A Long and Arduous Journey
I was born in a small town in Florida during the late 1940s. My mother had undiagnosed and untreated schizophrenia and my father was a man of some power within the community who was rarely home and whom I could never please. I had a brother who was five years older and was also rarely around.
I remember very little of my childhood until I was 12 years old – only two memories of my own remain.
My earliest memory is of finding my mother huddled on the floor in front of my bedroom with all the doors inside the house closed. She would be crying and shaking in fear from the demons that were after her. When I came home for lunch from school in 3rd grade this was an almost daily occurrence. I would fix a can of soup or a peanut butter sandwich and have to go back to school, knowing only fear, wondering what was wrong. I was certain I must have done something terribly bad and wrong in order for her to be like that.
The next memory I have is when my mother would keep me from school and force me to ride in the car with her. I would hide behind the passenger seat, on the floor of the backseat, while she sped, ran red lights, and cut in and out of traffic. I was so frightened. If the police stopped her they would call my father and tell him that she was out again.
When I was around 6 my father told me my mother was “weak” and it was my responsibility to “take care of her.” This command left me in a hopeless situation. I tried, I really tried, but I was unable to make her happy or to stop the demons from attacking her. Once, she locked herself in my bedroom with me and started stabbing in the air with a large, very sharp knife. I hid under the bed in terror of being killed.
Next door to us lived a boy who was a few years older than I was and he forced me to play “mother and father” with him. At the time I called it “poking.” I would go over to play the game Chutes and Ladders and we would end up on the bed, naked, with him on top of me. I did not know what to do. He told me I must not tell anyone what we were doing or I would get in trouble.
All of these things left me very depressed from an early age. Also, depression and mental problems ran through my mother’s family and I had several aunts and cousins who were considered “strange.” I have wanted to kill myself from the time I was around 5. I can remember wanting to die that far back. When I was around 10 I tried to cut my eyes out with a razor blade but the pain was too bad. I saw no way out of a life that was a living hell.
At some point during this time period, my brother started coming into my room in the afternoon or early evening to kiss and fondle me. He told me he was “practicing for when he had a girlfriend.” At about that same time period someone would come in after I was supposed to be asleep and fondle me. I was so afraid that I kept my eyes tightly closed and pretended to be asleep. I always felt so dirty and ashamed. I did not know what led people I loved to do things to me that did not feel good. These memories did not come to me until I had been in therapy for over a year. At one point I had asked my therapist about my lack of memories of my early childhood and he had advised me not to try to remember and he was right. The memories would have been better left forgotten. When I asked him who it was that came into my room he replied that it could have been any one of my family members – or all three of them at one time or another.