How Child Abuse Liberated Me.

This post concerns how the experience of something very prolonged, multifaceted and negative can be transformed into a sort of psychological strength, or drive. Again, this post might be a little abstract.

Child abuse liberated me, because I have known a point wherein I had to do something, that is I was either going to kill myself or I was going to find a way to overcome its consequences. Back in 2013 I was very sick, much sicker than I am now, hideous, essentially poor, isolated and unable to conceive of how I would find happiness in a world that seemed to want to destroy me. I simply could not imagine how things would get better, when everything seemed only to rapidly disintegrate. It was then in the stairwell of a dilapidated tower block that a series of vague longings, I had long since had in a dispersed fashion, convoluted together to form a promise and a plan.  I promised myself that I would not kill myself without doing everything in my power to alter my situation and fate. Only after demonstrating that there was indeed nothing in the world for me could I allow myself the option of suicide. After considerable reflection I broke the different ways in which I was damaged into categories, assigned each category a year and order, and gave the associated year a title. Each year was made up of a series of main goals, broken down into subgoals and assignments. And, so it began.

I did many things, so many I cannot remember, in following my pursuit. There are of course the main things like arranging the funding for my dental implant in January, completing accutane, laboriously putting together a skin care routine, changing my diet, changing my oral posture and whatnot, but there were other things too. These smaller activities often resembled everyday life activities  that those who were not neglected as a child who were the around the same age as me, had been able to do for a long time. Generally I pursued my goals in isolation and with little to no input from others.

In pursuing my goals I was able to realise the latent strengths in myself, I was able to actively create my own practical strengths and happiness, and take control of my life. In a sense I was free to realise myself. In my isolation, enforced by both myself and the world, I found freedom from the rules and values of my immediate world. I was free to look at the world and see it in a way that may not be available to those who participate in it. I saw its contradictions and falsities and in doing so I liberated myself from some of the hold these falsities had over me. I saw that unattractiveness was not in fact an absolute barrier to the acquisition of love, and merely required a change in tactics. I used to believe that for my peers, ignorance was bliss. In fact the very reason they were ignorant, meant that they were unable to prevent and work around many of the negativities that affected them in their lives, which caused them continuous grief. In fact, they often experienced more everyday suffering and drama in time than me.

In the end I was liberated from many of the beliefs that haunted me and caused me despair. While, I am not immune to the affections of others, I became better able to manufacture of my own accomplishment, esteem and happiness. Because other people did not appreciate me, I was free from them, and from there I was able to create and appreciate myself. In defining who I wanted to be, and pursuing my hypothetical future self, I developed my own standards against which to weigh myself. My understanding of the ways in which I had been damaged, my analysis of my experiences, and my desire to know myself such that I could fix myself allowed for personal depth. I began to embody a sort of authenticity that in time became known and appreciated by others. Individuals began to see me as interesting, self aware, determined, resilient, much more confident and invulnerable than before. Humans tend to recognise strengths irrespective of their form. Soon I began to see myself as occupying a privileged position, of being able to view a rarely discussed,  rarely seen, facet of human existence, and use that experience to bare witness to different levels of human reality. The paradox is that the very crimes committed against me are to a great degree, the source of my strengths today.

In this sense, my ‘mother’, who I believe is a psychopath or a sociopath has ultimately failed. Her desire for dominion, ‘vengeance’, and willing victims, is partly unfulfilled. While she may have those who believe in her, despite the contradictions she makes, the lack of empathy she shows, and the impulsiveness of her actions, she has ultimately failed to crush those closest to her. Me and my father are ever growing in resources, health and confidence. Although damaged not a single one of her children have succumb to despair or believe in her. In the sphere of psychological dominion she has lost. She has failed to crush the spirits of her own vulnerable and dependent children. The cards she plays are slowly being used up, and the pillars of her power continuously crumble.

How Does it Feel to be a Neglected Child?

The physical abuse of children is a lot less common and talked about a lot more than child neglect, even though the consequences can be disastrous in either case. I have found very few personal stories concerning child neglect on the internet, and I hope today by trying to explain how I felt as a child, to help fill that void. This may be more abstract than you think, as though I am spreading the consciousness underpinning memories  out, and dissecting the associated cognition and experience.

In my earliest memories my ‘mother’ is either not there at all, or about to smack me for some infantile transgression. In one memory she is about to smack me for putting pennies into the vent gaps on a TV. I do not have a single happy memory of me and my ‘mother’, no where in my mind has she wished me happy birthday,  has she hugged me, or tucked me in, or said she was proud of me. I think she has complimented me regarding my appearance on a number of occasions, but I believe that the compliments were an externalisation of a way in which she is disturbed. That is to say, my ‘mother’ has a strange sort of sexuality, and that this sexuality sometimes extended to how she viewed her children.

She did not sexually abuse any of her children, but she did do things that were in inappropriate like taking her underage daughter shopping in a sex shop. When I was a child she would make comments regarding my ‘good figure’ which I thought were creepy. After  I lost my virginity she bought me a pair of earrings and congratulated me. She attempted pathetically to bond with me over sex toy catalogues at one point, most likely because my father threatened to leave, in part because she kept arguing with me. My dad saw my ‘mother’ as the aggressor and did not really see our fights as ‘arguments’ at all. One time I did something strange while we were shopping, I was about 7 years old, and I lifted the back of her shirt and stroked her back while she wasn’t looking. When she asked who it was, I said it was a stranger man, and she was pleased. When I was very small my mother committed a Class B sexual offence, as she had sex in front of me and my siblings. I was maybe 4 or 5 years old, and I remember wondering what she was doing. In my view my ‘mother’ is either morally blind and horny, or sexually disturbed.

So, any nice things my ‘mother’ said or did, did not seem nice at all. When I remember her, I see her living a life I was not part of, I see her walking past me, eating cheese in the kitchen, playing on video-games, and reading books. Because there was little interaction, my life seemed empty, and because it was empty there was neither a conceivable past or future. I wasn’t sad per say, and I certainly wasn’t happy, but I knew something wasn’t right. I was simply too young to figure it out. There were fleeting feelings of resentment, I knew something was wrong, and the adults that were supposed to fix things were not fixing it. I was confused by how different I was to the other children, I couldn’t quite verbalise it in my mind, and simply experienced shock at how different I was. I sort of knew that other children had better faces, were less sick, and had very different lives. At the age of 7 I came to the conclusion that my ‘mother’ was mean and bad. Before that realisation I already had a strong preference for my father. One time, at about the age of 3, I ran across a road in front of traffic to join my dad on the other side, and in doing so I ran away from my ‘mother’. I said I wanted to “be with daddy”.

In primary school I cried a lot. I cried because I wanted friends, I cried because I lost games, I cried because no one liked me, and I cried because I was different. I think I was really crying because of weakness, because I had come to exist in a form that people could not appreciate. In this way, I knew that I had become damaged because of the mysterious thing, that wrong thing. During school I was tired all of the time. I walked the playground endlessly alone, sometimes in circles, watching the leaves fall and feeling the wind on my face. I didn’t feel lonely, but the experience of being alone is remarkably similar to how it feels being a neglected child. Being a neglected child is like being trapped in a room with no understanding of how you got there, whether you will ever leave, watching yourself degenerate while being unable to stop it, and feeling that there is some ominous problem that you can’t place.

In my opinion the real pain of child neglect manifests later, in fact it is sort of like a delayed version of physical abuse. The physical pain comes from the subtle damages caused, that become apparent later, and way the world treats you because of it. The pain of the illnesses that afflict you, the physical decay that haunts your body, the anguish of the opportunities you have never known, and of those you never will. It becomes extremely visceral, most likely in adolescence. The feeling of anguish regarding what has become of your body and life is so great it cannot be expressed in words, it cannot be held consciously in your mind, and you can only cry. Those feelings of pain must be translated into forms that are containable like words and action, because there is nothing else that can be done with them.

In 2010, when I was about 15 years old, I wrote the following.

“I’ve long since adopted the concept that I must be a stone, cold, smooth and strong. Wrapped in a warped sense of apathy I edge towards you; a swaggering step and a solid brow. You should know you need to turn the world against me to dent this callus.

Mulling alone encased in the solitude of a lone shade on a summer’s noon, I wondered why if what words had left my mouth were false you still acted so deliciously defensive. Wetting my lips in a daydream I watched and listened. There she is. Trouble. You bring your army, who bicker and bitch below the ruckus you hear and await a bloodbath while wearing sadistic sneers. I grin into the heat. Hit me. A swarm of locusts consume the surrounding space then gnaw my mask like hungry rodents; cursing the air I breath.

Extraversion has been leaking from my pours since the first day of school, dirty and foolish. I was wearing my scabby knees, haystack locks and crumpled cloth carelessly. Strutting in my squalor. I once read that mothers and fathers keep their most prized, most beautiful, genetic material close; allowing the homely to wander into the mist. You have your priorities and I have my pride. Sitting with my swollen eyes, bloody knuckles and undeveloped mindset I fell into fantasy. I counted the gaps in the fence, collected the dry autumn leaves, dissected worms, traced patterns in the mud and hummed to the whistle of the wind. I am the lonely child, the taunted one with blood shot eyes who you buried in the snow and slammed into the wall.”

Toys, Cakes, Child Neglect and Domestic Violence

When I was younger, I generally had just as many, if not more toys and games than other children. There was a great deal of treat food in the house too, the cupboards were generally well stocked. I think it is possible that when one social worker visited, she mistook how the children were pleased with their new shiny toys for a sign of domestic harmony and happiness. Most children from neglectful households stem from even poorer socioeconomic groups, and most likely had less material possessions than me and my siblings. So, how does this work, how is it that children with so many things can be neglected and emotionally abused? I would like to add at this point, that me and one of my younger sisters, if not more of us, have been inappropriately struck by our ‘mother’. But, physical abuse of children was not common in our household. No, my dad received the worst of my ‘mother’s’ physical aggression.

Well, unlike many neglectful households, we had a father and a nice one of that. He knew things are were very wrong, and knew that things were unsustainable, whilst also knowing what would happen to the children if he left my ‘mother’. My father tried desperately to financially support the household, as my ‘mother’ had long ceased to pay her way, and instead she spent a massive portion of our income on alcohol and cigarettes. She drunk so much that she managed to make her spleen spontaneously rupture after he finally decided to leave. If, you could call it that. My father was in a horrific situation, he was working increasingly absurd hours, driving home in a fit of exhaustion, doing his best to clean the house some, feverishly attempting to prepare the children for school, and scoffing down whatever was at hand, before collapsing into bed. It was worse too, as my ‘mother’s’ drinking worsened she became progressively more and more aggressive.

At some point she had started to mock him, to deride him, to walk into the kitchen where he was pushing down food and verbally abuse him. Perhaps she would call him selfish, perhaps she would confront him over the dire financial situation the house was in, or for some mysterious reason accuse him of drinking too much or cheating, both of which she was doing at the time. He was doing neither, of course. It was a slow process. In time she began to throw things at him. The children would put their ears to the floor and hear shouting, screaming, and the crashing of objects. Most of the children, some were only about 5 or 6, did not understand what was happening. Their voices were characterised by confused trepidation, “why are mommy and daddy shouting?”

Of course, it was only a matter of time before my ‘mother’ was striking and attempting to choke my father every night for months. Sometimes the children would walk downstairs in the middle of night, most of the time my father tried to defuse the situation, and told them to go to bed or they would get into trouble. But, sometimes, especially towards the culmination of the situation, the older children with their narrow tear stained faces would actively try and stand in the way of my ‘mother’ as to prevent her from hitting my father. It is a bit of a blur, but I think I remember my closest younger sister trying to push my ‘mother’ away from my father. When I stayed at the house, and usually my ‘mother’ would not allow me even though I technically lived there, I would to interfere as much as possible. She didn’t want me there, as I would require funding and care, which would detract from her alcohol funds. Whether or not that was the right decision, I do not know, my father was a martial arts instructor and so he was unlikely to be harmed. Surprising, I know. The older children and me might have actually caused my father further stress, because he was trying desperately to protect us from the reality of the situation.

On one occasion my ‘mother’ picked up a plank of wood, one of the beds was broken, and began to chase my father with it. I attempted to disarm her and called the police. They arrived and she sunk into her bed upstairs and sobbed uncontrollably saying she was depressed and drunk. The police did nothing. In trying to intervene during the abuse I was scratched, bitten, had my hair pulled, my limbs pinched and pressed, and had objects thrown at me. My ‘mother’ tried to strike me on numerous occasions but she did not succeed, either because of my father’s intervention, or because I outmaneuvered her. At one point she raised her fist in preparation to punch me in the head, and I sort of palmed her in the face  Some time later my father finally struck her back, he punched her a number of times in the early hours of the morning. Her eye was blackened and she seemed apologetic. They had strange emotionally charged sex.

The next day, I had stayed at my previous boyfriend’s house that night, I was on the phone to my father. He explained that my ‘mother’  had gone somewhere and not returned. He had had to pick up the children from school. While we were on the phone, there was a knock on the door, and I heard the voice of a police officer. My father did not hang up for he was soon handcuffed and I listened as he was taken to a police station. He had been accused of assault and domestic violence. My mother told our neighbors, her friends, and some school teachers that my dad was a domestic abuser and rapist. She said that my younger siblings were a product of rape. Eventually my dad was released from the station and he had nowhere to go. My ‘mother’ had been to a solicitor and had a restraining order placed on the house so he could not return. He was homeless, she would not allow him to have his property, and soon I was to join him. I visited my ‘mother’ and she told me that she had given my room away to one of siblings, when I asked where I was to sleep, she replied “not here” and went back indoors. She closed the door on me. I had dared to call the police regarding her, and I had fervently defended my father.

You see, the root of the matter is that my father did not want the children to suffer. While he was working my mother would essentially neglect and emotionally abuse her children. Sometimes she wouldn’t prepare meals, often the children were ill but uncared for, she would not interact with them, they were left to stew in squalor and filth, there were maggots near the sink, the pets had fleas and parasites, food rotted on the floor, parents evenings were unattended, and birthdays were ignored. The children wandered about the house with their hair infested with lice, with cavities, with their mouths hanging open, with infections, and raw  scratches. They were behaviourally defunct. My dad tried his best to remedy the situation, he took the children to the GP if he wasn’t working, he attended the parent’s evenings that could fit around his work, sometimes he would cook, often he would clean what he could, and he dealt with all the birthdays to the best of his ability. When I struggled at school because my language skills were essentially delayed, and I had emotional difficulties, he would work through my homework with me in the evening. He bought me books on science, chemistry sets, art sets, and unlike my ‘mother’ he was actually nice to me. I didn’t see him as often as I would have liked but I was always happy to spend what time I could with my dad. If my dad had left my ‘mother’ earlier, and I had not have hypothetically gone into care, I honestly feel that is possible that I would not be here today.

What is interesting is that the worse the situation became, the less money my dad had spare, the more he tried to give. There is sort of a positive trend between how elaborate our Christmases were and how abusive my mother was. I imagine that the toys were my dad’s way of apologising for the lives we lived, even though it wasn’t his fault. Strangely, when I was a child the more stressed I became with my ‘mother’s’ shouting at me, the more toys I destroyed.

Let’s Get Going.

Hello there, my name is Zoe.

Now it’s all very complicated, so please be patient. I was born just over twenty years ago to a psychopath, or maybe a sociopath. She wasn’t very pleasant and so my life was a little unusual.

The way in which my life was unusual is due to the sort of relationships and behaviours that characterise a sociopath. Needless to say, my mother doesn’t love people.

Me and my siblings were born to make her life easier, to keep her from working, to fund her cigarettes and alcohol, to allow her the sympathies of a mother, and to bind my father to her. There were no ‘I love yous’, no bedtime stories, no hugs, no care, no understanding, or nurturing of any kind. Imagine a skinny child alone in a room infested with lice crying to no one. When my dad was away I was fed poorly, rarely spoken to, often insulted, and left to stew in filth and squalor. I grew to be smaller than average and sickly. Like most neglected children I had a withdrawn and sad personality. I haunted classroom corners, sometimes crying, and weeped under trees.

That is not to say that everything was bad. Eventually I managed to make a small number of friends. Some of them knew about my mother. My teachers had long assumed that my withdrawn demeanor and general inactivity, meant that I was slow. At about eight years old it became apparent that I was in fact deceptively intelligent. I moved from the bottom of the class to the top in a day. A self fulfilling prophecy was created. I was seen as bright but strange.A small group of amicable children accepted me, with some disagreement. They were the ‘geeks’ of the class. To fit in with them I created an imaginary videogame, complete with script, story, and painstakingly created merchandise.I began to behave both more academically and creatively. I created dollhouses, stories, shelves, playlists, song lyrics, keyboard music, poems, drawings, and crafts. In order to keep up with my newfound friends I began studying the sciences and accumulated science toys such as chemistry sets. My friends had a structure to their lives. My impetigo infected body craved such a structure. It is at this point that I became very harsh on myself. I became my own disciplinarian. As you might imagine I did surprisingly well in school, for I had nothing else going for me.

Secondary school was essentially a continuation of my newfound identity, with a number of dips in the road. I acquired a larger group of friends known for their boisterous creativity. I became much more extraverted and began to identify as such, albeit self consciously. It is the case that introversion and not extraversion is associated with higher intelligence, in a way that is more applicable to the academic setting. My desire for comprehension was in conflict with my extraverted persona. As per the usual pattern, I was bullied, but I had my friends to support me. It became apparent that my thinking was a little different to that of the other adolescents. I had a comparatively abstract way of thinking, that was not logical.  During secondary school I amplified my unusual identity, exploring sexuality, niche psychology, personality theory, and using  my peculiar nature as a defense mechanism. It became apparent that there are different levels to the responses in breaking social mores. I noted that if I was strange enough people would cease to bully me and actively avoid me. After I had a group of friends to support me I did just that. Despite my deliberate breaking of conventions I still very strident and secretly competitive. I acquired the highest GCSE score in the final year.

And what of my mother? She degenerated further. Each morning and on returning from school I was showered in vitriol. Aside from that she would not talk to me. Sometimes she left no food for me. At times she would sort of chase me through the house, shouting at me, and sometimes she would throw things at me. The drinking started, she ate less, and smoked more. I knew then that I was not small and weak because I was from a economically lesser background, but because of her. The emotional consequences reemerged and I became sick. I had been ill often as a child. Likely because I was kept indoors, fed poorly, frequently stressed, lived in squalor, and was unsupervised. One day the illness didn’t go away.

When I was about forteen years old after a long period of dental disintegration caused by malnutrition, five molars and premolars ruptured. Most of the teeth were on the right side of my jaw. While my dad was at work he relied on her to arrange my appointments. She didn’t. Soon, I had an acute dental abscess and I was in abject agony for months. I spent a lot of time sleeping and crying. I was too immature to deal with the problem myself. My immaturity and inability to engage with the world practically was mediated by my isolation from it. I lost all five teeth. Today the bone that would have anchored the missing teeth has been absorbed by my body. The degree of absorption means that my face has less bone structure on the right side, and consequently my face is extremely asymmetrical. I am technically disfigured.

I was in frequent pain during the last two years of secondary school and I started to develop severe acne. During the summer holidays I acquired a liver infection from a festival. There were feces all over the cubicle, even in the sink. I was ill for six weeks and suffered with a lingering viral arthritis. During that time my mother left me on the floor with symptoms that are comparable to the flu. She didn’t move me, visit me, allow my siblings to see me or feed me. My dad would check on me before and after finishing work. The sickness marked the advent of my severe acne, which I suffered with for over three years.

College was extremely difficult. By this point I was chronically ill, and suffering with severe acne. Somehow I managed to acquire a boyfriend. He and his family thought little of me, and his apparent feelings for me seemed to be manufactured by his ideals, a mutual emotional connection, and his low standards. I was frequently insulted by other people at college, in the street, and in my boyfriend’s home. I began to disintegrate in all the ways a person can. It was slow. My mother started to abuse my father, first verbally, then indirectly and directly in a physical way. She started drinking more. Eventually he hit her back. She claimed that he had domestically abused her, he spent a night in a cell, and we were homeless. Soon my boyfriend left me.

Most of the time I simply struggled to survive psychologically. I watched my nails break, my skin become pale and refuse to heal, my hair fall out,  my energy plummet, and my body suffer. It was unbearable. Soon I had no one. I stayed indoors as much as possible and lived another life in fantasy. By the end of college I lived with my dad in a tower block opposite a drug dealer and my grades had dropped off. I was no longer a high achiever. I had nothing. Despite this I applied for philosophy at university and was successful in my application. I dreamt of self-renewal and transformation. On some level I was planning my recuperation.

During this time my mother had managed to drink herself into a coma. Her spleen had ruptured, she developed pneumonia, her lung was punctured and infected, and she had four heart attacks. On her medical certificate it said “alcohol abuse”. My siblings were put into emergency foster care. Before my mother fell into the coma, she had put a restraining order on my father linked to our old house. I saw my siblings only a few times over the course of eighteen months. Eventually my mother recovered and my siblings came to live with her in supervised accommodation. She is still under the watchful eye of social services today.

Throughout the run up to university I participated in a few short courses and organised the logistics of my new life. When I arrived I was still ill. I may have suffered from depression at this point. As weak as I was I struggled to keep up and adapt to the demands of university. Somehow I acquired a new boyfriend who claimed to believe that there was something inside of me, that would allow me to surpass the austerity of my life. At the end of the academic year I was in a slightly better position and had achieved a 1.1.

Me and my father moved to a new property in August 2015 and my siblings visit us every Saturday.  By this point I finished a course of accutane and one problem petered off for a while. Predictably my mother threw my younger sister out as soon as the associated financial benefits became uncertain, and she became difficult to handle. She now lives with us. From August to November I used the my new found confidence and self preservation capabilities to overhaul my diet, hair routine, skin care routine, supplement stack, oral posture and trained to run 5km. I went back to the first year of university, by changing my course to psychology, as to create time and resources for self-renewal. I made a deposit of £1380 for a dental implant which is scheduled for January, and will take about three to six months from start to finish.

Unfortunately I experienced a sudden onset of erythematotelangiectatic rosacea, or type one rosacea, likely facilitated by vascular damage caused by accutane. Consequently I am focusing on treating the chronic gut issues I have suffered with since the age of fourteen, and my new skin condition.

And here we are, welcome to the present. For the last four days, I have barely left the house, my stomach has been hurting, I have abdominal spasms, I have been anxious, flushing, stressed, my office is a mess, my hair is dirty, I have been sleeping erratically, and I have lost my appetite. I am at a low, and what a perfect place to start a journey it is.

This blog will detail my life as I try to grapple with what has happened to me, and I try to make something of myself despite the odds.

Welcome to A Useful Obsession.