One night at dinner when I was five my mother giddily recounted to the whole family how I had hurt myself falling out of bed the night before and cried out, “he thought I would feel sorry for him!” she said, laughing hysterically, speaking over me as if I wasn’t in the chair next to her, gazing down at the scrape on my arm. We were home alone, and she had sent me to bed without dinner, perhaps after beating me. So I was bored, starving, and in pain, unable to sleep because of the hunger (a regular occurrence in my early childhood.) Of course I would have done anything to get out of that hell, so I fell off the top bunk in my room, cutting my arm and making noise in the process. I did think, of course, that she might love me enough to break out of this immature, punitive hatred she held against me. But she didn’t, and whatever I had supposedly done, it was just easier for her to have an excuse not to take care of me, feed me, nurture my emotional and physical needs. I know today that when my mother was feeling lazy, she would often invent a ‘punishment’ with which to dispose of me and leave me in shame, self-doubt and want. As the parent she created all of this, not me.
Gossiping and laughing about this incident in my presence was meant to shame me, to humiliate me. And she was successful, for a long time that is what I’ve felt about this memory. I felt so stupid for believing that my mother was a better person then she was, and internalized the accusation that I was the manipulative, lying one. In that state I never looked at the fact that the dysfunction, fear and anguish I went through was her fault. But this shame also taught me that I couldn’t go to her with anything. A year later I sat in that same chair next to her at the dinner table for over six months carefully holding my fork because my pinkie finger couldn’t move after my brother had slammed it with a metal spoon while I was emptying the dishwasher. And while I ate I wondered if they would notice the black bruise or the way my finger didn’t bend, I thought that maybe tonight I would say something. But I didn’t, because I knew that no one in my family would care, no one would help me. I would be brushed off, ignored, laughed at.
Once while playing outside my brother hit me square in the face with a metal baseball bat. My mother just led me inside the house and yelled something at him, and that was it. Of course he claimed it was an accident, and that is thus how I always felt about that incident. But why? I don’t owe him the benefit of the doubt, he did worse things to me with 100% malicious intent all the time. I don’t have to give any of these people a pass or look at situations and decide what was unintentional. That is a pointless labyrinth when I know that they committed (formerly) unspeakable crimes against me. I don’t have to be “reasonable” or excuse their limitations. Fuck them! My brother hit me in the face with a bat, hit my finger with a spoon so hard that I couldn’t move it for months, and he raped and beat me all the time. After that, he didn’t deserve to stand in my presence or “accidentally” hurt me again. I deserved to be protected and never have to be alone with him or any of my abusive family again. I see today that that was the real solution, to protect and shield me, not punish my brother when the “punishments” made him this way and of course gave inspiration for him to “get back at me” later.
Even outside of “punishments” I was forced as a young child to sleep with my door open all the time, so that the lights from the living room and the sounds of the television, of people talking invaded my space. I know that today I couldn’t tolerate sleeping in those conditions (and certainly my parents demanded absolute quiet when THEY were trying to sleep,) but as a child it was really a slap in the face, not having any peace or private space. Once the family dog wandered into my room and tried to comfort me as I sat there crying, hungry, but they heard and called him back into the living room. I wasn’t even allowed to hug a dog lest I might feel better about myself or the world. I was constantly sent to bed at a time when I wasn’t tired and couldn’t sleep, but would always have hours of lying in bed in the half-darkness, wasting much of my time and young life away. I was harassed if I got up to go the bathroom, and wasn’t even allowed to read in order to put myself to sleep, to expand my horizons, my imagination. I know that that is so wrong, that I deserved my time in childhood and adolescence, all the time that was taken away from me by their abuse and ugliness. I deserved to be fed meals and listened to, cared for no matter what.
I know that in an equal relationship, just because I might be mad or frustrated with someone who I live with doesn’t mean that they no longer have human rights, to their life, their body, their feelings. Problems can be worked out nonviolently, with respect for everyone and not concluding that someone is so stupid that they aren’t worthy of being communicated with and can be subjected to sick punishments instead. Can be taught embarrassment and shame for offending their parents ego’s in one way or another. My mother never stopped using this tactic for the whole time that I lived with her, she would speak about and ridicule me with other people in my earshot all the time, and it was sick, wrong, and criminal.
I’ve discovered lately that the things I really need to work on are those that make me uncomfortable. Such as instances where I feel like I’m “not sure” whether I really deserved the abuse or if I was at fault. I know that my ex-family would love to bring up their twisted versions of these stories in response to my speaking out publicly, so that’s another motivation for staring them down. Today, I absolve myself of any shame for how I responded to the stifling prison of my childhood. And despite my mother gloating above her five year old son about how she had ‘won’ her own sick little game, I know that ultimately she hast lost. Because I’m breaking those bonds of shame and self-hatred in order to experience my genuine self.