Verbal Abuse & C-PTSD

Drawing of verbal abuse from family member“You’re a slut.” “I don’t know you bother coming back here.” “You are a disgusting, horrible person.” “You make me sick.” “I don’t know why you even bother coming home.” “I wish you would die. Do us all a favor.” The barrage of verbal abuse was coming from my then thirteen-year-old brother. It is no wonder I have complex PTSD.

I knew that he was repeating what he had heard before. Kids learn abusive patterns from those around them. I know he listened to those verbally abusive things about me from my mother. I had heard those exact words from her many times before.

After a time, I tuned out the barrage of verbal abuse. I had gotten very good over the years at blocking out the abuse. I was and still am especially adept at pushing down my anger. I could agree with my little brother on one of those points. Why do I bother coming back here?

Staying on the Streets

I had been gone for weeks before coming home and being waylaid by my brother. It’s what I did when it got to be too much. I would leave and not come home. Staying with my boyfriend, in my car, at friend’s houses, where ever I could crash.

I didn’t have a steady spot to lay my head. And I never knew when I would get a meal. I scraped and scrounged my meager earnings, but I never seemed to have enough. I had to prioritize what I spent money on. Food was always last on the list.

Dumpster Diving

I had my way of figuring out food. Going without became the norm for me back then. I knew when the local fast-food places and coffee shops would throw out their day-old food that hadn’t sold. I would wait outside at the end of the alley, watching for when the employees would turn to go back inside. 

The employees got to know my other homeless-by-choice group and me. They told us they were supposed to unwrap the food and then dump it so that people like me wouldn’t be able to eat it. Some did that, and most did not. I would always find the day-old burgers still wrapped, sometimes even placed inside a paper bag with fries. Those were the best days. 

Not knowing where I would sleep or find food was always better than going home. I preferred living the way I did than having to go through daily verbal abuse. As I gained my independence, the abuse got worse.  On those days that I would return home to the abuse, I didn’t know why I bothered coming home.

 

It’s Time to Leave

Shortly after my little brother ran out of verbally abusive lines and went off to do whatever he had that day, I made a decision. Later that day, I made the hardest phone call that I would ever make. “Jean,” I spoke in hushed tones over the phone, “It is time. I need to leave.”

After almost eighteen years of abuse, I had finally had enough.

Moving Day

I picked a day that my mother would be at work. I didn’t want to fight or have to be strong when I was so scared. As I started moving things out, my little brother called my mother. She left work and came home. I was expecting a fight. I was expecting tears, berating, anything but what happened.

My mother walked in and looked at me and then at my boyfriend. “So, you are moving out?” I replied, “Yes.” I kept walking with the box I had in my arms. My fight or flight response was on high alert. My ears were ringing, my heart was pounding, and I thought I would pass out as my vision started to tunnel. I was steeling myself for the epic blowout I was sure would happen.

But it never happened. My mother called her friends and talked on the phone the whole time I was moving. She got my little stereo and wiped the dust off it as she spoke to her friend. It was watching her do that, taking such care to get the dust out of the buttons and crevices that broke my heart. I knew she loved

Staying Strong

With that thought, I almost changed my mind. I almost ran to my mother, hugged her crying, telling her that I was sorry and that we could do better. But then all the memories of the years of abuse came back to me. No, I thought, she may love me but her love is so broken. I don’t want that kind of love. 

And so, as I had done for so long, I pushed down my sadness, my desire to hug her and tell her I was sorry. Straightening my back, strengthening myself, I thanked her for cleaning my stereo and loaded that last item into the car. 

She said to me as she watched me walk out for the last time, “Have a nice life. I won’t ever see you again.” 

 

Turmoil Within

drawing of the day the author left that verbal abusive home and is not looking at the houseI looked straight ahead, focusing on the end of the driveway as my boyfriend drove me and all of the worldly possessions. I continued staring straight ahead as we turned from the driveway onto the road. I could see the house out of the corner of my eye as we drove by, but I did not, would not look at it.

“Are you okay?” My boyfriend asked, pulling me out of my laser focus to push all of my emotions down within myself. Still staring straight ahead, I replied, “Yes.” I lied that day. I was not okay. I have not been okay, not in a long time, if ever.

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