I was certain our parents would kill us now or at the very least give us the worst beating yet before they went to jail.
Screaming, scratching, slapping, kicking, biting, throwing, punching. Destroying. No, I’m not describing the obnoxious tantrum of a toddler. I’m describing my parents.
I grew up in a religious home with strict parents, well known and well loved in their church. They were the cool, generous, saccharine, honey-sweet parents that welcomed everyone, especially the needy soul, into the fold. No one suspected them.
What happened behind our doors remains our family’s darkest secret.
High school is a time for attending pep rallies, going to games, joining clubs and teams, deciding on colleges and socializing. Primarily, it’s a time for learning. I did it all. Singing, dancing, acting, sports. I learned to apply makeup to conceal black eyes, cuts, scratches and stress hives. I had a lesson in prying my diamond and ruby promise ring out of the flesh of my finger after having it firmly embedded when dad hurled me across the room. I learned how to clean infected human bite wounds. I memorized a list of cruel new nicknames my parents had given us. I often fell asleep in class because I’d been yanked out of bed at 3:30am for “family meetings”. While veins popped out of their necks and foreheads, our parents shouted for hours reminding us we were the cause of their failing marriage.I understand the ringing sound boxers hear when someone punches them in the head. I learned that head wounds bleed…a lot. I adroitly washed blood spatter off walls and furniture after a couple of lessons. Unfortunately, I know that sometimes, you have to paint over blood stains. I mastered the art of pretending to have it all together.
Attempts to escape were unsuccessful. I managed to sneak my brother out his bedroom window into the cold winter night while I tried to keep him from passing out. His head spun with dizziness, having been split with a broomstick- his sweatshirt was soaked in blood. It was the second head-splitting incident in 6 months and our second attempt at escape. Wandering in the darkness, we tried to think of a safe place to go. As the sun rose, we slumped in defeat back through the same window. They never knew we were gone.
That night, before I began cleaning the blood from the couch –again– I swore to my parents if they ever attempted to do to me what they had done to my brother, I would call the police without hesitation. They slinked back to their room without a worry for the blood pouring from my brother’s head.
Caught You. Almost.
I’ll never forget the day I was called to the guidance office. I was fourteen. My counselor informed me that someone had given an anonymous tip regarding our plight. I was certain our parents would kill us now or at the very least give us the worst beating yet before they went to jail. A social worker was coming to question my parents. The social workers came and went. Our parents were exceptional at keeping up appearances and had successfully weaseled out of this one. In fact, they’d managed to weave such a tale that our would-be advocates told my brother he deserved what he got. Strangely, I was relieved – relieved for the same reason I concealed our struggle and even protected our abusers. The two things I feared more than my parents: the shame of people knowing the truth and becoming a victim of the system. Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t.
Fast forward awhile. Still living at home and totally devoid of coping skills, I was in deep despair. I developed some deadly habits, passive suicide, if you will. Formerly a social, positive creature, I was wasting away in every sense of the phrase. Crippling anxiety and fear forced me to drop out of school, quit my job and hole up at home, rarely leaving, for 6 months. Anger, resentment and even hatred took hold. I gave up on my goals. Dreaming seemed foolish. I felt insignificant, useless and unworthy of anyone and everything. I saw no future, no hope. I climbed into a hot bath with the intention of ending my misery. I wasn’t afraid – no amount of physical pain could compare to my emotional torment.
Clearly, I’m still here. At this point you might expect me to say a radiant beam of light appeared and convinced me there was hope. It was quite the opposite, actually. Back to the tub. In that moment, razor in hand, I sensed a tangible darkness, a living black hole, eagerly anticipating my next move. My life’s somber symphony had risen to crescendo and a sinister composer was waiting to escort me out.
I’m a logical girl. I was spooked and by spooked I mean freaked out. I figured if I can feel a presence this dark and odious, then there MUST be light. So, naturally, I abandoned my plan and jumped out of the water. REALLY fast!
I Learned Something New
I called a friend that day. I learned that shameful secrets lose their power when shared with a trusted friend. I unearthed something wonderful – For all the darkness surrounding us, there is a brighter, stronger, marvelous Light. Over the following months I discovered that I had every reason to hope and that my future was full of possibility. I learned to dream again and that I am far from insignificant. Over the years I discovered that my worth and value doesn’t come from people or parents for that matter. Perhaps most importantly, I recognized that forgiveness puts the power back in my hands. While it may be undeserved, forgiveness is a choice and it releases me from enslaving bitterness.
I never thought I could tell my story. The shame took away my voice- but here I tell it so the world can know…
I was abused and silenced.
Now I am Lovely.