Honestly? Honestly, when I found out that I was not dying I was disappointed. Pathetically and classically, like I was so frequently in youth. When it hit me that the cause of my shaking, bleeding, paralysis and fitting – that the reason for my absences and redundancies could have been prevented, I was sick. Obsessive guilt and substance abuse were obvious, an inability to get out of bed had a clear link to the abuses suffered at the hands of not only my own parents, but others too. The adult has an obligation to the child. Is it sadder, even, that I wasn’t aware of that until recently? I thought that everybody had an obligation to only themselves. The extent of the neglect and direct abuse were not obvious to me until they manifested physically, until they started to kill me. Until adults, teachers, family friends said to me that they knew things were not right. That my mother’s drinking and self-destruction affected me and that they had to care for me Friday ’til Monday every single week. Yet not one person, not even the people who I think of now as family, said a word. The more I learn about myself the more I learn about everyone else – that adults don’t really seem aware of their obligation to children. I am still a child in an adult’s body, and even I know that I have an obligation. To my sister, who I love so dearly and who is still in a situation that I myself couldn’t get away from. She is so bright, so beautiful, a light in my life that I want to save and keep so innocent. She said to me that my home was magical because she got bathed and fed there. Can you imagine that? A child so innocent and ignorant of her situation that she thinks basic hygiene is magic. That child was me, and I owe something to her, too. I was so sweet. I was so smart and I just wanted to learn and play and I didn’t know that I was so different to all the children that didn’t have to go home and make their own dinners and find their mother drunk. In their own way I know that teachers and other kids’ parents would try to check up on me but it was not enough. A child will always think that its surroundings are normal. a child will always love the parent irregardless of whether or not the parent hits it or throws it down the stairs. Honestly I don’t think I have cried at my own life for maybe ten years. Films and alcohol and TV and books and drugs are an enjoyable escape when it is infrequent use. But when you suppress your own feelings and experiences so, so deeply that you don’t cope there will be a time when it comes back. When it makes you punch walls and scream at someone who just wants to be there for you. When it literally makes you sick and blind in one eye, when it makes your ears bleed. Your own body can not handle too many things bottled up inside of it. I have spent so many years knowing that my life is not normal. That a mother who comes home and puts her arm through a window on purpose is not one you should admire. That coming home with your father to pick up your clothes and finding your mother in the middle of an overdose with a scalpel sticking out of her arm is not something you should have to deal with. But to leave that child (because thirteen is a child) in that same house that night, dismiss it as an attention seeking act and leave her with a violently dangerous mother – it is abuse. The fact that I was still not taken away, even then, it amazes me. My sister is the light of my life, the only good thing to come from a horrific woman – but she should not have been allowed to happen. When my mother got pregnant again, I was twelve. She asked me if she should have an abortion. At the time I said no, of course not, and I never considered that this was not my responsibility. I am so glad I said no, but the life that was saved is still one that needs saving. I never confronted these things because how could I? How can you accept the fact that your broken head was not an accident – neglect is abuse. That your dehydration was not an accident – neglect is abuse. That starving, seeing your mother nearly die, being abandoned over and over again – it is not normal. Taking a child, a three or seven or thirteen year old, away from that situation for one weekend is not helpful. They have to wake up there and come home and see things that nobody ever should. I do not care anymore if it was difficult, if it was uncomfortable, if my mother was your daughter or friend or sister. You should have done something more than slap her on the wrist and shake your head. The adult has an obligation to the child and not one person in my life lived up to that obligation. How could I face up to the fact that my life made me desperately ill and nobody stepped in once? By the time I was thirteen I was drinking every day and overdosing twice a month. I took pills every single day whether I needed them or not. I am only the sister, but I am the adult. I now have an obligation to take my sister out of there. On my seventeenth birthday my mother tried to kill herself and I had to call the ambulance. With a kind of weary ambivalence I carried on with my party, and when crisis support came over, I took the party elsewhere. To the adults who came over with flowers to support my mother in that situation – you were not helping. You were saying that her actions were reasonable and that it was not harmful or abnormal to do that to a child. To my auntie, who despite her usually calm demeanour and kindness screamed at my mother about how awful it was to do that to your children – thank you. My auntie who took me in, who came over only to celebrate my birthday and then left. The auntie and uncle who were my parents, who took me on holidays and tried constantly to tell my mother that she didn’t deserve children. Thank you for the speck of normality in my life; although I wish you could have done more.
I am darkness and dirt and a nasty, tainted soul. I am rude and mean and I know why. I do not fit in, I say words differently to everyone else and I have no basic manners or skills because I was not brought up. I feel like I have an obligation to people to be funny and interesting and smart, that I have to help them and say witty things and that I can’t have feelings of my own. That to be so honest as to even write something true, once in my life, would be letting down the people around me. I have for so long felt a responsibility to keep everyone is in order and make sure that I don’t crack and let them know. I am a person who enjoys writing and films and laughing and driving. But under that, more truthfully, I am awful. I was not born awful. I was born as pure as my sister, perhaps even more so. I was born to parents who wanted so desperately to love me and they could not, any more than they loved destroying themselves. A child cannot speak for itself and it cannot do a thing to change its own situation. I am at a point now where I can start to fix myself and embrace what has happened to me, but I have to understand it first. The worst memories of abusive situations come to me, strangely, in dreams. I have to check with someone whether or not it was real; but I know. For a while I have to be sad, I have to cry when I need to and I have to write things that are dark and sick and that should not have happened. I am sure that if I even told my mother my diagnosis, she would tell me that I am a sick liar. Even with all of the witnesses and evidence. But I have to get better. I have to save my sister and I have to lose my mother and above all I have to help myself. I am not a child anymore and whilst I wish so desperately that someone had taken care of me, there is no-one left who can. After all of the things I have done, after destroying the body I was given, after the things I have thought and said to other people – I feel like maybe I do not deserve help. But I think about that girl, with her hand-me-down clothes and her toothless smile. With a big scar on her head and a tube sticking out of her arm. With her books and her toys and her longing to be a part of other families. I owe so much to her, to myself. To make up for the years that she was so tortured and hurt, I want to be pure. I want to be nice and clean and I want to save the girl that is still in the situation that nobody ever should have to be. I feel so much for all of the children that go through this every single day, and I find it so ironic that my mother gave £2 a week to the NSPCC. I am moving. Seeing my father around town is funny, but it is the most soul-destroying thing you can imagine. Growing up his home was sanctuary, it was the safest space I had. I would misbehave so that I would get kicked out of my mother’s. Until I was kicked out of his, too. Without reason, without warning. I do not want to believe that adults cannot be trusted, that they are more concerned with etiquette and awkwardness than saving the life of a child.
Things will get worse before they get better. I will need intensive care and perhaps, even, hospitalisation. When the realisation and the memories really come flooding through. I am sorry, to friends and family and readers, if I am not who you want me to be right now. If you want upbeat but absent, I can’t help you. I am all here now, and it isn’t the best of sights.
But I will get better – I will nurture that poor little child, and I will save the one who is still here. There is nothing else I can do, now. But remind you that as an adult, you too have an obligation. Always intervene.