Profile picture
Jeff Fa Fa @1stLevelHuman
, 55 tweets, 10 min read Read on Twitter
I turned fifty in October, and I'm just starting to realize all of the ways that being an abused child has molded and shaped me over the years. This thread will be a work in progress, that I can add to over an extended period.
I remember having happy childhood moments, mostly reading and playing with other kids; during the abuse itself, I experienced sheer terror. The rest of my childhood was a vague sense of dread-- waiting for more physical abuse.
When parents punish their children for misbehaving, the kids learn not to do whatever it was that got them into trouble. Since the physical abuse that I endured always seemed to erupt out of nowhere, it broke down "the rules." I grew indifferent to being punished.
In other words, most kids learn not to touch a hot stove so that they won't get burned. As an abused child, I learned that I was going to get burned eventually, no matter what, so there wasn't any reason not to touch a hot stove if I wanted to.
That's not to say that I was a bad kid. I wasn't. My family was deeply religious, and I was raised in a very strict church environment. I wasn't a bad kid, but I sure didn't behave out of respect for rules.
In fact, my religious background added a whole layer of weirdness to being an abused kid: guilt. It was righteous for parents to discipline their children. It was God's will that I be abused.
So a basically good kid, indifferent to rules, being raised in expectation of being abused again eventually, and thinking that the terror of that abuse was God's will, conditioned me to think that there was something very wrong with me-- that I deserved to be an abused child.
And that weird mental conditioning-- instilled when I was 4, but most instense from ages 6 to 16-- is what shaped me in many ways that I'm only seeing for the first time as a 50-year-old man. This is the baggage that I've carried in my life as a result of childhood abuse.
I think I need to say something about my parents here: they weren't monsters. I love them and have a reasonably good relationship with them both today.
My dad survived a childhood that's hard to even imagine. He was the middle kid of 3, raised by an alcoholic mom who went on binges. At one point the local postmaster let him sleep in a closet at the post office, because he had no home to go to.
At one point, my grandmother went on a binge and abandoned my dad and his little brother in Las Vegas. They begged in the streets by day and slept in a 24-hour movie theater at night. My dad was 6, and my uncle was 4.
I don't say this to excuse my father for abusing me. But I do believe that he did the best that he could. He had his own demons.
As a teenager, my dad sold magazine subscriptions door-to-door, traveling by bus from city to city with other teens. It was the only way he could make money, and I think it was a welcome escape from his own unstable family situation.
Dad got himself through school, somehow, playing baseball and selling magazines in his spare time, and he got a scholarship to his state's state university. He found a better ticket out. And college is where my dad met my mom.
By the time that I entered the world, my mom was teaching elementary school, paying the family bills, while my dad went on to study law. They were yuppies. I'm sure my dad felt like he had perfectly played the shitty hand that life had dealt him in his own childhood.
I think I should also describe the physical abuse that I endured as a child, to give it some context. My story isn't as horrific as some you've heard: no wire hangars or cigarette burns.
Most of the time, my abuse started out as corporal punishment, "spare the rod and spoil the child" type stuff which was enthusiastically endorsed by the conservative churches that I grew up in.
My dad would take off his belt, I would put my hands on the bed or the back of a chair, and I'd get spanked ten or fifteen times. Usually.
But sometimes dad would fly off the handle, and the spanking would escalate into something out of my personal horror movie. The spanking would go on well beyond what dad intended, he'd put his whole arm into it, and he'd start swinging so fast that his aim went to shit.
I wound up with welts from my shoulders to the backs of my knees, sometimes with dark purple bruises where he's lost his hold on the belt and left a belt buckle imprint on my skin. Sometimes I'd have hand prints on my skin where an arm had been grabbed or twisted.
Occasionally I'd be pushed, shoved, or kicked when my father was frustrated with me. To the best of my recollection, he never hit me with an open hand or closed fist.
How often did this happen? It's hard to say, as a fifty-year-old man drawing upon his memories as a small child. I'd guess that I was spanked weekly, with every second or third spanking escalating into something horrifying.
Every Saturday morning, though, my dad wanted to do yardwork, and I was regularly pushed or kicked during yardwork because my work wasn't satisfactory. I hated doing chores with my dad, because while that abuse wasn't as terrifying, it was as regular as clockwork.
So that's how I grew up: always aware that misbehavior might lead to a spanking, terrified that any given spanking could erupt into full-blown abuse, and dreading Saturday yeardwork because it meant the certainty of being pushed or kicked.
I know that some people might read this and think, "That's nothing-- when I was a kid..." and then go on to describe something similar or worse. I'm not interested in a contest. Childhood abuse left a deep mark on the man I am today, and that's what this thread is really about.
As mentioned earlier, I grew up without much respect for rules. Random sporadic physical abuse left me terrorized most of the time, whether I behaved or not. Normal rules and normal punishment meant nothing; physical abuse could explode out of nowhere, regardless of my conduct.
I learned to lie convincingly at an early age, though. At the slightest hint that I'd been caught doing something I shouldnt, the terror took over: punishment could turn into abuse at any time, without warning. I was desperate to get away with anything that I could get away with.
I also became very good at manipulating my peers. If I was one of a group of misbehaving children, I was less likely to catch hell for it than if I was the sole culpret. I was always an instigator, getting my friends into trouble.
Quite often, in fact, I'd organize a bit of neighborhood mischief, and then, when things inevitably went bad, I would lie easily & convincingly, often being the only kid in the group to escape punishment.
I also got to be pretty good at manipulating adults. If I was one of a group of kids who were up to no good, and multiple parents conferred with each other about what we were up to, I usually had most of them convinced that I was almost a bystander.
This feed into that weird religious thing which said that I deserved to be an abused child. I knew that I was a troublemaker who got my friends into trouble but usually lied / manipulated my own way out of it. I knew that deep down I had no respect for rules.
By the time I was 5 or 6, I was convinced that I was a bad person. SIX! I knew I didn't have the same desire 'to be good' that other kids had; that disciplining bad kids was God's will; and that when I was disciplined it sometimes turned into secret, shameful, horrific abuse.
I didn't understand why I was the way I was, but I knew that I was different-- and I didn't blame the abuse for that difference. I blamed myself. I thought, at an early age, that there was something deeply wrong with me. That's what child abuse does to kids.
By the time I was 7 or 8, I all but stopped doing schoolwork. Teachers labeled me 'the classic overachiever,' of above-average intelligence but unmotivated. They were exasperated, said I was wasting my potential. I don't think any of them suspected abuse.
As I grew older, I became disillusioned with the conservative church I was raised in. This was an important part of my adolescence. I'd made several sincere attempts to pray my way to God, to no avail. By 12 or 13 I was convinced that God hated me.
Every abused child sees themselves as a monstrous, tragic, defective human being. Church had taught me that it was God's will for me to be abused. By the time I entered middle school, I'd begun to celebrate the idea that there was something terribly wrong with me.
I became openly rebellious. I no longer tried to get away with breaking rules-- I flaunted breaking them! I became popular for the first time in my childhood: that crazy, unafraid kid that everyone liked who did what he wanted and didn't care about consequences.
As someone who's been raised to be devoutly religious, the 'new me' which emerged in middle school was extremely liberating. Rejecting that faith was a logical progression of who I was becoming as a human being.
I had my first real girlfriend & became sexually active for the first time when I was in 7th grade, and smoked pot for the first time in 8th grade. I did whatever the hell I wanted to. By this time my dad was a successful attorney; I'm sure most people thought I was just spoiled.
I mention this for two reasons.
1. Even though I'd rejected the church by this point, I was still conditioned my it. I didn't stop feeling like there was something terribly wrong with me, or that I deserved to be an abused child, just because I no longer accepted the church's teachings.
And 2. The physical abuse intensified as I got older and started to get into trouble more frequently. I still didn't care about rules, and I still lied and manipulated others expertly, but I was also popular for the first time & felt strangely validated by that.
As I entered adolescence, I began to respond to physical abuse in a new way: rage. The terror was still there, but it became balanced with resentment and defiance against my parents. I was becoming an angry kid, on top of all of the other layers of damage from physical abuse.
I've had many friends from adolescence and my teenage years tell me that they never understand me. My defiance to any form of authority and extreme risk-taking behavior amused them, but they never "got" it.
I wound up in jail a few times as a teenager, once for a whole slew of fairly serious charges right after my 18th birthday. I was looking at doing time, so I did what any young man would have done to avoid that outcome: I enlisted in the United States Army.
In some ways, the Army was good for me. For the first time in my life, I was in an environment where I had to follow the rules, at least mostly. I learned to stop poking authority in the eye-- how to behave in a way which more or less confirmed with society's expectations of me.
I continued to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs, to use women for gratification. This, plus whatever success I achieved in uniform, helped me feel like less of an oddball-- like somebody who deserved to be abused as a child because there was something horribly wrong with me.
It's important to mention that I continued to see myself this way. An abused child, raised in a church which condones abuse as God's will, begins to identify with feelings of shame and guilt. Those feelings don't disappear with adulthood.
As a newly-minted patriot and war hero, albeit with a serious drinking & drug problem, who made many questionable choices with women (oh God- the strippers!) I still felt like something was so wrong with me inside that I deserved every bit of pain that the universe hurled my way.
And this twisted self-image explains why I made so many bad choices: it had always been God's will for me to take a few lumps. I deserved every bit of hell that I caught. Life was going to deal me a rough hand no matter what-- so why should I even try?
The Army at least gave me a little discipline, though, and at the end of my enlistment I was able to get and hold a job.
I spent close to a decade drinking heavily, smoking a lot of pot & other drugs, and sleeping around with any woman who would have me. I felt like I'd arrived or come into my own. Somehow the doom / downfall / God's wrath that I expected & felt like I deserved never materialized.
That last bit-- the constant expectation of danger-- is something that I later learned was related to my PTSD as an abused child. I was always on edge, adrenaline flowing, fully expecting the hammer to fall. Many PTSD survivors go thru life with a heightened sense of danger.
This also explains many of the questionable choices that I made at this stage in my life.
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Jeff Fa Fa
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!