This is not a sob story. Nor a pity party.
I’ve tried to understand, but in retrospect, it makes little sense. The answers aren’t obvious. I’m struggling to see as I reach back through the years to that murky time.
Was it just opportunity and wilfulness? A very sad case of absent self-esteem? An undiagnosed family history of depression? All of the above?
How does a bright young child take so many wrong steps? Embarrassingly letting down all those who imagine great things for her? She never knew really, what she wanted for herself, not then. But it was clear her own failures hurt those who hoped her life would be more than theirs.
Why was her head so fuzzy? Looking ahead, she saw nothing for her. No future appealed or seemed within her grasp. So much of her short life included pain, rejection, poor guidance, lack of support, anger, heartbreak and sadness. Feeling unloved, unwelcome, unhappy, unincluded.
But it’s all pedestrian stuff. Rather unexceptional, to tell the truth. Yet she was a mess before her twenty-first birthday. Before she’d left her teenage years, actually.
Woeful yet ordinary tales of angst could be told. Was it just the number of them, one after another that counts? Her over-sensitivity to the world, its slings and arrows? High levels of unaddressed anxiety?
Feeling comfortable in her own skin around other people was never her forte, after all.
Maybe in part, she was just born that way. Overly imaginative and sensitive. Artistic, showing early intelligence and yet, so very shy. Which she covered with extroverted behaviour. Still does.
How to tell this tale without recounting things that probably don’t matter?
It’s icky and tough-going peering through the eyes of a sad teenage woman-child, who, felt herself invincible but had clearly and truly lost her way.
Looming large in the viewfinder of those times were of course, her first boyfriend. Her subsequent pathetic attempts at relationships. And her brother.
Imagine living with someone who told you aggressively negative things about yourself every day of your life, relentlessly for years on end.
From the age of twelve (or thereabouts), til the time she left home at nineteen (to escape his non-stop torment)… she was her brother’s prime target.
The seeds of his behaviour were there earlier, though. And actually she has no memories of him ever being nice to her. But as she got older, he focused on her more and more. Especially when their mother went back to work.
As the eldest child and only male sibling, his anger and aggression ruled the hour before parental order was restored.
At first it was just verbal abuse, day in, day out. Sneering, growling, lip curling aggression for reasons completely unfathomable.
You’re fat. You’re ugly. You’re so fucking stupid it’s not funny. Worthless. Hopeless. You’ll never make anything of yourself. Get out of my face you ugly slut! No wonder you don’t have a boyfriend, look at you!
And so on. And on. Every day. Relentlessly. Often, the same angry mantras repeated over and over. Years of such bilious nastiness, sprouting from who knows where?
Constantly, she’d try to tell their parents. But what can a child say to properly explain this kind of verbal assault? To make it sound serious enough? Challenging too, when parental figures don’t like dealing with conflict and want the easiest solution to make it all go away.
The physical abuse started earlier than she recalled. She must have been ten, at least. And for no reason she knew, at her brother’s soccer club, on awards night… he pinned her arms to her sides, kneeing her in the stomach. Hard. So hard, she couldn’t speak. Bent over, clutching herself in the middle of a room of people who saw. They had to.
Somehow, she wasn’t quite believed. And he didn’t quite get punished for his actions. But the panic and humiliation stayed with her for years, under the skin, re-emerging inopportunely.
But the full on smack down violence was later. Their sister watching helplessly and tensely. The fights were nasty and aggressive and for a while she took whatever he dealt out.
Til later, when she decided it didn’t matter how much he hurt her. She’d find a way to hurt him back. Waiting, goading him even, to see if she could find a weakness. Looking for a way to make him pay for his wickedness.
She had trouble explaining how bad that was to her parents, too.
But actually, the daily verbal torment was worse. The opposite of positive thinking hurled at her daily.
Say something to someone often enough and without a doubt, they’ll believe it. Which is one sure way to tear down the confidence of a young girl who, was never the most popular, the prettiest or anything special in her social circle anyway.
She didn’t see her future as bright, bristling with potential and no one told her otherwise. She couldn’t see anything great happening.
She had no idea what to do or where to go.