The Dawning of Day: Gary’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Gary” is a pseudonym.

I like to think of my awakening as the sun rising rather than a light bulb being turned on.
I think of my awakening in this way for several reasons.

First, because it wasn’t one moment in time I can pick out that changed it all, no one event or interaction. It was instead a dawning, a slow realization spread out over the space of about 14 years.

Second, because it is not some small illumination that can be broken or switched off again, but rather an all-encompassing, earth warming, life giving blast furnace of truth that rises into the sky.

Third, because it starts small, from total darkness. I was stumbling, groping in the dark, blind, being tripped up by things I could not see.

Then comes the faintest of glows, far off, or, if you face away from the sunrise, you see first faint outlines of objects, the slightest differentiation of light from dark, form as different than the formless, the earth from the sky.

Little by little the light grows; the things I stumbled on in the darkness are shown to be small stones easily avoided…..now that I can see them for what they really are.

Did it start the day I realized, while reading my father’s old psychology textbook, that my father had been intentionally manipulating us children with Pavlov and Freud based tricks? That he KNEW what he was doing? That his bizarre behavior was not just him “being crazy” but was based off actual theories and practices he had studied in University?

That he was intentionally and with malice trying to make us children afraid of the outside world using psychological manipulation?

That when he spoke of how everyone but himself were “sheep” that could be so easily manipulated he was including myself and my siblings in that number?

Did it start when I realized at age 15 that I was the intellectual equal to my father? That I wasn’t an “idiot” or a “simpleton” as he so frequently told me but rather on par with him in every way? That he could not come up with a single form of manipulation, a single trick, that I did not see through like a pain of glass?

Was it at the age of 20, sitting in the seats of a prominent fundamentalist College and hearing raw hatred spewed from the pulpit day after day after day?

Hatred for Catholics, hatred for LGBTQ people, (thinly veiled) hatred for other races, and thinking…..”these people are crazy”….not just average crazy, but completely, 100%, to the very core, crazy. Dangerous crazy. Wild eyed, clenched teeth, foaming at the mouth NUTS, that they WANT the apocalypse to happen, desire it with a rabid hunger and dream about the end of the world like a little kid dreaming about going to Disney World.

Was it at the age of 21-22 when I started reading actual science textbooks and articles for the very first time and realized that there was no global conspiracy of scientists working to cover up the modern day existence of living dinosaurs left over from the flood?

That the Loch Ness monster wasn’t real? That even other Christians believed in evolution? That the “scientific truth” I had been taught was the collective fantasies of just a handful of complete crackpots who had absolutely zero credibility?

Was it at the age of 23, hearing Neil Young’s “Keep on Rocking In the Free World” on the radio, and hearing for the first time the lines: “…so she puts the kid away and she’s gone to get a hit, she hates her life and what she’s done to it, that’s one more kid who’ll never get to go to school, never get to fall in love, never get to be cool…” and realizing so very clearly that I was essentially that child?

That my parents’ addiction to the sense of superiority they got from radical fundamentalism was more important to them than my chance to have any semblance of a normal or happy childhood?

That they were juicing up with “hits” of radical ideology and paranoia as fervently and regularly as any addict? That all else, every other thing in the world, including the health and mental well-being of their children, would always come second to their need to feel superior?

I can’t pick a single instance when I woke up completely, but I can clearly see the end result.

A stronger, more educated, clear headed, less fearful human being.
A person no longer groping in the darkness.
A person striding ahead into future, the path ahead finally illuminated, not by light bulbs, not by candles, but by the all-encompassing light of day.

Then She Stood By the Brave

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate Truth. It was originally published on April 8, 2014.

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**DISCLAIMER: the situation you are about to read about is in good hands and I ask that you not try to contact any of my siblings. They are safe and things are being taken care of.

About a month ago I got a phone call letting me know one of my siblings was being admitted to the mental health ward. All I could think was when it is going to be enough, how many more of my siblings are going to suffer.

Their story is theirs to tell, not mine, but I want to tell you about a story that has continued to unfold over the past few weeks.

Phil and I went to visit my sibling in the psych ward, and I saw my sibling relaxed, a little medicated, but they were relaxed, peaceful, and they were safe there and they knew it. We brought one of my other brothers in to visit our sibling and I found out that he had been faithfully visiting his sibling the whole time during their psych visit. This brother is the one I have had my spats with growing up, and in fact, thanks to him I have a nice numb spot on my hand from one of our fights. This brother is also the one I see holding one of the biggest, caring hearts I have ever seen. The fact that he would purposefully take time out of his day to go visit his sibling in the psych ward every day they were is a huge indicator of just how big his heart is.

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I am now barely 2 months away from having this child of mine.

I am becoming more and more aware of how important it is to stand firm with my boundaries when it comes to my mom and my dad. I somehow found myself in a position last week where I was asked by my mom to “draw out” my sibling who had been in the psych ward. My sibling had been asking to be admitted again that morning and wouldn’t talk to mom or anyone else about what was going on. Inwardly I knew my sibling was only going to talk to me and that’s why my mom was pushing me to talk with them. After spending awhile chatting, I knew what I needed to know and just let my sibling know that I was there whenever they needed me. The rest of my visit over there ended in me putting my foot down and being completely blunt with my mom. I told her my exact thoughts on how her staying with my dad was at the expense of the kids and how he wasn’t changing, how I didn’t believe her when she said he was, and just watched her shut down as I refused to let her screwed up logic change my stance.

In that moment I realized I have changed.

I am no longer blinded by the manipulative logic my dad uses to control those around him.

I could see right through everything my mom said and was able to see things I had known were there but had never been able to put words to. I am stronger, I am clear headed, I have changed, and yet, it became painfully obvious she hasn’t changed. She is still toxic to me, she is still clinging to some delusion that my dad is changing, and until she can let go of that and actually protect her children from that man, I have to be careful to keep boundaries in place.

It was encouraging to see how therapy has really worked and I have been able to break so many chains that had previously greatly bound me. I am also in a position now where when a sibling needs help, I’m one of the first people they call, and hell, I’m out the door before they can even coherently say anything other than to beg me to come get them. Which is what happened recently, and which included a visit to my siblings’ school counselor who after hearing our story immediately called Child Protective Services to make a report. I have proven to my siblings, the ones who need it most, that I am not the mean, evil older sister my dad makes me out to be. I am who I say I am and I will drop everything for them if they need me.

I sat in that office and watched my siblings find their strength as they stood up to the abuse they have personally suffered from our dad. My heart bursting with pride, I backed up their stories, and watched as they willingly gave information that will hopefully make a difference. I watched my siblings make very brave and bold decisions despite the possibility of facing retaliation. They are doing what I wish I could have done years ago, they are brave enough to stand up and say enough is enough and it hopefully will truly be enough.

The little girl inside of me wept as I proudly stood by my brave siblings.

I felt like I watched my childhood come full circle. The shame of not being “strong enough” to stand up to my dad was put to rest as I stood there being my siblings’ support. I went through what I had to so that I could be there for my siblings when they needed me. I am stronger now, I have the strength they needed to be able to be brave themselves. I can validate their fears and tell them they’re not crazy despite what the man at home will say. I don’t know about you, but that’s quite a good reason to have gone through what I have if only to be the support my siblings need.

I’m feeling hopeful, I am full of pride, and so relieved I can be there for the siblings who call for help and I can be there to lift up their voices.

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel