From Issue 6, Published March 13, 2015
Not Normal: Pittman Recalls a Story of Abuse
It was eight years ago when the world first discovered my mother was abusing me. Everyone around me knew before I even understood myself.
To me, as a five-year-old, living off of close to no food was normal. Being beaten daily was something every child was forced to endure, and a life full of abuse was a life everyone was living.
The day I was taken from my mother still haunts me. July 8, 2006, at age five, my parents had been split for nearly four years. As she did every week, my mom dropped me off at her sister’s house before she went to her job as a bartender.
There were several people gathered at my aunt’s house, many of them I had never seen before. My mother left, and my aunt commanded me to follow her. As she led me through the living room, I saw one familiar face: that of my father. He was sitting on the couch surrounded by a group of people all snorting some sort of a white powder.
I didn’t say anything to my dad, I knew he saw me, and he knew I saw him. My aunt stopped me in front of a hall closet, opened the door, picked me up, and threw me in. She gave me one last look, told me not to move, or say a word, and slammed the door. I tried to peer through the crack of the door for anyone around me, but nobody was there.
This wasn’t the first time the closet and I had met. I kept finding myself there over and over again. As a matter of fact, I once spent eight days in that closet.
Everyone questions so many things when I tell them this. They wonder how I was given food, how I survived and why I didn’t leave. Well, back then, I lived off of my mom giving me one pack of ramen noodles each week, so my body had adjusted to not eating very much. Also, what goes in, must always come out, and it never killed anybody for it to go back in again. I tried to leave the closet, but it was nearly impossible. My aunt had put a child safety lock on the door knob, and I could never quite figure out how to open the door.
On this particular night, after around six hours of being closet-bound, I began to hear screaming. I couldn’t see what was going on around me, but I knew I heard my mother’s voice. I soon realized exactly what was happening. My mother had come to pick me up, saw my father, and they had gotten into a fight. This was pretty common, this day wasn’t much different from any other day I spent with my aunt.
That is, until, I began to hear “Call 911.” being repeatedly shouted, over and over again. I had no idea what 911 was, nor why everyone was wanting to call them . Not too much later I heard cars with sirens pulling up in the driveway. Then I knew: “Call 911” meant call the police.
Many girls often say their daddy is their hero. However, when I say this, I can mean it. After the police arrested my mom, they were forcing everyone to evacuate the house It was my dad who uttered one simple phrase: “My daughter’s in that closet”. That in itself is one of the main reasons I am where I am today. My dad could have left, and never had said a single word about me. He could’ve let me continue lying there, but he chose not to. I always knew my dad loved me. He was not always there to show me, but I knew.
Never before did I realize, the simple phrase “My daughter’s in that closet” would have such a strong impact on how my life is today.
The police sent me home with my dad that night, and a few days later, he was given custody of me. Looking back, I’m really surprised custody was handed over to him. He had an unbelievable criminal record, and was by no means suited to be parenting a child. Although my dad wasn’t exactly ideal, I can safely say he never laid a hand on me. He tried to be a good father, he failed at it, but he sure did try.
When my dad’s parents first heard my dad was given custody, they were astonished. They had been trying for years to take me from my mom, but nothing was ever done. It wasn’t difficult for anyone to tell I was being abused. I would have large bruises, cuts and wounds from when my mother got mad.
My mother blamed everything she did on being mad, and she found every way in the world to take her anger out on me. I don’t believe I ever did anything to make her angry, and I have no explanation for why she did the things she did.
Once, when I was four, my mom had gone a week without harming me. I thought things could have finally been changing. I thought maybe she was finally going to be the nurturing mother every child yearns to have.
I was wrong.
Late Sunday night, my mother’s anger spiralled out of control. She was furious, and still to this day I have no idea why. She picked me up, stood on a chair and stuck my head into a spinning ceiling fan. I screamed and cried for her to stop. I tried telling her how much it was hurting me, but she didn’t care. She just continued to hold me in the fan as the propellers smacked against my face one by one. The large lashes remained on my face for weeks after this incident. Nobody ever questioned it, nobody even suspected there could have been something horrific going on.
People had to have noticed, I just wish one of them would have spoke up.
It wasn’t much long after my dad was given custody that he was arrested for theft. On July 11, 2006, my dad was put in prison. He had been living with his parents, so I lived there also. My grandparents never told me that he was in jail. They never spoke to me about how I would be living with them. At the time, I was going to see a counselor. The counselor had to be the one to tell me my dad was given thirteen years in prison. I was terrified. I was just adjusting to a new life living with my dad, and now I would have to start all over living with my grandparents.
The odd thing about counseling is my therapist never once spoke with me and my grandparents at the same time. When she would speak to me, my grandparents would be told to sit outside the door. When she would speak to them, I was expected to do the same. It didn’t do much help though. I could still clearly hear every word she said.
“This child is never going to be normal again.” I heard her say this many of times.
I never completely understood this, though. I thought my life was perfectly normal. Looking at what the therapist said, I now know exactly what she meant by it, and I agree with it completely.
On the outside, I am a normal teenage girl, but on the inside, things are a bit different. After a few years of living with my grandparents, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. When most people think of PTSD, they think of veterans who have returned from war. When I think of PTSD, I think of terrible haunting dreams and flashbacks. I try to push them away, but somehow they always seem to slip back into my life. I do my best to ignore everything, but sometimes it’s nearly impossible. Although I don’t go to a counselor any more, it still helps me a lot to talk. I am very thankful for great friends and family who are willing to be there for me any time I need them.
The worst part of PTSD is the fact that I can’t control when it happens. Any time of the day my brain can just space out, and fill itself with traumatic pictures, experiences and memories. Most commonly, my mind likes to drift to the times my mother and her boyfriend would take turns picking me up, and throwing my body onto the brick wall outside of their house. To them, this was some sort of a game. I have absolutely no idea how my brain manages to still remember everything, since I was really young, but I do.
Mentally, the first few years of living with my grandparents were the worst. Although, there has never been a moment when they haven’t supported me, or been there to help me when I’m down.
I was in such shock, I could rarely be spotted without tears running down my face. Even though I know my mom was terrible to me, I didn’t understand this at the time. I loved her more than anyone, and I missed her terribly.
Today, I am the best I have been in a long time. I used to be forced to visit with my mother and father. I would beg my grandparents not to make me see them, and they finally decided they were no longer going to make me. I have been a lot more cheerful since visitations were stopped. It was extremely difficult for me to overcome anything when every other weekend I was constantly reminded by being around my parents.
After we stopped the visitations nearly two years ago, I have been able to move on easier than ever. Since then, I have accepted there is nothing I can do about what happened to me, but I can do something about how I personally react to the situation. I have learned I did use to be the child to yearn for love. I hoped and prayed to God above, to hear all my cries, and all my pain.
It’s unbelievable how greatly the perspective of “normal” differentiates from person to person. Your view on what’s normal could appear as complete and utter torture to others around you. What I thought was normal, actually turned out to be the complete opposite. Although there is no definition for normal, nor will there ever be, abuse should never be anyone’s normal.
Column by Brooklyn Pittman