Mother Knows Best

Trigger Warning: This article mentions physical, emotional, and sexual abuse along with unhealthy eating and suicide. Proceed with caution. 

     The waiting was the worst part. Waiting for the scale to spew out those seemingly giant red block numbers. 122 pounds. Seeing that number glaring back up at me as a self-conscious 6th grader felt like a punch in the gut, but the real punch landed across my face when my mother saw that number. 

     “YOU GAINED TWO POUNDS?! Do you think your father and I are made out of money?! Leave some food on the table for the rest of us and skip out on dinner tonight.” 

     Lying on the cold tile of the bathroom with tears streaming down my face and a newly forming bruise presenting itself on my cheek, all I could think about was how to lose that extra weight. 

     Maybe if I only ate 500 calories a day for a month I could lose even more weight and make her happy. The saddest part is that this is a real sentence from a journal I kept in 6th grade. 

 

     To say that my mother and I have a complicated relationship would be an understatement. The story above is one of the less violent ones from my childhood. For years, I thought she was just being hard on me because she knew what was best for me. So when she told me that my uncle was just being “nice” and that he didn’t “mean anything by his actions,” I believed her. And for 9 years, I allowed him to do what he liked without murmuring a word of it to anyone. After about two more years of this, I finally broke down and tried explaining to my mother that he wasn’t acting like how an uncle should but all she could say back to me was to “just be respectful and stop blowing things out of proportion.” Believing her, I told the CPS worker who had opened up an investigation on the sexual abuse that I was just being sensitive and that their resources would be better suited elsewhere since I’d be 18 in two years anyway. 

     I thought that once I got to Baylor, everything would be better. I wouldn’t have to come home to a locked fridge and realize that I wouldn’t be eating that night, or be worried when report cards came around that my mother would beat me for getting a B. However, despite being miles away from her, my mother’s influence on how I lived followed me to Baylor. When I changed my major to Professional Writing & Rhetoric after my first semester here, I could hear her voice in my ear screaming that it wasn’t a real major. So instead of diving into a major that I loved, I chose to major in Business Administration instead and take on PWR as a secondary major. 

     From an outsider’s perspective, you’d probably have looked at me and seen a successful, happy, thriving woman who took on the challenge of having two majors like it was nothing much. However, the truth was, I was drowning. You could see it in the bags under my eyes, the scale in my dorm room, the constant recalculations of my GPA, and the journal entries cataloging what I ate in a day. The truth was, I was on a path to self-destruction. 

 

     Around October of 2020, everything started spiraling out of control after my uncle decided to come to visit unannounced. 

     “He can do what he wants. If he wants to come visit you on campus, that’s his right. Just do what he asks.” 

     After telling my mother what happened and getting this response back, I completely unraveled. I’d wake up in cold sweats every night puking up my guts (gross…) after having nightmares re-living the sexual abuse my uncle put me through. Soon after that, my grades started slipping, I started finding it too difficult to get out of bed or answer any of my text messages. 

     It was at this point that I tried telling my mother what was going on, to which she said, “don’t give me that bullsh*t. If you only tried to be happy you’d be fine… I’m so done with you. If you want to jump off a parking garage, do it. I don’t care.” 

     I almost did just that. Being in a toxic relationship for so long leaves someone thinking the right things are wrong and the wrong things are right. I believed my mother and almost took my own life because of it. If it weren’t for the friends and mentors that supported me through last semester, I don’t think I could say with certainty that I’d be here today. 

     It took me a long time to feel comfortable sharing my story (even anonymously), but I finally decided to share this piece to reclaim my voice. Yes, the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that I experienced is dark and messy. However, the support and the healing journey have reminded me of the beauty that can present itself within the brokenness. 

 

     Below are a number of resources that could be beneficial to those who are struggling with their mental health or are in a difficult situation: 

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Baylor Counseling Center

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Baylor’s Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX Office 

 

     If any of you related to these experiences, I’m so sorry. Please know that none of it is your fault and that you are worth more than that. Whether it’s a parent, relative, significant other, boss, or anybody else, this type of behavior is not okay. To anyone who is struggling with their mental health, or find themselves in a situation that they want to leave, please know that there are people who care about you. You will make it through this. You are not alone. 

 

     “You’re not a victim for sharing your story. You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth and raging courage.” -Alex Elle