This is my first post about this, and the word still feels too big to come out of my mouth. Ironically it’s only five letters long.
My Mum was abused as a child and she always said “I’ll never let anything happen to you.” and I always thought if someone was being abused, surely they would know. When I started going to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) my Mum went to my initial appointment with me. The problem, in everyone’s eyes, was the fact that I had lived with my Mum in and out of psychiatric hospitals. I went along with this, and so I never spoke a word of my relationship with my Dad.
That was when I was 14. I am 24 this year. Almost a decade later, a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa and Borderline Personality Disorder. Weight restored from the Anorexia. Scars. Hospitalisations. Overdoses. Other suicide attempts. And that word is suddenly being said.
The cost is massive.
The cost has been not just my Dad, but most of my family. Not only now do I have no contact with my mothers family after they sided with her father when her abuse came out, but now I have no contact with mine.
I graduated last week, and this was the first time there was a Dad shaped hole. I’m not sure this is ever going to get easier. I didn’t just cry because he wasn’t there, I cried because I know he would be just as upset as I was. It wasn’t supposed to go this way. He was supposed to admit to what he did, apologise, and we were supposed to move on. That is what I wanted. But he didn’t admit to it, there was no apology, and it all exploded.
This happened in March/April. Things kicked off again this month. I thought I wouldn’t survive it. In April I relapsed into my self-harm on a grand scale, ended up ringing my Mum for the first time ever and she had to come to get me from where I live. I was desperate. Then this month when it kicked off, rather than hurting myself, I called my psychiatrist and cried down the phone. Since then I’ve not cried at all, till my graduation.
He was supposed to be there. Him, and my step-mum. I love them both dearly. The situation when I was a child was complex. My Dad could not cope. I’m not trying to justify what he did to my sister and I, I am simply putting it into context. I didn’t want this to destroy our relationship, I just wanted him to acknowledge what he had done. He didn’t. And that was his choice, but it’s not only him it affects.
My sister has struggled tremendously, she is currently back on the acute ward and that itself has been chaotic. I was always a Daddy’s girl and it’s hard to get to grips with the fact that before March I was close to my Dad, and now we don’t talk at all.
Through it all though, the people who matter most to me have stuck by me, and I try to hold onto that. I try to see the positive. I try to tell myself that the people who walk away because it is easier than facing the truth do not deserve me.
But it’s not really that easy.
When I was in trouble as a child my mother, like most mothers, used to use my middle name, “Natalie Jane come down those stairs right now.” I like my middle name now, and I always have but I’m not sure I’d be so keen if it was coming from my mothers mouth again. As a child I read a lot of books by Enid Blyton, and one of my favourites was ‘Naughty Amelia Jane’. I remember secretly liking that her middle name was the same as mine. I guess being naughty has its appeal, and because we shared the same name I thought we were practically twins.
When I was younger I was also in trouble. A LOT. So much so that I ought to have been named ‘Natalie Trouble Wilson.’ I was particularly bad at never ever getting away with things. I remember always arguing with my sister, and even if she was in the wrong, my big mouth would get me into trouble. All my parents would hear would be me screaming, first at my sister, and then at them. Whilst my sister on the other hand was one of those ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ types.
The people in my life who I’m not so close to, or those who I’ve just met, see me as the quiet one. Just recently a lecturer said “you are so quiet.” I was laughing inside because if my Mum heard someone saying that she would think it was hilarious. The truth however, of what I am really like, is somewhat similar to how I am with getting things done. People always think I am super chilled back. I sort everything out last minute. But I’m not actually chilled out at all. Inside I am a panicky mess, but I get so panicky that I avoid doing whatever the thing is. I’m the same with being a perfectionist. I’m so worried about doing something wrong, that very often I end up not doing it at all.
I am loud. Very loud. But very often I am quiet. It’s not because I am a ‘quiet person’, but because of a whole range of fears, and over my life I have basically trained myself to be silent to the point that now it’s not even a choice I make. I remember as a child I would frequently be told off for being loud, for talking too much. I was blamed for my sisters lack of speech, and her speech problems which she had therapy for. I wanted so badly to be quieter, more like her.
My loudness, my constant chattering and asking questions seemed to cause nothing but problems. I’d be questioning everything. I wanted to know the why’s and how’s of everything, and let’s face it, that’s pretty annoying to live with. It led to arguments between me and a member of my family, which led to violence and slammed doors, cars leaving drives, and the disappearance of a parent for days at a time. So I started setting myself rules about when I could talk, and how long for. It seemed like a fabulous solution. There was a particular situation that is very clear in my mind. I was sat with my father watching the formula one racing. I kept asking question after question, after question. My father kept turning the TV louder, and louder, and louder, ignoring me. Every time I spoke he would turn it up that little bit louder. In the end we had an explosive argument that I will never forget.
Not speaking seemed like the solution. If I was silent, there would be no arguments, no violence, no disappearing bodies out of the door. Except I couldn’t do it. I’d tell myself ‘no talking for the next 20 minutes’ but before I knew it my mouth was open and words were spilling out; ‘Why does that car have red bull on it?’, ‘Why do they change the tyres?’.
Every time I failed to keep quiet, it was like the part of myself that was full of self-hatred grew bigger, and bigger.
One of the biggest things that I have, and am, learning is that the things I hated about myself, are the things that many of the people around me love about me. My parent(s) weren’t able to cope with me, but that does not mean that I was the problem. Just today my sister told me that one of the nurses who work at the hospital she’s in said that she liked me and that I seem like I’d be a good laugh.
It’s just weird to think that I’ve spent so long hating myself for things I never needed to hate myself for. That I’ve seen who I am as being fundamentally wrong or bad, when that was never the case. It’s hard to undo that, no matter how much I know it’s not true, because for so long that was my reality.