Learning to Survive in a Sea of Brokeness | My Testimony Part 10
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I eagerly awaited my thirteenth birthday. So many other kids had hyped it up in my mind that it was a big deal. Since my mom had a new boyfriend I thought maybe he would convince her to be nice. I should have known when Christmas came and she got us socks and him a gold ring. But I was naive. My birthday came, and I patiently waited for her to get off work. She came through the door so excited. She told me to sit down on the couch with her because she had wonderful news. Then she sifted through her purse and handed me a piece of paper. I didn’t know what it meant. “Your dad and I are finally divorced! Happy birthday!”
I thought it was some type of joke. She called my sister out of our room and told us that now that we were both thirteen and older, we had a choice to live with her or with our dad. I don’t know why I chose to stay. Maybe it was because she had convinced us that our dad was evil. Or maybe I thought that he wouldn’t spend time with us anyway. Maybe I didn’t want to leave the friends that I had and start over. I still regret my decision.
This is the tenth post in this series, to start from the beginning, please click here.
Disclaimer: I wrote this in 2013 to share my testimony with the world in the hopes of helping other children faced with abuse. Most times, you will be the only person to advocate for a child that cannot stand up for themselves. Children in abusive situations are taught to conceal every aspect of abuse, so if you by chance are able to see something, it may be the only opportunity for rescue a child has. Please take the appropriate steps to report child abuse. I have since rewritten and updated these posts to make them more understandable and up to my current writing standards.
The effects of abuse started to settle in
The year before, in sixth grade, I started to notice things were wrong with me compared to the other children. Every time I would look in the mirror I would see the scar above my lip and be reminded of all the hurt I had been through. I would get so angry that I would avoid mirrors.
Even though I know it doesn’t make sense, I was just numb. I couldn’t feel pain. If I hurt myself or someone accidentally hurt me I didn’t feel anything. Whenever I tripped and fell or got a bruise I would push on it so hard to see if I could feel anything at all but I was just numb. I craved pain and I was mad that I couldn’t feel it.
When I started hurting myself
I had never heard of anyone hurting themselves on purpose and I have no clue where I got the idea from but I started when I was in sixth grade.
Not wanting to leave scars anywhere, I would take my fingernails and drive them into my gums around my teeth until they would bleed. I would get some type of high off of the feeling and so I would do it over and over. People never noticed because it looked like I was just trying to pick something out of my teeth. I didn’t do it constantly, only when I was stressed. But to be honest, I was stressed a lot. I didn’t stop doing it until I rededicated my life to Christ when I was nineteen.
And even though it’s been so long, I still am tempted to do it. I thank God that I have the strength not to and that I can pray and depend on Him instead. Although I knew things were wrong with me I never talked to anyone about them. They were all my little secrets, there are so many more to add to the list but that would take an entire blog. I tried to convince myself that I was normal and like all the other kids so I just kept on hiding things and kept on with life.
Learning to provide for myself
After I turned thirteen I decided that I needed to get a job since I couldn’t depend on my mom to buy me the things I needed. She received child support from my dad but we never saw any of it. When it came time for a new school year we always had to call our dad and ask for more money for school clothes and supplies. Our dad had become our bank but I hated asking anyone for anything, I wanted to have my own money.
So I started looking through the newspapers and found a job at a blind library. I applied and got hired right away. It was at a blind man’s house who had about a million cats that didn’t have litter boxes and so I came home smelling of cat urine but it was worth it. I didn’t make much money but I definitely enjoyed having some. I would use my checks and spend them on childish things for my sister and I. And sometimes when Kathleen was with us we would all get some sort of treats.
I didn’t know how to save money or what I could do with money besides buying the things my mother had always told me no to. So I bought candy and toys. Bruce would encourage my mom to take me to work, I knew that I would have never had a ride if it wasn’t for him. He had brought about a lot of good changes in our lives. One time, my mother had gone to the grocery store and bought us things that we actually wanted to eat. She had brought soda into our house for the first time, and ice cream and popsicles. I hadn’t figured out by then that my mother was a woman of many faces. She was just putting on a front to impress the new man in her life. But it wouldn’t last for long.
The night Bruce went to jail
One evening when it was just my mom, sister and me we heard someone pounding on the door. They started shouting that it was the police and they had a search warrant. When my mom opened the door they barged in and started searching the apartment.
I felt like I was in a movie wondering what the heck was going on. They asked my sister and me to sit down at our table and showed us a picture of a man robbing the gas station down the street. I recognized Bruce instantly.
They asked us if we knew the man in the picture and my mom spoke for us and said it wasn’t him and “it was a setup”. They proceeded to go through her bedroom and found the outfit that he had on in the picture–the same green sweater he wore almost every day. My mom screamed his innocence and told us that we couldn’t tell anyone about what had happened.
I kept thinking about the night where he had come home and laid out a bunch of money on our table while he was drunk, bragging about it. And I thought, hmm that was probably the night he robbed the gas station! The gas station that was probably less than a mile from our house! What a smart man. Needless to say, he went to jail.
And when he was gone my mother started showing her true colors again.
The two of us left with the demons inside my mother
Since we were getting older and we wanted to be able to go out and hang out with friends my mother devised plans to make sure we barely left the house. I quit my job because the rides to work were becoming more and more unreliable from her. We had always had chores in her house but once Bruce went to jail, they escalated.
She made sure that we did laundry on Friday nights so that we wouldn’t ask to go anywhere. And when we did ask to go somewhere, she would give us a ridiculously long list of chores to do that were impossible to get done in time so we would be stuck at home.
I remember having to wash the walls, the blinds, and I even scrubbed the kitchen floor with a toothbrush. Weekly. There was always a list. And it could never be finished in time to go anywhere. Her favorite game would be to give an answer of “maybe” when we asked to go somewhere and then wait until the last minute to say no.
Back in seventh and eighth grade most of what we wanted to do was just play outside or spend the night at Kathleen’s house or have her come over to our house. But we only got to do those things on rare occasions.
When my mother would come home from work she would scream at us until her heart was content. When we made new friends my mom tried to make them her friends. Especially Kathleen.
It was crazy to me that my own mother would try and turn my friends against me. And try and get them to become best friends with her instead. I could never wrap my head around it. And it never changed–even when she met my husband she tried to put me down in front of him but by that time I had warned him before he met her.
Her secret marriage
A couple months after her divorce was final, my mother married Bruce while he was in jail. The ceremony was behind glass and I was not there because my sister and I didn’t find out until after it had happened.
She came home and told us nonchalantly that she was now married.
When we asked her why she didn’t tell us she was going to marry him, she said that she didn’t want us to ruin her day. I am still confused on why she said this, especially since at this point and time we still liked Bruce. She is still currently married to him although they are separated, something that Bruce blames me for, but we’ll get to all of that later.
My anger started fleshing out
Everything my mom did made me more and more angry. I was like a ticking time bomb. And so in the eighth grade, I started to release some of my anger. I became a bully to other kids in school. If someone I knew hurt my sister or Kathleen I would do anything I could to make their lives a living hell. I put people down and tried to break them like I was broken. I was quick with my words and could tear down a person’s happiness in a matter of seconds.
When I look back at the person I was I regret every word and every action that came from my being.
I was a manipulator. I learned who the “cool” kids were in school, figured out how to become one of them and tried to make sure I stayed on top. My social skills were horrible, I still don’t know how I accomplished this when I was never allowed to call anyone on the phone or hang out with anybody. But I did it.
And even though I’m not proud of myself now, I was extremely proud back then. There are people that I went to school with that still hate me for what I did to them. And honestly, they have every reason to. I’m so thankful that my forgiveness comes first from Jesus, and I hope that one day I will have their forgiveness also.
I became a master of manipulation
Since I had learned a new level of manipulation at school, I started bringing my new skills home with me. I learned how to get my way sometimes with my mom. I learned to lie and cheat and connive.
The best way to explain how I justified what I was doing was that I was learning how to survive in my mother’s house. I would portray myself as an amazing daughter and honor roll student so that my mom would never know all the bad stuff I would do.
I lied and said that I was staying after school to make up tests so that I could go to school dances or hang out with friends. Figuring out what would get to my mom was my main mission so that I could have my way. It only worked about ten percent of the time, but as long as it kept working I wasn’t going to stop. I had to survive and that’s how I figured out how to live at home with any shred of happiness.
When I started smoking
I started smoking weed in the eighth grade. My sister was in high school and had friends that smoked so I smoked with them. My mom would get off work late in the evening so we always snuck people over, mainly my sister’s friends, and we would smoke almost every day.
Being high helped me get through my mother’s screams when she got home. I always told myself that weed was a harmless drug and I would never do any other drugs besides it and I didn’t. Was I addicted? Probably. I still regret doing it, I know now, as I did back then, that I was sinning against God, but it never stopped me. Like I have said before, I wish I knew back then what I know about Jesus now. I could have turned to Him instead of my sins but I chose not to. I had convictions but I always ignored them.
My layers of self-survival ran deep
After so many years of abuse and trauma, a child should be able to heal. But instead, my life just switched from one bad thing to the next over the next few years. Not knowing how to survive, I made things up as I went through life. I desperately needed help, but I had none. I needed a mother who cared, but that just wasn’t who my mother was. The circumstances of what happened to me were a recipe for a perfect storm.
There were many times I contemplated suicide and even felt like my mind was ripping in half.
I should have more wrong with me than I do. No, I’m still not normal, but I’m not completely crazy either. And I’m grateful for God’s faithfulness for this.
I’m grateful that Jesus took the survival skills I created for myself and let me trade them in for dependence on Him.
“You number my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?”
Would you share this post? I’m writing this series in hopes to help someone. You never know who’s suffering, whether that is an adult who is trying to live in the aftermath of abuse or a child that someone can help, they just need a push to do it.
Next Post: My Testimony | From Surviving Relentless Abuse to a Blissful Life | Part Eleven
I recently had the pleasure of doing a podcast interview! You can check it out here:
Helping of Happiness Podcast Interview
9. My Testimony | From Surviving Relentless Abuse to a Blissful Life | Part Nine
8. My Testimony | From Surviving Relentless Abuse to a Blissful Life | Part Eight
My Testimony | From Surviving Relentless Abuse to a Blissful Life | Introduction
Why I Rededicated My Life to Christ
3 Free Encouraging Verse Printables
How to Mom When it’s not Natural
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Please feel free to share this, my hope is that through my brokenness I can save other children from abuse.
Are you a victim of abuse? How can I pray for you?
Elizabeth, thank you for your honesty and willingness to share dark chapters of your life in hopes that it will encourage someone else! I especially appreciate your closing, in which you acknowledge you’re a little crazy, but amazingly normal compared to what you could be. I feel ya there, girl! 😉 Keep up the courage!
Thank you Anna!