Survival; the lies I told myself

I’ve been depressed since I can remember time beginning. Maybe you would be too if you lived in my shoes. I told myself a lot of things that weren’t true. Survival, I thought childhood would never end. I said things to myself like at least I wasn’t sexually abused. If I was I wouldn’t have the will to live. Yet fuzzy memories tickled my mind. But if I couldn’t remember, it didn’t exist. Right?

It was bad enough that my psychotic brother terrorized our house. He was small and by any means did not look threatening. But when the voices in his head called to him he would fly into a psychotic rage. He clawed up my arms, punched, head butted, gave black eyes and bloodied lips, grabbed onto hair, twisted arms, kicked with an adrenaline rushed rage. I was not comforted, he was. I was told how lucky I was to be normal. I was punished if I wanted to retaliate or defend myself. Matt couldn’t help what he did, but I could.

When I was attacked at times I almost went into a meditative state. I repeated the mantra over and over in my head that this abuse was making me stronger like exercise. I told myself that all of the pain inflicted upon my body was good for me. If he punched and bruised my arms I thought in my head that my pain came from lifting weights. I was developing strong muscles and not being beaten and bruised. I think that is why part of my early healing involved marathon running and brutal body breaking workouts. My mind was already trained.

I never learned that touch could be comforting. Not only did my brother physically abuse me and those I loved, my father did as well. He would often squeeze my mother too tightly until she cried out in pain. My little brothers and I would try to get him off of her while he swung at us. I remember him hitting and spanking some of my brothers. He would tickle us until we wet ourselves all in the name of fun. Sometimes he would play ball with my brother for fun too. He would chuck the ball so hard he would hit my brother with it. The game usually ended when my brother came in the house crying while my dad called him a baby. But my dad never flew into a psychotic rage like Matt.

The most difficult thing to endure with my dad was the emotional abuse. He often told us how stupid we were. He had the innate ability to find the things we were most afraid of to terrorize us with. He would taunt us and encourage our siblings to laugh at us as well while we whimpered in fear. We were so frightened by our dad that we didn’t want to be left with him without mom because then he was merciless. If we tried to stand up for our siblings, we were targeted next.

My dad was evil. Does that make me evil too? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I tried to be good like my mom. She would take us to church. My dad would laugh about this as well. God was a big joke to him. But it was a place I could go he couldn’t reach.

I never learned to be comforted by touch or encouraging words. In fact, quite the opposite. Touch and nice words made me feel uncomfortable. It was foreign to me. No one ever said they were proud of me. No one ever said it was okay to feel angry when my brother hurt me. I could never say ‘no’ to make it stop. I wasn’t protected. Nothing was entirely safe, not my body and not my mind.

I couldn’t control the things that happened to me. But I could control myself. I could convince myself of the lies I needed to tell myself in order to survive. It wasn’t that bad. A good beating made me stronger. I should’ve noticed the signs. I was the one that didn’t protect myself. It was my fault.

But hey, at least I wasn’t molested. What I can’t remember doesn’t hurt me. Right?

The hoarders

I went to several hoarding houses. It was always a struggle to get to the front door. I had to touch iffy things so I wouldn’t fall as I squeezed through tight passages of old toys, garbage, and practically a timeline of their whole life. I often felt like I violated them in some way. They were showing me parts of themselves I would never want a stranger to see.

What always struck me was the smell even with my mask on of rot and decay. The yard a graveyard of old cars filled with you guessed it, more junk. One place had chicken bones in front of the door the second time I visited. It creeped me out like they were doing some sort of voodoo hex to get rid of me.

As I was leaving one of the houses a woman came home. I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed like I got caught snooping inside of her house. She told me she was remodeling her kitchen. Uh huh, yeah right.

The worst of the hoarding was located underneath a huge tree which had a bug infestation of some sort. The bugs crawled on me some odd mix of a gnat and flea. The woman said the DNR had been out because of the bugs and it was caused by something other than her remodeling.

I felt dirty there. The bugs made me feel creepy and crawly. I wanted to wash my clothes and jump in the shower but again I had more stops to make. Why would anyone want to live that way?

The hoarding caused great sadness in me. My parents are what I consider to be hoarders. They mainly collect paper item clutter such as long paid bills and receipts that they keep in stacks on the floors, counters, tables, and couches. They kept phone books from the 70’s from a different city.

My mom is a big collector of food. Although there are two people living in her house she shops for 10. She has multiple refrigerators and freezers full of rotting food. It causes my mother great emotional distress to get rid of things. It causes us distress that she keeps things.

At times I have to fight off an OCD tendency for cleanliness. For example, last week I washed my windows. While I saw all the imperfections, smudges, and dirt I left behind multiple birds kept flying into the windows. Maybe I have been filled so much with dirt that nothing will ever be clean enough for me. Maybe my perception is off too. Sometimes I have to tell myself that my best is good enough and I have to let the rest go.

My mom is embarrassed to have people over. People feel uncomfortable in a hoarding house especially if they are not used to it. My brother’s sister-in-law stayed there once and said it was so disgusting she was never going back.

My dad rarely showers. You have to be careful where you sit. You have to be careful what to eat. It’s best just not to go there. I mourn that. I want it to be warm, happy, and cozy like Christmas morning but we never celebrate there.

I remember what it was like living there. When the old power lines were taken down in our neighborhood, we went with our mom to collect probably a hundred of the insulators. We had to collect items like the tabs off of soda cans. We never got rid of broken items or outdated technology. My mom still has clothes in her closet from the 1980’s. I could keep going…

They never said no to anything. At one time my parents even accepted a huge unusable old rusty satellite dish. There are rooms in their house that are unusable too. Thankfully they were not much for outdoor displays of hoarding. If a shed is full, it’s time to build another shed.

It’s really hard to understand how hoarding can be satisfying especially for items viewed as junk. Hoarding suffocates me in feelings of despair. Going home is not pleasant. I wish it was. I could write for hours what it feels like to be a clean freak daughter of hoarders…

But as a census worker this was an uncomfortable situation I was already prepared for.

Grandma’s rocking chair

My eye hurts really bad. It feels like it is on fire as the tears roll down my face.

Matt is screaming again. He poked me in the eye on purpose. We are both screaming now.

I told Grandma that I hate Matt.

She didn’t tell me that I should feel lucky that I am normal. Nor did she say that I shouldn’t be upset since Matt can’t help it. She didn’t tell me that Matt has it harder either. Those were the things that Mommy and Aunt Grace said.

She didn’t push me away to comfort Matt.

Instead, Grandma picked me up and rocked me in her gentle arms. She sang me beautiful songs until my tears dried and I fell asleep.