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?

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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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2013 A review: April – June.

APRIL

This month saw many entries on WordPress taken from old journals and diaries I had discovered from the abuser’s home. I looked back on several noted incidents that affected me in some way. I began revealing much more about my father. Not only what he did to me but how he lived his own life, the values he followed and the life choices he made.

April was the first month that I displayed a photograph taken from my father’s house (Post: And he called me “dirty”! April 17th) It showed the awful way in which we both lived. A way that I hated but it was out of my control. My father put many demands and outrageous expectations on me over the years and this photo was just a small example of his control. The five bedroom house was far too much for one person to look after. Especially a young woman with a full time job, friends and a life. I wasn’t allowed “excuses”. I wasn’t allowed a life. My life was indebted to him. I “owed” him for having a life.

On the 20th, I suffered from a severe Asthma attack where I was taken to the emergency room by my neighbour. I received a lot of support and well wishes from the WordPress community. It surprised and moved me that strangers all over the world showed such kindness to someone they had never met. I was not used to that. Thank you.

MAY

May was a busy month for me. In my general life and on WordPress. It was the first time I shared my poetry on my blog with “Control me”, a piece I wrote during the years of severe abuse.

On the 20th on May, I travelled to Madrid, Spain for a five day trip with three of my colleagues and twelve children from work. It was an experience to say the least! I am thrilled to have done it. To be trusted by my superiors and given that responsibility is something I will treasure. The laughs we shared will be remembered forever. It really was a once in a lifetime sort of thing.

The weekend I returned was that of my one year wedding anniversary with David. Although the wedding day itself holds some upsetting memories (a day that I still can’t bring myself to fully blog about with reasons that no one bar David seem to comprehend), it is always going to be the moment I pledged my love and trust to my devoted husband David and that is main reason why our anniversary will be special for the rest of our lives. I wrote you a letter David on our anniversary this year. Here is to many more my love.

The biggest moment of May was when I made the risky decision to “out” some very spiteful girls. Four to be exact as I began a series of posts retelling the story of their betrayals. C & C, H and N were subject to the truth finally coming out. I received many responses to the series. Old school friends and colleagues who understood whom I was referring to offered their support and agreement. Their thoughts were very welcome. However, I did receive one negative comment from a supporter and friend of N. She threatened legal action at my accusations. All I said was the truth. I did not use names, nor did I say exactly where we had known each other from. N’s friend only landed N in it, she basically announced to the world of Facebook who N actually was. She was the one who broke the rules. Her anger embarrassed her and surprisingly, many of our peers from that time spoke out in support for me. She never followed through with her threats.

A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit.
Thomas Jefferson

JUNE

June was a pretty easy month. The weather began to dramatically improve in England and Summer seemed to be fast approaching. I blogged seventeen times this month.

Deliberate Donkey a woman’s story about her journey through domestic violence, generously re-blogged my work. It would be the first time someone had referred to my abuser as a “sociopath” after reading my story. It was a term I began to explore.

http://deliberatedonkey.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/guest-post-freefromhim/

(Scroll up to top of page when opened)

E.C.D. Excessive Compulsive Disorder – Photo 4.

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My father not only had O.C.D but E.C.D or as I like to call it: Excessive Compulsive Disorder. As you saw in photo 2, my father was a terrible hoarder. This was not just contained to the garage. It spread through the house but it was always well hidden. The kitchen cupboards were host to his disorder. This photo is a small example of his compulsion to store rubbish. How many plastic containers can one person need? No way was his obsession this bad when I was at home. It worsened when I left and his bizarre addiction grew. He never used these things nor did they have any order.

Each cupboard held another trove of goodies for his compulsion. Whether it was piled high with cups and glasses (see below) or stocked with hundreds of coffee jars, filled with over fifty plates or stacked high with tissue boxes; my father just could not stop.

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I never questioned it or challenged him. He would not have been able to see through his addiction. By the end, it had consumed him. The house was filled with excessive amounts of utter crap. After he died and we went to tidy up, we were appalled at the state it had become. For a man who detested wastage, I was confused at how risky he was with some of his purchases. He berated me horrifically if I ever wasted anything. I became extremely nervous and careful when buying anything perishable in case he saw my waste. So why not criticise his own wastage?

He never berated himself.

He never saw fault in himself.

Only in me.

My father the hoarder – Photo 2.

The garage: a place he kept all the things that could not fit in anywhere else. I hated it. It never had a purpose, it was just a dirty storage unit for my father. When I was growing up, the garage was filled with garden equipment, old suitcases, our childhood bikes, ladders and occasional cleaning products. It was kept just like a garage should be. When my mother left, it’s purpose became unclear and my father began using it as a dumping ground. Old chairs began to surface as did other furniture we had stopped using. He started collecting crates of wine and endless bottles of beer there. Several sets of garden furniture appeared over the years, just in case he ran out during his BBQs for his “friends”. His hoarding was growing out of control. Worst of all, this space one day became my father’s gym. He bought a rowing machine and exercise bike and placed them into the already cramped area. I kept well away. No one ever entered the garage except him. That was until he started using it as an airing room. The damp, mouldy garage became the place he hung his clothes to be aired. When my father decided that he wanted entire control over every aspect of my life and began washing my clothes,* the garage was the place to let them dry. As he had been tirelessly looking after me, it was then my “job” to make sure all the clothes were hanged up on the washing lines he had now attached to the garage ceiling. ALL the clothes. Including his underwear. I refused of course. I would not attach mine either, he hated my insolence but nothing was going to let me degrade myself any further. He just laughed at me reiterating how ridiculous I was being and to “grow up and take responsibility”. I stood my ground, I already felt belittled enough.
I dreaded Sundays.
The day of “rest”. Well, it wasn’t for me. It was the day my father would do the few chores he set for himself. It was the day of “inspection” where my father would check on my cleaning and tidying. It was the day where I would often find piles of my “mess” the abuser had discovered strewn and scattered all over the house. It was my day to hang up the laundry and enter the disgusting garage. Sunday was the day I hated, when my father would follow me in and watch to see if I was doing it correctly otherwise it would all be taken down and done again. This time as he waited.

*See post: The right to wash my own clothes –  Published 2nd April 2013

 

Before I left – Photo 1.

Before I left - Photo 1.

I look at this photo in amazement. My lonely black chair beside a singular mirror. Who lived there? Nothing suggests this is home to anyone. Yet it was my home, my prison, my shelter, my room. The red walls only magnify my emotions at the time; my anger and hurt growing from the daily abuse. The emptiness echoed my loneliness. This was what I looked at for fifteen years of my life. A blank space. I wasn’t allowed possessions, I was afraid to keep them. Mostly in fear of him and his many, many rules. The fear of him finding a personal touch or something new stopped me in my tracks. So I kept it sparse to pacify him and keep my head above the water. That was until he found a tissue on the floor or a glass on the table and the contents of my drawers would be strewn across the floor. I took a set of photos before I left the house for good. Here is a series of the sadness.

Your face sickens me.

Whilst flicking through my wedding album on the weekend, I came across a photo of my father with my husband. An innocent photo, a pleasant one even but nonetheless, it was one that caused an immediate reaction from me. My mother was taken aback by my display. Without control or realisation, I burst into tears, feeling sick from the image I was staring at. I instantaneously covered his face with my hand and tried to focus on something else. 

“It’s just a photo!” flew from my mother’s lips. She could not believe he was still able to provoke this emotion in me. But it was more than that to me. It was a reminder of the feelings I had on my wedding day. When I should have been thrilled and excited, I was cagey and fraught. The notion and fact that he was at my wedding completely ruined my day. He had caused so much trouble in the months leading up to it that he never should have been invited but there was many other opinions flying around and plenty of judgement targeted at me, the unkind and selfish daughter.

Looking at him just brought it all back and now, there he is, embedded in my album, etched into the page and I cannot remove him. 

Dramatic? Ridiculous?

I never expected to react that way especially to a simple photo.

Family photos.

After the age of eleven, when primary school was over, the amount of family photos or any photos lessened. My childhood photo album stops around the age of ten. After that: empty. No one bothered to fill it up. Pictures were not taken in our house, there was nothing to document, nobody wanted to remember. I did not own a camera till my late teens so a whole section of my life feels as though it is missing. My memories are all I have and even those are a blur. 

There are no pictures of any of us at this time. My sister was eighteen when I was ten. She went inter-railing around Europe with friends after she took her A-Levels. She took photos there. However, there were no family photos. Occasionally my father would place us next to each other and force a family photo out of me and my sister. In these photos she looks incredibly uncomfortable, it’s obvious it is not her choice to be posing, to show a moment of happiness; there were no moments of happiness. I on the other hand, oblivious to my father’s controlling intentions, reveled in the picture taking much to my sister’s annoyance.

I wanted to be in photos. I wanted to see my family together. I was very aware that in reality we were falling apart. My want to be photographed only added to my sister’s resentment and irritation of me. I was self-centred and narcissistic when honestly I was a ten year girl who wanted memories of her sister.

I never had an agenda.

When I look on Facebook at friends’ photos of their family and children, I feel quite sad. I have nothing to look back on.

At my wedding, David and I had a show reel of our childhood in pictures. I have plenty of baby pictures but after a certain point the images vanish. It was upsetting to see David’s abundance of childhood photos.

Surely my life was as important. Why couldn’t my parents given me that? 

I forget to take photos of important events now. To be honest, I don’t really enjoy having my picture taken. I feel very self conscious. 

“Photography is truth” – Jean-Luc Godard.