The Stomach Monster, Swimming, Sunburn and The State

There is a joke among my friends and family that I am a bottomless pit. My high metabolism makes me hungry often, and when I’m hungry, the stomach monster starts to roar. It’s difficult, because all the sudden I’ll be too hungry to focus on anything else, and I’ll start being really irritable (I guess I just need more Snickers in my diet). Then I eat in large amounts, and eat more. Never gain a pound.

Thinking about this today brought back some ever so delightful memories of my childhood. Mom hardly ever cooked, so me and my sister mostly had to fend for ourselves. We learned how to make Ramen pretty quick. And anything that could be made in the microwave.

But when I was nine, after the dreaded incident of going to live at a stranger’s house due to The State, Mom stepped it up. See, that summer, she became obsessed with us getting swimming lessons at the local outdoor pool, which wasn’t exactly within walking distance of home. So, she started taking us there in the morning for lessons, and then we’d be left there to swim all day until she picked my dad up from work at about five in the evening. So, basically, we were kept out of the house to avoid The Evil State, by being shunted off to a swimming pool all day, with nothing to eat. Did I mention that? We never packed any food, and we were almost never given any money. A $1.00 hot dog on one of those long days was a rare treat. Sometimes, we’d be so hungry we would scavenge around until we found a peanut someone had dropped, and we’d each eat half of it.

I got my first second-degree sunburn that summer. Mom never sent us with sunscreen, either. And when we came home sunburnt, she’d rub some lotion on that burned like hell, and she’d yell at us the more we cried.

For a little variety, we didn’t always go to the pool, of course. When we didn’t have swimming lessons, Mom would sometimes take us to another city to sit in the car all day at a park, or out at the reservoir. We were scared to even leave the car for fear of The Evil State, so we stayed there most of the time. I’ve spent more time sleeping in a car than I care to remember.

And then there was one very rare occasion where our mother let our best friend spend the night over at our house. We were woken up in the morning because The State Lady had come unexpectedly, and was asking for us. So Mom told us to keep quiet and stay there, and lied to the woman, saying that me and my sister were out at the local amusement park for the day with some other friends (what other friends?). Our best friend had to walk home alone, all due to my mother’s fear that The State would find her two little angels.

And, of course, all this was our fault. The State wouldn’t be after us if we were good kids who did our schoolwork and kept our rooms clean.

I’m not posting all this angst and drama to be like “oh woe is me,” or anything. Really. I get that there are lots of people out there who have been through things I can’t even comprehend. Who have survived things I couldn’t. I’m just writing about it because I find my own twisted psychology interesting, and I hope to be of some help to someone else, sometime. Whether as support, or for research, or what have you. I care not. I just want to pretend I’m helping, while I’m sitting here contemplating my navel because it’s all so fascinating.

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Sometimes You Just Don’t Think About It

Don’t mind me. My Prozac prescription ran out today (getting it refilled, so no worries. I’ll be Happy Mac again soon). That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. I’m depressed. I do what I want!

It’s funny, I’ve been thinking recently. So many kids grow up without realizing how good they really have it. I remember one time in high school, I overheard one of those perfect, pretty, popular straight-A students complaining about how her parents had taken her phone away for a week. She was a good kid, she protested to her friend. Her parents were being so unfair.

Personally, sitting in my dark corner of the classroom, I wanted to tell her that she didn’t know the meaning of unfair.

But, at that time, I thought my parents were still normal. I was the crazy one, according to myself. Everything was wrong with me, personally, and most of the time, I shoved that off as regular teenage melodrama and only wrote about the good things in my journal. Never a word about The State, or hoarding, or having a VCR thrown at my head for quietly asking if I could use it. A total gloss-over of the summers of hell. Don’t worry, Mac. Be happy.

That’s what child abuse is really like. You never realize that it’s wrong. You just think the world is a horrible place, and all the nice things you see are just a facade. You love your abusers, because they’re not always the Big Bad Villain. This is your parent. Your sister. People you’re supposed to love. People who make flower crowns for you, and buy you big Get Well baskets when you’re sick. They listen to you when you cry because of your kitten who just died. They make banana milkshakes for you, and give you a spa treatment. They do your hair and makeup, and tell you they love you.

All of that kindness makes the other side so hard to comprehend. The yelling and fighting, scratching and screaming. Crashes and holes in the walls. The “you’re too sensitive.” Being blamed for everything that goes wrong.

That girl, Sarah, still annoys me. Just thinking about her. With her neat clothes and her neat hair and her perfect grades. Sure, she had her own problems, but it’s hard to remember that, looking at her from that angle. I just see a girl who doesn’t realize how good she has it.

Growing up with a narcissistic hoarder for a mother and a scapegoat, parentified child for an older sister is no picnic. All those things people take for granted, like a stove or hot showers, cell phones or an Internet connection. A clean house. Parents who didn’t yell or throw things at your head, and actually loved each other. Being able to play outside. Going to school. They were all distant dreams for me. As much a fantasy as being able to fly. That was what I spent time daydreaming about—having a normal life. Wishing—praying—that I was adopted, and that my real, functional family would come for me someday.

Well, it never happened, obviously. Someone else’s horror story is my reality. I come with my own Certified Tragic Backstory. And thus, my secret comes out. I am a Mary Sue.

Life as a Hoarder’s Kid

Hoarding. It’s a lot more than an amusing eccentricity that makes the character you’re writing more unique. Ever tried being the kid of a hoarder?

It’s not made of amusing eccentricity and clutter, and saying, “Hey, Mom, we need to get rid of some of this stuff,” and her saying, “You’re right.” No. You try telling my mom to get rid of some of her stuff, she yells and throws things, but she doesn’t ever get rid of anything, and it’s all your fault, and she’s going to walk out, and to hell with everything.

It never goes that far, but I really wish she would just walk out. As the useless so-called housewife, what she does is sit at home all day playing Solitaire and listening to movies, while my dad’s out, working hard. She wouldn’t last a day outside her house. She doesn’t even have a driver’s license anymore!

Anyway, being the kid of a hoarder means never inviting anyone over. Friends have to wait outside for you, and even then, you’re embarrassed, because outside’s a mess, too. Not knowing when you stink because the whole house smells bad. Not knowing how to use simple appliances like an oven, because yours hasn’t worked for as long as you can remember. Not knowing how to clean. Apprehension whenever anyone comes to the door. The fridge is on the porch, and the microwave is in the hall. You wash dishes and clothes in the bathroom, and pray the water heater doesn’t break, because it’ll never get fixed. Flies, mice, spiders, ants and silver fish are common. During the winter, you just store food on the porch—that’ll keep it plenty cold. Entire rooms have been full of stuff for so long, you can hardly remember when it was usable. You can’t walk through the house barefoot without your feet being covered in dirt, crumbs, and stepping in animal feces. When something sticky spills on the floor, you clean it up with whatever’s closest, whether it be dirty laundry or junk mail.

And you know what really sucks? Hoarding in and of itself isn’t illegal. Authorities apparently can’t step in and do something about it unless a)there are children involved, b)a disabled person is involved or c)animals are abused because of hoarding. Once upon a time, someone reported my mom, and The Almighty State could step in because my sister and I were children. Mom responded by keeping us in another city all day to avoid them, and not allowing us to go outside.

Now, I’m an adult, and my dad doesn’t and never has had the guts to stand up to my mom—like it would work, anyway. He’s not disabled. Our animals are pretty well treated. So, he’s stuck with it. As am I, when I lack the money to live somewhere else. But it doesn’t change how I’d do anything to lock her up somewhere and restore the house to what it once was.

Mommy Dearest

My mother. She’s crazy. All my friends know that. I’ve known that almost all my life. No, she wasn’t the totally abusive kind. She always told my sister and me how much she loved us. Abused by her own mother, she made a promise to herself that her kids would know that they were loved. And she’s one of the best people to have around when you’re sick. Sometimes, she really knows what she’s talking about.

And then there are the other times.

She’s the type of person who thinks she’s an authority on most subjects, even though she has no idea what she’s talking about. And, of course, her sharing her profound knowledge comes with hearing about what happened to her, and how she saved the day, and how she taught people the error of their ways, and so on. We have a joke in my family—whenever Mom’s talking to someone, we roll our eyes at each other and comment on how she’s telling her life story again. But if you were to believe her, she should be the current prophet of the Mormon church. Even though, you know, she hasn’t gone to church since I was eleven.

Thanks to her, I didn’t go to school until I was in seventh grade, and when I finally got in, I didn’t even know how to divide. I took dance classes, not the martial arts I wanted. I spent a good deal of my childhood dodging Child Services, like some kind of criminal. I was locked inside the house all day, and Mom was the prison guard at the door. I was forbidden from seeing most of my friends at one time or another, and I was put on “lockdown” for something I didn’t do.

She tried to forbid me from wearing nail polish, piercing my ears, and even wearing pants. Watching action movies. Playing RPGs. Reading Lord of the Rings. Watching horror movies. Wearing black. Going to a rock concert (you should have seen the fight we got in the day afterward—she grabbed me by the collar of my new concert t-shirt, she was so mad. I just smiled at her. So she walked away. First time I ever won). Those didn’t work out so well, obviously. Now, all those things are a part of my daily life.

Every time I asked her why I couldn’t go to school, or why I couldn’t go outside, she yelled at me. That may not seem like much, but to a child, it was terrifying. I didn’t understand what I’d done wrong.

Now that I’m older, I’m the one yelling at her. Quite often. And I don’t care that much. Yes, I love her. No, I don’t honor her like I should. But I figure it’s payback time. She got her yelling and swearing in. Now it’s my turn, and I mean to enjoy it. I’m not the scared child anymore.

I never said I was a good person.

“I’m a writer, not a talker.”

That quote was something I said when talking to a friend, Scott, and I got my words messed up. Since then, he’s said I should put it on a t-shirt. Not gonna, but it gives me something to pretend is original and creative enough for a blog title.

This blog is more for myself than anyone else. To pull myself together in my little corner of the world, protected by the thin shield of my anonymity. And, of course, to voice my views where I feel safe, where I feel I can’t be judged by friends and family.

We all have things we want to say, I think, that we won’t because we feel we’ll be judged by everyone else. I can’t just tell everyone on Facebook that my mommy’s a hoarder and that my sister was arrested for domestic violence against me. I can’t tell them about how I’ve spent so much time second-guessing myself, doubting my own perceptions. I can’t tell the girls to shut up when they say terrible things about men. Maybe some people have the guts for that, but not me.

What I’ve learned about my friends and family–they want to hear the good stuff. The things that will cheer them up and make them laugh. And I can’t blame them. I get annoyed when my friends post on Facebook about how bad their lives are, how much breaking up with their boyfriend sucks. So, I post about the sunshine and daisies which grace that great maze we call life. The bed of roses, not the thorns. But the thorns are there. Sometimes, they just press into you until you can’t take it anymore. You feel the need to say something. That is what this blog is for. To tell about my experiences, and maybe help someone else get through theirs.

I’m just out to save the world. Is that too much to ask?