slept far too much, and I always had friends over at my place distracting me from everything that was actually important, like my grades, or my health.
When my father was around, he wasn’t very friendly. He would threaten me, and physically abuse me to the point of actual injuries. Every time I’d decide to stand up and get him out of my life, he would manipulate me into thinking he loved me again, and offer to take me to Universal, or somewhere “cool” and “fun” to take my mind off of my fat lip.
I recall a time when one of my friend’s parents called the police and I made up an elaborate lie about playing baseball in the house just to keep my dad from getting arrested. “Yes officer, that’s why there’s a giant hole in the wall, because I punted a baseball straight through it. It wasn’t my father’s fist or anything, I promise.”
When my mother was around, it was usually an empty experience. To this day, I can’t feel anything around her. She’s deathly ill and has been since I was in kindergarten, but I cannot feel pain for her. I’m completely apathetic. Looking at her, I can see the pain in her eyes, the longing to be loved by me, but I cannot taste the love on my lips and she cannot speak the love from her tongue. It is an empty bond.
My entire childhood was shaped around my physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. I was a shell of a human, playing a part of a child, when in actuality, I was neither. The girl that once danced inside my soul is now a living corpse, someone who died the day her real father did.
I cannot commit to anything. I hop from job to job, relationship to relationship, apartment to apartment, just to find whatever it is I’m looking for. Acceptance, maybe? Love? I’m reckless, taunted, and numb.
I’m 22-years-old and I’m finally coming to terms with what happened in my past. Looking back, and especially writing this article has taught me that my relationship with my parents does not and will never define me as an individual.
I’m struggling so hard to be normal, to hold a steady job, to stop moving from apartment to apartment due to reckless spending habits and staying up all night, to just commit to something, anything, and be happy and content with where I’m at. I’ve made a start on my journey to recovery, and am currently working two jobs to purchase a car, and go back to school.
Other than that, I’m still finding my niche, and I think I might’ve found it in something I’ve loved all along. Writing.