This one is really dark. I don’t want you reading this if my retelling of abuse and suicide attempt is going to trigger you. I have to write this. It’s the only way to process it. I don’t care who knows it. I have already shared my most shameful moments. It’s time to let you know what it was really like growing up in my house.
I have to go home this week to Tucson to tie up loose ends. I’m anxious about it. It’s not fun stuff. It’s just me doing taxes and going through storage units to get rid of stuff.
I’m not staying at a fancy hotel. I’m staying, basically, in a shed in someone’s backyard for $35 a night not too far from Miracle Mile…which I can’t imagine got too gentrified in the time since I left.
I asked my dad if he would help with the cost of a rental car. It’s a huge deal for me to ask him for any financial help because his help comes with strings. But Ubers are cost prohibitive in Tucson, and he just took the whole family to SoCal so, I figure it’s not too big an ask.
I’m pretty sure he’ll find a way to sabotage it or make me seem ungrateful for not wanting to see my mother. This is the price I am willing to pay to get financial help with a rental car.
You probably already know about my dad’s history with stealing my money. While he can be warm and friendly, he also can be relentless and unapologetic when it comes to screwing me over. So I have to be really careful with this.
I should cut all ties, honestly, with my family. That whole family structure is built on lies from alcohol abuse to severe psychological disorders to children born out of wedlock from extra-marital affairs and women paid to disappear. Oh, and lots of denial. For the longest time I thought I was the problem. You’d think you were the problem if every time you brought up abuse you were told that it never happened, that you were a liar and you ruin everything.
My biggest beef with my dad is that he never protected me from my mom. Of all the people in the world, he knew how evil and insane she was and he refused to stand up for me, even when I was very little. I was four and my mother would interrogate me about things that never happened for hours. All he would do was come into the room and complain that her tirades made it hard for him to fall asleep. There were days where my mother and father would fight in their bedroom and my mother would make me pick sides. Again, I was four. Anytime I got in trouble, my mother claimed that I manipulated my father, so my father stopped getting involved.
My parents separated when I was seven. My dad left. Who do you think was there to absorb my mother’s tirades? He couldn’t stand her. I was a defenseless child with autism. I got picked up from Michael’s birthday party in May, and on the short ride home, my mother told me my father had moved out. I had my first communion during this time. My father came but he didn’t even approach me. My mother’s family took me to the El Dorado for menudo afterwards. I wasn’t allowed to cry. It was my job to be strong. Strong in a giant puffy white dress. Terrible things can be covered up with lace and bows.
I had to hear every detail of what had gone on…my father’s affair, my mother’s insanity…the separation. I even knew how many days my parents had to be separated before the court could order a divorce. When I brought it up in front of them, they denied it and I played stupid.
Everything she did to him, she did to me. Except she never beat him. And he could stay out all day, get in a car and leave when she started to act up. And when he did stay away or leave, I was there to take the rage she couldn’t dish out to him. I was a child. I had nowhere to go.
There were only two occasions in which he protected us. Once, he got us out of the house and left us with my grandparents overnight. When we came home, all the wooden furniture had been smashed to bits and there was broken glass all over the house. No explanations. No reassurances. No hugs. My sisters were at most three and a year old. I’m the only one who acknowledges this. This is what it was like to grow up in my home. But it wasn’t considered bad because my mother’s childhood home had supposedly been this…every Sunday night. I know it’s true because the abuse never stopped. As my grandfather devolved into dementia, the police were called routinely. He was jailed for beating my grandmother. At one point, the cops came in to find him sitting on a chair, with my grandmother pinned underneath it. And since I was a lawyer, I was called upon for legal advice about what to do with my grandparents.
My mother would repeat history and end up in jail after attacking my sister. I took her to London and Paris in 2016, where she behaved horribly most of the time. By the time we were on the plane home, I was rocking back and forth in my chair and crying…from London to Phoenix. When we went through customs, she got pulled into an office because her SENTRI status was threatened on account of the domestic violence charge that had been dropped. She blamed me for that as well.
This is what I live with. This is what I cannot forget. These are things my parents will deny to my face in front of witnesses. I could not make this up. I wouldn’t know how to and I don’t know how anyone would make this up to somehow benefit from such awful stories.
That info graphic is a lot, but not all, of what went on in my house. First came the abuse, then came the denial.
They can’t deny it at this point. From the outside, my family doesn’t not look happy. My mother has lost control of her tightly maintained image. She’s gotten blackout drunk at baby showers in front of other people and made scenes. They’ve seen a tiny bit of my life. You don’t know what a relief it is to have people acknowledge that it’s not all in your head.
But even when people see her evil, and I have been at my most vulnerable and in need of help, I’ve been the one to have to take the blows. Long before I attempted suicide in 2015, I put together all my documents in case I lost my mind. I didn’t want my mother in charge of medical decisions and father in charge of my money because that is basically the doomsday scenario.
I asked my aunt Kaliz to make the medical decisions because she was level-headed and worked in a medical-related field. When I attempted suicide, she wanted to resign because she could not deal with my mother’s psychotic breakdowns. And while I was in the ICU and the mental hospital, my parents went on a character assassination campaign, telling everyone who would listen that I was an alcoholic. I was unstable, yes. But there just happened to be a lot of unopened, still corked bottles of wine in my house because I’d bought wine in bulk to give away at Christmas. My aunt was so sick of my mom by the time she visited me at Palo Verde that she thought that maybe a month or two in the mental hospital would do me good because it was “obvious I was really sick.”
My psychiatrist was another giant disappointment and this still hurts. She had known how crazy and abusive my mother was for years. She had told me in the past that she didn’t want to deal with my mother because my mother was so awful. And then, after the suicide attempt, and before even talking to me and asking if I was safe or if anyone had hurt me or what had happened, she told me over the phone from her vacation spot that I probably had borderline personality disorder and she was going to discontinue treating me. She was angry with me. It’s so convenient to call me the problem and ignore the fact that I was a child of abuse or that suicide is the second biggest killer of autistics after heart attacks.
I don’t know who had told her what, but it was wrong. So there I was, in socked feet, standing in the hallway of a mental hospital, talking to my doctor of a decade at that point, having just been told by some doctor who had known me for 20 minutes total that my stay at the hospital would be extended indefinitely, and having to stay really fucking calm and with it to advocate for myself to my own psychiatrist that I needed to get out of there because nobody believed me and no one really cared about my actual mental health disintegrating at that point.
So there I was…an autistic woman, completely terrified, in a place of total sensory overload, with absolutely no privacy or means of dealing with my issues, let alone anyone who believed that I had autism. I had to keep it together while warehoused in a freezing human meat locker to deal with callous, ignorant doctors, a psychotic mother, an unfeeling father, an aunt with power of attorney who was sick of my mother, mental healthcare professionals who used their tiny amounts of power over the powerless, mental patients for sadistic fun and who did not provide any actual mental healthcare, actual patients with borderline personality disorder/schizoaffective disorder and history of violence, meth addicts and a top dollar concierge psychiatrist who was annoyed that her Sedona vacation had been interrupted. I had just tried to kill myself and not a single person wanted to know if I really was ok.
And then, they just let you out. They make sure you have one appointment scheduled with a doctor. The trauma you’ve just experienced is something you have to figure out on your own as you pick up the pieces of your life, put them in a paper bag, and renter civilization.
Every time I have seen my psychiatrist since, she has brought up the fact the she still does not forgive me for the suicide attempt.
When I think back on how I was able to keep my shit together in that place, get out, start from scratch, and pull my life together, while everybody around me had counted me out, not just for things I’d done but things I would never even fathom doing, I realize that I am way stronger than anyone would ever imagine from the outside. I may not look it from the outside, but I’m a mother fucking survivor. And I’ve still got shit to accomplish.
The truth can get covered in layers and layers of bullshit. But it does not change the underlying truth. Some facts cannot go unnoticed. To the trained eye, the dysfunction in my family and its after effects are so obvious that no amount of veneer can hide it. Every single person in that family, down to my nephew, whom I love to the point of my heart breaking, unfortunately, shows the hallmark signs of being touched by the evil that lived in that house off of Patagonia Highway.
And what I’ve learned is that when the shit hits the fan, I am the only one I can trust. I feel safer in NYC than I ever felt in Arizona. So I’ve got to keep my head in the game when I go home because I’ve got a life waiting for me back here that can’t get sidetracked by all the baggage, real or figurative, that awaits me in Tucson.
No sweat, right?
I think I might head to Time Square to get a banana, brownie and Oreo milkshake today. I feel like I’ve earned it.