October is the month of domestic violence awareness.
Growing up as a little kid, I didn’t know what was normal and what was not. Whatever I saw first-handedly was imprinted onto me as the norm. I left with my mother and my brother for America just a month after my mother gained custody of us after her divorce with my father. I had just turned 8 years old in the month of November.
My mother wanted us to chase after the American Dream. Like many others that came before us, we came with the intention of starting a life and a home here, but something always held me back. I think it held all three of us back.
I don’t exactly know when it started, but I know my father wasn’t as a good as a man and as a father he should have been back then. My older brother is 2 years older than me, and from what I was told, when he was a baby, my mom was already experiencing abuse. But this is my story and my experience. I’m not here to tell you theirs. That’s for them to tell.
I remember I used to fear my father so much, and truth be told, I still do. I saw him this summer, and when he raised his voice at me in the restaurant, I suddenly got emotional and fled the place crying. There’s a part of me that always seem to fear him.
My father was an abusive drunk. All he did was work and drink. Some days and some nights, he wouldn’t even come home. I guess that was for the best. When he was home, things were always tense. I used to wake up every night around 3 or 4 am to the sound of yelling, to the sound of things being thrown, and to the sound of doors being slammed. I would get up from my bed and exit out the room with my blankie clutched close to my chest. I think I was only 3 or 4 when I first witnessed my dad beating my mom in the middle of the night. She always reassured me that she and him were only playing around.
“Wrestling” she would always say.
My father crossed the line of corporate punishment. When I was in kindergarten, if my brother and I didn’t wake up in time, my father would take the bamboo massage stick and beat us until we woke. Then he would beat us again for not waking up on our own. I still remember the pain on my back and the sight of blood, which were dismissed by him. He didn’t care. After all, he was always too drunk to care.
When I was six, my mother took my grandmother back to China to visit some relatives. It was just my brother, my father, and I alone in the apartment. My dad gave me money and told me to go down to the convenient store to buy him some beer. When I came back, we were sitting on the living room eating the instant noodles he whipped up for us.
Me being the clumsy kid I still am knocked over the bowl by mistake. I started crying because the soup spilled on me and was too hot. And I couldn’t stop crying even after my father told me to shut up repeatedly. He finally had enough. He slapped me and told me to be quiet, but I continued to cry.
He started looking for something to hit me with, but I was so scared that I ran into the bedroom and locked the door. I called my mom on the phone in the room and begged her to come back soon. She told me she couldn’t and that I had to wait for a few days. I can feel my tears falling down right now just writing about this. I can still hear my father banging on the door, telling me to “fucking open it” so he could beat me more for running away from a beating I “deserved”. And I can still feel how helpless I was as a kid.
There was another incident that I still remember. It was the worse of all. I was seven, and I think this was the incident that finally set my mother off and pushed her towards divorce.
It was during the day. My father had just came back home after a few days of disappearance. My parents were fighting, and my brother and I left the room to give them space. The next thing I know, my mother is screaming and crying. I turned around and saw my mother stumbling and falling down onto the living room floor. And then, my father appeared with his golf club in his hand. My brother jumped in front of our mother and told my father to not hurt her. So instead, my father swung the club at him. My mother started to scream and started to beg.
I didn’t know what to do. I was crying, and I was so scared that we were going to die. I ran to the phone tried to dial 911, but my mother told me to stop. She told me how if I called the police, I’ll tear the family apart- that child protection service will take us away from her, and we will never see each other again. So I put down the phone. My father was infuriated that I tried to call the police.
He pushed my mother aside and swung the golf club at me. All I remember from that moment was crying away from my pain. My visions became fuzzy, but I still felt his other blows. I didn’t fight back, I just cried, and the more I cried, the more the physical pain seemed to just fade away. It was almost as if the physical pain I felt were nothing close to how much it hurt me on the inside.
Then came the blackness, and I was out. When I woke up, I was at my grandmother’s house. My mother relocated the three of us to live with her mother for the time being. We were too afraid to go back to the apartment where my father was at. To this day, I still don’t know how long I was out and how long it took me to recover, but one thing I knew for sure was that I started to see my father as a monster. Even now, I have a hard time just talking to him without feeling anxious and scared. But I still love him despite all of the things he put us through.
I still love him even if he was never really there for me as a father.
I’m bawling my eyes out right now. Just typing this down makes me relive those moments of trauma that I always buried deep down inside of me. For the longest time, I actually forgot I’ve even been abused. I tricked myself into thinking that my family was perfect even though I knew it wasn’t.
But despite of everything that happened, I’m still standing here today. My mother and my brother are still standing here today. We have our rough moments with trying to established healthy interpersonal relationships with other people and with each other, but we are still standing here today.
I don’t know about them, but I found God during this time of my life.
I would pray to God every day as a little girl, asking for mommy and daddy to stop fighting, for daddy to stop drinking, for me to be a good daughter to my parents- because I really thought that my father beat me because I wasn’t good enough- that all I ever do is upset him and disappoint him.
Even now, I still feel the same. He only wants to talk to my brother, and he only wants to know how he’s doing. In his eyes, I probably couldn’t mean anything less or so that’s what I tell myself. I make these assumptions about how people don’t care about me because it’s easier. Because it supports how I feel about myself
I feel worthless. I feel like I don’t deserve anything in this world. I feel guilty to even be breathing right now. I feel guilty that my heart continues to beat when other people in this world are suffering. I feel guilty, and I shouldn’t be feeling guilty.
That’s what domestic violence did to me. It took away my family. It took away my childhood. And it took away myself from me. But there’s one thing that it did not take and will never take ever be able to take.
I am resilient. I will not let my past define my future. I will not even let my past define my present. I will live in the now. What happens yesterday and what happens today will not define my tomorrow. This moment does not define my tomorrow. I get to choose how to live my life tomorrow. Nobody will ever have that power over me.
So for the people that have gone through this, for the people that are currently going through this, and for the people that have friends or family who are going or have gone through this, remember that you are strong. Remember that you always have a choice. Remember that even at your weakest moment, you are radiating with strength on the inside.
You are beautiful. You are worth it. You are powerful. You deserve so much better even if it doesn’t feel that way.
Tell yourself that your feeling of worthlessness did not come from within. Tell yourself that it was instilled onto you by fear, by oppression, by abuse, by this “love” that they claimed. Because it’s true. We’re not born to hate. We’re not born with the feeling of worthlessness. We are born with love. So don’t give up and don’t give in.
Keep breathing and keep fighting.
And remember that you are loved and that you are love
Well that took me awhile to write. I’m going to leave this unedited, because I think it’s more powerful this way. To be able to share this in the most rawest form that I can possibly think of.
I am in the middle of recovering from all the bullshit I’ve been through, so I’m sorry if it comes off as a bit hypocritical for me to tell others to love themselves when I struggle with that to begin with. But that’s also another thing.
Whether or not, I struggle with the concept of self-love, self-care, and self-worth, we still all deserve and need these things. That part will never change.
Thanks for reading~