They say in all forms of recovery–drug, abuse, physical therapy–that you’ll have good days and have bad days. I’ve been having bad days.
It’s been triggered by four primary things; a call on Loveline last night, MacKenzie Phillips’ story in the media, a story I read in Murky Depths yesterday and a survey I was asked to do about what things in my past formed my self identity. I have been going back and forth on whether I should blog this or not, but I sort of answered my own question today when talking with friends and I said that I have to face what happened to me because other people need to know they aren’t alone.
MacKinzie Phillips is not alone, because I suffered from the same kind of abuse that she did.
Hello, my name is Michele Lee, and I’m an abuse survivor.
Sometimes I wish my father had beat me, because then maybe I’d have scars to show and I wouldn’t feel so much like all this is my own fault, all in my own head. But that’s a major sign of abuse, see, blaming yourself for things other people did to you. Because abusers blame their victims. They teach us that we deserved our abuse. They tell us that because we consented it’s not really abuse.
Maybe I should back up a little. There are lots of kind of abuse. Physical, mental, sexual. Those are the ones that are easy to define. My abuse falls in the gray area between the three. It makes it harder to explain. I remember thinking as a kid that I was bad for thinking that I was being abused, because no one was hitting me or raping me. But that’s not the line where abuse starts, it’s just the line where it’s easy to know for sure that abuse has happened.
My father was an alcoholic. My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was six. Both abused me by forcing me into the role of being a parent. Not just a parent to my siblings, but a parent to them. At eight I knew how to change my mother’s dressings. At six family members came over to visit and found my mother sick in bed and me trying to feed my siblings and get them to bed in her place.
My father expected me to take over the role of female head of house after my mother died. I did the cleaning, the cooking, the laundry. Later on, I remember thinking if I’d just have sex with him he might love me.
I don’t know if it ever happened. I just know that there is a danger that I even though it. There is proof that I felt the need to hide from him. That I felt the need to call him father to complete strangers, because I felt like he was telling people I was his date. There were a few times when he did, literally, take me out on dates, and I found myself trapped between wanting my father’s attention and feeling how very, very wrong it felt.
At this point, in this forum I’m not really willing to go into explicit detail, but I have them. I have a long record of memories that I write down as I remember and everyone reinforces this discovery.
My father is an alcoholic. Some would say this means he was only acting out his own issues on the people around him. That neither excuses or changes what he did to me.
The thing is, I was an object to him. I was something to brag about to get attention when I’d done something good. It was rarely about me, it was about how he could use it to impress others. I was the person he could get to care for him when he was sick, lazy, drunk or tired. I was the person, later, who he bragged about his sexual prowess to, took out when he couldn’t get a date, who he tried to get physical affection from, who he belittled and ignored when I refused to give him what he wanted from me.
Yes, I was caught up in his addiction, I suffer to this day physical repercussions from his neglect. For the past few days, no for the past two decades, I have been struggling with the psychological effects of my abuse.
I have been called a liar. As an adult I have had people apologize to me for not saving me from my father. I have been told by family that his actions were my fault, my failure. He has called me, wanting me to forgive him for his actions.
But I can’t forgive him. I can’t forgive him because I am not responsible for his actions. I am an object he has acted his addiction out on.
Who I can forgive is myself. I forgive me for hating me. I forgive me for not standing up for myself. I forgive me for not finding away to avoid the physical repercussions I’m trying to overcome now. I forgive me for feeling guilty for not letting the abuse continue. I forgive me for starving myself to try to be what he though was beautiful. I forgive me for needing to destroy my relationships to prove I’m not worthy of love. I forgive myself for denying, for lying, for hiding what has happened to me to avoid drama, criticism and more pain.
And I forgive you, those of you out there who have suffered with abuse on their own. I forgive those who have come out to me, in public or private. I forgive those who have acted out on others, and those who have punished themselves.
I hope that someday my father can forgive himself, and move toward a healthier life, without being in mine. I hope that those of you out there struggling with your own abuse can someday forgive yourself and move toward better health as well.
And more so, I hope we can set into the light and talk about this, without being accused of lying or being over dramatic. Because silence acts as consent for the abusers and for the victims’ spirals of self hatred. Silence is death.