I lied. I lied about a lot. For a long time, I’ve lied about a lot of things to keep myself sane, to deal with the things I wasn’t allowed to talk about and to get the attention that I was taught I never deserved. Finally, though, I’m realizing that I have people that love and care about me and that I don’t need these self-destructive coping mechanisms to get through life anymore. Those people that love me, however, do deserve to know the truth that was weaved in with the web of lies that had become my life, so I’m here to tell my story. The real version.
My father left before I was born and the only time I ever met him was in court when I was three months old. He never contacted me and I never saw a picture of him until I found his Facebook when I was 19 years old. It tore me up my entire life that he didn’t care; I felt like if I had been a better person, a smarter student, a more talented musician or just a prettier girl, maybe he would have wanted something to do with me. I found the child support letters in the mail when I was younger and thought that it meant my father cared about me. I learned later in life that not only was child support court mandated, but he also never paid it despite having rather successful businesses and a new family of his own. It killed me that he was the father to two young, beautiful children and I was left in the dust, inadequate and alone to deal with a mother that was incessantly falling apart. I asked my Mom to contact him when I was twelve and she did incredible amounts of searching before finally finding him. He answered the phone, he talked to my Mom and said that he was overwhelmed and that he would call back in a few days. I didn’t hear from him until eight years later when I found his Facebook and, on a whim, messaged him. He answered back and forth, here and there, then slowly but surely, the responses stopped coming. Yet again, I felt abandoned, inadequate and deeply hurt. I wondered what I could have done to make him love me like he loved his new family. To make him stay.
When I was young, I was forced to grow up rather quickly. Sadly, most of the memories I have of my childhood are bad ones. My Mom has epilepsy and I quickly learned growing up that she wasn’t able to take care of herself. The dependency that epilepsy forced upon her threw her into the depths of depression. I tried to pull her out of it, make her go to work in the morning; I brought her cereal in my favorite hippo bowl, I learned to make coffee all on my own and brought it to her in the morning, but nothing seemed to work. I was always late to school and she rarely went to work and people passed judgments on the “single mother who couldn’t take care of her kid.”
I have to say my Mom tried her hardest; for a child that was completely unplanned, she always loved me with all of her heart… but that doesn’t mean she didn’t have her shortcomings. I remember a six year old me lying on my bed crying after my Mom’s boyfriend, Jeff, spanked me for whatever I had done wrong, whether it be that I spilled milk or threw a tantrum. He told me I wasn’t allowed to have dinner and locked in my room for the rest of the night. My Mom snuck into my room when he wasn’t looking and bring me a plate of food. I remember being afraid to use the toilet because Jeff told me that there was a monster that would come out and eat me; I am still wary of bathrooms to this day. I remember the week that I stored my food in my cheeks and spit it out in the shower because Jeff told me that I ate too fast and too much and that I would choke and die. I remember crying when Jeff and my Mom finally broke up, thinking that there was something I could have done to make him stay; I used to call him Dad. I remember the awkward moments sitting in school with a man that I later found out my Mom had cheated on Jeff with. I sat in class and he didn’t say a word, but we both knew what the other was thinking. I remember sitting in my room crying to myself when I was young as my Mom sat on the phone crying to the bill collector, saying that she had a child to support and no one to help her. The ten year old version of me wished I had never existed so my Mom could be happy. I remember my Mom’s boyfriend, Kevin, telling me that my problems were miniscule, that I was just a little girl that had no reason to be sad. At nine years old, I remember beating myself with a bat to prove to myself that I was hurting. I remember on Easter one year when I was maybe nine when my Mom and Kevin, broke up and she thought that I had made her boyfriend angry on purpose. “Are you happy now?” She said. “Are you happy that you’ve ruined it?” I wasn’t. I wished I was dead. The next Valentine’s Day, when I was ten, I tried to run away and Kevin left for good because I had ruined the Valentine’s plans. I was always in the way. I remember the night I snuck out when I was twelve and my Mom and her boyfriend, Mark, came out looking for us. When they finally found us, Mark threw my friend Joe’s bike at Joe and the other people we were with. He screamed and yelled and, despite being an “ex” alcoholic, reeked of alcohol. I remember when Mark stopped the car because someone was riding his ass and he got out of the car and tried to start a fight. At twelve years old, I had to get out and yell at him and break it up as his mother sat crying in the car. I remember the night Mark left and spent all of our savings on alcohol in the city and agreeing that she could take my confirmation money to put as a down payment on a more affordable apartment. I never got that money back. I remember trying to be happy when, months and months later, my Mom told me that she was pregnant with Mark’s child because she had “one last fling with him” in May. I remember trying to stop him from leaving his unborn child the night that he lost it and told my Mom that he “hoped she liked raising bastard children, because this one will be just like the first.” I scream and shouted and stood in his way. I saw his fist begin to clench and I dove out of the way and watched his beat red face walk out the door. At fourteen years old, I remember my Mom getting mad at me for wanting to talk about her abortion with a friend because it made her look bad. The abortion tore me apart and, to this day, it still does because the fight that caused Mark to leave was instigated by me. If I had kept my mouth shut, maybe I could have saved that child’s life, but we’ll never know. I went to treatment shortly after because, after the abortion, my relationships with my Mom and food fell apart simultaneously. I remember getting attached to my Mom’s boyfriend Dennis, telling him that he was like a father to me. I remember hearing my Mom have seizure after seizure, finding her in bathrooms and parking lots and having to take care of her. I remember visiting her in the hospital when they tried to figure out the next best course of treatment. I remember the nights that Dennis talked to me about how hot and cold my Mom had gotten, telling me that he couldn’t handle taking care of everything anymore. I remember him saying that he thought my Mom was crazy. I remember Dennis beginning to drink too much, finding the beer cans scattered throughout the living room, the attic and his children’s room. I remember the night that he threatened to punch me in the face if I made a joke about him again and I remember that same night him threatening to break down the door to get to me. I remember the night that he left and my world fell apart yet again. I remember the night that my Mom told me that he had been doing terrible things to my Mom all along, that he had been on interactive porn sites despite telling my Mom that he wasn’t. I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach when I realized that the only father figure I had ever had in my life lied to us, betrayed us, and tore my Mom and I apart in the process. I remember my Mom telling me that maybe if I had done my chores, the relationship wouldn’t have been so strained.
I know the pleasant memories are in there somewhere, waiting to be remembered, but lately, the only memories that come to mind cause my heart to sink. Maybe I didn’t have the worst childhood, but just because someone else had it worse doesn’t mean that my feelings are invalid. I’m sad. I’m sad because I lacked a real childhood, I’m sad because I never felt good enough and I’m sad because, in my mind, I was always the common factor. I was the reason my Mom didn’t have the dance career she always dreamed of, I was the reason she always struggled financially and emotionally, I was the reason everyone left, I was the reason that baby wasn’t given a chance at life. I think a lot of the lies were to try to justify to myself that I had some reason to live, some reason for all the pain and suffering that I’ve been through. Because no matter what, good or bad, nothing I do ever seems like it’s enough. I’m tired of feeling inadequate, invalidated and unloved. I just want to feel cared about, to be able to express my true feelings and to trust that someone will stay, no matter how good or how bad it may get. I want to feel safe.