I’m Not Crazy – Of Course I’m Not Exactly Normal Either.
I’m not crazy. I have to remind myself of that every so often because there were so many times growing up that I thought I was.
When I think back on my childhood and what I’ve experienced? I’m sometimes surprised I’m not crazy. Now granted, I’m not exactly normal either.
I grew up hearing voices and seeing spirits. If that wasn’t enough, I also grew up being continually bullied throughout school.
My family was considered lower-middle class. Mom wasn’t able to buy us new clothes, so we were always getting clothes from older cousins. I was already a little weird, and having to wear clothes about 10 to 20 years outdated?. This didn’t exactly endear me to my classmates.
Add that I was also extremely shy and introverted? I might as well have painted a red target on my back for bullies.
Mom, in her infinite wisdom, told me that I had to be doing something wrong for me to be getting beat up all the time.
My response was to stop talking and retreat more into my own private world. The voices became my only friends, which really didn’t help me with my interpersonal skills or the bullying.
One of the guidance counselors had been trying to bring me out of my inner world to connect with her. To communicate what I was experiencing. I had tried that with my parents and other school officials and it hadn’t worked.
Talking didn’t work. To me, it was a waste of time and energy. This counselor kept trying though. One day, I was sitting in a chair waiting for her to ask her questions. Questions, I knew she’d never get answered either. Then, she said something out of the blue.
“I admire you.” I looked up in surprise. “Yes, I admire you. You get bullied almost every day, but you keep coming to school. You haven’t been broken. You possess a strong spirit. So, I admire you.”
Tears filled my eyes. I honestly believe that was the nicest thing anyone, including my parents, had ever said to me. It was the first time in god knows when I felt seen.
I felt I had spent most of my life in the shadows. I cooked breakfast and dinner for my family. I did the laundry, cleaned the house and was the parent to my siblings.
My stepfather was a strict disciplinarian who believed kids should be seen not heard. Women did the housework and the boys took out the trash.
He even lived a strict life. He got up the same time every morning, had the same breakfast: three over easy eggs, four slices of bacon, two slices of toast and coffee.
Same lunch. Two meat sandwiches, a banana, and a bag of chips. Came home the same time. Watched TV, had a few beers, and went to bed around 8pm. Like clockwork.
Until one day I decided I’d had enough.
He came home one day while I was watching a show on TV and he changed the channel. I, of course, made the usual kid noises about it.
He blew up “If you don’t like it, then go to your room!”
I don’t know what came over me. “Fine, I will!” I got up to go to my room.
He took his belt off which, by the way, is leather. He started to hit me with it but I refused to cry.
He continued hitting me as I walked from the living room, through the hallway, and up the stairs until I was out of belt range.
I had welts from below my knees to just below my back.
He came up later that evening, I thought to apologize. Nope!
It was my fault. If I had cried he would have stopped beating me. I just love it.
I met people over the years that believe that nonsense. My behavior caused my abuse. I wondered how many other people believed that. That people cause their own abuse.
Unfortunately, way too many people.
I met my future ex-husband in Scotland, while we were both stationed there. I was in the Navy, he was in the Marines.
The abuse was subtle at first. Little things. I wasn’t allowed to hang out with friends. I wasn’t allowed to do things without him. He told me I was a bad parent, that I was ignoring my sons, etc.
I wanted to re-enlist for a third term but Jim threatened to take the boys and leave me. He said that my wanting to go to Diego Garcia which, at that time was an unaccompanied tour, was abandoning my family. Forget the bonus I would be getting, or the promotion, or even my choice of duty stations afterward.
That should have been my first clue – a hint of what was to come.
Jim got worse over the years. He started drinking almost every day (and he was not a nice drunk). The insults were almost daily. He danced around the edge of violence so well that I didn’t know what would set him off.
Yet, it was my fault.
One night, Jim went to see his mistress. Yes, his mistress, but he got arrested for a DUI in the city she lived in.
He had the audacity to call me to bail him out. I hung up on him. The next five hours, friends and family were calling me, because he called them whining how I wouldn’t bail him out of jail.
Every last one of them didn’t care that he was arrested going to see another woman. I was the bad wife. The mean person, because I was letting him rot in jail.
I told every last one of them, including the ones I thought were my friends to “stuff it”. If they wanted Jim out of jail, then they could go bail him out.
Jim was all begging and sweet on the phone but when he finally got home? He was back to being abusive.
I would probably still be with him if he hadn’t left me for another woman. I was with him for 21 years.
Why? Because I thought I was crazy.
I believed my parents, I believed the bullies. I believed the very people who were supposedly my friends. It was all my fault. It was my actions, my behavior that caused me to get beat up after school.
It was my fault Jim was abusive. If only I had been a good wife, or a good mother, or whatever other asinine reason he needed to believe in to justify his abuse, things would have been different.
You see, that’s what it is. People like that don’t want to accept responsibility for their abusive behavior. They have to believe it is the abused person’s fault in order to live with themselves.
My youngest son, Jimmy lived with Jim briefly in Florida. Jimmy told me that Jim, to this day, twenty years later does not know why I divorced him. I mean seriously?
Abusive people try to make the abused person crazy with guilt. I know because they tried to make me crazy, but I know now … I am not crazy.
I never was.