9/11/01. The day that America will always remember and hold close to our hearts. I remember exactly where I was that day. My mom picked me up from Dacula High School for a counseling session. As the buildings were hit by the planes, I was in the counseling office watching the TV. It was hard for me to grasp what happened that day, back then.
Our school was on lockdown.
I was living at my father’s house at the time. My mom picked me up early to go to a therapy appointment for sexual abuse that happened to me as a pre-teen at the hands of my step-father. I only attended one or two sessions, they were extremely inconsistent.
My mom worried about me a lot. At that time, she had divorced my step-father and had none of her kids living with her. My sister and I did not reside with her, and it wouldn’t be long before my brother would end up living with my step-father, his biological dad.
I remember riding on the long car rides to pick up my brother for visits sometimes. I remember how she would barely talk to me. She would cry, tears rolling down her face, but she never said a word. Still, as I drive a good distance to visit with my own two young sons, this is a constant reminder for me. This was her life, just different circumstances.
I felt so much guilt. I felt I was to blame for her divorce, losing her house because she could not afford the payments on her own. I felt like if it weren’t for me, she would have her kids. My mom wasn’t a bad mom, she just didn’t know how to be a mom, really. Just like me, it’s a learning process.
Not only that, but she did not have a concrete support system. She was a home-body and did not like crowds. She had a few good friends that she worked with, and ones that she could call on the telephone and talk to. Other than that, I never remember her having strong ties outside of our home.
My step-father was abusive to her. I recall watching him choke her one time. I was awoken out of my bed from sounds of my mother crying.
I witnessed his hands grasped around her throat, holding her up against the wall. Screaming, yelling. I felt frozen. I was in fear. For her, for us. As my younger siblings slept soundly in their beds, I watched, holding my hands to my mouth, trying not to breathe too loud.
I wanted to run and fight him off her. I wanted to help my mom. But I couldn’t move. I don’t even know how old I was at the time.
They didn’t seem like they were in love. In fact, I only recall constant turmoil. My step-father was, an alcoholic.
I was too young to remember when they were married, but from the photos, I looked very sad.
He drank- a lot. He would get loud and listen to music to where the house would shake. I remember their parties. I remember asking my mom if I could go to bed. I was so tired.
I wanted that mom who would hug me. I wanted that mom who would tell me she loved me. I needed that and I never had it in me to tell her that. I felt betrayed in a way. I felt like drugs were more of a priority than we were. And don’t get me wrong, I love my mother- but it’s just how I felt.
I believe that my grandmother was the same way to my mom. I’m going to assume that my mom learned from how she was raised. She had no idea how to talk to us. Oftentimes, I felt ignored. I caught myself exhibiting the same behavior early on.
At the counseling session that my mom took me to, I felt uncomfortable to talk in front of her. It was almost like I didn’t know her.
It would take me several years to even start trying to bond with her. It wasn’t until I became pregnant, age 16, that we began a relationship. I longed for her acceptance to the extreme of paying my own child support, unknown to others- so that not only would she stay out of jail, but so that she could see me. While pregnant and attending high school, I would pay her out of my minimum wage income to bring me to her house for the weekend so that she could be active in my life.
As a child, I would see all the other kids and their families. How happy they seemed. Each morning this one mom would stand outside as her daughter left for school. I would watch out the window as she would hold her hands up forming the “I love you” sign.
Secretly, deep down; I always wished that could have been me.
I felt misunderstood.
I felt like love and affection had to be earned. And this may explain why I ended up in some of the situations that I did as a teenager and young adult. Even now, I still struggle with this.
Taking this into consideration, I am lucky. I never realized my potential, my self-worth until fleeing my own violent relationships. I did everything I could to fit somewhere. I tried to belong- at any cost.
And now I know the devastating consequences and effects of this. My mom left her abuser, but it was too late. She was not strong enough to rebuild. She did not have it in her anymore. I was there, with her when she died. I remember telling her, “Mama, your going to be okay.” Once those words came out of my mouth, I felt a knot in my stomach. I looked at her as she laid in the hospital bed and watched her shake her head “No, not this time.” She knew she was dying. And I tried to tell her differently, but my heart knew- that strong intuition within me knew- that she was not going to survive this time.
All those years of resentment I felt towards her. It’s the same that I will one day face with my own children, especially my daughters. It doesn’t matter how I got here, how long it took, or what it took- the bottom line is that I did #breakthecycleofabuse.
And I never gave up.