Reality. What exactly is reality? My reality, your reality, or the cosmic universe’s reality? When you grow up in a family where reality was a clouded perception of some mystical powers that controlled your every move – you wonder how you came to be who you are today – a sane individual trying hard to make her way in this crazy world. Mental illness is no joke. Being the only sane person in a family is demanding, exhausting, and at times too much to bare. Coming to the harsh reality that you are living with mentally ill people… Well, that revelation in itself is enough to make you want to jump off a bridge. Am I strong enough to handle this? The answer was – I don’t know. This so called reality I was growing up in had now crashed into pieces – itty bitty jagged pieces. How unfair was this? I was going through my own changes – boobs (or lack thereof), periods, boys, makeup, and now this? This was not what I signed up for. All this time I thought this weirdness was normal….well, at least manageable, and now here I am contemplating ending my own life to get away from these tortured souls I called my family. The screaming, breaking of chairs against the back door, the holes in the walls, the bruises on my backside – all these rages of anger fueled by nothing, yet somehow no matter what the circumstance surrounding the outrage, I was always the reason behind it. “The devil was working through me.” That’s what my father always said. The devil and I were somehow planning my father’s demise. Me and Satan were tight like that… No really, just ask my father, he will tell you. According to him I was the reason our family was poor and miserable, the reason my brother was stupid, the reason my mother was fat, and the reason he was always angry – I made him that way. I was an evil child with evil in my eyes.
How do you wake up each day when you know your life brings misery to everyone in your family? Day after day it’s drilled into your head – “You are too loud. Why can’t you be quiet? Don’t usurp my authority,” my father would scream at me. “You are a rebellious girl! You are going to end up sleeping around with every man you meet!” Never mind the fact we were standing in line at a grocery store and I was twelve years old. None of that mattered. It didn’t matter that there was no reason for the outrage – just standing there to buy bread was enough to have him pick me a part in front of the world. I was in constant hell. My brother had now lost touch with reality completely – spending his days living, breathing, and sleeping cartoons. He would go into rages when a Saturday morning cartoon didn’t go the way he wanted. He’d scream and cry, beating himself. I was the only one who could calm him – me, his baby sister. I would talk him off his ledge, following him into his disillusion and bringing him back to a calm state. I’d done it for years – following him into his disillusions and bringing him back from his madness. I had to be strong, but I was tired, so very tired. My mother stayed out of it most the time, but soon she was no better. She would swear I had snuck out my window in the middle of the night to meet boys, when truthfully, most nights it would take everything in me not to go to the bathroom and slit my wrists. I saw myself do it so many times in my head. I could finally be free from the accusations, the yelling, and the tears. I cried from so deep within that death would have been a welcome friend. How could I sneak out the window when that thought never occurred to me? I never thought to run away. I didn’t know there was an escape other than death. Somehow I found the strength to carry on, but secretly I wanted to die. I soon became anorexic. I needed to control something, to feel the high of accomplishing something. As I watched the numbers on the scale drop from triple digits to double digits, I smiled. This was something I could call mine. This was something no one could take from me. Even when my secret was out and my father started beating me with the belt yelling “I’ll beat that anorexic spirit out of you!” I still wouldn’t let him take this away from me. Anorexia was mine. I had control over some part of my life and he couldn’t stop me. Soon the control I had over my body spilled over into my life. I wanted something to call my own outside of the four walls of our home. Soon I was sneaking out, but to get a job. As crazy as that seems I wasn’t allowed to do anything until my older brother did them first. Remember, I always made him feel stupid, so getting a job before him would just make him feel bad. Never mind the fact my brother was always in a maniac rage and refused to socialize with anyone outside of our house. No, I had to wait, but I was tired of watching life pass me by. It was time for me to fix my own broken self and find a way out – to a brighter happier life.
I knew I had a problem with anorexia and started taking baby steps to fixing it. I found getting out – being a part of the world was my therapy. I was like a bird being freed from its cage when I socialized. I felt happy and healthy being around people. I was beginning to realize my family was my poison. If I was going to get better I had to break free. My father had held me down for too long. He had controlled every part of my life – even home schooling us after I finished fourth grade just so he could teach us the ways of God, not the ways of man. I made up my mind it was time to live life – truly live.
I know the ties that bind a family are strong. Whether it’s a dysfunctional family or not, the bonds of family are imprinted on your heart and soul. The feelings are deep – the connection strong. I knew when I decided to embrace a normal life I would leave behind a piece of me, a piece of me no one would ever know or understand. Who I was all those years, my childhood – it would all be left behind to die. I had to let it go, move forward, never look back. It was for the best, but once I made that decision to walk away it meant starting over and finding out who I was apart from the craziness. It wasn’t until I was nineteen years old that I finally “let go” and walked away. Physically I may have “let go” at nineteen, but it took years to “let go” emotionally. It’s an everyday journey to move forward and not look back – not even for a second. It’s not easy. Sometimes as hard as I try to not let it, something takes me back again and I’m swept away into a dark and cold place inside….
But the life I have now, the life I fought to have – it brings me back to the present reality, and I smile because I know what it took to get here.