Depression, Mental Health

I Think This Was the Beginning

I was probably about 7 or 8.  We had recently moved to a new house.  In the back yard was a storage shed and there was a big fat cat that had been hanging around there.  One day I heard Dad in the back yard fussing and cussing.  When I went outside to see what was going on, I saw him filling a big trash can with water.  I asked him what he was doing and he just yelled at me and told me to go back in the house.  I did, but I went to the window to watch him.  When the trash can was full, I saw him walk back to the storage house and he came back carrying some type of big sack.  He stopped at the edge of the carport and picked up a brick and dropped it into the sack.  He then tied the top of the sack and dropped it into the trash can.  After standing there for a few minutes, he walked back into the house, got his car keys, said he was going to the store, and told me not to mess with the trash can.  He said he’d take care of it when he came back home.  I don’t know if it was because I was young and inquisitive or because I was hard-headed, but it didn’t take long for me to go outside to see what was in the trash can.  As I walked up to the can, I could see a pitiful little black kitten holding on to the edge of the trash can with its paws.  I was terrified.  Poor little kitten.  I took the kitten out, put it on the ground and ran into the house to get a towel.  I did my best to dry it off and make sure it was okay.  I was scared to look in the trash can to see what else was in the sack.  I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting out in the storage shed, holding that pitiful little kitten.  All of a sudden I looked up and Dad was standing in front of me asking what in the hell I thought I was doing.  I showed him the kitten and told him that I had found it hanging onto the edge of the trash can.  And then, it happened.

He reached down and grabbed the kitten from my hands, yelling at me the entire time, telling me that he had told me not to go near the damn trash can.  As I sat there crying and telling him that I was sorry and that I had had to help the kitten, he threw it on the ground and stomped on it.  Of course at that point, I became hysterical.  I remember crying and screaming at him and telling him that I hated him.  He then picked up the smashed, dead kitten and put it back into my hands.  He turned around and got the biggest shovel I’d ever seen and grabbing me by the arm, he took me out to the back yard.  He handed me the shovel and told me to dig a hole and to put the kitten in it.  He stood there and watched me as I struggled to get a hole dug while crying hysterically the whole time.  I don’t think I’d ever felt hate until then, but I truly hated that man.  I could not believe that he had done that to that poor little kitten who had never done anything to him.  I couldn’t believe he had made me put that poor little kitten into a hole and cover it up.  Oh, how I hated him.  When finished, he grabbed me by the arm and drug me back into the house, hitting me the entire way.  He took me back to my bedroom and actually just threw me into the room and told me not to come back out until he told me to.  I remember crawling into my bed and crying and thinking about how much I hated him and crying some more and hating him some more.  I was not allowed to come out of my bedroom until the next morning and he would not speak to me all day.  (Not speaking to me was a type of his punishment that I remember taking place for the rest of his life — he’d get mad and just not speak to me.  He’d be in the same room with me, but would say, “Tell your sister to pass the salt” rather than asking me to do so.  It would always just drive me crazy for him to do that.  I remember him doing that once when I was a teen-ager and I had just had enough and screamed at him and asked him if he has suddenly gone blind and couldn’t see that I was sitting directly across from him.  Well, he most definitely had not gone blind because his aim was quite on-point as he knocked me out of my chair — still not speaking to me.)  All that day, he talked “about” me or “around” me but never “to” me, yelled at Mom about how I had not minded him, and just glared at me.  And each time he looked at me, I remember glaring right back at him, filled with hatred.  I spent much of that day in my bedroom, filled with hate for him and sadness for that poor kitten.  The next day, he sat me down and told me to never, ever disobey him again or I would “get what was coming to me.”

Things were never good after that.  I avoided him as much as possible, but seemed to have become his personal punching bag.  Of the four of us girls, for some reason I was the only one who Dad ever hit.  I never understood that and really, I still don’t.  I have some ideas, but will always wonder how I earned the privilege.  The kitten incident seemed to have also been the beginning of my nightmares, something from which I still suffer.  I remember having bad dreams and whenever I would wake up I would lay there and listen to make sure that Dad was not coming into my bedroom.  I was scared to death that if I did anything at all to make him mad, he would do to me what he had done to the kitten. Daddies were supposed to love their little girls and protect them.  But, I knew somewhere in my being that mine was not like that and I was afraid of him.  I knew I had to find a way to stay out of trouble and to not make him mad.  That seemed to have become my main purpose in life — just keep Dad from being mad.  I was never able to accomplish this and think that was the beginning of my feelings of failure.  No matter what I did, he’d always get mad and Mom and I would suffer the consequences.  Many years later, I gave up trying to keep him happy, and instead, chose to do everything I could to piss him off and make him feel just as badly as he had always made me feel.  I got pretty good at that.

It was at some point after the kitten incident that I learned to fly.  When things got really bad, I would go to my bedroom, lay on my bed with my arms stretched out, close my eyes, and I would simply fly away.  I didn’t know what those flights were called back then, but I have since come to understand that my habit of flying was a coping skill that I developed. I have flown around the world many times since then and have visited some amazing places.  I love that feeling of freedom and of peace as I lay there with my eyes closed, flying high above all the little people — safe from all of them.  I always become calm when I fly. And, yes, I still fly when things get very, very bad.

Sometime during these early years, in addition to learning to fly, I also became defiant. The relationship with my dad continued to get worse as I got older and I remained defiant until the day I left his house.

THOUGHTS ABOUT MY THOUGHTS:  Very few people in my life know about the kitten incident.  It has always embarrassed me to think that my father had been so cruel to a child and have always thought that if people knew, they would blame me for it. I still feel that way today.

TODAY’S FEELING BAROMETER:  Nervous with a heavy heart while reliving this part of my life.

~~~ Betty