Bent, Compressed, Stretched



  [ri-zil-yuhnt, -zil-ee-uhnt]
springing back; rebounding.
returning to the original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched.
recovering readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyant.

I have always been grateful that my childhood was not any worse than it was.

I was born in 1968 to two unmarried alcoholics in their early 20s. Since they lived in a Common Law state, they were considered legal married when they have a child, so when my dad decided that he would rather be a girl than a dad, they had to go through the legal process of divorce when I was four. I do not remember their drinking, but I do remember being alone a lot.

In the 2 years that followed the divorce, I remember the AA meetings and the men my mother met there and brought home. I remember live-in boyfriends who hit her. During her 6-month second marriage I remember leaving in the middle of the night with nothing but my nightgown--I do not know how many times. Finally she settled down and married the father of her second child, my brother.

At this point she became abusive. At first it was verbal, but escalated to beating by the time I was 8. At 7 I remember suddenly realizing that I hated myself. At 11 I decided that I caused my mother so much unhappiness that the obvious solution was suicide. When it failed, I decided God must want me alive. I had a reason to live, and that helped me. Maybe that is what gave me the courage to finally hit her back. It did not give me the courage to intervene as I witnessed her on her hands and knees beating the crap out of my little brother. He was just 4. I still have tears for that memory. I hated myself for choosing my protection over his.

She stopped beating us after that, but the verbal and emotional abuse was intense. It didn't really matter that she wasn't drinking. She was still a raging alcoholic and blamed everyone else, including her children, for her behavior. By the time I was 12 I knew that I would be different, that I would be responsible for myself, and not blame others. I knew I did not love her, and I doubted that she loved me. I began a marathon of endurance. When I turned 18 I could leave, and never come back.

I married at 18 and my husband was perfect. He was so perfect that I turned any negative emotion I had on myself. I began to self-injure. When I had my first child, the delight of my life, I knew that my mother could not have loved me. If she had felt a fraction of what I felt for my daughter, she could not have been capable of doing what she did to me. However, when my girl was between the ages of 4 and 6, I turned into someone I did not know. I hated this person who screamed at my little girl, and I tried to beat this invader out of my life. It didn't work. It grew worse after my son was born. By the time my precious girl was 9, I knew the impact on her life was great. I didn't know what was wrong with me. I couldn't fix it. Counselling was aimless and ineffective. I wanted to die. No, I wanted to never have been born, never to have caused anyone any pain.

I am now almost 45 years old. My daughter is 22 and we have a lot of symptoms in common. Last month I was diagnosed with Chronic PTSD and dysthymia, conditions common to continuous childhood trauma. Everything makes sense now that I understand that my problems are more about chemistry than character. I understand now that I did everything I could to mitigate the effects of the damage that was done to me. As my daughter and I work together to solve the puzzle, we both are experiencing a sense of hope. We are counting our blessings. I did not beat her. My husband is not perfect, but he is a good man. He has stood by us patiently, loyally, lovingly.

One of the lies my mother told herself was a mantra of the moral upheaval of the 60's and 70's: "Oh well, kids are resilient."

I don't think so.