1. Our mother tried to murder us
When I was five years old, my sister four, I woke up on a stretcher in the hospital. All I remember at first are incredibly bright lights and sterile, white walls. A pretty nurse with curly blonde hair and bright red lipstick kept worrying over me. I think I may have been strapped down but I don’t remember. I have no idea why I didn’t put up a fight because I do remember there being a tube down my throat. To this day I can’t stand the thought of gagging or throwing up. For some reason I couldn’t understand why she was so worried. I just wanted her to laugh. So every time she would give me the next shot in my arm, I would try to gasp, look at her, then roll my eyes and pretend to pass out. I’d open my eyes and let out a muffled laugh and she would smile.
My Dad would randomly burst into the room. He looked terrified. I didn’t understand why he kept leaving until way later when I was told they had my sister and I in opposite rooms. Apparently my heart stopped nine times. It wasn’t long until my sister and I found out our mother had tried to overdose us on her pills. It was another two decades before I realized she didn’t have a psychotic break like I thought; she was just mad at my Dad for drinking and wanted to get back at him.
2. I saw the dead bodies of my neighbors during the war
My memories from the Lebanese civil war. Witnessing bombs going off in front of us. Shells hitting the road in front of our house. Hiding in shelters with 50 people in a tiny room (with no bathroom). Having a mortar shell hitting the upper levels of the shelter and killing our neighbors. Having to see the bodies of our dead neighbors.
This was just one week of living through the war.
3. My neighbor beat the shit out of my cat
I got home early from school one day. I was about 9 or so. My parents were out, my brother and sister were still doing their high school activities. The doorbell rings, and my neighbor brings me my cat in some weird plastic container, meowing pitifully and looking like she was in pain. Apparently, my little shit of a next door neighbor thought that my cat wandering into his yard was some kind of trespassing. He was maybe a year younger than me, and he decided to beat the ever living shit out of my cat… for walking into his yard. My other neighbor saw this, and did her best to get my cat away. I couldn’t get in touch with anyone who had a car and could take her to the vet. This was before cell phones were used by anyone other than executives and drug dealers, so I scrambled about trying to find a ride. About 20 minutes later, I find my cat had died behind the sofa. The kid got put on some list, and my parents (and his parents) made him bury my cat. Little shit.
4. My babysitter touched us inappropriately
We had a live in housekeeper/nanny when I was around 4. She used to take me to her quarters and touch me and make me touch her.
Also, when my parents went out, she’d look after us. She used to put my older sister to bed and then make me watch porn.
5. My brother committed suicide
Walking up the driveway and seeing two ambulance attendants putting a stretcher in back of their vehicle. The white sheet had drying blood on the head end. I’d find out five minutes later my older bother committed suicide. It was Feb. 8, 1966 and I was five years old.
6. My father went missing for nine months
When I was 4, my dad went missing for 9 months. I still remember the first time seeing an Ingles store a few towns over (we didn’t have them in my town) while we were out searching for him. I thought we must have traveled very far since I was seeing such a big, unfamiliar store out of the car window.
The reason he left was because he had been working outside at his job, and his bipolar meds basically became ineffective due to how much sun exposure he was getting. In the days before he left, he kept saying weird things that I didn’t know what to make of at my age. Things like “Stop watching Lassie. That show is of the devil” and “You can’t use your Beauty and the Beast blanket because it hints at the number of the antichrist.” Little me was baffled but obeyed. I now know that excessive religiosity is a warning sign to get his meds checked.
His truck was found abandoned and partially wrecked 2 states away about 4 months into his time missing. That was rough for my mom. Our outside cat had recently had kittens so I used to pick them up and take them to her inside to try to help. She thought he was dead for sure. Eventually, he was found wondering around an interstate several more states away with his jacket, wallet, and a bible piled neatly in the left lane.
He was able to sort out his medication levels and has only had a few issues with needed med adjustments since then. I, however, was traumatized for many years after, and I’d latch onto his leg for the first little bit after he got home, fearing he’d leave again…
Worst part? He feels guilty to this day. I’m always trying to tell him, “dude, not your fault! So not your fault!” This is why we need to talk about mental health more. My dad has been a model provider, father, husband, and granddad all these years, but he still carries guilt for circumstances that he didn’t set out to enact.