I Was Trained to Torture Myself: Grace’s Story, Part One
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Grace” is a pseudonym.
I think I’m ready to tell my story. The thing is, I’m a very thorough, detail-oriented person, so it might work better to make it into a series, like a blog. I would like it to be anonymous, but I’m excited about this and I hope my story can bring healing and people can identify with me.
This is what I remember from my childhood. My mother decided to homeschool us for a variety of reasons. She had gone to a public school herself, but she had children starting at age 30, so in reflecting back on her education, and because of the kind of violent crimes that were happening in the 1980s in schools, she wanted to keep her children safe as well as give them an excellent education.
I remember as a young child, maybe 8, my dad’s dad, my grandfather, promising me a dime for each state and capital that I could correctly recite, only to find out in my twenties that he had been extremely skeptical of home-schooling, and my mother always felt she had to prove to him that we were actually being educated. My mother didn’t have a teaching degree, but she did have Bachelor and Master’s degrees. This was a smart woman.
She did, however, make one decision I will never understand.
She married my father.
As far back as I can remember, my father had three states of being.
2. Trying to make up for it.
When I got older I noticed a 4th, which was either glued to a tv or computer screen. And I suppose a 5th: Working.
The reason I do not understand why my mother married this man is that he was verbally and physically abusive to her on a regular basis. My mother was afraid of him. I could see it. I was afraid, too, but as I got older it turned into anger, resentment, and even hate.
One day as a teenager, I tried to drive away, and he opened the car door and told me to get out, and that I was not leaving. I sat there in the driver’s seat, contemplating whether kicking him as hard as I could right in his nuts would give me the opportunity to shut the car door and escape. I ended up giving in to his wishes to come back in the house.
I hated myself for it.
I remember my mom used to leave the house regularly for a “break,” which usually lasted a few hours. But one night she didn’t come home. She called my dad to let him know that she was safe but wouldn’t be home that night. I think she was gone for two days, at my aunt’s house.
When my mom refused to tell my dad where she was, he hung up the phone. Ok, correction, he slammed the tough plastic coated metal rotary phone on its hook repeatedly until it broke into pieces. It sat in his workshop in the garage for months, waiting to be fixed.
It never was fixed.
I hated looking at it, because it would send me into flashbacks. I got to know the feel of adrenaline pumping through my veins at a very young age. Some of the abuse and neglect I’ve completely blocked out, and some of it I remember so vividly I would swear it only happened minutes ago.
My mother is now in her sixties, has been married to my father for more than thirty years, and has in the last year decided to separate from him. As a teenager I cannot count the times I wished they would get a divorce. A good friend of my mom left her husband because of abuse and I was jealous. At fifteen, I was elated to come home from a college class to a phone call from my mom, telling me to meet her at a nearby parking lot, and we were going to stay at someone else’s house for the night.
She had filed a restraining order against my dad.
But two weeks later, he was back. My mother was a pushover and I was pissed off. I was not ready to see him. I realize now that pressing charges and sending his ass to jail might have prevented the hell my siblings and I endured for the next few years.
By the time I was 17, I figured out I could escape all the fighting by staying away from home as much as possible, and at 18, I moved out.
My mom taught me from a very young age to be “modest,” which meant loose-fitting clothes, practically wearing turtlenecks because God forbid you show cleavage. And no tank tops. Shorts had to be almost to the knee if not below.
Looking back, I have almost no pictures of me looking feminine, other than floor-length dresses or skirts, mostly for church. My mom finally let me start wearing makeup around 15 or 16, but not too much. Mostly just a little eyeshadow and mascara.
When I was 12, some friends took me to an airshow, and I wore my shortest shorts, which were still almost to the knee, and then rolled them up after leaving home.
This is a perfect picture of what life was like most of the time. Hide who you are at home, you are only safe to come out of your shell with other peers, kids your own age. Shouldn’t home be the place to relax and be yourself?
It wasn’t for me.
Home was a place to try and live up to impossible standards. I learned at home that nothing I did was good enough. Who I was, was wrong. Conform. Yet my parents continually taught not to conform to the world’s standard. Hypocrisy.
As an adult, I struggle to replace these fallacies with logic, and it is difficult because of how deeply they’ve been ingrained.
I am a tortured soul.
I was trained to torture myself.