Photo 6 – How am I not dead?

At the end of 2013, I began a photographic story showing the state of the home I lived in with my father. I received many responses to these pictures. Mostly reactions of horror from people I know, who never really knew the extent of the conditions we lived in. They had never been witness to it. My father was very clever at disguising certain parts of the house and his dangerous eccentricities and careless nature were always well hidden. Friends and family were only allowed in the showy and presentable parts of the house. I however, saw the truth every day.

The kitchen was one of the worse rooms. It also happened to be the largest room in the house much to my father’s happiness (he saw it as his domain). Guests who visited always commented on how big it was; he loved that. But what if they had looked closer? Would they have seen the dirty and crumb filled toaster from,

(See My filthy life – Photo 3)

would they have stepped into our adjoining garage and discovered his hoarding obsession?

(See My father the hoarder – Photo 2)

Would they have walked around and seen the state of the cooker? A piece of kitchen equipment that I used every day living at home with my father. An appliance that I could not do without. An essential aid to making my life as normal as possible, something that would bring me sustenance and provide me with a basic human right. But what if that appliance was spoiled, unhygienic, unsanitary and rank? What if you were forced to use a machine that hadn’t been cleaned for ten years? It was another task my father had placed in my list of chores to do. A list that went up to eighty four. A mental list that I never lost count of and never completed. My father refused to help in any way. It was not his job. It was MY fault it got into that state and MY responsibility to resolve the tainted problem. Except it was too much for me. He gained so much enjoyment watching me on my hands and knees scrubbing his precious kitchen. I could not stand the humiliation and fearing the examination of my work after.

Why did I ever let myself live like this?

I mean, how am I not dead?

Image

Dictionary.com

un·san·i·tar·y

[uhn-san-i-ter-ee]  Show IPA

adjective

not sanitary; unhealthy or unhealthful; tending to harbor or spreaddisease: unsanitary living conditions.
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The cost of kindness.

I sometimes forget all the things that are free in this world. Kindness is one of them. After being sent a link on Facebook, (35 pictures to prove there is some good in this world) it made me think about how easy it is to take such a basic emotion for granted.

When living with my abuser, kindness was almost forbidden – certainly on his part and especially towards me. His exterior often portrayed a kind and generous man but behind closed doors was a different matter. I ached for an ounce of kindness from him. I wanted him to be gentle and thoughtful with me, to be considerate of my feelings and character. I longed for him to empathise with me and have compassion. These are characteristics that he would have certainly classed himself as having as he did not see himself as ever being without these traits. Many would agree that my father was a thoughtful man but they only saw what he wanted them to.

I will never forget this memory.

One summer evening after a shopping trip, my father was driving us home. It had been a bad visit to the supermarket and we had spent the majority of the journey arguing in the car as we drove back. It was a stupid and dangerous thing to partake in. Arguing while he was driving was my worst place to fight as I never could trust what kind of risks he would take. He was happy to risk our lives and leave me fearing for my life. I cannot remember the subject of our row only that he was attempting to drill in his point. It wasn’t so much of a two way argument; more of a barrage of anger from his end. I had done the unthinkable and spoken back to him. His questions were NOT to be answered. Silly me for forgetting.

I began to feel claustrophobic and tried to avert my eyes from his powerful gaze. Even as he drove he was still finding a way to bury his burning glare into my soul. As my eyes darted from window to window, something caught a hold of my attention. The car slowly pulled up to a bit of traffic as I focussed in on a man lying face down on the ground at a bus stop ahead of us. The day was fading into night and the sunlight had now disappeared into the distance. My father was still continuing his tirade at me but by now, my concentration was fully placed on the stranger.

As we slowly approached the man, I dared to interrupt my father. I could feel his shock and momentary build up of rage. Once again, I interrupted his flow and as I was too frightened to speak in fear of him screaming, I just pointed. I pointed to the lonely man lying face down on the floor.

“Ignore it,” my abuser muttered as he keep his eyes ahead of him.

His comment immediately broke my gaze.

“What?”

“Ignore. It.” He repeated defiantly.

I couldn’t ignore it. I couldn’t fathom his own ignorance. I was horrified.

“There’s a man over there. Pull over.”

“Did you not hear me the first time Babitago?! IGNORE IT!” He shouted violently and slammed his hands on the wheel.

I lost it.

I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I was not that kind of a person.

“He could be dead!” I screamed. “Pull over! We need to call an ambulance!”

“You are a insolent moron! Evil! Disgusting! What is wrong with you? You have no respect for me!”

“This isn’t about you!”

My final comment was enough for my father to release his fury. He let out an almighty roar and I practically jumped out of my seat. The traffic had subsided and he gradually began to pick up speed. I had unleashed his inner monster and it was not about to go into hiding. I turned to see the stranger still on the ground. His lifeless body waited to be found yet no one stopped to help. I wanted to show some kindness, to reach out, to help in some way but the demon beside me was preventing it. He had total control and even when we returned home he made it very clear that I was not to follow through with my plans. Even suggesting anonymously ringing for an ambulance was useless. He wanted nothing to do with it. To him, it was a problem and someone else’s for that matter. That man could have been dying and it did not matter.

I was subjected to an hours worth of abuse and insult when we were hidden behind closed doors. My father reprimanded my concern instead of praising my worry.

I was ashamed to be his daughter.

I never knew what happened to that man.

She can give it but she cannot take it.

I’m not really a fan of those who hand out criticism freely but cannot accept it when it is directed at them. My mother and I have just been in that situation. I am writing this straight after our heated talk. She is currently upstairs having a tantrum (or at least that’s what it sounds like). She is banging doors and generally stomping around. Not really the expected behaviour of a seventy odd year old woman. She is patently angry yet her anger is not justified.

My mother is very critical; of her herself occasionally but mostly of others. She is a fault finder and my husband and I are usually on her list. I am mostly used to it as this is not something new. I do not like the constant fault finding in my husband however. Soon, he will be unable to put a foot right. I know it’s getting him down. He is already afraid of failure and this is hardly helping.

This morning was not targeted at my husband. My mother woke up late with leg pains. For the last few weeks she has been suffering with them and after a day of long walking, her pains worsened over night. I had already been up for a couple of hours before her when she came downstairs. No “Hello” or “Good morning”, only chat about her disrupted night. I made her a tea and continued about my business. As David and I have plans to head into Central London today, I began getting ready at ten. After doing my make up, I headed upstairs to collect my phone and saw my mum sitting on her bead. She looked tired and weary so I went and gave her a hug.

I showed her my eye make up and asked if she liked it. She said that it was nice. As I left the room my mother spoke in a mix of English and Bengali and said,

“Why don’t you wear another pair of trousers? You’ve worn those yesterday. You got so many others that are nicer”.

This may not seem like an odd thing for a mother to say to her daughter but when her daughter suffers from BDD, it is not the most appropriate thing to utter. There was a similar incident yesterday morning where my mother thought it would be okay to criticise my weight and say that I needed to cut out fat in my diet. She was complaining about her own weight before she started to attack mine. I was still in bed as she ranted on. It immediately left me distraught. Every day I am aware of the weight that I have gained these last few months. The portion size at home has not helped as my mother eats very large portions of food. Cooking for her has become difficult as I tend to have to cook much more than I normally would. Temptation is always there and after a long and stressful day at work, it is enticing to have those extra five roast potatoes.

I made David explain to her that I suffered from BDD, that it is an illness and the slightest comment can set it off. She was incredibly understanding yesterday and apologised for her comment. Today was a different story. I had hoped that what my husband told her would resonate in her mind but it was almost like what she heard yesterday never happened. I got upset as soon as she criticised my clothes today. I tried to stay calm but as soon as I feel uncomfortable in what I am wearing I cannot shake the feeling off. I become very aware of what I look like and become defensive. My mother gets defensive all the time but cannot accept it when anyone else does. I tried to explain what she said had hurt me. She proceeded to stand by her comments. To her, it’s trivial. To me, it destroys my confidence. Why does she need to find fault in me? The same thing happened two weeks ago and she ruined my day out. She always does it as I’m about to leave the house.

I went a whole twenty four hours without taking my inhaler yesterday, I was so happy. This morning scuppered any chance of that lasting as after I got upset my mother fully lost her temper and launched into a rage. I ran downstairs struggling to breathe. I sat on the sofa as my husband looked on and covered my ears, quietly reassuring myself as her screams from upstairs echoed above me. When eventually her outburst had finished, I removed my hands – my chest was tight and a rash had appeared on my face. I fought hard to keep the tears back. She is just too stubborn to see past it all. She has turned the whole thing back on herself and is now playing the victim when all I needed was a bit of reassurance. Never in my whole life have I witnessed my mother shout and scream at my sister in the way she does with me. Why does the woman who bans her from seeing her grandchildren get more respect than the daughter that stands by her? Tell me?

Why do I still need to explain and describe to my family about who I actually am? For my entire adult life I have justified having emotions. They will not let me have a day off. To them I am to be happy and positive at all times. I am to be there for them and listen to their needs yet my needs are persistently neglected. I give up. I am too tired of it.

I am still a little tight now.

But writing this has helped.

I should be on the tube right now heading into London.

Instead I feel like shit.

Friday 4th February 2005.

Since my father died, I have an abundance of old notes made about his incessant nitpicking and abuse. On February the 4th 2005, my father picked an argument with me over the smallest thing. The note highlights how trapped I was in his company, the fear that encroached me and the endless demands he made.

It reads,

He has guests coming in the evening. His routine of obsessive cleaning is taking place. I’ve locked myself in my bedroom. I’m too scared to come out and be forced to be a part of his army drills. I can hear him coughing loudly downstairs. What’s wrong? Something’s wrong.

(Written later)

I went downstairs, he called me there. He was waiting. There was a mark on the floor. My make up. He found it while he was hoovering. He saw it a while ago but it’s not his job to clean it. It’s mine. He needs to prove a point. I made the mess. That one little mark on the floor. A quick wipe is all it needs but I have to do it. Me. He told me to mop it up today before his friends come. I’m fed up. I want to retreat back to safer ground – my bedroom. I went upstairs mumbling something under my breath. He heard.

“What??” he shouted.

“Nothing” I replied.

He bounded up the stairs behind me. I quickened my pace.

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?”

I shut my bedroom door. I was safe again, “Nothing!” I shouted back.

“If you are nasty then I will be nasty. If you are good then I will be good”.

I’m 23 in under a month. What kind of a father days that? He has never treated me like a daughter, never. He never lets me feel anything, I’m not allowed emotion. I have to be a robot at all times. I cannot cry, that’s wrong. I cannot get angry, that’s wrong too. I can’t even act like a child sometimes. I’m not allowed ‘bad moments’. I have to be perfect. I have no free will. He keeps using money as a threat. If he ever gives me anything he has accounts for how much, when and where. I can’t breathe! Let me breathe.

This was how my father behaved nine years ago. Yet right up until his death he never changed. He had the same attitude towards me till the very end. He held all the power. Not any more.

You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Physical abuse – a new insight.

I have always said that my father did not physically abuse me. However, after delving further into the term “physical abuse” and all that it stands for, I am shocked to see that my claim is not true. He was physically abusive. I just don’t have any visible scars. In my quest to research the different aspects and consequences of abuse, I have fallen on new information. I have always believed that physical abuse was to be violent. The person on the receiving end would have scars and visuals to prove their abuse.

Research has led me to realise that there are many other appearances of this kind of abuse. My abuser was extremely threatening. If he did not get his way or I was disobedient, his threatening behaviour would follow. His deep, bellowing voice would resonate through the house or in public and the way in which he ordered me closer and breathed down my neck, talking at me through gritted teeth, all added to his aggressive demeanour. His physical stance and how he towered over me, making sure he had all the power as I cowered into the shadows. The way he would lure me into believing I was safe, even making a joke or choosing a lighter topic of conversation first before launching into his fit of rage and sudden burst of apocalyptic anger. The constant threats of harm against me that he made, telling me that I needed a punch – that it would “sort” me out or to go and kill myself to make his life easier. I never thought of it as physical abuse at the time but telling your own child to commit suicide must be classed as that. Oh and it’s abhorrent too.

His reckless driving and aggressive behaviour in the car all adds up to physical abuse. He put my life at risk every day I spent in that car with him. Every day I anticipated his anger and waited for another explosion. He deliberately chose the car as a place to shout and rant at me as I (in his words) had “no escape”. I wanted to release my seatbelt and fling myself out onto the open road many a time. The thought seemed better than enduring his continuous barrage of contempt.

A key part of physical abuse that I never recognised was how my abuser prevented me from seeking medical help or care. If I needed a doctor, he had to know the reasons why. When I refused, he exploded. The moment that stands out the most is the day of my massive Asthma attack in 2009* where my father refused point blank to call an Ambulance in the night for me, implying that I was seeking attention and being dramatic. The other option was that he drive me to a hospital at 1.am. He refused that too. He never felt worry for me, or fear for my life.

The way he would sharply raise his hand to my face holding it suspended, mid air, inches from my skin – surely that was physical? Yes, he never released it and let it slap my across my cheek but how can what he was doing be classified as anything else?

My father was an abusive man.

In every way.

* See post Notes.

Compassion Can Move Mountains

I never realised that my last post “The Lady on the Train” would resonate with so many others. It saddens me that so many people have also had to suffer alone and have been rejected and ignored in their moments of despair. Picking up The Pieces is a wonderful blog about the heart wrenching subject of abuse. The blog author tells her own story and talks of a similar situation that happened to her. It is important, that in this blogging community, that we share and enjoy but most of all support one another.
Ros

Picking Up the Pieces

Last night, I read a blog post by a woman in the UK.  I have followed her for a while, and although I have not been the best lately (out of being busy) at commenting, I had to stop what I was doing and re-read the post.  More than once.  Not only did I exert the energy to click the like button (which really should be a “love” button), I offered up a comment.  However, as I have battled the craziness on and off in my own head since Saturday (if you really need evidence, I sacrificed my entire lunch today to document it), this post kept crawling back into my mind.  It brought me to tears the first time I read it, because I identified with both the stranger and the person central to this story.

I want you to think back to a time when you in public…

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