I spent most of my childhood living with my grandparents. I have a lot of my memories back of life in the ring…but home life before and up to the age of 8 is still hazy. I just remember chaos. When I lived with my parents, when I was very young, I remember being locked in the conservatory countless times with my younger brother and being forced to watch my parents scream and punch each other to hell in the living room. To this day I despise conservatories. I hated the echoed amplified sounds of my brother crying and my screaming – “stop mummy! Daddy stop!” I hadn’t yet reached the point of realising the adults in the family were never going to care…not properly. Despite the abuse and trauma, I was still terrified of seeing my parents hurting each other so brutally. In hindsight I’m surprised neighbours didn’t hear…either the row or our crying. I expect they did but convinced themselves it wasn’t their problem. I can’t blame them.
I remember once I had some very pretty red shoes. I adored them. They were my pride and joy and made me think of Dorothy in wizard of oz. They were my most prized possession. And then I remember watching as my parents threw them at each other, and my father rained the blows, using my precious shoes. I never touched them again after seeing my mothers bruises.
I remember when my brother was born…I was maybe 3…I adored him. He was a terribly sickly baby, I’ve never known a baby throw up so much. My dad, madly, is queasy and my mother always lost in computer games or asleep in bed, so despite my young age it would often be left to me to clean him up. Interestingly my sister was also sickly…but later; from the age of about 4-10 if she ate anything vaguely sweet after about 6pm, she’d be up all night. I don’t remember much of her being a baby despite being older when she was born, but then my mother was fixated on her. But the abuse for me had long ago started and I remember being scared…another baby girl.
Chaos and upheaval had already been a large part of my life by then though. We were moved around like parcels. I still haven’t worked out the chronology. There were endless rows with my parents and my mother would often disappear for days or weeks at a time. I hated it when she did. My dad fell to pieces each time. I distinctly remember watching her leave the house, and I was on the floor changing my brothers nappy. I remember chewing on my dummy nervously, and leaving my brother clumsily on the floor. I wasn’t very big so carrying him wasn’t easy. I used to put him on a cushion and drag him around. I liked rusk and hadn’t yet grasped the fact he had no teeth and couldn’t understand why he didn’t eat it. Anyway, my mother had left out of the back door…through the conservatory. I put my brother onto a cushion and dragged him into the living room, and left him in a corner with a packet of rusk nearby…you know, just in case he magically developed the ability to sit up, open a packet and eat solids (I ask you).
The kitchen was at the front of the house. I remember that house vividly. I peered round the door and found my dad, on the floor with his head in his hands, sobbing hysterically. I remember he looked at me and asked where mummy was. I remember even at that very young age being nervous of telling him, but unable to lie. I pointed at the back door. I remember my words clearly – “she gone daddy. Mummy gone…” I didn’t ask him where. I was so used to her leaving. I rarely missed her. On realising she’d left him, he screamed with tears. Desperate to help him, I’d ran to the front door…maybe I could stop mummy. But I was 3 and a half…There was no way I could reach to get that door open. I can feel that bubble of despair in my chest now, remembering that. I just so desperately wanted to stop daddy crying…
The sexual abuse had already begun and yet I can remember bawling my eyes out every time I saw my dads car leave to go to work. I also remember once being excited to see my grandparents. This must have been in a very tiny window before I’d realised their involvement. Sometimes I miss them…and I wonder if it’s just that fraction of time of ignorance that I miss, in fact. I was scared of my dad leaving me; he at least fed us. My mother used to be unpredictably volatile. Sometimes the most loving mother, but often absent or distant…staring at her computer playing Lara Croft, or lying in bed with ear plugs in. In either of these cases I knew better than to disturb her. Out of nowhere she would scream, smack me around the face. It would wake my brother who I’d just spent so long trying to lull to sleep.
But it meant I didn’t get fed….and there’s only so much baby milk I can make to last. I couldn’t reach the counters or the fridge door, unless I dragged the computer chair to the fridge…which was always hard and tiring. I learnt to dilute my brothers milk with lots of water and not much powder. (In hindsight perhaps this was why he was so sickly). He was also terrified of the bottle. I’d have to coax him into drinking, and it was exhausting for both of us. Meanwhile, I developed a habit of sneakily hiding bits of my dinner (spaghetti hoops, bread, scrambled egg, chicken nuggets) under my vest. The house was a disgusting mess, so I hid the bits of food in a corner of the conservatory on the floor. Nobody would notice, and it meant during the following day whilst my mother slept and father worked, I had food.
Sometimes when my mother left, she’d take us with her. But it was rare. As I got older I blamed her entirely for what I was living through, whyt couldn’t she just take us away? But in the last few years she’s been diagnosed with bipolar as a result of her own childhood abuse…and now I know what she must have known was going on, I can understand why just removing herself from the picture was perhaps her best plan. Nonetheless, us kids became toys to both parents, used as possessions to try and get to the other parent. When my sister was born, my mother transformed into a….mother, but only for my sister. My brother was still my responsibility, but he was toddling around now and going to nursery, me to school. Often my mother would leave with my sister, and I’d come home to find my father a mess. I learnt from a young age that he relies heavily on a female figure to look aftert him. The moment our mother would leave, our grandmother would move in. By now my life in the ring had started and so I mostly kept my head down at home…but would hear her bullying my father, not realising those same lines would be used by her to hurt me when I was older…
Recognising the intense bond between my brother and I, my mother developed some warped form of jealousy. Or perhaps guilt. Either way, she made a few cruel attempts to undermine our bond. Once she made him drink a 2 litre bottle of coke – he was about 4 now – before locking him in the conservatory. She made me sit in a chair in the living room, directly opposite him. She forbade me to let him out. I can’t remember what the threat was but it must’ve been severe. She left and went upstairs. My brother, bewildered by this act, cried for me…pressing his hand on the glass and growing more distressed that I wasn’t helping him. I noticed him starting to hop from one foot to the other and holding himself, and pretty soon he was screaming and crying to be let out. I still didn’t let him out. I was too scared. Eventually he inevitably wet himself, and curled up in a tiny ball crying..silent now. When my father came in he lost it at my brother for “being so dirty.” My brother protested his innocence, saying I wouldn’t let him out. My father rounded on me, asking why I would be so mean. My mother had by now appeared and stared into me. Reluctant to start a row, and feeling very guilty anyway, I just stared silently at the floor and awaited my punishment. That night I lay in my bed crying until my throat was raw for how my poor brother had been so distressed…
For a short period of time we lived with our mother when she left once. But that was dysfunctional and we were quite severely neglected. Every day I’d walk to the shops to buy sweets and a dummy for my baby sister, using money from my mothers purse. Honestly I thought it was fab. Playing and living on sweets. The shop owner asked me once where mummy was. Quite innocently I said she was in bed. In hindsight I think the system let her down badly; if they’d diagnosed her and helped her sooner a lot might have been prevented.
But my father found out and took us back.
Eventually my mother left for good. For a short while we remained with our father. I remember by now being terrified of him but also desperate for his attention. I had noticed if I got sunburnt he would buy me an ice lolly. So there were many days in the summer where I stubbornly sat outside in the sun, feeling myself burn, and hours later would go crying to my dad…who would rub cream all over me and buy me an ice lolly. It made me feel wanted.
My stepmother, barely 12 years older than me and indeed younger than I am now when she first arrived on the scene with her daughter, felt like a godsend. She took me shopping with her friends and asked me to call her mum. Feeling no connection to my actual mother, I didn’t have a problem with it. And since then, for the next 13 years, she was my mother. She used to come over at weekends to clean the disgusting house and cook my father a week’s supply of food to store in the freezer. Looking back, what a 19 year old girl ever saw in him I’ll never know. I don’t know if she hoped he’d be able to support her financially so her and her daughter could have a home.
And my dad was besotted. We were sent to his parents for what was promised to be a week but turned out to be the rest of our childhood. I was 7 years old. We saw our real mother once or twice a year, along with her string of fucked up boyfriends, and my stepmother/new mother became my idol. We visited them every other weekend.
By now my life in the ring had become a terrifying norm, and my hope was shattered when I was forced to accept my grandparents were a part of it. The abuse at home was relentless, but the psychological trauma being by far the most damaging. It sounds mad but random slaps around the face hurt me more than being beaten or raped. At least if they were beating or raping me they were confirming my existence. A slap meant nothing. They didn’t even have to look at me. It was demeaning.
When I wasn’t being abused or in the ring or at school, I and my siblings would be forced to clean that Godforsaken house from top to bottom. My sister developed a passion for cleaning but I grew scared of the way our grandparents used it to control us. And frankly there’s nothing worse than being forced to polish clean the same objects that were used to rape me. Clean away the evidence…
The emotional abuse from my grandmother was like poison to the mind. Systematically she’d attack any slight weakness of mine and turn it into a reason why I should be dead. Sometimes I’d feel so hideous after that I’d go and ask my grandad to rape me. I didn’t know how else to cope. Of course she twisted that; accusing me of sleeping with her husband, of being a whore and of “wanting it.” It confused my understanding of what “wanting it” meant and landed me in a lot of danger down the line as a result.
Truthfully I wanted to be with the children in the ring…
As we grew older, me and my siblings would bicker as any sibling does…but we never stopped defending each other when the emotional abuse started.
I remember being beaten senseless in a corner of a room once for *one* breadcrumb being found. My need for irrational and extreme control which mostly manifested itself in my eating stems from such psychological trauma.
Fast forward a few years, and I have nothing to do with nor will I ever have anything to do with my grandparents. They are heartless cruel monsters who damaged me so incredibly and deeply. I equally have nothing to do with my father and stepmother, mostly for safety. My younger sister cut them off too but lives with our real mother, who has stabilised and is genuinely a good mother to her. I still feel a stab of resentment and abandonment sometimes but I’m glad she has the chance to build a relationship with my siblings.
The ring aside, my childhood was unstable, traumatic and full of abuse and confusion. I am finally at a point where I can feel angry and heartbroken and hurt.
If anyone has any virtual hugs spare…I would be very grateful. That was very cathartic but draining…