Just writing these words creeps me out, but here we go…
My mother was crazy as hell. I’m not talking about “she’s so crazy, ha ha,” no, I’m talking crazy that would send you running for your life. The kind of crazy that would confuse and panic grown men.
I remember one time when my wife was first “getting to know her,” and she was old and weak and already debilitated by early onset Alzheimer’s. She kind of “went off” and scared the living fuck out of her. My wife had never grown up with violence so it was really unsettling, I’m not quite sure but there might have been some tears involved – it was a long time ago. I tried to laugh it off because she was old and weak, but I could see my new wife look at me and I immediately saw the thought cross her mind “what kind of a person grows up in this and comes out normal?” The answer of course is that children don’t get to pick their parents, and to survive they’ll make up a narrative that includes them being loved, and that their parents are “good,” even when neither one is true.
The confusing and unsettling thing was, she could also be funny as hell, someone you really wanted to be around. Unfortunately for you, she could flip on a dime – one minute she’d love you, the next minute she’d want to kill you – and I don’t mean figuratively. I could tell when she was getting dangerous when her eyes would start bouncing back and forth horizontally in her eye sockets like her brain was short-circuiting (I later learned that this was called nystagmus). I couldn’t ever let my friends come to my house because I never knew what she’d do next.
She broke my heart and terrified me at the same time, which can be hard to process when you’re a little kid. The beatings were the least of my problems, the psychological abuse was way worse. The weird thing was, at the time I thought it all was the most normal thing in the world, because it was all I had ever known. Unfortunately, the older she got, she more dangerously crazy she became. When I was a young teenager, I reached the point where I couldn’t take it anymore.
I had to get out.
I’ve always been ashamed of all this, but as I got older I realized it was no ones fault – it’s just the way it was. I could never escape it, so I had to learn to accept and make peace with it. Plenty of other people went through childhoods that were cripplingly traumatic, I’m just grateful I got through it and came out alive. My sister didn’t.
Whether or not your past completely defines who you are as an adult is up to you. You can spend a lifetime trying to undo the damage inflicted on you as a child, and that’s OK. Nobody ever said that life was easy, and if they did they were lying.
It’s just part of who I am – although it was pretty fucking bleak, there were positive things I got out of it as well. I know how to handle myself in violently unstable situations, so there’s that.