Hello, my name is Michele Lee

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.

 

8 Comments

  1. Irk says:

    “I forgive me for needing to destroy my relationships to prove I’m not worthy of love.”

    I and several friends/family members have done this. Not just destroying relationships to prove unworthyness, but altogether dropping communication with anyone else who would be able to tell me that I was being abused. I was too afraid then of even seeing that I was in a bad place, because that would mean getting out, and getting out means conflict.

    What I found out when I got out (this was an abusive relationship I was in, to give you the situation) was that the girl couldn’t do anything to me when I WAS out. All her power over me was only possible when I stayed with her, and the repercussions for leaving were a lot less dramatic than I had expected. I expected the whole world to hate me for leaving her, I expected friends to accuse me of lying to them if I came out and told them the truth – that the whole time, she’d been lying to me, stringing me along, using me, degrading me, and feeling good about the fact that she was making me miserable and unable to function. I expected the accusations most of all, and the thought of that was scarier than what my ex-girlfriend would do or say when i left her. That fear of the outside world kept me boxed in quite a bit. It was only when Char reached into my world and started to shine some light on my situation that I really started to pull myself out.

    This is really more for people who are still IN there, I suppose, or people who think someone else might still be in an abusive situation: talk. Talk to the person you’re worried for. Give them a friend. If you have concerns, voice them and make sure that the person knows you’re not accusing them through your concern. Make sure they know you’ll stay their friend even though they’ve gotten trapped in a bad spot. Make sure they know it’s okay to need help sometimes.

    If you are still in there, find someone to talk to. It’s okay, anyone will do. Even an anonymous internet forum (okay, not 4chan) will work, just find someone you know will listen and just talk to them. Get your friends back. They still care about you, they’re just wondering why you’re so quiet. They’re probably a little worried, but they haven’t reached in yet because they respect your privacy. They don’t want to offend you by showing concern, but odds are they ARE concerned. it is okay for people to be concerned about you, it doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong. It just means people care about you because you are worth caring about. Its okay to need help. Everyone needs help sometime. It doesn’t mean you are weak. It just means that you can make yourself even stronger when someone lends you a hand.

  2. Michele Lee says:

    That’s exactly why I posted this. Because sometimes you just need to know you aren’t alone.

  3. unknown says:

    WOW..after reading this I broke down, because I do not know why?? why you stated you was abuised by your mother, she loved you dearly and wanted the best for you before she died she went to court to try and not have you 3 kids go to your dad and the judge told her she could not stop that from happening ( did you know that?) your father became a drinker after his divorce from your mother and during your mothers illness she had her family with you children everyday someone was there, your aunt Erika, aunt Belinda or grandparents and nurses at all times to take care of all of you and to take care of her and her dressings, you NEVER had to change a dressing, infact she never allowed anyone in the room while she was having a dressing changed because the nurses did it!! your mother would hide the fact she was sick from you children because she did not want you to know she was dying..Michelle what you say about your dad is what you say but when it comes to talking about your mother sorry you are wrong and to say you remember all of your past when you was six , I question, I took awhile to write this because I was unsure to but the more I thought about it I had to it is just not right to talk about something that is not true about a person that is not here today to defend herself…

  4. Michele Lee says:

    It was NOT my mother’s fault that she got sick, it really, really wasn’t. But I DO remember flushing out her tubes and changing the dressing around it. In fact those memories, being taught how to take care of her, are some of the clearest and most positive memories I have of her. I remember very clearly that I rather liked the responsibility to give her even a bit of medical care. I remember that seeing the dried blood in the tubes and sometimes on the padding didn’t bother me like I expected it to.

    I do not know if I think my mother abused me, but I do know three things:

    1. Putting a child in the position of being a caretaker of a parent during childhood is considered by many therapists a form of abuse.

    2. When my mom died I barely knew her. I understand she and everyone else thought that distancing her from us kids was a good thing, to keep us from seeing her pain. But I wish I had seen her pain. I wish I could have spent more time with her, even if that time was taking care of her. Even if it was watching her be sick, it still would have been time with her. When she got sick it was like she disappeared from my life and occasionally visited afterward. I don’t remember people telling me if she was okay, or even still alive, just that she’d vanish for weeks at a time and I never knew when or if she was coming home.

    I understand that you thought you were doing the right thing, I just disagree.

    3. She did not mean it to be this way, I absolutely know this for a fact, but after her death my father and his family used my desire to take care of her to force me into a role of mother to my siblings and partner to my father.

    My father was the one who abused me. But my mother’s actions and her death (neither of which I do or should blame her for) affected me deeply. (Were you aware, for example that after she died my father’s family split us up, shipped the three of us off to different relatives and we didn’t see each other or my father from the day of her funeral until mid June when he picked us up? Raw from my mother’s death they tore us from the only other people who understood and I couldn’t even contact my brother and sister!)

    I don’t think my mother abused me. I think she made choices that were later used against me. I don’t blame her for my father’s actions. I know she tried to fight against him. I know she didn’t trust him. But I have to face the things that happened to me, I have to analyze and dissect them in order to become a healthier person.

    I’m sorry you are upset, but let me say it again, I do not consider my mother’s actions abuse. They got twisted into the abusive actions of others who took advantage of me because I was reeling from her sickness and death.

  5. unknown says:

    I am very happy you decided to state your mother did not abused you!! there is nothing like not being able to speak for yourself when someone has stated something about you, I have sit sown and thought this out and I do not know how you can remember what happened to you when you was 7 and 8 years old…wow I don’t remember and my Dad passed away when I was around that age and I do not remember him well at all and I have heard alot about him but I do remember two things about him and of course good, my mother was very ill when I was young but I would never say it was abuse, I did not see her much at all and I was also rasied by others, I loved my mom very much for trying to be a mom and being very sick at the same time, she would hide alot from me but I knew in time what was going to happen. your mother had alot of love for her children and would show it as much as she could, having movie and popcorn nights in bed and she would just cuddle all night with you children, and your father was not ready as far as having a home for you children and he had to have his job change his postion so he would be home with you, your dad tried being a dad but did not know how, yes he was wrong in alot of ways, and your mom did not want him to have you she did everything in her power and the judge would not hear of it because your dad wanted you…I am sorry for how you feel but i think you should talk with someone that knows really what happened unstead of guess or asume and I really think you should really think and know that it is very rare for someone so young to remember so much. I know what it is like to lose people you love so deeply, I know what it is like to lose them so young but I don’t know and will never talk about someone that can not sefend them selfs and tell the truth of what happened so I will know for sure what I thought was the truth

  6. Michele Lee says:

    I do remember some things. Not everything, and I know there were a lot of things kept from me to “protect me”. But telling me I don’t remember these things is a little silly, when I clearly do. I have talked to people who were there. I have thought a lot about this and consulted professional where I was told that the mere act of my mother putting me in a position of taking care of her and my sibling caused emotional confusion.

    As for the abuse from my father, not prepared to be father is a massive understatement. He also absolutely refused to even try to be a father. He consistently acted out his alcoholism on me. I do not need to consult “someone who knows” when it comes to that because I was old enough to remember a lot of, and the people who knew also refused to do anything at the time to help me. These are the people who I’ve run into as an adult who asked me if anything wrong was happening because “they always suspected”.

    I have sought help from people who know abuse pathology and psychology, which is why I wrote this blog entry in the first place. Because I spent so long thinking “I’m not being raped and I’m not being beaten, so I must not be being abuse”. But that’s not true, and that’s what I’m trying to show others with my blog. That abuse doesn’t mean rape and physical damage. There are a lot of “gray” areas of abuse and there are lots of people out there who might be stuck in the abuse acting out cycle and not realize it because they think like I did.

  7. unknown says:

    I must say I am really sorry, I have taken this real personal and no I do not know what you have been though and I agree your dad is not a good guy, I never said he was, and I did not mean the things I said about you not knowing..this whole thing has blown way out of control due to my actions and being so..so up-set , I do not want to give my name or get any more involved with this, you have your believes and I have mine and we agree on some and we do not agree on some, I was just so hurt at what you stated about your mother, maybe I took alot of this the wrong way….again I say ” I am sorry for the things I have said”

  8. Michele Lee says:

    It’s okay, I just wanted to make sure I was communicating clearly. We’re allowed to have different memories, because we played different roles in the story. All the really bad stuff happened when my father was very much caught up in his addiction and we had no support in the city to keep him in check.

    And for the record I am NOT talking about all this publicly behind my father’s back. I’ve already confronted him. I’ve already told him I hope facing up to his action means he gets the help he needs.