It happened. It really did. I remembered this afternoon, and actually doubled over to stop myself from being sick, and shook violently. I nominated by abusers (namely my grandparents on this occasion) for a “hero of the year” award. I spent hours and hours writing about why they should receive the money and trophy for being such heroic individuals, worked late into the night to make it as perfect as possible, and submitted it for consideration.
WHAT. THE. HELL.
Thankfully this was six years ago, but it nonetheless was such a frightening thing to remember, and shame tore through me. It actually came close to an anxiety attack, because I couldn’t work out why on god’s earth I would have nominated them for a hero award. The winner would be the most heroic and selfless person in the town. Qualities had to be: caring, supportive, selfless; having gone above the call of duty to help change someone’s life for the better; a “lifesaver.”
My abusers were not this, funnily enough. My grandparents (physical and sexual abuse aside) would slaughter me for how selfish I was – “the most selfish person ever met” – and would punish me brutally for daring have an opinion. They would control every aspect of my life,and tell me how worthless and disgusting I was. They told me continously how much I deserved to die. That I was filthy. That my simple existence was such a burden on them that they were “dying slowly” as a result. My grandmother would even measure her blood pressure regularly (it was always high) to show me how I was killing her.
It all sounds so horrible now. I know I’m not selfish, or worthless, or disgusting. It was emotional abuse, and very severe, and non-stop. When I first started university I believed everything they had told me, and it took me a while before I could see how massively wrong and cruel they were.
So why the hell would I nominate them for a hero of the year award when I was fourteen?
The frightening answer is this: brainwashed. I so fully believed they were right with what they said; that I was this disgusting, awful burden and ridding them of their right to a happy life. That I was killing them slowly simply by existing – my God, I was murdering them through my selfish, filthy existence. Was it any wonder I needed punishing?
And they had taken me in as a child, and brought me up, and fed me…clothed me. I believed, at that point in time, that it was I abusing them. That they couldn’t stop their behaviour…that he couldn’t stop raping me every night…because it was what I deserved, because of what I was doing to them.
I didn’t even consider the idea that I was in fact not this vile person, and that they had been brainwashing me for years to believe them. The event where I sat for hours writing an article on why they should be nominated makes my blood run cold. I of course didn’t mention any of the abuse, because it was what I deserved. (I felt). Instead I talked about how they’d heroically taken me in when nobody else would want me. I talked about how they spent money on me to make my life as amazing as it could be; how I was fed and looked after, and even though they were old, and had health problems, they both gave up their lives to look after me. I believed every word I wrote, and cried non-stop at how much of an awful vile burden I was on them. When I finished, I lay in bed…and a couple of hours later my grandad came in to abuse me. I remember thinking “I deserve this. What have I done to you? I’m so sorry…”
A few days later they were both screaming at me for how selfish I was. I was crying in the corner of the living room, hugging myself and wailing. I’d gone past the point of trying to hide my distress; they’d finally broke me. I cried for everything I’d done to them, for how my existence had burdened them so greatly and now they had no choice but to punish me like this. I cried for how much of their lives I’d robbed.
This is quite bizarre, because as a child and up until about the age of 11/12, I was very much aware that my life was being stolen, and that I didn’t deserve to be abused. This was when I was a victim of ritualistic abuse, and had children around me to remind me of what I was worth.
From the age of 12 onwards the abuse was far more personal, and so everything my grandparents said to me stayed in my head…because who else could I check with?
Anyway, I remember crying and whimpering the words “But I’ve nominated you for the hero award…you know the big town one? I sat up writing it the other night. I wanted to try and make it up to you.”
There was silence. Then my grandad went “you did WHAT?!” and stormed across the room, and thumped me. I fell. He kicked me in the stomach. “WHAT?” He screamed again. “Our names? You gave the media OUR NAMES? ARE YOU FUCKING STUPID? HOW STUPID ARE YOU? YOU STUPID FILTHY PIECE OF S**T!” He kicked and kicked until I could make no sound, and instead lay at his feet trembling and weeping. “You will withdraw it *now*. Do you understand?” I nodded my frightened understanding.
Despite the pain, I managed to crawl to my bedroom. I emailed my withdrawal. I lay back on the floor, and threw up blood. I remember staring at the blood, crying and shaking. I was so bewildered; surely they would love an award to show people how amazing they were?
Of course…now I know they didn’t want their true identities to be discovered.
I stared at the blood. I stared at the dirty stain it made. My filth. I ran to the bathroom and took an overdose of tablets. My existence was going to kill them, and now I was stupid as well. He said so. I needed to die and rid them of my foul burden. I needed to die so that they could be spared.
I woke up on the floor surrounded by my own vomit and with a pounding head. It hadn’t worked. I was still alive, and too tired to try again.
Why am I sharing this?
Because I want people to realise how able abusers are to get into victims’ heads. I can see now who the true monsters were. I can see that they had stolen my life, not me having stolen theirs. I can see that it was they who were selfish, not me. I can see that had my suicide attempt been successful, it would have been them who killed me…not me killing them. Not one part of them deserved that award, and I thank God I withdrew it…
But at the time I fully believed them. I was so lost in it all, and so scared to not believe them. I hated myself far more than how much they hated me.
This is what abusers do. So if you’re friends with a victim or survivor who has zero self-worth and feels disgusting, please don’t judge them or be angry. Read my story, and see why they feel like this. Emotional abuse is like poison; it doesn’t matter how strong you are, it gets you.