Growing Kids the Abusive Way: Auriel’s Story, Part Five — The Aftermath of Childhood Abuse

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Trigger warnings: references (sometimes graphic) to emotional, physical, religious, and sexual abuse; self-injury.

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Auriel” is a pseudonym. Auriel blogs at Drying My Wings.

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Also in this series: Part One: Growing Kids the Abusive Way | Part Two: Isolation and Ideology | Part Three: Mini-Parents | Part Four: The Sound of a Sewing Machine | Part Five: The Aftermath of Childhood Abuse

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Part 5: The Aftermath of Childhood Abuse

Sometimes, I still marvel at how I survived, and am able to function. I threw myself into extra-curriculars, speech, debate, work, volunteering — anything to be out of the house.

I now have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression, and suffer from panic attacks. It’s hard to emphasize just how much stress, anxiety, and pressure I was under. For years, the only dreams I could have were nightmares, and I developed eye-twitches and frequent illness from all the stress. I lived in a constant state of dealing with adult stress, all as a child.

I remember that I wanted to die young as a saint.

Maybe then, people would appreciate my life. Fleeting thoughts like, “You could die,” “You could cut yourself,” “You could kill Mom,” “Life would be better if Mom died or committed suicide,” crossed my mind unwillingly. They were my mind trying to find solutions to an impossible scenario. Of course, they only compounded my shame.

I didn’t know sophisticated ways to self-harm. As a distraction, I’d pick at cuts and bruises, pick and tear off my finger and toenails, or pull out hairs from my head. Starting in elementary school, I decided to become tough so no one could hurt me. I pulled out my teeth too early so they’d hurt, and walked barefoot on gravel or on the blacktop in 100 degree weather.

One day in high school, after a particularly terrible day, I was working in the sweatshop. In my sweaty palm, I held a gleaming, sharp sewing machine ripper to undo hours of stitching. In that moment, I didn’t fear my parents.

I just wanted to hurt, to escape, to get away from it all.

Somehow, I didn’t do it, and managed to keep pretending for several more years that I was ok.

Suddenly, a year into college, some memories hit me. I was floored. Day after day, I would have flashbacks and nightmares. It was exhausting, waking up shrieking into the night, trying to stay awake to avoid the haunting terrors that stalked my dreams, only to be beset by a new round of flashbacks in my waking hours. There was no relief.

I felt like a walking shell, a skeleton.

I remember thinking, “I must be going crazy. I am insane.” The next thought… “Dying has to be better than this, right?”

As soon as I thought that, I kicked myself into counseling.

As an adult, I stood up to my parents and protected my siblings like a mama bear. My parents threatened many times to kick me out for undermining their “parental authority.” I reported to CPS several times. Now, the reportable abuse has ended, my siblings are thriving in private school, and after many years of splitting up and reconcilement, my parents finally legally separated. They are less dysfunctional when apart.

The effects of the abuse don’t leave though.

Among us 5 kids, 4 have been suicidal, 4 have been in counseling, 3 have depression, 2 have run away multiple times, 2 have distorted eating and body issues, and 2 have self-harmed.

And yet my parents still do not see what they did as traumatizing! If these incredible effects don’t convince them, then nothing will.

As for me, I am on track to get a graduate degree. I have a great counselor, am on anti-anxiety meds, and have many coping mechanisms.

I’ve actually grown in my Catholic faith as well.

Having a higher power than my parents or the homeschool community gives me hope. In my darkest moments, I draw on my faith to give me strength.

I know I’m going to be ok. I would tell anyone in a similar situation that it gets better. The memories stay, and the pain doesn’t fully leave, but there comes a time when the pain doesn’t control you anymore. The waves don’t wash you out to sea, and you learn to stand strong amidst the soft ebb and flow of pain and joy.

So, if you’re struggling right now, I know how you feel. It is going to be ok. You will make it through. Reach out and tell someone you trust. It’s ok to need help. You are worth the help.

You deserve the best.

*****

She shook her tresses that were now darkened and saturated with the glistening orbs. The air smelled sweet, as it does just after rainfall. Each inhale was refreshing, rejuvenating, breathing life into her deflated bones. Sliding her feet through the thick grass, she balanced between the property line and the open world. Swiftly, silently, her right foot slipped across the barrier, followed by her left. Her bare toes clutched the asphalt, toeing the grooves.

She felt lost. She was lost. But she had herself.

She had her life. Perhaps it was just a shell and this was all a mystery. Who cared?

The cosmos would go on in its cosmic cycle with all of its boring striped pageantry. All she had to do was breathe. The only important thing was the asphalt, the sweet smell of the rain, and the tug of that straight road.

So swiftly, silently, she stepped into the night.

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End of series.

Growing Kids the Abusive Way: Auriel’s Story, Part Four — The Sound of a Sewing Machine

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Trigger warnings: references (sometimes graphic) to emotional, physical, religious, and sexual abuse.

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Auriel” is a pseudonym. Auriel blogs at Drying My Wings.

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Also in this series: Part One: Growing Kids the Abusive Way | Part Two: Isolation and Ideology | Part Three: Mini-Parents | Part Four: The Sound of a Sewing Machine | Part Five: The Aftermath of Childhood Abuse

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Part 4: The Sound of a Sewing Machine

Staring at thread and machinery, she allowed her exhausted shoulders to slump against the hardback chair.

With each repetitive motion, her hands deftly cut cut cut cut cut across the stiff grey table. Tic tic tic tic the machines whir endlessly, in and out, in and out. Rip rip rip rip!

Hours of work are undone by hours more work. Half-completed items lie in growing heaps. Reds, greens, blues, salts and peppers, all become a muddy pile of blah. Daylight dims as the girl strains her neck forward. Red eyes betray stray tears that struggle down her face leaving a salty presence among the rows upon rows of pretty yellow prints.

Her hair falls tiredly across her face. The soft skin of her feet are pricked and pierced by the pins, needles, and scraps that litter the floor. Each calloused finger burns from the glue that cements itself to her fingertips. Of course she longs for freedom. But her owners need not chain her leg to the chair. The girl cannot escape. She has nowhere to go.

The poor child does not even know she is a slave. They have lied to her.

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I was trafficked into slavery for forced labor.

Yes, you read that right.

I was trafficked into slavery for forced labor. As a teen, my mother asked if I wanted to do a craft business with her. After the physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse and neglect, obviously it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

If I had, I knew there’d be hell to pay, and I’d still have to do it.

Boom. I found myself working in a sweatshop 13 hours a day sewing for two months straight, and then for weeks at a time afterwards. I was a literal slave. Mom would not let me do school while I sewed, saying that this was my school (never mind the fact that she called it a business when it suited her).

"I found myself working in a sweatshop 13 hours a day sewing for two months straight, and then for weeks at a time afterwards."
“I found myself working in a sweatshop 13 hours a day sewing for two months straight, and then for weeks at a time afterwards.”

I spent hundreds of long hours sewing, cutting cloth, embellishing each tiny item with complicated finishes. Furthermore, I was in charge of our website, web store and blog content, and all business records.

To add insult to injury, a person from the newspaper came, interviewed us, and made a story, with me smiling a painted story, telling lies, and gritting my teeth pretending it was fun.

Mom rarely lifted a finger to help me with “our business.” I cried so often. My nerves were shot. Even now, it’s hard to speak of. I wrote in narrative because somehow, that’s easier.

In between, I spent so much time trying to catch up on missed time for school. After hundreds of hours, I was never paid a cent. It broke at least 7 child labor laws in my country. Nevertheless, I was a passionate abolitionist. Through speeches, and human trafficking cases, I poured my soul into the hope that someday slaves would be free, even as I was a slave myself.

I finally escaped with the help of my dad at 16. Somehow, my pleading broke through to him, and he stood up to my mom, telling her it was over.

Even now though, I cannot bear to hear the sound of a sewing machine.

*****

To be continued.

Growing Kids the Abusive Way: Auriel’s Story, Part Three — Mini-Parents

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Trigger warnings: references (sometimes graphic) to emotional, physical, religious, and sexual abuse.

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Auriel” is a pseudonym. Auriel blogs at Drying My Wings.

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Also in this series: Part One: Growing Kids the Abusive Way | Part Two: Isolation and Ideology | Part Three: Mini-Parents | Part Four: The Sound of a Sewing Machine | Part Five: The Aftermath of Childhood Abuse

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Part 3: Mini-Parents

For both of my parents, I served as a surrogate spouse.

I mediated their fights, hoping they wouldn’t escalate to violence. They would come to me as their confidant. Dad would complain to me about Mom, sharing his quandaries, wondering how to deal with her.

He even consulted me as to whether he should divorce my mom when I was 14, or if he should take her to a psychiatric hospital when she was suicidal.

My mother, on the other hand, was a lonely soul. Many nights, she’d climb into my bed with me and spoon me. Then, she’d complain about my father, their sex life, how she was abused by her family and my father. At 13, my mother declared that my father raped her. My father denied it. I was so shocked and torn, not knowing who to believe. To appease her, I would sit on her bed daily, listening to hours long diatribes about her marriage problems.

She would expose her naked body to me, change in front of me, climb in the hot tub with just underwear, have me give her shoulder and feet massages, bring me into public restrooms with her, use excuses to see my body and make comments from the time I was a tot until I was 17 and more.

I had no voice, no way to say no.

She was my mother. I didn’t like it, but had no idea it was sexually abusive. I did not know females could be sexual abusers. I thought this was normal for mothers to do. I thought all girls knew what their moms looked like naked.

My mom was chronically and mentally ill, and slept most of the day, leaving us unsupervised. If she got up, it was to rage, dole out beatings, blame us for how terrible she felt, and then to sit in front of the computer screen. I’d sit with her, patiently watching her computer screen, hoping she’d appreciate me then. But normally, she’d ignore me.

So, I took over as parent and ran the house. Eventually, I was in charge of watching, caring for, and tutoring my younger siblings, cooking all family meals, picking up and cleaning our huge house, and doing dishes. I taught my youngest sibling to read, write, do math, use scissors, play, everything. At age 9, I was calling for all the appointments, hotels, stores, rides, and play dates for my family… everything an adult would do, I did. On top of this, I was my mother’s caretaker. I made her meals, checked on her hourly, and cleaned her room.

The best way to describe it is that I parented my mother and all of my siblings.

With the belief in the homeschooling community that teenagers don’t exist, my mom called me a “young adult” at 12. I was the oldest girl, the responsible one. I just wanted approval and respect, and to keep the peace as much as possible for survival. Indeed, it seems that our parent’s love was conditional on our love. Our value was tied to our obedience, to our service, to our usefulness, resourcefulness. But with so many adult pressures, so much fear of violence, and our worth conditional to reception of love, there was a terrible price to pay.

I was taught to abuse.

I was taught to beat my dogs…hit, kick, shock them with the shock collar, all while the poor dogs cowered and yelped in pain, struggling to escape. I hated it, but did not know it was wrong. If I refused, I would be in trouble. Either way, I was damned.

With my 4 siblings, I started raising them from the time I was 8. Growing up in such an isolated, violent environment, violence was one of the few ways I knew to handle problems.

Being taught Ezzo methods did not help.

Yelling or name-calling could keep them in line. If they didn’t cooperate, I would grab, push, drag, smack the back of their heads, slap them, or kick them (I always told myself it was a light kick, so it was ok). I thought all siblings did this. I thought all families acted this way. Due to my extreme isolation, I did not know I was a bully until I was 16 years old! When I found out, I cried bitter tears of guilt and shame. I apologized profusely, and made amends to them. It pains me to this day that I could not take back what I’d done.

We were trained to keep silent about the fights and abuse at home or face severe punishment.

Moreover, there was so much shame surrounding it. I made it my responsibility to be the guardian of outgoing words. Concurrently, I was my parent’s pawn. I believed them. They forced me to be an apologist for the very things I despised. Therefore, to preserve my sanity, my mind forgot the abuse. I told folks what great parents I had, and gave my parents cards saying “#1 Dad” and “Best Mother in the World!”

I stood up for spanking rights, parental rights, homeschooling rights, courtship, no kissing before marriage, and so many other things that I internally was at war with myself over.

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To be continued.

Growing Kids the Abusive Way: Auriel’s Story, Part Two — Isolation and Ideology

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Trigger warnings: references (sometimes graphic) to emotional, physical, religious, and sexual abuse.

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Auriel” is a pseudonym. Auriel blogs at Drying My Wings.

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Also in this series: Part One: Growing Kids the Abusive Way | Part Two: Isolation and Ideology | Part Three: Mini-Parents | Part Four: The Sound of a Sewing Machine | Part Five: The Aftermath of Childhood Abuse

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Part 2: Isolation and Ideology

 At 16 years old, I was not allowed to cross our property line without another human being with me.

Like a caged dog, I paced back and forth, crying at the injustice of it all. The bonds that held me weren’t physical. I was chained by my sheltered life. The isolation came from homeschooling.

Until high school, I only had three close friends outside of my siblings, and I only saw them once a month. Although I was involved with many extra-curricular activities, I was not allowed to be friends with boys, non-homeschoolers, nor kids whose families my parents did not know.

So, no friends.

Pop and rock ave evil beats, movies with kissing or language — let alone violence — will make you copy them, gyms make you compare people’s bodies, TV shows are so sexualized they’re evil, iPods hurt your spiritual life, and so on. At least, that’s why I was not allowed. My siblings and I snuck around, listening to Christian music here, pop music there, watching TV when our parents were gone.

I’m still trying to get caught up on movies, pop culture, and music references.

Courtship was introduced as the only method of finding a spouse. We read books like the Courtship of Sarah McLean, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Boy Meets Girl, The Princess and the Kiss, and so many more. It was like my dad was supposed to own me, and any potential mate would have to ask for my father’s permission both to be near me and to eventually own me.

It’s so damaging to think of oneself as property.

Now, I want to date to find someone to marry, but my father does not own me. I do not need to be under his “vision” for my family. I have my own vision, which does not include abuse.

"Girls were to have babies, homeschool their kids, and be dominated by men."
“Girls were to have babies, homeschool their kids, and be dominated by men.”

Mom held a sexist view of girls: they should not work outside the home. Girls were to have babies, homeschool their kids, and be dominated by men. Many Vision Forum books cemented this view in her mind like So Much More, What’s a Girl to Do, the Beautiful Girlhood books, Mother, and Joyfully at Home. Mom taught me needlework like a good Victorian girl, but I hated these activities! Just because I’m a girl does not mean I have to knit and drink tea!

I’m a person! I’m not a gender stereotype.

I was taught to be afraid of gays, Islam, and black men. It’s tough to grow up in a homophobic, Islamophobic, racist, sexist environment and come out unscathed. While it’s a struggle, I have learned to love everyone as made in the image and likeness of God.

The modesty teachings were awful. Modesty was focused more on covering skin than on ensuring the dignity of each person. I learned to watch my back for guys who would lust after me.

I heard that what I wore made me a rape target.

At first, Mom dressed me in denim jumpers or Easter and Christmas dresses from the local stores. Eventually, she forced me to sew my own dresses and skirts. When I was 9 years old, she told me that having my hair down made me look like a “lady of the night.” Even though I was a shy, modest girl, Mom constantly told me that something I did or wore was sinful, displeasing to God, and might turn on my dad or my brothers.

I was so scared that I was going to lead my brothers or dad into sin for lusting after me.

If that’s not twisted thinking, I really don’t know what is. Bleh.

I cried so many tears over how ugly I thought my body was, thanks to the baggy clothes I wore. Looking back, I was a healthy weight and my body was great. But shirts had to have sleeves and couldn’t come below the collarbone. Pants were forbidden after age 6. Swimwear was culottes that puffed full of water. The lifeguards even chided me for not wearing appropriate swim attire. I wanted to scream, “It’s not me!” My skirts had to be several inches below the knee, or else I was “showing some leg,” and that would “give guys a little jolt.”

When I finally turned 18, I had to beg a friend to help me pick out my first real pair of pants since Kindergarten. Of course, Mom called me a “slut” and a “whore,” declaring she could see intimate parts through my pants that would have been impossible for her to see. It was just to shame me.

Oh boy, here comes the scary part.

Sex.

No one in my homeschooling community talked about sex. I got the talk at 12, earlier than any of my homeschooled friends. However, I only knew about one type of intercourse. I didn’t even know people did it lying down, lol. Because puberty, sex, and all related words were so hush hush, I stopped asking my mother questions.

The first time I heard another girl even mention her period, I was 16.

I stared at her in shock! “Did she just speak of her period?” I wondered. When I turned 18, I succumbed to searching dictionaries to learn the rest of the words and meanings.

I was also incredibly afraid of CPS. Through HSLDA and my parents, I learned that foster homes are terrible places that abuse children by burning their hands on stoves, and more. Well, it worked. I didn’t call hotlines, tell the speech moms who cared about me, or beg my few friends for help.

When CPS showed up at our doorstep, my siblings and I lied for fear of being separated from each other forever.

The community that attended our very conservative Catholic church supported the sheltered, so-modest-its-frumpy, sexist views of my parents. I even was bullied at church for failing to meet up to the standards of the kids my age. In the midst of all this, I got comments asking if I was part of a cult, Amish, or Mormon. It hurt deeply that people thought I was a freak. “IT’S NOT BY CHOICE!” I wanted to scream. But I couldn’t.

When people think you’re part of a cult, they tend to ignore you or avoid you.

The few people I told about the abuse after I escaped looked at me with shock and said, “I had no idea.” The isolation of homeschooling added with the isolation of a cultic appearance equals an ideal environment for abuse to continue.

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To be continued.

Growing Kids the Abusive Way: Auriel’s Story, Part One

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Trigger warnings: references (sometimes graphic) to emotional, physical, religious, and sexual abuse.

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Auriel” is a pseudonym. Auriel blogs at Drying My Wings.

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Also in this series: Part One: Growing Kids the Abusive Way | Part Two: Isolation and Ideology | Part Three: Mini-Parents | Part Four: The Sound of a Sewing Machine | Part Five: The Aftermath of Childhood Abuse

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Part One: Growing Kids the Abusive Way

“Turn around, put your hands on the bed.” You scream, “No mommy, please!” She’ll grab you by your arm, wrist, shoulder, lapel, jaw or hair, shake, twist, or drag you, scratch, pull, shove, slap or kick you if you don’t move your butt to her room. “You selfish, spoiled rotten brat! You’re just a little ingrate, you little jerk. Let’s have a spanking!” she yells. Escape is futile. 

“You’re abusing me! How could you be so cruel?” your mom asks in tears over her rage. You clench your fists and teeth at the injustice, but can do nothing. After all, you’re an “idiot” and a “stupid a-hole.”

She has told you that this hurts her more than it hurts you.

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My parents were abused as kids.

They perpetuated the cycle with us.

With their first child, my parents discovered Growing Kids God’s Way by the Ezzos. True to the teachings, my parents controlled our hearts with fear, and later taught Growing Kids classes to dozens of families over the years, and taught me the classes to use on my younger siblings. I grew up in a Catholic, upper middle class family, and was homeschooled K-12, starting out under an umbrella charter school, moving to become our own private homeschool when I entered high school.

As far as didactics go, I learned a great deal. While my friends used Mother of Divine Grace (MODG) or Seton, we used an eclectic mix of those and other curriculums like Abeka since the Catholic curriculums usually require an overload of coursework. My education was classical and informative until middle school when my chronically and mentally ill mom gave up on teaching us. From there, I had a tutor, online classes, or taught myself through my textbooks. Lucky for me, I had a passion for learning and was pretty studious. I ended up graduating early!

Unfortunately, the damage was done.

I was physically, sexually, emotionally, and spiritually abused and neglected as a child.

"With their first child, my parents discovered Growing Kids God’s Way by the Ezzos. True to the teachings, my parents controlled our hearts with fear."
“With their first child, my parents discovered Growing Kids God’s Way by the Ezzos. True to the teachings, my parents controlled our hearts with fear.”

From the time I was 6 months old, up until I was a teenager, my parents beat me with a leather strap. This was based on the Ezzo’s teaching of chastisement. My parents would force me to pull up my dress, and if I were especially stubborn, they’d have me pull down my panties. Just the humiliation was enough to fuel my ire. The pain only compounded the injury. Flinching, screaming, or crying meant longer beatings. So, you learn to shut up, have “first time obedience,” “right away all the way with a happy heart.” Don’t show even a flicker of anger, sadness, discontent, or any negative emotion. Those are signs of rebellion.

I often had scratches and bruises, in various stages of healing. They’d start out as the new red or white fingerprint marks or welts, moving to purplish blues, healing to ugly greens and sickly yellows.

Some days, the punishment was only receiving smacks from a wooden ruler, running scores of laps around the yard or being flicked in the face. Other times, punishment was no supper.

My stomach would suffer, painfully contorting, gnawing at the emptiness, and I would cry myself to sleep.

Sometimes we would only be fed plain oatmeal or bread and water for the week as punishment. My brothers were locked outside or forced to sleep naked on the cold floor as punishments. And it’s hard to imagine the amount of screaming we bore.

Back then, tears were weak. They could be used against you. I couldn’t let anyone see them, or they’d be powerful. I’d curl in a ball on the floor in a corner, and just sit, and rock, and cry, soothing myself in the dark. I reverted to thumb sucking when I was 8. Even today, I still rub my arm and hug myself to self-soothe.

I tried to protect my siblings by covering for them on chores and standing up to my parents for them. My littlest sibling even called me Mommy, and would call to me for help and protection. We’d take beatings for each other too. But if no one confessed to a failure on a chore (read: perfectly swept floor), everyone would suffer. If we brought a sibling into our mistakes, we would be held outside the room, while our parents reminded us that the screams of our siblings were our own fault. Overtime, you become jaded to pain. It no longer hurts you, and the screams of others become mundane and almost comical.

To be honest, I was so sheltered, I didn’t even know I was being beaten or abused. I thought this was legal spanking.

Nightly, we’d fall asleep to domestic violence, fights, slamming doors, broken glass. After a nice tuck in and a whispered, “Jesus loves you,” we’d hear Mom attacking Dad. She’d claw, scratch, knee, hit and punch him, pounding her fists into his chest and back, smacking him with objects.

A few snapshots of my home life:

  • Mom threatening Dad with a knife in our kitchen right in front of me
  • Dad leaving me in my Mom’s room to talk her out of suicide
  • Dad throwing my brother into a bedpost
  • Mom driving recklessly nearly driving into oncoming traffic or a telephone pole
  • Mom yelling at us and publically humiliating us in restaurants

In the end, I learned to lie to save my skin.

I learned to take my siblings away from domestic violence. I learned that violence was acceptable.

This is not to say that my parents didn’t love me.

I firmly believe they did, and see it in countless examples. They hugged me, cared for me, kissed away my childhood scrapes, bought me gifts just because, and told me that they loved me. Birthdays and holidays were special, and they taught me fervently, took me on outings, gave me my faith, drove me to events, encouraged me to learn musical instruments, play sports, and compete in speech and debate.

It’s not like they are monsters.

But they are hurt people who probably should never have had kids. The abusive techniques propagated by the Ezzos jived with my parents’ abusive upbringings. It was their normal, supported by “experts.”

I don’t hate my parents.

I don’t know how to hate human beings. All I feel for them is love, pity, and a need to be far away from them out of self-preservation.

*****

To be continued.