We all know the saying. We probably even said it as children to bullies or our siblings or anyone who made a rude comment to us. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”
But, I’m here to say that is BULLSHIT. It’s not true. Bones heal. Wounds created by words are awful, sometimes festering, infected and ugly. They cut deep, wide and are invisible to those that inflict them—especially if you are good at pretending they don’t hurt. But, they do. Bad. The sting lasts sometimes for a lifetime and sometimes, after years of therapy, you can begin to heal them, but the scar left behind will always be there.
When I was 3, I had a very serious bladder surgery performed. That scar is still there. A daily reminder that I was wounded and sick. It will never go away. In fact, one day, when I die, it will be a distinguishing mark on my body. A story left behind of something that once happened to me when I was living.
I have struggled with writing what I am about to write. I have thought it over, mulled it around, slept on it and also thought long and hard about it. My intention is not to hurt anyone or make matters worse, but to be open and honest about what I went through as a child and the wounds that have created scars that will forever be inside of me. The wounds are healed. They don’t hurt anymore. But the scars are ugly and large and the scar tissue is hard. So, (deep breath)…here goes…..
I was born in July 1976, the second child born to two very young parents. Life for them, at the time, was tumultuous. My mother later told me that she found out my dad was having an affair when she was pregnant with me. This is a very important detail because I think that began our very long relationship of her resenting me for what he was doing to her. Would he have cheated if she weren’t pregnant? Who knows? But, the female mind is a tricky thing.
Unfortunately for them, to add to their marital stress, I was not an easy child. From birth, I had numerous health issues. I had horrible ear infections that kept my mom up all night, followed by a life-threatening birth defect that required major surgery. Only to heal from that, and begin having seizures and to be diagnosed with Epilepsy. (We now think the seizures were from a head injury sustained in a car wreck, but back then we didn’t know and neither did the doctors). All of this BY the age of 4.
My sister, on the other hand, was an easy child. She never kept them up at night, didn’t have any major issues early on in life and if told “no” would recant and do what was wanted of her. I was the exact opposite. I was born strong-willed and THANK GOD, because of what I had to endure I now see that this was the perfect quality to have. She and I have often talked about how we were virtually raised by two different sets of parents. Hers is a deeply fond, loving memory and to this day she is still entrenched in their lives. Mine was an independent, tumultuous, always-in-trouble-for-nothing life, full of shame and guilt. To this day, I am “at a distance” with them because of this and probably always will be. I love them. Deeply. But, I was hurt by them and cannot allow myself to go there again.
It started pretty young for me. I remember very early on being told that “We wanted other kids, but then had you and said ‘no more’”, by them. At times they told me that I was a “pain” or “bad”. The doctor even backed them up when I was having bladder issues and awake at night, sleeping upright on the toilet, telling them “It’s a behavioral issue. She’s testing you both.” Of course, I wasn’t. But, that didn’t stop them from thinking so at the time. One night, they threw my twin mattress in the hall and said “This is your bed now. You can sleep right outside the bathroom!” I was crying, on the toilet, and trying to tell them—anyone—that something was not right. But, at the time, no one believed me. It was scary, awful and sad. Hateful things were said. Things that will always stick with me and shaped my self-view from that very early age.
As I grew up, an anxiety-riddled, not-trusting child, these things did not get better. I had a strong personality and had no problem telling my parents what I thought. This was a shock to two people whose first daughter only told them what they wanted to hear and did whatever they asked. I was viewed as a problem child. I didn’t drink. I made straight As and Bs. I was a type-A, over-achiever in everything I did—always looking for their love and approval. My dad loved softball—I played softball and was GOOD. My dad liked building things—I would help and learn to do things for myself. My dad and I grew closer and I felt safe with him. My mom was another story.
Remember the story at the beginning of how she was pregnant? I believe that she always blamed me for the affairs. Yes, AFFAIRS. 20+ years of affairs. I’m not sharing any knowledge that hasn’t been shared publicly. They gave testimonies at church, on the radio and even had a family meeting about it. Anyway…
My mom just plain didn’t like me. I could feel it. I always knew it. She would tell me that I was a “brat”. That I made her life hard and she wished I wasn’t born. In truth, she took all of her frustrations with my dad out on me. She once told me that my sister was her best friend and I just had to get over it. And very early on, I began to doubt my worth and also believe those things. I took them to heart. After all, she was my mom. Maybe GOD did make a mistake with me. Was I bad? I didn’t think so. I never got in trouble at school. I was an attentive and caring friend. I had a soft heart. But, maybe I was a defect. Maybe I was unlovable.
At times, my parents would go as far as to drive me by a school for troubled kids and threaten to drop me off there. Something I didn’t deserve for questioning their position on something, but they did it anyway. The fear of them taking me away was always present and the fact that they seemed ok with getting rid of me CUT DEEP.
As I grew older, RELIGION was introduced into my family. Suddenly, there were jokes with family and friends that “We wanted more kids til we had her!” hahahahaha Cue the room of laughter. And, once again, I was the problem child. I had been tested and confirmed as having ESP and Telepathy, but now that was demonic and something was wrong with me. I began to feel unwell and tired and depressed and began eating chalk. Sounds strange, right!? Well, my mom caught me and told me that something was wrong with me. Years later, when I was pregnant with my first, my OB/GYN said “Yeah. Something was wrong—you had PICA because you were anemic.” But, of course, at the time, I just added it to the long list of things that made me weird or bad. I became more depressed. As puberty hit, I began to notice changes in my body—my boobs were growing and perky, my hormones were raging. Once again, it was found out that I had—OH NO!—masturbated and I was taken on a walk around the neighborhood and scolded and told that that was a sin and I should never do that again. Add that to the list of why I was a piece of shit. ANOTHER WOUND.
I began to believe that something was seriously wrong with me. My sister, who is 3 years older, could do no wrong. If she was grouchy or mean to me, it was because she was PMSing or her blood sugar was low. If I was ever those things to her, I was being bad and “typical Jamie” and punished. An anger began to brew inside of me. Not toward anyone except my parents. I couldn’t wait to get out of that house and prove them wrong. I was lovable. I was normal. I was. Right?
My mom’s friends would come up to me at church and say things like, “Go easy on your mom. She’s a saint.” WTF? I was so bad she was constantly complaining to others about me. To this day, you will NEVER hear me say one bad thing about my kids. I adore them and I cannot imagine using them to get sympathy from my friends and that’s what I imagined her doing back then. This only made our relationship more strained. I would take long walks in the woods by myself. Sit outside the house and read. Anything to stay away. I wrote awfully depressing poetry about my life and contemplated suicide on a regular basis and THEN….
I was sexually assaulted in the 8th grade. Another “fault” of mine was that I was attracted to a black boy and he took advantage. I remember being so depressed and my mom said, “Well, if you play with fire, you get burned.” ANOTHER WOUND.
So, at 16, I found a way out. Lenny was a caring, loving person who wanted to marry me. He LOVED me. He found me lovable. He had sat up late nights as my mom bitched to him about me and wondered what was so bad. He would take me away from it all and save me. Yes, please!
We got married, yada yada yada….and then divorced years later….yada yada yada….ect, ect.
From the time I left that house at age 16, until now, at the ripe, old age of 40, things have been up and down to say the least. I pleased my mom by being really involved in church. I upset her by vowing to never go back. I had relatives ask my then-husband Lenny if he could pray that their teen daughters would find someone like him to marry so they wouldn’t have to put up with them anymore and how lucky my mom was to get rid of me. Gee, thanks!? ANOTHER WOUND.
Wounds are ugly. They hurt. They make you sick all over, if not take care of and they can infect your whole life. I’m here to say though, that they don’t have to go untreated.
I, myself, have become a mom. My kids have both had health issues—especially early on. And, sadly, I cannot relate to how my mom felt. I never felt my kids were hurting me intentionally or that their issues were their way of punishing me. I love them more than life and I have TWO and cannot tell you who my favorite is because I honestly love them so much. In fact, my oldest makes jokes about how the younger one is my favorite and it hits a nerve because I never want them to feel how I feel.
The way I was raised, fortunately, has made me a FANTASTIC mom. Sure, I have shit days. Who doesn’t? But, I will be damned if my kids ever doubt my love for them. EVER. I carefully measure the words I say to them, making sure they never feel like they are the bane of my existence. Because, they are anything but.
Words can kill. Words shake us to the core and words shape who we become as adults. I was raised as a “problem child”, and to this day I struggle with self-worth, as I’m trying to teach my children how to love themselves. It’s a daunting task some days. Some days, I’m on top of the world. And, some days, I don’t even want to leave my room. I’m worthless. I’m unlovable. I’m “bad”.
But, I also am thankful for my trials. Anyone will believe they are FANTASTIC if constantly told that. I wasn’t and I had to learn to believe in myself despite of it. It has driven me to be successful in business, to find a great partner in my husband and to believe in my kids. At times, I am sad about some of the things I’ve mentioned and sometimes the tapes re-play in my head like a broken record, but ONLY now can I say —It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t me. I can look back and say, “They did the best they could. They were young.”
My mom and I may never be besties. After all, she already has one in my sister. I’m ok with that. It gives me more time to focus on my husband and kids and build a solid foundation for our family. I love her with all of my heart and I’m sorry that I wasn’t what she wanted or expected, but I am ok with knowing that that’s how she felt. Not everyone is meant to have a tight bond. And, me being independent has led me down my own path, for my own life. I feel my scars. They are part of me. Some are deep and ugly. Some are small and faded. My children and husband unknowingly have been the healing salve in my life. Their unconditional love has made all the difference. Please hold while I go and tell them all how much I love them……