Hello, happy Friday!
As I promised earlier this week, I have a very special guest post from one of my favorite bloggers, Ana De-Jesus. Ana’s blog is Faded Spring, where she melds her fashion blogging and modeling with feminism, trauma narratives, and other socially conscious issues. It’s wonderful! Hop on over and take a look when you’re done here.
Ana’s story is difficult to read. We don’t like to hear about children experiencing abuse and neglect. In some ways, it becomes even more difficult to learn it’s at the hands of a stepmother or stepfather, because this is a person who was welcomed into the family and instead chose to tear it apart. Even though it’s a hard read, I ask you to read through to the end. Too often we hear the fairy-tales about the beautiful princess and the evil stepmother. We brush that early plight aside as a necessary part of the princess’ story, and we watch her move forward into a romantic happily-ever-after. The true story is far more nuanced. Ana survived her own version of the “evil stepmother,” and she certainly fits the mold of a beautiful ingenue, but she is also now living with aftermath that involves mental illness, continued strife, and deep strength and courage.
Read my half of the guest post exchange here.
Ana De-Jesus is a Multi Award Winning Blogger with a BA in English Literature, English Language and Education and Social Sciences. Her Blog Faded Spring celebrated its two year anniversary in August and after working in marketing and promotions, she now blogs full time, alongside running two successful social media groups for bloggers. Ana’s blog has been nominated for a total of 7 awards and was ranked by Feedspot as 33rd in the Top 50 Best Blogs and Websites in the UK. She is also a Freelance Journalist and has an extensive writing portfolio covering media outlets like magazines, websites, newspapers and more. Ana’s blog has enabled her to collaborate with huge brands like Public Desire, Pretty Little Thing and River Island and she is passionate about having frank and open discussions centered on mental health, abuse, bullying, sex and dating. When she isn’t blogging, Ana can be found reading historical fiction, watching Rick and Morty and hanging out with friends.
Surviving My “Evil Stepmother”
I was six years old, trapped in a world that was conditioned by abuse and neglect. I should have felt the wind whipping through my hair as I made my way through a world of make believe, I should have known what it was like to feel loved. But my world was desolate; I was taught aged six that Santa was a load of crap and the tooth fairy didn’t exist. Most of all I was made to believe that I was unwanted. I was abandoned by my biological mum at two and a half, after she ran away with another man. My abandonment issues only intensified with my stepmother’s abuse. Within mere days of meeting my Dad she had moved in. That was when the secret abuse began. Sure she was nice… at first. She groomed me into believing that she was the ‘perfect stepmother’ by showering me with kisses and hugs. But then the abuse began. Constant name calling, beatings, kicks and punches. I was physically abused by the woman who was meant to be my stepmother, but it was the emotional abuse that left the hardest scars to conceal.
Being Cast Aside As A Child Hurt More Than Being Beaten
There were days where I was covered in cuts and bruises, but it was her poisoned words that would drip in my ears like venom, that made me cry the most. I was made to believe that I was as unwanted as she made me out to be; worthless, ugly and unloved. She made me feel like I was second best–if that–but she was always so clever in the ways that she abused me. I was too scared to speak out at first. I lost count of how many nights my sleep was laced with nightmares. Or how many nights I had woken up with my hand clamped over my mouth to stop myself from screaming. But soon she let my Dad into her little secret, and he watched me get hurt over and over again and did nothing. He watched her hit me, he watched her scream and shout at me, and then he watched her give birth to their first child together, whose needs would soon take precedence over my place in the house.
I had a sister and I was delighted. This pure innocent babe would be a salve to my wounded heart. I promised to be the best sister that I could ever be. But my Stepmum had other ideas… she wouldn’t let me be in the same room as her precious child, and seethed like an angry cobra when I bravely defied her. Still my dad did nothing. When I was beaten so badly that my head swelled to twice its size, he begged me to not tell the school anything…but I did. They weren’t stupid, they could tell from my withdrawn manner in class and the way I clammed up whenever they asked me how ‘home was’ that ‘something was up.’ Now they knew. I told them everything, about the nightmares that plagued my sleep, how she made me feel sad all the time, how I too believed that I was this ‘worthless, unlovable little girl’ that she made me out to be. I felt the hot, salty tears plop down my cheeks, and could see the tears in my teacher’s eyes as I finished telling my story. I was just a six-year-old girl; I should have been playing with Barbies but instead I was punished for being alive. It wasn’t fair.
My Story Is Best Told Through Numbers
There is more to my childhood abuse than people know. There are still fragments from my childhood that I wish I could forget. My story is best told through numbers: When she was 18, my Mother wanted to have me aborted, aged two and a half my Mum left me and my Dad for another man, aged four I was childminded by my future Foster Mum and from the ages of six to ten I was physically and mentally abused by my Stepmother. When I was seven years old she gave birth to my Sister, and at age seven and a half, my Father had a secret wedding while I was at school. I remember coming home to my Dad telling me they had gotten married. The world came to a standstill and I squawked with shock. He had married my abusive monster and there was nothing I could do. She knew what she was doing by not inviting me to the wedding, and over the years she had more kids to trap him into a marriage that he couldn’t escape. They still live together now.
My Stepmum was more intelligent than people ever gave her credit for, and she was a fine actor, oh how she acted. She convinced Social Services into thinking that I was a liar who was just making up bullshit to get attention. Within six months I was off the register– that was the mistake that they made. Despite being confronted with enough evidence to put her behind bars they turned a blind eye, as though nothing had happened in the first place. She would sneer and hold it over me, lauding the fact that I could never escape her abusive touch. She made me do things that I am ashamed to admit I did; she made my Dad cut out his family from our lives, she made me ring up family members and say horrible nasty things– when I said I didn’t want to she would beat me so I had to. I had to knife them with my poisonous words or else I would face the wrath of her abuse late at night when the neighbors were sleeping. Some nights, I lay awake with my eyes open, scared that she would come into my room and end it all. But there were other nights when I wished she would put me out of my misery and give me the solid darkness that I so craved. I wanted to die, the abuse was so bad.
I remember how she would play manipulative mind games with me, like a sadistic version of Truth or Dare. She made me pretend that I was sick ‘so that I could stay at home with her’ and she could hurt me while my Dad was at work. But here’s the fucked-up thing, when she told me I had to do ‘something’, in front of my Dad she would pretend that she didn’t tell me to do anything. I remember my Dad getting angry with me for ‘lying about being ill’ and was confused when my Stepmother also joined in, despite being the one who had told me to pretend I was sick. She acted like she knew nothing, and it became her excuse to scream at me even more. She even slapped me for being ‘such a naughty child’. But that was nothing in comparison to our family holiday in Madeira. I begged my Aunty to let me stay with her.. she soon saw why. Once she saw the abuse for herself, she vied to find me the escape that I so desperately craved. It was when my Stepmum tried to drown me that my Aunty knew we needed to get me out soon or else I would be dead.
Even After I Was Freed, The Abuse Haunted Me
Aged ten, I was finally taken into care, after nearly half a decade of abuse. I was a broken mess. I rebelled often and found it hard to trust the people around me. I was severely bullied at school and would skip classes, because no one ‘liked me’. My friends were fake. I began shoplifting to help me feel better. I stole small things, but the rush it gave me made me feel like I had some sort of power that my abusive stepmother, my toxic friends and bullies had tried to take away from me. I was an adult in a child’s body.
I grew up knowing that I would never see my Dad again. I would never watch him smile as I made him a homemade Father’s Day gift, or watch him cry as I graduated with a First. My Stepmum took all that away from me. Sure, when I first went into care we had supervised visits during which she acted the part of a ‘suitable Stepmum’ with relish. She was a model parent, but one day she just flipped and came after me, threatening me with her callous words, telling me what she was going to do to me. Gradually, my Dad stopped coming to see me too. I haven’t seen him in 13 years. Sometimes he stills calls me when he is at work; he has me saved under a ‘fake name.’ It makes me angry that he doesn’t have the balls to stand up to her.
I get it now. It wasn’t just me who was abused by my Stepmother, but my Dad too. She manipulated him into marrying her, she forced him into cutting his family out of his life, and screamed and shouted at him when she caught him phoning me. I remember calling him from my Grandma’s phone and finding out that she had been tracking his calls. I heard her screaming in the background in Portuguese, I heard all the vile names she was calling me … and him. It saddens me that my Dad doesn’t have the strength to leave his abusive wife, or that it took my Aunty getting cancer for him to ever speak to her again; that while I escaped and made it out alive, he will die with the monster by his side.
My Childhood Experiences Led To Mental Illness As An Adult
It took me a long time to seek help for my depression and anxiety. Because of her, I fantasized about killing myself. Because of her, I would alienate myself from others, and because of her I have trust issues and find it hard to open up to people. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety aged 21, but it wasn’t until I was 23 that the doctors told me I had an acute form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) too. While not ‘officially diagnosed’, I felt relieved knowing that there was a diagnosis behind all the sadness I was facing. Before, I thought I was just being a drama queen, that the tears were for nothing, but now I know. I know now why compliments make me feel uneasy, why I find it hard to talk to guys that I like, why I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), Anxiety, Depression and PTSD. I know why I turn down a lot of social events, why I feel uncomfortable in large social groups, why I never celebrate my birthday. Now I know.
There is more to this story than I am willing to tell, but I do know one thing. I am not a victim or a figure to be pitied; Instead I, Ana De-Jesus, am a warrior, who made it out the other side alive, who had the strength to leave an abusive home and best of all used my past to shape myself into the woman that she is today. I never see myself as someone who is beautiful; I find it hard to look in the mirror without contempt and disgust. But despite my struggles with physical appearance, I can and will admit this: I am intelligent, I am strong and a good person. My abuser might have taken my childhood away from me, but it made me love kids even more. I shower them with presents and attention, feeling my heart glow as their eyes light up, I’ve always been a good friend who takes the time to listen and I am a firm believer that two wrongs don’t make a right. I can feel myself growing stronger each day. As the shackles loosen, I smile and say to my abuser- today you have lost… and I have won. You will never see me crumble, you will never see me fall, you will never see me cry. Never.