Phil’s Signs of Being Abused
Lack of confidence, no self esteem, perfectionism, depression.
Phil’s Emotional Signs of Abuse
Anger, Anxiety, Evil foreboding
Phil’s Story of Abuse
I believe one doesn’t “get rid” of memories of childhood abuse. We can push them back, or mentally put them in a box and stick them in a mental closet out of sight. (That was my method for years). But the memories and bitter feelings keep coming back because they are a part of what I am and the emotional scars are permanent.I am a survivor of abuse. It is only now, in the last half of my life, that I realize the severity, scope and lifelong consequences of childhood abuse. Don’t get me wrong. I believe I have been successful in NOT carrying on abusive behaviors in my adult life and certainly not carrying down the “sins of the father” and laying them on my own wife and children.
My earliest memories of the person who was my father are as a small boy, 3 or 4 yrs old. I had gone outside with my two older brothers and I remember my (Dad) ridiculing me by calling me unpleasant names. My two brothers picked up on the taunting and I found myself a bewildered little toddler going back to the house alone, crying. My first broken heart.
As the years went by, the ridicule became more intense, especially shaming me in front of strangers. It became obsessive disapproval and disregard. As I approached my teens it became constant verbal, mental, emotional, spiritual and dangerous physical abuse. I have been whipped with a belt, a stick and a wire coat hanger. He told us he had a right to do this because a fathers anger is “Holy Anger”.
I have dealt with all the fall out resulting from a severely abusive childhood. I was suicidal (or at least pre-suicidal) in my teens while still under the tyranny of a bipolar and completely domineering and dysfunctional and abusive (father). I use the word “father” out of context because I cannot comfortably refer to that person as a “father”. He was never a father to me.
Those suicidal thoughts came back in later years as a young husband and father when the stress load and fatigue became overwhelming. My reaction to my family at times like this was – silence; morose silence. That was how I lived my teen years in my efforts to survive as least favored child, I shut down to him, did my work and tried to stay out of sight. It was part of my promise to myself that I would never be like him.
When he was unhappy he carried on verbally and abusively making everyone tense and nervous as he shouted and shook his fist and pounded the table. Some of my most bitter memories involve him confronting me, when I was alone, out of sight of family. He would come up with some charge against me or a stupid thing he disapproved of and start in verbally. He would work himself into a rage and when he started talking through clenched teeth, I knew it was too late. I wasn’t allowed to move and was forced to look at him and wait for the inevitable FISTED blow to the temple. If I winced or involuntarily raised an arm to shield my head he would feint with one fist and come in with the other and hit the unprotected side. At times like this there would be a instant bright flash in my brain and then – everything would go black.
In his youth he had been a welterweight champion boxer. He used a padded glove against his opponents in the ring…but not against me. I knew those blows were potentially lethal and I was afraid…always. It has only been in the last year that I told my older brothers about this and asked them if this had ever happened to them. They said no. We were all abused in many ways but it is common knowledge that I was his least favored and therefore his target. I don’t think he saw me as his offspring or at times even as a human.
I can’t count all the times I heard the words “good for nothing” or “worthless” or “going straight to hell”. I was always judged negatively and wasn’t allowed to defend myself. I have come to learn that this is brainwashing and I grew up believing I was sub-human and any kind of man-pride or self confidence and esteem was killed before it even sprouted.
He would force us into the basement and shave our heads, right down to the skin. One of his many obsessions being hair; but he kept hair on his own head. When I think about it now, I believe it was his way of carrying out his brainwashing and mental castration. He was intensely obsessively religious, at least outwardly in a sickeningly legalistic way. He did not know charity, or peace or harmony or joy. The only joyful times he had were when he was trying to impress people outside the family and he was on the upswing side of his bipolarism.
He was almost giddy right after his confrontations with me that ended in a blow to my head. It was like he had received some kind of sick mental release. For years we were forced to go to church every day of the week and three times on Sunday. I have learned since then that anytime there is that kind of obsessive behavior in anything, there is an unbalance in life. Unbalance leads to lack of harmony and peace and joy and that leads to severe dysfunction and abuse.
I don’t hate, I never hated him but I grew up feeling condemned because if my extreme dislike for him. I found him so revolting that the sound of his voice, especially when it had that dangerous “whine”, made me sick to my stomach. We were taught that we had to love our parents or we would go “straight to hell”. The 4th commandment says “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother”. “Honor” is not the same as “Love”. God, if His Infinite Wisdom knows that love between some people is completely impossible. My duty was to honor the person that “sired” me-always.
An evangelist on Christian Radio put it into perspective for me. Some parents are not honorable. But we still have to honor them and we can only do that by keeping our distance and our silence. That is what I have always done, from childhood on till he died about 6 years ago. I found that once I achieved the distance, the silence was easy.
When I left the military, I never lived at home again. I would stop in and he was as bad as ever, maybe worse because he had become political as many middle-aged men do. His condemnation of almost everyone that wasn’t like him had reached a dangerous peak. He joined some very subversive extreme groups. He read only what he agreed with and I watched him brainwash himself (If that is possible). I think old age and bad health finally slowed him down.
By this time, the big change was in me. I had applied myself and I had grown into a confident and competent, productive husband, father and man. My times at the home place were kept light and brief and polite if not a little cool. I could confidently look him in the eye and manipulate the conversation. When my kids started to grow up I never let them alone with him. I had this fierce need to protect them from him. Once my oldest were in their teens it wasn’t hard to convince them that they didn’t have to accompany us when we stopped in at the home place.
We moved several times but I made sure we were at least 150 mi away from where I grew up. The abuse was never brought up. He had a bad heart for a long time before passing and I wasn’t about to be the one to cause it to fail. It was part of “honoring” him. Besides I don’t think he ever realized what harm he had done. He may have taken his arrogant self-righteousness to the grave.
My wife and I had driven several hours to the home place on a Friday in January. Something in my Mothers voice (I love my Mom) told me that we needed to make that trip immediately. He was in home care and had been for months. Hospice would stop in and see to his needs. He had been drifting in and out of consciousness for a while and was unconscious when we arrived. My Mother asked me to help her say some prayers for the dying and it was during that time as I verbally asked God to accept this soul that he died-quietly, peacefully, finally. That was my closure and that is enough – most of the time.
I believe closure comes through the Word of God. People can’t give true closure. My five living brothers and I were pall bearers. I did not shed a tear then and I haven’t yet. I probably never will. I shed my last tear over him when I was about 14; up in a tree in the woods. I have the bitter memories, and scars and sometimes pain. Nothing is perfect. My life is great. I accept what has been dealt me and I am working on true forgiveness. I believe that is the answer for this 65 year-old, seasoned man.