Editor’s Note: Some of us come from difficult backgrounds, where family relationships were rife with conflict, inflicting wounds and scars that never seem to go away. These hurts, when not dealt with appropriately, can leave one vulnerable to mental distresses like depression and anxiety, even suicide.
Our reader, Ana, shares how she rose above the storm and bears this message – your past doesn’t determine your future. Choose hope, choose life. Your journey is just about to start.
I was born in the Lunar Year of the Tiger. For a girl, it meant immense bad luck. Because my mother was a ‘Rabbit’, her friends cautioned her to be careful of me. And so our relationship ended before it even began,
For as long as I can remember, I was always reminded by my mum on ‘how kind’ she was. That if I was born in China, I would be drowned so I was to be thankful for everything, that just being alive, I was indebted to her.
She didn’t want me, a baby girl, and had told the nurse to give me away. It was my dad who stopped the adoption process. I’d always wished otherwise, that I was adopted. It would make me feel a lot better if a stranger hated me.
When I was 11, my best friend and classmate told me she discovered she was adopted which explained why her mom didn’t love her. Her parents had their own baby soon after, from then the loving stopped.
She told me to look for my birth certificate. I was so happy that finally, I found the reason to my mother’s disdain of me. To my sadness, when I saw mom’s name on the cert, I telephoned her, crying, “No she’s really my mom’. To this day, I can still hear these words “How come she doesn’t love you if she’s your real mother?”
There were beatings everyday. For whatever reason, for no reason. I learnt early in life ‘just because’ exists and to accept whatever life doles out. Meal times were the worse. There would be 4 pieces of chicken and none of them were mine. I was only allowed to eat vegetables. Up to this day whenever I see chicken wings, I’d cringe. I can’t bring myself to enjoy a piece. Something I’d always craved for as a child, now brings a fear that it would be too extravagant.
There were two long green couches in our home. I used to pretend one was my father and the other my mom. I’d lie on those couches and talk to them. I felt loved just lying on them; my make-belief mum and dad. Pretending was something I was good at.
My father worked long hours. We hardly saw him but we could tell he was unhappy. There were always loud quarrels, mostly about money and sometimes over me. He loved me because I was his only daughter and he was sorry for me. But if he were to show me any love, mom would beat me at the next available opportunity.
There was once a major exam which I did very well in. Dad bought me a wallet. I was so proud of it, but before long, mom gave me a big beating, yelling how bold I was to ask for a gift. She beat me harder with every attempt I made to explain. Then I realized, she was jealous. She must have felt so hurt that my father loved me more. Not understanding why, she took it out on me, out of spite,
Because I knew this, I would stop my father from siding with me, for speaking out for me. I told him to turn the other way, not to interfere for it would make it worse. And he did, he came home even less, because it hurt him too much. If he did come home, he would reek of alcohol. He eventually became an alcoholic which brought on another set of problems.
There were many times I thought of taking my life, which was quickest and cleanest. But I was afraid of water, afraid of heights and scared of blood, so drowning, jumping and cutting was out. I didn’t have money even for school, let alone buy drugs to overdose on. And so, I couldn’t take my life.
Then I decided, I must live.
It was a terrible childhood but I grew strong from it. I always told myself, one day, there would be a way. There had to be something better than all this sadness and when the day came, I would turn back and say, it was just a journey and as all journeys go, you choose the direction. I chose to head up and never let this overcome me.
Writing this down was hard. Trying to fit my life in a page of words is not enough, for it would take pages of books to describe what I went through. Many memories have been blocked out which I can now hardly remember.
I am now happily married with two teenagers and trying to be a better wife and mother than mom ever was. When people do things that are wrong and justify them with their bad childhood or poor parental example, I say “Rubbish”. Nobody owes you a living. You choose how you live your life. Do not make excuses. I am blessed for I have a loving God who kept me alive, protected and guided me even when there was darkness. I believe my happy life now is a reward for the hard times I went through. Through the past, I learnt empathy and compassion and appreciate joy and family.
Ana is in her 50s and living in Canada with two teenagers. She is currently in-between jobs and enjoys company of her dogs. She hopes one day to write a book on the dogs in her life.
Image Source: Author’s own