A snake dressed like a fluffy rabbit is still a snake. We eventually got away from our life of poverty. My mother remarried. He was successful and had a lot of money. So, in that sense and only that sense, there were a few years that I ‘wanted for nothing.’ I had never had a time before then that I didn’t worry when I’d eat next. I had never had freshly bought clothes on my back, and a roof over my head that didn’t threaten to crumble at any minute. But the walls around my heart had built up, and I was damned if I was going to let anyone in. It might have been different if my step-father had been a good man. I might have let go of my resentment and my anger. I might have learned how to let others love me, and how to love myself. I’ll never know. The unfortunate truth of survivors of abuse, is that they get right back in the cycle. They convince themselves that because this one isn’t as crazy as the last one, that they aren’t abusive. He didn’t hit her, or threaten to kill all of us, and he put a roof over our head and food in our bellies. Therefor, he was a good man and we should be grateful. He showed his true colors not long after my mother and him got married.
He promised he would love us kids like his own, and that he would never treat us badly. He lied. We hadn’t lived long in our new house, when he got in a fist fight with my brother. It had started as some kind of argument upstairs, over what I can’t for the life of me remember anymore. My mother was in my room talking to me about it. We heard a thud and someone yell “get off of me.” We came in to see my step-dad and brother staring at each other, both fists clenched and sweating. My brother said my step-father pushed him and so he punched him, and then my step-father was strangling him, and so he punched him again. My step-father, while holding his glasses in his hand with a black eye already forming, said my brother shoved him and punched at him, and he was only defending himself. My brother was well known for angry outbursts. If you remember from my previous blog, it would not be the first time he viciously attacked someone without reason. My step-father, the one with the smile on his face and the pleasant attitude, the paragon of virtue in the community, seemed like the last person on Earth to ever hit someone unprovoked.
I would only find out later how much of a snake he really was. I have since learned the word “narcissist.” I had never really applied it to him before, only thinking about how he originally presented himself and how he acted as I write this blog, do I realize what he was. Back then I believed him. I believed every lying word out of his mouth. For once, my brother was innocent, and I didn’t believe him. My brother got put in juvenile hall for the night, until my step-father ‘graciously’ dropped the charges. Then held it over my brothers head for the rest of his time living there. I didn’t know then that it was because he could have one over on my brother. That every time he reminded him of it, instead of reprimanding his bad behavior like I thought, he was actually telling him that he could do whatever he wanted and get away with it. The violence affected me in that my nightmares returned, and my PTSD first reared it’s ugly head.
I began to have nightmares that I my brother and mom were being beaten to death in front of me by my father. That had never happened, obviously, but he had wrapped his hands around my mothers throat and tried to strangle her. He had sat on top of my brother as he lay on the floor trying to protect his face and turning purple from being unable to breathe with a grown man on his lungs, while my father slapped the *expletive* out of him. I began to have nightmares that my father touched me. And I don’t mean hit me. Don’t ask me if that really happened. I have no idea and the idea has haunted me for a long time. I only remember getting dragged into a bathroom by my hair and the door locking behind me. Everything goes black after that. He could have beat the crap out of me, and the rest of the nightmare was just my worst fears, or he could have done my worst fears and I blocked them out. I will never know the truth of what really happened. I tried for years to get those memories, desperate to know the truth. All it did was make the PTSD worse and make it that much harder to be around people, especially men.
I had dated young, I was seven when I had my first boyfriend, and nine with the second. It wasn’t the cutesy they call themselves boyfriend/girlfriend while simply sharing sly looks at each other. I’m talking full on make out sessions whenever we would get away from people. We would kiss for hours, we were together both times for a year, and I was fuly convinced at the time I was in love. I would have stayed with my only happiness in the hell around me, but they both moved. I had been an early developer. I had boobs and taller than my mother by the time I was ten. As a teenager, even though I was an ass, I was well sought after for these reasons. I was a bit on the chubby side, but I had huge boobs that would cause me years of back pain. As a teenager, I serial dated. I didn’t go steady with anyone, unless you count one person I will talk about in another blog. (That was not a relationship in the typical sense, it will make more sense later.) I had boyfriend after boyfriend, afraid they would get close. What I’m saying here is, looking back there seems to be a clear pattern that it was my PTSD keeping me from relationships, and not a lack of wanting them. Here’s the thing, even as you push people away, deep down inside you scream for someone to notice you, the real you. Not the face you hide behind but the person underneath. My life had taught me to be aggressive, assertive, and take no crap, lest I be a target again.
That’s exactly what I did. I deliberately hardened myself and made myself unapproachable. It’s funny in a way, because now most people would describe me as a very kind, compassionate person. I suppose that was true even then. It hurt me more than I can ever describe to push people away. I hated myself more and more for it. It didn’t help my idea of myself as a monster. It didn’t help me to like myself any better. I had friends, usually former boyfriends. I had girls that were friends too, but they were usually the back-stabbing kind. It didn’t bother me then, because I believed myself impenetrable. The only person that could hurt me anymore was me. I was so very wrong. Eventually, after my brother moved out, I found out just how wrong I was. I was sixteen at that time. Of course, all my girl-friends had been with their boyfriends. I was the last one that hadn’t slept with a boy. I was beginning to think that maybe I should be more approachable. That maybe I wouldn’t be so lonely if I softened up. Of course, that’s when my step-father started abusing me. I don’t know if it was coincidence, or because my brother moved out or because I seemed weaker because of my letting my guard down. All I know is that is when the insults started. At first, I didn’t know what was going on. I had never been around an emotional manipulator before. My father was easy to understand. He’d rage and scream and listen to the voices in his head. I didn’t understand that there was a more subtle kind of evil. An evil that smiles to you one minute, and then tells you you’re an idiot in the next.
There’s one thing I appreciate about my father. At least he was honest with his hatred. My step-father would let things sit in his mind. He would pout when he didn’t get his way. He would control the situation back to his spotlight. And then he would insult you when nobody is around to hear it. Eventually, as abusers always do, it got physical. He started pushing me into walls. He started disabling my car I had saved up for so I couldn’t escape him. He started looking at me with lust in his eyes. I would have thought I was crazy at this point, if it weren’t for the fact that I had started making girl-friends. They all told me he looked at them like that and it creeped them out. I had thought I was imagining it. After the third one told me so, I started dressing as much like a boy as I could. I stopped wearing bras. I wore loose clothing. I made sure to ‘forget’ to shower and comb my hair so I would look as unappealing as possible. I wore my hair up in a severe bun. Somehow, nobody noticed these changes. People would remark that I looked like a boy, or that I should wear makeup and do my hair. They commented that I stank and should take a shower. But somehow this sent up no red flags to anyone. At least, as far as I know. I still don’t wear make-up or bras to this day. I do shower and comb my hair, but I make myself decent and try not to make myself too appealing.
When I was 18, he kicked me out of the house. I thought the nightmare was over, but there was worse to come. I wont lie, some of that was my own fault. People tell me now it wasn’t, but I still think I should have opened up to people more. Maybe if I had told someone the truth about all of my life, someone would have done something. Even when my friends would tell me that he creeped them out, I would only say I disliked him. I never spoke up about what was going on. I treated other people like dirt to keep them away. It has been remarked that I was not a good person as a teen. I have to agree with this. It confirmed my worst fears. I had decided I was going to make myself stronger and better, but I just made things worse. It would be six months before I got my first wake-up call. Unfortunately, it was only with tragedy. It was the second time I died.