“What’s the matter with you?” “Can’t you do ANYTHING right?” “You were a big mistake.” “Not only are you fat, you aren’t even pretty” “I’m going to take you to a mental institution and leave you there because you are crazy” Pretty awful things to have said to you. Repeatedly. Especially when you are five. Especially by your father.
I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for many years, stemming from an emotionally and physically abusive childhood. Daily I was reminded what a crushing disappointment my existence was, how my presence in the universe completely ruined his life. I tried so hard to be good. To be quiet. To be compliant. To be helpful. To be worthy of taking up space. But each attempt failed. An angry, bitter alcoholic can never be appeased. I broke my arm when I was 10. One of the worst beatings I ever received was that night after coming home from the hospital. My punishment for ‘being stupid and clumsy and costing him money’. I curled into a ball on my bed protecting my casted arm while blows rained on my back. I developed a very high pain tolerance. If I cried it made him angrier.
He put me and my sister in the back of the car one summer evening and drove to a bar. She was a year old and I was just shy of my 6th birthday. He tossed a baby bottle of milk in the back seat and grumbled ‘watch your sister’ to me and got out of the car. The windows were open, cool summer night. I watched the sunset and played with the baby. Night fell. The moon was out. Men would walk by the car and peer in, curious and surprised to see 2 small children. My sister fussed and I gave her the bottle. She fell asleep and I was so scared. I slipped out of the car and peed in the gravel next to the car, shaking because I was sure I’d get in trouble. He finally staggered back to the car, wordlessly drove home and went into the house. I’m not sure he remembered we were there. I struggled to lug a sleepy baby up the steps. I got her into her crib and crawled in with her. Terrified.
Walking home from kindergarten one day, two sixth grade neighbor boys roughed me up in the alley. Pushed me down and pulled my hair and tore my school papers. I ran home and up the steps to the apartment, crying with bleeding knees and a pigtail pulled out. My father greeted me with “What the hell happened to you?” I told him what happened. Imagine my surprise when he pushed me down the steps, enraged, and drunkenly screamed ‘why did you let them do that?? Get back out there and take care of it!” Soundlessly I ran outside and hid in the hydrangea bushes until I saw my mom come home. I waited until I knew she was inside then I slipped in quietly behind her.
This was normal to me. This was my daily existence. Different scenarios, but always the same results.. Him exploding in anger hurling insults and fists with surgical precision. Both inflicting deep scars. He died when I was 19. I was relieved. I felt a huge weight had been lifted. But the damage had been done. I still saw myself as a mistake. Someone who was never supposed to be born. A pariah on society. I don’t trust easily now. I still have to force myself to go places because I’m always certain no one wants me there. I will sit in my car and hyperventilate at the thought of walking into an event and having everyone cast a disdainful eye and turn away. I tend to linger unnoticed until everyone else has found a place to sit or stand or ‘be’ so as not to be a bother.
I am the MASTER of the Irish Goodbye. It has been with the help of very patient and kind people in my life that I have begun to reach out. I have started to take better care of me. That I went to my Dr and told him of my insomnia and feelings of being worthless. Depression and anxiety do not have to make you a prisoner in your own head. If I can seek help, you can too. You are worthy
Photographer’s Addendum: Molly is a beautiful person, inside and out. Getting past her exterior shell does take a bit of time, but is well worth it. Once she has opened up and entrusted you, she will defend you and uplift you to no end! I have had the pleasure of knowing and supporting her for a little under 3 years, and her story surprised me. An extremely powerful story to those of us that raise children. The impact that we can have on our children can be both incredibly positive, or incredibly negative with lasting impacts both ways. Choose to uplift your children! Support them. Thank you for sharing your powerful story Molly.