More Issues!

Yep. This blog wouldn’t be the same without piling on the angst, would it?

So, first, depression sucks. At work, it’s harder to suck it up, because I know I’ve got an actual problem, and it’s not all in my head. Well, okay, maybe it is in my head, but you know what I mean. It’s especially bad on the days without sun, if I can’t find a good way to distract myself. Try snowboarding in that. Good way to get very hurt.

Second, dating also sucks. Because yeah, I get that I’m not bad-looking, but I feel like guys are only interested in me until they see the madness beneath the surface. Let me tell you, I have issues. But I went on a date on Saturday that wasn’t a total disaster. So it’s not all bad.

Third, my sister had me look up covert incest (my counselor calls it emotional dumping). And it applied to my past relationship with my mother pretty well (boyfriend 2 reminds me of her in so many ways that it’s ridiculous). So now, I’ve got that to deal with on top of everything else. Listen to me while I whine.

Fourth, I built a blanket fort. It was awesome. My roommates were jealous.

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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.

To My Sister

Beloved big sister,

We’ve been through hell together. Childhood? What childhood? We were too busy trying to cope with an insane mother. Trying to figure out why everything was our fault. What we were doing wrong. Of course, I was the golden child. I saw Mom’s good side. She was a better mother to me.

You tried to mother me. Heck, I needed it sometimes. You didn’t understand that Mom was better toward me. So, that led you, a child, to unintentionally be an abusive sibling. You led me into depression. But you know what? Most golden children grow up to be narcissists, themselves. So I’m grateful that you were there to balance me out. In all honesty.

I’ve always looked up to you, no matter how much I tried to deny it. You were strong and sassy and smart and pretty, and I wanted to be just like you. How times have changed. I’m happy being me.

You hurt me. I won’t ever deny that. A lot of my depression issues come from innocent comments you don’t even remember making. That’s okay. You helped me develop a spine. I can take insults, spit them right back, and shrug them off. I stopped caring whether or not I’m Mom’s good child. I’m an adult. She can’t punish me anymore—not that she’d have the guts to do it anyway. I’m stronger than she is.

Sis, I love you. I’m so grateful to you, being there for me through my discoveries with depression and especially with this problem with Scott. I’m glad you’re letting me make you watch anime. I’m glad you’re taking me climbing, and offering to hang out with me. I can’t live with you anymore, of course, but I love having you around. You’re so caring and now, that you’ve grown up, you’re the kind of mom figure I wish I had. Definitely the closest thing to a surrogate mother I have.

Thank you for everything you’ve done. I forgive you.

With love,

Mac

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 on Anti-Depressants

Well, WordPress, I’ve been taking it easy since being put on drugs. Lazing around. Writing. Feeling a lot less moody than I normally do. Let me tell you guys, that’s been great. It’s a weight off my shoulders.

I’ve also talked to my sister. Actually sorted things out.

My sister, who admits she abused me, now. My sister, who was also diagnosed with depression. My sister, who’s found so much through counseling and fiction that I never would have thought of. It’s amazing. Things are actually working out between us. We can talk our problems over rationally.

And so many of the paranoias my mother imposed are crashing around my ears.

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Arizona, where I’ve been visiting my mother’s parents with the rest of my family since Sunday. My mother told me she was abused by her own mom. That my grandma was a horrible, terrifying, abusive woman. I was shocked, of course, to discover that’s not the case, at all. Grandma just happens to get that my mother is a narcissistic, compulsively lying hoarder. My mother’s parents are fantastic people, who completely understand the problems of dealing with my mother and my aunt. I thought I didn’t have grandparents who loved me, honestly. This realization is shocking. And wonderful.

Also, I never realized just how far my mom went into making my sister the scapegoat. But, just recently, my sister told me a story. How, at the age of fourteen (when it typically happens at age twelve), she finally dared to apply for a temple recommend (need to follow specific Mormon rules to be eligible). She didn’t get one before because she thought she was such a horrible person. Because she believed what my mother told her. And when she brought that brand new recommend home, she showed it to Mom, trying to show her that she wasn’t worthless. You know what Mom did? Shoved her up against the wall and told her she’d lied to get that recommend. A fourteen-year-old. A kid.

I’ve heard things no little kid should ever have to hear. Mom and my sister, fighting. Or so I thought. But my sister was always just a kid. Only two years older than me. How could those noises I heard coming from her room ever be a real fight? Her screams? How could she possibly fight back, when my mother was the one with the power? I was only about six. I wanted to go solve the problem, but I was too scared to see. And when my mother came in to talk to me, her golden child, I believed what she told me. After all, Mother is God in the eyes of a child.

She lied to me. And I believed her.

Now, my sister is no saint. She was trying to protect me in her own way, but as a kid, she resented me for being the golden child, and went about protecting me all wrong. She’s a parentified child who thought that I needed looking after. But let’s face it. My mom was a much better mother to me, because I was her golden child. I didn’t see the dark side until I was older, really. But in my life, there were always those two opposing female forces, neither one of them completely trustworthy. Always telling me different stories. Thanks to all that, I’m a huge fence-sitter. Apathetic, for the most part. Peacemaker might as well be my middle name, because I will always see both sides of the issue, and trust no one completely.

Well, that’s the serious part of what I had to say. The rest of it? I could regale you with the fascinating tale of the dam we visited on our way to Arizona, and the storm of dam jokes that didn’t stop (and I was the queen—even after we left, I was on a dam roll!), but that might get tedious and repetitive. Or how about my sister’s dramatized impressions of my mom’s passive aggressiveness? Making jokes with grandma behind Mom’s back? Mom mispronouncing the word anise (“Oh. Anus!”), or any other number of little amusing things (an adventure at the Hard Rock Cafe!). But, once again, repetitive and boring, quite probably. Humor and light stuff is not the point of this blog, you know. We want darkness. Doom, death, dying, and depression. Not necessarily in that order.

So I’ll leave it at that for now.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be here all night, pretending I’m funny.

EHS and Lockdown: The Summers of Hell

My mother has always had a thing with trying to separate my sister and I from our friends, all the while assuring us how much more intelligent we are. We weren’t allowed to play with the most popular (aka, richest) girls on the street, after one of them was mean to me one time too often. As a result, all the other girls had to make a choice: and it was made to exclude the crybaby. And, by extension, her longsuffering older sister. Lucky for all of them, though, as the cooler sister she had the brains and guts to sneak out. The crybaby never did. Two awesomes for the price of one, right?

As a kid, I wasn’t used to having many friends, let’s just say. All the girls my age that I knew well enough (a grand total of three) never wanted to be around me. The older girls just took pity on me. Sure, I’m grateful for that pity, but sincerity was always preferable.

I was ten years old when I became friends with one girl I could trust—my best friend to this day. Together, My sister, our friend, and me were an inseparable team. Except how my sister would go to this friend’s house without telling my mom. Or stay out too late with this friend.

This was where the trouble in our newest paradise really started. Mom started being quick to condemn this friend as a greedy little brat, and paint me and my sister as two angels Too Good For This Sinful Earth. Since the greedy little brat was having such a bad influence on her two angels, Mom started forbidding us to see her, except at church activities. That didn’t last too long, though, as I recall.

But, when we started going to school, it got worse. See, my aunt, uncle and cousin had moved into the neighborhood. This aunt is my mother’s sister, who’s a Type A personality you do not want to mess with. You get on her bad side, she is terrifying. Oh, and around her, my mother goes completely (and very unnaturally) passive.

Well, my aunt supposedly overheard our best friend calling my cousin fat. And the crap hit the fan.

Now, first of all, let me point something out. My best friend is pretty overweight. And a nice person by nature. Her saying such a thing about my totally awesome cousin, whom she always liked, is totally implausible. But our protestations amounted to nothing. Even as the excitement of going to school for the first time loomed, my mother was chewing out my best friend and her father. There was a very tense scene in my best friend’s front yard where the three of us had emotional breakdowns while Mom argued with my friend’s dad, about why we were never allowed to see this friend again. But our pleas fell on the deaf ears of a crazy woman. And my sister was sent to school with my cousin, in a different city.

So, the only time they got to see each other, really (since during that time we were forbidden from going over to our friend’s house), was when we had church activities. And when our friend got a license, she would drive us to and from those activities. And she would take long detours so we could just hang out for a few minutes. That certainly didn’t help matters.

But school was an instant love for me. I was practically a straight-A student throughout middle school. I loved learning new things—like about paragraphs and cells.

With my aunt living so close, though, she decided the golden trio (me, my sister and her daughter) needed to work harder, because there was no way our parents could pay for our college. So, the solution was to graduate with our Associate’s Degrees. How were we to do that? Electronic High School during the summer, of course! My sister and my cousin, both being actually in high school, were immediately signed up, of course. Me, I was offered the opportunity.

Now, I could tell that my aunt thought this was a great idea, when she brought it to my attention. But I had my misgivings. I was just out of seventh grade, which I’d only had one semester of. I’d taken in a lot of new information. I couldn’t handle what was in ninth grade classes when I couldn’t even fathom what eighth grade would hold! So, walking on eggshells, I told her very carefully and submissively that I didn’t think it was right for me, and I’d really rather not.

The next day, she returned, literally cornering me and yelling about how I had to do it because I was smart enough, don’t lie to myself. And my dad wasn’t going to pay for college. And I was getting enrolled whether I liked it or not.

It seems so minor. But that day was the day I climbed my favorite apple tree, sitting high in the branches where nobody could see me, and started dragging a sharp piece of apple wood across my skin.

So, much of the summer consisted of going to a computer lab at the local university extension and getting on computers with my sister and cousin. I tried. I really did. I submitted a few assignments for the Earth Systems class. As in, the first two. But when it got to abiotic and biotic factors of the environment, I was completely lost. Besides, next to me on either side, my sister and cousin were playing around on the Internet. Of course, this was a classic thing with me. Everyone else played around while I got stuck with the short end of the stick—like when my sister always snuck out. I wasn’t about to let that crap happen again. So, I also began Internet playing.

But one day, my aunt came along, and sat beside me. Without thinking about it, the first thing I did was check my email. She glanced over at my screen and whispered, “Mac, what are you doing?”

“Checking my email,” I whispered back.

“No. Get to work.”

I blinked, about to say that my sister and cousin had been doing it too, and why was I getting blamed, but looking over at their screens, I saw strictly aunt-appropriate things. Traitors. But I wasn’t about to sink to that level. So I said nothing. I tried to do the work, I really did. But online classrooms are not my environment. I struggled (never making it past those darned abiotic factors) before they finally stopped taking me. Summer passed, and I started eighth grade that fall. I never said it to anyone, but in the back of my mind, I referred to that summer as the Summer of Hell.

While my sister was going to school in another city, I was allowed to go to high school at home. So, I got to go to school with our friend during my freshman year, when she was a junior. It was a great time. After school, she’d sometimes drive me home (again with the long detours), and others we’d go over to her house for a while and play Kingdom Hearts.

But, of course, the good times were not to last. Near the end of the school year, my sister got in trouble for staying out too late with this friend again. And now, my aunt was here to back my mom up. So, they devised the plan to put my sister on “lockdown.” She was sent to live at my aunt’s house (my cousin had moved out by this point), allowed no contact with friends, no computers, no phone, no TV, no music. Only books and school.

And then, my turn came. The last day of freshman year. Nobody taking roll, of course, so my friend, myself and some others decided to have a mini-party at A&W a couple blocks away. We were going to take my friend’s car, until she realized that was what had gotten my sister into so much trouble, so we walked. Had a great time. At the end of the day, I went home and took a nap.

Only to be yelled and shaken awake by my mother, who wouldn’t tell me what was going on, or what I had done wrong, just that I was getting in a car with my aunt.

Enraged with the dim disgruntlement of the half-awake, I grabbed my iPod (music always helps calm me down) and headed outside. I couldn’t argue with my aunt. I was too afraid of her. That’s the kind of woman who will steamroll you if you so much as look at her funny. Except, no sooner had I got out there than the iPod was confiscated. And it was a very quiet drive to her house.

There, I was told it was my turn on “lockdown.” Because I had been accepting rides from my friend when I wasn’t supposed to. And I had gone out with my friends, leaving the school grounds, without telling my mother. (Who had, actually, confiscated my cell phone when hers was broken a few months previously.) Never mind that I didn’t have her number memorized and didn’t know how to contact her without my cell phone. Or that I didn’t even think about it. My aunt assured me that yes, I did think about it, and I did deliberately spite my mother. No matter how much I protested my relative innocence in tears, I was assured of my damnation. And, realizing I was trying to break down a concrete wall, after that I just stopped talking. I listened silently as I was informed that I would not be going back to the local high school, but separated from my evil friend, and sent to the same high school as my sister. I cried myself to sleep, still trying to figure out what in the world I had really done.

Thankfully, the next day, I was taken to the library and told I could get one book. The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima, as I fondly recall. That book was my escape—my refuge from the madness of real life. I spent all day reading it until my parents came to pick me up, out of the blue.

Of course, I still didn’t have a cell phone. And I didn’t have computer access, as I was still on a less strict lockdown. So, I was cut off from all the friends I’d made once more with one brutal stroke. Most of them, I haven’t seen since that day.

And that fall, I started at a new school. Discovered the escape to be found in working at the local haunted house—an outlet for my issues. Developed the Mormon Goth persona, so there would be no more crying protestations against what I was considered too young to understand. I learned my lesson. Shut up and take it. Suck it up and deal with it. You can’t fight crazy with tears. You fight it by yelling louder. Drowning them out.

So yes, I do have social issues. I don’t tell people what I’m really thinking or feeling, most of the time. I’ve worked very hard to separate myself from feelings. That way, it doesn’t hurt as much when I’m second-best to yet another person. When I’m invisible. When I’m treated unfairly.

It took me a while, but I realized the Summers of Hell were plural. More than I could consciously remember, with all Mom had put us through over the years.

Hi, my pseudonym is Mac, and I’m a Mormon. Believe it or not, my life in a “good Mormon family” was my own hell.

Yeah, My Childhood was Kinda Crappy

I guess there are a lot of people out there who look upon their childhood with affection, remembering the good old days, when things were easy. Not perfect, sure. But easy, with little responsibility. I’m sure there are people who would love to go back to those days.

Not me.

Sure, my childhood had its good times. It wasn’t one bleak, dark tunnel with no light visible at the end. But it was depressing, sure enough.

Mommy wanted me and my sister to be different from our peers. Unlike the savage, crude, unladylike little girls of the nineties, my sister and I didn’t wear jeans, and quite often wore dresses. We didn’t have those trashy ear piercings, and we didn’t wear the equally trashy nail polish. We were taught knitting, sewing and needlework, and took ballet and tap classes. We weren’t enrolled in the evil of public school. We didn’t draw on ourselves or wear temporary tattoos. One of Mom’s favorite expressions when we asked why we couldn’t do the cool things everyone else did was, “It’s not appropriate for a young lady.”

I suppose I can kind of understand where she was coming from with that. She was born in the fifties, which I swear was like the Victorian era of the twentieth century. That was when girls always wore nice dresses to school, and things like that. Knitting, sewing, needlework and cooking were feminine arts, whereas combat of any sort and technical skills were more masculine arts.

But that certainly doesn’t mean I liked it. I resented it with a passion. I wanted to learn martial arts, but was made to take dance and be a pretty little ballerina. I wanted to wear jeans with lots of cool zippers all over them, but they were too goth, so I had to wear bright, pretty dresses instead. I wanted to learn how to work with cars, but I had to learn how to knit. I wanted to shoot, I got to sew. I wanted to learn computers, I got to learn how to cook.

But, of course, I can’t knit or sew to save my life. I have no rhythm required for being a good dancer. I can barely cook, and nothing complicated (I just barely learned how to use an oven). I spend my summers at a scout camp shooting, climbing, rappelling, belaying, and not giving a darn if I look pretty. I can be a passable computer tech, although I know next to nothing about cars still (trying to fix that). I have pierced ears, I usually have black nail polish on, and I wear what I like, nary a dress or skirt in sight.

But none of that’s important right now.

Mom succeeded in setting me and my sister apart. And the other kids in the neighborhood didn’t like us—me, more of. I was a sensitive little crybaby, you see. My name was the one that was so easy to make fun of.

In our neighborhood, there was only one boy. And the eight girls were split into two groups: the Big Girls and the Little Girls. Three families with one older and one younger girl, you see, and two with one girl who was old enough apiece. My sister and I went to our respective groups.

Mine didn’t want to put up with the tall, gangling crybaby with the funny name. I got ditched all the time, but I was still so sure that those two girls were my best friends. My diary of the time is filled with glowing reviews of them, never mentioning the bad stuff. Even though I spent a lot of days at home crying.

My mom did the worst thing possible and took it into her own hands. (Everyone knows that’s the ultimate no-no in a child’s world.) She restricted me and my sister from seeing one of the two families, because their younger daughter was the one in charge of my ditching. I believe that was after that same girl put dog crap in my brand new roller blades.

So, I spent a lot of time on my own. Playing my own games, because this was before I discovered reading. If I had to guess, I’d say that was when I really became an introvert. Sometimes, I’d still play with those girls—do anything to try to fit in. Love them in spite of whatever they did to me. Blindly believe the lies of passive aggression.

Luckily, I grew out of that. At the age of ten, me and my sister met the girl who would remain our best friend to this day, and I’ve made good, lasting friends of my own.

When I was a freshman, though, I was walking home from school, and two of my childhood bullies were right behind me, laughing and talking. Then one of them shouted to me, calling me by the nickname they knew I hated. At that point, I was mature enough to just look back and grin, thinking, Seriously? Grow up, already. I just wish I’d said it.

Gotta say, I’m delighting in being grown up. I don’t live with my parents anymore, though I come back to visit sometimes. That thought makes me feel better every time I see Childhood Bully #1, who still lives across the street with her parents and sister.

Childhood Bully #2 is a hopeless blonde who would have failed a project in eighth grade science, had I not been in her group. Boy, she shrieked at the stupidest things.

Childhood Bully #3 wasn’t as bad. She was the one I considered my best, best friend. She grew out of it pretty quickly, and we’re still friends to this day.

Probably like every other former bullying victim, I’m still looking for ways to shove all that I’ve achieved (though right now it isn’t much) into the first two’s faces. But apart from this petty desire for vengeance, I’m feeling pretty good. This story has a happier ending.