CHAPTER 3 – THE NIGHT I LEARNED ILLNESS = SAFETY
We had just moved in to a new apt, at Keele and Sheppard Ave. Waynes parent’s were the superintendents, and lived on the same floor as us just around the corner. The building was built in the 60’s or 70’s and had one of those odd living rooms in the foyer that was gated off. Behind the gate was furniture that no one ever sat on, and plants that no one ever watered. It was stale, old and had no warmth.
Our move in was simple and it would be the last of almost 10 of them. We really only had a couch, a few beds and some shelving at this point. All of the furniture we had in the past that did have soul, was now destroyed and in landfills. We only used the essentials now because there was no point in anything more. Experiencing joy for belongings, events, or food was out of the question. The heaviness that plagued the 3 of us was palpable, and that was our truth. Social events, care-taking or laughter would immediately be noticed and rectified with a sharp smack of a hateful or derogatory comment.
Love was not welcome here.
The beatings became increasingly more regular. I don’t remember hearing yelling, I only remember glass breaking, and things slamming loudly against the walls. Whether that noise was furniture, or my mother’s body, it was never really clear to me.
It didn’t matter if I had school the next day or not, the routine was the same; turn the television up to full blast, watch wrestling, and blare country music as loud as he could. Weekends were the worst, as Wayne would get paid from whatever shitty job he had, and would head to The Wheat Sheaf, at King and Bathurst, and drink until last call. To this day, even though I lived just a few blocks away from that bar in my 20’s, I have never stepped foot in that place.
Police were never called due to noise complaints, not in that neighbourhood. And his parent’s, the 65 year old superintendents, who lived jus a few doors down from us, wouldn’t do a thing even though they knew what he was doing. He was their boy, and they protected him till the end.
It didn’t take long for him to begin to actually torture my mother. The beatings became increasingly destructive. The days of black eyes and swollen cheek bones were gone and he seemed to have gotten bored of beating her.
The first time I remember him trying to kill my mother, I was 11 years old, and it was bed time. Everything had seemed to be fine, we had a quiet night at home and were all in our rooms getting ready to fall asleep. Maybe 15 minutes after being in my room, I began to hear my mom scream. I laid in my bed, literally frozen. I would stare at a single point on the wall, unable to move, speak or breathe. The noise became louder and louder, and then, nothing. Quiet.
After a few minutes, I slowly opened my bedroom door and looked in the hallway. I had never seen so much blood in my life. It was pooling and bubbling on the tile floor. I will never forget that, or the smell in our hallway. Wayne, and my mom were nowhere to be found.
I walked out into the hallway and saw a man standing there. He must have been a neighbour who was also scared and popped out to see what was going on. He said to me “Don’t worry, no one is going to hurt you.” To this day, I still wonder if he knew I was a part of that house hold. I remember thinking to myself how stupid that comment was because I was already being hurt, and I was part of the family that was causing terror in that hallway that night. I felt shame in that moment, if he did know I was part of that situation, he would have been the first person other than Wayne’s parent’s who knew.
I was so afraid, 11 years old, searching for my mommy down the hall and into the lobby. It was so quiet. The overhead lighting shone so bright at night as it bounced off the yellow speckled laminate walls and flooring. It was like living in an institution.
I saw her, she rushed towards me and told me to get back in my room. Wayne was outside, and had a knife, she wanted to get back in the apartment and lock the door. There was no talk of phoning the police, that was always out of the question.
As I got in the house again, she began to tell me how he had hidden a kitchen knife under his pillow. When they went to go to bed, he pulled the knife out from the bed and began to stab himself in the stomach. He was absolutely mad, this time wasn’t even after 6 hours of drinking at The Wheat Sheaf.
Things seemed to calm down a bit, it was late and I was so drained, but so scared. I sat in my living room on the couch and began to feel my stomach tighten more than it ever had before. In the dark, all alone, I sat on that couch and birthed a symptom that would stay with me for the next 20 years. Severe stomach pain.
As I sat alone, in our living room, in the dark, I began to hear noise near the window just 5 feet away from me. There was a locked patio door right next to that window, and we were on the main floor of the apartment. It lead out to a small patch of grass, and a school yard. It was so dark, I couldn’t see anything, and I was too scared to look. All I heard was a terrifying smash, and saw Wayne start to crawl in to our apartment through jagged shards of broken glass.
I sat there, on the couch, alone, and was frozen again. He fell to the floor, bloody and disoriented, got up and walked right by me as if I wasn’t even there. He headed straight for my mother’s room and began to beat her. He was raging. I thought he was going to kill her that night.
I don’t know how long it took, but Wayne finally stopped beating my mother, and next thing I remember, there were paramedics in my apartment strapping him into a gurney.
Living in the neighbourhood we lived in, these types of calls weren’t rare for the paramedics and police. That was obvious to me then, because I remember watching them act so nonchalant as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened there that night. One of the paramedics turned on our television and put on the hockey game without even asking. It was just another day at the office for these guys, yet for me, I stood there looking at my mother, my bloody apartment, and this ‘rescue’ for Wayne, in complete disbelief. This is what my life was. I was a prisoner of my mother’s. As she sat there on her blood soaked bed, breasts naked and falling from her torn shirt, I looked at the wounds on her body and wondered if she felt pain. I could see the tissue beneath her skin. I hated her in that moment.
She sat there, crying to me, wanting me to listen and console her, yet there I sat, an 11 year old child who had no control, no safety, and was watching her life fall apart. I needed her so badly to be strong but I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I wanted nothing more than to walk away from her.
You’d think the paramedics or police would have contacted the child services dept at their station, yet no one arrived. I don’t know why, but no one came to rescue me, even when the authorities were involved. I don’t know if it was because they saw this every day and were desensitized to the situation, or what – but I will never forget how those men came, saw, watched a bit of fucking hockey, then left.
Wayne came back after that night. My mother wasn’t ready to get help, or protect herself and I. I sometimes think she actually wanted to die.
It wasn’t too long after that night that I finally got the courage to tell my father, though before that would happen, I would adopt a belief system so deep that it would shape my life, my story and my health for the next 20 years.
My little body was increasingly becoming tighter, and afraid. I remember taking a 2 ft tall glass container meant to hold vegetables from the kitchen, and brought it in to my room. When Wayne was in the house, I would be too afraid to make noise and use the washroom, so I would pee in that jar and empty it and wash it in the tub when Wayne was gone. No one noticed the smell in my room. No one, not even my mother, stopped to ask me what the hell was going on. How could she? She was such a severely depressed alcoholic, if she even left her room for more than a washroom break herself, that was a miracle.
There were no lunches or dinners made. No family tv time, or social outings. All there was was darkness, crying, pain, torture and sadness.
One night, they began to fight. I was in the washroom, and had just finished having a shower. I heard the noises and couldn’t take it anymore! I was SO FED UP! I wanted peace goddammit!!
I opened the door, looked right at Wayne, and screamed “LEAVE HER ALONE!!!!”.
I don’t know if I looked away, closed the door, or kept staring at him. All I remember in that moment was the noise stopped. I was in shock. A new kind of shock because I had never told him to stop before. Never stuck up for my mom before that night, and I couldn’t believe it worked.
I was a ghost in that house. He never hit me, never sexually abused me, he never even yelled at me. They never fed me, nurtured me, or smelled the stale urine coming from my bedroom. Though, in that moment, I made myself visible. I existed after all.
My sudden surge of power and courage didn’t last though, and neither did the silence. As the beatings continued, my stomach just couldn’t handle it anymore. One night, I had gotten my period and was experiencing cramps so intensely I began vomiting. I laid, curled in ball on my mother’s bedroom floor and cried for her. The noise stopped again. She was there, by my side, speaking to me in a soft, nurturing voice. My mother appeared suddenly in that moment. The mother who had fed me homemade vegetarian food morning, noon and night for many years. The one who handmade gifts for my friends birthday presents and wrapped each one with creativity, love and care. She was there, looking right at me. The noise was gone, and Wayne saw me too. My agony was the ticket to mine, and my mother’s safety that night.
As I got in a cab with them and headed to the hospital, they were talking about what could be wrong with me, they were instantly united, and talking about ME. ME! Wtf???
Looking back, I believe that was the night that my unconscious mind learned how powerful being sick could be, and although the hospital released me with a few advils and instructions to just take a hot bath and relax, I would stay ‘ill’ for years to come.
Who knows whether it was nature or nurture. Maybe I developed a gut infection during that time of intense stress, or maybe that unconscious learning that being sick would protect me, but I suffered for almost 20 more years from chronic pain and degenerative gut health.
Those events were horrifying. Even sitting here now, reflecting on my energetic states during my time writing this story, I can feel the trauma resurfacing in my body and mind. It’s incredible what the body holds on to. Though, I also have deep appreciation for those events and those people. Without them I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.
Thank you Wayne, and Joyce, because without you and your pain, I wouldn’t be a wellness coach, who has dedicated her life to her own, and her client’s healing. I wouldn’t have spent years learning and reading about how to let go of the self-hate I developed during my time with you. I wouldn’t know empathy on the level I do. I wouldn’t know about hatred, poor gut health, co-dependant relationships, addiction, abuse and HOW THE FUCK TO LET THAT SHIT GO!
Thank you, because you were my greatest teachers. Joyce, you gave me life, what more could I ask for? You taught me how to be open minded, how to love and accept everyone, no matter their race, sexual preference, or social status. You introduced me to spirit. You taught me how to cook, eat and celebrate food. Though, you also taught me about abuse. Physical, mental, emotional and sexual. You taught me what going hungry and being desperate for food felt like. You taught me what poverty is on an experiential level. I learned how to sacrifice my needs, boundaries and self respect at the expense of another human’s selfishness and inability to look at their own shit and heal.
A rich life I’ve lived because of you. As I sit here now, in my beautiful home, that is safe, filled with love and acceptance, has fridges filled with fresh, and healthy food, I feel you. I don’t know where you are, or what conditions you live in, but I do know you haven’t learned to accept love, or forgive yourself. Maybe next lifetime.
I sit here tonight with a relaxed belly that now digests food and works properly, I feel gratitude for the learning I acquired that night, in the cab on our way to the hospital. Without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today, and I love the Goddess I’ve become.
Illness doesn’t’ = safety any longer. Personal boundaries, choosing wisely, practising self-love and cherishing myself – my whole self. That is true safety.
With deep love and appreciation for this life,