I often felt my story wasn’t worth sharing; others have had it so much worse. However, I have come to learn this is a common train of thought among survivors and those battling depression and anxiety like myself.
I have good memories from growing up, just like everyone else.
I have good memories from growing up, just like everyone else. I remember my mom being my best friend and having thought-provoking conversations with my dad into the wee hours of the morning. I had friends, I participated in gymnastics and dance, and I went to school. I was “normal.”
But that’s about where the normal ends. When I was six, I started asking my parents if they were “staying up late” that night. At the time, I loved it when they stayed up late; it meant I got to stay up past my bedtime! But as I got older, I realized every time they stayed up late they were binge drinking. It started out two or three times a week, but eventually it was nearly every night. My parents would drink until they were so intoxicated, they often could not make it up to their room; they would fall asleep sitting in a chair. At nine, I would stay up late to clean up after them, something that I felt was my responsibility.
At this age, I was petrified of sleeping in my own room. I was convinced that I would get kidnapped or something similarly terrible would happen. My parents enabled this fear by allowing me to sleep in their room. As a result, throughout my parents’ battle with addiction, I was sleeping on a mattress on their bedroom floor. Looking back, it was weird. The first time I was abused, I was around age nine. My dad came into the bedroom very intoxicated and proceeded to molest me. I remember telling my mother the next day, and her response was, “Well, he probably thought it was me, just forget about it.” This happened three times over the course of my childhood.
I was numb. I remember thinking I didn’t care; my feeling was, “It’s about time.”
Fast-forward to age 15. My mom had suffered through enough of my father’s emotional abuse and they filed for divorce. I was numb. I remember thinking I didn’t care; my feeling was, “It’s about time.” However, that was the tipping point for my mother’s alcoholism. After the divorce, she tried to re-capture all the years she felt she had missed out on by being with my father. She would party with my 20-something brother, only to get blackout drunk. She would repeat the cycle nearly every night.
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One night was especially bad. She was intoxicated and got it in her head that she wanted to take my seven-year-old little brother to the store. Obviously, my older brother, a family friend, and I were refusing to let that happen, given her current state. The situation eventually escalated to the point where we had to call the cops on my mother in her own house. Fun fact: The police cannot do anything to forcibly remove someone if that person owns the home. So, since the police were of no help (aside from trying to put my mom to bed), we locked ourselves—along with my little brother—in the bedroom. My mom was screaming at us and started stabbing the door with a large kitchen knife to try and take my brother away. So, there I was at 15, contemplating moving out on my own because I was desperate to break away from my mother.
After that night, I told my mother she had to choose between rehab and us. She chose rehab, so I raised my younger brother with an older sibling for 30 days while she completed in-patient rehab. I continued on my path of literally just trying to get through every day. I was working, going to high school, dating my now-husband, and trying to remain as “normal” as I could be. Once I graduated high school, I realized the toll my childhood had taken on my mental health. My boyfriend was always telling me I should get help for my battle with depression, anxiety, and OCD, but I downright refused. I thought, “Well, I’ve made it this far; why get help now?”
I was finally able to accept that regardless of the good and the bad, this is who I am, and I am proud of that.
Eventually, I reached the point of no return. I was emotionally exhausted and I knew I couldn’t continue this way. After several hours of therapy, group support from Al-Anon, and learning what it meant to truly make peace with the past, I was finally able to accept that regardless of the good and the bad, this is who I am, and I am proud of that.
With the help of my support group, I decided I needed to cut ties with my father. I no longer have contact with him. My mother and I never stopped talking through the years, even though our relationship was certainly strained at times. We had a very raw and eye-opening conversation where I was finally able to let go of the resentment and anger I was holding onto. There was a significant weight lifted off my shoulders when I hung up the phone with her that night.
Today, I live with my husband—my high-school sweetheart—and our two dogs, and we are currently trying to buy our first house. I have come to terms with the fact that yes, I am a survivor, and yes, my past is something I will have to continue to battle.
But I want you to remember to take care of yourself and always keep fighting, because we are not our stories and we are stronger than our past.