Chapter 2, Part 2.

We sandwiched the holiday with the road trip and after two weeks we headed back to his brother’s place. I was a different girl to the one who set off at the start. My relatives picked up on this and my father blamed it on my ‘typical teenage ways’ and lack of good attitude. Nobody doubted him as he was the second eldest brother of a large family and a reliable, intelligent man. His word was the truth. I spent the last week as a shadow of my former, confident self. It was a relief to return to London and back to my safe haven. I had naively hoped things would be normal again and my father’s character would restore back to a loving nature.

My idealistic view was shattered immediately. This behaviour was to stay and his treatment towards me was about to become progressively worse.

Having started at a new school to do my A-Levels I was excited to have some distance from him. I tried hard at my studies but could never live up to his expectations. My sister was an academic and had embarked on a clear career path. I on the other hand was more creative using Drama as an outlet for expression. He never encouraged this as he believed I’d never succeed in such a competitive market. My grades began to slip just as my life began to dissolve. I found it difficult to concentrate and drifted off into day dreams. My father left me to it, only voicing criticism if a tutor got in touch with him. Still he offered no help. This was a shock to me as my school work and high achievement was once so vital to him.

As I lacked so much confidence I found it a struggle to make friends especially in the first year. I felt like I had no escape and nothing to feel good about. Over my sixteenth and seventeenth year I gradually began putting on weight. Having been slim as a young child I was not use to being on the chubbier side. I turned to food for comfort. My father would indulge this, taking me to a fast food restaurant almost every Saturday. Food would become a recurring enemy over the next fourteen years.

At the end of my first year I managed to land a part in the sixth form play. I was a lead character and immensely proud of myself (having been an unknown at school I knew it had been based on my acting skills and not popularity).

My relationship with my mother was slowly improving too. A point had been made that I needed to change to be accepted back into ‘her’ side of the family. As I missed my mother and desperately longed for her, I willingly acted on the advice. At that moment I had lost myself. With my mother and sister I was struggling to build a character worthy of their love. Their closeness was apparent and every time I saw them laughing and talking privately, the old feeling of exclusion hurried back. I felt we would never have the same relationship and no matter what I did, I would be second best. After all I decided to stand by my father and not my mother. With my Dad, I was trying to be the perfect daughter. Not talking back, being polite, doing exactly as he said and giving the impression to the rest of the world how lucky I was to have a father like him.

Turning eighteen brought about a surge of independence in me. I had climbed the social ladder at school. I had more friends and my self-belief had come back. I started going out and spending more time away from home. He didn’t care. My safety had never been high on his list. He continued to spend money, allowing me to go to Europe twice on a school trip. He enjoyed looking wealthy. My friends that met him adored him. He drove us everywhere, paid for lunch, gave me hand-outs and acted like the perfect Dad. This wonderful image of him vanished when we were on our own. He instantly turned into the monster I knew he was. If I ever confided in a friend they would question how I could ever accuse my father of anything. I hated them for it but they never knew any different. For a while I convinced myself they were right.

I left school with poor results. Even in subjects I was certain I’d succeed in. My home environment had made a huge impact on the woman I was shaping out to be. With my studies I had almost resigned myself to the fact that I was likely to fail. Relationships and friendships made me feel the same way. Failure was not an option with my father but I was never given any direction from him. It became obvious that he had been waiting for me to destroy my future so that I would have to rely on him. My confidence and self belief had slowly slipped again. I had put on a stone in weight over two years and now being a young woman, felt the lowest I had felt for a long time.

Luckily I had something positive to look forward to. I had decided to continue with Drama and study it for the next few years. Once again I was left to do as I pleased so I grabbed the chance in front of me and used it to excel myself in any way possible. I still lived at home however. Although I was busier now, my life had not changed. If he saw less of me surely he’d want to appreciate the time we spent? But no, he carefully used this rare time to break me down even more.

Insults became a regular occurrence. Labels such as evil, filthy, heartless and moron became a normal thing to hear. Every day I’d be called a name. I tried to be strong and gave as much back as I could muster but he was a big man who terrified me.  He would shout straight through me with so much aggression it made me tremble like a frightened little animal. I often backed down and accepted hearing such nasty words but I never felt they were true. Although I lacked in self-belief, I knew I was not the bad person the family had made me out to be for all those years. Nevertheless, there is only so much a person can take.

We began having blazing rows. Violence was never an issue. My father was shrewd enough to know I’d have blatant proof of my suffering if any scars appeared. Therefore he was never violent to me. Our fights escalated over time but back then I was shocked to see my father acting that way. When I verbally retaliated and attempted to defend myself, he would launch into his attack. It was most likely to be the smallest thing that caused the upset but that didn’t stop him from exploding.

His face would be the first thing to change. His eyes would swell and bulge as he stared right through me. He’d clench his teeth together (a typical yet terrifying pose I never got used to). Then his body would straighten and stiffen. Sometimes he would clench his fists by his side. Occasionally out of complete frustration the door would be slammed or hit. The majority of the time he raised his right hand sharply, inches from my face as if to slap me and swore in another language. The word he always used (Bodmarsh) rings in my ear to this very day. I recently found out it translates into “pervert”.

I managed to save myself for a year having moved in with friends while studying. Unfortunately he still had control (I longed for freedom however could not fund myself) as he paid my rent and fees. Something he would frequently use in arguments to come.

Thankfully studying Drama gave me a perfect escape. I could slip away and create different characters, parallels of myself. I was doing well in my studies again and felt like I was really achieving something. I thought I had made some lasting friendships but once again I was mistaken. They all judged me, assuming as I was in Drama I must be dramatic in nature. They met my father as he would habitually show up unannounced at my flat. He’d enter and be as charming as ever. As soon as he’d leave I’d be visibly relieved, much to their confusion. They questioned everything I said, telling me I was overreacting and “lucky” to have him as my Dad. I was fighting a losing battle.

When the year was up and my studies had finished I returned home. For two years I had been dreading the day. He seemed pleased to have me back, but almost as soon as I had arrived, my life went back to the sorry state it was before. Fearing every move I made it dawned on me that I had no way out.

The next twelve years of my life became a horror story of intimidation, abuse and defamation.

As though we never met.

It’s as though you cannot see me,

you only nod to say hello.

A brief smile perhaps….maybe,

but your talk is just for show.

It’s as though we never met,

or shared a joke or two,

you have your new found friends

and I have seen the real you.

It’s as though you couldn’t care

your face reeks of retribution,

a feeling of despair

as I stand for prosecution.

In front of their watchful eyes

of the girls you so admire.

Judged by women I barely know

and a friendship now expired.

It’s as though we never laughed

or shared sad times together.

The memories are just lost

like my faith in friendship forever.

 

 

The lady on the train.

I went out for a rare night out with my friend K yesterday.

It was an awesome night, lots of dancing, just what we both needed.

We left home around half five in the afternoon all dressed up and excited for the evening ahead. After almost seven years of friendship and countless nights out, it had been a while since we had been dancing. We were aching to be let loose on the dance floor and release some inhibitions.

As we entered the tube station and waited on the platform, I noticed a young woman also waiting for the train. When the train arrived and we all boarded it, something stood out immediately about her.

She was crying.

Sobbing.

I instantly felt for her and questions filled my head. She had a pair of headphones in her ears. I wondered if the music was triggering an emotion or memory in her. I subtly pointed her out to K with worry. K was shocked. It was unusual to see someone pouring out their emotion so openly especially in such a public environment. We both wondered if she had just lost someone or found out her partner had cheated on her, did she have a broken heart or ended a bad relationship?

Either way, it was clear to me that I could not just sit there and watch this woman suffer.

I reached into my bag and pulled out some tissues. My friend seemed surprised at my gesture questioning whether it would be appropriate. There was doubt in my mind. I could be infringing on a personal moment and she may want to be alone. However, she made the decision to get on the train, in front of watchful eyes and concerned hearts. I had to do something. I too know that feeling. Many a time, whilst living with the abuser, did I rush onto the tube in tears fearing his presence, anxious to escape. Did anyone approach me with a tissue? No. And I can honestly tell you that people have looked into my eyes as tears streamed down my face and immediately looked back down. Who’d want my problems?

So, up I got. I walked over to her, tissue in hand and sat beside the crying lady. She looked up and noticed the tissue. I didn’t say anything, I just handed it to her and smiled. Suddenly, her face changed. The tears fell into the gentle creases of her face and what was once a frown turned into a soft smile. She mouthed to me,

“Thank you so much!” over and over again.

I rubbed her arm gently.

“Are you all right?” I asked tenderly not wanting to reignite her emotion. She nodded sweetly and said thank you again silently through her smile.

I sat back down to see K with tears in her eyes. She was touched and saw that the young woman felt the same way. Why would I just sit there and watch her with judgement? I couldn’t do that. I had that done to me.

After I moved away from her, the woman wiped away her tears. She leant on the pane of glass beside her and closed her eyes. She seemed at peace.

For the rest of her journey she remained calm and as she got off for her stop, she sent me a gentle wave and mouthed “thank you” as she left.

I smiled and mouthed back,

“It’s okay”.

It’ll be okay.

The Void.

It’s not that I wish my father was still alive, it’s not like I long for his love or wish a real relationship with him. There just feels as though there is a void in my life. I know what it is. He left me without any answers, any conclusions. I have not been given closure. Yes, he is gone and that offers me a little cessation but I wanted to get what I deserved and have a chance to find out the whys, what and hows.

Why did you do it?

What did I ever do to you?

How can you justify treating me that way?

I never got any answers to any of my questions. I have asked over the years but how an earth do you put it to an abuser? How do you get what you want? He would never have given me what I want especially when he gained so much satisfaction from taunting me. He enjoyed the fact that it was another thing he could play with, it was another chance to toy with my emotions. 

The void remains. It will always be there. I just hope the emptiness will one day be filled.

 

1. Love

The most obvious thing I never truly understood was love. I never saw it growing up nor was given advice on it as a young adult. My mother had her own problems to deal with and I, inadvertently had become my father’s problem. He wasn’t about to teach me about love.

My parents expected me to know everything about how the world worked but I lived through example. Either choosing to do positive things they showed me (which was not often) or the opposite of their negative choices. I was adamant that life couldn’t be that miserable and my life would be a success. I look back on my dreams as a child sadly. I had so much hope. I no longer feel that way. The innocence has completely disappeared.

Love for me:

Love came across so bitter as a child. My mother withheld it, used it and controlled how much love she gave me. She showered it over my sister, not just affectionate love but guidance and advice, two things I longed for from her. She will say she did that but it was not in the same way she treated my sister. She was given positive praise and affirmations and I was just told. Her love for me came out as worry. I wasn’t meeting her expectations as I grew older and every time we were together I got bombarded with a list of issues I needed to resolve to become more like my older sister and succeed in life. The comparisons were too much and only pushed me further away.

My father’s love for me has been twisted since I entered his miserable life. I was used as a pawn and weapon against my mother. He used love to manipulate people. He used love to hurt and destroy any faith I ever had in human compassion. Love was a word to him, not a feeling or emotion. He had no emotions. He felt nothing.

Love for each other: 

God, they really hated each other didn’t they? I never once witnessed love for each other. My parents did not love each other, certainly not by the time I came along. I know my mother once did, she told me. She fell in love with a totally, different man. A man who complimented and laughed with her, not a man who mocked and judged her. He led her into his deceptive world, tricking her into loving him, manipulating her devotion to benefit his will. He was truly awful to her it’s no wonder her love for him vanished and her hate became everlasting. I don’t blame her. I feel for her. No woman deserves that.

Love for my parents:

I loved them so much as a child. All the bad examples, their reckless behaviour, the abuse and screaming, the taunts and violence, it didn’t stop my love for them. I saw them as separate beings. My mother was so powerful in my eyes as a child. She was the dominant figure and my father seemed weaker than her (I now know how he deliberately placed himself in that position to make Ma look dictatorial and evil). I never saw her like that, at least not as a young child. She was my mother and I loved her. My father was a God to me. I adored him and the love I felt for him was immense. What child feels so dependant on her father? An abused one I’m sure. It was an over the top love, an unreal love we shared. It was a love he had created, disturbing and obsessive. It was a love that worried my mother. She needn’t have worried. It was a love that soon disappeared. It was a love that turned to hate and anger and fear.

Love for others:

As I was never taught the true meaning of love, I never knew what to expect from relationships. You all know how badly my friendships went. Relationships with men were no different if not worse. As a thirteen year old, I developed an obsessive infatuation with a neighbour of mine something my mother’s friend still jokes about it to this day. I smile. What else can I do? She does not know how it felt, how it ached every time I saw him, how I thought about him constantly and had no one to tell. I couldn’t brush it off as a crush, I didn’t even know what a crush was! I had no guidance in love and sex. The T.V was my main source of advice and as we didn’t have a computer at home, I wasn’t able to access the internet, in fact the internet was only just beginning when I was in my late teens. I had hoped my sister might enlighten me on the subject of men seeing as she was eight years older, but she was leading an entirely unconnected life from me, she was never going to do that and I was far too embarrassed to ask. My mother would just reiterate to me that sex out of a relationship was unimaginable to her and if I did it, she would look down on me for that decision. She never talked about love, just sex. I wonder how she perceived me………

I do often find it difficult to love.

I hope I’m doing it right.

Where there is love there is life.
Mahatma Gandhi

The chance I blew to get away.

At nineteen years of age, my mother and I began building our broken relationship. I had, by this time, admitted her and my sister were right along (much to their satisfaction) about my father.

Our relationship did not fully heal until my late twenties as she was unwilling to forgive my decision to live with my Dad. I was to blame for the way her and my sister’s life was turning out, the depression and anger he had left them with and the lack of money they had got from the divorce. It was my fault they were in this sorry state.

However, my mother was still my mother and even though my sister fought very hard to convince her that I was a terrible daughter, she wanted to protect me. It was a side of her I had once been so reluctant to allow. I had my father’s protection, I did not need hers. But I was at the point where I desperately needed someone’s intervention. I needed a shield against him. I hoped my mother would be it.

As much as I tried to get some time alone with her, my sister would always be lurking in the background. She still lived with Ma; she was twenty-six, it would be something she’d berate our mother for later in life. I couldn’t get my mother to myself and when I did, she would often talk as though my sister had fed her the words.

At twenty, I was offered a lifeline.

My mother asked me to live with her. I was happy to feel wanted and loved. However, there was one specific feeling hanging over me.

GUILT

How could I walk out on my father?

The abuse was bad but nothing like it became a few years later. I could change him couldn’t I? I was living out of hope. Perhaps my old father would eventually appear and he would see good things in me. Also, I had made the choice to live with him, how could I turn my back on him now? He had nobody else.

My mother was horrified by my defence for my Dad. It was just another slap in her face. I loved her so much and wanted to live with her so desperately but couldn’t abandon my father.

I did not feel entirely comfortable in my mother’s presence. There was no certainty to how she would behave with me each day. I aggravated her too. My sister’s influence was strong, she had an all consuming power over her and no matter how hard I tried, my mother would listen to her first.

My life was trivial and my opinions did not count. I had chosen the miserable life with my Dad and I had to live with that. I had no place in her house, no room, nothing that felt mine. My sister’s boyfriend gained priority over me. He had been there for them when I had not. I even had to sleep on the couch when he was over. It was not enjoyable being there and as much as I ached for an escape, it just wasn’t going to be there.

So I remained with my father and endured the abuse.

Should I have gone?

I’ll never know.

7. Toothpicks and table manners.

The most random thing that reminds me of my father are toothpicks.

He had an obsession with them for as long as I remember.

It escalated on our trip to the USA. Toothpicks were on the table at every meal. My father had a general obsession with his oral health, mine too. He wanted our appearance to be perfect at all costs. It was detrimental that we both looked good after all, I was representing him as his daughter. I took pride in the way I looked but not to his extent.

He continued his toothpick fixation when we returned to London. A little container was placed in the kitchen and dining room to start. Eventually, he began buying more and more. He instructed me to use them too. When I pointed out that they are painful to use (I don’t particularly enjoy prodding my gums with wooden sticks) he took it upon himself to dictate a speech about oral health to me.

Sitting at the dining table after dinner, my father would methodically choose his toothpick and delve into his mouth. It was unsightly and awkward watching him pick out bits of lodged food.

His table manners were generally appalling but he, being a man, was allowed to behave in any way he wanted to. Burping was a regular occurrence  not muted ones, no “pardon me”, just loud, heavy, deep and uncontrollable burps flew out of his mouth. Yawning, his yawning made me shiver. Why would I want to see the entirety of his mouth? And the noise! God, the noise that came with it – like an animal.

Of course, his table manners that he set for me were completely different. I had to make sure I had a mat down under my plate, I had to have a knife with my food even if I had no intention of using one, even if I was having soup. I had to keep tissues near by, I wasn’t to wipe my face with my hand or brush food away with my finger, it had to be with a tissue. I wasn’t to make any unpleasant sounds at the dinner table, burping was inexcusable. If I finished ahead of him, I had to wait till he had finished before I left the table. This eventually stopped as I got older and began eating my dinner locked away in my bedroom while he remained King of the table.

It gave a whole new meaning to “Double standards”.

Revenge.

Someone questioned my “motives” today for this blog.

I instantly felt like a criminal as though I was doing something wrong. All I could do was smile. Smile to mask the tears I could feel rising.

My decision to publish my story was greatly challenged and the person in question seemed unconvinced by my response.

Was I seeking revenge? And if I was; then it wasn’t very nice.

Immediately, my answer was “No”.

It wasn’t enough.

I was then asked whether I was aiming to help people through my words. Of course I want to reach someone and know that my story is affecting people in a positive way. That they feel  they are not alone, that we can relate to each other.

As for revenge: I can’t deny that I do not want expose Him, I do. I want the world to know what he did to me. How he stole my life from me and left me with a heap of anxieties and faults within myself. But revenge seems so seedy, so spiteful and that is not a word I would use to describe myself. After all, I am not the first person to expose an abusive parent. Why shouldn’t I voice it?

I have every right.

I know this person meant no harm, they were entitled to their opinion. I just wasn’t expecting such brutal honesty without the slightest touch of empathy.

However, this was not the first time I had encountered it. In fact, I have had to deal with a couple of confused and doubtful people with a much harsher view on my intentions.

Do not listen to the people who are quick to judge you. They cannot understand your pain. They never will. Their life is easy and small, they cannot comprehend that something so shocking can happen to anyone they know. Their immediate reaction is to question and interrogate. You know your story and you know it is true. To those of you who have told me to my face that my blog is “interesting”; please stop reading it. “Interesting” is possibly the most insulting word to describe it. Shocking; maybe, sad; probably. But I would not sum up the last fifteen years as “interesting”.

Thank you to the followers and the readers who truly appreciate struggle and the ability to express emotions without judgement or question. Thank you to the readers who just read it. Thank you to the positive comments and support from the complete strangers who are slowly becoming friends.

Ros.

3. Plastic knives and forks.

The third thing that triggers memories of my father are plastic knives and forks.

My father suffered with severe O.C.D. in many ways although he was adamant that he was fine. He never wanted to be seen as having any kind of problem, mentally or physically; it made him look weak. To him, he was just being clean and cautious; to me, it was suffocating.

Whenever we visited any fast food restaurant, my father would struggle. He called the employers “commoners”, accusing them of being filthy working in that environment. I shut off every time he spoke. He was happy to eat there but nothing was done with pleasure, always criticism.

He could not cope using his fingers to eat. No matter how clean they were, he refused to pick up the burgers with his hands. Unfortunately, due to his unwillingness to interact with any strangers, I had to fix his problem for him. He would never go to the counter to order. As a child through to an adult – it was my job to do so. His social intelligence was so poor, he couldn’t even order a meal from the waitress. He would just hand me the money and tell me to return the change to him, reminding me that it was HIS money and not mine. I hated that. I wasn’t planning to pocket his 20 pence but he happily accused me of it, of course, it was just another way of asserting his power over me.

His one particular demand was to ask for a plastic knife and fork. Years ago, this was not always an option. That infuriated him. It would lead to a fit of anger and insults flying out of his mouth about the “ignorance of the pathetic restaurant staff”.

If I was able to present him with his request, he would not grant me with a “thank you”. The two words I NEVER heard him say to me in my life.

Instead, he would methodically arrange his food around the tray and carefully slice his burger. He would not even use his fingers to eat his fries.

After the meal, I would be the one who had to clear the table. My father had paid for it after all (not that I had a choice either way).

At home, my father kept a stash of plastic knives and forks usually for entertaining guests at his frequent dinner parties. I once asked him why he did not offer them regular knives and forks. He just answered by saying,

“They can’t cope with metal ones, they use them like neanderthals, scraping my plates!”

What lucky friends (!)

2. Movies.

The second thing that reminds me of my father are films, particularly Westerns. He rarely watched movies, only becoming aggravated by the display of ‘filth’ and ‘degenerate’ behaviour depicted in modern day cinema. I have always loved film but he hated my favourites. Apparently, they were ‘vulgar’ and ‘common’ choices (just how I would sum up Lord of the Rings then!).

I hated watching films with my father. As a child, he often took me to the cinema. I remember seeing ‘Father of the Bride’ for my tenth birthday with him and friends and ‘Jurassic Park’ with him as an excited eleven year old, hiding behind his arm at each sight of a dinosaur. There are two visits to the cinema that stand out the most.

Mrs Doubtfire:

My father took me to see this at eleven years old. He loved this film and all that it stood for. It was a hard done-by father, desperately trying to keep and maintain his children’s love whilst their cruel mother kept him as far away as she could,. It gave him subtle but dangerous ammunition to use with me against my mother at a very early age, often telling me how similar our life was to that of the characters and how my mother would stop him from seeing me. Obviously, it had the desired effect.

My mum hates that film.

Armageddon:

I saw this film on our trip to America in 1998 aged sixteen.

I did not want to be in that movie theatre watching what was classed as a romantic film with my father. Sitting watching another story about a father’s love for his daughter being so powerful and so strong that he was prepared to lose his life so that she could marry the love of hers, only left me feeling depressed and alone even more than I already was. Sitting next the man who I was realising would never sacrifice a thing for me was just too much to endure.

I never went to the cinema with him again. I could not let him destroy my one true escape.

“People sometimes say that the way things happen in the movies is unreal, but it’s actually the way things happen to you in life that is unreal” – Andy Warhol.