I grew up in a rural, dilapidated town in the poverty-stricken south. I still come aross many Pinterest and articles naming my hometown to be one of the “best places to live in South Carolina.” for the stereotypical reasons: it’s a small, quaint, seemingly quiet town, and everyone knows everyone. People passing by probably believe that, from the outside, it’s almost like a form of utopia; it couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that, Piedmont is known for the drugs, poverty, high rates of unemplotment, illegal activity, child abuse, and educational attainment.
It has been nearly 5 years since I have left my “home.” Leaving all of my belongings, my beloved animals, and my “family” behind, took priority over everything else in my life. The pain was too severe. If these scenes were in movies, then people would say they were unrealistic. My mother and step-father were physically, emotionally, and yes, sexually abusive. My step-father is a very disturbed individual that should’ve been institutionalized 25 years ago. To the surprise of no one, abuse was like a cycle in that family. My mother was probably abused the same way, as well as my uncle, and so on. It was like abuse was an initiation ritual for our family, along the lines of college hazing and gang initiation. I would’ve preferred either.
Sometimes I would wish that news would come to the area, bringing some awareness to everything going on in Piedmont. I still do. At the time, I would hope and pray that there would be a huge “bust” from all of the drugs in the area, especially because drugs and alcohol were a huge problem in our household. Piedmont is notorious for all of the drugs, especially methamphetamine, marijuana, and pills. Before I left, I did not have much knowledge about drugs. Looking back at it, I don’t blame my parents for getting high or drunk to numb the pain. But, no one should have to live in a house full of this kind of behavior. This kind of drug activity brought lot’s of people into our house. Scary people, and most of them were older men, friends with my step-father, that insisted that I called them “Uncle Black” for an example. It was disgusting. Would anyone think that this is appropriate? Most of the time, my step-father was unemployed (other than selling drugs or seasonal, unskilled labor gigs). In a normal household, my step-father would take on the role of the “stay at home mom.” That was not the case for us. For him, this really meant that, since my mother was gone, other than messing with me at times, he would spend his precious time playing video games, watching pornography (sometimes in plain sight, right in front of me) or doing drugs in the garage. I had a lot of chores I was always told to complete by the time my mother got home from work, such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry, this was assigned from both of them. Now, I didn’t mind those things. Sure, I know kids don’t want to do chores, but now, I enjoy things like cleaning. Anyways, it was kind of hard to do these things when I just wanted to stay out of his sight. I was scared, constantly living in fear, whether my mother was there or not. There were some moments with him that I remember so vividly, down to the stains on the walls, that are embedded into my memory forever. This alone is enough to make one have issues, but it was so common that it would be comparable to a man watching his favorite team win a title, live. I have to accept that I will have to live with these recurrent flashbacks and nightmares for the rest of my life.
For most of my life, I was brainwashed like most victims. When you grow up surrounded by drugs, blood, bruises, then you become numb. You have to become numb, because if you don’t, the pain is amplified to the point where living isn’t a viable option. Throughout my life, I thought that the horrific abuse that I was subjected to was “the norm.” I figured this is how kids were punished, not as severely, but I still thought that it wasn’t as bad as it really was. I didn’t think watching your step-dad beat your animals and make you watch pornography was normal. Didn’t you go through that? Or what about you? The awful reality is that people want to pretend that this doesn’t go on anymore. There is this whole stigma about child abuse and mental health, and no one wants to address it. Like I explained earlier, ignorance is bliss and they don’t want to deal with anyone’s problems besides themselves. We are a selfish species. People see others through their own lenses. They grow up with a stay-at-home mother and a father who was a doctor, and came home at night to watch the television and eat dinner with each other. They see you afraid of your mom, and have the audacity to tell you that she deserves respect. When I tell people how I hate my mother, they get offended and tell me that what she did to me doesn’t matter, because she is my mother. Mister Doctor Man may have felt that way because his mother was great, but he doesn’t know a god damn thing about what that abuse is like. He will have never known what it was like to sleep with the Boogeyman two doors down from you every night. Nurses in retirement homes feel sad and angry because Grammy hasn’t had one visitor in 2 years. She’s weak and harmless to everyone. Well, almost everyone, because her kids still see the evil that still lies inside. The staff only see what’s on the surface. They don’t see the reasons why she has no visitors, they don’t dig deep enough to explore the roots of the issues. So, once again, now you’re in their shoes and they think you’re the bad guy. Maybe if they knew about sweet little May calling her daughter fat and beating her relentlessly, all the while accusing her daughter of lying about the sexual abuse, and maybe the picture would be a little clearer, they would be a little more empathic and less narcissistic about parent/child relationships.
Obviously I did not like getting beaten, called names, touched, and screamed at. Who would? Making your step-daughter lay down with you to “watch a movie” is really just violating her boundaries on a level that should never even be toed while a movie is playing in the background. And like my mother, her mother and I’m sure her mother, this was common. A ritual, if you will. You weren’t officially part of the familly unless your mom’s 3rd husband did something to you as a child. Almost every night I would cry myself to sleep, especially if it was a night that I had a bad “punishment.” I would wish that some sort of superhero would come and save me. I needed someone to take me away. Someone to give me a warm blanket and tell me everything would be alright; that never happened. I would sit and dream about my father I never met, finding me and busting though the door to save me in the middle of the night. I really truly thought that it would happen. I thought that he was a good man, and thinking of him was the only light at the end of the tunnel. Without that dream, I would probably be worse than I already am. It turns out, instead of trying to find me and saving me, he was only 45 minutes away, doing drugs with the rest of his family. My grandmother, all the way down to my 14 year-old niece from my father’s side were all on drugs. Every single one of them. I sought out a relationship with them after I left home, but I knew that environment was even more toxic. I never did meet my father that day. He was too busy in a shed smoking meth. It’s hard to know which would’ve been worse for my psyche. At least at “home” I had my brother and my animals.
Sometimes, I thought about killing myself, but I will be the first to say that I did not have the guts, or the means to go through with it. I really just thought that if I were to die, I would be fine with it, because death could not be worse than what I was experiencing. The abuse got so bad that the only things that really kept me going were my animals, who were also being abused, and the hopes that I would get out of that hell house one day.. Little did I know that it would take outside influence to understand that the life I was living was not right and that I needed to change and get out as soon as I possibly could to avoid life-altering mistakes.
I could go on and on, writing a novel about what my mother and step-father did to me, but the fact of the matter is that living in that toxic environment has affected my mental health tremendously. Surprisingly, I noticed the decline in my mental health right after I moved out; this was because that living that way was almost normal to me. Yes, I came into my spouse’s house severely damaged, physically and mentally. But, coming into such a pleasant, safe place with things that we tend to take for granted (cable, internet, electricity, water, heat, and air) was like heaven to me. Now add in the fact that I am finally away from all of that toxicity and just imagine how I feel: the best I have felt in my whole life. But, at the same time I struggle every day mentally. How could my “parents” do these things to me, get away with it, and why was the rest of my family enabling the abuse by letting it continue? It wasn’t until the beginning of this year that I took the first step to see a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with C-PTSD, agoraphobia, panic disorder and major depressive disorder. The medication that I am on for my diagnoses has helped me tremendously, but that does not mean that I am not struggling.
My “story” is here to show that this type of abuse does occur in our country and it occurs quite frequently, behind closed doors and even in front of our faces. By turning a blind eye towards this abuse, and ignoring the proper discussions that need to be addressed and had about the roots of the issue, society has acquiesced to the predators once again, and have again turned a blind eye to the epidemic that is abuse, failing these victims; victims dreaming of a utopia that isn’t possible without radical discussion and change. I have made many goals since my escape, and one is to raise more awareness towards this epidemic commonly called “Breaking the Stigma.”