So, I talked a little bit about the shame I experienced as a little girl. It left me feeling that I was defective. I didn’t have a right to be here. I wanted to not exist. That feeling continued through most of my life. Although there were plenty of things that happened in-between, next I am going to tackle the biggest contributor to my toxic shame.
When I was 9 my father took my little sister and I on a visitation. My parents separated when I was 6. My father took us to Florida to visit my Great-grandfather. On the way home my sister got sick from flying, so his girlfriend was with her in the bathroom.
It was New Year’s Eve. While he and I were sitting, waiting for them to come out I was thinking about my mother. I turned to him and said something to the effect of, I don’t want to go home.
My mother frightened me. She always had. But since the separation it was worse. She was intent on preventing me from growing up to be like my father. I read it as more proof I was Wrong.
Anyway, my father looked at me with an inscrutable look on his face. “Well,” he told me “it isn’t in my plans, and it will be very inconvenient for me, but since you asked, I will keep you.”
My heart fell to my feet. I had just been expressing what any child of divorced parents would express. Because of that very brief exchange, I blamed myself for everything that happened in the six months that followed.
Much of went on before we ended up in the house where we would eventually stay if fuzzy in my mind. I remember sleeping on someone’s floor. I remember visiting several houses, mostly of pregnant women.
My father, a MD, had forgone the head of surgery appointment in exchange for working as a home childbirth practitioner.
When we finally arrived at Shirley (the name of the town where the house was) I remember being tired and scared. The house was supposedly haunted. The first night there, while my father made whatever arrangements he made for them to care for us whenever he was busy catching babies, I remember playing with the fire in the fireplace. Fire fascinated me.
Then I met Them. There were five adults in the house, a single man who lived in the attic and two married couples who each had a 6-month-old little girl. One of them also had an 8-year-old boy. I say Them because they were largely interchangeable in the light of everything that was yet to transpire.
I felt shell shocked by the entire situation. I wanted to be with my father desperately. I knew I would have a great deal of autonomy. By which you should read neglect. My father tended to treat me as an equal. For better or worse, I felt so much responsibility. Partially for the care of the two infants. Which was initially just fun.
Eventually, however, if became simply a chore shoved at me by parents that had better things to do. Or worse, depending on your view. They all were heavy pot smokers, and other things I don’t know for sure what they were. I know one of the things they liked to use was LSD.
The adults in the household were a band. They would take us out on gigs. I remember one time when they took a hotel room for us kids. When the babies were asleep the rest of us snuck upstairs to listen to them.
On the whole, it wasn’t too terrible—yet.
The more my father was away the more they came to resent me. They were cruel in both big and small ways. They took away our stuffed toys to give to the babies. One day, one of the women was mad because our room was a mess. So she took away my precious baby doll and my tattered security blanket. My father got Heben (my doll) back for me. The blanket had gone directly in the trash. All that remained was the ribbon that had gone around the edges. I was devastated.
That was not nearly enough for them, however. There were intrusive actions, like giving us hot water and soap enemas. There were also thigs that are harder to define. One of the women would make me stay in the bathtub after the other children were done.
I had to lie in the bathtub with my butt against the front of the tub and my legs straight up in the air. She would run a thin flow of hot water over my genitals. It made me feel like I had to pee. It also made me angry. The squirmy feelings I got made me want to explode.
Meanwhile, my father was teaching us lessons. With his girlfriend showing us the exact steps and actions, we learned how to perform oral and manual manipulation of his genitals. I can’t really express how bad that made me feel. I was responsible for us being there, after all. I knew it made me feel awful, it was one of the first times in my life when I dissociated. However, my father was all knowing, to me.
So, logically, I believed the bad feelings I felt were the result in something wrong with me. I couldn’t think anything bad about my father. I needed his “love” to survive. I was 9. I knew, despite all the responsibilities they placed on me, I could not survive on my own. So, I decided that what he did was good, and natural, and right. The problem was with me. If I could just feel the way he said I should, everything would be ok.
I absolutely hated those lessons. I only recall the one incident. There is so much of that time hidden to me. So much I felt was so bad I would do anything not to feel it. I felt what I did was so heinous I could never forgive myself. I thought my behavior was up there with people that had become cannibals to survive.
Eventually, They upped the ante.
We didn’t see any other people while we were there. Everything that happened became just a matter of course. There was no one to say what we were enduring was wrong.
They became abusive in ways I can hardly conceive of. We were regularly denied food. In the beginning, it may have been because they were too busy getting high. I don’t believe it stayed that way. My father was a big believer in fasting. We regularly had to go several days without eating.
When that was not going on, they would feed us rotten food. Rice that was rancid, vegetables that were rotten. Hard apple cider.
I would feel the three of us older children snow covered with maple syrup. We would eat frozen orange juice concentrate out of the freezer by the spoon full.
But all of this was only the prelude to the real evil those people would become. But that is a story for another day.