rebel diaries :: the day i died.

When I first launched The Rebel Diaries, Caleigh was one of the first people to contact me. As we emailed back and forth, her story came out and her courage and bravery increased drastically. We went from publishing her story anonymously to her asking me to leave her name because she'd done hiding. I couldn't be more proud.

Today, she shares with you her story. 

((TRIGGER WARNING :: references to physical, emotional, sexual and spiritual abuse))

{Image by Dani Kelley}

It was normal, or so I thought, for dads to get so angry that they constantly broke something around the house because of throwing it, slamming it down, or banging it against a wall.
It was normal, or so I thought, to hear one’s parents yelling and screaming at each other well into the night, during church at your house, dad punching holes in the walls so he didn’t punch your mom instead.
It was normal, or so I thought, for dads to throw their children around, grab them tightly by their necks, and yell into their faces about how stupid, disobedient, disrespectful, and idiotic they are. It was normal, or so I thought, for dads, when they got angry, to look absolutely possessed, and intensely scary.
It was normal, or so I thought, for dads to be yelling at their kids and demanding forgiveness on the way to church, and suddenly act like everything was okay as soon as we walked in the door.

I always knew something wasn’t right with my family, and would often spend hours curled up in the darkest, tightest corner of my room sobbing as I listened to my dad yell and scream at my mom. I often thought their fights were my fault. It’s hard to explain to a ten year old that mommy and daddy’s fights aren’t your fault, or anyone else’s but daddy’s fault. It’s hard to explain to other people about the many times my siblings and I went without dinner because someone, and sometimes it was dad, had misplaced a tool, or the tape, or a small screw that had been sitting on the counter. I usually escaped the “no-dinner-tonight” scenes, but not always. Being the oldest often exempted me from the corporal punishment my dad liked to inflict, but being the oldest also gave me the difficult responsibility of protecting my siblings from my dad’s vicious anger. I knew my dad had major anger problems, and I knew he often took it out on my two oldest brothers. I knew that one of my sisters often drew that anger upon herself, and she got thrown around, too. I knew my parents’ marriage was falling apart, and I knew my dad was very, very good at hiding his anger in public and pretending that everything was okay. Although I knew all of this, nothing prepared me for that dark day in October, some 7-8 years ago, when my mom called me into her room to explain something.

“Your dad’s been addicted to pornography for over 20 years.”

I grew up naive about the ills of the internet, sex abuse, or any sort of abuse. I never would have categorized my home life as an abusive environment, simply because I didn’t know that that was what it was. I grew up knowing nothing about pornography, I never associated it with myself, my family, or what was going on with my family. I had always seen that as something far away, something that wasn’t really touchable for me. I was naive, and maybe, I would venture to say, harmfully so.

Let me quickly state that when I say “addiction,” I mean that in the truest sense of the word. I don’t mean that my dad would every once in awhile look at porn, it was an all the time, consuming need for it, and when he didn’t look at it for awhile, that’s when the anger was the worst. I had no idea of the psychological or neurological effects of a porn addiction, nor did I know or understand how that addiction changes the way you view and relate to people; women, in particular. I didn’t know that my dad had been addicted long before my parents got married and my mom had a very harsh awakening on their honeymoon. I had no idea that several of my siblings would catch my dad looking at porn multiple times, or that he would blatantly delete the internet history because my mom checked it.

I was 15, and no 15 year old should find out that her dad was addicted to porn and had no intention of changing, repenting, or apologizing for the anger, abuse, and rejection he made his family suffer. It took awhile for the words to sink in. I couldn’t look my dad in the eyes for about six months, nor could I talk with him. It was like a dam broke in my mind. Suddenly, everything that I always wondered about made sense. It all suddenly made sense why my dad was so angry all the time, it made sense why I had caught him several times on the computer with this guilty look, it made sense why he had been touching himself when I walked in on him when I was ten. It made sense why I had caught my dad’s eyes wandering or why he was overly friendly with several women over the years. I just didn’t expect that my dad would be addicted to porn, or that my family would ever have to deal with that kind of crap.

We were the “good” family, you know?

Mom told me that his addiction was the cause of a lot of their fights, his anger, and why we had left so many different churches while we were growing up. Mom told me that my dad’s addiction was the reason we no longer spoke to friends we had known for many, many years. Mom told me that anytime someone tried to approach my dad about his treatment of his wife and children, or even his anger issues, my dad would immediately call it quits and we would never see that person again. Mom told me that she had almost left my dad many times because he had no problem with how he treated her or my siblings, and didn’t see what or why he had to change. I found out later just how intense the effects are of being completely sucked into pornography for that long, and for the type of porn he looked at. It wasn’t until just about three years ago that I understood how the mindset of the father having absolute authority in the home had ruined my family because my dad did not see any other man or woman having higher authority than him when it came to his wife and children.

I staggered around for the rest of that afternoon trying to process what mom had told me. I felt like my mind was in a fog. I had no problems lining up what I already knew and felt about my family with what she told me. It was simply the fact of allowing myself to accept that what she told me, and what I knew, was true. Later that same day, I came upon more than half of my siblings gathered around the computer laughing and giggling looking at porn themselves. I dissolved into tears of utter disbelief and just about broke the computer in an effort to hide what they were looking at. I couldn’t believe that my siblings, including my four year old brother, were looking at pornography and it was obvious that this wasn’t the first time either. I began wondering that day just how much I had missed of what was going on in my family despite what I could already define. I wondered how much I had closed my eyes too because my mind wouldn’t let my heart accept what I had seen.

Those were the days when my life truly began to shatter and I realized that my family was incredibly messed up. I felt completely broken, lifeless. I felt like my heart had been shattered and it no long beat within my body. I felt betrayed and my trust was smashed as I realized that my dad was not who I thought he was. I felt sick to my stomach trying to understand what I had just been told about my family. My heart died when I realized that my siblings were getting pulled into the addiction as well. I almost lost my will to live that day. I felt like the entire illusion of what I thought my family was had been washed away and I had no idea what it meant to be the oldest in my family. I had no idea what “my family” meant anymore. The facade my dad was so good at keeping up in front of himself and my family suddenly meant nothing. I accepted that my siblings and I were simply surviving, not living, not even really breathing, just surviving. I looked at my dad and wondered how much of what he had “taught” me and my family for years was really true. I wondered how much of what I knew about him was the truth and what was just the fake front he kept up. My life was completely unreal to me that day, and I had no idea what was up or what was down. Nothing made sense, and everything I had ever known was untrustworthy or was fake.

Finding out about my dad and catching my siblings in the same day was almost too much for my sensitive innocent heart. I think I did die that day; at least a big part of me did.

Finding out that my dad was a hypocritical, manipulative, angry man who really didn’t want anything more from his family than that they keep his good name and image intact was devastating.

That was the day that I began asking if I really mattered, did my dad really love me? Did he really care for and want to protect his family?

My dad’s anger, physical abuse of some of the kids, and his lack of emotional interaction all made sense now. What I then couldn’t understand was why my mom didn’t leave my dad. I couldn’t understand why she let him continue to abuse her and my family. I still don’t understand why she can’t see that my siblings are acting out BECAUSE of my dad, not because they are just rebellious. I don’t understand why my dad can’t see that my sister starting cutting herself because of the pain he has put her through. I understand that my mom has been under my dad’s poisonous influence for almost 30 years, and I can understand that it is terrifying to think of leaving the man who has all control over the family’s money, house, vehicles. I also understand that my dad sees my mom as a “slave,” someone who does he says without questioning, challenging, or talking back. My dad’s definition of submission is his wife agreeing with and doing everything he says or tells her to do.

It has been seven years since I found out that my dad was addicted, and in those seven years, things have only gotten worse.

I have never written about my dad’s porn issues, nor have I ever written about the day I caught my siblings. I have never had the words to describe the wretched heartache I faced that day. Finding out later that my brothers were just as ravenous for porn as my dad was/is, added more to the heartache. I have always felt responsible for my siblings, and I have always carried this very protective gene in me as I have watched them be abused, and thrown around the room simply because they didn’t respond quick enough to an angry man.

Anger, abuse, manipulation, pornography, controlling: all of these things are very sensitive issues for me. I have called out against my dad’s abuse and have been told in response that I’m being bitter and I haven’t forgiven him. I have kept the pain inside me as I have whispered that I’m not bitter, my heart is just gasping for air. I have shouted out in the anger that my pain has fed towards the man who has destroyed my family and more than half of my eight siblings.

I wonder if there is any physical or sexual abuse in my past that I can’t remember.
I wonder what the five-ten year memory gaps are hiding. I can’t remember if my dad has ever touched me.
I wonder why it is that older men severely scare me, or why it is that any man who looks like my dad at all freaks me out.
I wonder why it is that men’s hands that look and move like my dad’s freak me out so much I have a mini panic attack.

I have no respect for the man who is my dad. I lost all respect for him when he got kicked out of the military because he was still viewing porn on their computers at work. He had been warned at least three times in the 19 years and six months he spent in the military. He cried when they kicked him out, but those were not tears of repentance, they were tears of his humiliation. He tried a new tactic with my mom after he got kicked out and she started saying she was going to leave him again. He tried to being very kind and sweet to her; something he never really had done before. It worked until mom did something he didn’t approve of, and that would send him into spirals of anger, lashing out at the kids and mom, and pouting like a little boy who’s candy had been taken from him. He is on church discipline at my old church, but little good does that do. He still fights with mom, blames the church for his problems, blames me for other problems, and manipulates people into believing that he is the victim here. I don’t remember my dad always being like this, but I don’t know when things really started changing for the worse. I pity him, I have no tolerance for him, and I will never let my future children spend time with him.

I am grateful that my husband looks nothing like or is anything like my dad. He is safe for me, and he is a comfort.

God certainly knew what he was doing when he brought my husband into my life.

It was, in some ways, because of this dear one that I was able to start deconstructing and dealing with my past. It has been through watching and interacting with my loving husband’s amazing family that has taught me what a loving family really looks like. I don’t think I can feel anything yet when I look back and remember that day. I am still emotionally detached. It is a protecting mechanism. I don’t want to feel that devastating my-life-is-not-what-I-thought-it-was feeling all over again, I don’t know if I can handle it.  I am still working through memories and trying to uncover the memories that I cannot remember. I am finding strength in being bold and admitting my past, but it still hurts, it still is draining trying to face the pain.

I have always struggled with believing that God was a personal God who loved me and wanted me as a precious child. I have found myself working through my perception of God being that as a manipulative, hypocritical father who takes great delight in dangling things in front of me and then ripping them away. It is true that your view of God is affected by your own dad. I have a hard time remembering, vividly, the times my dad has physically abused my siblings, and wonder why God never did anything. It’s very difficult to look at the harsh reality of my broken family and wonder why no one saw the pain my dad has caused and is still causing.

Changing my view of God has taken a long time, and it has only been in the past year that I can finally see Jesus as someone who holds me close, will never leave my side, and who loves me no matter how messed up my past is. I am clinging to the fact that Jesus holds me close even if nothing else makes sense.

This post was part of The Rebel Diaries series. There's something sacred that happens when someone shares a personal story, so please keep this in mind when leaving a comment. 

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Posted on March 18, 2013 and filed under the rebel diaries.