I really don’t want to read about inner product spaces, so I have returned to write another post.
I am aware that writing about my childhood as it relates to my mental health is very cliche, but it’s been on my mind recently and I am hoping that writing this post will help me to better understand it.
The thing that confuses me most about my early years is that nothing horrible happened. No traumatic, catastrophic event ever occurred. And yet, I am still profoundly impacted by the things that did happen.
Firstly, I have memories of being anxious as far back as I have memories at all. At 3, I was pulled out of ballet because as soon as my parents left the room, I would sit in the corner by myself ignore everyone. At 4, if someone brushed up against me on my left side, I would purposely brush up against someone on my right side to “even it out”. I got so terrified of the dark that I had extra appreciation for the morning, because it’s the part of the day furthest from the next night. My point is, I’ve always had some issues, whether they resulted from genes or poor parenting before I can remember, or both, or something else entirely. So I am not “blaming” all my problems on things that happened in childhood. I just believe that these things were one of many factors.
Again, nothing horrible happened to me. I wasn’t abused. I wasn’t kicked out. I wasn’t neglected. I keep stressing these points in my endless preamble because I feel so guilty. I’m sitting here, painting my parents as abusers when they love me and they tried their best, and I’m trivializing the experiences of those who survived much worse circumstances.
Now that we are all on the same page, my childhood:
Things were relatively uneventful for the first few years I can remember. I had minor issues that can be tied to mental illness in retrospect, but nothing that set me apart from my peers. Things were fine.
My parents got divorced when I was 8 years old. I wasn’t too upset, because they had been fighting for a while, and I thought having two houses would be cool. The divorce was fine; the main problem is what came afterwards. But from the beginning of the divorce, I felt the need to protect my sister who was only 2 at the time. I was now the only one living with her every night, so I wanted to provide some stability and protection.
Anyways, when my dad moved out, he immediately started dating a woman named Michelle. I didn’t mind this relationship, as I enjoyed spending time with Michelle’s two daughters, who were 13 and 14 at the time. Within a couple years, my dad and Michelle were living together, along with Michelle’s daughters, and my sister and I. I think this is when they started treating us poorly. My sister and I would be yelled at for making a mistake while doing chores we had never done before, not greeting people properly when we entered the house, and other things with that level of importance. Beyond this, it’s hard to even remember individual events; I just remember how I felt. I remember that I wanted to talk to someone, anyone, about what I was experiencing. But I couldn’t begin to explain it. Again, nothing terrible was happening. At one point, I remember wishing they were beating me, so I could describe what was happening. So I could explain the source of my pain in terms that people would understand. I wasn’t being beaten, but I would dread the days I spent I spent at my dad’s, and felt extremely relieved when they were over.
At one point, I hated being at my dad’s house so much that I told my mom I didn’t want to go back. But still, I couldn’t explain what was happening and why it was affecting me so much. And my mom knew my dad would be furious if she essentially got full custody. I’m tearing up as I write this because I remember the horrible, horrible feelings I had at the time. My sister and I were being treated poorly, and neither of our parents were doing anything to stop it.
I had a dream once that I was in a bookstore with my dad, and a man was attempting to kidnap me in order to rape me. I screamed for help, in full view of everyone including my dad, and nobody noticed. The way I felt in that dream is how I felt at this time in my life.
I know I must sound dramatic, especially since I can’t recall many actual events that took place. But I can remember the feelings like they occurred yesterday.
When my dad said he and Michelle were breaking up, I cried tears of joy. So much dread and anxiety was lifted off my shoulders. But five seconds later, my dad met Sue.
Sue was fine. She didn’t really interact with my sister and I, which was a huge improvement but was also awkward. Before my dad even found somewhere to live that wasn’t my grandparents’ house, he decided to move in with Sue. He asked me if I thought it was too early, I said yes, and he proceeded to tell me why I was wrong. My dad, sister and I moved in with Sue and two of her daughters, and we all managed to live together for 2 years and yet remain strangers to one another. My life was much better during this period, and Sue caused no problems, but my dad’s unreliability started to become a big issue. He had already broken many promises at this point, but now I was hanging out with friends and sometimes needed to rely on him for a ride. Many times, he would agree to give me a ride and then live his life as if he’d never said anything. He would have to work, and would get angry with me when I pushed the issue. I know this sounds particularly frivolous, but when you have very limited ability to take public transit, transportation is very important. Anyways, at some point my dad and Sue broke up as well.
After two failed common-law relationships, my dad promised me he wouldn’t move in with another woman until I graduated high school. I was in grade 10 or 11 at the time. After I turned 16, I told my dad that I wanted to live with my mom full-time (at 16, I gained the legal right to decide this), and he got very angry. We agreed to have coffee to discuss it further, and he was even raised his voice in that public setting. He wasn’t listening to me; he was just explaining why I was wrong.
My dad actually bought a house for just him, my sister, and I. When I first saw the house, I vividly remember thinking, “We’re not going to be here long.” And then we lived there for 6 months. I think my dad started dating Shalaina around the time we moved out of Sue’s house. Apparently Sue and my dad had been secretly broken up for a few months but remained amicably cohabiting while they figured out new living arrangements. So my dad insisted he had really been taking things slow when he began to date immediately upon moving.
I was incredibly skeptical to meet Shalaina, but it happened eventually. And she took the opportunity to buy my affection with designer purses and trips to the nail salon. It worked. When my dad wanted to move in with Shalaina, I was happy, despite the addition to the broken promises pile. Apparently, my grandmother tried convincing them to wait to move in together, and my dad didn’t speak to her for two weeks. So anyways, we were soon living with Shalaina and her two children. They were/are actually pretty cool people, and my sister was close in age to Shalaina’s daughter, so we were all pretty happy.
At some point, Shalaina no longer felt the need to buy or otherwise obtain my affection, and she started being mean. Not Michelle’s brand of mean; there no yelling or confrontation of any sort. She was much more passive-aggressive. Often, she and my dad would agree they were mad at me, but she would send my dad out to play bad cop while she remained innocent.
In 2011, they went on vacation together. They came back and told us they had gotten married and the trip was their honeymoon. My grandma and uncle were invited; none of the kids were. I didn’t express my feelings about this to my dad, because I knew he couldn’t undo anything.
Long after the marriage, Shalaina would also frequently take her kids out and leave my sister home alone. She claimed to want quality time with her children, but a) I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to treat step-children as your children; and b) It’s not like my dad ever had the time or desire to take my sister anywhere. My dad and Shalaina were just generally selfish during this time.
One day, I got in a fight with my dad, so I packed a suitcase and went to my mom’s house. I finally made the decision to live with my mom full-time. To catch you up to what my mom had been up to during this time, she had a couple short relationships, then met my stepdad, and he moved in with us after they had dated for a couple years. My mom hasn’t been a perfect parent, but she has been a parent. This is why she isn’t heavily featured in this post.
At this point in the story, I’m about 18, so we’ve reached the end of my childhood. I did live with my dad full-time a bit later after thinking he had changed, but I won’t get into details about this time. I will, however, list a few shitty things my dad and Shalaina have done, because I’m still angry about a lot of them.
-They prevented my sister from getting diagnosed with ADHD for years, claiming they didn’t want her to be labelled or to be on medication, then randomly decided one day they were fine with it (During this time, my sister had essentially been diagnosed after an extensive process, and she wanted to access resources for ADHD as she was struggling in school)
-They would make up rules and change them frequently; one day, they decided there can’t be any shampoo bottles or loofahs around the bathtub/shower, so we had to take them out every time; Shalaina would get angry when I left my loofah hanging to dry before putting it with my toiletries
-When I was anorexic and frequently cold, I would close some of the windows that were often open during weather cold enough that the heat was on; I asked my dad once if we could keep the windows closed because I was cold and he looked at me like I was the biggest brat on earth; my stepmom began passive-aggressively keeping all the windows open, even though the heat was on, because that’s who she is; I got to sit under a blanket in my room all day
This post started out quite serious and has grown increasingly whiny; for that I apologize. The main thing I wanted to talk about was the time when my dad was dating Michelle, as I think that has really impacted me. I also wanted to describe all the moving and instability, but cared less about the details during the Sue and Shalaina eras, respectively. Apparently at some point, I decided to use this post as a place to vent anger I was never allowed to express about things that have happened more recently. So, it hasn’t really turned out the way I planned, whatever that was. And I really wanted to communicate how much these events hurt me, despite the individual events being so insignificant, but I don’t know if I did that. But anyways, here it is.