When I was growing up, my mom [who had residential custody after the divorce] never showed affection by touch or words.
She was drunk almost every single night for years. A Jeckyl and Hyde persona with the body and style of "the other mother" from Coraline.
Most days I had to stay in my room away from her because of the fighting and the trouble that occurred in my living room. Her husband always enabling her behaviors and then throwing in whatever blow to the belt he could, whether physical or mental.
On my bed, hunched over with some stolen catalogs [from our mail], I would draw bodies and clothing. I became obsessed with my alone time and only peaked out at the other kids all playing on the block.
The few times I remember affection from my mom, were those semi sober times after horrible benders ----> when she would swear off drinking and tell me "let's go shopping" or "we are going to the mall".
She would bring me to the giant mall in town, via a taxi because she never drove, and go to buy expensive makeup from Este Lauder and a new purse or wallet that she could not afford. She would buy me something as well, something she picked out that she thought would make me happy.
And that all sounded nice right?
As a preteen and then early teen, having a new Coach or Babyphat purse, getting $99 sneakers in black and silver ----> the NEWEST Ecko Red dunks ---> any other child would be so grateful.
I knew they were guilt gifts. I also knew she did not know her own kid. I was an artist, a hermit, who did not give a flying F if I was wearing the latest brands or had the same Holister Jeans as everyone else.
In fact, I used to cut up and hand sew or hand paint clothing to recycle each piece into something else. I would have loved thrifting had I known there were thrift shops filled with vintage and gothic outfits I would have adored. I was completely in love with avant garde and runway fashion, high end dressy casual as well as 50s vintage couture---> from 4th grade up til well....now.
But I dragged around the guilt gifts. I let then get dirty and beat up. I took them over and over again, with no exchange of words or forgiveness. Just a subtle acceptance of the event passing, making her feel totally just in her actions.
I never spoke out at her before high school. When I would cry from her emotional abuse or looked even remotely upset, she would tell me to wipe the look off my face. That I was selfish and conceited. That I was dramatic. That I was the luckiest girl to have a home to live in, have a mother and stepfather who pay bills, and that I just acted like I had the worst life in the world.
The thing was ...i did. It was hell for me. And she conditioned me to believe it was normal for almost 16 years, until right before i left for good.
Every time she broke dishes or furniture, took down the curtains or created a battle in the living room with her husband ----> i would hide in my room.
For years I had a constant exit plan in my mind that I would recite sometimes outloud. Grab my phone. Grab my shoes. Tiptoe down the stairs of the hall to the first floor from my room. Glide across the wall with my back pressed against it into the kitchen. Grab the trash out of the can. Yes. To be heard. Yell "taking out the trash." Dont wait for an answer. Open the back door, leaving it wide open with the screen gently closed. Slide to the side of the house. Throw away the trash. Open the metal gate and slither through a small opening, to latch it quietly again. Crouch down next to the side of the car in the driveway. Make a sharp left onto the sidewalk and keep crouched down as I basically crawl past the next driveway. Then stand. Then run.
I also debated tying up my sheet to the window of my second story bedroom and climbing down. Less work. Less noise. But no aid and rose bushes beneath my room.
Fight or flight was the way I survived not just on a chemical level but in my daily plans. I always had to think of a way to instantly detach and run.
Imagine what it was like for me to finally escape it?
I left at 16, 3 months pregnant with my little girl [who is now almost 12] and only a plastic walmart bag with my phone [that she did not pay], the charger, my childhood teddy bear, and a pair of pajamas. Clearly I was a but clueless and not thinking as I had 2 minutes to go into my childhood bedroom and grab stuff before being thrown out.
My mother and stepfather told me to get out unless I aborted. [I am pro choice and at the time took a stand to not abort]. But really, they just did not want to argue or process what was happening.
My mother did not notice that for weeks I was too bloated to fit into my double zero shorts. So I would go to school with my pants unbuttoned and a sweatshirt over it. I threw up constantly, as most expectant moms do their first trimester. And every smell set me off. My chest was so sore that I was in tears trying to take my shirt off and bra off every single day. It was a scary, new, weird experience that I could not share with anyone.
Leaving was the best thing that every happened to me. But I had no idea at the time that it would be permanently. That I would move in with my Aunt and Uncle in a different town, from my birth fathers side, and have a new shot at life in a normal home. That I would experience love, peace, and stability for the next 4 years in a home of 10, spending time with my Aunt's four little ones and my Nana. Until I was finally able to move to my own apartment at 21 at a college campus and live alone with my daughter.
I am just grateful my life led me down another path. I don't know who I would have been if I had stayed. Or if I would have survived it. If I had not gotten pregnant, I still would have probably been thrown out constantly. Or sabotaged as I tried to finish high school and apply for colleges.
I never called her mom really or sat with her to bond.
I remember no talks about life, no lessons about hygiene, no period conversations.
I remember no bedtime stories, no hugs and kisses, no pep talks.
I remember no autonomy or options to express myself. Only my zombie like survival through the years, dressing in whatever she got me and doing whatever I could to stay in my room with little to no opinions.
I remember nothing personal in my bedroom, that it looked like a guestroom from a high end Mediterranean catalog.
Nothing was worth taking more than those steps right out the front door, sans exit strategy.
Now at 28, I have 3 beautiful babies that I want to hug and kiss on the hour.
"Any day, any time" is what I tell my 3 year old when he wants to climb into my lap and hug me.
And I mean it.
I do not "love extra" because my childhood was fucked up.
I do not overcompensate on gifts or things to buy my kids. And I do not feel guilty when I do get them a treat.
I do not struggle with the idea that my kids might not love me, or that I might not love them.
I cannot imagine ever dismissing, cutting off contact or throwing out my children without any responsibility for their issues or situation.
I cannot fathom what kind of person would have no guilt or worries or depression over losing their kid.
One time I did run away for a span of time. A month to be exact. I stayed with my boyfriend and his mother at 16. And my mom took 10 days to text me and ask where I was, followed by asking for me to buy milk.
In the 12 years i have been away, my mother has sometimes tried to contact me. Always with a different approach but never with acceptance of what actually happened.
But this IS mental illness.
A person with mental illness and addictions.
A person with wet brain and disassociation.
This is what it is like to have been raised by someone who was unstable.
And lucky for me, to survive it.
J.S. Jaded Savior
Published by Jean Soto JS Jaded Savior blog: email@example.com
Jean Soto, mother of 3 and wife, is a writer + artist in the Hudson Valley, NY community.
Content mention of Rape, Abuse, Neglect, Addictions, Mental Illness, Kidnap, Molestation, Child abuse, Teen Pregnancy, Abortion, birth, body image, gender/identity dysphoria, sexuality, personal trauma, domestic violence and other extremely personal stories. Please practice caution. I am not a licensed physician or mental health professional. No medical prescribing is provided on this site, Only personal insights, experience stories, and advice; All stories published have had prior authorization. Questions? Contact Jean at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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