I spent the first years of my life having grand mal seizures, sometimes several a day. My earliest memories were formed in the Navy hospitals being poked and prodded, and shoved into MRI machines, with apparently no answers as to what the cause was.
The answer came later when I was “old enough to know” and my mom told me about how my dad had dropped me on my head as a baby when he was drunk. They didn’t tell the doctors this, apparently, and for the first six years of my life I was seizing constantly. I eventually grew out of them but there was long term damage I still deal with to this day.
The worst part of it is growing up the butt of the family jokes about being dropped on my head as a baby. Once the secret was out, it became something else to use against me. Every chance they got, they pulled it out. That hurt.
Even worse than that is the fact that my father refuses to acknowledge or take responsibility. I get it. Denial is a helluva drug.
So is choosing estrangement from your abusers. It feels amazing.
I knew I was finally healing when I found myself crying less and sighing more. I no longer felt crushed by it all, I just felt… sad. It’s a sad thing when a family is so dysfunctional it becomes non-functional. It’s also sad when you allow the trauma from growing up in a toxic family destroy the rest of your life.
It’s easy to do that, to be honest. It’s harder to face the reality and practice radical acceptance which is what I finally did a few years ago. I realized nothing I do now will change what happened and I’d already lost so much in the years spent ruminating over it all.
Was I really going to grow old crying almost daily because of what happened to me as a kid??
I don’t even really sigh about it much anymore. I have a sort of peace now that is hard to describe. I haven’t forgiven anyone, and don’t plan to because I don’t believe that forgiveness is a path to healing in my case.
I’ve just allowed myself to be happy that I survived and I escaped the madness. For that I can let out a huge sigh of relief!
I don’t know what he expected. Seriously, how the hell was I supposed to sleep at night knowing he was collecting rattlesnakes in a pit he dug near my bedroom window??? He already had a big one in there and was gloating over getting more and of course he told me how he’d throw me in with them when he was done, just to torture me.
My little eight year old brain hadn’t figured out that he was often full of shit yet, so I believed him. And I was scared.
Man was he pissed at me for telling. I still remember our mom beating that big ole snake to death against a tree with one of our dad’s golf clubs. I’d happily visit its mangled corpse at the edge of the grass every day after school until it mostly turned to dust and blew away.
Seeing that dead rattlesnake is one of my happier childhood memories.
It was impossible to breathe in that hell hole. The stench from all the dog and cat shit, the dirty dishes and laundry, the rotting trash filled with maggots, the millions of cigarette butts filling up ashtrays, empty dishes and even the potted plants all contributed to the toxic air inside my childhood home.
It actually pissed me off and I hated being forced to live like that. I looked and smelled as though I came from a dumpster and was treated accordingly by my peers. My little heart burned with anger at them for making me go through that every day. I knew it was my parent’s responsibility and fault, even at a young age and I hated them.
Before I learned to sneak out at night to breathe in the fresh air, I did what I could to survive. Praying didn’t seem to help so I figured out ways to save myself. Every minute of every day felt like a battle of will to just live.
It’s funny the things a kid will come up with. When I got lice and they refused to treat it and mocked me instead, I doused my head with pesticide I found in the garage and took care of it myself. It worked.
I also used to steal dryer sheets and put them over my face at night just to try and block the barrage of odors filling my nostrils and burning my brain. Having a seizure disorder meant that every sense was heightened, including my sense of smell and hearing so combined with all the loud music and chaos it was like living in hell for me every day.
No one else seemed to notice that I was struggling, either. I guess they got bored with me being sick by that point. If I brought it up they just told me I was attention seeking and wasn’t sick anymore because the Mormon’s had healed me ahahaha (I’ll write more about that later).
Nights were the worst, especially in summer. I never had a screen on my window – usually the cats would tear them up soon after we’d move into a new place – and I’d sleep with it open to try and get some fresh air in there so I could breathe.
Soon the june bugs and moths and other flying critters would come, buzzing around me all night, keeping me awake as I tossed and turned.
When I did fall asleep, invariably I’d be woken by a whisper in the dark. One of my brother’s “clients” was always lurking nearby, peeking into or knocking on windows looking to score some meth. Twenty four hours a day they came and they went but at night it was especially scary for me.
They were like demons lurking in the shadows just outside my window. A living nightmare, really. Speaking of that…
Now, dear children, pay attention I am the voice from the pillow I brought you something Have ripped it out of my chest With this heart, I have the power Blackmail the eyelids I sing until the new day comes A bright light in the heaven’s sky
My heart burns
They come to you at night Demons, ghosts and black elves They crawl up from the cellar rows And will take a look under your blanket
Little children listen now I am the voice from the pillow I brought something to you A bright light in the heaven’s sky
My heart burns My heart burns
They come to you at night And steal your small hot tears They wait till the moon awakes And push them in my cold veins
Little children listen now I am the voice from the pillow I sing ’til the day awakes A bright light in the heaven’s sky
My heart burns My heart burns My heart burns My heart burns
With this heart I have the power To blackmail the eyelids I sing ’til the day wakes up A bright light in the heaven’s sky
My heart burns My heart burns My heart burns (My heart) My heart burns (My heart burns) (My heart burns)
I love how he embodies that persona of our worst childhood demons and then how he kills himself for us. That was nice of him. 😄
Till is so damned good at working through, or at least acknowledging, his own trauma with art and I envy him. Since I can’t paint and I’m not great with prose and while I do have musical talent, I don’t have the energy to play anymore. I am happy just to simply blog my experiences and put them out into the ether.
My heart isn’t burning anymore. It has settled into a simmer, which is good because I am still angry but I’m not full of hate or vengeance anymore.
My mom did want my dad dead, and she wasn’t shy about telling me her plan to kill him. She seemed pleased with herself that she had the restraint not to go through with it and only told me after they were divorced. I still remember sitting across from her, a cloud of cigarette smoke between us, and her sly, half grin as she recanted all the dirty details.
Her plan was to rent a small RV and go camping as they did once a year. She’d make sure he got good and plastered the night before and she’d get up, make coffee and head down to the lake to have a smoke while the percolator did its thing. Except she’d accidentally forget to light the pilot light.
She said she knew the first thing my dad did every single morning without fail was sit up, grope around for his pack of smokes and lighter and light one up. By then the gas would have built up and…
I was probably sixteen or seventeen at that point and was barely fazed by it because I was used to her talking like this. Hell she used to tell us kids she’d run us into a tree if we didn’t settle down and she never did that, either.
But something told me to believe her this time when she sat across from me in that half-lit living room that day, with her arms crossed defiantly across her chest, looking me dead in the eye, telling me that if she didn’t divorce him she was going to kill him and he wasn’t worth going to prison for.
No man was, she said.
She’s right, of course. No one is worth going to prison for. I guess there was a lesson there after all.
One of the problems with my generation is we still lived with the belief instilled in us (usually through threat or force) that “real men” don’t cry. Don’t be a pussy. Man up. What are you, a girl?
I saw how damaging this is to repress your feelings. I saw the end result in my brothers and my guy friends who were all walking around pissed off and angry at the world and why wouldn’t they be? At least I could cry, and I did, gallons of tears in fact, but there they were, getting abused, too, without being allowed to express their emotions about it.
Of course they were ticking time bombs!
One of the songs that hit me the hardest lately is Meine Tränen from the album Zeit. It’s a tearjerker for sure and is about that old adage “boys don’t cry”. The way he writes it is again, so effing poetic it’s unreal but Till has a talent for expressing some people’s reality in a way that we can either relate to or empathize with.
I still live with Mom Old now, but always there Even if the sleeves are longer now I’m still her little child
We are alone, but a lot as a pair And gladly share half a sorrow The house is small, the silence is big She often forces me onto her lap
I still live with Mom And will probably stay there forever In the house, a man has been lacking for a long time I’m helping out as best I can
Mother doesn’t give me much love But she still slaps my face And now and then I’vе cried Then she only said with a smilе
A man only cries when his mother dies Death is strong, the heart is weak When your own flesh and blood spoils The wiser head gives in
She couldn’t love the father either Driven him out of the world Now and then a silent scream And a little litany
Mother didn’t give him much love But she often slapped his face Now and then he has cried Then she only said with a smile
A man only cries when his mother dies Death is strong, the heart is weak When your own flesh and blood spoils The cleverer give in
You should be ashamed of yourself Never show your tears You should be ashamed of yourself Never show your tears Your tears
Your tears Your tears
I love the drum beat at the very end. It sounds like he either slams a door on his way out (let’s hope) or she falls to the floor dead (again, he’d finally be free). They are brilliant in adding little nuanced sounds and effects.
What gets me is the part where it says she drove the father out of the world. Did he commit suicide? It is an unspoken epidemic among men, especially after messy divorces and when children are used as pawns the way I was when my parents finally (FINALLY) decided to call it quits on their joke of a marriage.
Lucky for me my mom didn’t want to keep me around to abuse me the way this mom did, but she did want to keep us all beholden to her in other ways.
She also would have been more than happy if my dad had put a gun to his head, but he didn’t and they both moved on. She did, however, live with my bachelor brother until she died and the two of them had a creepily similar relationship to the mother and son in this song.
So yeah, another one from Rammstein that hits close to home.
I spent many nights wandering in the dark, alone, long after most everyone had went to bed. It wasn’t safe for a thirteen year old girl to do what I did, but I survived and I had too many adventures to put into words.
And I wasn’t always alone. I was part of an elite group of night rangers who I called friends. We’d coordinate our escapes each night so we could meet up and go cause mayhem across the valley. It was a crazy time to be alive in central California. Most of our parents were partying hard like we were, but we did it our own way.
Hanging out behind Zippy’s waiting for our hook up so we could have plenty of party supplies to last until dawn. Hopefully more if it was a weeknight because we still had to get up and go to school after sneaking back in our houses and crawling into bed with a couple hours to spare before the alarm went off.
Usually we’d just do more lines and stay up until Friday if we could, then we’d ditch and sleep all day so we could party again that weekend. And my god, did we party hard.
Of course we did. We were from the “Rock-n-roll all night and party every day!” generation. It was sort of the anthem for us and at the time I almost even liked KISS (lol).
Nowadays I’m hooked on Rammstein and their new album Zeit which is especially a masterpiece.
Till is a poetic genius and he gets people like me. Hell, he IS people like me! This song resonates deeply given my history of wandering in the dark, and loving (almost) every minute of it.
When I go to rest before the night (To rest) I cover myself with melancholy The bright world doesn’t want to make me happy I must enrapture myself with the darkness It’s the night pregnant with death Which ecstatically makes us sinners Commandments which we ignore Can’t be seen by anyone in the dark
The night is beautiful (Beautiful) I don’t want to go to sleep
‘Cause whenever I’m lonely I’m drawn to the dark The sun death is my pleasure (My pleasure) Whenever it gets dark And the soul gets lost in lust The cold night is my pleasure I drink the black in big gulps (Drink)
When the day has crept into the moon A fever rises in our bones And no prayer and no candles Feign light into our hearts The daylight is no loss The night hold her breast for many Lushes, whores and conspirators Belong to the shadows
The night is beautiful (Beautiful)
‘Cause whenever I’m lonely I’m drawn to the dark The sun death is my pleasure (My pleasure) Whenever it gets dark And the sould gets lost in lust The cold night is my pleasure I drink the black in big gulps (Drink)
‘Cause whenever I’m lonely I’m drawn to the dark The sun death is my pleasure (My pleasure) Whenever it gets dark And the sould gets lost in lust The cold night is my pleasure I drink the black
It’s so weird to look back and think of little ole me living like a vampire and I honestly don’t know how I wasn’t killed back then, given all I did and also given how many friends and acquaintances of mine did die during those crazy 1980’s. I think of them often and wonder how they would have turned out.
We’ll never know, will we.
One thing I do know is I’m sure they’d be shocked to see what became of me.
There really were none in my family. They had no shame so why keep secrets? They wore dysfunction like a badge of honor and everything was out in the open, for all to see.
And hear. We were that loud family on the block and worse, my parents had a popular local band so music poured from every window and door of our house at all hours. Horrible twangy, honky-tonkin’, beer-drinkin’, woman-chasin’, man-hatin’ music.
My parents thought they were George Jones and Tammy Wynette and did their best to live up to the reputation those two had in their personal lives, too. I remember watching my mom chase my dad around to burn him with her cigarettes, leaving wounds on his arms that were obvious. I’m not sure why he put up with it, but they always kissed and made up and got on with things as though nothing happened.
I, however, was left to wrestle with all the negative thoughts about what I’d witnessed. So I’d crank up my death metal and get high and try to block it all out. I’m sure the neighbors loved hearing Venom and Slayer and King Diamond at 2 in the morning but back then I didn’t care about what anyone thought, especially neighbors.
Thinking back, I feel so bad for anyone who lived nearby. I’m sure the neighbors loved hearing her scream and yell and break things on the regular. Or to hear my brother blowing shit up in the backyard or his pit bulls fighting or killing another cat (he loved to catch the neighborhood cats to feed to his dogs). Or revving his muscle car and then peeling off down the street to go sell meth to some other tweaker “friend” of his.
From the outside we looked exactly as we were on the inside. There were no secrets about who and what we were. My family had a well deserved reputation and they liked it that way.
I remember for the longest time wondering why no one seemed to notice or care that I was suffering and now that I’ve grown older and wiser, I understand why. People are barely able to manage their own issues without getting caught up in someone else’s, and plus, we came from the generation that really didn’t get involved anyway. Not unless they had to.
My high school principal had to when she saw the handprint on my arm that had been left after a struggle with my dad. He had wanted to spank me for something but at fifteen years old, I wasn’t going to allow him to pull my pants down and whack my bare behind with a belt. I was on my period and was in pain as it was, I didn’t need more for something stupid.
Plus I was too old for that sort of treatment. If he wanted to talk, I’d have been happy to do that but even back then I doubt he’d have liked what I had to say. So hitting me seemed a better choice, except he didn’t expect me to fight back that time.
Nothing really became of that incident and we all moved on; he literally moved not long after and left the state with his new wife and I did my best to accept that no one cared enough to get involved. Unless they had to. And even then, nothing would come of it.
Later, when it was my turn, I chose to step up on behalf of my niece who was the target of abuse by the same perverts who had earlier targeted me in the family. Nothing came of it, either, but I did what I could.
By the time most of us grow up and realize we’ve been victims of child abuse, the damage is already done. A lot of therapists won’t tell you this, because it’s so hard to accept that we may not be able to fully heal. Ever. We may be damaged goods for the rest of our lives.
Once you accept that fact, though, you can move forward. Maybe still broken and in need of some serious reworking of yourself to adjust to life outside the abuse, but you can move forward nonetheless. You have to. Staying stuck in victimhood is the worst place to be so forward momentum keeps us from wallowing in the “why me”.
Dropping the notion that we will ever be “whole” or “healed” or whatever, also helps. Being unrealistic about the damage that child abuse causes only makes moving on harder.
For me, ruminating over why they are the way they are and replaying different events drained so much of my life once I broke free from them. I was still trapped and re-abusing myself and I highly encourage anyone in my position to get a handle on the rumination thing right away. It’s such a time thief!
Eventually I did find that staying busy helps, especially if I find things to listen to while I’m busy so that my mind is kept from wandering down those dark alleys in my memory bank.
When the memories do surface now, I feel very disconnected from them and can analyze what happened to me as a neutral third party now. It took a very long time to get there, but it shows that we can overcome.
No matter what damage they may have done to us.
Of course for me my immune system is the most obvious sign that I’m damaged goods. There are a lot of studies and more in the works connecting early childhood trauma and mast cell disease, so that’s interesting. I talk a lot about living with mast cell disease on my other blogs, but I’ll probably start linking to these studies here, too, to show that it’s not just our minds they destroy.
Our bodies can take the brunt of the punishment, too.