Saturday Bonus Post – Guest Post by Beth
I’m Beth. I grew up in an abusive home. I never realized just how abusive and dysfunctional until well into adulthood. In my home, we never spoke of the abuse, and we certainly never called it abuse. It was just the way things were.
My mother was a victim of childhood abuse. My father was a victim of childhood abuse. Neither of them dealt with or acknowledged it, and were thusly doomed to repeat the cycle. All I know of my dad’s childhood are the snippets he’s shared with my mom, and she in turn has shared with me. My grandmother, his mother, was a horrible woman. Mean and hateful. She was cruel to us as a grandmother, I can only imagine the abuse my dad suffered at her hands. But he’ll likely never deal with it. He is not a man who shares his feelings openly. He also drank like a fish. A rampant, unapologetic alcoholic who cared more about the guys he worked with then he did his wife and kids.
I have one younger brother whom I love dearly. Sometimes we were able to cling to each other to withstand the abuse, but most often, we ended up pitted against one another. Competing to be the one who didn’t get picked on. It was a constant effort to not rock the boat. Don’t whine. Don’t cry. For heaven’s sake, don’t sass. Just keep quiet.
I know there are women who will read this and are in abusive marriages. “He doesn’t hit the kids”. “He is a good dad”. “He only calls me names when he’s mad”. So many women stay because “it’s better for the kids.”
Kids know what’s what. They may not understand what’s going on, but they see it. They feel it. And when they can’t understand the why, they often believe it’s their fault. I grew up thinking that abuse is normal, and ok. I grew up thinking that my worth as a person was less than, because I’m a girl. That my real and valid feelings were merely because I was a bitch and probably on my period. My brother has memories I can’t go into because they’re not mine to share. I have more painful, confusing, twisted memories, than I do happy ones. You know what, the happy ones don’t make it better, and even the happy ones are tainted with hints of the constant air of ick that always hung around like the stench of old garbage.
My mom and dad split up several times over the course of my childhood, but it wasn’t until I was 16 that they finally divorced. By the time they split up when I was in 8th grade, I felt no sadness. Only relief. At my mom’s telling me they had finally divorced, I said, “FINALLY.” As I grew older, I only became more perceptive of the difference in our home when my dad wasn’t living in it. It wasn’t easy for my mom as a single mom. It wasn’t easy to deal with damage control with two damaged and hurting teens. Nothing in life is easy, but dammit, I wish she would have left sooner. I wish someone would have stood up and taught us that abuse is not ok. And that we have worth simply because we are people. And that the man he was is not our fault.
I grew up afraid to stand up for myself. I allowed myself to be abused by people who were supposed to be my friends, because I thought that was normal. I have had to relearn how to have functional relationships. I have had to force myself to learn that it’s ok to say no. It’s ok to have feelings. To be angry. Upset. That I’m not a crazy bitch. My brother can’t hold a relationship. He grew up with the example that women are stupid and crazy. He barely functions as a adult. Our entire childhoods were spent in crisis control mode. There was no time for basic life skills when it’s always crisis control mode. We never learned how to just…live.
I am lucky. I ended up married to a good man who would kill himself before abusing me or our kids. I am a minority. The majority of children of abuse grow up to marry/live with abusers. They continue the cycle. It takes a hell of a lot of work to break that cycle, but my kids are not abused. My kids are growing up in a healthy, functional, but still imperfect home. The cycle ends with me.
When I agreed to do this post for Hope, I had a lot of trouble getting started. So I was texting my brother and he said something ridiculously profound:
“The job of parents isn’t to raise kids…. It’s to raise grownups…. We teach them how to function in society…. If we teach them that abuse is normal they will believe that forever” Then he said: “the consequences of abuse are exponential”.
Truth. Abuse doesn’t stay at home. Abuse may thrive in darkness and hiding, but it spreads, like a quiet, slippery plague. It permeates your very being, until who you are is defined by the abuse you have suffered. Especially as a child.
My parents might have been victims of abuse who continued the cycle…but I’m not a victim. I’m a fucking SURVIVOR. I survived. I will THRIVE. I forgive them both. I forgive my mom for never having the guts to stand up for us. I forgive my dad for abusing us and wasting our childhoods with drinking and women.
Listen to me. Listen. If you are abused, LEAVE. It will suck. It will be scary. It will be a long, hard, uphill battle that makes you wonder why you left. Then you will be free. And your kids will be free. They will finally be able to live. And that is worth fighting for.