The following narrative contains mentions of child abuse and sexual molestation. Please do not read any further if reading about real life abuse is triggering.
High school was the beginning of a fresh start. I was inducted into the Senior Beta Club and I joined the Future Business Leaders of America, also known as FBLA. I began to laugh more and live more. I started to go to the movies and I felt more alive than I have in so many years. However, this outward positive change belied a much darker nature just below the surface. I felt so angry all the time because of the abuse. Regardless of how angry I was, my success in academia never slipped—my façade never cracked. No one ever knew the immense grief beneath the mask of such a ‘bright little girl.’
In ninth grade, at my mom’s behest, I began therapy. I saw quite a few therapists. None of them managed to establish a lasting, meaningful connection with me. I cannot say that it was their fault; I was young and angry, and no one was able to reach me. One memory stands out as the worst therapists I had ever encountered. I do not remember her name, but I do remember quite a bit about the few times I was there.
The room was not what one would expect of a therapist’s office. There were no fluffy pillows adorning an overstuffed couch. There was not a well-loved Afghan draped over the back of a plush sitting chair. Instead, the harsh fluorescent lights buzzed and flickered overhead. The floor was aged and worn industrial tile, similar to what one would find in an old school building. In the center of the room was a big wooden desk—not real wood of course, it was some kind of composite material. On both sides of the room were large imposing bookcases, and the walls were decorated with all manner of crucifixes and religious iconography. Behind the desk sat the therapist. She was a stern looking black woman who appeared to be in her mid to late thirties. Sitting across from her in one of the uncomfortable office chairs as she stared impassively at me, I met her gaze, completely unmoved.
“So, what brings you here today,” she asks, affecting a pleasant manner in complete contrast to her earlier disposition. I shrug my shoulders in response.
“Your mom tells me there has been some abuse in your family. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about that?”
I slouched down in my seat, heaved a great sigh, and rolled my eyes in as much teenage apathy I could muster. For a while, neither she nor I spoke. The moment seemed to stretch on forever. Eventually I spoke first.
“I was molested.”
She scribbles something in her notepad, and waits for me to continue. “It was my dad. I hate him.”
Again, she writes in her notepad. After another long silence, appearing satisfied with her notes, finally she spoke. “You know, God…”
It was at this point, I tuned out. The gist of what she was saying boiled down to “pray the pain away” and “you’re going through all of this for a reason.” At barely fifteen years old, full of hate and anger, I was not receptive to hearing any of that. None of what she said was remotely helpful. After all this, I am not sure she was even a licensed psychotherapist, or if she had even opened a psychology textbook. I only went to three sessions with this woman, and each time, it was more of the same. It only left me feeling more confused and angry.
For many years, I was angry not just at the abuse and my abuser, I was angry with myself, my surroundings, and as I have now come to realize, I was angry with God. I hated that my father was my father, and I hated the fact that my mother stayed with him. From middle school throughout high school, there had been approximately a decade of pure, unadulterated rage. I can vividly remember feeling so angry that it felt as though my soul was on fire. The rage was nearly tangible.
Each and every day the rage within me would build and build. So much so, that Ifeared for my safety. I feared for my sanity. The rage turned to violent bouts of depression. Sinking so deep into an ocean of despair, no end in sight, I felt I had lost myself.
This anger was fueled by the knowledge that my mother found my sister’s diary, and in it were the details of the sexual abuse my sister faced at the hands of my father. At the time the diary was found, my sister was a teenager, and I was not yet born. Around this same time, my father had a stroke that nearly cost him the ability to walk. My mother, being the kind hearted person that she is, was unable to simply leave my father at his hour of need, so even after she confronted him about my sister’s abuse, she put all of her energy into helping my father recover. Eventually, he was able to walk again, and my sister’s abuse was seemingly forgotten. Years passed, and I was born.
I used to spend hours dwelling on the fact that not only did my mother stay married to a known pedophile, (known to her, at least) she also chose to have a child with him. I found this to be utterly baffling. I still struggle to comprehend it, and I do not know if I ever will. I used to ask myself constantly how she could be in love with someone so disgustingly demented. Regardless of how long I thought about it, I did not have an answer. One day, years later in my early twenties, I finally questioned my mom as to why she stayed with my father.
I remember the moment vividly when I asked, “Why did you choose to stay married to him?” “How could you allow yourself to have a baby with that monster?” After a long pause, she responded, “I just put it out of my mind, bay.”
“Put it out of your mind? How could you put something like that out of your mind? It doesn’t make any sense!”
“He was sick, and after a while, I didn’t think about it anymore,” she responded slowly, seemingly carefully choosing her words.
At this point, I was angry and frustrated, as I tried to wrap my mind around what she was telling me. Before walking away, I tearfully mumbled, “I just don’t understand, ma.”
After this exchange, I cried for hours. I could not understand her reasoning back then, and even now, I still cannot comprehend it.
As one can imagine, her explanation was wholly unsatisfying. It also left me with the notion that if being in love makes otherwise intelligent people lose every ounce of common sense they possess and become lovesick idiots viewing the world through rose tinted glasses, then I do not ever want to have any part of that.
On that day, I resolved to never allow myself to fall in love.