Precursor to Domestic Abuse - Childhood Neglect

This is a topic, I think will take several posts to cover. In this blog, I have decided to focus on my emotional experience. There are many resources and far more knowledgeable people who can provide information on the mechanics of trauma. I personally am only becoming aware now that I was traumatized and the effect on me. I am learning that a lot of my emotions and behaviour were completely normal reactions to trauma. Apparently the way to resolve trauma is to revisit it, and reframe it. So here it goes.

For years I could not remember events from the age of 5 to 16. It was a big black void. There are periods of time I still can't remember. All I remember it was hell. I remember pain, and that I was on my own. I had no parental support. My parents were there, but I was just a nuisance for them. Honestly, these were people that never should have had kids. They clearly didn't want us. One thing I do remember is I remember feeling sorry my my parents that they had me for a kid. They ended up with me instead of one of the good worthy kids that had socks and were clean. Its interesting to me now, my child mind believed that I was that way because I was a worthless being, not that my parents didn't take care of me. I was a small child when I had this thought maybe 6ish. So I was feeling sorry for the very people that caused the problem. If they had taken care of me, I would have been the same as everyone else. But I didn't see that at the time I took it as a sign of my personal worth as a human being, I was inherently unworthy.

This roots of not trusting my intuition came from this time period. At the time I didn't know it but I was a classic victim of gaslighting. When ever I would speak up about what was going on (and I did frequently) I was told I didn't know how good I had it, I didn't know what it was like to be mistreated. I was in fact spoiled and unappreciative. "You are nothing without me kid" and the classic "Stop crying or I will give you something to cry about"

My brothers and I were severely neglected as children. We often didn't have lunch, or breakfast, there was almost always a supper. According to my mom, this meant our food needs were met. My mom seems to remember things very differently than I do. But I have spoken with my brother and he confirmed my recollections. I was an athlete, I actually joined every sports team as a way of coping and getting away from home. When I was a teenager we had moved to Sault Ste Marie for a year. Playing sports meant I had to take a late bus, and because this bus didnt come very close to my house, I had a 40 minute walk every night after practice. I was getting home around 7. I remember getting home to an empty house, I have no idea where everyone was, there just was never anyone there. They had finished supper already, and of course no one would think to save any for me. My mother later would have no recollection of this. According to her she made sure I always had food. To me being forgotten was just normal. My mom probably remembers me as being fed, because a supper probably did get on the table, there just was none left by time I got there. This was just life, I didn't expect any one to think I might need supper.

Every night I cooked myself a pot of rice and ate that. I ate nothing but rice for an entire school year and no one noticed!!! That same year, my brothers school drew attention to the fact he never had a lunch. Given the outside attention, my parents actually had to feed him. Its interesting that there were three of us, we all went to school and it was only that one school, probably that one teacher that ever intervened. We often didn't have lunch. I was really, really good at hiding it. I remember that. I would use different strategies like going to the bathroom when everyone else was pulling out their lunch. Or simply pretending I forgot it. Sometimes I just had a paper bag that I pretend I would eat later because I wasn't hungry yet. Or eating my one thing very slowly. But I was hungry, always hungry, I was just used to it. When I did have lunch, I guarantee I made it myself, except when I was really little my aunt made it for me (and she was a kid herself). I remember how this felt. I wasn't good enough for food. I truly believed the other kids deserved food and that is why they had it when I didnt have enough.

There also was an issue with our clothes, the clothes I would receive were always too big or too small. I didnt get to pick what I wanted. I got what my mom decided was the cheapest and most sturdy. I remember in my twenties, I had gone to a thrift store with a friend, while I was there I found a beautiful pair of shoes that were a too small for me. I discussed this with my friend and I mentioned something about they will hurt a bit. I remember very clearly the look of confusion on her face, her features twisted up quizzically. "Why would you buy shoes that don't fit you?" This turned out to be a pivotal moment. Why would I buy shoes that don't fit? I had always done this. I took what ever I could get. I always made myself fit, instead of the other way around, not just with shoes, with everything. This would also turn out to be true later in relationships.

I also remember itchy clothes, clothes that were too tight around my neck. In grade one, I remember crying in class because my shirt was hurting me, they teacher got something out of the lost and found for me to wear for the rest of the day. My mother was furious when the teacher called her, and my mom said later, "I gave up trying to get you nice things", like it was my fault that the shirt didnt fit and irritated my skin, and that meant I wasn't deserving of nice clothes. Psychologically, I had learned to make due, the fact I would be walking around in shoes that hurt my feet, that didnt matter. What mattered was I had shoes that were inexpensive with the least imposition possible. In my mind, I wasn't worth the investment in something that actually fit me and my needs. Sitting right now this blows my mind. I am getting much better at asking for what I actually want instead of just taking what I can get. But I haven't mastered it yet.

My ex-husband continued this kind of thinking, when we went camping we didn't need pillows. It was ok that I didnt have cabinets in my kitchen. The fact that my bathroom looked like something out of a horror movie wasn't a problem. There was literally crumbing drywall falling off the wall behind the toilet it was hideous. I remember when we first moved in, I had use a hose attached to the bathroom sink to get hot water in the bathtub. That was later replaced with a little metal bar that was only removed when I started my renovation this summer. Friggen insane. Of course, I was a bitch to want any of this fixed in a timely manner. My poor daughter has never lived in a functional home, neither has my youngest son for that matter. We lived in a house that had the hardwood meant for the floor piled up in the living room for 3 years until it was time to sell. We walked on the subfloor. My son called this stack of hardwood his stage and he used to get up and perform on it.

Another painful memories was getting my hair brushed, my mom would always be so upset with the knots in my hair and she would pull them hard, it hurt a lot physically, but emotionally it was even more painful. She would say, I am going to cut it all off. She would say this in a harsh cruel frustrated voice. It was like a knife in my heart. I wanted long hair, I wanted to be a girl. The message that I was getting was I wasn't a girl. I wasn't feminine. Even my hair was substandard. And again somehow this was my fault. My child brain took this as a personal fault and a reflection of my worth. To me, it was further proof of what a worthless I was as a child. I remember very vividly that horrible awful feeling, the shame that my hair got knots. I got knots in my hair because I was such a bad kid. This is what I thought. I was never physically abused. Not by traditionally definitions. I was however spanked regularly with my fathers leather belt. I do consider this physical abuse.

My parents took a lot of pride in the fact that they spanked their children. My mom once bragged about how once of my cousins once said "you better stop, Auntie spanks" when another cousin was doing something. My mom glowed with pride when she recounted this story. When I was a young mother, she told me how my son needed a spanking. I feel anger even thinking about that now. I told her at that point if she ever laid a hand on my son I would call the police. I dont remember being comforted by my parents, ever. I do remember being spanked and punished. I remember the absolute panic and fear when my dad would get up and unbuckle his belt. The pain and sting was unbearable, he didnt hold back. I would be left then to recover alone in the dark of my room. I dont remember at all what I was punished for, I dont remember if they were serious offenses or minor. No idea. The memories of childhood I have are of this, spanking, ill fitting clothes, never enough, needs not being met. I guess it makes sense now what I am feeling and why it takes so long to sort it all out.

For years I couldn't talk about it at all. Like I said, I couldn't even remember it. I went out to Alberta and I pretended none of it happened. I pretended I was like every one else, and because I was new in town they didnt know the difference. I think that is what saved me. It took years for me to actually start talking about the things that happened. What really saddens me is I know I was not alone then, and that children continue to suffer from neglect. Its heartbreaking, those children are not just suffering now but are being set up for a life time of pain at the hands of unscrupulous individuals prepared to take advantage of their vulnerability.

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