Pain from the Past

So I’ve got a bit of work to do. My past still haunts me. I’m not healed. A least, not entirely. A maybe I’ll never be 💯 over it. But I know I can be better. And it starts with me doing the work.

In comparison, I didn’t have a horrible childhood. But I’ve recently learned that it was abusive. Just hearing my therapist use that word—abuse, or abusive/-when describing my upbringing? Just typing those word right now? It’s emotional. You were abused, Markie. And the firm realization of that? It’s like a smack in the face. A wake-up call to the fact that what I experienced growing up wasn’t normal. My formative years weren’t like the horrors stories of abuse that so many have endured, but it was abuse just the same. Regardless of the severity, the memories of my past still hurts.

I’ve cried more these past few months than I have these past several decades. I feel…broken, in some respects. But I know I’m not. I know I’m healing, through the tears. Accepting that I was abused is just the first step. Or at least it’s one of the steps along the way. I make that distinction because I’m certainly not a clinical expert in recovery and I can’t comment on the actual roadmap to heal. I just know that my process isn’t complete.

If you bear with me, Dear Reader, I’d like to start like this: with a letter. A letter to my mom, or Cheryl as I call her now. Because a mom doesn’t do what she did. She provided the bare essentials in life: food, clothing and shelter. Beyond that? Meh.

So here we go:

Dear Mom,

I didn’t like when you told me I was ugly. It hurt. And it still does, truthfully. I don’t understand what the goal was, with that comment. I think I was about eleven at the time, just entering middle school. Life in general wasn’t easy at that age. We’d just moved to a new school and I had zero friends. I was unsure of myself and a had these insecurities and dark thoughts. Did you even know that, Mom? Did you know that I’d take that comment to heart, that I felt ugly, to my core? That it would replay in my mind hundreds of times, for decades? Is that what you wanted when you said those things? Did you want to see me suffer? Did my pain bring you joy?

I’m just trying to understand, Mom. Because I’m a father also. I mean, you know that already, considering your granddaughters have been at your house. I know it’s been a few years since you’ve seen them. But that’s not exactly unexpected, is it? After all, you did send me three letters wishing I were dead, ya know? And you also said that my children were dead to you, in your eyes. Comments like that are hard to come back from.

So yeah, you know I’m a father. And the point for me telling you this? That as a father—as a parent—I can’t fathom saying to my kids, “you’re ugly.” I just can’t. It doesn’t register. It doesn’t make any sense. Saying something like that—doing something like that—is outside the realm of possibility in my world. Because I actually love my children, dearly. And I could never hurt them as viciously as you did to me. With just those words.

Sure I’ve made mistakes, Mom. But not like that. I may have accidentally set fires around me, hurting those I love. But you? What you did, “Mom,” is grab my hand and place it in the fire, burning me with those words. And I still have the scars today. Thank…

No, Bitmoji. It’s a metaphor or an analogy or whatever literary device you wanna call it. My mom burned me, with words. Not with actual fire 🔥. Make sense?

Thanks for the interruption, Bitmoji. But now, let’s get back to my sarcastic expression of gratitude to my mom.:

…Thank you, Mom, for the scars associated with your verbal abuse. Good times. But actually, “scars” isn’t exactly the right word. Scars implies the wound is healed and all that remains is the physical evidence of the previous damage. But my wounds haven’t fully healed. They keep reopening, from time to time.

What you said to me, calling me ugly? It reminds me what you said to my daughter, when she was getting her ears pierced for the second time, after letting the previous piercing holes close up. In the mall, my daughter was super excited. Beaming with anticipation. But you crushed that excitement with, “Why are you going to get your ears pierced? You’re just going to let them close up again.”

Standing next to my daughter, I felt the energy suck out of her. And I didn’t do anything about it. Not because I was afraid. But rather, I was simply at a lose for words. I was shocked at the lack of love you showed. You didn’t give a flying duck at the pain you inflicted. And those self-esteem stealing comments sent me right back to my own childhood and the abuse—there’s that word again—I experienced being around that hateful woman. My past didn’t allow me to be present for my daughter when she needed a little positive support. Thanks for that too, Mom. You’re the best!

“Mom,” that comment you made to my daughter just made me recall another specific instance when I was fourteen. I’m guessing you don’t remember, considering how narcissistic you are. But the moment is etched firmly in my mind. I was going through some stuff in middle school, feeling kinda outcast and alone. In trying to find my way, I fell into a crowd that specialized in drinking alcohol and taking drugs. Marijuana was initially the drug of choice, but cocaine, PCP, and amphetamines were soon discovered. I quickly became part of the “burnouts,” as were were affectionately labeled by schoolmate. Concert t-shirts and flannels was the typical attire, signifying our membership in the drug culture.

Despite the change in my behavior, failing grades, and modifications in how I dressed, you were clueless Mom. If it didn’t affect your marathon sessions of daily television soap opera viewing, you were disinterested in my life. Still, you found ample time to belittle me.

During that same time period, I was a solid member of the varsity wrestling team. But that suffered as well; excessive alcohol and drug consumption tends to diminish your athletic prowess, particularly in a sport where physical conditioning is of utmost importance. Ultimately, prioritizing getting fucked up with the burnouts led me to quit wrestling.

But it was a short-lived hiatus: I returned to wrestling that same afternoon, just hours after I quit. An assistant coach approached me, encouraging me to come back. I listened. When I announced it to my parents, my mother’s response:

“Why? You’re just going to quit again anyway.”


Doesn’t that sound familiar, Mom? Can’t you see how the comment you made in the mall would trigger the memory of comments you made to me, when I was little?

I remember feeling so crushed, demoralized and humiliated. When you said what you did, I pushed away from the dinner table and stormed away, saying, “You’re such a…” I didn’t complete the sentence with, “…bitch,” for fear of the repercussions. But I was still physically thrashed, as my dad knew exactly what I was thinking. “If you ever call your mom a bitch, it’ll be the last thing you ever say,” was the repeated mantra, in between the hair pulling and beatings with the belt. But it was my mother’s words that hurt so much more that the physical abuse. She made me feel like such a piece of shit. And that same sentiment was directed towards my daughter, twenty years later, on the way to get her ears pierced. I wonder if that memory still haunts my daughter, just as the wrestling comment still invades my thoughts.

Around that same time period, you constantly told me I had an ugly body. My body was ugly and I was ugly, in my mom’s eyes. Being in a sport where “sucking weight” to be able to compete in your designated class just exacerbated my burgeoning body dysmorphia. Jogging with trash bags covering my body, in an effort to encourage weight loss, soon became sticking my fingers down my throat, to induce vomiting. I was bulimic, binging on M & M’s, Doritos and Twinkies until my self-loathing forced me to purge. That vicious cycle lasted a few years. But while the forced vomiting was no longer a thing, my body insecurities and other borderline eating disorder issues decided to stick around decades longer.

I have so many things to process, Mom. But it’s like eating an elephant: you’ve got to do it one step at a time. Otherwise, the problem gets to overwhelming, too daunting. At least, that’s what my therapist has suggested. He said I’ve got to write down just one or two things from my past that I’ve got to work through. We can’t tackle everything at once. So I’ll leave the times where you said you hated me, or that you wished you never had children, or the, or the, or the…I’ll leave all that tabled. For now. Let’s just work on the, “You’re ugly, Mark,” and the, “You’re just going to quit again,” stuff. Those are elephant-sized bites right there, aren’t they?

I don’t expect a response, Mom. It’s hard to get a response if I don’t even send this letter, which is probably what I’ll end up doing. I don’t think I have the energy for the rebuttal I’d get. In my head, I can already hear the lies, the defensiveness, and the hatred. So what’s the point of of me having to read them all over again? Plus, your son is dead to you, right? Maybe it’s best we just leave it at that…

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