*Trigger Warning* Please welcome brave survivor and author of Caskets from Costco, Kelly Wilson, today.
Surviving my Abusive Father
One of the clearest memories of my abuse at the hands of my father involved a video camera hidden in the bathroom laundry basket.
I found the camera – set to record – underneath a few random clothes while I prepared to get in the shower. The lens peeked through the slats in the side of the hamper facing the bathtub.
Upon discovering the camera, I wrapped a towel around my ten-year-old body and called for my father, who was watching TV and drinking in the living room. He pretended not to know anything about it and took it away.
I shut the door behind him. I stared in the mirror. I felt shock. Disgust. Shame.
Naked, but in the worst sense of the word. I wrapped those emotions around me, like the towel I pulled closer about my body, clutching it closed.
It would be the last time I would voluntarily look into a mirror until I turned 40, two years ago.
Layers of Disgust and Shame
I recently attended a writing retreat that uncovered the layers of shock, disgust and shame I had been wearing for so long. Our facilitator would assign us a word and we would write, sharing our work after shedding blood, sweat, and tears on our notebook paper or laptops.
One of our exercises was to write a “Dear John” letter to something that no longer served us, that held us back or threatened to drown us. I chose shame, and I crafted an awesome letter about how shame’s services were no longer needed.
At least one person shared a letter she had written to a family member, and it hit me; I had never written a letter to my abusive father, about the video camera or anything else. I had written letters to my mother, and even an entire book about my grief and trauma experiences, but I had never singled him out.
For thirty years, I had flinched away from mirrors. In stores, I wouldn’t try on clothes. I didn’t have a mirror in my bedroom until a year ago, looking away from my own reflection, avoiding shiny surfaces.
I avoided images or memories of my father in that same way. I flinched away from my experiences with him, all of which have shaped me into the survivor I am.
The difference now is that I regularly look in mirrors. I have an extra-long trunk which makes wearing one-piece bathing suits more difficult. My calves are lovely and one of my breasts hangs like a deflated balloon after a fun party. My hair is shorter than it’s ever been. My eyes are clear and blue, and ready to see everything.
Ready to write a letter to my abusive father.
A Letter To My Abusive Father
“Dear” is inappropriate, but it is standard manners when beginning a letter. “Dad” is misused as well.
For so long, I have been afraid of you. In my mind, like a child’s, you are still larger than life, but in a terrible way, like the clown from It by Stephen King, with razor teeth and maniacal eyes. Even as I write this, I feel this terrible threat, as if you might materialize from the sheer force of my words.
You have, in a sense, ruined my life. I deal daily with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and anxiety. I never know how I will feel or function from one day to the next. I have to work incredibly hard just to feel stable. I have triggers based on experiences I had with you in the past. The yelling, the drinking, the unpredictable behavior, the violations.
There are years of my life that are missing in my memory. I have to trust that my brain knows what it is doing in its effort to protect me, by allowing me not to remember horrible things that have scarred me for life. My brain and nervous system have been forever damaged by your choices and actions. The shame and disgust I carried about myself based on how you treated me almost killed me. I am not dead by suicide, or addicted to drugs or alcohol, which is, at the very least, surprising.
You have, in a much larger sense, not ruined my life. I am one of the strongest people I will ever meet, and I have proven this again and again. I stop the cycle of abuse in my own family with every word I say and choice I make for the good of my husband and children. I advocate for, and protect them fiercely, as I was never protected.
You tried to place the blame on me, on your own parents, on almost anything else so that you never had to feel guilty. I do not take responsibility for your awfulness, and it will not run my life. I take every single horrible thing you’ve ever tried to force on me and turn it into goodness. I choose hope. I find my people and we are stronger together, lifting each other out of the mire. I write and speak truth. I tell jokes and I laugh.
I will never, ever, ever give up. I am worth it.
I look in the mirror and I see clearly. I see you. I see what you’ve done.
I see you.
Kelly Wilson is an author and comedian who entertains and inspires with stories of humor, healing, and hope. She is the author of Live Cheap and Free, Don’t Punch People in the Junk, and Kelly Wilson’s The Art of Seduction: Nine Easy Ways to Get Sex From Your Mate. Her latest book, Caskets From Costco, has been chosen as a finalist in the 18th annual Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards, the 10th annual National Indie Excellence Book Awards, and the 2016 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest.
Kelly Wilson currently writes for a living and lives with her Magically Delicious husband, junk-punching children, dog, cat, and stereotypical minivan in Portland, Oregon. Read more about her at www.wilsonwrites.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
photos courtesy of Kelly Wilson and Unsplash