Saturday, July 23, 2011

What I Don't Say Because I Don't Want to Make You Uncomfortable

If knowing someone's story makes you uncomfortable, please don't read this; I don't want you to be uncomfortable. But my life is good, I've learned from my past, it wasn't my fault, and I am okay, so I have no shame in telling it. I will say, to reduce any fears, I was not raped- and obviously not killed, so that takes the worst out of the picture. Also, if you, the reader, are my friend, please let me know if you do read this- via blogger, facebook, in-person, or whatever. It is my personal story, and I would like to know who knows. That's all I ask.

I was looking at old journals and blogs today, and remembering the past. There are many many good and fun memories. Some were very hard- but I had a positive perspective at the time, and that made the memory good, overall.... others were riddled with fear and sadness.

One of the things on my long-term to-do list, is to write a book about my life- my struggles with childhood epilepsy, bullying, and abuse- and how God has helped me through.

I would not take away the epilepsy if I could- though I'm so glad it went away. Every seizure terrified me; every time, I was certain that I was like Lorenzo, and it would never stop, and I might die- and it hurt, and it was exhausting, because I was alert though I couldn't talk, and I never knew when it was going to start. But it gave me my perspective on accepting all people. Compassion and empathy are my strength, and I don't think I'd be able to say that otherwise.

The abuse, on the other-hand, I would take away in a heart-beat. It's not like dad terrorized us daily as I was growing up. To a large extent, he worked nights, I was at school during the day, Mom was home in the afternoon and evenings, and dad couldn't do much harm. He could ridicule us. He did. He could humiliate us by breaking public rules- such as bringing a dog into the store, or by coming out of his room without clothes on- when our friends were over (and say he didn't know)... but at the time, we didn't know he got something out of it. My siblings and I considered him, "dumb." That was it.

Thank goodness for two things. One, I learned in school early-on, that if ANYONE, even family, tries to touch you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, you tell them to stop, and you tell someone you trust. Two, my dad was afraid of being caught.

His method was to try coersion, justification, etc. As I became a teen, he tried to convince me he needed to make sure I was growing healthily since he was "a doctor" (he worked in a hospital). I finally conceded part-way by letting him look, but when he started to overstep those boundaries, I screamed bloody-murder (gosh, the whole neighborhood probably knew), Mom came running, he downplayed it and made excuses, and she gave him the warning of a life-time. Mom regrets not doing more, but I know first-hand, that when you love someone, it is nearly impossible to assume their intentions were bad- his behavior, yes, but his reasoning, no. I don't blame her.

He continued at times, to try and rationalize and coerce, but he never pushed those limits again. Still, he made me uncomfortable, and I didn't really feel safe.

Being on medication for epilepsy, I would walk into things, I'd get hit by balls in PE because my timing was off, I talked slowly and had a bit of a slur. Some kids thought I was mentally disabled. Kids threw rocks at me, or more-often, avoided me. The popular girls gave me advice so I could be "popular like us." They told me what to wear, & told me to steal Mom's make-up. That was the deal-breaker. There were a couple girls that seemed to want to talk to me in junior high- I didn't see them every day, but I felt accepted by them. There was also the group that I hung-out with most days- standing off to the side. I felt inferior because they were in the smart classes, and would talk about models of the 4th dimension, and so-on. I almost never found a way into the conversations. We never hung out outside of school; it was just a lunch-time deal. A couple of them, I'd say, really did consider me to be a friend. The others, I think just allowed me to be there.

The older of my brothers must have been asked what was wrong with me, and I doubt he really knew how to explain. He began telling his friends to stay away from me, and that I had AIDS. When I'd get home, he would convince my little brother to help him hit me- my sister would help taunt, but I don't think she actually did any hitting. But the boys would come up out of no-where and sock me in the stomach, knocking the breath out of me- that was the worst. Or they'd just start punching me in the back, head, neck, or whatever they could get to. I was the oldest, but my response-time and coordination, due to the medication, were horrible. If I hit back, it seemed somehow, I'd always be caught and punished. I knew the rule was to tell- not retaliate, but telling Mom seemed to be met by, "Well, what did you do? It takes two to fight." Well, normally, that's true, but not in the case of bullying.

I avoided them as best as I could. It was the hallway, which was around the corner and out of Mom's sight, where the hitting would occur. The rest of the apartment was normally safe. They had no excuse for being in my room, and if caught torturing me there, the excuse that I started it would go out the window. So I'd walk those few steps quickly.

When only dad was home with us, I had to be more careful. Dad had lost his temper once on one of my brothers, and Mom had lectured him. So dad got his revenge on Mom by playing helpless. My brothers would hit me, I'd ask him to make them stop, and he'd claim he couldn't. One time, I continued to beg, and he said to the older one, "Please stop." My brother laughed, knowing he wasn't serious, and my dad said, "See, I can't make him stop." My brothers then took the opportunity to run up and hit me several times until I hid in my room. After that, I always hid in my room. I'd walk in the door, go straight through the apartment to my room, close the door- blocking it with heavy items on the occasion that I still felt threatened, and stay there until Mom got home. Usually, being in my room was enough- they'd forget about me and go do their own thing. I didn't have to tell Mom what I was doing because I had figured out how to keep myself safe.

Dad said he was a "nudist." He wanted all of us to try it. He invited us to this amazing beach. My siblings went. I and my mom refused. He claimed Mom was making us uncomfortable. He found other opportunities to try and turn us against her. My dad and siblings would complain about meals together- after it was already ready to eat. I'd say, "I don't really like stew, but it's okay. I'll eat it." Once, dad pulled me aside and told me I was making the situation worse by choosing her side. He said that if it was all of us saying we didn't want it, she would give in and we could order something. Another time, he took me down the street to meet another girl my age. We talked while he and her mom chatted for close to an hour. I didn't understood why, but I felt like he was betraying Mom, and it made me very uncomfortable.

It wasn't until I was 18, that things really escalated. At that point, I was legal, and my dad had more leeway. He was looking up porn regularly online, and calling my brothers over to come look at it. Then he started calling me over. I'd refuse. He told me he was finding all this amazing information about men who have great relationships with their daughters, and that their daughters say they like it. He somehow convinced me to look at the screen, saying that it was just information, not anything disgusting. He lied, it was very hard-core porn. He started saying that it wouldn't be immoral if we did it. Then he asked me if I would. I vehemently refused, and from that point on, avoided him as much as possible.

My first semester at college, I would make the hour trek home after school, and go in my room to sleep. But often, I'd wake and find dad standing there in my doorway, breathing heavy and swallowing hard. I started keeping the sheets all the way up over my head so he could see nothing. I wasn't sure what he was doing, exactly, because I had no experience in that area (partly due to the medication, I was a very late bloomer), but it made me very uncomfortable.

 In the spring, I found out about a camp job that I wanted- largely, to get away from my dad. I had no other transportation to the interview, so, with plans of jumping out of the car if necessary, I allowed him to drive me, and thankfully, got the job. That job was such a blessing, but it really pointed out what I had been through. Up until then, dad was a dumb jerk who I protected myself from. Working at camp, I felt completely safe for the first time. I became terrified of going home.

Since I had no other options, I made a plan. I asked Mom to drop me off at my college at 6:30am, and to pick me up at 8 at night, because I had a lot of studying. I was exhausted in the morning, and fell asleep on the couch in the lobby of the main building. I had talked with one of the school counselors about some issues one of my siblings was going through, and he saw me sleeping there, but never said a word.

As things had become worse, DCFS got involved, one sibling was put in foster care as a precautionary measure while they investigated for three months, and dad moved out of the house by court-order, and at some point, got into drugs. He came over to the house as he was permitted, during the day. Eventually, DCFS left the picture, and he moved back in for awhile- until he proved he wasn't going to change, made threats to one of my siblings, and Mom told him to leave.

While he was home,  he had a habit of making the most offensive comments when I was around. When Kobe was accused of rape, he suggested that maybe they could sell me to him. He said that it would make him rich. Looking at dad at that moment, it was obvious that he was really mulling over this idea of his, thinking how great it would be.

For the most part, I have kept my distance as best as I could, other than the week I spent at his apartment, trying to help him detox from methadone, sleeping with a sheet over my head, and my ears alert to every sound. That kept him clean for a couple months.

Eventually, he started making death threats- saying he'd kill all of us. In a journal we found, he described the high-powered gun he planned to use. He told me he should have burned the house down with all of us in it. I started making plans to run. I talked to someone at church, about having everyone pray if I didn't show up, because that would mean I was on the run. We had a restraining order.

Now, he is on medication, and overseas, and the world feels so much safer that way. But I never intend on giving him my address, or telling him where I work, and he will never be alone with my kids if I have that opportunity. Those are the most obvious precautions I will always take.

There's so much more I could say, but I'll say it when I write that book. Through all my struggles, God has been there and helped me through; I've never doubted that. When I felt alone; like no-one knew me for who I was, I considered giving up, but I felt God there with me. I felt big, strong hands on my shoulder-blades, and I knew I wasn't alone. I had faith, and it got me through, and life is good. Never easy. But very good.

It is possible to be afraid for your safety, sad for your traumas, and happy (and on many levels, content) at the same time. This post is not long enough to portray the whole picture. I have many awesome memories too.


  1. Wow, Fern...I knew you'd been through some stuff, but I had no idea how bad it really was. Your courage is amazing: not everyone would be open enough to recount experiences like these to the world. True, some people might indeed feel uncomfortable reading what you've written, but ultimately it's YOUR story to's the life YOU'VE lived...and it's YOUR decision to share it. I applaud you, my friend! And once again you've inspired me...

  2. Sometimes I wonder. Yes it was bad, but in comparison, do I have a right to say it was all that bad? I was not locked in a closet, tied-up, or starved. My dad did not break my bones in anger. And I did know love from my mom. My story is not a Dave Pelzer story- it's not wrought with the same horrifying events... sometimes, when other people seem horrified, I'm surprised. It was life.

  3. "It was life"? Seriously? How can you be so blase about that? Abuse is nothing to downplay, Fern. You absolutely have a right to say it was bad...I mean, you said yourself that it's something you "would take away in a heart-beat"! People don't say that about "life." And whether it's sexual, physical, verbal, or emotional, abuse is still abuse, and the effects can sometimes last a lifetime...low self-esteem being one of those effects. Sure, I've heard worse from people in CR, but each person's story is different. Heck, I myself was verbally and emotionally abused by an ex-boyfriend. I had no broken bones, but I absolutely will not speak lightly about it by shrugging and saying, "It was life." No, it was not life! Not the life I know I deserved. Your situation was worse because you were young and essentially trapped. That's no life at all, and you didn't deserve to be treated that way. No one does.

  4. T, I want to argue, and say, "that's not what I meant"... and then, I'm not sure. I don't think it was in any way okay. I am not okay with what happened. But at the time, it's what I knew. Getting out of it is where the emotional roller-coaster really began (although I was depressed, and had suicidal thoughts when I was 15- based more on not feeling accepted anywhere). Maybe it's just that I'm still used to feeling de-valued by others; I expect people to say, "well, she got out of it fine(physically), so what's the big deal?" And when they respond differently, I'm surprised..................

  5. btw, T, off-topic, but either you have linked in to this 15 times from FB, or other friends are, and aren't telling me :-( ; blogspot gives me a headcount and list of referring sites. Frustrating, given my request. ... do I have the right to be frustrated (not to be confused with anger)? I can "hear" familiar voices saying, "You have to accept the fact that your friends are going to do what they want." "You shouldn't expect them to cater to what you want.".... "If it's that important to you to know who knows, you should have just kept quiet." And my retort: "Maybe. But I can still hope for the best."

  6. re: your 5:22 am response: I'm glad you clarified that you're not ok with what happened. Most people will respond to a story about abuse with feelings of compassion, especially if they've been victims themselves. The responses of shock will come from people who never would have guessed that the person in question had ever gone through anything like that. In my experience, most people won't respond with something like "well, she got out of it fine(physically), so what's the big deal?"

    re: the off-topic post: the stats speak for themselves, but I generally link to your blog via my own, and have only linked via Facebook from specific links you've posted.
    People generally do what they want, and often forget specific requests like yours. I chalk it up to laziness, rather than disrespect. I think you do have a right to be frustrated, since it was a specific request, and I'm happy to hear that it's not anger. =)


I love comments. It makes me feel like I'm not just talking to a wall, and rids me of the feeling that this time, I said too much, or said something the wrong way.

(I review your comments first, so if you want to say something just to me, just let me know).

I love comments. It makes me feel like I'm not just talking to a wall, and rids me of the feeling that this time, I said too much, or said something the wrong way.

(I review your comments first, so if you want to say something just to me, just let me know).