It Never Happened – A True Story of Sibling Abuse (Part 5)

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I never expected this story to be so long but how can I make my readers understand? I wasn’t beaten within an inch of my life. I was never in physical danger. My abuse came through words and shame. Punishment for not being perfect. For not anticipating my abuser’s desires and whims. For just being me. Ah but my story is nearing its end. I invite you to stay a while longer and hear what I have to tell you.

Something magical happened when I turned 12. Due to the bullying I got at school taking a dangerous turn, I was switched to a new school. An academic school called Crestwood Junior High. It was here my life changed forever.

Specifically I found two books that changed who I was at the core of my being.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee opened my mind in ways that I never imagined possible. Abuse closes doors and abusers rely on their victims never learning or thinking anything outside their control. My sister often bragged about me being her tabula rasa and being able to write whatever she wanted on me. Ms. Lee’s words changed all that.

I suppose at this point I should explain that my family was racist. I thought terms like Paki and Chink were normal. Indians were drunks who beat their wives. I was taught this was how the world worked. Then I read the words,

“When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.

I suddenly learned true shame. Shame in my family that I feel to this day. I also learned about justice and standing up for what was right. Suddenly my sister’s abuse took on another light and I started to silently chafe.

The other book I read was Comes the Blind Fury by John Saul. It was the first horror book I’d written. I loved it. I lived my life in a constant state of fear and worry. Here was a book that took the concept of fear and reduced it to words. Words were manageable. Words were understandable. This meant I could manage and understand the abuse.

The change in me was slow but steady and the change in my sister corresponded accordingly. Her control of me was slipping and she knew it. Getting punished came swifter and more often.

As a child, my obedience was based on my mother’s adamant assertion that I was born to make my sister’s life better. Now I was learning that this was an unjust situation and I could fight back but my sister’s jealousy and hatred of me grew to the size of a colossus.

I grew from a pretty child to a stunningly beautiful teen. I still retained my long lean muscles but I had one asset growing quickly; my breasts. By the time I was 14 I was a D cup and showed no signs of slowing. A legacy of my father’s family. My sister’s verbal assault of me never slowed but now she added a new element; slut shaming.

I understand now that I was everything my sister would never be and she was furious. Now graduated from university, my sister embarked on her career as a social worker and now she took the fight to the schools.

She demanded that school authorities start testing me for various problems. When it became clear they’d be investigating my home life, she was sure to tell them I was spoiled. I was too afraid to tell anyone the truth. My sister was a social worker and they took her word as gospel while I couldn’t speak out. Teachers started treating me like a spoiled child who was acting out and seeking attention.

When I hit high school she started lashing out in more and more creative ways. At one point my locker was searched for drugs by an anonymous tip. At another point I was called into the principal’s office. Inside sat the principal with the school resource officer, a cop I only knew as Bernie.

They informed me that my sister demanded that I get drug tested. I was too weary of this game by now and only sighed. Grounding me for a week or two no longer worked so she’d taken to grounding me for months at a time. My latest was six months where I was to go nowhere but school, no television, no phone, no newspapers, nothing but school and homework. My moods alternated between suicide and running away. Anything to escape her relentless bombardment. Now I wasn’t even safe at school.

The principal, a canny man who’d seen far too much in his years read everything in that small sigh. He asked me what was going on and I was far too tired, too sick, too weary to lie any longer. I told him everything.

Remember, this was the 80s. A time when schools still looked the other way if a kid came in with bruises. There was no one forcing them to report anything to child services. Discipline in the home stayed in the home. However, my principal was different and so was Officer Bernie.

They asked me what I wanted to do. I said nothing. Drug test me if they wished. I no longer cared. They didn’t and they called my sister later telling her that not only would they not drug test me but they would no longer allow her any input in my schooling.

She was furious but the worst was yet to come.

Ah but this part of my story isn’t done yet. There were several other factors that came into play at this time but I fear I’ve run out of space, dear reader. So I must bid adieu and invite you to return tomorrow to hear more of my story.

(to be continued…)

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It Never Happened – A True Story of Sibling Abuse (Part 4)

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At this point it’s probably a little difficult for you to keep score so let me set the scene of a typical day for you;

My sister’s screaming and demands would often begin in the morning. Starting with my mood. If I didn’t wake up fast enough, I got a very cold and very wet washcloth in my face. If I wasn’t cheerful enough I got grounded. If I asked for more cereal, I got a lecture on how fat I was.

No one was exempt. My sister would rage against anything and everything. The way my father drank his coffee, the way my brother got his books ready for school. Everything was fodder for her rages. If you didn’t respond fast enough you risked having something thrown at you.

I’m still not a morning person and having people talk to me risks a panic attack.

Before I started school I would get peace during the day. I would watch shows like “The Friendly Giant” or “Mr. Dressup”. The afternoon would bring the occasional movie, usually something by Hitchcock which I loved. Everything stopped when “Days of Our Lives” came on which I watched religiously with my mother. I played outside with our dogs Lady and Dutchess and the days passed in relative serenity.

Those are some of my happiest memories.

After my siblings came home from school, it was chaos again. My sister was sure to fly into another rage and I was painfully aware from a very early age that it was my fault that she was upset. It was my job to make her happy and I was failing. I would plead, with tears in my eyes, for her to stop. She would then direct the screaming at me, making sure I knew that it was all my fault.

My brother John had his own rages, usually triggered by my sister and a fist would go through a wall or a door again. My father would try and contain him while suffering the verbal assault my sister would lay on him.

I tried to retreat to my bedroom where I would curl up with our dogs and cat. They were my only allies against the storm. Lady, a Rottweiler cross, was extremely protective of me whom she regarded as her puppy. Dutchess, a terrier mix, was goofy and patient and always up for whatever game I had in mind. Kimberly (whom we called Kimmy) was a calico Persian who always displayed the kind of ancient wisdom only cats seem to have. These were my friends, my guides, my teachers, my strength.

When the fights would wind down for the night, my sister would seek me out. Her rage wasn’t quite spent but she wasn’t fool enough to lock horns with my father once he drew the line. She would find something to criticize about me or something to punish.

Then something magical happened and I started school and my sister started university. She brought home books. Books I started looking at the pictures of and got my first taste of Salvadore Dali and Rorschach and Freud.

It was Dali that inspired me to learn to read. Dali and a picture of clocks melting across a landscape. I was five years old and, although I didn’t know it, I found my salvation.

(to be continued…)

The Housing Crisis as Seen From Below

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There is a new bill up for debate in the Alberta Legislature that would end child-free housing in Alberta. What this means is there would no longer be anymore adult only buildings. This sounds great on paper and, as a matter of fact, Mark Holmgren, a man I admire greatly, advocates for it on his blog post. However, the idea horrifies me and I don’t think people have thought this through completely.

I don’t have kids for a reason and I don’t want to be around them. I’ve said this before in previous posts and, yes, that makes me an asshole. However, that’s not why I’m against this. The only reason this is up for debate in the Alberta Legislature is because kids make for a great photo op and politicians earn brownie points when they look like they’re fighting for kids. Let’s look at the real cost of this bill, shall we? Here I present three real life stories of people I know who will be impacted negatively by this bill.

Lady Grace

I’m going to call this lady Grace because she’s tried to live her life with the kind of grace and acceptance that few attain.

Grace wanted to be a mother all her life. When she was very small she’d play with her dolls, caring for them as if they were live babies. She never resented helping her mother care for her younger siblings. She looked forward to a time when she would have children of her own.

She married a wonderful man and became pregnant right away. Sadly, she lost the baby in the first trimester. Then there was a second. Then a third. Then a hysterectomy. Her husband felt helpless and their marriage didn’t survive.

No one knows the pain of losing a child unless you’ve been through it. Grace battled depression even as she desperately tried to move on with her life. Yes, she could have adopted but she never quite bounced back from those three miscarriages.

Grace now lives in adult-only buildings. Living next door to families is just too much for  her to deal with and can spin her downward into a suicidal spin. Now, though, she may have no choice. So her life is put at risk so politicians can earn brownie points.

Ernie

Ernie was severely and repeatedly abused by his father from a very young age. His father was a sexual sadist who would alternate between beating and raping him. Ernie survived his childhood by running away and eventually getting help to deal with his demons.

One of his demons involves pedophilia. Even though he’s never looked at a child sexually or even thought about it, Ernie is afraid that what his father did to him left him damaged in ways that have yet to manifest. This is one of the things he sees a psychologist for. His biggest fear is that he will turn into his father.

As a result, Ernie lives in adult only buildings. Living next to children is terrifying to him. Whether the world understands it or not, Ernie is trying to keep himself safe. Now, though, he will have to sacrifice his security so politicians can have the opportunity to say they’re fighting for families.

Me

I live with Nonverbal Learning Disorder. An easy way to understand this is if ADD and Autism had a love child, it’d be NLD. As a result, I often suffer from sensory overload which causes me to try and focus on every single thing I’m seeing and hearing at the same time. Yes, this leads to panic attacks.

I currently live in a family friendly complex and it’s a fresh version of hell daily. Kids screech at volumes best reserved for slasher flicks. Parents yell, bringing up memories of my own abusive home life growing up. I am now doing my best to save up so I can move into a building that doesn’t have children.

Am I selfish? Probably. The truth is I don’t want to have to pay daily because someone else chose to have children. I don’t think I’m out of line here when I say please don’t inflict your children on me.

Conclusion

Should there be more family-friendly housing in Alberta? Hell yes. Then again, there should be more adult only housing. More senior’s housing. More housing for veterans. More low income housing period. However, if we want to look at the truth of the situation, let’s look back to those same politicians who are wringing their hands over a lack of housing for children.

Here in Edmonton there has been a frenzy of development for the kind of neighbourhoods that house the good folks. You’ve seen them, I’m sure. Boxy little houses in boxy little neighbourhoods with boxy little people leading boxy little lives. They regulate everything from what kind of fence you can have to what kind of grass you can plant so they can always be assured that housing values will always rise. That way the good folk never have to worry about *that* element in their neighbourhood.

Worse is what has happened downtown. Luxury highrises going up faster than a porn star’s dick. Oh sure they look beautiful and I’m sure they have amazing features and views. The result of these highrises is always the same; rent prices increase in a city where a cheap one bedroom costs upward of $1000/month. Capital Region Housing Corporation is overwhelmed already and these highrises do nothing but cause more strain on an already overburdened system.

Want to know who’s to blame for the current housing problem the poor face? Point your fingers to greedy developers who build faster than they can sell and the politicians who approve those developments while older and poorer neighbourhoods go overlooked yet again. The poor are pushed into those neighbourhoods where crime is rampant until the benevolent politician gods see them and decide to develop them. Then rents rise again and the poor move again.

Eliminating adult only buildings is only going to cause more problems and is just another band aid fix to a problem capitalism and politicians created. There is a fix to this problem but not one politician wants to take a look at it. It’s called the Basic Income Program.

But, fuck it. The poor only matter as a photo op.

One Percent

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All I have are words.

There is a battle going on in society today and I’m afraid I’m woefully underprepared. I would like to say that my mighty lance and fiery charger are armored up and ready to slay the dragons but that would be a lie.

See, the revolution that’s being waged is against the wealthy 1% and they are more than prepared for this battle. They’ve been waging this war since the Middle Ages in one form or another and they’ve had time to sharpen their teeth.

The latest battlefield is Ontario’s Basic Income Project. Oh, I know, so insignificant to that dragon we shall call One Percent, isn’t it? I mean, can they even locate Ontario on a map? Believe me when I say that this battle is more significant than you realize.

Okay, so let’s go back in history for a moment. Once upon a time it was a lord’s duty to see that all the people living on his land were taken care of. Very often he would ride around with his entourage dispensing justice or aid where necessary. In return, the people farmed the land and made the goods that the lord traded or sold. There was a balance. If the lord or king ever failed in his duty or demanded too much of the people, they were happy to replace him.

Let’s just say this didn’t mean a nice, quiet retirement for him.

Somewhere along the line, things changed. Instead of lords and peasants we got governments and people. It should have worked, this system. Everyone has a voice and everyone can be heard but recently it’s started breaking down.

I’m not going to go into the pyrrhic victory that is Trump’s rule. That horse has been well and truly beat. I’m going to talk about the bone-deep weariness I have every time the government shows its ignorance in its duties. The absolute rage I have at those in power using their position to masturbate their egos rather than do their duty. The soul wrenching sorrow I feel at those who must pay the price for the government’s unwillingness to remember what their duty is.

When the Ontario government introduced their Basic Income Project I cheered. At last we were gaining some ground on One Percent. Basic income would mean that the playing ground would finally be levelled out some and everyone could have an equal chance regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or who their daddy was.

But we can’t have that, can we?

See, One Percent does have a fear. That fear is that those people at the bottom of the pile, those who have been repressed and abused for centuries, will finally wake up and realize that the One Percent is no longer needed. One Percent has built a house of cards called Capitalism that relies on certain “truths” of society . It needs the poor to constantly pour money and goods upwards to feed its belly. To keep the feast coming, One Percent has perpetuated racism, fear mongering, hate, ignorance and division. So long as we fight each other, we ignore the true horror that is Donald Trump and Doug Ford and Jason Kenny. So long as we nip at each other’s heels we fail to see the smoke and mirrors act going on.

That is exactly what Ford and his crew are relying on.

Ford is hoping we will be too busy being outraged by Melania’s coat or the next trumpite being an asshole to really do anything about the removal of the Basic Income Project. The Basic Income Project represented a real weapon in the fight against inequality and he’s hoping we won’t notice when it’s removed.

We are in the middle of a revolution and it’s now we need to fight. This revolution is taking place online and we cannot allow One Percent to win. We have to keep fighting and taking back our ground.

So use your social media to fight. Write blogs and post videos. Phone and email Doug Ford and Lisa MacLeod even if you’re not in Canada. Let them know we’re not giving up. Let them know they have an obligation to their people.

Don’t let One Percent win.

Suicide & NLD

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again the issue of suicide has popped up again on the media radar. Both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have managed to bring it to everyone’s plate and now we get to watch as social media spins out its version of “thoughts and prayers” in the form of “reach out.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s good advice. Completely useless to someone who is currently flirting with killing themselves but good advice. What happens, though when you add Nonverbal Learning Disorder to the mix? Are we NLD Superheroes more susceptible to suicide as someone once suggested to me? To be honest, I don’t know. All I can talk about is my own experience with suicide and suicidal ideation.

If I’m going to be completely transparent here, and I must for the sake of this conversation, I have to admit that I’ve attempted suicide. Suicide by fate, I call it. As a teen who survived abuse and found herself unwanted by her family (my sister was my abuser), I felt tired. Tired of fighting to survive. Tired of trying to reach out to my family again and again and being rejected. Tired of trying to figure out how to live in this confusing world. I was tired down to my soul and I just wanted to rest.

I was nothing if not creative so I decided to let fate decide if I should live or die. At this time I was involved in an evangelical Christian group and fate was another word for God. If God wanted me to live, He’d show me. So, I took to jaywalking.

Here’s what would happen. I’d need to get from one side of the road to another. Didn’t matter what road it was, a residential street or busy thoroughfare, I’d jaywalk. However, I never bothered to check for traffic. I don’t know if any gods had their hand in my survival but even though I came close many times, I was never hit by a car.

My life at that time was pure chaos. Evangelicals pretended to care about my soul while  they dictated how I should live while my family showed no interest in where I was or who I was with. At the time my Nonverbal Learning Disorder was undiagnosed and I may have had a celestial being or two looking out for me because I never wound up on the side of a milk carton, either. Despite many opportunities to end up there.

So what does any of this have to do with Nonverbal Learning Disorder?

As I stated earlier, post-celebrity suicide is when everyone on social media advises those with mental illness to “reach out.” If you have NLD, that’s a whole new level of WTF.

Those of us who have to live with NLD are the proverbial odd shaped pegs trying to fit in a square peg world. We pretzel ourselves into being something we’re not just so we can be seen as high functioning. This places an unbelievable amount of pressure on us and only makes the existing anxiety and depression that are NLD’s sidekicks that much harder to control.

Having NLD means functioning in a different vibration from the rest of the world. The resulting clash that comes when our functioning meets the tidal wave of “normal behaviour” ends up in anxiety and depression. Does this automatically put NLD people at risk of suicide? I don’t know. I have no answers.

What I do know is the advice to “just reach out” is useless. As someone with NLD there’s a few questions I have about that. Reach out to who? Tell them what? When do I reach out? Is there a guidebook I can consult? Communication is one of the problems people with NLD have. Are the people we’re reaching out to aware of that? If so, do they know how to understand us?

Suicide is a problem and feeling isolated is a part of it. So instead of saying “reach out,” I’ll give some different advice. Go out and learn what your options are. NLD people are great at gathering information. So go out and use that to your advantage. Learn how to access the medical community. Learn how to build a network of support and coping mechanisms.

I don’t have any answers when it comes to suicide and NLD. All I know is what I’ve experienced. If you’re feeling suicidal, please know you’re not alone.

A Concerned Citizen

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Someone was murdered last night,
I didn’t know who she was.
A bank was robbed,
It wasn’t mine.
The Russians and Americans aren’t talking,
I’m Canadian, though.
Terrorists hijacked a 747,
I don’t like to fly, however.
The workers are on strike,
But I’m unemployed.
A drunk driver killed a little boy,
He wasn’t my son.

As I read the paper
Someone is smoking nearby.
So I stand up
And demand my rights as a non-smoker.
Hell, someone’s got to do something.
After all,
It’s for the good of mankind.

Originally written: June/87

The Loss of Beauty

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It’s so easy to lose your beauty. I’m not talking about that which time steals. I mean the part deep inside that knows magick is real and stares in wonder at the bumblebee landing on the dandelion.

We have it as children but it fades with each “grow up” we hear or every bit of ugliness we see. We become adults who pretend to see beauty but it’s a faded replica of what we knew as children.

Why is it better to know that Santa’s not real and the Tooth Fairy is really your parents? When did believing in fantastical reality become a sin? We laugh at the dad playing tea party with his daughter or the mom throwing a baseball with her son. When did bouquets of dandelions fall out of fashion?

A short time ago I decided to try to find my beauty. Like Frodo, I’m on a wondrous adventure. Sometimes my journey is fill with amazing friends while other times I’m achingly alone. I’m off to conquer Mordor, the burden of a gold ring known as Reason weighs down my steps. I hear “you can’t” or “that’s not reasonable” or “be mature” like arrows tipped with dots of poison.

Each day I scan the skies for the dragons I know are there. I search the honeysuckle tree for my fae friends. The dragonfly whispers its message to me.

“Beauty is there,” he says. “Just look and see.”

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