Words Have an Impact...What You Say Matters (Trauma Warning)
This post is not going to be my typical post and it will probably not be something that I do often. This is the type of post where I want to share who I am as a person, why I am the way that I am, and what happened to make me into who I am today. I sometimes literally can't keep my mouth shut. If I feel that someone is saying something vile and awful and that they need to be called out, it is not because I think that I am right, better than them, or that my opinion matters more than theirs. It is that I see a comment or statement that I know could push someone over the edge and make them take their own life. (Just to be clear, I have no intentions of harming myself...in fact I am focussed on quite the opposite, healing myself and healing my soul.) I am learning that to heal, I have to confront all of the horrible things that happened to me in my life and all of the horrible things that I have lived through. (Mom, Dad...if you are reading this. I know that this is going to be deeply painful for you. I was not honest with you about most of these things. I was so ashamed, thought that I deserved to be treated this way and believed that I deserved every bad thing that happened to me that I lied to cover up for others, took blame for things that I did not do, and often times hid the truth from you because I believed that you would be ashamed to have me as a daughter because I wasn't cool enough to fit in. I was constantly told that you should be ashamed of me and that my parents probably didn't love me, so I actually started to believe that. I wish now that I had been honest about what was really happening to me.)
I once was in a position where I wanted to die. I once considered writing letters to each of my kids. Letters for them to open on their birthdays until they were each sixty years old. I thought about writing letters for each holiday for all of those years as well. I contemplated whether I was good enough to be my kids' mom, whether I was good enough to be Shane's wife, and whether as a daughter/friend/wife/mother I could ever live up to the expectations of me. I lived in severe depression for many years. I was so depressed that I let my weight reach nearly 300 lbs. At my heaviest, I weighed 297 lbs. I got winded walking up a flight of stairs, could barely keep up with my kids at the park, couldn't fit into a swing to play with them or fit down a slide. I was an emotional mess and I kept stuffing my face as a way of dealing with all of the pain and trauma that I have dealt with in my life (don't worry you're going to get to hear the truth about all of this as well in this post). For each of you who think that you understand me, please keep reading. I beg you to read on and know what I have lived through, where my head has been, and what I have chosen to rise above.
I wasn't a normal child in school. I had severe undiagnosed ADHD. I was weird, had nervous habits like constantly picking at my face, my arms, and my nose...gross I know, but it was all nerves and worrying that I might have a booger hanging out or that I might have something wrong with me. I could not sit still. I remember getting into so much trouble in Mrs. Travis' second grade class. I remember Robert Donnovan, a little boy who was also picked on, bringing me a special ring of his mom's and throwing it in the trash because I could not bear to be made fun of any more than what I already was. I remember being called fat...if you look at a picture of me in second grade...I was anything but fat. I remember being called ugly. This was all in second grade, a time when I should have been able to just be a kid, but I couldn't. I was weird. I tried to embrace my weirdness but it was a constant torment of being picked on for years. It was in the middle of fourth grade that things ultimately changed for the worse.
In fourth grade we moved and I was switched to Central Grade School in Washington, IL. There was one little girl who was nice to me...Abbie Krick. When I think back to these four and a half years of hell, I can't help but think of how nice she was. She was always kind, even when everyone else was making fun of me. She didn't. I remember being asked by another little girl to be in the 4th grade talent show. I had not taken years of dance as some of these girls had. I had not been in years of gymnastics as others had. I was just trying to do my best. I remember everyone telling me that I was ruining the talent show because I could not learn the dance as good as they thought that I should. This was the beginning of the teasing that would go on for four and a half years.
It was in fifth grade that I was invited to Trisha Barne's birthday party. I remember being so excited because someone had asked me to a sleepover. I had gone almost a year without getting invited anywhere. I remember the excitement as I packed my bags, put together my sleeping bag and my pillow. I remember arriving and the teasing started over my sleeping bag, it was not an expensive brand like everyone else's and of course I was made fun. I remember eating dinner with everyone and having cupcakes and watching Trisha open her gifts. I then remember jumping on the trampoline. I remember everyone wanting to take turns and being told that my turn was last. I remember when I started jumping that they all ran inside. Then they threw my bag, sleeping bag, and pillow out the back door, yelled at me to sleep with the dogs because I was trash and that they felt sorry for the dogs for having to sleep with me. I remember crying and being so sad, banging on the door, begging them to let me in. I just wanted to fit in and be a part of something. They never did let me in. I remember playing with her dog for a while, hoping that it was all just a joke and them trying to be funny. I then remember walking to my grandparents who lived in the same neighborhood and calling my parents to please come pick me up. This was the beginning of the hell.
After this we started getting prank calls to the point of having to have a tap put on our phones. We ended up getting the police involved and found out that of course it was Trisha Barnes who was making the calls. Again, I would try to be nice to her at school and since we rode a bus together I would try to talk and be a part of things like the other kids. I would be called fat, ugly, told that no one would ever love me and that even if I was a lesbian that I would never get another girl to date me because I was too disgusting for even a "dyke" (sorry for using that disgusting word, but I don't know how else to share my story without using the words and language that were used on me). I remember having headbands broken on my head as she would hit me on the top of the head so hard that headbands would break. I remember my parents getting mad at me and telling me to just hit her back and to quit taking it. The thing was, I didn't want to hit anyone. I didn't want to resort to violence to defend myself. By this point, the emotional torment of the things that were said to me had started to take hold and I believed that I was worthless. I believed that there was something wrong with me. I believed that there was nothing in the world that I would ever be good at.
I had other people like Misty Klobutcher who would join in with the torment. Misty was a pageant queen and a beautiful little girl. I can remember her always telling me how ugly I was and that I was lucky that my parents hadn't killed themselves because I was so gross that if she were her mom she'd kill herself. I remember having one friend, Angela Barrett who was a Jehovah's Witness. I remember being curious about her religion and how it differed from my own. I remember asking a question and her parents forbidding her from playing with me. I remember her sneaking to play with me on the playground and trying to still be my friend at school, but we could no longer talk to each other on the phone. We could no longer share the things that happened when we were not in school. I am still so thankful that Angela saw me as a friend even after everything and I am still heartbroken that her parents were so offended by a child's questions that they forbid their child from being friends with me. I needed a friend so bad.
By the time that I was in 8th grade, I already hated myself. I wanted to die. I would go to bed at night wishing that I would never again wake up. I lost all self respect and wanted for people to like me so bad that I was willing to do pretty much anything to get them to like me. I made bad choices, did things that I wasn't comfortable doing or didn't want to do...all in an effort to have someone like me. I remember Mr. Musik telling me in 8th grade that no one would ever love me and that I would never be a wife because no man would want to be with me, while the class roared in laughter. I remember responding with "I am surprised you are married as you are bald and fat." I remember getting sent to the principal's office and told that I had to apologize. I remember trying to protest about what had been said to me and being told that I would be paddled if I continued to speak. (To note, this is the very instance that has made me 100% against educators having the power of corporal punishment). I remember actually telling my parents about this one, because I was in so much trouble for being disrespectful to my teacher and my dad flipping out because of what he had said to me.
During these formative years we were going to church at the Nazarene Church. I found friendships, some of which have continued to this day, through church camps, Bible studies, and youth groups....but of course this passion for Jesus made kids even crueler to me. However, with the power of friendship and my faith I was able to live through them and start to realize that maybe, just maybe I was worth something. I remember meeting people from Cuba, IL at winter retreat. These peers didn't go to all of the church events and did not go to camp, but they were people who I knew from some events. So, when my parents moved to Cuba, I was excited about the prospect of a new start.
Cuba High School was not a horrible experience. I found a group of friends who accepted me for me...some of my closest friends today were people that I met during high school. These people were kind to me and didn't know all of the trauma that I had lived through. I know that I was still weird and I was flirtatious and willing to have anyone as a boyfriend, because frankly...I had been told for so many years that no one would ever date me. The fact was that I was a virgin until my senior year of high school and I only slept with one person the entire time that I was in school, but I was accused of so much more and many girls labeled me a slut...but I knew inside that this was not the truth. It was during high school that I felt a flip though, it was no longer my peers at school who were mean to me, it was my peers at church who believed rumors and accused me of things that I was not doing. I got accused of sleeping around, stealing things, etc. I never did any of these and the peers from church soon became the enemy ruining the only solace that I had ever known. I even remember one minister telling me how much I was like his wife, a minister whom I trusted and now know was grooming me for an abuse that luckily I avoided, as I can only imagine how screwed up I would have been if this was not the case. I remember that when he was telling me how much I was like his wife and how I needed to gain control of my problem with boys (at this time I was a virgin and began to think that there was something wrong with me for liking boys at all), he started to tell me how awful my parents were. He told me that they were the source of all of the problems that I had, that they were bad parents, that they were bad humans, and that they didn't deserve to have a wonderful daughter like myself. He told me how beautiful I was, how I was meant for greater things. He told me that it would be perfect if I came to live in his house with him and his family. I remember thinking that there was something wrong with him saying these things. I never doubted that I had good parents. I knew that my parents were good to me. I saw the sacrifices that my parents had made to provide a good life for me and to provide me with the things and opportunities that I wanted. I realized these things. However, I didn't realize it at the time but these words formed some seeds that made me question whether or not my parents really loved me. I began to think that possibly I wasn't worthy of their love and that there was something wrong with me.
I had one boyfriend in high school who was not the nicest to me. I remember all of the mean and emotionally abusive things that he said to me, how he was always mad at me, how he was always yelling at me and telling me how someone else was prettier than me, how other girls flirted with him, and how if he wasn't with me he would be so much better off, but that he couldn't help it that he loved me. I remember not wanting to have sex the first time, but I remember him telling me that he would tell everyone in the school that I had admitted to sleeping with 25 guys so that I would be ruined and no one would love me. I remember him saying so many hurtful and awful things to me that I ultimately began to believe them. I was with him until I was halfway through my college freshman year. I remember staying home from college and not going away because he told me that he would not do a long distance relationship and that he would leave me for the neighbor across the street who he claimed would dance in her window in lingerie for him. I Remember believing that no one else wanted me and thinking that if I went away to college, I would end up a spinster. I remember thinking that I was too ugly, too fat, and too nasty for anyone to love. I remember crying at my proms, not enjoying being with him, but feeling that I needed him. He told me so much that no one else could love me that I actually believed that no one else would ever love me. During my freshman year of college, I remember being told by a guy that I had been crushing on for years that he liked me and wanted to be with me. I remember him saying that he was my boyfriend and then leaving and moving away and telling me that he still loved me. I remember him calling me and telling me how much he cared, all the while seeing someone else in another town. I remember dating someone else after I found out. By this point, I thought nothing of myself...believed everyone who had told me that no one would love me and didn't think that I would ever be able to get married or have children...the only thing in life that I really wanted.
I remember dating someone for a short time and him telling me he wanted to marry me. I remember deciding to apply for a marriage license and that I was going to get married, because at this point I didn't think anyone actually would love me so why not be with him. I remember meeting my first husband around this time as a friend. I remember being friends with another guy who had stayed at my parents house, I had stayed at his house, and we would go to bars together all of the time. I remember one night going to a hotel and then waking up naked and not knowing what happened to me. I remember thinking that I had been raped and confiding in a friend and a few other people, all of whom told me that I should not go to the police because I was going to be told that it was my fault and that no one would believe me because I was a piece of trash and he was a soldier. I remember never telling anyone again, not even my parents.
I remember dating my first ex-husband who is a different man now, but I remember him telling me how ugly I was, hot fat I was compared to the people that he had dated in California, how much better his exes had been, and how I was lucky that he would date me because he was so much better than me. I believed each and every word that I was told. I remember us breaking up and then I remember not eating, I remember wanting to die. I remember taking a bottle of pills and being devastated that I had woken up. I remember wanting to be dead with a passion that I don't know how to explain. I remember being checked into Methodist in the mental ward. I remember not being able to eat 1 ounce of white rice without throwing up as I had been making myself get sick for so long that my bulimia was out of control. I remember being so thin that I could feel my spine through my stomach and still thinking that I was too fat. I remember hating everything about me when I looked in the mirror. I remember us dating again after I had dated literally one of the nicest men I have ever known in between. I remember going back to my ex because he claimed that he loved me and wanted to marry me. I remember getting pregnant and losing a baby. I remember being told that it was my fault and that I was worthless. I remember snorting a bottle of pills and throwing up bile at my grandparent's last anniversary dinner. Missing the last dinner that we had as a family while I laid in their house secretly praying that I would die. I NEVER told anyone that I crushed a bottle of pills and snorted them until this very moment. I remember staying with him and getting pregnant again. I remember him telling me that I was stupid during labor for not having an epidural and to stop my moaning and whining because I had chosen this for myself. I remember him telling me how awful I was, being screamed at for being stupid, for vacuuming wrong, for cooking wrong, for literally doing everything wrong each and every day that we were together. I remember him making fun of me and always having to put me down when he was being "funny" around his friends. I remember always being the butt of the joke.
I remember meeting someone online (though a friend) who was actually nice to me. Someone who told me that I was pretty. Someone who said that I was worth something. Someone who said that they fell in love with my personality before we ever spoke on the phone or met. I remember having him say nice things to me and for the first time in many years, believing that I was worth being nice to. I remember his mom being horrible and treating my mom terrible as she thought that she was better than her because she had money. I remember the rift that this put between me and my family and the strain that this put on my second marriage. I remember constantly having to defend my family while being told how awful they were after marrying the very man who had finally made me feel good about myself. I remember coming home to him weighing drugs on a scale while watching my son and knowing that this was the moment that I had to leave. I remember telling him that I had to leave and asking for a small list of household items, only to be attacked and thrown against a wall and then as I was running away being tackled and held on the ground until Andrew came in screaming. I remember leaving that night and never going back.
I remember even after marrying a wonderful man and having three more children, feeling so horrible about myself that I drowned myself in foods and drinks. I remember having a close friend who told me terrible things about her boyfriend and when I stood up for her, that she decided that she could not be my friend anymore. I remember learning in that moment that I would never say things bad about someone again, and to this day I rarely speak ill of anyone. I remember wanting to die as a mom of four because I thought so little of myself that I didn't want them to grow up screwed up because they had me for a mom. I feel so guilty for being fat and depressed Adeline's entire life. I feel terrible that she had to spend her years with me as her mom and that while she made me so happy, I still couldn't get control of my own depression.
These traumas have all played into who I am. So, when I am asked why I can't just not engage with people....this is why. I know what it is like to think so little of yourself that one ill word from a stranger could send you over the edge. I know what it is like to want to die and to contemplate each day if you should do something to end your life. I can't keep my mouth shut, because if I see these horrible statements...I know that someone contemplating suicide at that very moment could see them too. I know that someone who is not as strong as I was, could be sitting with a gun to their head, a bottle of pills in their hand, or a knife to their throat and that reading these comments and not seeing anyone say anything against them could make them believe what they are reading. I feel that if I don't say anything after what I have been through, that I would be part of the problem that I could possibly have prevented their actions by speaking up. I am NEVER speaking up just to argue. I am speaking up in case someone who doesn't have the strength to stand for themselves sees this, they might think that there are people out there who care and who they could turn to if needed.
So, yes...the past week has been rough. Saying that you agree with things can cost you a friend, I lost a friend that I had known for 20 years because I support a bill that they disagree with. I am okay because if my friendship meant so little to her that was worth writing off for one disagreement, then I obviously did not mean to her what she meant to me. I have been told for supporting this bill that I deserve to die, that one man hopes I get raped, another hopes that I get murdered, another thinks that I deserved to lose my angel, another hopes that my daughter gets raped, another hopes that my sons get murdered, and one even said that they hoped that there was a home invasion at my home. I have been told for standing up for transgender men and women that I deserve to lose my children, that it's funny that my daughter died, and that having an abortion is not losing a child (for the record I have never had an abortion). I have been told all of these things by people who support one man, one man who has brought about more hate and violence in my life time than anyone else, one man who has attacked groups of people, admitted to sexual assault and bragged that he could assault women, and one man who has cheated and stolen his way to the top. So, when people say that I am unfairly judging the followers of that man....I have this to say to them. If the things that were said to me were said to you, would you think that the people who associated with these people were good people? Would you give the people who follow the same man as these people the benefit of the doubt? If you are being honest with yourself, most of you wouldn't.
The reason that I have put myself in the situation to be subjected to these comments and these types of things is simple...."what would Adeline do?" Adeline would have been kind to everyone. Adeline would have stood up for the people who are being picked on. Adeline would have responded to them with kindness (which is exactly how I respond in nearly all cases....but I am human so a few times I have failed and reacted in anger or disappointment). I hope that this gives you a little bit of a window into me. A little bit of a window into who I am, what I stand for, and why I cannot simply keep my mouth shut in the face of vast injustice.