Friday, March 11, 2016

Wrapping my head around how physical and mental domestic violence wrecks your brain



You may have seen a public message I posted to a young woman whom I’ve known since she was about 4 or 5 years old. She was a blonde blue eyed little cherub, full of joy and totally adorable. I especially liked her missing baby teeth stage.  She was delightful and I’ve always enjoyed watching her grow into a beautiful young lady.
A couple days ago, she happened to sit next to me at the nail salon I’ve patronized for 18 years. I said hello, asked how she was doing, asked about college; polite small talk. No big deal and no dramas. As she left, she approached me and said, “Mrs. McMahan, can I ask you a favor?” I didn’t hear her as I was talking to my daughter at the moment. She repeated herself and I replied, “Sure, if I can.” Out of her once sweet little cherub pie hole came, “Please keep my name and my family’s name out of your mouth.” In a bit of shock, it took me a second to comprehend and translate the ghetto speak. Of course, she didn’t want to stick around and explain to what in the hell she referred. I tried to stop her, but Freudian slipped and called her by her older sister’s name. She corrected me as the door hit her in the ass and she hustled to her car.
Ballsy.
Aside from her gall to speak to me that way, I was left wondering what, who, where, when I have ever had her name or her family’s name “in my mouth”?  I have never once ever uttered a single derogatory word about her or her family to anyone. So I’m flabbergasted as to where she came up with this fairy tale.
So now that the prompt for this story is set up, I’ll fill you in on the background. The background of what I assume she assumed was “in my mouth” aka gutter speak for gossip. Yep, she put a challenge in front of me and now will reveal what she feared I was sharing with the world.
Domestic violence, familial alienation, physical abuse and mental abuse.
The patriarch of her family is a stereotypical Russian “man’s man”.  When this young woman was about 12 years old, her father beat and I mean black and blue bruise beat her older sister. For what, I need not discuss because it is nobody’s business and it is irrelevant. A father should never beat his child like that. He shouldn’t beat his wife either and, I know his “reason” another thing to not share, yet he did. She was about 6 years old and probably not aware this occured. Both of these wonderful young women grew up in a family with a domineering rather misogynistic father with the old country values and a mother who let him beat and disown her child.
The oldest sister in the only avenue available to her, fled to get away from the abuse and control with a few garbage bags of her clothing to live with her boyfriend’s family. At this point, the father and the abused mother essentially struck the oldest daughter from the family. She was, and I’m extrapolating this thought, made to be the most horrible, person on the planet not worthy of being part of the family. The younger sister, who once again was only about 12, grew up being fed this line of thinking. Did she have a choice? I assume not, as she has seen firsthand what happens to someone who goes against daddy dearest’s dictatorship and would not want to experience the same fate as her sister.
Fast forward a few years. The oldest daughter made mistakes due the abuse and lack of choices, but has earned a college degree, is away from the childhood boyfriend’s (ex-husband) family which is a whole other saga of control.  She is in an apparently balanced caring relationship with the father of her one year old daughter. She is doing very well. Still her parents refuse to forgive, forget or apologize for their atrocious behavior. The younger sister has been immersed in this ridiculous dynamic and has not had the maturity or strength to think for herself and reject the parent’s dialogue. She has a totally adorable and cherubic niece who she has not met and an older sister who loves her dearly, but because of her fear or lack of maturity or indoctrination with the kool-aide she is missing out on these relationships.
 Now I’m rather peeved at the silly remark and her smug satisfaction that she somehow put me in my place. What she doesn’t understand is that I have never revealed any of this saga to anyone. Until now. What she also does not know is I can empathize with her because of similar control and abuse experiences during my teen years. I don’t think about it. I don’t dwell on it. Yes, it shaped who I am, but does not control me going forward.
I grew up in a developing hoard with a mom who had trouble coping and an aloof father who was rather too strict. My siblings and I were beaten. Not spanked, beaten. When I was a senior in high school my dad beat me with a belt so badly that the back of my thighs were black and blue. I swam back stroke, so during a meet, taking off the blocks, those bruises were apparent to everyone. My father accused my mom of having an affair so in an irrational response she actually did have an affair. This put my dad over the edge and he began to be very verbally and physically abusive to my mother as well. Just after graduation my dad was in one of those moods and started after my mother. I was now 18 and no longer afraid of him. I took him down. I was sitting on my father with my fist pulled back toward his face. He was shocked. He never touched me again.  My father was also married once before so I have 3 half siblings.  I do not have relationships with them because of the parental and sibling alienation in which they were immersed. They somehow think I’m Satan with two tails. Their loss.  My mother, in her own ingenious way and mimicking the sibling interaction in which she grew up, has managed over the years to pit me and my two full siblings against each other. It works. There are times when we three do not interact because no matter how much we understand intellectually what she is doing; when that crap comes from your mom you still kind of believe it.
So the more I ponder on the weirdness of Wednesday, I forgive her for whatever it was she was trying to do. I understand more than she knows what her childhood has been like. I understand not wanting the rest of the world to know of the abuse and control she has endured under her father’s fist and her mother’s weakness. I will tell you this little one; grow up, break out of that box your parents have you trapped in, become your own thinking questioning adult, embrace your sister and niece. You have only 3 more years of college, then you will not depend on them anymore, become your own person. Open the closet and free the skeletons. Bones are not scary and you will be surprised how many people have the same set of bones. Oh and be careful to not accuse people who care about you of doing things they have not done. It just may end up in a blog.

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