Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Some things you have to learn… something you don’t.

Ha, I often write the title of my blogs before I write the blog because I have an idea in my head of what I am going to write. I wrote that down and the “sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t” jingle popped into my head.

This blog is going to be graphic… has adult material. Not for everyone.

When I was a foster child I had a lot of counseling and a lot of people telling me how I should feel about things. Not as many people cared about how I did feel about things. It was more about how they WANTED me to feel, and I gave lip service after awhile. I loved my mother. I didn’t care about the abuse she had afflicted on me, or the fact that she had allowed others to abuse me, she was still my mother, and for an unexplainable reason, I loved her. I loved her dearly.

When I was a preteen one of my foster mother’s tried explaining to me why I shouldn’t love my mother. She should have been the one to protect me from my abusers. It is a mother’s job to protect and shelter her children from pain, not inflict unnecessary pain or allow someone else to cause pain. A mothers first priority should always be to the wellbeing of her child, above all else. In her mind, because she was an outsider, it was black and white. She had deemed my mother guilty and that was that. Of course, she didn’t know about my mother’s past, or what was going on in her life when all that happened.

 I had visits with her at a maximum security prison. My caseworker would pick me up very early in the morning and we would drive four hours to the prison. Depending on how her behavior would be we would either sit or visit with her at a long table or we would be in a room and she would be shackled with a guard across from us. We inspired her to be good, if she was good she could hug us, if she wasn’t, she couldn’t. That’s how I grew up. Seeing my mother in chains in prison. And knowing in a part I was the reason she was there, that guilt, even irrational ate at me.

I remember the day I asked her. My caseworker actually looked up from the magazine she was reading and paid attention for once. I asked her, “mommy, why did you let him hurt me?” Simply enough right? I was ten years old, but way mature for my age, I had no choice. I had to grow up fast. I will never forget what she told me.

I was two the first time she saw him try to rape me. She came in, high off of cocaine, and saw her husband mounting her two year old child. She was angry with ME. She, in her drug induced state, thought I had seduced him. I was two years old. She said I was crying on the bed, saying “no, no, no” and she thought I was crying because we were caught and saying no because she came in. That is what the drug blurred vision made her see. After he was done with me she told me, and she was ashamed, that she beat me and screamed at me for seducing him. Then, she wrapped me tightly in a bunch of bankets and held a pillow over my face, trying hard to suffocate me. But, she passed out. I was two years old.

She cried as she told me the story, ashamed of her behavior. The drugs had made her see something that wasn’t there. But she choose to do the drugs. She choose the cocaine over her children. She was addicted to her husband. Whatever he said to do, she did. He pimped her out as a prostitute for money, he kept her stocked on drugs, so she never clearly thought. He, he, he. But at what point do you take responsibilities for your own actions as an adult? She never did.

I had my answer that day for why she let them hurt me. But, to find out that your mother let them do it, and then blamed you for the actions of grown adults when you were two years old, how do you come to terms with that? You know, she did apologize, and she cried, and she tried until she died to make it up to me. We would go on to have amazing conversations and get to know each other at a deeper level. I live with the fact that for several years my mother despised me and wanted me dead, and worst, tried to kill me. She said in times of lucidly she did love me and enjoyed being around me. Those would be times we would be around some of the other family members. Those memories come in patches to me. And I am grateful for the good, if minimal, memories I have from a stolen childhood.

To me, there are some things you just know are wrong. I know that murder is wrong. It doesn’t matter what I grew up around, what I had seen, how much I had been abused; living in today’s society you understand that this is black and white. You do not have to be taught by your parents that murder is not acceptable.  I get so angry when I see a story about a criminal and they toss in as an excuse that he had a bad childhood. So what? 

So did I. I have never abused a child, raped a person, committed murder. I have never tried an illegal drug in my life. I graduated high school a virgin of choice. Why? Because I knew the pain of my past and I didn’t want to go down the path my mother did. There is no excuse for hurting another person, especially a weaker person.

There are some things that you have to learn. Interpersonal relationship skills I believe is one of them. I had a very hard time with males growing up. My father had sexually abused me, and physically abused me. I never had a male relative around or male authority figure in my life that taught me the proper way to act around men, and there is a difference. I knew I wanted male attention and I would do whatever I needed to get it. 

Thankfully, in college, I met a family who I became close to, even if it was for a short while and I saw what a loving father figure looked like and I learned more about that. But, until then I had no idea. I know I craved attention from guys and I would do whatever it took to get it. Socially, I didn’t know what I was doing. See, in most of my foster homes I was secluded from everything. It was obvious it was about the money. I didn’t eat dinner with the family, I didn’t have holidays with them. They didn’t want to see me, didn’t want me around. Having been abused and then cast into a system where I wasn’t loved, wasn’t cared for, and then supposed to recognize what care and love looks like… how does that work? Never having a family to show me how families work together, how am I supposed to know? TV and books were my closest thing to seeing how families interact. I didn’t have super close friends in high school who included me in their family events. I had friend, but none that invited me to dinner with their families or I was around when their families were. We did our own things outside the house, or were in their rooms inside the house. In fact I can tell you in detail every family dinner I ever attended at anyone’s house. Recently I contacted a girl I knew when I was ten to ask her if she had her mothers Cornish hen recipe, that she had made me for dinner when we were ten… eighteen years ago. She was shocked I remembered that.

I remember that because a family sat around the table and ate dinner together. They laughed, they talked. It was normal. Something I wasn’t used to. It was like something out of one of my books, and I drank in every detail. It was something I would strive for later as a family. The reason I eat dinner alone at a table that seats six while my husband is deployed.

You would think that love and care would be something you wouldn’t have to learn, but like the studies done on children who aren’t held as a child, interrelationship skills start as a baby. I haven’t been shown love in my life, not at the barest family level. I didn’t hear the words “I love you” growing up. The first time I heard those words came from a boyfriend when I was fifteen, and I laughed. I wasn’t hugged, kissed, cherished. I wasn’t told, “I am proud of you.” The first time I heard those words was when I was eighteen. Our house got hit by a tornado while my adopted mother was in Las Vegas. I had all the children and I was taken to a friends house with them. Several other peers were there and one of the guys told me he was proud of me for how I had handled the situation, gotten the children safe etc. My adopted mother when she came back screamed at me, for hours, about everything I did wrong. How dare I accept help from someone else. I should have kept the children at a hotel, didn’t matter that I didn’t have a credit card and the hotels wouldn’t let me check in, then I should have kept them in the car, it was only one night, or figured something else out. How dare I make her look bad by letting people know she went out of state and left me alone with them, especially a toddler, it made her look bad. I had to hear about what a terrible person I was for months.

I was adopted into a horrible home. I woke up to screaming. I went to bed to screaming. She could turn on an act as soon as she was outside the home, but inside it was horrible. I was called vicious names. I was the cook, did the cleaning, took care of the kids. That was the purpose of being adopted. I was adopted by a single mother who wanted kids of her own, toddlers and infants. Knowing she couldn’t do it on her own she choose me. She told me she would give me a permanent place to live but I would never be hers. She manipulated and controlled me. She even would take church away if I did something she didn’t like. She pulled my hair, spit on me, and repeatedly told me I was unlovable. She would warn boyfriends away, literally sit at the table with them and tell them that I was unlovable, I would never be in a successful relationship etc. There was only one adult in my life who didn’t see through her act and that was my therapist. She had to petition the State to allow me to have private sessions because my adopted mother would punish me for saying certain things in therapy and would censor me in my sessions. She cared about her reputation way more than any of us. My home life was hell. Utterly. Several of my friends heard her or saw her doing things when they would be on the phone or coming by to get me. As long as the house was taken care of and the kids were, she didn’t care where I went or what I did.

Nothing anyone will ever say will make me believe that she cared, or loved me. Even now, that she has had a stroke and remembers very little and suddenly is nice and says, “I love you” readily and on cue. It was almost as awful living there as the abuse before being taken away.

Some things people learn. I never understood my intense need for approval. I never understood how badly I need to hear that I do something right. All I have ever seen is people pointing out the things I don’t do right, where I mess up. Hearing that I did something good, that is foreign to me. More then half a dozen foster homes and a group home later, being told by all of them, especially my caseworker that I would never be loved… my peers growing up telling me how much I did things wrong, was socially awkward, did things for attention, etc… When your entire world tells you you suck, sooner or later you believe that you suck. Most people have someone in their life that is their safe place, some where they go to hear they are good, accepted, loved. Many people that comes from mom. Some it comes from another family member or close friend.
I didn’t learn how to accept love, accept care. And you know, I don’t know if I am really missing much on that end. I have accepted being unlovable. It doesn’t phase me in the least. It is something that is who I am. As much as I am female, or white. I accept that.

I do. I also accept people convince themselves, normally for short term that they care about me. Then someday they wake up and realize, that wasn’t the truth, like all the foster parents before me. My worst fear is for the day that my husband wakes up and recognizes that too.

I know that I have no problem loving other people, caring deeply. Showing that is another thing that gets me all jumbled up. I do what I can, with what I know. 

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