I have started writing this post a million times in the last couple of days, in my head and on the screen and each time it wasn’t quite right so I deleted it in the hope that I would get it right the next time.
The truth is it will never be right because things change. We change and so do our views.
As I have already mentioned previously, in the words of Maya Angelou, “We do what we know and when we know better, we do better.” That’s the beauty of life.
I posted up details of the day I broke the news to my Mother that her husband had been sexually abusing me since the age of 5, from the first day I met him until I finally removed myself from the ‘family’ home. A few people made it clear that they were angry with my Mother’s response to my revelation. Inciting anger towards my Mother was not my intention.
For eighteen years after I removed myself from my home, I removed myself from his presence (apart from an absolutely awful time that I will write about soon), but he is always with me like a sticky black lump of tar stuck to my soul. Whatever ever I do to try and cleanse myself of him, of what he did to me he sticks fast. I have learned to live with that knot of evil and to shroud it in bright white light – in all the positive things that I have created for myself and that I draw to me; people, experiences, success. Goodness.
What I was finding difficult to write is this: it was Mother’s Day two days ago and for many years I found it difficult to celebrate. I remember as a teenager that a friend’s mother told me off for spending the day with them in their house, rather than in my own. I was instructed to go and buy my Mother a card, some flowers etc. and to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day but I just couldn’t. It felt like my Mother was my biggest enemy.
Don’t get me wrong. I have always loved her with all my heart. I have never stopped loving my Mother even when she turned her back on me when I needed her most. However, there have been years when I thoroughly disliked her.
The reason for me writing these posts isn’t for sympathy, to paint my Mother as the bad guy, or to put myself forward as a guru. I don’t know how to deal with any of this any better than anyone else but what I do know is this: whilst I was trying to do all the things I thought I was supposed to, often encouraged to do by others including therapists, i.e. be angry with my Mother, express my anger and so on, I didn’t feel good at all.
There’s only one bad guy in all of this and that’s the perpetrator. The miscreant. The pervert. The sexual deviant. The paedophile. The ‘stepmonster.’
The rest of us, we were all just his victims.
Do you remember that TV ad where there was a skinhead running and it looked like he was about to mug and elderly woman. The camera switched and you could then see that he was actually saving her life after scaffolding started to fall? Well, life really is like that.
If at any moment in time whilst all of these things were happening you had shone the spotlight on my Mother, she definitely would have looked like another bad guy. A villain. The things is though, that in retrospect, knowing what I know now, I can see clearly that she was also a victim, too.
I won’t say too much about my Mother’s story as it’s her’s to tell and also because I don’t really know that much, apart from where it intersects my story.
Mum was abandoned as a young girl in Greece. Her family was obliterated by WWII and somehow before my Mother was born, her mother and aunt were in Germany and experienced goodness only knows what.
My Mother was then born exactly one year before peace ensued BUT her father was a spy (perhaps) and so disappeared before the authorities could track him down. My grandmother was only 18 at this time and clearly didn’t understand her responsibilities, or perhaps was also overcome by the circumstances that she and the rest of the world found themselves in. My grandmother left Greece and came to the UK.
At some point my Mother was put into an orphanage. I only discovered this recently, as my Mother’s dementia opens up distant parts of her memory and swallows the present. Mum had no idea that I didn’t know anything about this so talks openly. Things happened during her childhood that I am yet to discover but possibly they are too painful for her to remember. I think painful memories are the single cause of her dementia.
At the age of 16 my Mother came to the UK to be with her Mother, who by this time had married a handsome ex-RAF man from Carlisle and had had another child (by a different man) in the meantime, also left behind in Greece.
My Grandmother, as you can probably tell from the few lines I have written about her (again, no judgement from me) was not necessarily the most mature or stable person for my Mother to pin her future on. Nevertheless, my Mother arrived here as the sixties began and enrolled herself into school to learn English. Meanwhile, her mother aged only 34 was doing what she wanted, when she wanted, as that’s all she had ever known. Perhaps.
Her handsome ex-RAF husband was an alcoholic. A raging, angry alcoholic. He wasn’t best pleased at my Mother’s arrival and made that clear. I don’t think my Mother had a very happy time finally being reunited with her mother, the one person she had dreamed would make it all okay.
I have no idea about my Mother’s early years here in London but I think from a girl who had grown up in an orphanage in a small village in Greece, who then found herself in the midst of the swinging 60’s in London, she began to let her waist length her down.
I was the result of her first love affair with a bad boy when she was 22. He wasn’t interested in her or me and so that was that. Sort of. My Mother, who had never experienced parenting was left with the sole responsibility of bringing up a child without any help but with a whole heap of stigma attached. She did what had been done to her. She farmed me out to someone else to do a better job of bringing me up than she thought she could do herself. The logic is sound.
The signs that my Mother was also being abused by the ‘stepmonster’ were obvious but not to me. I was a child. What did I know? I knew that she was no longer happy. She no longer laughed, or looked at me with a softness in her expression. She was always angry, short-tempered and on edge.
Soon that escalated into physical violence. Her with me – she would slap me hard enough to leave hand prints on me – or would grab me by my hair and bang my head against the wall – all the way up to when I was in my late teens and threatened to hit her back if she laid another finger on me. But, almost more terrifyingly between them.
There was one particular fight were she picked up a pair of scissors that the carpet fitter had left behind. The blades were at least a foot long. ‘He’ in the meantime picked up an iron, not a golf club, but an iron that you take the creases out of your clothes with.
They were viciously screaming at each other whilst wielding and swinging these items at each other and I was in the middle of the fray trying to calm them both down. No such luck. Eventually my Mother just managed to make it into the bathroom and lock the door as ‘he’ started smashing through the wood with whichever of the implements he was holding. That hole was left there until Mum sold up and moved out more than twenty years later.
I went to my room and sat in the dark on my bed. It was only weeks after I had been moved in with them, so there was still no furniture or carpet in my room apart from the bed. I had my eyes shut and my hands over my ears. Other than getting in the way and being hurt myself I had no idea what to do. I was only 10 after all.
The shouting was in Greek. I had no idea what it was about but I did understand when my Mother suddenly shouted in English that she was taking pills and was going to kill herself.
The door was suddenly open and there she was with a pill bottle in her hand.
After a few minutes everything was once again calm until my Mother came into my room and asked me why I was crying. I told her. She then screamed at me that I had nothing to cry about, the reason they were fighting was all my fault.
Apparently there were many other incidents like this over the years, which I was thankfully unaware of.
My Mother used to fight back – with me and with ‘him.’ Over the years she just got sadder and sadder and more and more tired. She would always be asleep on the sofa in front of the television and just couldn’t be bothered to do anything at all. I didn’t realise it was depression. She had been worn down and that was almost as bad as the fights.
My therapist gave ‘his’ personality a name. She said that he was schizophrenogenic. Or something like that. His reason for being was to drive others mad. I think there was a film in the 70’s with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton with a similar storyline.
Mum was switching off from reality to deal with him and I was on edge 24 hours a day. My adrenals were shot by the time I was in double figures. Ten years old and exhausted to a point where I would never recover.
However, to the outside world we pretended that everything was okay. We were fine. We weren’t. We couldn’t have been less fine if we had tried. On the scale of fine, we were nowhere to be seen.
Thankfully, my PTSD had an upside. I was so hyper-vigilant that I had a photographic memory. I would go to school, listen to everything and remember enough to get high marks in homework (which I would do on the bus into school – I will tell you why in a moment) or in exams. Like most people, I have no recollection of my German verbs today.
The reason I did my homework on the bus into school was because it wasn’t safe to do it at home. I didn’t realise this at first, stupid me, but soon it became clear. It was me relaying these experiences to my therapist that gave ‘his’ condition a name.
I would get home from school. Put my books out on my desk and then head upstairs to the kitchen for a drink and something to eat. My Mother was exceptionally good at food.
‘He’ would most likely be asleep only feet away but not asleep enough to let me get on with my life. During the time it took for me to go upstairs and grab a drink and a sandwich the homework that I had laid out on my desk would have disappeared. Not all of it, you understand, just a fundamental piece of it. Enough so that I would spend the next thirty minutes going through everything in my bag and turning my room upside down looking for it, for it not to be seen again.
Or to be seen again maybe 3 or 4 weeks later when I went upstairs to get a drink and something to eat after arriving home from school. That missing piece of paper, or item, would suddenly reappear in the middle of my desk from whence it vanished.
With or without the sexual abuse, he was trying to drive us insane and succeeded for the most part with Mum. I was more resilient. I was angry.
I don’t hold her responsible for his actions and her inactions. There’s only so much a person can take. Through all of this my Mother somehow worked hard enough to feed us, clothe us and keep a roof over our heads. Of course, for years I was angry with her, too.
However, knowing what I know now and seeing what her choices in life have done to her, I vow to never let the same thing happen to me.
Mum’s choices in life have given me bigger choices.
Now we celebrate Mother’s Day every day.
*For all the posts in this series, please click here: https://toulamavridoumesser.wordpress.com/category/my-story/