Chapter 2. Part 1 – America and Late Teenage Years.

To be brief and before I post this, I need you to understand that I am posting something that only my mother and husband know about. I want to do this to show him for what he was. His early signs of emotional abuse and emotional incest, need to be exposed. He spent the majority of my teenage years exposing and humiliating me as this chapter will show you all. To reveal the entire truth about that holiday is a massive step for me as I am still hiding a lot of painful moments we shared together, torment that he flung on me and boundaries that he broke. I hope one day, I will not fear the judgement.

Part 1:

The first summer arrived so quickly. I had just finished my GCSE exams and my father had booked a long holiday in the U.S. I had been once before with my sister and that was a very revealing trip for her. She saw him in his true light. However, he spent the whole of the last holiday showering me with attention. I could not wait to return. I was desperate to get away. Things had been left on bad terms with my mother and we barely had a relationship. This felt like a much deserved break.

The memory of the America trip is a painful one. Still to this day I find it difficult to talk about, having only shared the hardest part with my mother in recent years. It was the first time the real character of my father shone clearly. After building up an almost God-like image of him throughout my childhood I was about to have the biggest revelation.

The holiday started out fine. We stayed with relatives on the West Coast then set off on a road trip across California. Money was an important part of his life. Although for years he showered me with gifts, he would often scrimp and save in other ways. Frequently with food as he hated being ripped off. If anything was expensive it was “over-priced” and we would only ever visit restaurants that had clear offers displayed.  However, he was very concerned about external appearance. He liked to look affluent. This was apparent by his choice of car. A white Cadillac with a red leather interior hardly gave off the image of a poverty stricken man. He dressed very smartly for someone on a relaxing holiday and spent plenty of money buying clothes in well known American stores. To the outside world he must’ve appeared so generous and well turned-out. However a new and different side of him was slowly unravelling in front of my eyes.

He lost his temper very quickly and became easily provoked. If someone was tail-gating him or driving slowly on the freeway he would steadily get agitated. He regularly vented his frustration in the car, telling me how un-cultured these people were or that they must be women drivers.  Often he’d swear through gritted teeth, it sent shivers down my spine as his face changed to a threatening appearance (it would be a familiar expression I’d relive over the following twelve years).

It wasn’t only strangers that annoyed him, eventually after a week of the trip I became a giant nuisance too. I had never really been bullied before. I was unaware what bullying felt like so didn’t notice what was happening to me at the time. He began nitpicking about things I said and did. He constantly corrected my grammar and if I dropped a‘t’ off the end of a word he’d cut me off mid-sentence and force me to pronounce it correctly. The way I walked was an issue. If I was too slow he’d tell me to stop lagging behind but if I bounced ahead, he’d criticise me for not waiting as he couldn’t keep up.

Gradually I became aware that it was difficult to put a foot right. This resulted in me being extremely cautious and worried of disappointing him or getting an earful about my “juvenile” behaviour.

Day to day activities was a chore. He had changed personality overnight. He continued to be cowardly, refusing to ask for anything himself, it was my job as usual. If we were out for dinner and he needed the bathroom, he would insist that I should ask the waitress where the toilets were, more specifically the male toilets. If I mentioned that it was an odd thing to do, he would instantly accuse me of being a selfish daughter not wanting to look after her elderly father (at the time he was 59, hardly elderly). He most certainly wouldn’t approach another woman to ask that kind of question. I quickly learnt there was no reasoning with him as when I tried to, I was bombarded with demeaning names.

If we needed directions he made me roll down my window and talk to a passing stranger or get out and run to the nearest shop to ask. He didn’t worry about my safety in these circumstances (I was only sixteen at the time), just as long as he wasn’t coming across as needy or weak.

I felt humiliated for the entire trip on the road. The worst thing (and the most difficult to talk about) is the memory I only recently revealed to my mother.

We often stayed in nice hotels in the cities but when travelling through smaller towns we resided in motels each night. Not wanting to waste money, my father would only book one room. The first time this occurred was our first night away. I was horrified. I was a sixteen year old girl; I knew how inappropriate this was. Praying that he’d have thought this through and asked for twin beds I was mortified to find instead a large double. I didn’t question him. (Although I now wish I had). He thought nothing wrong in his decision. He wanted to keep his costs down. His argument would’ve been clear. Why would I need another room if we were only staying one night? And more importantly, why would I want to waste so much money for no reason? So every night for the next two weeks, we shared a bed.

I remember each night running into the bathroom to get changed, panicking at the thought of seeing him undress in front of me which he had done previously without a care. I never slept in pyjamas, only a long t-shirt. I berated myself for not planning properly, for not having trousers to wear. Tugging my shirt down, I would quickly leap into the bed. My father undressed in plain view of me, stripping down to his boxers and then putting on pyjama pants and a vest. Why did he not go into the bathroom after me? We had never been this open as a family; everyone seemed to enjoy their privacy. Except him. Thankfully, the motels beds in America were huge so I pushed myself as far to the edge as possible. I barely slept the entire holiday.

One morning, towards the end of the road trip we stayed in a small motel in Fresno. As we checked out I caught the hotels clerk’s eye. He was staring at me, confused. He asked my father our room number and if he had the key. My father handed it back to which the clerk inquired,

“Was it just one room?”

I bolted out of that reception and headed straight to the car park, humiliated and ashamed that someone else knew how wrong it all was.

My father had no idea of how other people perceive things and if I dared to suggest the obvious, he would call me ‘evil’, ‘disgusting’ or ‘perverted’. Me, perverted?!

Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

I have to be honest, I lack knowledge in this subject and would never have classed myself as suffering from it. Well, not until recently. Within the last two years, due a significant weight gain (related to stress), I have been feeling extremely low about the way I look, anxious even. Walking past a mirror or reflective surface only panics me. It instantly disgusts me.

I am regularly told “it’s all in your head” or scolded for being self-absorbed. Others compliment me, attempting to reassure my fault-finding. I’ve had people drop casual comments that I should start dieting then I might feel better. In actuality that makes me feel a thousand times worse when all I do is diet then binge and diet then binge. Any sign of stress sends me into this destructive path.

I have read other bloggers talk about BDD but would never admit that I too suffer from many of the symptoms. I am scared that friends, family and acquaintances will judge me; that they will think I am attention seeking or fishing for compliments. It’s not that I need to hear I’m beautiful, I just cannot stand the way I look. When I see myself in the mirror I feel sick. I see a stranger staring back at me.

In the explanation for BDD on the NHS website, they say that sufferers regularly find fault in their bodies especially the facial area. I hate my face. I hate it. I think it’s vile. I hate my unsymmetrical face. I hate my twisted nose, my teeth, my double chin. I feel disgusting every day. That’s not to say that I love everything else about myself – I don’t.

I love fashion. I try to make it work but the confident days are ruined when I accidentally see my reflection in a shop window. What seemed like a good choice in the morning becomes a bad decision; one that I berate myself for making for the rest of the day. A decision that leaves me feeling self conscious and extremely aware of how awful I look.

I do not dare say this out loud and am currently too frightened to seek professional help. I feel as though I may be laughed at. After all, people see me as I want them to see me: confident and self-assured.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

4 spiteful girls – Part 3 Cont.

I was nervous about the holiday from the day we booked it.

The longevity of our friendship was already questionable and the thought of travelling to an unknown place for two weeks did not leave me feeling confident. Especially as I would be surrounded with 5 other girls, ones I wasn’t even sure about. N was positive, when we were alone she would know what to say to comfort or reassure me. I thought her words were genuine, why would I have any reason to think she was leading me into an emotional trap.

Corfu wasn’t exactly meant to be a sight-seeing holiday unless you translate that as a chance to ogle some attractive, sun-kissed men. Sunbathing and clubbing was the highest things on our priority list.

The trip started well and we settled into our hotel.

After one wild night four days into the holiday which resulted in most of us jumping into a pool at midnight (fully clothed), things began to change. It was clearly a bad idea to go swimming at night as over the next couple of days I began to feel quite ill. My asthma wasn’t as bad back then so my chest wasn’t tight but I had a terrible sore throat and fever.

Unsure of how to see a doctor in an unknown country, I looked to N for help.

She fobbed me off telling me I was over-reacting. She could see how unwell I was but there was no worry or concern on her part. It surprised me, I knew if it was the other way around, sunbathing would drop to the bottom of my list and my friend’s health would come first.

However, it was immediately clear that I was not one of her priorities.

The others suddenly became distant with me, only talking to me if N also did. I had no idea what was happening. My throat was burning for days before a painful cough also started. Mid-sleep, one night, I woke up coughing. I was sharing a room with N and her friend D. She was a confrontational, aggressive girl who knew how to turn on the sweetness when she needed to. I was always wary of her and constantly on my guard in her presence. My coughing became violent and I thought I was going to pass out.

“Will you just SHUT THE FUCK UP!!” screamed from the bed across from me.

I suddenly stopped, practically holding my breath out of fear to D’s anger.

N did nothing although it was clear she was also awake. There was nowhere to go and my coughs needed to be released so I slept outside by the pool taking my blankets with me. Luckily, it was a warm night.

After that, nothing was the same again. I was completely ignored for the rest of the holiday. I did not eat with them, relax with them. I was so ill I could barely leave my bed. They continued to go out clubbing while I stayed at the hotel taking painkillers to help the fever. It was devastating.

On a lonely night while I was chatting to the friendly family who ran the hotel, I noticed a man go up to my hotel door. I was puzzled, I had never seen him before. Men weren’t allowed to be brought back so the hotelier quizzed me on what he was doing. Together, we questioned the man. He replied,

“Is Ros in?”

“Why?” I asked suspiciously.

“Her friends told me to come and see her” he smiled.

See me for what?

I looked at the young guy, he was attractive and looked very eager to meet Ros. The smile on his lips gave it away. He’d come here for sex. They had sent him here for that. Did they guarantee it? If I had been in my room and opened the door to him would he have barged in and forced it on me. The hotelier shooed the man out. I was left horrified. I was uncertain of how involved N was in this decision making but she must’ve known. How nasty and vile were these girls?

I never confronted N or mentioned anything to them about my discovery. Watching their smug and satisfied faces the next day were enough to confirm their true ugliness. I did go out on one night with them later in the week after hearing them complaining about how pathetic I was moaning about being ill when the rest of them weren’t feeling good either. I went out to shut them up although I wish I hadn’t bothered as it was a pointless night where they continued to ignore me or push me onto sleazy guys. I remained in my room for the rest of the holiday.

N’s friend D went home from the holiday early. There was no explanation to me, an impression was given though – she was sick of my company. It was all so dramatic and allowed. N did not want to upset these people. I couldn’t believe her loyalty to me had vanished. She was very upset that D was refusing to stay and instantly blamed me.

I was just aching to get home. I couldn’t have wished away those last days any quicker.

As we waited for our Dads to pick us up from the airport, N spoke to me for the first time in twelve days. She talked to me in a monotone voice and reminded me how my father needed to drop two of the girls home.

I hadn’t made eye contact with her but at that moment I did.

Here was a girl who had turned her back on me and completely betrayed my trust. She had bullied me along with her ruthless friends for two weeks and she still expected me to do them a favour.

I refused.

I would not degrade myself any further.

On the edge of my tears exploding, I left quickly as my father arrived.

I did not hear from N for several days. I attempted to make contact but she refused to answer my calls. With some hope, I assumed things might be different away from the poisonous girls but she too was poisonous herself.

Five days later, at my mum’s house, I received a text message four pages long.

N had mirrored what H did and wrote a list of insults and critiques about my personality. Worst of all, she too accused me of “blaming” my father for my problems. She insinuated I had lied about him all these years and the abuse was a deception. That hurt the most. How many people plan on disputing it? Why can’t they believe it can happen to someone they know? She of all people, with the stress of her own family, should have been supportive. I sat on my mum’s bed in horror. I was expecting an apology or at least an explanation and instead I was faced with an abusive message. My mother sat with me in disbelief, angry at this obnoxious, aggressive text and upset that she had been fooled by this apparently innocent woman. We both had.

I was distraught.

My mother attempted to calm me, saying that N was a complete coward, egotistical and desperate for attention from her horrible friends.

But I had always hoped that our friendship could rise above everything. It was not the N I had ever known. It was hurtful and cutting. But my mother was right. N was a coward. She could have said all this on the holiday and I could’ve defended myself.

But she was weak and chose to put me in a defenceless position. This way it would be her say only.

The end of her text message summed N up perfectly.

“I know you will show this message to everyone so I just want to wish you good luck in your future”.

How self-absorbed could she get! Did she think that it would redeem her from the vile list of insults? It actually made us laugh.

This summer will be ten years since that holiday and I am so thankful that N is in the past. She was an insecure, lonely, attention-seeking princess with no values or pride and I’m sure these last ten years have only extended that side of her personality. I know she has an abundance of friends and good for her! They all see what she wants them to see.

I am very lucky to have escaped that narcissist.

4 spiteful girls – Part 1.

I can’t use names obviously, but their initials will do. I want to tell you about these horrible girls who played a part in demoralising me even further than I already felt. They all knew about my father and that my life was difficult at home yet they all chose to ignore it, criticise me and run from the support I longed for from them. It is not just about exposing my father but revealing the truths against all the evils from my life.

C & C:

Two girls I met at Drama school. One, I classed as one of my best friends. We spent a lot of time together, socialised together even ended up living together. She was vibrant and popular, attractive and fun, I was drawn to her confidence. I saw myself in her, a piece of me I had hidden away for years, in fear that my personality would be attacked again. With her, I was able to release it and be myself for once. It felt good, she brought that out of me. My confidence with men also blossomed due to her help. She was fearless and able to approach anyone. All the other girls loved her. I thought we had so much in common, we both loved acting and we could talk to each other. She listened to what I had to say. But I was so wrong. She turned on me and in our second year I felt our friendship slipping away.

The other “C” was another girl at Drama school, someone I considered a friend and even though we also lived together, I never felt a strong bond with her. She was also close to C.1. They shared jokes and their love of music together. She was very girly. constantly wearing pink and purple, it was quite odd for a twenty year old. She was obsessed with romantic movies and had masses of cuddly toys in her room. I found her very fake over the year I lived with her and slowly she lived up to my judgement. She was adamant that my problems with my father had been created by myself. She came from a loving family, they adored her and funded her every whim. She had it so easy. My family was not like that and yes, there was resentment on my part. I wished for supportive parents but it was never going to happen. She and I were miles apart and it showed. I couldn’t engage in a normal, educated conversation with her and found myself drifting apart from the two of them as they grew closer.

They both began leaving me out of social occasions and although we had once been such a tight-knit group, I was beginning to be pushed out. They weren’t subtle, it literally happened overnight and left me feeling like a twelve year old in the school playground instead of a twenty year old needing a true, decent set of friends. I couldn’t understand where it had gone wrong, there was no explanation, they never said anything. They were cruel with it and I started to spend more time alone. Going back home to my father was constantly on my mind and to worsen it, my friends had proven that I would truly be on my own. It was devastating.

They weren’t my friends, they never were. I fed their egos when they needed it. I was desperate to be loved by anyone and friendship had always been important to me. I was completely used by them and allowed myself to be. They wanted a fabulous life with no trauma, no shame and maybe I was bringing that on them. They are still friends now as far as I know and they both continue to live their self-centred lives I’m sure.

One even has a set of photos on her social networking site dedicated entirely to herself!

What a wonderful woman and so modest!

The other, I have no idea what happened to her. I hear she is married too. I’m happy for her. I hold no anger, I am just saddened that things weren’t dealt with more maturely as both of the girls were older than me at the time.

I have always wondered why I led myself into such destructive relationships…………….

Part 2 to follow tomorrow.

Killing happiness.

My father had a fantastic way of killing any happiness I had.

Throughout the years I lived with him, he took enormous pleasure in destroying happier moments. Whether they were moments I shared with him or others, they would rarely last for long.

There were two particular times when my father revelled in this.

1. Returning from my mothers’.

I would dread the moment I had to go back to my father. Who knows why I did return? But each time I did, he would be waiting. On returning, my father would instantly beckon me to wherever he was in the house. It was usually the kitchen.

“Good, you’re back,” would be my welcome. No ‘Hello’ or ‘How are you?’

I would either be greeted with a list of orders to complete or a barrage of insults because of a mistake I had done. Something he could’ve said before I left but he wanted to save it for my arrival. He had perfect timing.

He was always in a bad mood. It annoyed him that I still cared for my mother. It angered him that my love for her was clearly growing, if anything we were becoming stronger. He detested her with every pulse in his body and he never held back in his hatred. It all depended on how he felt that day. Sometimes, he wouldn’t say anything. But that would be rare, usually my mother would receive some sort of insult spoken under his breath. It was best to ignore his adolescent rant.

2. Returning home from David’s’.

Staying at David’s house at the start of our relationship irritated my father. David lived outside of London, only an hour away on the train. At the beginning, I travelled down to see him almost every weekend. I didn’t mind, it was a chance to escape. I hated leaving him and coming back to the abuse. My father liked David. He was quiet and non-confrontational. Of course he liked him. We were opposites in my father’s mind. I was so confrontational and argumentative  He wondered what attracted my boyfriend to me. I let him wonder.

Saturday 6th February 2009

I’m scared to go home from D’s (David). Didn’t want to leave. D asked me if I wanted to take anything with me for the journey, like a book to read or food. I answered, “You”. He smiled. He couldn’t meet my request. I shouldn’t have let my guard down. I miss him. Now I’m at home and have been banished to my room. I feel peace writing this. I miss D like mad, we’ve only been apart for 3 hours, how stupid. I would never tell him that.

Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you’ve got to make yourself.
Alice Walker

Extract from Chapter 5: Health & Stress.

Stress had a vast effect on me. During my late teenage years I developed tiny wart-like spots that scattered over my face. They remained throughout my studies. I went to the doctor but she could not give me a diagnosis, only asking me if I was suffering from any stress. I didn’t tell her the truth. These spots stayed for two years eventually disappearing on their own. Once again, he used them to his advantage and regularly questioned “What’s wrong with you?” Or repeated over and over that I must live like a “pig” otherwise why would I look like such an “animal”?

During those two years, I also acquired raised, scar-like scabs that covered my right arm. Once again, a trip to the doctors gave no answer and within a year they had also vanished by themselves. I felt hideous, turning to food for comfort and beginning a cycle of insults from him. Again he would call me “animal” or “mutt” and questioned my hygiene, it made me feel worthless. I looked after myself and could not give him the explanation he interrogated me for to justify these mysterious marks. Usually all would be said behind a smirk. I could see his sick pleasure staring me in the face.

I would have terrible period pains, feeling incredibly low during this time. I would sit and cry for hours. Something I could never vent to him or allow him to see. He had no compassion for a woman at this time. “Just get on with it”, “A man wouldn’t complain” he would repeatedly say. In the later years I would use my period or what became known as “my thing” (he hated the word period), as an excuse to keep away from him.

During my mid-twenties my health was at its worst. My father was truly a monster by then and I couldn’t keep myself together. I had found a better job, but longs hours at work and no peace at home meant constant spells of poor health.

“You’re always ill!” he’d scream at me. 

Emotional Incest.

I have dedicated an entire chapter of my book to this subject.

It was a term I discovered about two years ago at a counselling session. I had never heard of it before then. I researched it on the internet and was referred by an American columnist to read a book devoted to the subject*.

It was very revealing to say the least. I wished I had found out about it sooner. I realised my relationship with my father centred around emotional incest.

After my mother left, my father needed a replacement. In all honesty he had replaced his emotional connection much earlier as he regularly vented his problems to me. But when my mother was out of the picture, I was the source for his complaints about life.

He had no close friends or normal relationships with other adults. He felt he did not need that; he had me. I filled that void.

His controlling ways had just switched from my mother to me. He used emotion to play on my feelings. He was the “lonely betrayed man”, abandoned by his wife and daughter. Initially, I was the only one who made him happy. I gave him a reason to live. He would often repeat this to me during the divorce; it’s no wonder I felt swayed to live with him.

This is emotional incest. Using a child to fulfil adult, emotional needs.

He was needy and clingy with me. I was not allowed freedom away from him. I had to keep him happy and feeling good. If not, I was the reason he was upset or depressed. I hadn’t met his needs.

I was the “chosen child”. I was hand picked by him to have the privilege to be his confidante. He told me I gave him more than his wife ever did. I gave him “comfort”. He would tell me to never leave him; when I got married he would build a separate flat within the house I could live there with my husband; no mortgage, nothing.

I felt invaded by him. It was like an obsession.

It is incredibly hard to recognise when it is going on, but please, if you want to find out more, the book* I read was:

“The Emotional Incest Syndrome; What to Do When a Parent’s Love Rules Your Life” by Dr. Patricia Love.

It is absolutely worth looking into if only to feed your curiosity.

And of course – keep reading the blog.