Michele (the woman who gave birth to me) and Brett (her husband) weren’t just mean and harsh to me. They beat me; emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. I do not exaggerate in the least when I say it is only a survivor’s spirit that I’m here with you today. And this goes back to as far as I can remember.
My first memories were around kindergarten when I would come home from school and be sent to my room for the rest of the day because I was “bad”. I didn’t play outside like regular kids. I would sit or stand in my room until bed, not allowed to play or even talk unless spoken to. I was told when I could use the restroom or eat. When we had visitors I was permitted to act like a regular kid, or I was locked in my room to keep up the facade.
I would say it peaked when I was 8 or 9 years old. The worst of the physical abuse at least. I spent every second I wasn’t at school standing in the center of my room on a hardwood floor in bare feet. If I moved even an inch I would be beaten. I was instructed when I could use the restroom or bathe, when I could sleep. I was given food, which was eaten standing. I never had a choice of what I ate. During the summer when there wasn’t school my day started when they told me I was allowed to get up. Often I would have accidents in bed because I wasn’t allowed to get up and go to the bathroom unless they told me. And I wasn’t allowed to ask to go because I wasn’t allowed to speak. The accidents in bed would result in more beatings. Sometimes it was just a spanking, but then she realized that hurt her hand so she switched to other items. Belts, wooden paddles, curtain rods area a few items I can remember. My back, bottom and the backs of my legs were never without huge welts and bruises.
There were other punishments, like standing for hours with my arms straight out from my sides, or hours of leg lifts and wall sits. If I moved I got hit. If I cried I got hit. I spoke only when asked a question and no other time.
I don’t remember what I did, but one day Michele was so fed up with me that she told Brett to punish me. He dragged me through the house by my hair, picking me up and slamming me against the wall.
I was told that I am bad, and that if I could only behave they wouldn’t have to treat me like that. The wrong word or speaking out of turn would often end in a slap across the face or being kicked. I stole food at night when everyone was asleep because I was always hungry.
The worst of the physical abuse only lasted like 3 or 4 years as far as I can remember. At one point it turned into just neglect, with quite a bit of kicking and face slapping. I spent my entire childhood in a room either standing or sitting. Not allowed to play, read a book or talk. Not allowed to move, use the bathroom unless told, and I ate what I was given. I was constantly told I was going to hell for being such a bad child. I deserved the treatment because I was bad and evil. If only I could be good, then they could be nice to me.
In my teens I started cutting myself to cope. I wasn’t allowed to cry or talk. Family stuff was private, not to be shared with anyone else. It wasn’t their business. Cutting myself with knives while doing my daily chores was the only release of pain I had. For some reason that would make me feel better.
Regarding chores, I did everything in the house as long as I can remember. I cleaned as punishment. Dishes, scrubbing floors, everything. When I was 8 my punishment was to scrub every section of ceiling in the entire house with a sponge, up on a ladder. Then I cleaned every inch of floor with a toothbrush. I enjoyed cleaning, because at least I got a break from my room staring at a wall all day.
When I was 15 I finally told someone about home. They told Michele to leave Brett immediately so she did. We lived together for a while and then things got bad again. The punishments returned. She had to work all day and didn’t have anyone to watch me so she recorded my phone calls. She took out restraining orders on my church youth minister and school guidance counselor so I had no one to talk to. One day she was screaming at me that I was a terrible person and would go to hell and I was so upset I needed to hurt myself. So I grabbed a knife and wanted to cut myself. She wouldn’t let me, and called the police and told them I was threatening her with the knife. I was placed on house arrest and could only go to and from school. She twisted the whole story to be that I tried to hurt her. I wanted to hurt myself. I just wanted the pain to end.
One night I was sleeping and she came into my room. She dragged me out of bed and slammed me against a wall. She had her hands wrapped tightly around my throat. I couldn’t breathe, I thought I was dying. She was screaming at me about ruining her life and how horrible I am. Suddenly she left the room.
The next day I went to school and left phone messages for my social worker about what happened. Michele picked me up from school for another court hearing. During the hearing the social worker came in and they had me leave the room. There was a lot of yelling and then my mom stormed out and dragged me with her. She took me back to school. A little bit later the police showed up at school looking for me. I was taken to the hospital and checked out, any marks closely documented. Then I was taken to our apartment to collect my things. Michele was there, watching and harassing me the whole time. Thankfully the police and my social worker were also there but it didn’t make it any less scary.
That night I was taken to a couples’ home and told I would live there temporarily. The state tried to work with Michele, have visitations, but she would just tell me how bad I was the whole time and how I was ruining her life. Eventually the visitations stopped.
I had to testify against her in court. She was there, glaring at me the whole time. They asked her what I ever did that was so bad to deserve that treatment. The best thing she could come up with was that I ran up and down the stairs. She decided then that she didn’t want me. She gave full custody to the state and never wanted to see me again.
When my foster parents told me that she didn’t want to ever see me again, I couldn’t handle it. At the time I still thought it was my fault. I was so bad she never wanted to see me again. My own mother hated my guts and I ruined her life. I started cutting myself more, skipping school and doing drugs. I couldn’t cope. I was in therapy, but I was never taught how to deal with things emotionally growing up. I numbed myself out and slipped away to a fantasy world just to survive growing up. I was 15, and my mother hated me, how could I even begin to process that?
I told people at school I wanted to kill myself and they sent me to a locked facility for treatment. I spent several months there. When they said I was ready to leave, my foster parents didn’t want me anymore. I was too bad for their liking. So I had to stay there longer waiting for someone to take me.
Finally someone wanted me and I moved in with them. I had a really hard time adjusting but had a lot of therapy and help. I did the best I could, but when I was 18 the state wouldn’t allow me to live there anymore. So they moved me to a halfway house where I could learn how to be an adult.
I started college and worked. I wasn’t healed, I wasn’t ready for all of that, and I was tired of being controlled so I left. I moved in with some girl I met online. I didn’t have a job or anything. We partied and did drugs all the time. She broke up with me because I was too clingy. I continued to live there because I had no where else to go. I didn’t have a driver’s license because the state wouldn’t allow it while I was in their custody. I didn’t even have a job.
Thankfully I found a job nearby that I could walk to. I met another girl online and we got a place together. She helped me go to college, get my license and a car, and find an ok job. Our relationship was definitely not perfect. We were a bad match but she had a huge purpose in my life, helping get me out of the gutter.
I wish I could say I’m all healed up and doing amazing. I’m not though. The damage that Michele did to me in those 15 years will last a lifetime. I have nightmares and don’t sleep without being on medication to help me relax at night. I take pills twice a day because I have panic attacks and anxiety so bad I can’t go to work without them. I have to take depression medicine every day and deal with this nagging voice she put in my head that tells me I’m not good enough.
I struggle in my relationship because I don’t know how to love anyone and I can’t get close to people without being terrified. My partner can’t touch me sometimes because it triggers bad memories.
I’m not ok, even after all this time. I’ve been in therapy since December of last year and while I’ve made significant progress, I will always carry this damage from Michele with me every day. I will always have trouble getting emotionally close to anyone because if my mother didn’t love me than no one ever could.
I may always flinch when someone touches me and I’m not expecting it. I may always have an urge to hurt myself when I get upset. The smell of black pepper may always send me to those moments when I was 9 and her favorite punishment was to make me eat soggy bread coated in pepper. I may never feel worthy, or good enough. Her voice in my head may never go away telling me how bad and awful I am. And as hard as I try, I will never be perfect enough. Never comfortable leaving the house and being around a lot of people.
Maybe the flashbacks will never go away. I’m not sure, but I’m doing my best to work through it all. I want to be a better person than her. I don’t want to ruin someone’s life the way she ruined mine. I will always be more broken than most people. I didn’t grow up, thrive, learn. I survived. I’ve spent the past 34 years fighting to survive. I want to live, but the damage may be too great for that to truly ever happen.
I’m not telling you this for sympathy or regret. Or that my family should have done anything different. They did the best they could. She was a master of disguise and no one could have known what was happening. Even I was tricked into thinking it was normal and well deserved. So I don’t blame them in the least.
I know my family has a relationship with Michele, and that’s great. But I can’t do it. I can’t stop them from talking about me to her, but I don’t feel like she’s earned the right to know anything about me. She tried her best to break me. And for a long time she did. Somehow I kept fighting and I’m still here today.
I’m not being hateful and cruel when I don’t want a relationship with her, when I can’t just understand that she was sick. In many ways she ruined my life. I will never not be damaged by her. I may never be able to trust anyone completely because of her. I may never be able to forgive her, because the things she has done are so unforgivable. And even if I figured out how to forgive her, I’m not sure I could ever allow her in my life again. I couldn’t protect myself growing up. But I can protect myself now.
I can’t change the past but I can control my future. I don’t know that I can handle her rejection again so I don’t reach out. I’m terrified of her so I can’t imagine speaking to her. I struggle every single day just to survive after what she has put me though. No one should have to fight this hard. But I do it. I do the best I can to be different from who she is. To be kind and caring even when it hurts. To mend my broken heart and wounds.
But no, I don’t think I can handle giving her another chance. Especially on the excuse that she was “sick”. I’m sick because of her. I take 4 pills a day to be able to live a halfway normal life. I’m sick and broken. But I’m getting help and trying so hard to not break anyone else in the process.
Maybe I’m stronger than she ever was, but being sick is not an excuse for breaking someone else. She tried to break me. She tried to ruin my life. It’s a miracle I’ve come this far. It’s a miracle I’m not a degenerate, a drug addict in a ditch somewhere. And I’ve fought tooth and nail every single minute of every single day to get here and I can’t just go back. I have to protect myself now.