Growing Kids the Abusive Way: Auriel’s Story, Part Five — The Aftermath of Childhood Abuse

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Trigger warnings: references (sometimes graphic) to emotional, physical, religious, and sexual abuse; self-injury.

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Auriel” is a pseudonym. Auriel blogs at Drying My Wings.

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Also in this series: Part One: Growing Kids the Abusive Way | Part Two: Isolation and Ideology | Part Three: Mini-Parents | Part Four: The Sound of a Sewing Machine | Part Five: The Aftermath of Childhood Abuse

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Part 5: The Aftermath of Childhood Abuse

Sometimes, I still marvel at how I survived, and am able to function. I threw myself into extra-curriculars, speech, debate, work, volunteering — anything to be out of the house.

I now have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression, and suffer from panic attacks. It’s hard to emphasize just how much stress, anxiety, and pressure I was under. For years, the only dreams I could have were nightmares, and I developed eye-twitches and frequent illness from all the stress. I lived in a constant state of dealing with adult stress, all as a child.

I remember that I wanted to die young as a saint.

Maybe then, people would appreciate my life. Fleeting thoughts like, “You could die,” “You could cut yourself,” “You could kill Mom,” “Life would be better if Mom died or committed suicide,” crossed my mind unwillingly. They were my mind trying to find solutions to an impossible scenario. Of course, they only compounded my shame.

I didn’t know sophisticated ways to self-harm. As a distraction, I’d pick at cuts and bruises, pick and tear off my finger and toenails, or pull out hairs from my head. Starting in elementary school, I decided to become tough so no one could hurt me. I pulled out my teeth too early so they’d hurt, and walked barefoot on gravel or on the blacktop in 100 degree weather.

One day in high school, after a particularly terrible day, I was working in the sweatshop. In my sweaty palm, I held a gleaming, sharp sewing machine ripper to undo hours of stitching. In that moment, I didn’t fear my parents.

I just wanted to hurt, to escape, to get away from it all.

Somehow, I didn’t do it, and managed to keep pretending for several more years that I was ok.

Suddenly, a year into college, some memories hit me. I was floored. Day after day, I would have flashbacks and nightmares. It was exhausting, waking up shrieking into the night, trying to stay awake to avoid the haunting terrors that stalked my dreams, only to be beset by a new round of flashbacks in my waking hours. There was no relief.

I felt like a walking shell, a skeleton.

I remember thinking, “I must be going crazy. I am insane.” The next thought… “Dying has to be better than this, right?”

As soon as I thought that, I kicked myself into counseling.

As an adult, I stood up to my parents and protected my siblings like a mama bear. My parents threatened many times to kick me out for undermining their “parental authority.” I reported to CPS several times. Now, the reportable abuse has ended, my siblings are thriving in private school, and after many years of splitting up and reconcilement, my parents finally legally separated. They are less dysfunctional when apart.

The effects of the abuse don’t leave though.

Among us 5 kids, 4 have been suicidal, 4 have been in counseling, 3 have depression, 2 have run away multiple times, 2 have distorted eating and body issues, and 2 have self-harmed.

And yet my parents still do not see what they did as traumatizing! If these incredible effects don’t convince them, then nothing will.

As for me, I am on track to get a graduate degree. I have a great counselor, am on anti-anxiety meds, and have many coping mechanisms.

I’ve actually grown in my Catholic faith as well.

Having a higher power than my parents or the homeschool community gives me hope. In my darkest moments, I draw on my faith to give me strength.

I know I’m going to be ok. I would tell anyone in a similar situation that it gets better. The memories stay, and the pain doesn’t fully leave, but there comes a time when the pain doesn’t control you anymore. The waves don’t wash you out to sea, and you learn to stand strong amidst the soft ebb and flow of pain and joy.

So, if you’re struggling right now, I know how you feel. It is going to be ok. You will make it through. Reach out and tell someone you trust. It’s ok to need help. You are worth the help.

You deserve the best.

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She shook her tresses that were now darkened and saturated with the glistening orbs. The air smelled sweet, as it does just after rainfall. Each inhale was refreshing, rejuvenating, breathing life into her deflated bones. Sliding her feet through the thick grass, she balanced between the property line and the open world. Swiftly, silently, her right foot slipped across the barrier, followed by her left. Her bare toes clutched the asphalt, toeing the grooves.

She felt lost. She was lost. But she had herself.

She had her life. Perhaps it was just a shell and this was all a mystery. Who cared?

The cosmos would go on in its cosmic cycle with all of its boring striped pageantry. All she had to do was breathe. The only important thing was the asphalt, the sweet smell of the rain, and the tug of that straight road.

So swiftly, silently, she stepped into the night.

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End of series.

10 comments

  • Pingback: Growing Kids the Abusive Way: Auriel’s Story, Part One | H . A

  • Pingback: Growing Kids the Abusive Way: Auriel’s Story, Part Two — Isolation and Ideology | H . A

  • Pingback: Growing Kids the Abusive Way: Auriel’s Story, Part Three — Mini-Parents | H . A

  • Pingback: Growing Kids the Abusive Way: Auriel’s Story, Part Four — The Sound of a Sewing Machine | H . A

  • Again sorry that you had to go through so much! I am so glad you are writing and getting help to heal.

  • Oh my gosh. Your writing at the end is beautiful, I’m sorry though that you experienced so much ugliness. I admire you for holding on to the good in your faith, not letting someone else’s crazy ruin that for you. I’m an adult convert, sometimes it’s hard (the only one in my family) but so worth it.

  • I want to let the author know that I enjoyed this series. It was painful as many of the experiences are not unlike my own. Your story brought me a sense of comfort. I found myself looking forward to the next series to find out more about your story. Keep fighting for your happiness.It’s worth fighting for. ❤

  • I am literally in shock right now. Reading your story was like…reading my own, in another’s words. I too was the oldest caring for younger siblings, sexually abused by both parents. My mother slept all day and woke to beat me for not cleaning the ENTIRE house perfectly (the definition of which changed every day). I had the same welts and bruises. I also began caring for all 4 siblings at age 8. I also lied to CPS the numerous times they were called by concerned family and neighbors out of fear for what would happen to me and my siblings in foster homes. Instead of educating me, I was forced to work 14+ hour days in a “business” that was also supposed to be my school. I had literally no high school education. My mother also told me that I was a whore, a temptation to my father, etc…beginning in kindergarten. And I learned to ignore the screams of my poor siblings, to smile and obey perfectly all the time, to lie to the outside world. I also was an apologist for homeschooling and Christian conservatism. And I thought i was the only one. At one point (I am ashamed to say it wasn’t until I was a legal adult), I finally rebelled and threatened to report my parents, who still had custody of my youngest sister…and was sent to a mental hospital–my mother’s go-to threat that she finally made good on. In the hospital, a moment of bravery, I decided to tell my whole story for the first time–only to be told that it was impossible, and I was either lying or psychotic for thinking it. The psychiatrists literally thought I was schizophrenic and delusional when I told them how I had grown up–until a family member (who had called CPS numerous times to no avail) called in to verify my story, and I was released with an apology and the advice that I would need serious therapy. I was so traumatized from being told I was making it all up–something my mother had always told me would happen–I never went back to therapy.

    Now I’m a mother myself. I deal with PTSD every.Single. Day. The fear that I will one day snap and do to my children what my mother and father did to me is sometimes crippling. And compounding all the abuse was the physical isolation of “homeschooling” back then, and the isolation of feeling like I was the only one who could possibly have been through all this even now.

    I have been up all night crying and having nightmares after reading this. But I think it needed to happen. So, even though I’m in tears right now, I owe you a debt of thanks. Thanks so much for writing your experiences. Whatever mental illness our mother suffered from, it had to be the exact same thing. Thanks so much for writing this–after 32 years, I finally feel like maybe I’m not alone. To say how grateful I am…I have no words. And I was a homeschool debate and speech “champion.” 🙂 (I’m using my real name because it’s possible that others might recognize me, and I WANT that to happen. Don’t ask me why, but I feel like hiding my identity is still somehow protecting my parents).

    Could you please contact me? If it’s too hard, I totally understand…it was rough reading this. But it seems like you have gotten some help, and you’re further along in the process than I am, and I would really appreciate your insight. Thank you again for being brave enough to write this. I am so grateful. And now I think there may be others out there who will be too. It’s painful, but also healing to know I’m not alone.

  • Hi. I am seriously sorry for all that happened to you. I too endured some physical abuse and a lot of emotional abuse, but nothing even close to what you endured. I too have PTSD and OCD as well as anxiety and I suffer from panic attacks, only the main person responsible was my father. I honestly can’t even fathom going through that. I hope and pray that you will be able to find peace and continue to heal from the horror you went through.

  • Hi, Auriel. I was going to read your blog, “Drying My Wings” only to find it is suspended or cancelled. You have a very engaging writing style,so it’s sad not to see the blog on the Internet now. Just the same, I hope all is going well with you, and you and your siblings will get justice on those monster folks of yours. Reading about the kinds of parents and their actions, like what Shade Ardent endured from hers,for example…. it sounds like these fanatical parents are from the dark side of the universe !

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