Crash is still intense. Another morning spent sobbing in bed, however the tattoo is working: I looked in a mirror, was filled with rage and disgust but saw “survivor” and calmed down. I can’t deny it. I deliberately didn’t get a word like “fighter” or “strong” because I would resist that truth on bad days. But “survivor” is a simple fact – I’m breathing. It’s that simple. But it centred my attention onto it, and so I was able to put eyeliner on without wanting to stab my eyes.
The tattoo also means if anyone asks “survivor of…?” I will proudly say “child abuse.” I expect the poor person will blush, look awkward, change the conversation etc but it doesn’t matter…it’s one step at a time of breaking stigma.
Both today and yesterday between half 12 and half 3 I can function at a half-normal level. In that, I’m sat here in tears currently…but have been able to answer some important emails, and I’m listening to Enya to keep me calm. I’ll go back into absolute hermit mode in a couple of hours, but for now I’m just about coping with sitting on my sofa, with a cup of tea, with soothing music and just letting myself cry but at least getting some work done…
But as I was flicking through my emails, I saw an email from a woman with grown children of her own now, who is a survivor of abuse. She gave me permission to discuss briefly her context, and then me answer on here. She has been free from abuse for over 20 years but is constantly plagued by the fact that at times she wanted to kill her abusers…particularly her parents, and wanted to know if I ever felt/do feel the same way.
The short answer is…yes. Yes at times I felt like this. I no longer do but certainly as a child I did. Not out of hatred but because the only way I knew of pain and horrible stuff to disappear is if the person disappears. I could never have done it, but not simply because of my conscience. Also, the simple matter of dependence, which so many survivors seem to struggle to accept or forgive themselves for. As survivors some of us wonder how the hell we did nothing; why didn’t we run. Why didn’t we fight? Why did we just put up with it?
Dependency. You forget the fact your parents are supposed to protect you and this is innately built into us. Regardless of how abusive my family was, if I ever had a problem I went to them first for advice. This was obviously used against me, frequently, and yet I went back time and time again. I depended, as a child, on my family to feed me, cloth me, give me a house. I depended on them to keep me alive, even though I was fighting against them in order to stay alive. It’s quite a dichotomy. And it’s no wonder it does our head’s in as adults. I relied on them to live, and yet they were the sole reason I was fighting to live. Mad. No wonder my head had to split into fragments in order to cope.
Did I want to kill them? Yes. I was a child and this didn’t seem a criminal thought. I’d watched little babies be killed. But how…how can you plan to kill your family? Regardless of instinctive bond, they were the people I relied on if I were to eat. As much as I loathed them, I also depended on them. I couldn’t do anything drastic to my family (though did fight back substantially harder to the ring men) because I relied on my family to keep me alive and healthy. And yet they were destroying my ability to live and stay healthy. This feeling of dependency has carried on through my teenage years and early adult years. Whilst in the ring I fought back like a tiger cub that had been starved and poked too many times. I, at times, was a vicious tiny ball of rage. With my family? Not so.
I remember hearing my brother, when I was 17, on the phone to his mum – “Jade’s stood up for herself. Finally. But all hell’s broken loose. I need you to pick us up.” I remember being struck by the “finally,” and realised that yes, in the ring up to the age of 12 I fought. From the age of 12 I was largely compliant unless the kids were at risk. But any abuse to me I took in almost silence, not wishing to fight back. Why? I no longer depended on them to feed me – I had a job from the age of 16 so actually could have fed myself if it got desperate. So what was I depending on them for now? Attention? Some form of human attention no matter how hideous it was? Possibly. But also now I was relying on them to help me with my studies. There’s no denying their intelligence and they never quite worked out I was trying to become academically intelligent so that I could escape. They saw it as me wanting to become like them, so would push me above and beyond my limits to get my grades up. I hated it, but relied on it. I needed my grandmother to go through each of my essays and pick out every tiny fault and punish me for it, because that way I learnt how to walk through A* level essays.
By my A Levels I no longer needed her reading everything; particularly with English. This annoyed her greatly; she had taught the subject for thirty years but somewhere along the line I had actually overtaken her in intelligence within that field. She was the exams officer and I rememember her face when the exam board wrote to her saying candidate number (my number) had received top in the county. I was, frankly, embarrassed by the whole thing. But I took great pleasure in watching my grandmother’s intellectual strength get put below mine…despite her 30 years experience, me at the age of 18 had beaten her; her intense lectures and punishments in my essays previously had backfired on her.
My grandparents (before my A level success) were so keen to boost my intelligence that they bought all the expensive textbooks I simply couldn’t afford, but needed. I relied on them for this. In any spare time at home I would lose myself in a textbook, particularly psychology textbooks, and for a few precious hours the abuse was forgotten….and my knowledge increased. Being the exams officer, my grandmother had the ability to enter students for subjects. I went from doing 4 A Levels to 7. It would have been 6, but my grandmother was desperate for me to drop A Level music due to the pressure of 6, so I refused. Stubbornly. I kept up A Level music despite it being the most challenging. But I knew I wasn’t relying on it to get me into university, so I tried to see it as a hobby that would get me a grade.
7 A levels came close to breaking me; my grandmother’s wish now that she’d noticed I was overtaking her and no longer relied on her to brutally ‘tutor’ me. She wanted me to burn out and fail so that she could be proved right, and my escape route of “university” viciously torn to pieces. My music teacher recognised this too. So, together, we refused to let it happen. I spent every break time and lunch time sitting with my music teacher working through my never-ending list of work, with her helping me and proof-reading what she could, and calming me down whenever I freaked out due to stress. Several times she tried alerting the CPO it was an unreasonable amount of work, but was not listened to. So she helped me instead. In an average week I’d have 4 or 5 essays to do, as well as at least 7 additional pieces of homework, and revision, and doing my jobs, and rehearsals to keep me sane, and casually being abused… stress doesn’t even cover it.
(NB, as my finals neared and my grandmother realised her plan of breaking me had failed, it swapped to intense pressure for me to do *amazing* so that I could be her ‘trophy’. By “amazing” she expected far beyond what was achievable, and so my results were not good enough for her, and I was still able to be punished somewhat. However, I got my three A grades, and this meant I could escape hundreds of miles away. She had lost. I had won.)
But still, I was relying on my grandparents. Now I had no time to shop, I couldn’t buy my own food. I think I went to the shops three times in the entire two years. So I was back to relying on them to feed me, even though the food would often be drugged. I was back to relying on them to keep me alive, despite the fact they were also killing me slowly. It was quite a mad place to be, and harder somehow as a 17 year old than a 7 year old; possibly because I could see the contradiction in my dependence on them. As University neared, I was relying on them for financial purposes. The only way I could get to university was with their help, as they well knew. I couldn’t kill them now; I’d be imprisoned and my life dream and escape route shattered. I just had to keep my head down, keep breathing, keep fighting, and know my escape route wasn’t too far away. Still I relied on them to keep me alive, I was still dependent on them…despite the fact my mental health was as near to ruined as it’s probably ever been…
At university I started memory recovery, but for a bit still felt dependent on them. It had been so deeply ingrained in me that it took a long time for me to realise I can cope without them. Even now, however, there’ll be moments where I feel I need my parents (but not my grandparents)…for normal life early-adulthood advice. But I can’t. So I have to manage on my own. This has perhaps being the most empowering part of university; learning I can be dependent on myself too…
So yes. Long story short I often wished they’d be dead. But I was also terrified of the prospect; dependent I was on them keeping me alive, reliant on their ability to feed me, and give me a house…despite the cost that came with it. To the lady who emailed me this morning; please don’t feel guilty. I think it’s only normal to want a person who causes so much pain to just be gone, by whatever means. The fact is, you didn’t do it, you survived…by whatever way necessary…
Right. Back to intense crash hermit mode…. J