Tag Archive | growing up

Self Confidence and self worth

Nurtured babies learn they are worthy of love when mom and dad hold, nourish, and come running at each cry. Neglected or abused babies do not learn this. Instead they learn to feel insecure and to stop asking for help.

Nurtured toddlers learn they can make mistakes when exploring the world and that mom and dad will help pick them up each time they fall. They learn that new experiences may come with bumps and bruises, but that does not hold them back. They gain confidence in their own abilities and trust in their own self as well as others. Neglected or abused toddlers learn not to explore and learn that pain and terror are around every corner. No one picks them up or kisses the bumps and bruises, or worse, they are scolded for their attempts and made to feel stupid and wrong and ashamed.

Nurtured children learn to think and reason and dream big. They always have big plans and hopes. They have real adventures and family experiences. Neglected  or abused children learn hopelessness and have nightmares instead of dreams. They have imagined adventures and dysfunctional experiences.

Nurtured tweens learn to push limits safely, knowing mom and dad will reign them in if they stray too far. Neglected or abused tweens know the penalty of pushing limits is too high to take any risks. Or they act up and get punished for misbehavior to take control of the situation, may as well do something wrong if the punishment comes regardless.

Nurtured adolescents learn who they are and what they want and form plans for the future. They begin making big decisions with confidence, with mom and dad more in the background at times, knowing that if they choose wrong, mom and dad are still there for them. Neglected or abused teens only know how to go to extremes – either becoming invisible or striving to be superstars. They learn not to make plans and feel the future is a mythical concept not meant for them, but for those who deserve it. They don’t believe they belong in this world. With no guidance, they may make life altering mistakes and are left to suffer the consequences alone.

Nurtured young adults are prepared for a life on their own, have a strong support network, but a strong need to make a life of their own, a home of their own. Neglected or abused young adults have an overwhelming desire to escape and no skills or support to handle what the world may throw their way. They may be getting tired of fighting and hurting and getting no where. They don’t believe life can ever be different – this is all they ever knew. Getting away from home does not stop the pain, as they continue to abuse themselves with self-hate. This is devastating. Suicide attempts are seen as the only way out of this darkness.

Nurtured adults settle into a routine and find satisfaction raising their own family, following family traditions and reliving fond memories. Neglected or abused adults feel overwhelmed by the chaos of daily life, have no traditions to repeat, must carve their own way all brand new, and are often reminded of painful memories, not sweet ones. Thoughts of escape are common, but a sense of obligation and flickers of occasional love keep them going.

This is where my story catches up with me and takes a totally different path. This neglected and abused little girl has learned to nurture herself. She is gaining confidence and self worth. She is learning to explore and has found that not all roads end in pain. She has learned to trust herself more and those around her too. She is amazed at what she can do. She is curious and bright eyed. She feels hope and has big dreams. She still has painful memories, but the power of building new sweet memories is growing stronger as the painful ones grow dim. Chaos grows into some routine, and the routine adds to her sense of security. She sees how far she has come and although still grieves for the hurt little girl inside that had to learn all these lessons so late in life, all on her own, she now holds her head up high and faces the pain head on. The hole will always be there, but she accepts this now and has no need to fill it or hide it. Instead she makes safe boundaries to prevent falling into that hole. She no longer wants to disappear.

Soon there will be a nurtured middle-aged adult standing here confidently, knowing her worth in this world, knowing she is loved, nurturing her family and allowing herself to be nurtured, dreaming big, and making steady progress towards those dreams.

You can’t unlearn a lesson. I have learned how to love myself, and accept that I am loved – once and for all, unconditionally. I have learned to cross bridges alone into the unknown. Sometimes I even take flying leaps with no bridge in sight. You can do this when you believe in your ability to handle what is ahead, and realize that even if you handle it poorly, you still handled it. You are free from the paralyzing past of using perfection as the only route. Perfect is not a goal. Taking one more step is. Even if its the wrong direction. Wrong is not a dirty word. Being wrong is not shameful – it is human. The more you are wrong, the more you will learn.

Jason Mraz is right about so many things, including “The remedy is the experience”

 

 

Why ask Why – Poem 26/30

‘Why’ is a child’s question

asked when the world is new.

Curiosity-filled,

I adore their point of view.

Why do the birds sing?

Why don’t I have wings?

Why do grown-ups work so much?

Why do armpits tickle when touched?

Why can’t I stay up all through the night?

Why is the sun so hot and so bright?

Why does the moon always change shapes?

Why are there green AND purple grapes?

Why do I have to take a bath?

Why do I have to stay on the path?

So many questions

from those wondering minds.

More questions form from the answers they find.

Until one day, the wondering fades.

Life is just life, black and white answers now have shades.

We learn some ‘Why’s have no answers at all

We find peace in acceptance

of what we don’t know

and instead live life and love life

and continue to grow.

Go West Young Man – Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, part 6

Little is known about the years my brother lived in California. Or at least little is known to me, for a few reasons. His contact with me personally was limited to a few seconds on the phone every few months, or a quick letter in the mail. And everything was always “peachy” his word for life was great. The other reason little is known for this part of his Bio, is that my memory is terrible for this time in my life because, well, this was a terrible part of my life.

I can’t tell this story well, I think, because I can’t completely go back and put myself into these memories. So I will instead list all of the events that were happening in my home while my brother was in CA.

  • My parents divorced when the 2 years were up that my Dad had given my Mom to become independent. That day my mother came home from work to find all of her belongings in boxes and suitcases on the front lawn, and the door locks had been changed. She did not have a place to stay yet, and stayed with friends until she could find an apartment. They got a 1 bedroom apartment together, he slept on the floor at first. My other brother moved out to stay and support my Mom with his Fast food money.
  • I had back surgery to straighten my spine and woke up paralyzed from the surgery. My dad denied me the physical therapy at the hospital and told the doctor’s he would do it himself, because he wasn’t about to pay thousands of dollars for me to exercise. My dad’s sexual abuse on me worsened in that period since I could not walk away from him – being paralyzed, and from being alone in our house with him. I can barely type these words here, so moving on.
  • My dog “disappeared” (I now know my Dad took her away, but he let me search in vain for months)
  • I started menstruating. The joy soon wore off on that one.
  • I started high school as a limping freak with a leg brace and a cane. My one leg had come back mostly strong, but the other still dragged. I was not able to join any sports or wear pretty shoes.
  • Dad sold my childhood home and moved us to an apartment in another city, but told me to use my Mom’s address at school so I didn’t have to change schools too. I hated lying.

My brothers knew very little about me. Even my Mom knew very little about me. I felt alone in the world. My Mom did not ask for custody or even visitation – she just left me. I did not share any of these details in my letters to my brother in CA. I now know that he did not share his troubles with me either.

In his peachy letters to me, he sent me trinkets, once a ziploc baggie full of sand and shells from the beach. Another time he sent me a few guitar picks that he said belonged to members of Poison. A photo of him sitting in the “O” of the Hollywood sign. There were others too, but I can not recall. I cherished those items once, though now I have no idea where time and many moves have put them.

But I now know:

  • He was in a terrible motorcycle accident, hospitalized for many weeks, and that my parents knew but never went out to see him.
  • He lived on the streets/beach for much of his time in CA.
  • He had many girlfriends.
  • He tried every drug ever created.

At some point before we sold our house, my oldest brother moved back home – with his college girlfriend. He was asked to pay monthly rent to my father to move back into his own home at age 19. While they were there, they all decided we would take a family vacation that summer: Me, my dad, my oldest brother, and my brother’s girlfriend. They decided we should go “Out West” and see Vegas, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and my brother in CA.

I could write an entire book about that “vacation”, but will summarize here. All 4 of us crammed into my Dad’s car, and he did ALL of the driving. He has never been a passenger. He would load up on coffee and cigs and drive straight through the night. We crossed several states without stopping to sleep or shower for days on end. I did my best to freshen up in diner restrooms. My dad smoked continuously and I coughed continuously, or held my breath to avoid coughing, as he yelled at me every time I did. I’d have asthma attacks in the front seat, use my inhaler, while they all laughed at me. Our first hotel was a rustic cabin in Yellowstone park, 1 room, 2 beds, no water or electricity, that would have cost more. I was pretty sure my Dad wouldn’t touch me while my brother and girlfriend were in the room, but not positive. I slept sideways by his feet, like a dog, wheezing all night in the thin high-elevation air. By morning, I was sick and dizzy. I could barely stand. I apologized to them for walking so slowly, between my limp and the no oxygen thing.

We went to a bear safety class, mandatory for all visitors to the park. The ranger saw me and told me about the high elevation and that I was getting mountain sickness. My Dad said that was stupid made up BS and we were staying for the 3 days he paid for. My brother and girlfriend hiked through the parks, while I would make it to the trailhead and just sit there enjoying the beautiful park anyway. I saw geysers, blue pools so beautiful, but sulfur smelling, I saw a moose, an elk, so many birds, and even a Grizzly cub! Luckily my Dad did believe in bears, so we wisely got back in the car and far away from baby bear before Mama arrived.

Next stop was Vegas. I clearly remember the moment I could breathe again, as we went down and down out of the mountains. Until the  A-hole decided we needed to climb Pike’s Peak. Luckily, his car also had trouble getting enough oxygen so we went back down before reaching the summit. I was gasping, but it wasn’t until his car was sputtering that we turned around.

I was not impressed with Vegas at age 14. My dad bought me makeup and a short skirt, and told me to pretend I was 21 and that I left my ID up in the room if asked by security. He said it would be more believable if I was alone playing the slots, so he actually went off to play poker. I actually got away with it a few times, but I thought the slots were dreadfully boring and the room too smoky, and so just took my book or sketchpad to the restaurant or stayed in the room when my Dad was not using it with a prostitute. At least the room had electricity and water, oh how great that shower felt! Turns out the room was free if Dad promised to gamble enough.

And then I saw my brother, for the first time in years. He had driven from CA to meet us in Vegas! He looked so thin, too thin, and taller than I remembered, but had the same long hair and amazing, yet sad, green eyes. He barely recognized me in my 21 yr old costume, and just whistled, and said “My baby sister grew up while I was away”. He smiled and hugged me. I’ll never forget that hug.

We followed him back to his house in CA, and his van died in the extreme heat on the highway. They attached a tire to the bumper, and we pushed his van all the way back to his house, my Dad stopping every time his own car went into the red zone. My brother’s roommate clung to the ladder on the back of the van to relay messages from my brother to my dad. It was very exciting to me, and I laughed so much, more than I had in years.

My brother’s house was amazing! Just 2 blocks from the ocean, which I got to stick my toes in – it was so cold! I didn’t even wonder how he afforded such an amazing house at the time, but found out later it was owned by a drug dealer, and my brother and all his roommates were working for him delivering drugs with pizzas. Girls would come and go in this house, that could have came straight from MTV videos, wearing fur coats with string bikinis underneath. One girl sat on my brother’s lap, kissed him right in front of us, then said “see ya later” like that was a normal way to say good-bye. They had an in ground swimming pool, with a 6 foot iguana living in it.

Hollywood Sign

Hollywood Sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That night, my brother took me to the Hollywood sign, and I have a picture of myself sitting in the “O”, just like him.

We then said good bye and started our long trip home. I saw the painted desert, Grand Canyon, Arch of Missouri. We covered so many states so my Dad could brag how many he covered in so few days. At the end, his coffee wasn’t enough, and he started veering off the road. My brother had the audacity to ask to drive, to give dad a break, which only started a screaming match of how he has no respect.

My CA brother stayed there for another 2-3 years, without much contact. We heard he lost that beautiful house, heard of a few arrests, heard of a few girlfriends, and heard of a few gigs for his band. My next post will tell the story of how he came back home, and how that hug in Vegas was the last time I looked in my brother’s eyes without the foggy veil of schizophrenia.

Life After Rehab – Biography of My Schizophrenic Brother, Part 5

Eventually, one day, my brother was deemed to be rehabilitated and my family was supposedly all supportive and not dysfunctional now, so he was sent back home with us. The weeks in rehab passed with little outstanding events to recall, except for the one day my brother started a fire in his room.

I was home with Mom when they called, so I finally got to go beyond the buzzed locked doors and see the room where my brother had been living all these weeks. When we entered his room, he was just reclining on his bed, arms behind his head, staring at the ceiling, like this was the most carefree peaceful vacation spot. He looked up at us, said his usual, “Hey” and looked back up at the ceiling, like we were interrupting the show. The counselor showed us a dark spot on the wall near the electrical outlet, and said Mom had to pay for the damages, then looked at my brother, and said thankfully no one was hurt.

Mom went out into the hall to talk with the counselor, leaving me alone with my brother. I was staring at the scorched mark on the wall when he said, “I just wanted a cig. It was late and I couldn’t wait until morning smoke time, so I lit one here” I remember him laughing as he told me the story. “It was cool, the spark grew so big, guess I used too much paper this time, but it was cool, like a fireball – Fooomp!” He smiled and laughed and called himself stupid, but in a gentle way. I asked him how, feeling proud of him. He said he used a pencil, that lead is conductive to electricity and usually just sparks a bit, not a big Foomp like this time. Then he laughed again, “At least I still have my eyebrows – I jumped back real quick.” I laughed with him. Wow it was so great to hear him laugh. Was he all better now? And it felt great to hear his secret for starting fires, like he was  so cool like MacGyver and also a bit like we were partners in crime. We got to take him home that day – a few days early, I think they didn’t want any more fires.  And he had convinced them all he was better, with his gentle joking and good attitude.

It was beyond tough for him to return to school with his new reputation. Everyone knew where he had been, or thought they knew, and rumors had spread of all kinds of things. He was getting through it, day by day, until something happened at school. Our high school had a courtyard where the teachers and older students went out to smoke (Remember when that was allowed?). Every year, A Mama Duck would nest in the bushes out there, and parade her little ducklings past all the classrooms. My brother told me about them, and even took me there once after school to see the newly hatched babies. He was so gentle, and showed me how to stay back and stay quiet to not scare them. We brought them some bread and just enjoyed the cute little show in silence.

Mama Duck-1395

Mama Duck-1395 (Photo credit: MSMcCarthy Photography)

The next day after school, my brother was distressed. I didn’t know what was wrong, but he was just sitting and rocking on his bed, this terrible look on his face. He saw me, and just said, “No matter what they say, I didn’t do it. I’d never. I couldn’t.” And then he took off out of the room, got in his car and left. I had no idea what was wrong. Until the phone rang, and I overheard my Mom speaking to someone, she had to go into the school, but no, she didn’t know where my brother was right now.

Someone had stomped the ducklings. With their feet. Cruelly, and disgustingly stomped and smashed the entire fuzzy little family. The Mama Duck was going berzerk, that’s how the Principal even noticed. And someone had blamed my brother for this horrible deed, saying they see him out here often, and well you know his past. Everyone easily believed that “the druggie” did this. I knew he didn’t. But I think that was the final straw for my brother. He stopped trying to fit in, like it was pointless if everyone thought he was so terrible.

He got back into drugs. He started a car radio theft ring – they busted him with 5 in his locker at school. He sold them to buy the drugs. He was locked up a few more times, sometimes my parents let him stay in jail overnight – to teach him a lesson. He got really thin and pale, and his green eyes no longer sparkled. He stopped looking at me, or anyone else. He left our world, no longer able to cope. If he was home, he was alone in his room , door locked, and his electric guitar screaming out what he himself was unable to express. He still went to school, off and on, but only took Home Ec – 4 sections of it – his senior year, just to get enough credits to graduate. His graduation was not a huge celebration like our oldest brother’s, more like a ‘Thank God you actually did it’ dinner, at a Mexican restaurant, of course, so he could get his tacos. And the only reason he stuck it out and finished high school, was so he could follow his dreams of being a rock star. He knew he would get a better job in California with a high school diploma. He left us just days after graduation. Just got in his car with his guitar, a duffel bag, and a dream, and he left our small town where everyone had labeled him a murderous, loser druggie, and believe me – he did not look back.

I was in Middle School then, when he left. I was 11. My parents were planning to get a divorce. My Dad was scheming to get me to live with him, to convince me Mom hated me still, and to make me sign those custody papers. My mom put a twin bed in their bedroom and slept there next to dad in the big bed now. She started going to college, in preparation for the divorce. My dad had that all planned out too, gave her 2 years to live there with us, get an associate’s degree and learn to support herself. My scoliosis was advancing, the brace was not working, and my doctors were discussing surgical options. And now 2 of my brothers were gone, one in college and one in CA. My other brother was now in high school and drifted away from me, too busy with his friends and girlfriend to talk to me any more. I hated it at home, and did everything possible to avoid going there. I rode my bike everywhere, to the mall, to the library, to the park, to my friend’s house. Sometimes I just rode with no destination, just to feel like I was moving, and stuck in my own personal hell.

It was weeks – yes freaking weeks! – before my brother called us from California. If my parents worried about him, they sure did not show it. In fact they seemed relieved that he was gone, that they were no longer responsible for this failure. My Dad made it clear he would not support any losers in his house once we were 18. The call was long distance from a pay phone, so it was brief. He was OK, had a nice apartment with his band mates, and sold his car for a motorcycle. He had a job delivering pizza, and had lined up a few gigs for the band. He had slept in his car or on the beach the first few weeks until they found a place to live. He said the tacos were amazing in CA! He sounded – happy.

That made me happy, but I missed him. And I was jealous, so extremely jealous – he was free. He got out of this house. That’s when I became even more determined to be a perfect student, get a scholarship, and go to an amazing college. I wanted out. I wanted to prove myself to the world, show everyone I wasn’t a stupid worthless girl like my Dad said. I wanted to be famous and the best at something, win awards for my writing and poetry, cure cancer, be the first asthmatic female basketball MVP, design rockets, and maybe even create world peace too, ya know, in my free time.

Getting Naked, Proceed Carefully – part 1

(mature and triggering content)

I started this blog to delve into issues in my life caused by childhood sexual abuse and show that I survived. My father molested me and sexualized me from as early as I can remember, so I assume he started before I was 3. My much older brother molested me for about a year, fuzzy memory here, but I think I was in third or fourth grade. This has of course affected every part of who I am, and made a natural exploration into my own sexuality as an adolescent or young adult impossible.

I’m going to start with some early thoughts and make this a series that gets closer to my current thoughts, if I am brave enough to hit publish on the current ones, that is. Somehow writing about my childhood and adolescence no longer seems like me, and I am able to remove all (some) guilt from my choices. My goal here is to document these early memories and thoughts for myself to examine my progress and growth. My secondary goal is to open discussion to others that were hurt in childhood and offer a safe place to see we are not alone. I can finally discuss these topics with some perspective, and I think (hope) it will no longer trigger terrible depression and anxiety. I guess this is kind of a test for me to too in that way.

I started pursuing boys in Kindergarten. I remember wanting them to like me, no NEEDING them to like me, and to think I was pretty all through elementary school. I needed their attention. I stole kisses in the back of the bus or behind a tree on the playground. I was obsessed by boys, and devastated when they did not return my affection. None of them were friends, we did not play together or even talk much. I always had a boy on my mind, and would doodle his name, draw goofy heart pictures with our initials, practice writing my name with his last name, and always tried to prove my love in terribly embarrassing ways.

By third grade, I had already seen so much porn, and been told so many dirty jokes, that my vocabulary was mature and disgusting. I would try to impress others with this knowledge, and get only blank stares back. I assume they told their moms what I said and were told not to talk to me. Or they just chose not to talk to me on their own, but my dirty mouth never got me any where. I learned not to share my inner world, and became known as “quiet” and “shy”, even though I am not, and never was.

By fourth grade I learned that boys like lace and short skirts, and makeup, and nice hair, and perfume. I was still somewhat a tomboy in appearance, talking trash and climbing trees, but would attempt to “wow” everyone on special dress-up days. I remember one day getting ready for spring pictures. I had a brand new lavender frilly dress, new shiny shoes with small heels, and I asked my mom to do my hair. She had me sleep in her hair rollers, the pink spongy kind, and by morning my hair was huge! That is not recommended for natural curly, way too much hair on one head, like I have. She finished me up with a curling iron and hair spray, and my typical bouncy curls that used to reach mid-back, was curled up with so much volume it was above my shoulders. Think of the wife on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” but much, much bigger. My mom also let me use some lipstick. She told me I looked beautiful and sent me to school, and I felt higher than a kite! I stepped into homeroom, and EVERYONE including the teachers, secretary and principal laughed at me and had to go get other teachers to see me. I can kind of laugh now, but that was devastating. I recall one kid saying I looked like I fell off a boat. Sigh. I ran to the girls’ room and vomited, and then asked to go home. The rest of the year, I did anything to NOT get attention at school. I stopped talking, never dressed up, and got really good at being invisible.

By Fifth grade, they taught us “Life Skills” and I learned many facts about what I had seen in porn and from what my dad and brother were doing to me by that age. I became obsessed with puberty, as in I thought I was ready for it. I thought if I focused hard enough, I could will my body to sprout breasts and start menstruation. I wanted my body to look and feel like my internal thoughts. I wanted boys to love me. I wanted boys to stare at me like Angela, the girl with Double D cups already (ok, probably not, but since most of us had no cup size at all, sure seemed that way in my memory here). I hated her for the attention she got. I thought maybe if I looked grown up, those grown up activities would make sense. I still did not know at that point that it was not normal for dads and brothers to molest little girls. I assumed this happened in every family, and funny (not funny at all really) how life works, but that fact was proven to me in my choice of friends. I connected with another quiet little girl that moved in down my street. I went over there to play on her monkey bars and play that board game with the dice in the pop-up bubble. Very normal kid things. It never crossed my mind to tell anyone that while we played in her room or yard, her grandfather was raping her older sister. We just knew to leave to before he done, lest he come after us. One day he took off his belt and started beating my friend for allowing me to come over, and then he took a step towards me with the belt raised over his head. I ran home, never looked back, and never spoke to her again. I was afraid to get her in trouble. I thought it was my fault she got hurt, and thought she’d be fine if I left her alone.