Caged Bird

“I see at intervals the glance of a curious sort of bird through the close set bars of a cage: a vivid, restless, resolute captive is there; were it but free, it would soar cloud-high.” ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

It hacagedppened yesterday, another flare up out of the blue. I woke up early to head out for my Praxis II exams, which was then followed by my teaching assessment class midterm. I wasn’t worried about how much testing I was going to have to go through, it was more of just wanting the day to be over with. Once the exams were complete I headed home, finally able to rest. I had a nice lunch and took a relaxing shower, then decided to lay my head down for a few before heading out to my education based math class for yet another exam. And that’s when it hit me.

I was laying there and I could feel it, the creeping pain spreading from my neck to the front of my head. It wrapped around my left eye and started to pulse. My back started to tingle and the shooting pain exploded to every inch of my body. I told myself it was just a headache and to not worry. I took some Tylenol and hoped for the best. It wasn’t helping, and my status was deteriorating at an even faster rate. My legs ached and were ice cold. I was having rapid hot/cold flashes. I was in pain from head to toe.

But I pushed through, what choice do you have when it’s an hour away from exam time and at a university that could care less about your medical condition. I was forced to get out of bed, get dressed, and drive myself to my exam regardless of my pain.

By the time I was at school my mind was completely absent. I looked around and it felt like I wasn’t even there. By the time I sat down in my chair for the exam it felt like I was in a dream, those moments when you are dreaming something so real it feels real. Except mine was the exact opposite. I was there, and this wasn’t a dream.

As the exams were passed out I realized I was screwed. It was a packet of 10 pages with questions we hardly even covered. I went through each page and picked out what I automatically knew. When I hit the simple addition problems I stared at the page blankly. The question was to write a real world example for -5 – -5. The answer was 0, but my brain could not think of anything that made sense. I flipped to the next page. Find the error: 10 – -14 = 4. I looked at the problem, stared at it for a good five minutes. The error was obvious and could be applied to the rest of the problem, but my brain just stopped. I looked at the numbers and they seemed so foreign. I went to write my answer and explanation but my hand didn’t want to hold the pencil. Attempt after attempt I failed, I couldn’t hold the pencil and write properly. My handwriting on the test was so poorly written, the spaces between large font letters and sentences made it seem like I was in grade school. But no, just a senior in college having a horrible episode.

When the test was over we had class, 2 more grueling hours of mathematics. By this time I could no longer speak, or sit up straight, or even really look up. I sat in my chair hunched over with my hoodie bunched up around my neck. I was an icicle. At some moments it felt like my breath was even cold. The class passed and I wiggled and waddled out of my seat, having to pause while my blood pressure caught up with the rest of my body. Walking back to my car I was so dizzy and I could hardly breathe. The massive change in temperature blasted me as I went from a lukewarm classroom to a freezing windy outside. As I managed into the car I just wanted to cry.

I was so out of it that even the emotional process of crying was too much for my brain to handle. So I drove home with this heavy feeling in my chest. I felt like a failure, a down right absolute failure. I cursed all of this medical garbage I was dealt and thought of all my other classmates who could care less that I looked like I was dying in my seat. I thought of how wonderful it must be to not be sick all the time, how amazing life must be when your wings haven’t been clipped.

At moments like these I wonder what my life would have been like it I never would have gotten sick. How much different would things have turned out? If I was given the ability to fly from day one would I be someone completely different? If I was given the ability to fly forever would I be like everyone else around me?

Advertisements

The Wound That Never Heals

This is a continuation of my journey with my father, read part one, part two, part three, or part four.
There are always consequences to your actions, even if you are just a child. I didn’t know what was going to happen next in regards to my father, in my brain I guessed taking the initial action would be enough. I would never ever have to face him again, I wouldn’t have to fear what was coming next. But I was young, and I was oh so naive.

The first round of court was focused on making my father out to be neglecting. Our first lawyer said the abuse claim wouldn’t hold up in court since there was no actual “abuse”. That was like a slap in the face, even our lawyer didn’t believe I was in danger. I was told what to say and how to say it, nothing which was actually true. Because I was a minor most of the talking was on my mother’s end since she held custody. But what doomed me was the fact I verbally agreed to do week on week off with my parents and both of them signed. Although it was not court officiated it was used against me that first round. We couldn’t even take the case past the lower judge since my lawyer royally screwed us over. So at the end of this I was forced to see my father as I was before and if I didn’t they would hold my mother in contempt of court.

But to my surprise my father didn’t want me. He of course didn’t say it in front of a judge because if he said that then the all mighty dollar would come back into play. By stating he didn’t want me he would be forced to pay child support. I couldn’t stand to be around him. And worst of all he was trying to make it seem like nothing happened, that I was overreacting to the entire situation. I would be lectured over and over. The family outing tripled. The car rides were excruciating. I had nowhere to hide. I was trapped and that was that. If I didn’t do everything he wanted I was psychologically messed with. The family friend would make comments about me to my face, then trade off to my father who would mock anything I do. The two openly discussed how horrible my mother was and that I was just like her. It was never ending. Then on top of that my father was pushing me further and further into the school nightmare. He would watch every homework assignment I had to complete. If I didn’t complete it to his likings well I better do it again, and again, and again. There was no asking for help. I did it right the first time or I was a failure. This was drilled into me until I broke down inside and knew I was a failure who would never be smart enough.

When I went to my mother for a second time I asked her if we could pursue the custody issue again but this time with a different lawyer. This time we won, we pursued the abuse issue and the courts dissolved the matter of me going there every week. My mother and him discussed on the phone how I would come over on weekends like before, and no fight was to be had. Those weekends were painful. Those weekends I shut off, I couldn’t stand to be in that house. I eventually stopped going because my father’s rage was clearly building again, and if he exploded in front of me again I just don’t know what he would have done. When my mother went to the court to have child support put back into place my father lost it. He was threatening my mother in front of two lawyers and a judge. Even his lawyer screamed at him to shut up but with no success. The last time I saw my father was that last day in court. He sat next to us waiting to be seen and tried to talk to me like it was any other day. He was unapologetic. He still thought I was making everything up. He truly believed my mother was the one doing all of this and that I was just following her lead. He had no idea what he had done and what he was doing.

I haven’t actually had any contact with my father since then, he had contacted me on three occasions and that was when he was about to go to jail for not paying child support. Every single time the bill was due he wouldn’t pay and when I turned 18 he just stopped paying all together even though in his marriage contract he signed to pay support until I was 23 no questions asked. He is currently 9k in arrears. For years after the last battle he would claim he was disabled and completely broke so that the court would pity him. He would show up with no shoes on and a walker, saying that his health is so horrible and he hasn’t been able to afford shoes in 20 years. He would fake a variety of ailments all to get his cost lowered. He would show up on purpose without any paperwork that the court ordered. The same man with a record collection worth over 100k. The same man with two cars. The same man that collects artwork from around the country. The same man that travels around the country for leisure. By the end of it all he was paying less than $200 a month for me. And even that was so much for him. For his own child with medical problems I was worth $200, and even then not even worth that much because he didn’t pay that money. The realization came to me years down the line that my father put on a charade just to get out of paying child support, but the game he was playing was my life and to him I was just a puppet.

He was vindictive. A year after contact was shut off he went into my college fund and withdrew 10k, the entire amount he had saved for me while I was living at his house. Because of the plan we had that 10k would be so taxed that you were lucky if you got back 1k. It was a slap in the face. Even without him in my life he would torment me. He called me on two occasions before court appearances saying he was on his “way out” and that we should “hug one last time”. His reason behind his so called death, a minor blood clot in his leg that was so minute not even the doctors would write him a note for the courts. He called again saying practically the same thing, just a different excuse.

And when I cut off my father I also cut off that entire side of the family. They knew how my father was, they saw what he would do and how he behaved. But I lost them too. A grandmother, an aunt, two uncle, and two cousins never to be heard from again. They could have reached out to me, and honestly I could have reached out to them but we didn’t.

The life with him as my father left me scarred, left me emotionally broken and in therapy for years but I regret none of it. What I did that day was something I needed to do on my own. It was the first time in my life I made a decision by myself for my own wellbeing. There are still days where I look back and question everything that happened, questioned if I did the right thing. But every time, even if it takes weeks to come to this conclusion, I realize that I did do the right thing. Someone who takes you for granted and abuses your trust, mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing and uses you as an object has no business being in your life. When I tell people my story I always get the “daddy issues” label and it boggles my mind. I think at the end of the day people need to dig deeper into who is in their lives and even if it their own flesh and blood realize that it is not okay to be abused.

It takes real courage and strength to exile an entire side of the family. It will haunt you forever. The emotions that come with doing this will cause all sorts of conflictions in your thoughts. My mind always creates scenarios where my father is a decent human being, where he isn’t the man that shaped who I was for the longest time. I have created my own defense mechanism where I just block out the painful barrenmemories. When I go to search for them they are no longer there. My mind becomes a wasteland and with that comes peace. I try my hardest to rid my mind completely of him, but what he did left battle scars that will never heal.

Innocence Removed

This is a continuation of my journey with my father, read part one or part two.

What happens when good intentions cause immense suffering and betrayal? What happens when you are protecting your loved ones and yet causing battle scars that last forever?

The warning signs were all around me, the red flags signaling at every turn. Who was my father really and what have I gotten myself into? At my mother’s house I saw actions that were the norm, drinking alcohol at nights, prescription medication for the variety of medical issues everyone suffered, and regular arguments between family members. When translated my father’s house was no different. But when critical information was withheld I didn’t realize what was happened was the beginning of something much worse.

To protect her daughter my mother never told me my father was an alcoholic and drug abuser. She never told me of his anger issues, never told me of marriage from hell, never told me of the abuse my father inflicted upon other women in his life. I was none the wiser to his actions. I never thought to tell my mother of any red flags because things seemed similar. When a child sees one parent doing an action if the other repeats then why would that cause alarm?

I was already uncomfortable staying at my fathers and knew if I said anything the consequences would spiral out of control. I was already losing control of myself and my life, I couldn’t stand to lose even more. Staying at my father’s house as a recently puberty ridden young woman was tough. My body was changing and the support given to me was just uncomfortable. At school I was being sexually harassed. I was a late bloomer in my physical appearance which caused a group of older boys at my school to harass me. They would follow me around, comment on my Wickedmosquito bites, make remarks that I must clearly be a boy, talk about actions similar to rape in regards to me, and call my home phone until we were forced to unplug the cord. Day in and day out the remarks were shouted at me, isolating me even further from my peers. The stares others would give me made me feel so alone. The backlash I projected alarmed even more of my peers. The harassment was making me the weird one. When I sought comfort with my father his responses were awkward. He would reply with “I always found small boobs on women attractive”, as if that was to comfort me. I confided in him before my mother, and with the awkward response I never told my mother in fear her response would be similar. It was not until the day they called my mother’s house phone literally all day right after the other that my mother went straight to their parents. She had no idea what was going on and when reported to the school it stopped. Legal action was threatened finally on my mother’s part before the sexual harassment completely stopped.

I stopped going to my father after this for any help on how I was feeling. The tension at his house was already growing. The former family friend with the beach house moved in and acted much as a second mother towards me. As the migraines progressed so did the harassment at his house. When I had a migraine one of them would burst in and make a comment. At his house my room did not have a locked door and he refused to put one on. There was no knocking, no simple voice spoken to make me aware someone was coming in. Just the burst and my door wide open. On many occasions I would be changing and there I was out in the open for either to see. On days I had a migraine I laid in bed hoping no one would come in, usually without success. Someone always felt the need to say suck it up or get up you’re faking it. Soon the comments turned to anger and I would be screamed at while in bed with a migraine. I hated it there. No one believed I was in pain, and no one believed anything I said.

The fact was that no one at that house was taking care of me. At first the transition was successful and privacy was respected, meals provided, a caring and comforting environment for me to grow up in. In a matter of just months that all left. Where there was once family dinners now laid empty tables and empty fridges. If I was hungry I would scrounge for anything in the house, soon I was strictly eating the dollar noodles. My father, preparing for cycling, would starve himself and with that starved me. In the fridge lay a pack of carrots and alcohol. If you were hungry you would snack on the carrots, which at the time I hated. When I brought this up to my mother she would give me money to go to the local store for food and continuously yell at my father for not cooking. He tried on and off, he tried to be there for me but the effort was fading. Grilled cheese became a regular item for me and when food was cooked that I didn’t like a fight would breakout. I would apparently throw my nose up and disrespect what was put in front of me. When I was excused from the table someone would follow me upstairs and yell at me. You might blame this on me being a picky child but what once was little a scolding were turning into fights that made you fear for what would happen next.

The red flags were surfacing at even a faster pace now. On multiple occasions my father would walk to the bathroom naked, which you must understand my room was right outside the bathroom and the hallway was not long. Every time he would act shocked that I was there, but how could you not know I was there with my door open? The comments were being made left and right about my weight. “You can’t eat that, it will go straight to your thighs”, “Once you turn 13 its all downhill, eat what you can now”, “Skipping a meal might be good for you”. The lack of approval was also fading. Nothing I ever did was good enough for my father. I excelled in school despite my constant absence. When I came to him and told him about my success I was told it was not good enough and to do better. If I had an A I should have an A+. If I wasn’t perfect I was failing. This created this gap in my brain that fostered and grew into something I still deal with today. This constant reminder that I am not good enough, between my appearance and my performance.

I was putting up more walls, creating more barriers between me and other people. The little friends I did have were fading. When I was allowed to go out I hung out with the bad crowd, I was a bystander to my own life. I was there with a group of people who accepted me coming from their own troubled home life. I was always asked by my teachers why I hung out with “those” kids, that I was better. I didn’t know I was better, in my mind I was worthless. Who cared if I was a straight A student hanging out with the middle school drug addicts, at least they seemed to care about me. When high school rolled around most of the people I hung out with went to the tech school or they were forced into private schooling leaving me friendless. The friends that did transition to high school with me ended up abandoning me for being weird. Even the troubled kids thought I below them.

Eventually I was accepted into the nobody crowd, those kids that didn’t fit into any sort of clique. Even though I was accepted it didn’t mean I would be welcomed. I was still an outsider even amongst them.

As middle school came to a close and my high school journey began a new phase in my life started. But even by now the once innocence I had was torn away and replaced with a growing fear and regret for past choices.

Strangers To Enemies

This is a continuation of my journey with my father, read part one here.

By the time I was entering middle school and diagnosed with migraines officially the home life started to get a bit rocky. The summer of 6th grade everything changed. I was with my father for an extended amount of time and he decided to go down the Jersey shore with me. A family friend, sometimes girlfriend, sometimes not had a bungalow down the shore. It was quaint and just a few blocks from the beach. I loved going down there to roam the town on my own, even though I was only 11 I was given the freedom to do as I please. Times down the shore were exciting with my father, he would often just give me quarters to go to the arcade by myself or plan exciting day trips as a group. I hardly knew my father even at this age, all he was to me was someone who wanted to have fun. The times we spent together were not spent in conversation but in activities. I had no obligation to talk to my father if all he wanted was my company. If he wasn’t talking to me then of course I wasn’t striking up a conversation. I was a shy child around strangers and my father was practically a stranger.

I remember on one of the last days at the beach my father was going to go out on a bike ride. At the time he was a competitive bicyclist, and a pretty good one at that. I remember having these butterflies in my stomach before he left. I even went to him and told him to stay home and not go out on the ride. He went anyways. Hours upon hours go by and we get a call from the hospital. My father had crashed and was at the local emergency ward. I remember arriving and being escorted back to the room where I saw him lying in excruciating pain on the stretcher. Apparently as he was riding he pulled off into an empty lot but didn’t see the lip from the road on to the pavement. He came crashing down smashing his entire pelvis. The hospital quickly figured out the shattered pelvis but took hours until they figured out the broken collar bone. My father was smashed into pieces and was helpless.

It was an odd summer. I was over my father’s house often because I felt some obligation to take care of him. He needed help moving and couldn’t really use his legs. Plus I wasn’t in school so what else would I do? It was also not far from my fathers rented house to my mother’s house, only about 10 minutes away. By the time summer was coming to a close my mother and I were not getting along, at the time I didn’t realize it was probably because I was over my father’s house far more than she wanted. My father seeing an opportunity decided to bribe me. For being such a good daughter over the summer he was going to buy me a new desktop and my very own laptop! The catch was that I had to agree to stay every other week at his house. I was thrilled! Fun time dad every other week?! I mean how could I pass that up! Especially since I was having a bad time at my mothers.

Instead of going to the courts to get it officially changed the group decided on just a written agreement. The main factor was that no child support would be paid to my mother since I would be half and half now. But my father had to start putting away savings for my college. It seemed fine to me, I was just happy to have all this new technology. So for the start of my 7th grade I was split between the houses. Things for fine for a while until my migraines started to come back in force. When I had a migraine at my mother’s I was cared for. When I had a migraine at my fathers I was being dramatic and should suck it up.

In 7th grade I also officially became a woman, which brought a whole new fun set of issues to deal with. The major issue, menstrual migraines. The nastiest, most brutal pain I could even imagine. And every month like clockwork I would get them. The worst part was the neurologist providing treatment could no longer help me. I ended up in the ER on multiple occasions just to get a cocktail of Toradol, Benadryl, and Zofran. Whatever the case this seemed to always rid me of my unbearable migraines.

I was always miserable whenever that time came when I was at my fathers. I was scared what would happen. There would be no way he would take me to the hospital if something were to happen. Soon my neurologist recommended that I see a gynecologist and be put on birth control. This way I could at least go 3 months without a hospital visit. For those who don’t know the pill form of contraception can be taken consecutively for 3 months then a week off, and it is not just used for birth control. In fact the pill can be used to help alleviate a variety of medical issues. In my case medical migraines. After this I started planning tTrappedhat time around the weeks I was with my mother. I couldn’t bare the thought of having to be at my fathers while that was happening. Soon things were starting to look in my father’s mind that I was only sick at my mothers. He started issues with my mother, threatening a custody battle until he decided that I clearly need therapy. So at 12 years old I was dragged to a therapist to work out my problems. I was told I was going to build a better relationship with my father, little did I know there was another agenda.

I was regretting my choice to change my living situation only a few months in and I knew if I changed my mind now it would only cause more drama. Therapy was practically a disaster, it was awkward and beyond uncomfortable when my father was brought in. I didn’t truly understand why I was there. I thought I was doing something wrong, that my actions at some point had led me into this situation. Therapy sessions ended with awkward hand offs from mother to father and vice versa. I was feeling so alienated between the home life and the medical situation. I felt like no one could understand what was happening to me.

As life around me was spiraling out of control so did my appearance. I wore nothing but black, talked to no one, and confided in only a single friend. Some say it was just a phase, that every child goes through their phases. But what was a phase and what was a desperate cry for help?