Tears rolled down her little pink cheeks. She was hunched over in a ball in the back corner of the hotel's stairwell. If only the school bus would show up, then she could escape the pain, at least for a few hours. She was hiding from him, hoping he wouldn't find her in time. She was only four years old, but in her mind, she felt much older.
If only she could stay here, hiding forever. She knew she couldn't though. The truth was, she wasn’t even supposed to be in the stairwell, but it was the only place she felt safe. She hid her face from view so no one could see her tears. He hated her tears. To him, her father, tears were a form of weakness. His daughter could never be so weak. When she did cry in front of him, he would punish her to make her stronger. The more she cried, the worse it got. She learned fast to hide her tears and pain until she was alone and could release the emotional baggage she tended to keep locked up tight.
Time slipped away fast and before she knew what was happening around her, she heard a door open and bang shut; she jumped to her feet and wiped the tears off her cheeks with her sleeve as fast as she could until she heard his voice penetrate her mind like a blade to butter, and she froze up. Unable to move or speak.
“There you are, girl.” he bellowed, “I told you not to leave for school today, didn't I?”
He glared down at her as he took hold of her tiny arm. Not waiting for her reply, he began to pull her toward the exit. Finally, her voice broke free and her little muscles bunched up in protest to being dragged through the door.
“But dad, I want to go to school.”
“I’m not sick and I don’t want to stay home today, we are having pizza for lunch.”
She felt trapped as she begged to go to school. He dragged her through the door and across the parking lot, her feet dangling behind her as she struggled to get free of his grip.
“I told you no.”
His voice vibrated deep in her core, causing her to tense up. That voice was meant to scare her. It was her cue to shut up and listen. She struggled more, but it did no good because he just picked her up off her feet like a five-pound bag of potatoes. He put her over his shoulder and carried her across the street and into the trailer park. Quickly making his way to the camper of torment and pain that she hated so much. As they entered the trailer park, she could see her school bus turn the corner onto her street. It was coming to pick up her and her friends, only she wouldn't be going to school today.
Her hell was only just beginning for the day. It was just her and her father today, alone. Her stepmom and step-sister were both out, one at work, the other at school for the day. He had all morning and half the afternoon to do to her whatever he wanted to do. No one was strong enough to stop him. It had been going on for a year now, maybe more.
For her, the days seemed to blur together. As they reached the camper, her heart picked up speed. She knew what was coming. She knew the pain that would follow. The feelings that would invade her system. Her thoughts raced, searching for a way out. How could she escape being as small as she was? Before she realized it, she was already inside the camper and her father was putting her back on her feet. His hands petted her hair and stroked down her little arms. She looked up at him, her father, with his blue eyes of steel. He looked right through to her soul, or at least that is how it felt at times.
As her father's fingers traveled and explored her small frail body, she escaped into her mind and placed her body on autopilot. It did her no good to fight, scream or cry because he would do what he wanted or hurt her if he had to to keep her quiet. It was far safer just to let it happen and get it over with. She just wanted to crawl under the kitchen table and hide like she usually did. Hiding in her tiny spot, playing with what little toys he allowed her to have been her only escape it seemed these days. It wasn't much, just a few toys from McDonalds and a baby doll that one of her friends gave to her, but it was hers and she cherished it all like a leprechaun cherished gold. She tried to tell people that her father was hurting her, but no one would listen.
She was a strong-willed child though, and she wouldn't give up. She knew one day she would free herself of the hell her father placed her in. She wanted to be free so bad that sometimes she dreamed about hurting him and running. She didn’t really know where she would go but she was only a little girl so chances were someone would see her running away and stop to help her. She could tell whoever picked her up what her father was doing and go to the police for help. They would hear the truth in her voice and save her.
As she allowed her mind to leave this place she found herself in, her thoughts came forward and she pictured life without him. That is where she hid while he used her little body for his own pleasure. She felt numb, ignoring his hands and body touching her in her most private of places, causing her enough pain that she silently hid inside of her own mind. He couldn't touch her if she hid inside her head. It was her only form of protection and all she needed in this life she was forced to live.
Who is this girl? This girl is me, and this is my story. It is a story of strength and the will to be saved from the pain we all seem to hold inside our souls. At 5 years old, I saved myself from my abuser, my father. My memories of the years I spent with my father are still as vivid and colorful as the day they were created. I don’t want to forget about what happened to me because it made me into the woman I am today. I understand the pain others feel better, because of what I had to endure during my thirty-five years of life. I listen and pay attention to those in emotional pain because no one was there to hear me when I was crying out for someone to come save me. They didn't hear me because I was just a child who didn't know how to tell people her father was molesting her because I didn't have that kind of vocabulary yet. I can assume that those I had told about my father hurting me just didn’t understand what I really meant. I don't want anyone to go through what I went through because I know it hurts and that emotional pain is harder to heal than a broken bone in my book.
Thinking back on those years I spent in my own kind of personal hell used to be difficult to do, not so much anymore. Now it is like telling a story I had memorized years ago. It isn’t always easy, but it is worth the pain if it means I get to heal and help others do the same. The unique chance to tell those sitting in darkness, suffering from mental illness and abuse, that they are not alone, is a blessing most don't notice. I can’t be blind to other people's pain and leave them alone with musings of their minds. We all need someone strong enough to hold us together when we feel as though we are falling apart. I have held so many in my arms that they now stretch all the way around the world.
When I was a little girl hiding beneath the camper's table so my father wouldn't touch me, I pictured a world I had never seen before. Maybe I had thought, and I just didn’t remember. The image in my mind's eye looked so real that it was possible I had seen this place before, maybe in a dream after sleep had finally taken my thoughts into my dreamscape. My mind was one of the few escapes I had when life became too difficult for my small body and mind to handle. It wasn’t all bad though. I have faint memories of the good times. They are not as vivid, but they are there and I can pull them up with ease anytime I want to.
There is a small part of me that wants to see my father. My mom asked me,
“Why would you subject yourself to that kind of torment?”
Because she could not understand my thinking. For her, it seemed easy to forget my father, and with him in jail at the time, my mom had gotten full custody of me. My mom came and took me out of that place and moved me to Maryland with her, my sister, and Donnie, the man my mom had fallen in love with after I was taken from her. She wanted to forget my father even existed and put everything he had put me and her through those few years behind us both. I suppose for her it was easier than facing the truth. I am not my mother though. I didn’t, couldn’t, forget because the memories would never let that happen. It was imprinted on my subconscious mind at an impressionable age, and it wasn't going anywhere until I healed.
As a child, I didn’t go around telling everyone I knew about my past. That’s not to say I didn’t talk about it though. If I ever felt the need to share my story with another, it wasn’t because I wanted pity or attention, no; it was because I wanted whoever I told to understand me better as a person. It was also a good way for me to relate to others who had similar pain and heartache to my own. The wisdom I carried along my path in life helped me to guide others towards healing as I walked. Everyone needs at least one person on their side to help when life knocks them down.
My emotions give me an advantage in life. They are a gift that I cherish and one I refuse to exploit for fame or wealth. I wasn’t given this gift, this insight, to make a profit at the expense of others' emotional baggage. I was entrusted with this gift so I could use it to help others heal from their inner pain. If I happen to make money, which I don’t expect, I will do what others can't seem to. What money isn't used to keep a roof over my kid's head and food in their bellies will be given back to those who need it most. I can’t sit back and watch people suffer in the streets of my country and not do something about it. That is just not who I am, and it is not someone I want to be.
I used to dream about saving the world. I still dream about a world that sits in peace within my lifetime. If only more individuals would hear the cries and communicate how they feel and what they think better, maybe we could be free of this tormented world. Unfortunately, most people are deaf to other's voices and they would rather hide their own thoughts than be judged by someone who doesn't know them. I suppose I can consider this trait part of the human condition. The way I see things is simple, though. These traits are very much a choice. I would even consider it a selfish choice because if you choose not to listen or communicate with those who are simply trying to understand you and themselves, then isn't that kind of selfish. That could just be my opinion though, because I feel selfish if I don't share my thoughts and feelings with those I love and care about.
As a child, I kept my mouth shut, unless someone did something inappropriate to me or another child. No one really listened to me anyway, I was just a kid. I learned growing up that the adults in my life spent a lot of time protecting other adults' reputations and yet failed at protecting their own children. Ignoring the cries for any sort of attention. Brushing off the issues and problems their children are dealing with in their little lives. Yet, giving advice and helping their adult friends were less problematic. It seemed easy for them to listen, give advice and attention to their friends, but not so easy to do for the kids they brought into this world.
I can never be that kind of adult because my kids mean way too much to me. Hurting them will always hurt me. It's one reason why I don’t spank them unless I absolutely have to. I speak to my kids about how I would have liked to be spoken to by the adults in my life when I was a child. I can sometimes lose my cool, yes but, when that happens I usually take a step back and cool off. I don’t want to emotionally damage my children, not if I can help it.
As I got older and my friends moved away or got new friends, I found myself spending more time indoors. That was until I got my license and my first car. After I was able to travel on my own, I started finding new places to go to in order to hide from the world. I found myself trying to get lost in the mountains on the old back roads that have never been paved and wound around all the best hiding places. I pull off and park whenever I get the itch to stretch my legs and explore a bit. To me, the woods were like walking through my own personal heaven. A place where I could go to escape from reality and my own inner pain. I always found peace in the simplicity of nature. The woods were like a second home to me. The silence that surrounded me. The fresh smell of dirt and moss, or what I consider the scent of earth, that took over my sense of smell. The feeling of the cool breeze and warm sun coming through the trees, bathing me in their essence. It is where I wanted to be. Even today I long to return to the trees I climbed and the waters I swam. To explore every trail, cave, valley, and gorge hidden behind the trees and hills is my passion. This area has been home to my family for decades. I know this area better than I know myself most days, and that is saying a lot.
I was born in California back in September 1985. In July of 1991, my mom got me back from my father and moved me to Maryland with her. It wasn't easy though, my stepmom decided to fight to keep me and I was honestly scared to death of leaving with this woman who was my mom. I had no real memories of her and I had only met her once before right after my father went to jail for what he did. When my stepmom reported to the police that my father was molesting me, they ran my name through their database and found out that my mom was actually searching for me and had been since my father took me from her when I was only 2 years old. Which let me know that even though I didn't know this woman because I was too young to really remember her, she loved me enough to search for me. It explained why my father had us living in a travel camper and why we seemed to always be taking road trips. He tried to hide a lot of things from my stepmom, her daughter, and myself, but I wasn't a blind child and I noticed a lot of things that he thought I didn't see. I have always had a pretty good memory, even though I act like I don't sometimes.
My stepdad Donnie, I call him pops, was always interested in what I could remember of my childhood. We could sit and talk for hours about our lives growing up and how different it was in the 50s of his early childhood compared to the 80s of my early childhood. I found myself drawn to my stepdad in a way that I wasn't with most people. Most of the men in my life, when I was a kid, I was scared of them in a way because I didn't trust them due to what my father had done to me. My stepdad was different though, something about him made me feel safe and protected. Deep in my soul, I knew I could trust him with anything and everything. He is who I went to if I needed advice about something. As much as I love my mother, she wasn't the brightest crayon in the box. I didn't trust her like I did my stepdad; I know that sounds odd, but it's the truth. A part of me has never fully trusted my mother because a part of me that hides deep holds pain in my soul for her lack of intellect when it came to my father. Apart from me feels like she knew who he was and she still followed him like a lovesick puppy without a care for her child's wellbeing and in that neglect what transpired changed everything for me.
I can forgive my mother's neglect because I love her. I know she isn't the smartest person in the world and even though that is no excuse; it wasn't really her fault. She made a bad choice, yes, but she did so because in her mind she loved my father at the time and she was blinded by that love, so she refused to believe in the evil that lived inside my father's soul. Forgiving her isn't hard because I know if she was given a chance to re-due her life she would have chosen a different path for us both, one that bypassed my father and went straight to my stepdad. I know this because I know my mom and I know what pain she hides deep in her own soul.
I can forgive my father for his treatment of me. I know my father was mentally ill in a way, even if he didn't know it or understand it. Now don't get me wrong. What he did was wrong. I am sure he knew at the time that it was wrong because if he didn't he wouldn't have tried to hide it from everyone we knew back then. I will also never truly trust him because of his actions. He lacked control over the demons in his head and in doing so he allowed them to play with me like I was some toy instead of a child and his daughter. None of those things can be changed though, and holding on to them only darkens my soul more with each passing moment. I choose to forgive him in order to heal myself from the pain caused by his actions.