To many people I am abrasive, blunt and some would say arrogant: this is my shield that I have created to protect myself from those who like to prey on the vulnerable, the bullies and those who enjoy feeling strong by making someone else weak. My shield has many scars and rough edges, which I have acquired other the many years of my life. I gained most of these in my childhood where I quickly learnt to be quiet when things got noisy. To many of you reading this won’t know the real me; my Instagram face is not the same one I had when I was young.
Let me take you back to when I was small. From a very young age I thought our life was a normal family. I thought that everybody’s parents argued that a stack of empty cans by the side of the computer was just how a dad behaved. Then one day I went to a friend’s house for dinner and I remember sitting there at the dinner table, parents both talking, no stack of cans or orders to get another drink from the fridge, and I just thought this family is really weird, that they were the abnormal ones. After time I knew that it wasn’t their family that was different from the norm, it was mine. I’m sure you have probably guessed by now that my dad was not a particularly good one, most days it was the rambling of a fool from the computer with the occasional order of more drink from the fridge, and then followed by passing out in the bathroom. I mean I definitely learnt a lot about how to manoeuver a drunk person or the signs of that guys had too many, I guess these are some skills he taught me over the years for later university life. I’m sure there are other ways to teach a child about the effects of drinking though. At times he was great, he was funny and just a big kid. But then a switch would flip and he would become a man I didn’t know, a man who could say the cruelest things that would cut straight through you. He knew just what to say to make you feel as small as an ant but yet two seconds later bring you right back up to just throw you back down. Many of my nights were spent trying to be quiet sitting by my dad while he played PC games hoping he might acknowledge me for a split second. Over time getting him drinks became something I enjoyed as it was one of the few times he came away from the hypnosis of the computer. As a child I remember becoming so used to the cans of drink that every day I would count them to see if he had increased on the number from before, not realizing how wrong it was.
While I joke about my childhood (the best way to get past the bad times for me) it was definitely not something that I would ever want to repeat, but in many ways wouldn’t take back. One of the most memorable moments of my childhood was the day my dad left (well one of the times he left it was a common occurrence for him indecisive in the woman he actually wanted to be with). But this one particular time resounds with me; even in my adult life I will never forget the smash of the kitchen door repeatedly, the hinge breaking and the great sadness and pain across my mum’s face. I was very much a daddy’s girl I guess they say you crave the love of those who are most horrible to you. I was terribly sad and felt like I must have done something to make my dad leave that I must have done something that could have pushed him away from us all. Looking back I know I was wrong, the sadness I felt that day has been replaced by joy as this was one of the best days of my childhood. After that day my mum suffered less, she felt safer and the house became somewhere we could be happy. It also became the day I started to really become my mum’s friend as we were never really close until this point. With the support of my big sister and newborn sister alongside we were there every moment for mum. That first year was very hard for us as a foursome with the relationships being tested on all sides. My dad would appear many times and keep coming back to see my mum, not interested in us of course, it was his nature to be besotted with only one activity. Money was a constant worry for my mum and at the age of 8 I learnt a lot of things that an 8 year old didn’t need to learn which meant I quickly had to grow up, fast. With a newborn sister and my mum and elder sister’s relationship struggling I felt a lot of pressure to help as much as I could. Cooking, Cleaning and sitting with my mum at the night feeds became the norm, I struggled at school and was bullied a lot kids would chant songs at me and call me a tramp as my clothes were scruffy and didn’t fit. Something any child from a broken home will know that money plays a big factor.
At the age of 10 my life took a very sad turn, my dad became not only my mum’s abuser but my own. Luckily for me I only experienced this once; I know many children are not so lucky. But one event can shape you for the rest of your life. This is a big battle wound that I carry on my shield. From that day on for a long time I was very untrusting with boys and felt scared if I was even just hugged by a boy. It was as if the abusers could see that I was already damaged and the boys who liked to prey on the vulnerable just came my way. Just one event shaped many more sad times for me. Through my teens these dents just became more prominent through more abusers in various forms, older boyfriends, friends I thought I could trust and careless choices of alcohol and a mix of bad sleeping arrangements. Towards the end of my teens I became more trusting thanks to some very nice boyfriends who showed me that not all boys are trying to lull you into a false sense of security.
I still carry my shield and reveal it to those who don’t know me. It’s where I feel safe when around those who are new to me. It may seem at times I am blunt or hard but this keeps the bullies and abusers away. It does at times also push those who are caring and kind away and for that I am sorry. But behind my shield I am sensitive; I cry like any other person does I have a soft center but a hard outer shell. My childhood was not perfect and a piece of me says I would change at a split second but I think I would be lying to myself if I said that it hadn’t made me who I am. I wouldn’t be independent or as strong as I am now. For that I want to say thank you to my mum; when I was younger I did not appreciate how hard things must have been for her but now as a I mother I know that it must have been so hard for her to feel like she couldn’t support us. She is such a strong woman who has helped through some very difficult and hard times and for that I am grateful. To some it may seem like she could have made different choices but it is easy to judge someone when you have not yourself been in that situation.