Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mixed Messages


I’ve heard people talk about something called ‘unconditional love’ but I seriously doubt that exists. I know that there are always conditions put on love. If my husband or I were to have an affair, that would be a condition and it would most likely end the marriage.  Perhaps unconditional love is something that a parent has for a child, but it’s something I’ve never experienced and therefore I doubt it exits. During my childhood I received mixed messages from my adoptive mother. Often she would tell me that “I don't like you, it doesn't mean I don't love you, but I cannot stand you.” I don’t understand why a parent, even an adoptive parent would tell a child this repeatedly, but she did.  I’ll never understand why she would say that to me, but she did at least once a week for years.  At the same time she would chastise me for not ‘having a closer relationship’ with her, like it was my fault. How could I seriously want to have a ‘closer relationship’ with someone who openly disliked me so much, and openly abused and neglected me.  

passive-AGGRESSIVE


Looking back I know understand, my adoptive mother is very much passive-aggressive. Those with a narcissistic personality will often display the character trait, my adoptive mother was just very blatant about it. Telling me she loved me but could not stand me in the same breath. I still cannot understand why she did this, and all it did do was make me want to stay away from her as much as possible.
It's a hard reality

They love the dogs more

When I was in my early 20’s, two of my girlfriends made an observation when we were out one night. I guess it was a bit like an intervention, because they were concerned. I’ll never forget what they said to me. We were at Glencoe beach which overlooks Lake Michigan, on warm summer night. I had attended the same high school with Kristen and Jenny, and they were my two closest friends at this time. I had known Kristen longer, we both worked at the public library together for several years. As we sat there high up on the scenic  overlook on benches, they both tentatively started speaking. They had both observed my adoptive parents treatment of me for several years now, and had come to the conclusion that they didn’t care for me, let alone ‘love’ me. Simply put, Kristen said “You realize they love their dogs more than they love you. You get this, right?” It was an honest observation of my situation, and it was truthful. It’s a hard reality, you try to survive as best as you can with the situation you’ve been dealt, but hearing someone else tell you what you feel but never speak is hard.

I can recall telling my adoptive parents what my two close friends had said, I had hoped that my adoptive parents would maybe realize that they didn’t treat me very well and that others observed this. Maybe I hoped for some sort of introspection on their part, or maybe an apology. The actual response I received was this, without even looking up from the television my adoptive mother said half distracted “no we don’t” and that was it. Nothing more.  Your adult daughter, obviously upset tells you that her best friends have observed that her ‘parents’ love their dogs more than they do her, and your adoptive parents response is a half distracted “no we don’t”, and nothing more. Not even a second thought as to how they treated me that would prompt others to make that observation.


Now years later, I can say honestly that yes, my adoptive parents liked and loved their dogs more than they ever did me. They took better care of them, they received regular medical care, and resources that I was never given.

Reality is hard, and never giving.
Adoption is like an arranged marriage, there are no guarantees that strangers will get along... even if one of them is an infant. Shared genetic connections give a shared commonality within a family, adoption eradicates this. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Tanning Beds and Fainting Spells



Recently I wrote about my 8 Months of Black Corduroy, and that brought to mind something that happened after the school year ended that summer. In my mind I’ve always linked these two events together, I think in part because one ended and the other began.

So I survived the  Black Corduroy,  and the dreaded school year was finally over. I would get a reprieve from the constant bullying that I suffered at school. My adoptive mother took an ad out in the local paper advertising me as a “12 year old mature” baby sitter for a dollar an hour. I got a few good leads on babysitting, but I also got at least one pervert who offering “modeling” jobs and wanted me to describe what I was wearing and was breathing heavy on the phone.  I guess I should be glad that I didn’t end up in a dumpster somewhere because the normal sounding ones I took at face value that they were really looking for a babysitter and not did not have some other idea in mind.  So I was slowly earning some money and stashing it away so I could ensure that I had more than one pair of pants for the next school year. It was a real concern for me, it made me a prime target at school.  I should preface that my adoptive mother didn't ask me about taking out the ad, or if I wanted to work as a baby sitter.... She decided this on her own, and told me about it after the fact. She wanted me out of the house as much as possible, and she wanted me paying my own expenses. 

The summer progressed and my adoptive mother brought me with her shopping one afternoon. She wasn’t shopping for me (foolish reader for thinking that) she only spent money on me when she had to. I don’t recall what she was looking for, but we were at Montgomery Wards. That tells you how long ago that was since they went out of business.  I stand corrected, they are indeed still in business.  So I was tagging along with her and we were in the housewares area. As I walked past a glass shelf display of towels, my right arm brushes up against it. The shelve  happened to have a large chip out of it when I
looked at it later. However, I felt a rough scratch as my arm made contact. I exclaimed “ouch”, to which my adoptive mother chided me for being a ‘baby’ and over reacting. As she was chastising me, I brought my right arm up because it felt more than just a scratch… I was sure the skin had been broken. With my adoptive mother looking over
my shoulder, I brought my arm up and I wasn't able to clearly digest what I was seeing. I saw a long gaping hole in my right arm about an inch long, no blood yet, just a long hole. I touched either side of the hole with my left hand, and the hole popped open to a larger gaping wound that had not only broken the skin, but it had cut down to the bone, scratching it and nicked a vein  that ran across the bone. That vein would be an artery by the way. So I’m just staring at this sight, human flesh without any blood looks just like SPAM, no joking.  So it was only a matter of seconds and the blood from the nicked artery started to fill the hole. Now my adoptive mother is looking with me at my arm, she is seeing what I’m seeing. This isn’t some run of the mill cut, this is a deep wound that has cut down to and scratched the bone.

An employee alerts the store manager and they take me in back, spray antiseptic and slap an oversized band aid on it.  They say that they can either A) call an ambulance or B) I can go to my doctor and they will pay the bill.  Adoptive mother opts for B and takes the forms and we head out of the store.

Now you know this isn’t going to end with what a “Normal” mother would do, otherwise it would not be one of my abuse and neglect stories.  So we can all agree that a “Normal” mother would seek immediate medical attention…right? Because so far other than the loud “OUCH” I haven’t complained once about pain.  In fact I have stated several time I have “NO PAIN” other than the initial scratch.  I think anyone with an IQ higher than a potato understands that I’ve just suffered serious nerve damage with nerves being severed.

Bake & Bleed

So based on my report that I feel no pain, despite the fact that I have a deep wound that has
scratched the bone and has nicked the “vein I saw” my adoptive mother says this to me. “Well, I’ve got a tanning appointment and I don’t want to miss it. Can you just sit there while I tan? Then we’ll go to the doctor.  You don’t really feel anything at all?”  To which I answer “No, I do not feel anything”.  She says to me as she is walking away “I sort of feel guilty”.  Wow? You “sort of feel guilty?” But apparently not guilty enough because I spend the next 45 minutes sitting in a chair bleeding while she bakes. 

But it gets better.

Once she is done with her super important tanning appointment, it’s now time to see to my medical needs… well sort of.  We arrive at the family doctor and she finds out that they are fully booked and we will have to wait to see the doctor. The receptionist/assistant asks me to peel the band aid back and states that “Yes, she needs stitches, at least 1 or 2 should close it”. However, it will be at least a 40 minute wait to see the doctor.  My Adoptive mother is looking at the clock on the doctor’s office wall and it’s nearly 3pm now, and she doesn’t want to wait, that is obvious. With a large sigh, she states to me more than asking, but telling me “Do you want Stitches?” I’m 12, I know she wants to hear NO… so I say NO.  A “normal” mother would not let the decision of medical care be up to a child of 12.  I think we can all agree that this was one situation where I really needed a “Parent” to make the correct decisions for me. So we stop at the pharmacy and she gets a box of butterfly bandages and large band aids. I had my little red purse with me, and I paid the cashier for my medical supplies.  And that was the extent of the medical care I received.  I guess I should be thankful that the store manager sprayed the antiseptic on the wound when he did, because the rest of my medical care consisted of two butterfly bandages and a band aid.

Nerve Damage

It’s too bad that I’m right handed, because those of us with an IQ higher than a potato know that I have nerve damage in my right arm/hand. I have areas in my arm and hand that I have no feeling in. My handwriting is horrible, I drop small objects a lot, and although I try my hardest to knit, I am unable to regulate tension. I have always wondered what if I had gotten proper medical care? would it have made a difference?



Oh but I left out the best part.

 When we got back into the car after we were done at the pharmacy, my adoptive mother states “I need to lay down, I am feeling faint…. This has been all too much”. Even as a 12 year old I give her the “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me” look.  At which point she tells me she doesn’t handle medical “issues” very well, and she gets faint.     I’m thinking you were laying down for 45 minutes in the tanning bed, couldn't you have had your ‘fainting’ spell then?    So we sit in the car waiting for my adoptive mother be ‘recovered’ enough to drive home. 

Many in the Adoption Industry state that adoption provides 'a better home' for a child. That is a very subjective theory. All adoption can do is guarantee 'a different home', with quality being a very subjective aspect that no one can predict. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Corduroy


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my childhood. Not that I particularly want to rehash painful events, but because the totality of my experiences make up who I am. If I were to describe my childhood in a few words I would quote what a teacher once said “She is a very sad and lonely girl”.  The fact that my adoptive parents were not exactly nurturing didn’t help matters. From about the age of 9 I knew I was on my own, when I became ‘damaged goods’ I feel they just lost interest in me. My adoptive mother was my chief tormentor, she systematically took away any friend I made and anything that was important to me. I understand now that she is a Narcissist, and it’s what they do… their modus operandi. My adoptive brother was the golden child in her eyes, the athlete. I was the heavy, dumpy, stupid, special education, damaged goods child that just didn’t get the time and resources that he did.


Grade school was horrible, but it didn’t prepare me for the hell that junior high turned out to be. I knew people could be cruel, but junior high was a whole other level. I had everything going against me, I was heavy, in special education, and not able to stand up for myself. 


8 Months of Black Corduroy


The new school year shopping ritual was never a fun time for me. My adoptive mother who was
naturally thin, really didn't know where or how to shop for a child that was heavier than normal. It’s bad enough as an adult trying on endless clothing that doesn't fit you, but when you are 11 or 12 it’s an exercise in pure torture. Thus, I started my school year with 2 pairs of pants that were my clothing allotment for the rest of that year. Two pairs of corduroy pants, one brown and the other black. During the first 2 weeks of school, the brown corduroy pants got torn, and they were not salvageable.  So a normal mother might take her child back out shopping, since your child is now down to one pair of pants…right? I mean that is what a “normal” mother would do…. But my adoptive mother wasn't normal….   When I showed her what happened, she flatly said ‘well tough luck’ that is what you have for the year, and don't ask me about this again.  I wasn't a careless child when it came to things, and the pants getting torn was just  a freak accident. They caught a sharp edge that was hidden. 


So began my journey of wearing the same pair of pants every day for 8 months straight.


If they had been blue jeans, it might not have been that noticeable… but they were black corduroy, and well it becomes obvious that you've been wearing the same pants every day. Lunch time was the worst, and I took to hiding in the school library during my lunch period. It lasted for a few weeks before the librarian kicked me out. I then sought refuge in the last stall of the least used ladies bathroom.  It was a ritual, instead of lunch I hid away in a bathroom. I’d occupy myself with finishing the homework I didn't do from the night before and pray that I’d get hit by a truck soon, anything to keep me from having to come back to school in the same pants day after day.


About 3 months in, the pants started to suffer from wear and tear. The fabric on the inner thighs was showing fatigue. Small holes developed after they gone through the washer and dryer, so I had to hand wash them in the sink and hang them to dry in my bedroom in an effort to lengthen their life.  At the 6 month mark, say around March, the fabric was really becoming threadbare in areas. I spent hours trying to mend the pants, trying to find ways to patch and sew fabric that was rapidly deteriorating. Towards the end of the school year, my repairs were only lasting one day. I just accepted my dilemma that I only had the one pair of pants, I didn’t not bother asking again for a
replacement…. See I was damaged goods, and the resources of the family were put into more worthwhile members.  Was my family so poor they could not afford to buy me clothing? No.  My adoptive mother had her tanning appointments, hair coloring appointments, and she shopped as an activity. She was never without anything she wanted.   Someone suggested that maybe she was unaware of the clothing situation, which I can kind of give a pass on… let’s say… and I’ll be generous… for the first 4 months of continuous wear. That still leaves you with another 4 months that she just neglected to notice, care, or really have an interest in the lack of clothing I had.  


No, the honest truth is that my adoptive mother told me that I had that one pair of pants for the rest of the year and not to complain. That was what I had, and all I was getting.  So I accepted my situation.  It isn't easy being the target at school for bullies, and coming to school day after day in the same clothing was predicable in the level and kinds of abuse that would be directed at you.  PE class was horrible, we had to change in an open group locker room that had no privacy. I was actually thankful when I fell down a staircase at school and fractured some toes. I was able to get into PE class for those with disabilities.  Even after my foot healed, I just kept going to that PE class until toward the end of the year my Corduroy year my main special ed teacher realized I was still in the restricted PE class and forced me back into the mainstream PE class. I tried to re-injure my foot without success....the things we do when we are desperate.  


 At the time I was 12, and  I didn't have enough of my own money to buy clothing, but I was hiding and saving any money I did get because two years earlier I had been forced to sign over my savings bonds to help pay for my adoptive brothers first car. I was told I’d get the money back, and I did 6 years later after I kept asking about it…  I was told I was making a big deal out of nothing and it wasn't that much money. I don’t know what the amount was, I never counted the savings bonds when they made me sign them over at the bank.   It would have been nice if my adoptive parents would have reciprocated when I bought my first car and made ‘a family effort’ to help me, but as you know  I was ‘damaged goods’ and I actually didn't get a car until after I graduated high school. I worked full time as a receptionist, saving every dollar so I could eventually buy a used car… and that is a whole other blog entry.


After my corduroy year, I started baby sitting and saved my earnings so I could buy my own clothing… I never wanted to be forced to wear the same pair of pants for 8 months again. I never wore corduroy ever again, nor can I stand it to this day. What I am unable to wrap my head around to this day, is how my adoptive mother was able to see me day after day in the same pants and feel nothing.... not an ounce of empathy, sympathy, or common human decency. If she was teaching me a lesson to take better care of my clothing.... don't you think you could say the lesson was learned 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or at 10 weeks in? But 8 months? Only when you look at someone with a Narcissistic disorder can it even being to make sense.... the lack of empathy, or for that matter common decency.  Like in my Red nightmare, a total and complete lack of accountability, empathy for how your actions impact others. 
Adoptees have a tendency to be self-sufficient because we don’t trust people, especially those close to us… since our mothers abandoned us as infants. 
We realize that no relationship, no matter how close is guaranteed, we are disposable.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Color Red



The nightmare always starts the same. I’m in the bathroom, leaning over the sink. Watching
it turn red with my blood.  The sharpness of stark white turning red are vivid. A combination of disbelief, anger, and the desire for
recrimination are the mix of emotions I feel. My face feels like an explosion of pain has hit me head on.   I become aware of someone standing over me, to my side. As I look up, I see my adoptive mother… poised to hit me again… A look of rage is in her eyes, how dare I run way from her….. She is so close I can feel her breath on me…. I wake.


For decades I’ve had the same nightmare or a variation off it. I wish I could say that it was just a bad dream, but it’s an actual event that happened to me and I'm going to write about it for the first time. Like most people who have survived abuse, its an unwritten rule that you don't talk about it. Well (pardon my French) fuck that, I'll be 44 in a few days.   

My red nightmare starts

 I had fallen asleep reading in bed one night with the lights on. My adoptive brother had come home from a late night out.  He opened my door seeing my lights were on.  I was sound asleep.  As he woke me, I was groggy and I rolled over on the book I was reading.   He thought I was trying to hide the book I was reading, when I rolled over on it… laughable now I know, but I handed the book over… I wasn’t trying to hide anything… I fell back asleep quickly.  Soon he had woken my adoptive mother, and now she didn’t like what I was reading.

  I’m going back up slightly for context and clarity. I was put into special education at the age of 9 when my world fell apart.  My junior year I walk into my special ed English class to find an ‘English as a second language’ class reading Moby Dick in comic book form.  I asked to be moved to another English class, to find out this is all they offered, this is it when it comes to special ed English for a junior.  I ask to be removed from special ed, and I’m told that it isn’t that easy and it will take time.   I work an agreement out with the teacher, she will give me a reading list, and if I read and write a book report on each of the books on the list, I do not have to come to her class.  I don’t recall the exact details of the agreement now, but I agree to read and report on so many books a month. If I hold up to my end of the agreement, I don’t have to be subjected to the comic book classics in her class.  I’ve always been an avid reader, and even as a freshman my reading comprehension was at a college level, so this is actually a great arrangement for me. Looking back, I recall that nearly all the books on her list were by female authors. Pearl S. Buck, Daphne du Maurier, Mary Shelly, Louisa May Alcott, Emily Brontë, and Jane Austen are the authors I remember.  The book list was by author, so I would read several books by the same author then move on to a new author.
So Daphne du Maurier was the next author I was working on, the book was the Jamaica Inn. The library at school only had the Jamaica Inn in a reader’s digest book compilation that was titled “Six Gothic Tales

I’m not really sure what it was that set her off about the book. The cover art? The reviews on the back calling the tales inside “spine tingling”. It really doesn’t matter, when a Narcissist is angry, all logic is gone.  My adoptive mother confronts me, it’s the middle of the night. I explain I’m reading it for English class, and this is the only way I could find the book in the school library. I’m accused of “lying”…etc..etc..  In the end I just simply tell my adoptive mother that “It’s late, call the teacher in the morning… you can confirm with her that it’s required reading… call the school library in the morning… you can confirm that this is the only format they have the book in”. Rather than back down and maybe admit she was wrong (something a Narcissist will never do) she declares that none of this maters, because I was going to read the other stories in this book! And I’m lying!  What can I say to this? She has made up her mind, so I simply say “Call the teacher and the library in the morning, it’s late and I’m going back to bed”

Before I knew exactly what happened, my adoptive mother slugged me in the face with enough force that my head snapped back. (edited to add: I have since recalled that she called me "Ungrateful" as she hit me) I stood there, numb with pain and shock… holding my head at the sharp angle it rested in. The pain exploded across my face. I started to feel blood pouring from my nose, and I ran to the bathroom. I made it to the sink just in time for the blood to start streaming out of my nose and fill the sink.  I watched the stark white sink turn red with long drips of my blood.   As the shock of it set in, I became aware of my adoptive mother at my side… She had rage in her eyes, I could tell she wanted to hit me again… because how dare I run away from her.  Then she saw the blood, and her body posture relaxed slightly… I could tell she wasn’t going to hit me again.  Now all she wanted was for me to stop the blood, turn the water on… make it go away.  Deep down I wanted to smear my red blood everywhere and on her.  Slowly as the shock started to wear off, and as I watched the blood stream out I had this very clear thought. "I will never forgive you for this, I will never forgive you".  Not that it mattered, because never once did she ever apologize to me over this, never once did she say she was sorry….or that she would never hit me again…. Never again did she mention this incident. If it were not for the fact that my adoptive brother witnessed this, I am positive that my adoptive mother would deny it ever happened. For the next 20 minutes they both stood in the bathroom doorway, giving suggestions on how to stop the nose bleed. I repeatedly begged them"to just go away, and leave me alone" but they did not. I know that if I would have tried to close the bathroom door on them, it would have precipitated more violence toward me- But at this moment in my life, I really just wanted them out of that small bathroom, and to be alone....but I was denied that.

At this time I had always feared her, but now I really feared for my safety when she was in a rage. There had already been a few ugly incidents between us in the previous months leading up to this. In one incident she broke my bedroom door down to get at me, and started hitting and pulling me around by my hair. The door frame still bears the scars of this event despite my efforts to repair it with spackle and paint in my early 20's.

At this time I was in the grips of bulimia, and flirting with anorexia when this happened- obviously I was struggling for some sense of control in my life. For the next week my nose would bleed on and off, I was sent to the school nurse several times over it. I had some facial bruises on the impact site that I tried to cover with makeup. The nurse asked me about this, and I had the opportunity to have CPS called…. But didn’t.   
I felt like a powerless coward for not reporting her, but I realized that it was the only home I knew… and where would I go? I knew that I would be disowned the moment I really put my foot down and really stood up for myself…. This I always knew….  
A former teacher and friend at the time also suggested calling CPS, but again I knew that I would be entering state care for good until I turned 18 if I did this…. It was an unspoken threat. She had already told me she had thought about taking me back to the adoption agency. Weekly she would tell me how much she disliked me.  Had the re-homing trend with adoptees being going on then, I have no doubt that my adoptive mother would have done that to me.

In the end, I was finally disowned when I did finally stand up for myself at 36, twenty years after my Red nightmare started... But the imagery of the dream remains the same each time, the  stark white sink turning  red with long drips of my blood.