It's such a strong word, isn't it? I'm afraid to use it, even moreso in the context of people close to me. It feels wrong. It really feels absolutely wrong to call something abuse that seemed like normality to me. But maybe... just because I didn't know it any better, that didn't make it not abuse.
I've been wondering about a lot of things lately. With my new diagnosis, I started wondering why someone in a sheltered home would develop an avoidant personality disorder. There was no reason or was there?
I think there was.
See, I kind of wasn't supposed to be there. I was born because my mother desperately tried to stop my dad from divorcing. They had signed the divorce paper and then she managed to get herself pregnant from him. He stayed - just for me. I don't think that's the right condition to raise a child, quite the opposite.
I would never go as far as saying that my parents hated me (I can't except my dad because he's not as innocent as I'd like him to be). I think my mother genuinely tried hard. She tried, she did her best, especially with the kind of disorders she's suffering from. And I also think that dad loved me, still loves me. They did what they could, but the fact that I was there just to force my dad to stay with my mother was an issue. They didn't love each other. When they decided to break up in 2007, they had been married for 23 years. They had wanted to divorce in 1986, but instead, I was on my way and they stayed together for miserable 20 years.
In my childhood, my dad worked overtime. All the time. He tried to earn as much money as he could to offer us a reasonably comfortable lifestyle. Apparently, this frequently led to complaints because he was never at home. He usually just came home to eat and sleep and then went back to work, yet we couldn't afford anything nice. Family vacation? Not for us. They couldn't even afford to send me to a kindergarten.
My mother quit her job when she was pregnant and stayed at home. I think it was rather convenient for her because she had some sort of disorder that got progressively worse. Leaving the apartment was difficult to her because she was suffering from panic attacks. And if it wasn't those, it was odd mood swings. And I was with her all the time, quite possibly trying to understand what was going on with her. She was always stressed out over the smallest things. She always suspected my dad of cheating on her, she mistrusted our neighbours. She raised me with the belief that no one could be trusted. She taught me to trust no one.
I learned to not trust anyone. Not even my parents. My mother was constantly worried about everyone and anything and whatever little problem I had felt ridiculous in the grand scheme of things and she never asked me about things either. And dad didn't have the time for that. I wasn't supposed to have problems, I was supposed to function and obey. My mother constantly broke what little trust I had to her. "Mom, can I invite some friends over?" I asked when I still had friends. "Not until you clean your room." Reasonable enough, even though it pisses children off. "Mom, I cleaned my room, can I invite them over now?" I asked after cleaning my room. "No." Very rarely would she come up with an excuse. Most of the time it was just a no. Eventually, I stopped asking.
I became very lonely. That made me function even less, but I tried really hard to be up to her expectations because it's closely linked to the other thing. My parents hit me. Quite often even. Not on a daily basis, but once a week at least. It was usually a hard hit on the back of my head, my mother only really slapped me in the face once. She also beat me up twice. I don't remember what I had done in either situation, but I remember her beating me with her shoe for five solid minutes. Crying only made her more furious, so I really didn't know anymore what I was supposed to do or why I was even crying. Was it the pain, was it the humiliation or was it the utter confusion? I was terrified of being hit, I still am to this very day.
What felt almost worse than the real physical pain was the threat of violence. That happened on a daily basis because whenever I showed the slightest sign of insubordination, they would threaten me. Not with words. I think I could've dealt with words. Both of my parents had made an artform out of the following: they would rush at me and raise their hand to a slap and would only stop one step in front of me until I covered from them in fear. I became so afraid of this that at one point, they didn't even need to get close to me anymore, they just needed to raise their hand and I would lower my head and cover it with my hands. Ironically, they trained our first dog the same way and he reacted the same to this motion, by lowering his head and backing off.
To this day, I'm still terrified of someone nearby raising their hand in a similar motion. I try hard not to react the same because it would seem odd to cover my head if they didn't want to hit me, but it's nothing that can be helped. Even moreso, people standing behind me and being one step too close or people rushing at me gives me cold sweat and makes me panic.
There also was a lot of yelling at me and twice, I almost ended up in a brawl with my dad. The first time, he intervened a fight with my mother. I was a teenager at that time and she slapped me really hard. I don't know why, but I laughed at her and hit her, so she started to yell and beat me with her shoe (I still remember how the shoe hit me on the ear once. That was incredibly painful). I yelled back, until dad rushed into my room and grabbed my arm, almost dislocated my shoulder and threw me onto my bed. I fought back, I bit him in the hand, but he basically held me down until my screaming and yelling turned into helpless sobbing. Only then, both of them let go of me. The other time was around the time they broke up. By then, my mind had been thoroughly wrecked and I had been hurting myself for almost 12 years. We had visitors and something happened. I don't know what it was, but I had cut my left arm open and the blood was dripping on the floor. Dad was yelling so loudly, it was deafening. And then he grabbed me by the arm, again almost dislocating my shoulder, dragging me through the apartment while still yelling at me, then tossing me towards the sink, telling me to clean up my arm and clean my floor from the blood.
And yet, here I am, still feeling hesitant to call any of this abuse. It always seemed like perfectly normal ways to raise a child. Besides, my parents tried their best and I don't want to claim that my parents abused me. They're my parents after all and maybe it wasn't their fault. Maybe it was my fault for being too stubborn. I don't even know. What I do know that this was a perfectly normal way to raise a child in my neighbourhood and especially my childhood. All the children I knew had suffered the same. Maybe that means it was just German parenting strategies. Maybe it was never abuse and that's just the new word for it.
Listening to: Mogwai - Glasgow Mega-Snake