Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Inside my Head, Installment #15-With a Theme of Sorts

I'll admit it. I'm of average intelligence, average attractiveness, and average talents. I'm 5'5, weigh the perfect weight for my body mass, and have a fair singing voice. Like I explained in this essay, I am unique, just like everyone else. I have a really good chance of being just another average, happy wife and mother in the United States of America.

Some days, I wonder why I'm who I am. As such an average person, I don't understand why my life has been so extraordinary. I've experienced more in 24 years than many people have. Or maybe it's just the difference in dynamics that make my life seem so extreme. Let me attempt to count the ways.

I was born into a dysfunctional family. My mom was 3 months pregnant and weighed something like 70 lbs. I never met my dad. My mom's husband wanted to pierce my ears when I was 2 weeks old. When he supposedly grew too abusive towards me, my mom ran away to the midwest. She married Warren, who was blind, and I was adopted. All this before I was five years old.

My mom continued to have children. I began to homeschool. I took over most of the household chores by age eight. My mom kept having kids. Two of them and eventually a third child were diagnosed with a serious bone disease that took my mom and siblings away for weeks at a time, leaving me home with my stepdad. We underwent a Child Protective Services investigation that took several weeks. We began to attend church in family's homes. Mom kept having babies.

I was a mother to the younger children and a protector of my mom while keeping stepdad at bay. I taught myself from 5th grade on while teaching the younger siblings, running the house smoothly, and caring for a blind, controlling father. We managed to win prestigious awards. Mom kept having more kids.

I suffered many kinds of abuse to extremes. I was mentally abused to the point that I didn't know what was truth and what were lies. I was emotionally abused so badly that I could never do a single thing right in my own eyes and gladly accepted the suffering that my stepdad inflicted on me. I was physically abused, by both parents and ended up in the hospital, all the while claiming that I had hurt myself in order to protect the parents god had blessed me with. And I was also sexually abused, though it took me many years to be able to admit it. I have been manipulated, lied to, used, and neglected. Those are just the facts, I'm not being sorry for myself.

I grew up and was sent to Nashville, where I met people of influence. Yes, I sang in Michael W. Smith's choir and became close to the family. I babysat for the Newboys as well as several country singer's families. Several of Bill Gaither's singers took me into their families as well, and I received piano instruction from Anthony Burger, who was possible the greatest piano player of his time. I lived with RC Sproul and Brett and Alex Harris of Rebelution, met senators, governors and congressmen, and worked closely with the Campbell family from New Zealand. I've been on news shows from CNN, FOX and Sunday Night in Australia. I've seen my name in posts across the web.

It's no wonder that growing up, I realized that my life would never be normal. Mom and dad taught me that to be peculiar was our goal, and to shine as a light for the world to follow was my purpose for being alive. While in Tennessee, I watched and learned as Christian artists lived humbly in the spotlight. As long as I was going to be extraordinary, I wanted to do it with grace and class.

Once the divorce finally took place, I began to discuss with my mom's closest friend my goals for life. In the months after I began dating Aaron, I had grown to love being 'just another student' at my small community college. I enjoyed the quiet and not-so-exciting life. It actually sounded refreshing to think I could be a farmer's wife in the country, cut off from the world (Aaron NEVER wanted to be a farmer though!) Life began to take on a new set of goals, and they didn't include taking the stage.

Funny how life turns out. When I wanted to shine, I was too miserable to. I deemed myself unworthy and shrank back in fear. When I decided I wanted to be normal, my mom began a journey which changed my life and my sibling's lives forever. I was recognized on a trip to Oceans of Fun last year by people who had seen a show I was on. At the time I saw it as a way of helping free other young women from a life of misery. Now I know I'm hardly in a place to do that. I can't help others be free if I'm not free myself.

And yet, my life is far from normal even now. I choose to share my blog with the world because my mom has chosen to make my life a display and I feel it's only fair that I get to portray who I really am. Plus writing is a very big release for me, and I love to share when my creativity is flowing. I take the criticism and the support in stride, realizing that people can only comment based on what they have been given. To live my life makes me the only critic who can fully know the truth.

I've never felt like my job was to persuade others of the truth. Simply stating it clarifies it for me, and that's all I'm looking for. I don't understand my mom or her purpose anymore. When she goes silent for long periods, it scares the heck out of me because I know she is capable of hurting me terribly. (yes, the story of how I got my scars is the literal story). Sometimes I wonder if I should feel guilty for telling the truth, because it puts my mom in a bad light sometimes, and I still feel the need to protect her. But it's not my job to protect her; she hasn't felt the need to protect me. We both have attempted to protect my siblings to some extent.

My stepdad is another story. Warren has been absent from my life since 2007, and I have never looked back. The man scarred me horribly. He was the sweetest guy at times, and most loving when he could have me crying in despair at his feet or trembling in his bed. He caused me terrible pain and I felt horrible every day that he tried to be a dad I would love and I couldn't give him the love he craved. There were so many bad dynamics to that relationship that I have preferred not to look back on it in depth, but to seek counseling as issues or memories come up, and leave it at that.

I grew up learning that family is the most important possession in the world. Without it, you might as well be dead. I also was taught to value a sound mind. Now those two things I treasure are colliding. I cannot have both in the sense I would like. But I can have a family and a sound mind, just not the family that is going crazy. I would go crazy if I kept trying to protect my siblings from their parents, protect my husband from my mom, protect my mom from herself, and protect our reputation from the world.

My greatest treasure is the husband who chooses to love me so much that he will stay by my side even when he is threatened by my family. Who respects my mom even as I scream in frustration. Who encourages me to do the things I love when I would like to give up, and who tells me every day that I have potential when my insecurities set in. His family has shown me love and acceptance that literally brings tears to my eyes whenever I think of it. They believe in me. As does my mom's friend, who is supporting mom as best she can by supporting my mom's daughter. And my family's neighbors, who continue to shower love and who cry and laugh with me and consider me one of their own. These are the people I can treasure as family, and who support a sound mind.

As I've stressed so many times before, my siblings are my biggest heartache. I have little 7-year-old brother withdrawals. When I walk by the girls section, I always think how adorable Lydia would look in that top. My brother Andrew is in my heart and my dreams. I would love to hug my passive, sweet-hearted Hazelle and express how much I admire her gentle soul. I worry about Chasse and stress over ways I could have made things better for Berea in college. Those kids could drive me insane if I let them, because my love for them is probably close to a mother's love.

It would seem that normal is not in my near future. A family, yes. A great career, indeed. And one day, perhaps everything will die down and my family will be okay with fading into the throes of routine life, and my siblings will turn out fine, and my kids will grow up happy and independant and respected. That is my wish. For now, I'm coping fairly well with where I am, and making happiness and a sound mind my achievable goal.

Oh, and before this year is out, Aaron and I are getting a puppy. It's been decided. Now I have to figure out what kind I want! :) Cocker spaniels, Blue Merle Australian Shepherds, Chorkies, and mini-collies are among my top picks. We have to start kind of small. But as long as I have a puppy I'll be ecstatic!!


Anonymous said...

<><> Well written, Angel!!

Anonymous said...

"I take the criticism and the support in stride, realizing that people can only comment based on what they have been given. To live my life makes me the only critic who can fully know the truth. "


quicksilverqueen said...

Never be ashamed for telling the truth. :)

My siblings are my heartache too...my baby sis (I didn't get to see her 3rd birthday in September) was "mine" and pretty much the only reason I stayed with my family for as long as I did.

What about a chihuahua? My grandpa and uncle have some, and they're pretty cute. I like the quiet ones tho!

Kris Heimes said...

Those of us who belong to the ranks of "Thriving Survivors" are happy to read that you are doing well. It doesn't seem fair that one type of abuse is often accompanied by other types - sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental abuse - but then, life isn't fair.

I do not understand why God allowed your abuse, or mine. I remember praying for my abusive father, that he would stop sinning, and stop abusing me. To me, it appeared that my prayer was not answered. Even though I left that abusive home with an intact and now growing Christian faith, at times I struggle with the injustice that I grew up with, and injustices all over the world.

My finite mind cannot explain the rationale behind what God does or does not do. I have come to the conclusion, despite all of the evil in this world, that God is still good. I believe that He is the Creator of the universe who really did help me through my suffering. As a result, helping other survivors is my passion in life, and I love it.

I pray that your entire family will someday experience true and complete healing, because where there is life, there is hope.

Love and Hugs to you and Aaron :-)

Lissar said...

I hope you don't mind me chiming in on the subject of puppies! The dogs you listed can be great dogs, but Cocker Spaniels and Shelties (the ones that look like mini collies) can be quite nippy with kids. Australian Shepherds are super high energy and high intelligence, and need loads of work to do in order to be happy.

I'd love to suggest the book "Paws to Consider: The Complete Guide to Selecting a Breed." It helped me greatly to pick out a dog that fit my lifestyle! There are categories such as Family Dog, Watch Dog, 9-5 Dog, etc. and it's so informative about how much exercise and training the different dogs need.

And if you should decide to adopt a dog from a shelter that is a mix (another great option) you can combine the characteristics of the different breeds to get an idea of what the dog might be like.

Good luck to you!

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog, and I must say that I'm very impressed with how strong you are being throughout this troubling time with your family. You are a fine writer, and a very compassionate and intelligent young woman. I wish the best in life for you, your husband, and your eventual family!

As far as dog breeds are concerned, I would recommend a Westie (Westhighland White Terrier). I've had two and they are great with kids, sturdy, small without being frail, and possessors of tons of personality. They do well with only a moderate amount of exercise, and thrive even in apartment settings.

Rosa said...

It is always good to hear you're doing well and have people around you who love you and care for you in a healthy way!

I figured out, after years and years, that it's not really possible for me to know what another person is thinking; i have to judge them on their actions and not go crazy figuring out their thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Angel, did you mom know that Warren was molesting you?

And does she send her other daughters for unsupervised visits with this molester now?

I've surmised that the answer is yes. Am I right? Interesting with this thing about the accusations against your husband, yet she refuses to take the beam from her own eye, for what she allowed to occur, and for what she has potentially allowed to occur since.

Anonymous said...

Trying to follow but am getting confused. Luv both you and your mother and want to see you have a lovely life.

Before, on the old forum and stuff, you said you did the cutting. Now you are saying your mom showed you how to do life-killing cuts, and that she did them on you by force. Is this for real? Cuz if it is, that is a serious issue!

Also bfore, you or your mom never mentioned that your step-dad slept in your bed and abused you sexually, or that your mom knew it, but now you are saying that. This is also a serious issue. I am confused though becuz you never said those things before.


Hope you get a puppy! :-)

Angel Renee said...

Yes, my mom knew about Warren, I told her. And she did admit to knowing during a police interview for Child Advocacy, even if she denies it now. And yes, the kids are made to go to his house about two weekends a month and 2 weeks in the summer, unsupervised. It infuriates me and always has. I'm glad someone else can see how unjust all this is besides Aaron and I!

About the things I never said before: I was still holding in a lot to protect my mom. I had a very close bond with her and never wanted to hurt her. It's only because of my concern for the kids and my own pain in her rejection that I've been able to tell the truth about things like the cutting. The sexual abuse I tried to get mom to share in the original series she wrote, but she refused, saying she didn't want the story to get that personal. So... yeah.

Anonymous said...

Angel- your mom is a "textbook" example of "narcissist personality disorder". I have read her blog, she seems like a very unhappy person. Her constant complaints of victimization through the quiverful movement (which is justified) and her always and forever health complaints are too much. She never has anything positive to say about anyone in her life-except herself. And maybe she'll throw-a-bone to her children, once in a great while. I enjoy reading the other stories on NLQ, but her "story" is all about her- she never really went into much detail about the sufferings of her 7 children- with the exception of you and your depression, but even that she managed to make "all about her". :( Whether you believe in God or not, I'm praying for you and your husband. I think your mother has controlled you for soo long that when you made a commitment to the military and then your hubby- something inside your mom "snapped"- she can no longer control you or control your actions and feelings. Typical "narcissist" reaction: deception, blame and exploitation- even at the expense of a loved one. Narcissist don't love the way normal people do with apathy and empathy and unconditional love- they love themselves and the attention they get from their "ideals" and "life choices"- her attention from the quiverful lifestyle fed, this "need" for her until she got burnt out- and now she gets her attention from NLQ and her "story of victimization". Vyckie blames God, Warren and the quiverful movement for all her past problems- the reality is- Vyckie choose this- is your mom to blame for nothing? Like I said, I believe in God- a God who justifies me by "faith alone"- not a set of legalistic beliefs. Angel, I hope your siblings are getting their emotional needs met and professional help- maybe because of your mom's "lack of attention" to her children and their needs is the reason these "false accusations" were made?? For attention and acceptance from "mom"??- just something to ponder. I'm from Nebraska originally, and was homeschooled from '94-'98- my experience was a good on though.

Razing Ruth said...

I just started reading your blog- even though I've known about you for a long time and heard about you for a while. In some ways, I really admired your mom because she did what my mom can't/won't do (leave my dad). With that said - I ache for you.

I think what's worth noting is that our mom's do these things and expect that by saying "I'm sorry", it's over and done with and the pain is erased. My mom, only once and through someone else, apologized for trying to force me into a marriage. Then she goes and forces another sibling into a similar relationship. While I appreciated the apology, it didn't mean anything - because the same behaviors were being repeated and it negated the apology. In the same way - my dad would get in front of people and say all sorts of horrible things about me (he still does) and then say "I want nothing more than for Ruth to reach out to me and for us to be a family." all while he still does the same things that made me leave in the first place.

All of that to say - I'm sorry you're hurting but it's inspiring to read your journey and to see you're so happy with your life. It's hard to get to that point for anyone - harder still for someone who has lived the life we have.
I'm glad you're happy.

One of the reasons I've stayed anonymous is because I don't want to be recognized, by face, in public, as that girl who left QF/ATI. I've had CNN and NYT writers ask me to come out in interviews and promise money for my story. While I could use the money - I knew that it was string money. I'd be giving away a peace and anonymity that gives me freedom to express myself openly. Regardless of liking or disliking your mom - in some ways, she took that anonymity away from you and I don't know if I would like that.

My parents chose to put our family in a "perfect" spotlight. I struggle with that -as I'm sure you do. It gets ingrained in us - hide the problems, hide the strain, and show your appealing countenance! I've seen quite a few ex-ATI blogs (myself included, I suppose) where we may be out of ATI/QF/patriarchy, but we're still unable to be totally real because we just don't know how to be.

I'm sorry to ramble. Take care of yourself.

Anonymous said...

Angel my dear, you are a fantastic writer and I always love to read what you have to say.
As for puppies you know that we would recommend saving one that is how we have acquired ours. Then again after the way I grew up I always hate to see anything be sentenced to death for nothing more than being alive when no one wanted them

Angel Renee said...

I guess I can't be positive about my mom's mental state unless it's diagnosed, but what you described sounds very familiar. I'd rather she had a mental illness at this point than to have to accept that this is actually my mom. I would love to protect my siblings but at this point it's almost impossible. As a friend explained to me earlier this week, it's common for a child to prefer their dysfunctional family situation to the unknown. So at this point I'm really not sure what could be done.

Razing Ruth-I've been following your story and your blog for a time now, and I think you are a pretty grounded and creative person! I also very much envy your anonymity. My story has been hijacked and retold in a way I believe is sort of biased. Here's to hoping we both get a happy ending!

And I would love to adopt a puppy from the Humane Society!! I've been watching the Animal Cops shows they have on the Animal Planet channel, and I love the idea of helping one of the animals that get put through that system.

Angel Renee said...

I guess I can't be positive about my mom's mental state unless it's diagnosed, but what you described sounds very familiar. I'd rather she had a mental illness at this point than to have to accept that this is actually my mom. I would love to protect my siblings but at this point it's almost impossible. As a friend explained to me earlier this week, it's common for a child to prefer their dysfunctional family situation to the unknown. So at this point I'm really not sure what could be done.

Razing Ruth-I've been following your story and your blog for a time now, and I think you are a pretty grounded and creative person! I also very much envy your anonymity. My story has been hijacked and retold in a way I believe is sort of biased. Here's to hoping we both get a happy ending!

And I would love to adopt a puppy from the Humane Society!! I've been watching the Animal Cops shows they have on the Animal Planet channel, and I love the idea of helping one of the animals that get put through that system.

Anonymous said...

I am kind of confused, a few posts earlier you said you would rather have your siblings live with their dad than with their mother, because you thought they would be safer?

Angel Renee said...

I did say that. I guess I don't understand where your confusion is coming from.

Anonymous said...

Well I mean if your dad is a molester...

Angel Renee said...

You might not understand the difference between sexual abuse and emotional abuse. I'll attempt to explain in the best way I can why I feel the way I do.

My stepdad made me angry, hurt, frustrated, and very confused. He would put his fingers in places they never should be in a little girl, and he would hold me in ways that he only should have held my mother. Memories of him make me sick with disgust.

My mom gave me a sense of terror, dread, betrayal, and pathetic longing. I would imagine myself to be her slave, caring for the entire house willingly for hours just to hear a word of approval. At the same time I would be scared out of my mind, never knowing when she might suddenly turn into an emotionless, cold, hard figure who knew exactly how to hurt me so badly I wished I could die. And she's still doing this. To this day thoughts of her literally make me sick to my stomach in fear of her coming after my little family.

My step dad was predictable. My mother was not. My step dad had love mixed in with his sickness. My mom, if she did, didn't show it. My step dad was full of emotions, we heard about it every hour as he screamed at us. My mom never did. My dad makes me want to forget my childhood. My mom makes me want to do absolutely anything to escape. My step dad is handicapped. My mom is not.

So, I realize that as long as there are two parents alive and able to care for the children, they will remain in the care of one or both of them. And, if I were the child (and I am), my choice would be my step dad. I would rather see my siblings grow up knowing that they are justified in their hatred and fear of their father and being reassured that they are indeed victims, than to be scarred by a potentially mentally ill mother whose deep psychological issues can and WILL affect her children. In the end, I consider it the lesser of 2 evils if my sisters and brothers were in the care of their father.

Angel Renee said...

Oh, and just a little side note-my dad is not a molester. My father is an honorable man.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for all the hurtful things that your family has done especially lately.
With your mother I think it is sad to know that such a narcissistic person can have so many children to use for her own benefit, for her own devices, and against one another. I hope that some day she will be able to seek out the help that she needs. I can see that she is also able to manipulate the minds of your younger siblings.
I see your point in the lesser of two evils, it is difficult to look at it that way but the manipulation that I have read about as of late is truly detrimental to a family.
There are many people that care about you and want to be there for you. You have so much support and so many people that are not easily manipulated by your mother. I hope that some day your sisters will see the manipulation and be able to get themselves help!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to reply to an old post. I see a lot of my family in this story. My father is abusive, and yet I still like him better than my mother. I strongly suspect she has antisocial or narcissistic disorders. That combined with quiverfull and fundamentalism has turned into a huge mess. I'm not even sure why I am writing this except to say it helps to know we aren't the only ones