28 October 2004
I feel the need to backtrack a bit. It occurred to me yesterday that I hadn't mentioned the physical abuse my father meted out to me. There were a lot of instances, but I won't bore you with all of them. To be honest, I'm not sure i could stand to detail the ones I remember.
One of the clearest early memories of abuse happened when I was six (I think that's correct). As I think I mentioned before, I was a very precocious child. My father told me shortly before he died that he was amazed at my intellectual abilities. He said that, by the time I was two, if anyone asked me a question, I answered like an adult. My therapist thinks it's because I knew even then what I had to do to survive.
My dad was really into developing my intelligence, so he got me a series of workbooks for math, reading and vocabulary. I was great with reading and vocabulary--far above grade level. Math was more difficult and I was only a little above the first grade level.
One weekend, he was making me work in the third grade math workbook. I tried and tried, but I just wasn't intellectually up to the challenge. That's when the unpleasantness began. He began to scream at me and, when that didn't make me perform any better, he began to hit me. As I think I mentioned before, my dad was never satisfied with terrifying you once; he would stretch the terror out over as long a period of time as possible. He left the room and told me I'd better have it completed before he came back. Of course, if there was ever any hope that I'd be able to complete the work, that was completely out of the question then.
It went on for a while, possibly all day...he'd scream and hit me, leave the room, scream and hit me. It always infuriated him when I cried (unless I was crying out of pity for him). That meant that every time he came back and caught me crying, he had an excuse to escalate the level of violence. Sometime during the day, I looked beseechingly at my mom. My father said to me, "Don't look at her. She can't help you." As usual, I'm uncertain exactly how it all ended, but it did at some point. There was definitely a down side to being intelligent.
The other times he always liked to hit me was just before he would take photographs of me. Isn't that weird? He'd point the camera and decide that I wasn't smiling enough, wasn't posing properly. I don't know. It was always something. so he'd come over and hit me however many times it took for him to get the photo he wanted. I hate all of the photos from my childhood. If you look closely, you can see tears in my eyes in every one of them. To this day, I hate being photographed.
I remember an oatmeal incident that occurred around the age of five. I hated oatmeal. I still hate oatmeal; it's gummy. I would start to gag everytime I tried to eat it. My dad became enraged; he said it was because he was so poor when he was my age that he'd have been thrilled to get oatmeal. So it began. Screaming, hitting, leaving. Coming back, screaming, hitting, leaving. By that time, I had discovered that, if I had control over nothing else, I absolutely had control over what I put in my body. I have to admit that I settled in for the long haul. I was by god not going to eat the damn oatmeal...no matter the consequences. I remember that the struggle went on all day. Finally, at the end of the day, he relented. I did not eat the fucking oatmeal.
Lots of other incidents come to mind, but what would be the point of telling them? The important salient facts are that he loved to torture people and he didn't care how small they were. My dad was over six feet tall. My mom was a little over five feet. I certainly wasn't anywhere near that big. At some point, it became very clear to me that he was allowed to hit me because he was bigger than I. There was no real reason for it. Maybe I got on his nerves. maybe I looked at him the wrong way. All of those were just excuses for my father to have a little fun.
27 October 2004
I'm better now than yesterday. I'll try to continue.
The fifth grade. while I was staying away from school and attempting to elicit some comfort from television, I was also acting out sexually (in a peculiar way). I had two close friends at the time and I sent them a series of letters. I told them I was pregnant with a child by a boy in one of our classes. I have no idea what prompted that. I suppose it was another fantasy that someone somewhere loved me and wished to be part of my family. They never replied to those letters, as I recall. when I finally made my way back to school, those friends were gone. They wouldn't even look at me. Somehow i was not suprised. I was profoundly alone with my depression.
One of my teachers that I'd had when i was 9 was then teaching 5th grade. She called me in to her classroom after everyone else had gone and asked me what was going on. I believed that she was judging me, just like everyone else. I told her that nothing was going on. That's the first time that I remember being angry about the way i was being treated. In retrospect, I think it's possible she was really just trying to be helpful. I was unable to accept help then. There was too much danger associated with telling the truth. My parents were bound to find out if I did and, who knew, maybe the threat of institutionalization might become a reality this time.
There was another little girl who shared the same birthday with me. We had been in school together since the first grade, but we weren't really friends. We had had joint birthday parties before, so her mom called my mom and suggested that we do it again. My mom said okay. She told me that I needed to get a list of people I wanted to invite to the party. I didn't have anyone to invite, having become a social paraiah. But I didn't want to have to tell my mom.
As the time for the party grew closer, I desperately tried to think of a way to get out of going. I may have even floated some trial baloons to see if I could persuade my mom to not make me go. If i did, they didn't work. On the day of the party, my mom drove me over to the girl's house. She had probably five or six friends there. Her mom was surprised that no one was coming to celebrate my birthday. I was miserable. I ate the cake, watched my birthday twin open her presents and got through it all.
I think my mom was puzzled when she found out I hadn't invited anyone, but I doubt that I offered any explanation. I was a precocious and creative child, but I was so emotionally dead at that point that I'm sure I couldn't have come up with an explanation if i'd tried. Besides, what would I have said? "You and dad have screwed up my life so much that I started creating fantasies to help me continue living?" I don't think so.
The year trudged on. I sat by myself in the lunchroom, I stood outside by myself when I got to school early. At some point, I guess I couldn't stand the isolation anymore. I struck up a relationship of sorts with another outcast. She was a very large girl, both in height and weight. That may have been why she was rejected, but I'm not certain. I started hanging out with her during those awful times when I wasn't in a classroom. I somehow felt that I was doing her a favor. I believed that even though I was a pariah, I was less of a pariah than she. Yeah, I know. Creepy. Or maybe just delusional.
I doubt that she liked me any better than I liked her. I invited her over to my house at some point that year. I can't imagine what possessed me to do such a thing. We had moved to another house than the one I lived in when I started fifth grade. (We moved around a lot, but as my mom likes to point out, it was usually just a block away from the last house we lived in.) For some reason, when we moved, we didn't really bring any furniture with us. I recall that there was a television (one of those console types that also had a record player/radio) and a mattress in the living room. We did have a dining room table. I shared my bedroom with my mom, since my dad was sleeping with his (then) wife. (But that's another story for another time.)
The next week, several people came up and asked me why we didn't have any furniture. I don't know what I said, but I didn't invite anyone else over until I was 17. I gave up the pretense of liking the child who was spreading the info around the school. I don't think I ever spoke to her again. It was back to hanging out by myself and hopelessly enduring.
26 October 2004
Yesterday's exploration of my father's suicide and my own attempt probably wasn't the best idea I've had lately. Today I'm feeling so down. I've been trying to think of something I can do for myself today. I haven't called my therapist, but if I did, I know she'd ask me what I'm going to do to take care of myself today. Right now, the answer is: Not talk about my father or my past. Beyond that, I have no idea.
I've been hiding in my office this week. I'm reluctant to venture out when I'm feeling fragile. There's that guy who likes to walk up behind me so he can make me gasp. The more I think about that, the more pissed off it makes me. I'm waiting for the next time he does it (and oh yes, there will be another time) to have a come to jesus meeting with him. Unlike others in my office, if I'm feeling down or testy, I just don't venture out. I hate spreading my bad mood around the office. Did that sound snotty? I really don't care today...I am snotty.
We finally got some anti-viral software installed here at work. The computer guy has no idea what he's doing. I was actually hopeful when I walked in on monday and turned on my computer. Definitive proof that I'm either losing my mind or just losing iq points. I started having problems immediately. It took me about 30 minutes to figure out what he'd done to fuck it up. Then other people started calling me to ask me how to fix their problems. Everybody (well, mostly everybody) wants to get someone who actually knows something about computers, but the owner of the company wants the guy to stay because he's almost dead. At a certain point, apparently one gets so old that no one wants to fire you, even though you can't find your ass with two hands and a compass. Oh dear. I guess my depression is manifesting as irritation today.
I took another office kitty to be neutered today. I'm going to try to get the nutty mom kitty and her ailing baby in to the vet tomorrow morning. I'm just going to have to bring nutty mom home after she's spayed because she belongs to someone in the neighborhood. I wouldn't normally even consider getting a cat spayed without the owner's permission, but having a rapid succession of pregnancies is going to kill the poor thing if I don't do something. My boss just takes them to the vet and never brings them back. I know for a fact that at least one of the cats he did that with actually had a family. If I take the cats in, I'll at least bring them back so they can be with their people again.I did the voting thing today. I voted for Kerry/Edwards and a spate of Democrats running for other state offices. If there was no Democrat to vote for, I voted for the Libertarian candidate. I know they tend to be far, far right wing. My general position on government is that I want them to butt out of my personal life. Just the fact that I'm required by law to wear a seat belt pisses me off. I think it's a violation of my constitutional rights. We have a city ordinance requiring helmets for bicycle riders. That makes me crazy. You know, if I want to run the risk of dying, that is my absolute, god-given existential right that no government should be wasting its time trying to stop me. Feel good laws. They don't really do anything particularly constructive, but it allows out lawmakers to avoid the serious, but highly controversial and complex, issues they should be focused on. I was going to get around to complaining about a new public transportation initiative on the ballot, but it appears I've run out of time. I'll get around to that and to the issue of toll roads at another time.
25 October 2004
"It would be hard to define chaos better than as a world where children decide they don’t want to live. "~Edward Hoagland, “Heaven and Nature”
Today is the anniversary of my father's suicide. I was considering starting this entry with a Sylvia Plath quote, but I couldn't bear to read any of her poems. Too bad. She's the perfect source for quotes of self-destruction.
On this day, my father left his house while my mother was on the phone, got his gun, went to a neighbor's house and asked for a bullet (my mom had hidden them all) "to kill a snake," stepped outside on the neighbor's lawn and shot himself to death.
I used to think killing oneself was the existential right of every being. I still believe that, but the cost of checking out is unbearably high for those of us left behind. I tried to commit suicide once and I've had suicidal thoughts for months on end, at times. After my father's death, I decided that, no matter how much I needed to escape, there would be no escape as long as there were people who would suffer from that destruction. It is, without question, the worst injury one can inflict on people who love you.
In honor of my father's death, I will share my own attempt. I was 11 years old. Life had become unbearable in so many ways. My father had taken up with the neighborhood girl and the violence in my house was escalating to a level that left me in a continuous state of terror, nothing I tried could fix any of it. I so needed comfort and respite from the agony of getting up and going to school every day and pretending that everything was just fine. My mom was working, so I came home every day to a cold and empty house. We had space heaters and I wasn't allowed to turn them on by myself, so I spent a couple of hours every day being miserably cold. As a matter of fact, every day had begun to seem dark and cold.
I decided one day that I just couldn't show up at school that day. I stayed home, lay on the living room floor, covered with blankets and watched "I Love Lucy" and "The Dick Van Dyke show." It wasn't much in the way of comfort, but it was all I had. I don't really recall how long I stayed away from school, but it was long enough for the school to notice. They called my mom at work one day. When she came home, she was furious with me.
When my father came home, she told him. He called me into the bathroom where he was taking a dump and had me stand there while he raged at me. My father loved to have people come stand in the bathroom while he was taking pooping, but he especially loved it when he was angry. It was a profoundly demeaning act. I don't recall how long I stood there, petrified, or what he said to me. I think there was some reference once again to committing me to a mental institution...always one of my dad's favorites.
There was nothing to be done about it; I was going to have to go to school the next day. after my mother left that morning, I searched around for some method of dying. Part of my problem was that, if I wasn't successful, I shuddered to think of what might happen. There would be plenty of punishment meted out for attempting to kill myself. I lit upon the idea of sleeping pills. My dad always had over the counter sleeping pills around. I didn't know how many it would take to kill myself, since I was just a novice 11 year old. I took as many as I dared; I didn't want anyone to know I had done that if it didn't work. For good measure, I took off my shoes and didn't wear a coat as I walked the four blocks or so to school. It was January and a cold, raw wind blew through my clothes. The sky was dark. I remember there was a robin in the schoolyard as I walked up to the door.
By the time I made it to math class, the pills were making their way into my bloodstream. Unfortunately, being an amateur, I was unaware that it's best to eat something before you take the pills. Otherwise you'll throw up and waste the opportunity. I was standing at the blackboard, trying to do a math problem when I started to gag. I knew no one was going to send me home or have any sympathy for me whatsoever. Best just to try to keep anyone from knowing what was going on. I threw up and a bit of it got on my blue pleated skirt. I managed to swallow the rest. I spent the rest of the day walking around with vomit on myself. I think I was pretty spaced out, but I just kept swallowing whatever arose and putting one foot in front of the other.
Several of my teachers felt justified in making snide remarks in front of everyone in the class. I did not respond. I hated them. I hated myself. I just wanted to die and get out of everyone's way. No such luck.