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Family Portrait

By , Oklahoma City, OK
How does a girl go from being sheltered and naive to being thrust out into the world with no warning and still come out of it all right, and maybe even a better person for it? Let me tell you, it isn’t very easy. I used to be that sweet little girl. I had a perfect, sheltered life. My parents raised my sister, Rachel, and me in a Christian household. They also home schooled us. We didn’t even know that things like drugs and alcohol existed. Did I mention we were sheltered? Our parents loved us, and we loved them. We were happy.

Every family, no matter how happy, has problems sometimes. I guess I always knew that my parents fought, but until I was about twelve years old, I never really understood. My dad was a workaholic, which meant that the only time he had available for Mom, Rachel and me was a couple of hours every night. You can imagine, I’m sure, how that led to problems. The fighting soon escalated until the fights were no longer just words; they were full blown physical fights. I remember seeing my mom slap my dad for the first time. I remember it all. As they fought more and more, they had less and less time for Rachel and me. We found ourselves in public school before we knew what was happening.

Public School was a major change for Rachel and me. She was in the eighth grade; I was in the tenth. Most of the people I met that year would have, at the time, labeled me “emo.” I was an introvert. I wore dark clothes. After having spent eight years of my life working alone, I liked having time to myself. The huge crowds of kids were shocking. I didn’t know how things worked around there. I was so afraid of looking dumb in front of my newfound peers. I didn’t eat lunch for two years, all because I didn’t want to go through the lunch line because I didn’t know how it worked. The easiest part of public school was the actual schooling. I’d learned great study skills from being home schooled. At first I was afraid that school would be too hard. But, after a few weeks, I realized that it was about as bad as fifth grade. After a while, I got used to everything, and school became my favorite place. It was going home that was depressing.

Alcohol is something that should never be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. My parents were the wrong hands. My mom and dad liked to “go out,” which was their code for, “We’re going to the bar, don’t wait up.” At first that was all right with us, but soon they started coming home so drunk they couldn’t keep from fighting. Rachel and I would listen to it at night, pretending to be asleep, but too frightened to do it for real. One night we locked ourselves in my bedroom, and refused to come out until they quit fighting. I couldn’t stop crying, but I didn’t want them to see. They were so intent on bringing us into the fight that they broke through my bedroom door with a machete. Rachel and I were so afraid that our lives were falling apart. Our parents hated each other. We didn’t know why, and we couldn’t stop it. Divorce was inevitable.
After taking so much abuse from my mom, my dad moved out. I guess he just couldn’t handle it. What he didn’t know was that after he moved out, she moved on. She couldn’t fight with him anymore, so she moved on to the next oldest family member. That was me. We argued almost daily. It kept getting worse and worse. She went from being my mom, the woman who took care of me and kept me from all the bad things in the world, to being the bad thing I needed to get away from. I was tired of the emotional abuse. One day, I was standing in my kitchen doing the dishes. Now, if someone was doing my dishes, yelling at them would be the last thing on my mind. I guess she didn’t feel the same way. She started yelling at me for no reason at all. I can’t even remember what insignificant thing she was so upset about, but I do remember that it hurt. When she was finished ranting, she went to run some errands. As soon as she was out the door I called my dad to come pick me up. I didn’t go back for weeks. I had realized that I would have to live my life without my mom’s help.

I did visit my mom and sister; however, those visits were rare. My mom acted like I didn’t exist. Once, when she was walking to Rachel’s school to walk her home, she walked by my school. I went to her and tried talking to her. She just kept walking. Can you imagine how it feels to have your own mother act like you don’t exist? It is beyond painful. Although I wasn’t living with her for the worst part of this whole ordeal, I know what went on. After I moved out she started fighting with Rachel. Eventually, Rachel moved out, too. My mom then started to drink more and more. So much more that she drank her sense away. She had “roommates,” but they didn’t pay rent. They didn’t help out at all. They only took advantage of her. They introduced weed to her. I once actually saw my mom smoking it. It was horrible. Moms are not supposed to do these things. She was losing her mind. In her world, there were men following her, stalking her. They wanted nothing more than to ruin her life and her reputation. George Strait was living in our attic. She was hearing voices; supposedly she heard the voice of Jesus. She didn’t know it, but she really was going crazy.

My dad, Rachel, and I were so scared for her, but we didn’t know what to do. We tried to get her to go to a doctor, but she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t listen to any of our suggestions. Eventually, she did move in with her family in Texas. She wouldn’t take any help from them, either. They were tolerant, though. There were episodes where she would get extremely defensive and start quoting Bible verses at people. At last, she hurt herself. One night, while watching a movie with her mom, she got up for a snack. She went into the kitchen and she asked Nana which of her knives was the sharpest. Nana, thinking that all Mom wanted to do was cut up some vegetables, directed her to the sharpest knife in the kitchen. The next thing she knew, my mom was standing in the living room, dripping blood all over the floor. My mom had imagined that Jesus had told her to slit her wrists. As horrible as that was, it was also a blessing in disguise. She was taken to the hospital immediately. From there she was transferred to a mental hospital, where she finally got some real help. My mom is better now, but I know she’s still hurting inside. My family is better, but we all still hurt, too.

I live in the real world now. Due to all of the decisions my parents have made, I have lost my innocence. The sweet, naive little girl in that beautiful family portrait is gone. She’s been replaced with a woman. A strong, confident young woman who knows what she wants, knows where she’s going, and knows how she’s going to get there. The experiences with my mother may have hurt me; they may have left wounds that will be painful for the rest of my life, but they have also strengthened me. I’m no longer too shy to go out and get what I want for myself, no matter what I have to do. I no longer need my parents. Of course, I still want them there, but I can do without their once ever-present care, support and guidance. I’ve learned to think critically and decide for myself how things in my life are going to be. What happens when a girl goes from living the good life to living a life she didn’t even know could exist? She learns, she grows, and she becomes a better person for the experience. This is my story.





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