Today’s post is not going to be easy for me to write but it is time to write my story. I have told part of the story but never all of it. But it is time to write all of it, worts and all. I think that most people will be shocked to hear parts of it, I don’t know. I think that it is easy for people to look at who I am today and not see the pain and the struggle that I have had to go through in order to get here. I don’t speak about my past because I don’t want pity and I don’t want judgement. We all have our stuff, our past. We experience whatever we experience in order to bring us to where we need to be. But there is something about children being exposed to abuse, cruelty etc that evokes a certain emotion and a certain expectation of how they will be as an adult. I have done the same. I am a firm believer that it is not the experience that shapes a person but what the person does with that experience. I did what I did because I felt that I didn’t have much of a choice or that the choice that I did have was far more scary and unacceptable to me.
So, as you have probably gathered, I didn’t have an easy childhood. I was born in the late 60’s, the time of free love and peace but my early life was anything but loving and anything but peaceful. My father was, at that time a slaughter man. But he was so much more than that. He was an entrepreneur, always looking for the next deal, or way to earn money on the side. He was also very creative as I remember to this day a painting that he had painted of a Jay and I remember being in awe of his talent. But alas, I didn’t really get to know my dad very well. He worked long hours, so we would be in bed when he went to and came home from work and weekends he would be working on some project, in the garden, earning extra money somewhere else. He was also very short tempered and I was scared of him, but I never remember him physically hurting me. But I do remember him and my mum shouting at each other a lot. He also used to go drinking a lot and I remember having to wake my mum up early in the morning once, because I couldn’t get to the toilet because there was a big pile of beer infused vomit on the floor in front of it which my father had done when he came in from the pub.
My mum is a couple of years older than my dad. She worked as a secretary before having children but when we were little she had given that up and was a stay at home mum. Probably because it was expected in those days. So I consequently spent a lot of time with my mum in my early years. My early memories of my mum were of someone who was deeply unhappy, depressed, anxious, always shouting at myself and my brother, never showed us any love, never encouraged. She also battled with her weight a lot. But she would always make sure that we were fed well and had nice clean clothes. She spent time teaching us things and she grew vegetables in the garden that we would eat and she grew flowers, she made our clothes and was a good cook. But she was a very harsh person, which I think came from her up bringing. Also, her father died when she was 17 yrs old and she doted on him and I think that this hit her badly. Plus my brother was born with Down’s Syndrome, and she was told that he would never walk or talk and she had to feed him with a pipette hourly when he was a baby because he had no suck reflex, so she was scared, depressed and exhausted.
Memories of my childhood were filled with fear. My happiest memories were when I was out in nature. Nature was my teacher and my sanctuary. We had quite a big garden and as soon as I got up I would be wanting to go outside in the garden with the plants and the animals. We had lot’s of animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, doves, hens, peacocks, a horse, goldfish. I learnt so much from the animals. So in some respects I had the perfect childhood. In others, I had the worst. I was abused mentally, emotionally, and sexually (although most memories of sexual abuse have been erased but I think they are starting to come to the surface now), I was neglected emotionally. I never felt any love throughout the whole of my childhood. I just had a constant feeling of disappointing everyone. Never being able to do anything right. The things that I experienced on a daily basis were constant criticism, being ignored, feeling that my needs weren’t important, both my parents arguing and throwing things around the house. I remember my mum sitting me down one day and telling me that my dad had caught an illness from the cows that he slaughtered called brucellosis and that this made him shout a lot. It helped me to understand a bit but didn’t make it any less scary. I also remember my mum teasing me until I cried and then finding it funny when I cried and saying she was sorry and distracting me with something to stop me from crying (I was about 2 or 3 years old at the time), I also remember my father taking me to watch him slaughter a cow when I was 2 years old at the most. I can still remember him shooting the cow in the forehead and the cow falling to the ground and him then slitting it’s throat and suddenly there was blood all over the floor which my little wellington boots had to wade through. I remember him cutting the tongue out and being shocked at the size of it. All I can say is that no little girl should have to watch such a thing. I remember being frozen to the spot. Not able to cry, not able to run away for fear he would do the same thing to me. This reinforced the fact to me that my dad was a scary man. I always assumed that my mum didn’t know anything about this event but years later, my mum joked with my aunty and uncle of how she thought that was probably why I was a good nurse and not frightened by blood. My aunty and uncle’s face was a picture and I was disgusted that she had allowed this to happen to me. Some people shouldn’t be allowed to have children. Also, never assume that a child under five years of age won’t be able to remember what is done or said to them. Most of my childhood memories come from these years. And even if they don’t have memories that they can recall, these event’s will be locked in their subconscious and will affect their behaviour for years to come. For the first six years of a child’s life their brain is like a sponge. There are no filters so they absorb and learn from everything around them, not differentiating whether something is good or bad, right or wrong for them. There is a saying ‘Show me a child at seven years old and I will give you the man’. I believe that these are the reasons for this saying because at some point between the age of six and seven years of age something switches in the brain and the filters go on and discernment begins to form. By the time that I was seven I was a timid, frightened little girl with no self confidence and no self worth. Something else that my mum used to do to me when I was around 3 years of age was, because of the fact that there are no filters on at that age, children tell the truth about everything and I would often get shouted at when we got home from a social event because I had said some thing about something which she obviously must have been embarrassed about. This made me very nervous in social settings and I was terrified of talking to adults because of how my mum behaved towards me. My brother was allowed to tease me and spoil my games until I lost my temper with hm and hit him and then I would get into trouble for hitting him, instead of her intervening before it got to that stage. My brother would also destroy some of my toys. I particularly remember always asking for a doll and pram for christmas. My brother broke my first one within hours so they got me another one. It wasn’t long before he destroyed that too so they didn’t get me another one after that as it was obviously expensive. I think that my mum used to try and compensate with my brother because of his special needs and he used to get away with a lot more than I did and he got treated differently to me. Something which my mum later admitted to me when I was about 17yrs old. This still affects me now and is one of the last programmes that I need to heal that keeps coming up still. I still keep finding myself in situations where other people get judged favourably and I get judged harshly and others might be treated with favouritism against me, which then evokes the same feelings that I used to get as a child. Something else that she used to do, was that if I had friends round and they did something wrong, she didn’t tell them off, she would shout at me instead, in front of them, which of course they would find highly amusing and left me unable to stand up for myself. And then there was the sexual abuse which I have very little memory of but I am starting to get some memory in the form of feelings and an awareness. I do have one memory of being about 2 0r 3 years old and sat on the passenger seat of our car and my dad had his flies undone and his penis out and I was just filled with a feeling of ‘oh no not this again’ but I can’t remember any more than this, although I know there is more. Lifestyle wise I was happy. We lived in a nice house with a big garden (I loved the garden) and we weren’t short of money. Then one night, my parents were having a party and because I was a curious child I went downstairs to see what was happening. I remember being sat on my mums knee and my mum pointing to a friend of the family and saying ‘That’s who your dad is carrying on with’. Maybe she didn’t think that I would understand but I was a very bright child and understood her completely, even though I had never come across it before. It turned out that my mum had got the wrong woman and it was actually my dad’s best friends wife that he was having an affair with. My life would change forever from that moment on. I was disgusted with my dad. How could he do such a thing to his best friend and to us, his family. I remember watching him getting ready to go out one evening when I was four or five years old and all I could feel was hatred for what he had done to our family. My parent’s split up and it was not very amicable. My mum became very depressed and was put onto valium. I saw her banging her head against a wall one day and I was worried that she would harm herself. I was so worried about her that I would often get up in the night to get a glass of water, just to check that she was ok. My parents split up when I was 5 years old but the divorce didn’t come through for a couple of years during which time we still lived in the same house. Except that it wasn’t the same any more. It was cold and dark and heavy and sad. Playing in the garden wasn’t the same any more. In fact I don’t have any memories of playing in the garden in this time period. My dad got me a puppy for my 7th birthday. I loved that puppy so much (even though my mum chose it’s name, not me). It was a shelty dog. I had only had it a few months when one night my mum had gone to wash her hair and little Beau wanted to go outside for a wee. I shouted my mum and she became really angry because she was trying to wash her hair and came down opened the door and said that she hoped that it got run over by a car………….. I still remember the screech of brakes and the knock on the door to say that little Beau had been run over. I don’t think that I ever cried as much as I did that night. This was the only thing that I had ever loved and the only thing that was truly mine and the only thing that I had left of my dad. I never really forgave my my mum for that night. He was only a baby and the gap under the gate was big enough for him to get under, which of course he did.
Because of all of the loss I had experienced, I was very aware of how easily things can be taken away from us so, even though my mum wasn’t very nice to me, she was all that I had left so I was paranoid that some thing was going to happen to her too. The getting up in the middle of the night for a glass of water continued when the divorce was settled and we moved into a smaller house. When I was older my mum used to leave me in the house while she went to the corner shop sometimes and I used to fret until she was back at home in case something happened to her. One day she couldn’t find what she needed at the corner shop so she walked into the nearest village, which obviously took her a lot longer and when she came home I was hysterical because I thought that she’d been in an accident.
We had been assigned a social worker. My mum said that this was because of my brother having a disability but it wasn’t until I was probably about 9 or 10 years old, when childline was first established, that I suddenly realised what a social worker was for. They didn’t come to see us very often but at approximately 9, 10, 11 years of age I really wanted to ask the social worker to take me to live somewhere else because the level of emotional abuse was becoming unbearable. Also at about the age of 9 years old my behaviour, in public, became increasingly odd. One girl told me that before she met me she thought that I had a learning disability as well because of the way that I carried myself and the way that I walked. This was all due to the build up of years of abuse. I was really shocked to hear this. When I was 11 years old I hated myself so much that I wished that I had never been born or that I was dead (although suicide never ever crossed my mind). I was just very withdrawn. I used to go and see my dad initially. He was living with the woman that he had been having the affair with and her youngest daughter was also living with them. They used to argue and fight as well and I remember his new partner chasing him around their bungalow with a knife one day , and this was all in front of us. I used to spend my time playing with her the daughter but my dad was never around (nothing changed there then). At 11 years old I decided I didn’t want to go any more. At 14 years old his now wife came to see me and said that my dad wanted me to start going again and that he promised to be there this time and that if I didn’t go then I wouldn’t get any more Christmas or Birthday cards or presents from them. It was when she said this that I decided that I definitely didn’t want to go and see him if he thought that I could be bought and if there were conditions attached to our interaction. I told her that I didn’t want to go and see him. Plus my mum was much calmer if I wasn’t seeing him so it was easier all round. I haven’t seen him since.
At 12 years old I developed acne. This affected my body image in an unbelievable way and was yet another blow to my self confidence or indeed another confirmation of my lack of self worth. I used to get laughed at by my peers and strangers in the street would just stop and go eurgh at me. This, along side everything else that had happened to me, severely affected any sort of relationship that I would have with the opposite sex as I felt that nobody would want me covered in spots.
Inside I was a wreck but I still managed to maintain some friendships and to go about my daily life. The acne was very difficult to treat and I remember that I used to think that everybody was looking at me and laughing at me when I got on the bus or went into a public place, which they weren’t. I was becoming very paranoid and hypersensitive and I remember becoming scared at about 17yrs of age that I was mentally ill and feeling that I was given a choice. I could stay on the path that I was on and end up in a mental hospital or I could find the courage and the strength from somewhere to fight back. For me there was no choice. I knew that I wouldn’t cope with the stigma of having a mental illness and also the label and the medication so I chose sanity but I knew that it would be a long and very difficult journey for me to achieve freedom from my demons but for me there was no choice. I couldn’t allow myself to fall down that slippery slope. From that moment on something changed and I didn’t have those paranoid thoughts of everyone laughing at me ever again or if I did they were few and far between. I also suddenly felt a warmth in my heart and I knew that I had so much love to give. I could feel it……….to be continued