For the longest time growing up, I thought my family was normal. I mean, when you’re a kid, you only know your own experience, so whatever that is seems like it must be normal, right? It wasn’t until I started to go to school that I began to suspect that something was wrong at my house. Before first grade, I thought it was normal to be beaten on a regular basis, often for no reason, or at least no reason that made any sense. I thought everyone’s mother had wild mood swings that always ended in psychotic episodes. I thought it was normal to be neglected – in fact, for me, that was the best possible scenario. As long as I was neglected, I could live in my own little world where no one was hurting me. Except being hungry though – that part wasn’t good. I thought it was normal for your father to be absent, I didn’t know that fathers were actually supposed to do things with their kids besides beat them.
Here’s something I learned much later in life – if a child’s parents don’t love them, they will make up a story that somehow explains their parents behavior in a way that proves that they do. Because children must feel loved, it’s hard-wired into their consciousness. They know they are weak and vulnerable, and can’t survive in the world on their own – so even if in reality no one loves them, they will invent a scenario where someone does. It’s a survival mechanism – unfortunately one that’s often built on lies.
My story was that they really did love me, they just couldn’t help it and were doing the best they could. I figured there must be something wrong with me, that’s why my father didn’t seem to want to do anything with me unless I was a receptacle for his anger. In my mother’s case, I would think She can’t help it – she loves me but she’s just too crazy to show it. In reality, none of this was true, it was just my fantasy explanation of a very bad situation that didn’t seem to make any sense. It was the best I could come up with as a child, so I made that my story and I stuck to it. It kind of worked until life brought the whole thing crashing down like a house of cards – but I’ll get to that later.
No, my childhood just seemed to go from bad to worse. Fortunately, I possessed a cluster of character traits that would help me get through it. It wasn’t pretty, and I won’t say that no one got hurt, but I had a survival instinct that simply couldn’t be extinguished. I always knew one thing, deep down, that was true – and I repeated it to myself so often it became a kind of mantra. No matter how much abuse I took from them, I would say to myself I am stronger than you.