Before I get started, I want to apologise for being M.I.A. Your girl, me, tried to start a blog (this blog) in the middle of a pandemic. Work got busy, I had writers block and next thing I know, months had gone by.
When I think of all the pieces I've drafted for this blog, published and unpublished, this one was the hardest to get through. I wrote this post months ago hoping to share a deep part of my life with my readers and share/educate people on issues that are deeper than love or fake friendships. However, I chose to leave it in my drafts because the writing process gave me anxiety and brought back memories I had suppressed. Additionally, I was afraid of how people would view me after reading this.
It wasn't until yesterday when I was going through all the posts on this blog and came across this one https://www.mthuniwe.com/post/dating-someone-with-hiv , that I felt re-inspired to publish mine. Shoutout to my girl/our other blog writer for sharing her story.
Please note two things:
(1) I'm not looking for sympathy neither will I answer any questions that require me to go into further detail about the person in this post.
(2) This will be broken down into three parts: my childhood, adulthood and how these experiences have affected me overtime.
Unlike most stories of child abuse that take place in unstable homes, I grew up in a stable household. As I grew older, my parent's work lives got busier so they figured it would be in my best interest to have someone take care of me whilst they worked, which was pretty much 95% of the time, preferably a family member. This is where my cousin comes in (she was female btw).
I was between the ages of 5-6 when she moved in with us and she must have been 12 years older at the time - that's if I'm not mistaken. I can't remember what my relationship with my cousin was like when she first moved in because she spent the first year in boarding school. It wasn't until she graduated and was home all the time, that my life started to turn into a nightmare.
In psychology they have a social cycle theory known as the cycle of abuse. This theory identifies a specific pattern that abusive relationships follow:
1) Tension Building Stage
2) Acute Stage
3) Reconciliation Stage
4) Calm Stage (Extension of the Reconciliation Stage)
The tension building stage is seen as the stage where abusers begin to assert their power on victims in an attempt to control the victim's actions. When she first started babysitting me she would get mad at me for the smallest things - this could be laughing, coughing, singing, eating, watching tv or simply existing. During this stage she would also call me names, such as fat, ugly, stupid or annoying, along with afew other things I will leave out. If I continued to do what I was doing, she would threaten to discipline me.
As we progressed to the second stage, she would physically harm me. The extent of the harm depended on her mood for the day. For example, one day she hit me so I hard I fell across the kitchen floor for a mistake I made when learning how to fry an egg because she was "tired of making me breakfast" despite the fact that I could barely reach our stove. The few times I reported her to my parents and they confronted her about it, she would harm me in subtle ways to send me a warning/keep me in line without my parents thinking much of it.
A memory of such subtle warnings involves her using adult hair relaxers on my hair in full knowledge that it would burn my scalp, damage my hair and leave me with head sores. Another memory is one where days after burning my scalp with adult hair relaxers, she used a hot curling iron on my hair, deliberately burnt me then claimed it was an accident. The few times I attempted to defend myself she would yell at me or hit me until I cried/had a panic attack.
As a person who knew better than to leave marks on my body, she would often target my head, palms or under my feet. It was only once in a while that she would hit me on other parts of my body. Some weekends it would get so bad I would have panic attacks all day (at the time I had no idea that there were panic attacks) and she would often accuse me of faking my symptoms.
The reconciliation/calm stage rarely occurred and when it did I was often hopeful that she would change and that things would get better. She would apologise and try to justify her actions as being a big sister and looking out for me, this would be coupled with trying to create a safe space and sense of security. Often this would only go on for about a day to a few hours then she would start the cycle all over again.
Once my dad died, my mother became even more of a workaholic to cope and provide us with the lifestyle her and my dad had afforded us before he passed. Unfortunately, this meant that she would be home at 9pm on most days or travel for several days. Due to living in the same household up until my cousin got married, I endured this cycle until I was 12. The only bright side to getting older while my cousin lived with us was that she became less physically abusive and I only had to deal with emotional and mental abuse.
I wish I could say that once your abuser leaves your life everything gets better and you get to heal immediately. Unfortunately, your next battle is mental because you have to deal with breaking down all the walls you've spent years building. While everyone's effects/battles are different, I'll share some of mine today and the rest in the next posts.
Enduring the cycle of abuse was emotionally draining for me because the reconciliation/calm stage set me up to fall harder each time I forgave and trusted that she was genuinely sorry. As a result, I developed the ability to emotionally detach myself from people and situations.
As a child, this meant that I knew what to expect each time she apologised or pretended to be nice. As an adult, this means that I have difficulty committing to relationships, forgiving people, being affectionate/romantic, expressing myself, and opening up. With the exception of a few people, I never truly feel safe around anyone or trust that anyone has good intentions - I always expect the worst before the worst happens. Being emotionally detached has been my safe space for years and when I'm forced to step out of this safe space, I either self-sabotage, panic or have a nervous breakdown that can go on for days.
When I'm emotionally wounded or wronged, my reaction is either immediate and disproportionate to the situation or delayed - sometimes it takes me hours, days or weeks to understand what's going on. When this happens I usually forgive the person who has hurt me immediately because it doesn't affect me right there and then - I don't feel hurt or disappointed, I feel normal.
When my brain does get to process it, I feel like I just got out of a zombie state and all my emotions come out at once - whatever happened plays in my mind multiple times like my mind is on repeat and I just found out seconds ago. People often see this as me trying to randomly start arguments when it's just my brain suppressing emotions or situations before giving me the choice to deal with it or suppress it for good, but at a later time (it's hard to explain).
Thank you for taking the time to read this piece, see you on the next post - Maii