Grade school…Middle School…

My big brother Billy played Little League.  My father was an assistant coach and he did try to make this a good experience for my brother.  We used to have to go to the games and it was fun.  I always wanted to get a snack at the snack bar and we really weren’t allowed to get anything.

We went to The Lake a lot in the summer.  It was a local water reservoir and people around town would bring their kids there to swim.  Over the years, the water got too dirty and we had to stop going.  Those were some of my best memories from childhood.  The parking area had gravel on it and we’d usually be barefoot as we tried to go as fast as possible to the water.  Well, those rocks were really uncomfortable to the toes of little kids.  It seemed like it took forever to get past the gravel to finally get on the soft grass.

Somewhere around this time I started being a cheerleader for Pop Warner.  I made captain on my first try-out.  I honestly cannot remember either of my parents ever coming to a game to watch me do my cheers.  My Mom had always worked the overnight shift the night before, and my father was always passed out on the couch.

I honestly cannot tell the chronology of a lot of the events I’m recalling during this time.  I can just remember certain things that stand out.

When I think of the hurtful things my mother did to me, the first thing I can think of is when she cut my hair short one summer when I did not want short hair.  She was very angry when she was cutting my hair-that’s what I remember.  I felt as though I was being raped.  She took total control over me and forced me to sit there while she chopped off my hair.  There was no earthly reason to do this.  I was a very clean girl.  I took baths without being asked.  I kept myself very clean.  She was just angry.  I cried and cried.

I also remember once in a while she would make me sit at the table and eat something that she knew I really disliked.  Again, there was no good reason for this.  I was a good eater and I would eat almost anything she gave me, except for a few things.  And one time she made me sit at the table until I ate a tuna sandwich–and I did not like tuna.  I cried and cried.  I honestly don’t know why she did this.

I remember when she would cook us dinner during the week, often, she did not put a lot of effort into it.  She’d make a box of macaroni and cheese, and that’s it.  I remember one night she cut up cucumbers for us to eat along with our supper and I was very surprised.  I asked her why she did that, and she said that it was just something for dinner.  But usually, she didn’t do those things.  I do remember her making sauce and meatloaf and ravioli.  I remember boiled dinners.  I remember there were times we’d all sit at the kitchen table for dinner.  I sat at the other end of the table furthest away from my father.

The house was always a disaster.  Laundry was hung out in the back on a clothes hanger and I remember her asking me to take it in sometimes.  I don’t remember her asking my brothers to do this.  In fact, all I remember is her asking my brothers to do dishes sometimes.  But she had me doing that and more.  It wasn’t all that much, but some of the tasks were hard–like peeling potatoes.  Just thinking about these times right now, I’m also having thoughts of wanting to cut my arms.  In the winter, my mother hung the clothes on some rope that hung in the basement.  We didn’t get a clothes dryer for a long long time.  Most of the time when we’d get ready for school, I’d have to jump up to the ropes hanging in the basement to grab a pair of underwear or a shirt or something.  Always, on the weekends, my father would cook himself a steak with potatoes and vegetables.  My Mom was sleeping to get prepared to work an overnight shift.  No one cooked for us kids on these days/nights.  I remember wanting some of the steak and potatoes.  Of course, he never offered.  And after he finished, he’d leave his dirty plate on the TV tray for the rest of the weekend until my mother finally got to it on Monday.  The house was always filthy.  Dishes weren’t done.  Nothing was picked up.  There was never ever any “deep cleaning”.

One thing I remember my mom doing is going upstairs to take a bath after giving us dinner.  I know now that this was her way of trying to be romantic with my father because when he got home, he’d always go into the bathroom while she was in the tub.  I think it was an image my mother was trying to portray—her little kids have eaten and are quietly watching TV while she’s laying “beautifully and invitingly” in a tub waiting for her husband to see her naked.  It honestly makes me furious.

A memory that just popped into my head is the time that I took a razor blade and cut into the wood of my mother’s dresser.  I clearly remember doing it.  I was angry.

 

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Fast Forward. June, 2017.

I’ve noticed lately that Michael is being much nicer and kinder to me.  He’s been sober from heroin for 3 months.  I’m smart enough to know that a relapse is not at all out of the realm of possibility.

Tonight, he made love to me.  I say those words specifically because it was very different from what I’ve come to expect from him.  He was cradling me in his arms.  He was a lot closer to me physically, even almost laying his chest on top of mine.  He’s never done that before.  He took his time.  And it was very relaxing and calm.  I didn’t reach orgasm, but I never really do.  It’s not easy for me, especially given my strange interest in dominance and submission.  I never could have predicted that would ever be arousing to me.  There’s something about being in control of the man and even humiliating him that seems to turn me on.  There’s rage inside me towards men.  That’s what I think.  Somehow the wires got crossed when it comes to my sexuality.  I feel like there’s something wrong with me because of this.

I just had a memory of my father telling me, when I was a little girl, that there was nothing better than laying on top of a woman’s breasts.  Why would you say that to your daughter?  I also remember looking at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition one year.  I was interested in how pretty the girls were and I liked the bathing suits.  I guess I was wondering if I would ever look like that.  Well, leave it to my perverted father to screw that up in my head.  He sat me next to him and went through the magazine with me taking care to point out that “it’s cold where they are taking those pictures because her nipples are hard).  I did tell my mother about this in later years and she agreed it was “wrong” but she didn’t do anything about it.

Anyway, Michael and I have been getting closer emotionally.  We’re starting to talk about the future and he’s feeling better about himself.  I’m just so scared I’m not going to get the teaching job I want.  I’m praying.

Welcome to Chestnut Square.

I remember staying at Grandpa Carr’s house for a short time.  I don’t remember a whole lot about that time.  I just remember the new apartment.  I remember it as being huge but in fact it was pretty small.  We moved in on July 4, 1975, the day Grandpa Carr died suddenly from a heart attack.  He was 80 years old.  My brothers and I shared a bedroom.  The three of us.  I remember meeting the McM’s from two doors down.  We ended up becoming very close to them.  Well, I was off to 1st grade in the fall.

I liked school.  I was very good at spelling.  I liked the playground.  I don’t have a lot of memories from this time that stand out.  I know I played with Cheryl and Kerry.  Later on, I played with Allison and her sister Jennifer.  We walked uptown a lot to go get penny candy.  We played square ball and kickball.  I rode my big wheels and my “boyfriend” Michael Bent rode his bike.  I really liked him.  We played together and he looked out for me.  I rode the bus with him and I remember he bought me a chocolate egg for Easter one year.  He is one person I really wish I could get in touch with.  I have no idea where to even look.

These years in elementary school all sort of blur together.  I remember going to Pioneers at the local baptist church down the street.  I remember CCD and I remember in 4th grade when it was time to take my first Penance.  I was too scared to go.  I thought I was going to get in big trouble when I told about my sins.  My father took this opportunity to break the promise he made to the Priest of the Church my parents got married in–that the children of the marriage would be raised Catholic.  My father said, as if he was doing the “right thing” for his kids, that we would no longer go to CCD.  My mother took the position that there must have been a bad teacher in CCD because we were afraid to go to Penance.  But all the other kids went.  I think it had much more to do with the punishment we were used to receiving from authority figures in our own home.

I remember receiving the belt when we were in Chicago.  That means I was not even 5 years old.  I remember being slapped in the face in Chicago.

My aunt says that it was at this time that the teachers called my mother to tell her that I was pulling my toe nails off during recess to the point that they were bleeding.  My mother denied that this took place, but I remember doing it.  It was also at this time that I would play the hand game with my brother.  I’d hang my hand down from the top bunk when we were going to sleep and I’d ask him to punch my hand as hard as he could.  I never told him to stop.  I’d wake up in the morning with my hand black and blue.  For some reason, the pain felt good.

I remember making “forts” out of the bed sheets.  We thought that was pretty fun.  Thanksgiving was always fun.  Sometimes we went to Mema and Luddy’s, usually after the meal.  Sometimes we went for the whole meal.  My father was such a freak.  He’d take a nap on Mema’s bed.  My mother used to scold us before we even got in to Mema’s.  She’d say “you better behave or you’re going to get it.”.

But the tradition was that we had olives and celery with cream cheese on a special plate.  We had candies and nuts-the kind you had to crack open.  And the turkey.  I remember my mother chopping the celery and onion and adding the Bell’s seasoning to the pieces of bread that we kids broke up into a large vat.  We had the same meal for Christmas too.  On New Year’s, it was the only time we had Chinese food all year.  We loved it.  I loved the vegetables in different sauces.

During all this time, my father drank beer.  It was usually cheap beer.  He used to slobber all over me when he was drunk making me stand close to him while he gave me wet slobby kisses that smelled like beer.  I TOLD my mother that I didn’t like how it made me feel.  I guess she told him to stop, but he just waited until my mother went to sleep and then he confronted me and said “Your mother said you don’t like it when I kiss you”.  He had me in his arms and sort of stuck in the situation.  I didn’t know what to say, so I just said I didn’t mind it *all* the time.  What a sick fuck he was.  I was just a little girl.  No more than 10.

It was around this time that he came up to my bed when I was supposed to be asleep.  He was drunk.  He felt my right breast.  I can’t remember if he touched my left breast.  I had breast buds.  The next day, I told my mother that he felt my chest in the middle of the night.  He denied it.  He and my Mom took me in the car for some reason and he told me he was just tucking me in which is bullshit.  He *never* tucked me or either of my brothers in to bed at night.  He told me he’d have to be “sick” to do something like that.  Apparently my mother believed him.  She never brought it up on her own again.

God–all I wanted to do was get OUT.  Get away.  I wanted my own room really bad.  I wanted privacy.  My own space to retreat to when I wanted to get away from that man.

 

 

And on this day, a baby girl was born.

Yep.  My mother said it was a “breeze” compared to my older brother.  I was born in a hospital.  My mother smoked through her pregnancy with me and she did not breast feed me.  After a few short days, I was on my way to my first home, a small apartment.  Of course I don’t remember this time at all, but my mother said I was advanced for my age.

My first memory is of the moving that took place as we left Boston for Chicago.  I remember the shiny wood floor that my brother and I would play on.  In this room, my father was sorting through our toys and giving them away to neighbors.  I was upset.  There were toys that he gave away, in front of me, that I really liked.  I remember feeling anxiety, sadness, and a general feeling of insecurity about my future.

We were off to Chicago.  I don’t remember a whole lot.  I was enrolled in kindergarten and I was so proud to go to school.  My mom said I never waved goodbye when I got on the bus.  It was the 70’s, and our school had an “open classroom”.  Apparently I took it upon myself to leave my kindergarten group to go visit my brother Billy who was in first grade.  I distinctly remember when my parents were coming to the school to meet with my teachers.  I was excited for them to come.  I wanted them to be proud of me and how I could be a “big girl” while at school.  I saw them come in and I waited around my personal cubby draw in order to act like I was focused and doing really important work.

I also remember a particular morning when I did not want to go to school.  I was crying pretty hard.  Finally I decided that I would go and hide and maybe my mother wouldn’t find me and I could stay home.  I hid in my parent’s closet.  I waited and waited and waited for my mother to come and find me.  She never did.  I ended up leaving my hiding space because I thought she forgot about me.  My recollection is not clear, but I’m pretty sure she sent me to school.

I have few memories of the time in Chicago.  I remember my Auntie Elaine coming to visit with my cousin Mikey.  I remember her leaving me 2 Hershey’s kisses by my bed.

I remember trying to run away from home with Billy.  I remember waking up in the middle of the night and I went out to the living room and both of my parents were gone.  I started crying pretty hard.  After a while, my parents came back.  They were at a party a couple of doors down.  I remember my Mom saying my name.  And she picked me up.

The defining event of Chicago, however, was the time my father hit my mother.  At the time, I did not know why they were fighting.  But my mother said she was going to call my father’s mother, Grandma Carr.  My father got violent.  He ripped the phone cord out of the wall, went after my mother, and was screaming and yelling at her.  My little brother, who was only 2, hit his head on the corner of the coffee table.  He was screaming, but neither of my parents responded to his cry.  I tried to help Kevin, but I wasn’t strong enough to lift him.

It wasn’t long after this that my mother, my brother’s, and I were on a plane back to Boston.  I remember the pancakes on the plane.  I don’t remember much about what happened in Boston, but I remember my father having candies on the coffee table when we returned.  Soon after that, we were in a UHaul truck back to Boston.

The thing is, I had recurring dreams about this fight over and over for years.  I kept telling my mother I had “the dream” again.  I kept asking if it really happened, and she told me no.

Years later, I learned that my dream was in fact true.  I was very upset with my mother for not being honest with me.  It turns out that my father had an affair with some woman down there.  From the moment my mother caught him until the day he died, he claimed that he didn’t cheat on my mother.  I knew though, when I first heard that there was another woman, that my father was having a full blown affair with her.

I *knew* my father was a monster from at least 5 years old, probably before.

The finish line is in sight, but I just can’t make it.

The date is June of 2014.  I was at my lowest point with clinical depression.  I was still working at my old school, but they modified my job and made a “deal” with me to keep me employed long enough to “find” another job.  I had simply taken too much time off from teaching because of serious depressive episodes.  The school district had to let me go.

Part of the “deal” was that I had to come to work 4 days a week instead of 5, and I was allowed a maximum of 10 sick days during the year.  I knew I wouldn’t make it.  I was just too sick.  My psychiatrist really let me down here.  She said I had to go to Day Hospital (an outpatient mental health program), or, I had to be at work.  She would not write me a doctor’s note saying I was too ill to be at work.  It was a choice-less choice.  I was much too depressed to get myself out of bed.  I couldn’t drive myself to the hospital every day and I could not get myself out of bed to get to work.  I was literally bedridden with depression.  I bathed maybe once or twice a week.  No makeup.  Dirty clothes.  I was terrified.

My biggest fear as an adult had been that I was absolutely terrified that I would not be able to take care of myself.  I think this goes back to the struggle for money that I always heard about from my mother.  Always, she said-we can’t afford it.  Once I signed off on the “deal” with my school, my worst fears were coming true.  I did not have a secure job.  I had huge amounts of credit card debt that I will explain later, and I had my mortgage.  I was afraid to spend money on groceries.  I was feeling extreme and constant anxiety to the point that it was crippling me.  I was eating much less than normal and had lost a lot of weight because I simply couldn’t allow myself to spend money on food.  I ate 2 lean cuisine dinners a day, and a bagel for breakfast.  I’m sure I had other foods during this time, but I can’t remember eating them.  I know I lost about 40 pounds.

From September until June, I carried on like this.  The depths of my depression were truly severe and I am angry that my therapist of 22 years didn’t *do* anything more for me during this time.  Why didn’t she put me in an inpatient program?  A crisis center”?  She didn’t increase my level of care when I clearly needed it.  I was living like a zombie.  I’d wake up, dress in whatever I could find, go to school, drive home, eat a lean cuisine, and go to bed and sleep from 4pm until 6am the next morning.  And when the alarm went off in the morning, it took all the force of will I could muster to get out of that bed.

Finally, I could do no more.  I had been considering suicide for a while.  I had done research online.  What pill could I buy that would actually kill me?  The only one I could come up with was benadryl.  I had some other type of pill too, but I can’t remember what it was.  I weighed the pros and cons of suicide–but I didn’t think all that deeply about what it would be like to die.  I thought nothing about how my family would respond.  I didn’t feel like they cared.

I picked myself up out of bed to go to school one morning and I decided.  On the way home I picked up a bottle of 100 tablets of benadryl.  And I had 50 of the “other” pill.  I walked upstairs with a drink of some sort.  I opened the bottles and swallowed all of the pills.  All of them.  150 of them.  Then I simply went to bed……

Why am I here?

I’m starting this blog to help recall my memories from childhood that led to a compulsive shoplifting addiction that has become full blown in my life, to my great surprise, at the age of 47.  I have a fairly new therapist and she is helping me to analyze and interpret how events of my past and present affect my behavior each day.  I got in trouble for my shoplifting.  I’ve had some close calls and they didn’t end up prosecuting.  But I did get a larceny-over charge.  They put me on probation and required therapy.  The case is now dismissed, but in spite of all this, I still steal.  Sometimes it’s stuff I need, like food.  Most of the time though, I don’t “need” the things I take.  The next time I get caught, I will go to jail.  Probably 3 months.  But still, I steal.

I was diagnosed with Major Depression, Anxiety Disorder, and a Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  The Borderline symptoms come up apparently when I am under stress. I have the ability to become very angry–rage–when I’m having trouble with something or if I feel threatened in some way.  My self-esteem is very poor.  I have mood swings. My best friends are my cats.  I’m crazy about them.  I live with my boyfriend–the first man I’ve ever really lived with.  He is a good man at his core.  But he has a lot of mental health issues that he’s never addressed either.  He’s a heroin addict–sober only for the past few weeks.  He doesn’t treat me like I’m special.  He doesn’t treat me like a lady.  He doesn’t hug and cuddle me and tell me I’m pretty or cute.  Instead, most of the time, he berates me.

I’m at a crossroad right now.  I’m trying to get a teaching position and I’m hoping that I am able to get a new job for the fall of this year.  I am currently unemployed, living on food stamps and a hundred dollars a week from the Department of Unemployment.  If I get a teaching job, I can support myself quite easily.  My next step is to get my own apartment and decide at that time whether bringing Michael, my boyfriend, is in my best interest or not.  I’m thankful to his family for embracing me through a very difficult year.

My father died just a few months ago, and a month before, my aunt Tina died.  She played a very big role in my life.  6 years earlier, my mother’s battle with lung cancer came to an end.  Two months after that, my grandmother Mema died at the age of 92.  I don’t have a lot of family left.  I have my two brothers, but I don’t get along with either of their wives, so those relationships are no longer really genuine.

Just as an aside-I am not taking time to plan out my writing here and I’m not revising it.  Maybe I will at some point, but right now, I want to remember my story, and then tell my story to help my therapist understand me more, and I hope to learn more about myself along the way.

I’ve come to understand, fairly recently, that I have deep dark feelings, secrets, and needs that I’ve never spoken about before.  Not my mother, not my Aunt Tina, not my psychiatrist of 23 years (Dr. Freeman)!  In fact, only *after* leaving my therapist, Dr. Freeman, was I able to start to share these “secrets” with my new therapists.  There are several things that I’ve only ever shared with my current therapist, C.P.

I’ve also come to understand that I’ve lived most of my life in a sort of detached way.  I’m not sure how to describe it exactly.  I’ve always had highs and lows.  I used to take tantrums growing up because I became so incredibly frustrated with how my parents were interacting with me.  I’ve engaged in self-injury since I was in elementary school.  But many many times, now that I can look back, I feel like I was operating in a very naive sort of way.  I lacked emotion intelligence.

I envision now a daisy flower floating down a stream looking sweet and pretty, but oblivious to the treacherous rocks that she is about to encounter.  No “antenna” one of my first mental health counselors first noted.  This pretty little flower missed all the clues that told of many upcoming rolling rapids!  Banging against the rocks because of the energy of the water flow, her petals became wilted and torn.  Eventually, a lot of them just fell off.  In the end, the pretty little daisy ended up all washed up in the mud of a small empty bank of the stream where no one noticed her.  It’s not that people didn’t like the pretty little flower.  They just weren’t aware of her injuries, her pain, her loneliness.