Posted by: Judy | December 1, 2011

I am an Abuse Survivor 4

Years ago, a counselor gave me a list of what the likely signs were of those who had been physically abused, sexually abused, mentally/emotionally/spiritually abuse, and neglected. I wasn’t surprised to find that I fit, in part, the profiles of physical, sexual, and mental/emotional/spiritual abuse, to one degree or another. In each case it was a significant enough portion to know I was messed up.

Then I read the profile for a neglected child. I was stunned to realize that I fit the profile in every way. That being said, people who saw our family, from the outside, thought it was so wonderful. Every friend I had, growing up, wished they could be in my family. They didn’t see what went on when no one was looking.

I hoard food, and start to panic when it starts to run low, and that’s low by my definition, not low by common ideas. I had friends who used to talk about having to go shopping because they’d run out of food. The thought boggles my mind. The last time I reached that point was before I started buying my own food.

Anyone who’s known me for even a short period of time knows I live at home, with my parents. As I’ve said many times, Life Happens. That being said, no my mother and father do not provide any food for me, except when they feed the whole family. I buy my own food and make my own food. Sometimes, when mother is feeling out of control, she will make it impossible for me to use the kitchen, literally. She will set something on every surface in the kitchen, a used knife, an empty plastic bag, a skillet, a dish, a towel, strewn from one end to the other, so there is nowhere for me to make food preparations. Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches are really yummy and require no space in the kitchen.

I do have a storage room that is packed. There’s been many a cold meal I’ve prepared in there, and then eaten in my room. I’ve also discovered that crackers and peanut butter are also great little meals on those impossible days. I’ve learned what stores well and what doesn’t. I’ve learned what I’ll actually eat and what I’ve stored because “that’s what you’re supposed to store.” I’ve overcome that last one.

I’ve shared elsewhere regarding my mother’s habit of asking me if I liked something and as long as I said, “yes,” she kept changing the recipe, until I said, “no,” and then that’s how she would make it from then on. My brothers were allowed to eat between meals, but the girls were not. I was on the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast) for a year, until I finally lied about not feeling sick. She deliberately made food I couldn’t eat. I learned that you could steal crackers and marshmallows, if you weren’t greedy, because it was difficult to see the numbers dwindling. I watched food turn green and fuzzy in the fridge, because it was going to be used in dinner, which was why I couldn’t have it, but then it never was.

There were the clothes that didn’t fit or weren’t appropriate. There are quite a few things that I won’t mention here only because it’s TMI. I will say, “Thank God for my sister, for being the mother my mother wasn’t.” But she was lacking in information as well. We muddled along as best we could.

When I started my new life almost ten years ago, it was such a struggle to learn that my friends would be there for me. It didn’t matter what hour it was. I didn’t have to worry about repercussions for waking them up, not that I ever have, but it was such a comfort to know they wouldn’t be angry if I did.

Participating in activities was frequently impossible, because no one had time to take me, or they made sure I knew how difficult it was from them, so I finally stopped going unless someone was willing to pick me up. Even so, I usually didn’t have the money anyway. Allowance was spotty, at best, and the idea of doing extra chores for pay was great, except that I frequently wasn’t paid.

My parents were so wrapped up in their work and church that I was frequently responsible for my younger brother, only I had no authority. “Take care of your brother, but you are not the parent.”

I lost count of all the times I’d ask for advice, and would be told, “Do what you think is right.” Now, that sounds like I’m being given a lot of freedom. Except that I wasn’t. You see, there was an unspoken catch to that: “Do what you think is right, but make sure it’s what I think is right or you will be in trouble.” And then the game of guess-what-I’m-thinking begins. Over and over again, I was told to make my own decision, but it had better be what they wanted.

They took me to the dermatologist, and paid for antibiotics for my acne, but they wouldn’t pay for an allergist, which would have ended the dermatologist visits. If I was sick, then that was too bad. There’s wasn’t time to take care of me. I have no memory of chicken soup, and being coddled, except once, when my younger brother felt bad for me, and brought a tray of all the foods he’d want if he was sick. It was very sweet. He wasn’t very old. Did you catch that? My younger brother was trying to take care of me, not my parents.

My parents were busy, busy, busy. I did my best to raise myself in a way I thought would make a parent proud, but fell miserably short on a regular basis.

Perhaps the best illustration happened recently, when we had family visiting. One of the mothers told their child to say, “Please,” and “Thank you.” My mother immediately corrected her, saying that she shouldn’t force the children that way, and that they’d pick it up on their own. Wait… What? And I finally understood why I didn’t practice some of the common courtesies, until much later in my life. Things like saying, “Bless you.”  I had never been taught. So, I’m spending my adult years struggling to learn what I should have as a child. I am learning.


  1. And doing an awesome job teaching. Thank you for getting me out of the Cookie jar. 🙂

    • I wouldn’t have made it out without you. ((Ruth))

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