#MeToo – I was six years old

Trigger Warnings: Rape, Child Abuse, Violence, Narcissism.

The first time it happened I was six years old and I told my mother.

I told her that he had touched me, and I didn’t like it, and that I cried, and I told him NO, I told him to Stop. I told her I was scared of him. I told her he hurt me. I told her that I didn’t want to go to school tomorrow because he would keep hurting me. I sat in the backseat of that dusty old sedan feeling the most complex emotions my tiny self had ever experienced, scared-used-shamed-guilty-dirty-sad, with teary eyes and a stomach ache  and listened to the leaves on the trees overhead brushing the roof as she just stared at me in the rear-view mirror, it was the coldest look, she told me to buckle my seat-belt.

Maybe she doesn’t believe me. Maybe she thinks that I’m trying to make the teacher sound bad so that I won’t have to go to school. Maybe she thinks I’m a liar. This is so unfair. I’m not a liar. 

I was sent to my room when we got home. We ate dinner in near-silence that night, I kept looking at my mother, pleading with my eyes What will happen? What will you do? Will you help me? She sat with pursed lips throughout the meal, she refused to eat. I ate a little, but I felt sick and asked to be excused early because I didn’t feel well.

It was the middle of the night and I was laying in bed not quite sleeping but drifting, I was trying to think of a way to I could show my mom the truth, so that my mom could believe me. I heard her slipper-ed feet padding down the hallway to my room, I may have sighed softly at the sound of my door creaking open, but I know my eyes remained closed. Then she was tearing the bedding off me, switching on the light, and taking my hairbrush to my exposed legs – smack, smack, smack, and I was writhing away in pain and crying out “Why? What’re you doing?” “Slut!” she pushed up my nightie and hit me across the thighs “Why?” I don’t know that word “Slut! You’re a slut!” I shouted “Help!” as loud as I could, and then shouted it again for good measure, she shoved a pillow into my face “Shut up! Shut up! You little slut!” she continued to hit me “You lying little whore!” I clawed at the pillow in a panic I’m going to suffocate, she’s finally actually going to kill me. My face is hot. I’m crying. I can’t breath. I feel myself go limp. She keeps hitting me. I feel myself wet the bed.

“What in gods name is going on?” my father bellows from my doorway. She stops instantly, the force behind the pillow goes away but I can’t move, I hear my fathers voice distressed “Oh Jesus Christ” I hear his footfalls heavy and fast as he runs over, he pulls the pillow from my face. The cool night air hits my face and I suck in huge lung fulls of it. I still can’t move, the tears are rolling silently down my cheeks and I can’t blink my vision is blurry with them. My father gives another, more relieved, “oh Jesus.” And then he’s leading her away. They go back to their room. I lie still for a long time.

I get out of bed and haul off the sheets, I clean myself up in the bathroom, I check for blood on my legs but only find scratches and welts, my wrists hurt, and when I look I can see bruises rising up. I feel nothing. I awkwardly wrap myself in my comforter and curl up on my bed. Nobody can hit me through this, it’s too thick, if she tries it won’t hurt me. She can’t hurt me now, I’ll be safe. Dad won’t let her get back up tonight anyway. And he doesn’t know where I live. I’ll be safe. I can sleep here. I can sleep here.

I remember this sequence often the nightmare is vivid and it wakes me up drenched in sweat and struggling to breath, crying. I find it strange that my brain manages to repress the worst of it while I’m awake – every time I get brave enough to try to focus in on the sexual abuse itself it’s like my brain swerves, flashing red lights go off “do not look behind the curtain” I remember just enough to know it happened, I remember bits of it. In therapy once or twice apparently I talked about in depth, I don’t remember doing so,  but I believe my psychiatrist. But I remember all of the aftermath, the physical abuse, the denials and the name-calling. I remember that my father wouldn’t hug me anymore after that day. He was never big on hugging to start with, but after that, never again – I have no idea what my mother told him. I have no idea what she told herself, how she rationalized blaming a little girl for being molested.

I screamed and cried and bit her hands when she hauled me back into that school.

My period started a few months later, I woke up to blood and I had no idea what was happening to me. I went to my mother, and she told me that it shouldn’t be happening yet, but she gave me pads and vague directions on how to use them. She told me not to tell anybody, that nobody would understand. She told me it was probably because I was a slut, that it happened early for little girls who were dirty. My physical development from that point on was rapid, I had to start wearing a bra, my height increased rapidly and growing pains came with it, I towered over the other kids. I felt like a freak, but the other girls were jealous. I know now that this is called precocious puberty, and that it can be caused by childhood sexual abuse. It seemed so cruel that the moment I escaped his classroom my own body betrayed me and began to attract more attention that I didn’t know how to handle and did not want. But not his, I guess I wasn’t his type any more.

(Note: he wasn’t jailed on my account, I never found anybody who would listen. But he was a substitute teacher and he was caught at the next school he taught in, and he eventually went to prison. For the sake of my own mental health I haven’t sought any information recently.)



Here’s to strong women – may we know them, may we raise them, may we be them.

I remember…

The brown-haired, tiny, co-worker I’d only just met, catching me outside while I bought a coffee, taking my arm in hers and saying quietly, “I see the way he looks at you, and I see how scared you get, and if you need somebody to talk to, I’m here for you.” and squeezing my arm and walking away.

That random blonde bombshell in the red dress in the women’s bathroom who came up beside me at a sink and drunkenly exclaimed “You! You’re so beautiful! Do you know that?” and the joyful hug we shared standing in a puddle of god-knows-what in the middle of that graffiti-strewn room when I told her that she was beautiful too.

My English teacher telling me, in her raspy voice with an unusually insistent tone, “Don’t you ever let them bring you down.” on our last day of class.

That friend of mine who always seemed to have it together, who I envied for her casual enthusiasm towards life, holding my hand while we watched fireworks over the lake, and telling me “You inspire me. You are so strong.” And that it brought tears to my eyes there hidden by the dark.

My best-friends mother, telling me, “If you can’t go home, you can always stay here. You’ll always be welcome here. It’s okay.” And her hugging me like I was her own child.

Holding my best friends hand in the hospital, silently trying to send my strength to her while she struggled to open her eyes, watching her fight for her life and win.

I remember strength, compassion, empathy, and moments of random kindness, I remember women standing as witness for other women.  I remember.



I haven’t been able to find a new therapist, and inspired by a comment from the last one “Do I really need to be here for this..?” I’ve adopted a DIY approach. I’ve been dragging up memory after memory of abuse and smacking it around like a rug strung up for cleaning, and then pouring them out into this blog one at a time. It feels a little like I’m giving birth to my demons. It’s bloody, and painful, and probably a bit gross for onlookers, but it’s a necessary process for a beautiful ending. Because I think it’s helping. I think I’ve been more honest here than I’ve ever been in therapy. It’s giving me nightmares, and insomnia, and hypersomnia, and flashbacks and pain, and every time I hit post I feel a flash of guilt and fear and shame, but it feels like I’m getting clean inside.

So. Fuck it? I guess?


A very quiet rebellion

Trigger Warnings: Bulimia, Smoking, Narcissism, Neglect, Child Abuse

From the time I was a pre-teen through to my early 20’s I treated junk food and cigarettes the same way – sneaky little rituals, pleasure and guilt and shame and secrets.

I would go for a walk, a nice long walk to a neighboring suburb, and hit up a milk-bar where the lady on the counter thought my 13 year old self looked 18 (or just didn’t give a shit.) I’d pick up a packet of smokes and a packet of crisps, or a block of chocolate, and a bottle of water, some gum, and then find myself a concealed locale in a park, a field, a vacant lot. And I’d make myself a little nest. I’d wait a while to scope out whether my chosen spot was as secluded as it seemed, often I’d braid daises into daisy chains while I waited, I found it a comforting mindless activity for my nervous hands. Any foot traffic during that time meant pulling myself back up and finding a new location.


Once I had somewhere sufficiently isolated I would light up that first a cigarette and just, mentally, bliss-out, even as I coughed. I’d sit there in the grass and chain-smoke as long as I could stand it, ignoring the inevitable head-spins and nausea. Then I’d eat the junk food de jour, ravenously, not pausing to savor it, just choking it all down as quickly as possible to minimize the chance of being caught. I was terrified of one of my parents friends, or an off duty teacher walking by and busting me, of them relaying the story to my parents themselves. Once I was done eating, and done smoking, I’d furtively check if the coast was clear once more. And then I’d throw it all back up.

The end of the ritual was always the same, drink the water, chew the gum, spray myself with deodorant – or, if I’d been especially prepared, very quickly change my t-shirt and shove the smoke-scented one into the bottom of my back-pack.

Lots of extra steps, to fool parents who never noticed.

I remember it gave me this feeling of control, of self-determination, and rebellion, I was doing things they would HATE, and I was getting away with it, that was the thrill. I threw up so that I wouldn’t gain weight because they’d notice if I gained weight. I chewed gum and changed clothes and deodorized myself so that I could hide the smoking because if they caught me they would make me stop and goddammit I wanted to make a decision for myself for once. The fact that was a self-destructive one was all the better – because at 13 I truly wanted to die: I just wasn’t bold enough to attempt suicide.

I remember telling a friend that once, a group of us were standing around in a huddle at school, down the back of the football field as usual, most of us were smoking, but he asked me in particular “Why do you smoke?” and I remember I held up my cigarette and said “I want to die, slowly.” I remember everybody laughed, heads thrown back snorting laughter, they all thought it was deadpan humor.


But it wasn’t a joke, or not really.

Yes, it’s all a bit embarrassing in retrospect. My parents never actually caught me smoking, all these years later – they, apparently, still don’t know that I’m a smoker. I’m honestly not sure if that’s the power of denial, or genuine.

But what about the food thing?

Nobody knew for about a year, until I got stuck one day, I ran into friends of my parents while I was out walking, I’d already been shopping but I hadn’t the opportunity to consume. They came upon me walking through the park and insisted on walking me home and chatting while they visited with my parents since I’d walked so far from home. And so I wound up in my bedroom, clutching a backpack containing a full pack of smokes and a bag of crisps and a heart full of panic.

Contraband. In their house. My heart could have beaten out of my chest. I stashed the smokes on the very top of my bookcase knowing my mother was too short to see them. But the food was another matter and in the end the urge to binge out-weighed my self-preservation, I knew that I couldn’t get away with throwing up in the house. And so I did something disgusting, and hard to admit. I chewed them all up, and spat them all into my bin, the whole packet. Then I went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth, I remember crying as I brushed them – feeling disgusted with myself, and trying to swallow toothpaste to get the taste out of my mouth.

I told myself I’d get rid of the bag out of the bin before they went in my room – but, perhaps suspicious due to the way I’d come home, perhaps due to the middle of the day teeth-brushing, my mother was in my room when I got back to it. She had found the bin. The crisp wrapper covered in chewed up … I remember walking in and sitting down on my bed, feeling that sinking sensation, of, oh, she’s going to beat me now. Oh I’m going to be grounded forever. But she just looked me up and down, in this dispassionate, assessing manner, and said “Well, as long as you don’t swallow it, or you throw it up, okay.” and then she walked away.


Somehow, she had found the one response worse than beating the shit out of me would have been.

As long as I stayed thin, she didn’t give a fuck. And thus began the period of my binging and purging with my mother’s blessing. It had lost the appeal of rebellion, absolutely, forever, in that first instant she caught me. But now I found somehow that I couldn’t stop. She’d watch me after meals to make sure I threw up. If I was purging then she’d let me eat more, and I could feel full if only for a little while. If I was purging, she’d buy me junk food as a treat. If I was purging, she wouldn’t eye every mouthful I took with suspicion and disgust. If  I was purging I felt human, I felt worth-while, I felt like I deserved food so long as I threw it up again.

And I suppose it shouldn’t have shocked me, that the woman who starved me in childhood, would approve of my starving myself as I moved into adulthood. But it did.

A couple of years later, I found a new way to rebel – I stopped purging.

My fear of my parents was vanishing rapidly into a deep sea of disappointment and resentment. The weight gain was equally rapid. I found it funny. To poke at my arms and feel flesh not bone, to stand before the mirror each day and see my ribs softly disappearing into my chest protected by flesh. I felt less less fragile. It all felt very strange, but, funny (?) I don’t know why it made me laugh, I don’t know why it made me dizzy with joy. I know I had more energy at that time than I’d ever had before in my life, I felt stronger, and I felt saner. Though whether I was actually was any saner is debatable. I was eating explicitly to piss off my parents, and it was hard work – my body wasn’t used to keeping food down and at first I threw up despite myself, I discovered that I had to ramp it up slowly.

She threw a fit the first time I had to buy new clothes for my changing body, I was 6′ tall, 130 lbs, and 15 years old buying myself a new pair of jeans (with money my father sneaked to me,) while my grown-ass mother cried and yelled in the middle of the store, refusing to pay for “fat girl clothes.” She demanded to know where I got the cash when I handed it over, the cashiers expression as she stared over my shoulder at my mother was contempt and shock, and as she handed me my bag she told me, quietly, “Girl, you are not fat. Your mother is crazy.”

At that point I did think that I was fat. But I also thought that I had always been fat. And that I would always be fat. I saw gaining a few pounds to drive my mother crazy as a fun pastime, and as a way to take back some control. I was savoring the beginning of freedom that comes with teenager-hood. I only wish somebody had shown me a BMI chart, and that I knew then, what I know now.

For visual reference here is a photo of a woman the height and weight that I was at that time. 



Stories that I’m not allowed to tell – dress-ups

Trigger Warning: child abuse, narcissism, anorexia, violence

The other day I bought myself an expensive floral scented hand-wash, a little luxury item, a gift to myself from myself for over-coming a hard day. Standing in my bathroom lathering it onto my hands for the first time the scent made me frown a little, and when I plunged my hands under the water to rinse and it rose up and hit me full force – this is my aunts perfume when I was a little girl. This is the smell of her hugs.

…My cousin is laughing at me as I pretended to walk a cat-walk, we are wearing make-up, perfume, giant floppy hats, sequins and feathers, and giggling. She’s eight years my senior so all of the clothes are too big for me, it’s summer and this is the longest anybody has ever played with me, I trip over a hem and she hugs me and it makes me cry and I can’t explain why I’m crying, she hugs me tighter and I panic and try to push her away, she makes soothing noises and holds me, she holds on for a long time and I start to feel safe, I fall asleep curled up in a ball on her bed.

Sleepy, half-awake I hear a quiet conversation from the door that stands ajar “Mom, she’s covered in bruises. I mean, all they’re all over her. We were playing dress-ups, I saw them.” My Aunt murmurs something back and the door gently closes, I drift back off to sleep.

I’m woken up for dinner by my uncle, and sent to wash my face, my cousin hovers, she seems pensive, unhappy, she helps me wash up, I ask her if she’s okay, she’s very reassuring. We eat a subdued meal – my father is watching me in a hawkish manner, “Do you like your dinner?” “Yes, thank you.” “Why aren’t you thanking your Aunt, she cooked it.” “Thank you Aunty (name)” “You’re welcome” she smiles at me and I smile back. My father glares at me “Did you thank your cousin for wasting her time with you today?” I feel myself getting smaller, my vision blurs with tears. My Uncle exclaims my fathers name loudly, and my cousin interjects “She didn’t waste my time, we played dress-ups, it was fun. I like playing with her.” I feel ashamed, I want to slide under the table. I want to hide. The table goes silent. I look over and realize I’ve eaten almost as much as my brother, I feel petrified, I look at my mother, she’s looking at my nearly-empty plate with scorn in her eyes, “I’m full.” My Aunt exclaims “but you’re so skinny, you’re a skinny mini, you ran around all day, you should eat more! Are you sure you’re full?” I look up at her, she looks so surprised. I feel surprised too, “No, I’m fat.” I look back down at my plate, I’m embarrassed that she feels like she has to lie to me.

My Aunt and Uncle put us to bed, they’re doing their best to cheer me up, but I feel so much guilt – guilt at taking up space, guilt at taking their time, guilt for making it obvious I felt bad so now they feel like the need to make me feel better, guilt for making my father angry, guilt for eating so much of their food, guilt for drinking their water, guilt for making my mother hate me. Every moment of attention they pay me makes me feel worse, squeamish, nauseated, and afraid. They get me settled on the mattress on the floor of my cousins room, and then they sit down with me. My Aunt takes a deep breath, “I need to ask you about something. I know it might be a bit scary, but I need to ask you to tell me the truth – and know that nothing bad will happen to you if you tell me. Is that okay?” I nod, I wonder what I’ve done wrong – did I break a vase and not notice? Did I use some soap I wasn’t supposed to? “Do your mom and dad get angry with you sometimes?” “Yes.” “Do they yell at you when they’re angry?” “Yes.” I nod, I’m surprised by the question, don’t all parents yell when they’re angry? “Were you full at dinner tonight, or did you just feel like you had to stop eating?” I squirm silently, I don’t know how to answer “It’s okay, hmm, do your parents tell you to stop eating before you’re full?” “Yes” I can feel myself getting tense, this feels dangerous, “Do they, does your dad ever hit you?” “no.” “Does your mom ever hit you?” I’m not supposed to tell. But I’m not supposed to lie. But I’m not supposed to tell. But they’re family too. But I’m not supposed to tell. What will they do if I tell? My Aunt puts her arm around me and I burrow into the hug crying. I head my Uncle give a quiet, tired sounding, “Jesus Christ.”

Jolted awake in the dark to the sound of raised voices “(my fathers name, shouted sternly) that child is covered in bruises, and she won’t say where they came from.” “I do NOT HIT MY child!” “Well, it’s happening under your roof, if it’s not you it’s that wife of yours.” “How dare you insult MY WIFE” “You are protecting the person who is beating your child” “What happens under my roof is none of your business.” “You sound like our father, just like our father. Don’t you remember?”

My cousin climbs over me in the dark, sticks her head out the door “Guys, you think you could take this some place else? You’re terrifying her.” The sound of the adults footsteps recedes, doors open and close. My cousin walks over and sits next to me, puts her arm around me. “Want me to read you a bedtime story?” I nod firmly. She switches on a nightlight and picks out a book…

…we’re going home today, saying our goodbyes my Aunt and my cousin both cry, I’m quiet, withdrawn, I feel like a package being put in the post, bundled into the back seat among belongings, my mothers bag between my feet so that she can have more leg room, my fathers suit hung on the hanger over my window so it won’t wrinkle, it’s a small space just big enough to fit me if I squish myself down small enough.

We’re on the main road outside of town when it starts. “What did you tell them? Did you say that we hit you? Did you tell them that we don’t feed you?” “We are VERY angry with you. We are VERY offended that you would lie about us that way. We put a Roof over your Head and you should be grateful.” “Go on. Answer me. Did you tell them we hit you?” I’m terrified, “I didn’t tell them!” I yell in a high-pitched voice “Didn’t tell them what?” what my father growls, “I didn’t tell them you hit me! I never said that I swear! I would never tell!” My brother lets out an audible groan, “Look, we all know you hit her. Everybody knows. She obviously didn’t tell them, she’s scared of you, they probably saw the bruises on her arms. Just get over it.” My father swerves the car onto the shoulder, swearing, my mother yells “How DARE YOU?” My brother is dragged out of the car by one arm as I mumble “No, no, no, not you too. no.” I begin to cry, as quietly as I can. My father holds him still while mother smacks him, hard, repeatedly across the back and shoulders. “Be a man, you want to talk to your mother like that? Take the beating.” By the time they’re back in the car I’m curled up with my face to my knees. The engine starts, when I finally look up at my brother I see blood on his lip and what is soon to be a black eye, he’s crying silently, he catches me staring and he hisses at me, “you did this. don’t look at me.” The rest of the trip home is silent…

I’m summoned into the sitting room for my punishment – no snacks, no desert, no seconds of any kind, no new books, no treats, no playtime, no going out of the house, no friends visiting, no playgroup, no toys, no music. I spend the rest of that summer listless, wandering from room to room, my parents will barely acknowledge my existence, telling me to go away whenever I get within a meter of them, screaming “You Better Not Be Going Outside!” every time a door opens in the house, I’m kept home from playgroup for weeks. My brother is avoiding me – now he knows their hatred is contagious. Nobody will speak to me. They feed me something at every meal but it’s half what I got before and I feel ravenous, empty, my belly growls constantly, I’m cold all the time. At first I struggle to sleep, and then I struggle not to. I spend hours lying on my bed crying, before I run out of tears. My whole world is small and silent and cold. I watch my body get smaller in fascination, the way my arms get narrower, and the bones on my wrists stick out, the bruises on the outside are fading but my insides ache.

One morning I wake up to my mother clinically examining my body, checking every spot their was a bruise before. She declares that today I will go back to playgroup. She tells me that I’ve been sick, very, very, sick – with the measles! I was very contagious and so I had to be kept at home, and it made me throw-up a lot. But now I’m better. I stare at her confused, she shakes me by the shoulders and repeats herself – measles, very sick, contagious, do I understand? I nod. She hugs me. She gets out clothes for me to wear, she makes me a breakfast like the ones she used to, and I try but I can’t eat it all, this makes her frown. She tells me I’ll have to try harder at lunch.




I’m still addicted to nicotine.

It’s very unfashionable.

And it will probably kill me.

But it’s an excuse to go outside and stand on my own for a few minutes, introspective and unoccupied aside from the puff-puff-puff, an excuse to grab a few moments of much needed isolation in the middle of whatever-is-happening.

Smoking is far more common among the mentally ill than it is in the general population, (source) perhaps that’s why most fellow smokers are respectful of the silence even when we’re forced to stand near one another in designated spaces.

I wonder what will happen to us all when smoking is finally outlawed – what new excuses will we invent to escape social interaction? I imagine myself going out for little walks, defending the habit as a requirement for spinal health. Or insisting upon meditation breaks, and everybody thinking that I’ve gone a bit soft in my old age. Or, like in childhood, going back to hiding in the bathroom, and everybody speculating that I have IBS.

I wonder how much physically healthier we’d all be if it was safe to admit – “I need a sanity break.”

At least it gets me outdoors.



On the validity of calling in sick for an existential crisis.

There are times I feel so light it’s as if the next strong breeze might pick me up and blow me away, like seed from a dandelion aimlessly borne on the wind maybe I’ll drop down someplace I can grow or maybe I’ll fall onto cement and bake to death.

I make lists of short to medium term goals, ‘get off the couch’, ‘take out the garbage’, ‘turn off the emo music it is not fucking helping’, but honestly I don’t have plans past next Tuesday and nothing on my list would matter at all if tomorrow I just stopped. (Oh-oh. That doesn’t sound like a helpful thought pattern now does it. – me 30 minutes older and wiser)

I don’t know what it would take to make me content. I have no idea what I want. I try on sport after hobby after activity, passion project after charity with an obsessive intensity and nothing moves me long-term. Nothing sticks. I am human Teflon. Maybe I just want to try everything? Perhaps my long term goal is to have tried 100 new hobbies. Perhaps it’s just to die of old age.  (Hmmm… yes, death, now there’s a cheery topic.)

I go out in the world and I wax on and on, sentimental, lyrical, about Purpose, and I pretend that nihilism is it’s own solace. but. in the small hours sometimes it creeps up on me, that the things I say to others about their importance to me, and their importance to the world, and the validity of feeling unfulfilled in a capitalist society and how they can create their own personal meaning, are always met with gratitude but so rarely met with reciprocity. (Yes, that’s right, other people suck, and their not-helping me has nothing to do with my hiding my emotions and refusing to let anybody know that I need help whatsoever.)

But, “Thank you” yes, “Thank you for that, I feel better.” good. “Talking to you always cheers me up, thank you” yes, go on, smile. I feel the warm glow of helping, my poor fucked up monkey brain bathes me in serotonin, it’s like sunshine inside, like honey, filling the cold dark cracked places for a little while, drenching away the cobwebs and dust. Nothing in this world feels as good to me as making somebody else happy. Call me teachers pet if you like, a suck-up, this self-made shit is way better than the store-bought version I swallow nightly. (Thanks fucked up childhood.)

Still though, why am I having existential crises three times a week around 4am if I’ve already surrendered to the futility of being? Am I not convinced by my own arguments? Do I not truly believe that it is enough to just Do My Best, try to Have Some Fun, and Help Everybody I Can? Do I need somebody else to tell me – that it’s okay, to just be? Do I need a hug? (It’s normal, not entirely, meh, yes, and yes definitely.)

I see the core message of mindfulness meditation as a rather facile take on Being and Nothingness, philosophy watered down and simplified for the general public. A part of me, young and sarcastic in black tights and blacker eyeliner sitting in the front row of the stalls is sighing and rolling her eyes every time somebody intones “be in the moment,” secure in her sense of intellectual superiority. Sometimes I miss being her, the problems were more obvious, the solutions appeared close at hand. (It is and there’s nothing wrong with that – well done on being a clever-clogs but it doesn’t make you better than anybody else. You don’t really, none of those solutions were genuinely effective, she was a bit of a bitch and clinging desperately to the one positive quality she recognized in herself, and she had to live with your parents – erk!)

I missed two whole days of work this week because my sleep pattern has turned into – 48 hours of being wide the-fuck-awake accompanied with an array of the more exciting PTSD symptoms, followed by 36 hours of sleep that no alarm in the world can drag me out of. Which is all a bit fucked. And I feel really hard-done by because I’ve been taking my pills in prescribed doses, and going out in the sunshine, and eating fruits and vegetables, and not imbibing caffeine or alcohol, and talking to other humans not just to my pot-plants, and not having sex with attractive strangers in nightclub bathrooms or indulging in recreational substance abuse. Yet here I am. (Turns out mental illness doesn’t dole out stars for good behavior.) 

The past is dead so why does my subconscious keep trying to drag me back there? To moments of trauma no less? Why can’t I have flashbacks about winning volleyball games, or making out with somebody attractive? I’ve been told that I’m a masochist but I mean, really. Really. Why must I relive running in fear for my life on the train at 7am on a Wednesday? Why can’t I just read the news on my phone during my commute like a normal person? It’s a miracle nobody called emergency services, the lady seated next to me thought I had epilepsy and apparently told people to leave me alone. (A flashback can look like a clonic seizure to a stranger. The Why of PTSD is ‘unresolved trauma’ according to the specialists, I’m not sure why I’m framing the question as if there is some other more exotic answer I can find if I just question it long enough. It’s not a helpful interrogative mind-set to have, it just is, so you just have to deal with it.) 

I didn’t go into work today because my first thought upon hearing my alarm this morning was “Existence is meaningless and we’re all going to die anyway. So why should I put on uncomfortable clothing and subject myself to another day of pointless toil and fake smiles in exchange for pieces of paper that we’ve collectively agreed to pretend have value?” And I couldn’t come up with a sensible response. And now I feel depressed because that’s roughly where I was at back when I was a teenager – I haven’t moved past “what’s the point and why should I even bother?” (Apparently “because it might be fun”, or “because you need the fancy bits of paper to keep a roof over your head” were a bit too much for sleep-deprived early am me to muster.) 

Still, I’m putting this in as Sick Leave. Sick in the head is still sick. (First sensible thought I had all day.)




Lies my parents told

Trigger Warnings: Narcissism, physical and psychological child abuse, anorexia, depression, anxiety. 

As a child I kept journals, most times in the form of notepads that I would steal from my father’s stash of office supplies and would squirrel away – wedged between my bed-frame and mattress, taped to the top of my locker at school, buried in a plastic bag in the tomato patch (I was the only one to til it anyway,) or under a few handfuls of loose dirt under the holly bush that I only I was small enough to crawl under without injury. I would climb a tree and write in them feverishly perched hidden among the branches, or scrawl down frantic notes sitting in the middle of a hay-field after school, or record the latest outrage against my person late at night under my covers with a torch if I was feeling brave. My journals were my outlet, my solace, and my anchor to my own sanity in the midst of constant gas-lighting.

My parents searched my room regularly and confiscated contraband (food, water, friendship bracelets, notes from my friends, love letters, art projects, and anything I wrote on paper other than school work,) and so a few journals were burned in the backyard “to teach me a lesson” before I got good at hiding them. However, I still have some of them today, torn, dog-eared things that I managed to take with me when I left home by sneaking them into my friends backpack and having her bring them to me later. The journals give me access to a world of hastily recorded quotes and experiences most of which I know they’d prefer I forgot. They form a ledger of crimes I planned to lay at their feet once I was old enough, big enough, strong enough, and sure they would listen – so that they could finally understand how they made me feel, so that they would be able to say “we’re sorry. we love you. we always loved you. it was all a mistake.”

The more time I spend in therapy trying to undo years of the impact of this bullshit “parenting”, the more of it I remember without the need for journals: the memories rise up like bubbles from a pit of muck, they come in great clarity and color with potent emotions, coupled with an intense longing to go back in time and hug my childhood self. Sometimes it seems they come to drown me, to pull me back down into the mud with them. They are at their strongest when I try to deny them, at their scariest when it’s dark and I’m alone and nobody else in the world knows. I no longer labor under the misapprehension that my parents would feel sadness or guilt if they read this, I know only blinding rage at my refusal to forget and toe the line would be the response: I spent so much of my childhood lying for them that telling the truth now feels cleansing. So, in the interest of rejecting the gas-lighting and stating my truth, here is a list of some of the lies I’ve heard my parents tell…

  1. She fell down the stairs playing on the back deck.
  2. Her brother did it – she tried to steal one of his toys and he was fed up, it’s not his fault, she needs to learn.
  3. It happened playing soccer, you know how rough kids can be.
  4. Her father never should have bought them a trampoline, this was bound to happen, she’s lucky it’s just bruises and not a broken arm.
  5. She fell off her bike, again. She’s so clumsy for her age.
  6. Fell out of a tree this time, must have hit every branch on the way down, maybe now she’ll learn not to climb trees.
  7. Yes that’s a hand-print, I had to pull her out of the pool, she was drowning. I saved her.
  8. She locked herself in the cupboard, playing hide and seek, then fell asleep in there I guess.
  9. I don’t know why she’s lost weight, she eats constantly, just growing I suppose. Better than her being fat anyway.
  10. They lie so often at this age, she has a great imagination, she’s so dramatic, maybe she’ll be an actress, if she doesn’t get fat.
  11. She just won’t stop crying this week, she wants attention constantly, it’s exhausting, all I do is look after her.
  12. She’s stupid, it’s horrible to say, I know, but she’s really stupid.
  13. She gets hurt all the time, falls off things, trips over, look at it, I can’t even keep her hair neat.
  14. Little girls should be seen and not heard.
  15. If you weren’t so loud and demanding I would spend more time with you.
  16. Of course it hurts, it’s because you have this awful curly hair like a *****, now sit still while I brush it or I’ll tear it out, or shave it off, is that what you want? Stop crying.
  17. You’re an ugly child, ugly on the inside, ugly on the outside.
  18. If you don’t stay thin nobody will ever love you.
  19. You should never eat more than a third of what the men at the table eat. Otherwise you’ll get fat. It doesn’t matter if you’re hungry. You’ll always be hungry.
  20. Pretty girls don’t eat dessert, it’s for mommies and daddies and little boys only.
  21. Pretty girls don’t eat snacks, only fat, ugly girls do.
  22. Pretty girls don’t sleep in on the weekends, they get up and do their chores.
  23. You’re stupid so you have to be pretty or you won’t have anything, you have to learn to be pretty.
  24. Only vain sluts look in the mirror, stop admiring yourself, it’s disgusting.
  25. Get up, you have no reason to be tired, get up, you’re missing the best part of the day, get up, see the sunrise.
  26. It’s not your room, it’s our room, in our house, and you don’t get to say who is in any part of our house, stop whining or we’ll take the door off.
  27. If he hit you, you deserved it.
  28. Big girls don’t want to hug grown-ups all the time, grow up.
  29. Never contradict somebody older than you.
  30. Never say no to somebody older than you.
  31. It’s a child’s job to do as they’re told, and help their parents.
  32. Your father only does this so that you can learn.
  33. I’m teaching you to be a good girl.
  34. If you loved me you would stop asking questions and do as you’re told.
  35. If you tell anybody about this they’ll just call you a liar.
  36. This is normal.
  37. If we get a divorce it will be because of you, because you’re bad.
  38. Your father hates you, because you’re a horrible, spoiled, angry little brat.
  39. Your mother hates you, I don’t know why.
  40. When you are bad in school, everybody thinks it’s my fault, that I haven’t taught you properly, you made me look bad today. Do you understand? That’s why I’m angry. It’s your fault I’m hitting you. Do better and I’ll be happy and I won’t have to hit you any more.
  41. You’re only drinking water so you can cry more, I’m on to you, no more water.
  42. You’re fat. Maybe if you weren’t somebody could love you.
  43. If you don’t smile people will think you’re damaged.
  44. If you tell anybody they’ll take you away and put you in a foster home and far, far, worse will happen to you there.
  45. All of your friends are liars, and their parents are liars.
  46. You don’t deserve friends. None of them really like you anyway, if they knew you like I do they would hate you.
  47. You’re lucky to have me, I protect you from so much.
  48. You’re too old to play at other children’s houses, and you have to be here, to do your chores, stop being selfish.
  49. If you don’t behave we’ll get rid of you, nobody will want you, you will live on the street.
  50. If a boy hits you it means he likes you.
  51. You’ll never be anybody, you’ll never make anything of yourself, you’re useless, and pathetic, and lazy, and ugly.
  52. Girls who hold hands with other girls get raped and killed and go to hell.
  53. No d*kes allowed in this household, it’s unnatural, it’s disgusting, and if you carry on with a girl I will beat it out of you, or you can’t live under my fucking roof.
  54. Girls can’t be astronauts, little girls jobs are to grow up and be pretty and get married and raise children.
  55. House work is women’s work, don’t expect men to help. You have to learn to do all this or you’ll never find a husband, no man wants a girl who can’t clean.
  56. You need to learn to control yourself, your emotions make you weak.
  57. Crying is pathetic.
  58. Nobody will ever love you as much as we do, this is what love is like, this is what family is. We have to make you better.
  59. I would never hit my children.
  60. I love my children.

The withheld food, water, and sleep, the constant threats of familial rejection and homelessness, the lies, the violence, the homophobia, the insistence on my lack of rights to my own body, and to privacy, the invalidation of my emotions, the forced social exclusion from my peers, and the belittling of my talents and persistent message that I was stupid and incapable of looking after myself – all of this was abuse.

This is not what love looks like.

If you are reading this right now, and it sounds familiar, please know that your parent(s) are lying to you, please know that this is not normal, please know that not all people will treat you this way, there is hope, and things do get better. Find a safe adult – maybe there is a teacher at your school who you like? And tell that person, tell them everything. 


The origins of fear – stories that I’m not allowed to tell.

Trigger Warnings: child abuse, narcissistic parents, violence, PTSD. 

Context: I was lying in bed one night earlier this week when a flashback hit, it was an intense, technicolor memory of my early childhood and when it left me I was crying uncontrollably in the fetal position drenched in sweat, later examination in the mirror showed that I had scratched my own face deeply and was bleeding. (I have since cut my fingernails.)  I thought that writing out the memory might help with processing, I kept slipping out of past tense and into present tense while typing it, I’ve tried to fix it as much place this firmly in my past as for the sake of ‘good writing’, forgive me if I’ve missed a few places, it’s surprisingly hard for me to do.

I was around four years old when this occurred, and I’m coming to it now with the vocabulary of an adult, but the feelings are now as they were then; I’m just better equipped to describe them. It’s taken many years and a lot of therapy for me to understand that my childhood wasn’t entirely normal. I was never allowed to talk about what went on in our home, and my parents were always nice when other people were present – so I assumed that everybody else was living with similar rules and had similar experiences, and that I was failing to cope with normalcy. I didn’t think it was “okay” mind you, I just thought that all adults were the enemies of all children, and I often told myself that when I was big enough I’d start some sort of rebellion.


It was winter and I had been unwell, I still was, sniffling and stuffy and greasy haired in my favorite pale green nightie wrapped in a red blanket directly in front of the heater in the living room, a box of tissues nearby. My father was on the couch, watching a loud car race. I was in my own little world playing with a set of interlocking purple/green/peach plastic beads, a recent gift from my Nona, my play was a little glassy-eyed from my illness but I remember the feel of the beads between my fingers, their embossed squiggle patterns and the satisfying pop they made when snapped together. I made one long necklace, put it on, then, seeing that it was so long it fell to my waist, separated it again to make some bracelets to go with a shorter necklace.

My father’s first interjection felt abrupt, like audio-violence against my ear-drums. “What are you DOING? You’re doing it WRONG. You’re supposed to make something, and then wear it, not just pull it apart over and over. What is WRONG with YOU? Are you DAMAGED? Are you a Retarded girl?” My brain raced and came up short, but I FELT intensely, an overwhelming flood of fear, sorrow, and embarrassment, and tears began running soundlessly down my checks, I tried to hide them behind my hair. My mother came into the room. My father, loudly, “We need to get Your Daughter checked, there’s something not right with her. Maybe it’s Autism.” My mother sighed, and something within me snapped. I jumped to my feet, cast down my beads, and hotly stated “I wasn’t hurting anything. Why do you have to be so mean to me?” I stalked past my father only to be grabbed by my mother, she caught my upper arm in a tight, pinching grip, I tried to pull free and run, and she lifted me from the floor, my tiny feet flailing mid-air, and she hit me across the back four times, increasingly hard blows, “Do NOT yell at your father! Do not Cry like a little girl!” She dropped me unceremoniously to the floor and I fell awkwardly on my other wrist, it stung, I pulled myself up and ran from the living room, down the hallway to my bedroom, desperately choking down tears to avoid angering them further. When I got to my room I dropped to the floor leaning back against my bed, my knees up to my chest and cried hot tears of sorrow and confusion, why did my parents hate me?

The respite of their absence was short lived, my mother marched down the hall, my tears intensified as I heard her approaching footfalls. I looked up at her arrival in my doorway to see her snatch up my hair brush from my dressing table. I ducked my head down then, bending my arms over my head to protect it, knees to chest, as the blows came down on my back, sides, and legs – “What’s wrong with you? You have to learn! You have to learn to do as you’re told! You have to learn to be good! You can’t just throw tantrums! Why are you acting like a child? You have to respect your elders! Don’t you dare cry! You aren’t allowed to cry!” I wailed at the pain and at the shouting, clutching at myself I shouted a single “STOP HITTING ME!” but she continued to hit me and hissed through clenched teeth “I know you do this for attention. You little bitch.” The rain of blows continued until I heard my fathers voice, “Mother, enough. You’ve done enough.” The beating stopped. I kept still, my heart was pounding. I heard her walking away from me, soft steps on the carpet, and made the mistake of glancing up, they both loomed tall in my doorway, I saw a grimace of hatred on her face as she drew back her arm and in the silence threw the hairbrush, I turned my face back down and it struck me hard against the back of my head, I yelped in pain. I heard my parents walking away. Some time later, still whimpering, I slowly lifted my head, my arms ached as I let go of my skull, they were wet, covered in tears. Points of throbbing pain radiated from my back which caught the worst of the blows, the spot on the back of my head where the brush had hit me, and from my right wrist. I had a headache. But my room and doorway were empty, they were definitely gone, I struggled into a sitting position, knees to my chin, nightie pulled down over my legs to my feet. I sat and stared in silent tears at the wall opposite.

My big brothers voice intruded my reverie “What’s wrong? What happened?” I flinched at the sound, and saw him standing hesitantly in my doorway. He moved with trepidation, checking his flank to ensure they wouldn’t see him, he walked into my room. “Are you okay?” I shook my head wordlessly. He sat near me on the floor. “What happened?” he asked again, “I wasn’t doing anything. I was playing, I was quiet, then he started. He was mean. He was picking on me. I yelled at him to stop it.” my brother sucked in a breath of horror at this revelation, “Then she started hitting me.” “Well you should know better than that.” he said, in a voice not without compassion, but with an awful lot of benevolent condescension. “You can’t yell at him, no wonder they went off… I mean, I’m sorry you got hurt, but you should know you can’t do that.” I felt the rebellion as a tightness in my chest, a thinning of my lips, and a certainty of unknown providence, that this was not my fault. But I nodded silently at my brother. He got up and left the room.

I climbed up onto my bed, but somehow it wasn’t comforting, I felt exposed, I pulled aside the curtains to my window and stared at the locks, and then I grabbed a pillow, climbed back to the floor, and clambered under my bed, too low to the ground for adults to notice me. I felt almost safe. I put my face into the pillow to muffle the sound and cried myself to sleep.

I wake up to her hand rough on my upper arm, dragging me out from under the bed “What the HELL is wrong with you? Why are you hiding?” she shouts, her spittle hits my cheek, I’m half-wake and confused, her grip on my arm hurts, my nightie is being pulled up and ashamed I struggle to push it down, try to wriggle out of her grasp, she takes the opportunity to spank me. Then she throws me backwards onto the bed. “Fine you little bitch. You’re that tired, you can go to bed without supper.” she snarls her words, she is roughly bending my knees and elbows with her hands, forcing me dead straight on my back under the covers of my bed, I cry out “You’re hurting me!” and when she won’t stop I go limp to let her to do what she wants in fear of her breaking my bones. “Happy now?” she hisses at me. She leaves the room, turning off the overhead light and closing the door. She hasn’t turned on my night-light but I’m too scared to get up to switch it on. I lie in the dark with hot tears cascading down my face once more. I’m not hungry, I feel sick like I might throw up. And I feel terrified of her coming back again, of being asleep when she returns and having her attack me all over again. But I lie as she left me, shaking, for quite some time, and then roll over onto my stomach and fall asleep once more.



  • It was not okay for my father to verbally abuse me.
  • It was not okay for my mother to beat me.
  • I am allowed to have emotions.
  • I am allowed to cry.
  • It is okay for a little girl to be a little girl.
  • It is okay to set boundaries with your parents.
  • I have bodily autonomy.
  • I deserve to be treated with respect.
  • I did not deserve to be abused.
  • I am not inherently worthless.
  • I am allowed to insist on respect.
  • I am allowed to absent myself from abusive situations and people.
  • I have a right to privacy.
  • I have a right to dignity.
  • My body is mine.
  • My emotions are valid.
  • I am not intellectually challenged – and if I was, it would not justify abuse.
  • Creativity and play are not bad things.
  • Food is not a reward nor a punishment.
  • Artificial scarcity of food is no longer something that I need to fear.
  • They are not bigger than me anymore.
  • Their inability to love me is not a reflection on me – it is their own shortcoming.
  • I am safe.




NYE not so alone after all

Guess who mustered up her courage and went alone to a local bar on NYE?

(I’ll admit I pre-gamed like a seventeen year old headed out uncertain of whether they’d get bar service.)

As I gathered my purse in the hallway I told myself “You’re just going for a walk, you’re not committing to going to the bar by opening your door,” and then I left the house, wandering along the street listening to the dull thrum of music, shouting, and occasional firework that is the soundtrack of new years eve in the city. And I told myself, “You’re just going to walk past the bar, you don’t have to go in.” I was enjoying the cool night air, the wind in my hair, the sound of the music, and warmth of the scotch I drank earlier in my belly, and so I told myself “You’re just walking into the bar, you can turn around and leave immediately if something feels wrong.” Inside the bar was an intense sensory experience, as much soundscape as anything else, but I felt drawn to it, instead of overwhelmed and repelled and so I told myself “You’re just going to buy a drink, if you want to leave afterwards, that’s fine, you can ditch the drink on a table and go..,”

So I bought a drink, and I stood gazing around the place for but a few moments before a stranger came over and started talking to me. We shared an animated conversation about cocktails and the merits of glace cherries. I sat down with a group of people and…

Spoiler Alert: Nothing bad happened.

I met fellow locals, travelers, artists, and retail workers, and not one person who was mean to me. And our conversations weren’t facile, not a single soul mentioned the weather instead we talked with the abandon of drunken strangers – sharing long-held family secrets and details of embarrassing sexual escapades alike, all without expressing judgement of one another. We were all being our best selves I think, we encouraged, complimented, commiserated, and celebrated. We drank altogether too much, or, I suppose, just enough.

And so my year started with laughter, with hugging, with genuine new found affection for people who I never would have met if I had stayed at home.

2018 Challenge Accepted.