Posted by: mambo on Tuesday, January 18, 2005
I will be 49 years old on January 29th, 2005, and I can't believe I've made it this far.
I was raised in a small North Dakota town. My mother was an old-school Catholic and my father, though raised Catholic and considering himself to be devout, seemed to me to be along for the ride. He never displayed any genuine sense of spiritual understanding or conviction, at least not as long as they didn't assure that he would be 100% comfortable for the rest of his life. He was indifferent.
My mother required that all of her children kneel at least once a day and pray the rosary, and any resistance on our parts expidited as many lashes with the "spanking stick" as my mother deemed neccessary. I was almost always the one who received the lashes.
When I was seven years old and we had been living in my grandparents' dark, dank basement (my father's parents) for a few years, I witnessed my parents beat my three-year-old sister almost to death because she had an eye which involunarily wandered. They assumed she had been demon-possessed. Obviously she suffered from lazy eye, but the incident branded her as somehow "wrong", and so we all were required to reject her. I refused to take part in the rejection, so I was branded along with her.
From that time on, our home was filled with nonstop abuse. My sister and I got the brunt of it. My mother verbally railed against me on a daily basis, calling me fat, lazy, a pig, etc. My father was passive when he was home (he was a travelling salesman who eventually was picked up for peeping tom activity), but he would become violent after continuous goding from my mother. He started drinking, and it became worse.
By the time I was sixteen, physical and emotional abuse were constants in my life. My oldest brother (four years older) had joined in when he hit puberty. He used to refer to me as "Fat Apple Ass", refusing to use my given name when speaking to me, and no one seemed to notice me slipping deeper into depression, daily. I was suicidal. I thought about suicide on a daily basis.
Then we moved to Billings, Montana, and I felt a surge of hope that things might improve. Actually, they did, because I was able to connect with folks who didn't know that I was a failure, a fat, lazy pig, etc.
My father was in Alaska by that time, working on the pipelines as a driller, and sending home very little money for the family to live on. My oldest brother, myself and a younger sister (there were 9 children) decided to start singing in bars, in order to support the family. The strange paradox of my life at that time was that as much as I hated my parents and oldest brother, I loved the others enough that I wanted to make sure they were taken care of. So there it was. And though my brother no longer physically abused me, he frequently threatened to, and so I was in a constant state of fear. But I had to keep going, so I did.
My father returned from Alaska in my senior year of high school, and my mother became pregnant with her tenth child. The day I found out, I left home. I knew the abuse would escalate, and that if I didn't leave then, I would kill myself.
In order to lose weight while singing, I had mastered the art of bulemia and anorexia, and was popping diet pills and diuretics daily. I had no idea, then, how much harm I was doing to my body.
Well, within a year of graduating high school, I got myself a backpack and took off for the mountains of Montana, spending time in Yellowstone Park and living in a Christian commune in the Gallatin Canyon. That was the best time of my life.
At 26, I gave birth to Naomi and we lived in Bozeman for her first four years. Then I was involved in a car accident, just a rear-ender, but it knocked my back off-track. It also set off a chain of emotional triggers which eventually landed me in a state of psychological distress. I finally sought help from mental health professionals who diagnose me as suffering from Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder, combined with Major Depressive episodes, and exacerbated by a learning disorder known as "Hyperlexia", which had gone undiagnosed throughout my childhood, but explained my learning problems.
I began getting help at the age of 34. I was able to begin getting SSI, and have been on it ever since, due to the ongoing effects of these conditions. However, I have dreams of being able to write and create artistically and someday become independant, financially. In the meantime, I hope to relocate to Missoula, because I miss the mountains and I miss dealing daily with other mountain folks who are like-minded.
I live with my daughter, her boyfriend, their two-and-a-half little ones, and I am blessed. Family means more to me than I can say. We are a family of artists and musicians, so life is interesting.
I, too, believe in God, and believe all things happen for a reason, which is miraculous, because just ten years ago I felt that I had lost my faith entirely. Now that I have renewed faith, I intend to make it work.