Do you remember being a kid? Most of what I remember before I turned 6 revolves around times with my family, playing outside with my sisters, fishing, going for walks, getting ice cream, making up silly songs, and getting my way. When I went to school I was picked on…or rather excluded… everyday, until I would get physically sick in the mornings before I had to get on the bus and cry (sometimes starting the night before) just thinking about going to school. Finally, after being hit in the head with a baseball bat by that mean boy in class (insert joke about being stupid for a reason here), and some rather unfortunate suicide attempts with a butter knife (hey, a 12 year old who gets hit in the head doesn’t always think things through), my parents decided enough was enough, and I switched schools.
While the new school system offered me things I’d never had in my elementary school (friends, encouragement, a locker partner), it was not without its own abuse, some of which I brought on myself. I joined the drama club, and some of the older kids (just a year ahead of me) almost went out of their way to make me feel bad about myself, exclude me, and come up with ways to make sure I knew just how wanted (or unwanted) I really was (ps of course I’m facebook friends with the high school bullies…I’m secretly still pining for their acceptance). Luckily, there were other students in that club that made my high school years some of the brightest I’ve had. But too, the director had her own way of abusing us, with a horrible temper, bullying, and pushing us to our limits- often driving us to tears- as a way of keeping her club elite. Was it worth it- sure, because when kids are put in bad situations they build camaraderie. It was like boot camp, except that it wasn’t because there was no physical training. Cheerleading was like boot camp.
I didn’t fit in with the cheerleaders either (of course I’m friends with them on facebook, I’m still pining for their approval). I muscled my way through 3 years of dramatic, snippidy, over the top and outright bullying as I tried desperately to do whatever it took to be a part of a team whose job was to scream at the general public 3 to 5 times a week. Thank goodness for that release, because otherwise things would have turned out way different for a little girl whose parents expected her best, her school expected her best, her friends expected her best, and her inevitable college would expect her best. All that stress made me one pretty awful senior in high school. I look back now and realize how awful I was to my family. I was smug. I was a terror. I was wild and loud and vulgar and mean and insulting. Thank goodness they didn’t disown me.
Now I realize that I didn’t know where to turn to escape the abuse I was getting from every which way, and so I just took it out on my family, abusing them verbally (because by that time I had learned that my sisters would bite back). It got so bad that my parents actually wanted me to take a drug test, because they thought that their wonderful little girl (I guess they remembered me at 11, because I wasn’t nice in high school) totally changed into an unrecognizable bitch. I wasn’t on drugs. I wasn’t drinking. I was screaming at the only crowd that would listen. I could have quit the drama club. I did quit cheerleading. Eventually I got better, but when stress mounts, I still seem to scream at the ones I love the most.
It’s a hard thing when you realize that your kids don’t respect you, they are just afraid of you. When I would get overwhelmed, I would scream at them, put them in the corner, and put them in their rooms just so I could get 2 minutes of relative quiet. Wow. What a bad mom. I had to realize that I wasn’t angry at them, I was stressed out. I needed a new outlet for my stress. Thank goodness I took up running. My stress level has dropped significantly, and overall our house has been a much better place to live. My kids are actually happy to see me. Success. Of course, we spent 3 days in a hotel in Wisconsin last week. Five people, one room, zero sleep. My hubby took the brunt of my uneven mood. Thank goodness he loves me (and we came home).
I’ve had to learn to fight fair in the last few months. I’ve usually tried not to bring up fights from the past, but recently I’ve had to learn to let them go, too. When I argue with Josh, I sometimes dance around the real issue, which is usually that I feel overwhelmed and I want him to help, but I am too stubborn to ask for help. I’ve had to learn how to be respectful toward all of my family, and realize that sometimes I’m not the only one who isn’t fighting fair. Ask my twins, Jayne beats them up all day long.
In thinking about this, I figured I should look into just what abuse can be. More to ensure that I don’t do it to my family and friends, but also to ensure that I’m not put through it, either. The following is taken from this website: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_types_signs_causes_effects.htm
“There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most telling sign is fear of your partner. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner—constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up—chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive. Other signs that you may be in an abusive relationship include a partner who belittles you or tries to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.”
The website also has a checklist of signs of abuse, and answering yes to a majority of the questions probably means you are in an abusive relationship. As someone who has been in control, it is important for me to remember that I have to respect the other people in my life. As someone who has been abused, it is important for me to remember that I deserve to be respected. Its so unfair to be unkind to the ones you love the most, especially when a relationship with a stranger can be not only civil, but even amicable. I guess sometimes I need to remember to step back and treat my family like strangers when I am angry: walk away if they curse at me, talk about the weather or our health when all other conversations lead to fights, hold doors, say thank you, expect to be ignored.
As the anniversary of Columbine approaches, and more and more people are walking into public buildings with automatic weapons and taking out friends, classmates, co-workers, etc., I’m praying for an end to the abuse that sets people into the stress spiral. It scares me to send my children to schools that could potentially put them through the kind of abuse I suffered, or the kind the kids at Columbine suffered. It makes me sad to think that there are some kids who don’t have a loving family that will put up with the abuse you get as an adolescent. It makes me even sadder that sometimes its those families that are causing all that abuse. Hopefully anyone who reads this will know that things can change, and get better, and will get better if you let someone help you through those situations, no matter what side you are on.