Bite your Tongue.

There are many times where one will need to put this into practice. Often with total strangers, sometimes with friends and colleagues. Usually it’s with the people closest to you – family.

The people that supposedly know you the best seem to be the ones that overstep the mark on a regular basis.

I’ve talked many times on here about boundaries. My family overstepped every boundary I set for myself; they themselves rarely kept any.

From telling me every intricate detail about their private lives to offloading their problems at work on me or irritating friendship issues at every opportunity to the sicker elements of boundary crossing where they’d expose details of their bowel movements while I ate my breakfast or moaned about the constant itching they felt ‘down there’. How is that appropriate? Just because I am here doesn’t mean you can use me as your confidante, your doctor, your therapist.

I cannot give anyone medical advice and even if I could, it would be fairer on your child to see a professional.

As adults and parents ourselves, we too have everyday stresses and problems. I especially know that you need to find time to work through those sorts of stresses in order to get some happiness. You set personal boundaries to protect yourself, to assert your personal rights.

You can be close to a parent without overstepping these personal boundaries. You can share, talk and listen to each other but each of you know where to stop. You know when it becomes suffocating or stressful or inappropriate. Who would want their child feeling stressed out or worried to talk to them?

Not having a proper social interaction and taking a real interest in your children can massively affect them. My family on greeting me, never asked me how I was or what I had been up to – they only used the time they had to talk about themselves. If I dared to mention something to do with me I’d either be accused of and berated for being insensitive or selfish. This would only prevent me from ever offering any information up about my life so when things went wrong in relationships, work or home – it would solely be my fault for not opening up to them sooner.

How could I? It was an impossible vicious circle. If I revealed it all they’d use it against me or feel it was their right to delve as far as they could. Rarely did I receive anything helpful or thoughtful. Usually it was anger and criticism – probably why I don’t deal so well with it now.

I have bitten my tongue for many years and continue to do so now.

My father was a racist, homophobic chauvinist. He hated people from Africa, women drivers, lesbians, politicians, the police. He was critical, opinionated, angry, spiteful, dangerous and very tricky. Talking to him about anything was a risk. Sometimes it was a risk I had to take for my own sanity. In the weeks where he was ignoring me over some “mistake” I’d made, the silence was almost excruciating. If I attempted to make conversation with him he’d either leave the room or stay and utter nothing. He would not even look at me. He’d only break his stubbornness – his rancour – his belligerence if I weakened myself and asked his advice on some other mistake I’d made.

Power is everything to people like that.

When I do not speak of myself is when my family talk to me the most. When I show an interest in their lives, I am heard but only for an opinion on their matters and they’ll be pretty miffed if that opinion is anything other than supportive.

Conversation never flows with my family. Therefore I go through life biting my tongue.

Would be nice if others did the same (!)

 

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Dear Dad.

Dear Dad,

you are lucky I’m even using a name as you certainly don’t deserve one. The only form of letters I ever wrote to you were to apologize profusely for upsetting you. Letters that I was forced to write. This letter will be different. There will be no apologies.

I have almost said everything I could ever want to say to you. The longer your presence remains gone, the easier it’s becoming to forget you. Your spirit is not kept burning by me. I want to forget you and all the things that you did. I want to obliterate any memory I have of the pain you caused. But I can’t. You have done too much damage.

Most recently and tragically before you died.

Why did you gain so much enjoyment from secrets? I suppose they gave you power, something that you needed to survive. You liked to know secrets, share them, hide them and keep them. You used them to your advantage. Your biggest secret to date has to be your rediscovered relationship with my sister. Your staggering, cocksure attitude led you into this deceptive journey. You reveled in it. It benefited you to be seen as the perfect father. My sister would eventually make you feel like that. I never made you feel like that and had no intention of doing so.

Both of you say the other got in touch first. Who knows who was telling the truth. Either way it doesn’t matter. You both got what you wanted.

You always talked about her when I lived at home. You regularly compared me to her. I know I rarely met your expectations but they were impossible to meet. If you knew the real person my sister was then you would see for yourself she would never have met them either. However, she like you, is very good at tricking others to believe what she wants them to. Perhaps that’s a skill she inherited from her father.

I wonder what you did to convince her you’d changed. She was wary at first after all. You must have been very cunning to change her perception of you so swiftly. You clearly did a grand job and were a great actor. I applaud your performance.

I especially congratulate you on your ability to continue to burn bridges within this family. You were certain and adamant that no course would be taken on your part to help to reconcile the gap between your two daughters. You reiterated this on your death bed to me as you lay in the hospital. It was my duty as the younger sister to reach out the olive branch and build our broken relationship. You defended your other daughter and her childish actions until the end. Your pathetic need for her adoration amounted to destroying any last shred of kindness I had for you. Love had disappeared a long time ago.

I guess it was your way of sticking your middle finger up at me. A nice little reminder that you were in charge eh? You were the puppet master, holding up and strings as we danced around you, bending to your every need. Yet, the day I found out about your terminal illness, I immediately cut those strings you controlled me with for so long. I deliberately only visited you three times that month. I even wish it was less than that. Each time was dreadful. Not seeing you like that – deteriorating away but just being there, watching you, hearing you moan and complain that I wasn’t visiting enough when my sister and her family were going out of their way to care for you and make you feel better. I did not want you to feel better. I wanted it to be over. Hell, they even left their holiday early to be by your bedside, grapes and newspaper too! You were a very lucky man.

David mentioned something the other day.

Thinking back, he was the last person to speak to you before you slipped out of consciousness. He remembered what you said,

“I’d rather have had my brains blown out by a burglar than be dying slowly of Cancer!”

“Well I’m sure that would have been much nicer for your daughters (!)” David replied.

You really were a selfish, insensitive man. There are many people who suffer for years with Cancer. You were sick for less than a month! You drifted out of consciousness and slowly slipped away. There was no pain. Do you know how lucky you were?! We all hope for a painless death as we leave this world and there you were making a mockery of the thousands of people who suffer horrific deaths beyond their control.

There never was any good in you was there?

Some people are born bad.

You were one of them.

The Deepest Blade of All.

Shards of speech cut through the air

brutal, malevolent

he strives to wound deeper and deeper

I struggle to breathe

open for attack

he’s ready

and waiting

patiently

words slice through me

piercing my world

penetrating my heart

worthless tears

spent on him

disillusioned with love

trusting the enemy

he clings to my loyalty

trapped

measures his love

mean, mercenary

the rage ensues

arrows of hate dart,

surround,

release

scorned retaliation rapes me of hope

shameful regret

heated incisions damage

already fragile skin

alone

scarred

fractured from fury.

  Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.

Chapter 3, Part 1.

THREE

FOOD AND WASTE

Food was the symbol of many different things through the past, comfort and control being the main. I had always been a healthy child growing up on fresh fish, fruits and vegetables. My mother was a fantastic cook and fed the family well. We understood where food came from and the benefits of it from a young age. I enjoyed cooking and helping her in the kitchen. If anything, it was more time to spend with her.

As I headed towards my teenage years my father took my sister and me to restaurants as a treat. He often left my mother behind. I began seeing this as a regular way of life. Sweets and chocolate began to appear in the house and I revelled in it like most young teens would. My mother still encouraged us to eat well and usually I did but if I wanted anything ‘naughty’ my Dad would never refuse it. Not because he couldn’t say no to me. He just treated this as a way to point score with his wife. The children were a competition to him and food was the start of his game playing.

In later years (as the trouble grew worse between me and my father) food became a source of genuine comfort to me. I would regularly binge eat at dinner. My father and I never sat at the table together and enjoyed a meal. Instead I was forced to eat in my bedroom to avoid conflict with him. He knew what I put in my mouth as we always went food shopping together every week. Something I almost looked forward to.

However the supermarket was a place he would frequently choose to humiliate me. If I wanted to get something I may not have finished before he would begin a rant on my ‘addiction to wastage’. He’d tell me I had no consideration for starving children all over the world and no concern about money. He’d continue to insult me and if I argued that it had happened only the one time, he’d accuse me of attempting to deliberately agitate him. Again, his voice would change and all this would be said through gritted teeth and glaring eyes. Often he would behave like this in public places where the normal reaction of strangers was to stop and stare over at the strange ‘couple’ having an argument. He enjoyed my humiliation but never saw how he humiliated himself, after all at this time I was a grown woman.

On one occasion,  my father began a petty fight as we loaded our items onto the conveyor belt. I remember the cashier and the customer ahead of us watching curiously. The customer, a young woman who appeared to be in her twenties, couldn’t stop herself from watching. Her judging eyes buried themselves in me. I know how we looked. I get it. It sickens me. My father’s rant was not subsiding, it only grew worse as I tried to pacify him. To him, I was patronising. He stormed off. I panicked. I had no money on me to pay for the shopping. I could see him leave the supermarket in a powerful rage. I stood there, shocked watching our shopping edge towards the cashier. The stranger’s eyes were still burning through me when suddenly, she spoke.

“Don’t worry, my husband is a lot older than me too. Older men are like that”.

I was horrified and immediately repulsed.

Her face automatically dropped when I responded,

“He’s not my husband; he’s my father”.

The brute returned within moments and began ordering me to “MOVE!”. The stranger looked appalled and full of regret. I imagined she wished she never spoke to me. I did to.

After we returned home I ran upstairs in a fit of tears. He couldn’t take my crying, it was a weakness to him and he’d use it as a chance to insult and criticise me, saying, “Oh here come the waterworks!”

This was such a regular incident. Something would happen every week. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of the food I would get to eat when we returned. I was dependant on it to make me happy. Upstairs, I’d take: one plastic bag of shopping, filled with a high calorie sandwich, an energy drink, doughnuts, chocolate and two or three bags of crisps. With the TV on high, I’d sit and gorge on my selection to the point of feeling sick (although, back then I never actually did throw up). It satisfied me. Immediately I felt ashamed of what I had done, often shoving the remnants under my bed or frantically stuffing it in the bin.

Guilt would encompass me and I would dramatically berate and condemn myself. That’s when self-harm began to find a place in my life.

© Roshni Bhattacharya 2013

Pixelated

Distorted vision

Harbouring contempt

A view blurred

concealed from igniting eyes

a muddied perspective

shunning the light

pixelated

an image broken

a life torn apart

sheltered and hidden

for her own protection

an identity crippled

a severed heart

her fears realised watching herself

where is her soul?

Beaten and bruised

values are mocked

blind perception

critical thinking keeps her from loving

compromised by self-loathing

unanswered questions keep her guessing

a tainted reflection

haunts her shattered world.

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.

What survivors and sufferers should say.

Whether you are a survivor or a sufferer, it does not matter. Equally you have been though the mill and equally you deserve to see some light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Yesterday I blogged a list of what you may often hear from your abuser. Well today let’s be more hopeful and write a list of what we should stand up and say. Many of us will never be heard. Many of us still have to find the courage to even say it out loud. It is a start. We need to acknowledge that it was never “our fault”.

  • I believe in me
  • I am worth something
  • My future is important
  • Do not overstep my boundaries
  • I do not deserve this
  • I am allowed to be selfish
  • He/She does not have control over my life
  • I cannot be restrained by fear
  • There are reasons to live
  • One day I will be truly happy
  • I am allowed to feel anger
  • Life will be good
  • One day I will get that power back
  • I have rights
  • NO
  • What he/she is doing is wrong
  • I value my life
  • It is the past now
  • If I need to call the police – I should
  • I feel sorry for him/her
  • I am free
  • Inspire yourself
  • Be the bigger person
  • I can walk away
  • It is not my fault
  • I will not argue with you
  • I am human
  • You have no claim over me
  • I will save myself
  • Only I know me
  • It is not your life
  • Saying what I feel is a God given right
  • I have nothing to say to you
  • I do not expect nor want anything from you
  • I am strong
  • I have a voice
  • I am not afraid of you
  • I make my own choices
  • You have no more control
  • I am capable of love
  • I deserve love
  • I do not “owe” you anything
  • STOP
  • We are over
  • My dreams and ambitions are of worth
  • I am a good person
  • You did not succeed
  • ENOUGH
  • I am not broken
  • There are many paths ahead of me
  • I am supported
  • You lost
  • Goodbye

Again. There are thousands more.

As Emeli Sande puts it:

You’ve got the words to change a nation but you’re biting your tongue

You’ve spent a lifetime stuck in silence afraid you’ll say something wrong

If no one ever hears it, how we gonna learn your song?

So come on come on, come on come on.

I wanna sing

I wanna shout

I wanna scream till the words dry out

So put it in all of the papers I’m not ashamed

They can read all about it, read all about it.