I’ll begin by telling you a bit about my history…where I grew up, values I was taught, what shaped me, and what I learned. I was born in a small town in Bulgaria, to a young couple with a 2 year old daughter. What I recall from my childhood is a mixture of this happy, sad, scared, worried, alert, anxious little girl and her sister, just the same if not more happy, sad, scared, worried, alert, and anxious, yet defiant and adventurous. My sister was the ballsy one. She would go out to play and be gone for hours probably having the time of her life even though she knew she would get the beating of a lifetime when she gets home. We weren’t that old at this point, probably between 4-7 years old. We lived in my father’s big house but never really had money. Despite this, I don’t ever remember being hungry or dirty or disrespectful to my elders. Our mom always made sure we had delicious home cooked meals and we were well dressed and taken care of. Our mother worked a lot, all the time, while my father took naps and drank regularly. It was a splendid setup. Apparently he worked as well but to be honest that part I don’t ever recall. Our grandma lived upstairs, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and couldn’t walk. Eventually when we left Bulgaria, she moved downstairs to the main floor and lived alone until she passed. I love and miss her so much, she loved us and cared for us. She was so patient, loving, always hugging us and petting our backs, kissing our faces and telling us how beautiful we are and how much she loves us. She went through her fair share of abuse and bullshit from my father as well. God rest her soul!
When I was 6 and my sister was 8, our parents told us to pack and we left our country as refugees, hoping to either move to the US or Canada. We ended up in Macedona or Serbia, I can’t recall exactly. I remember sleeping on a street bench, a feeling of hunger, and being really scared. We met a family there and they let us stay in their hotel room after they found out we were sleeping outside on the bench. They gave us food and I remember the little boy and his mom (we are still friends to this day), he was twirling his fingers in his mother’s hair while she was putting him to sleep, his fingers wrapped in her brown curls. I remember feeling a sense of peace and love watching them, I could tell she loved him so much! I was so young, I didn’t really understand what was happening or why we were leaving. All we were told by our father was that the communists are taking over and we have to leave, we have to never give up our freedom. At the same time, we had no freedom at home, none. Our sweet mom had no freedom, no freedom to talk back, no freedom to cry, no freedom to fight back, no freedom to choose to keep us safe, none…he took away every possible human right and freedom she should have had. She wasn’t allowed to be sad, to be in a mood, to be disappointed, to be anything but quiet and do as she was told. And just like that, I grew up believing it’s normal for your dad to beat your mom on a daily basis, and that it’s normal to beat your kids on a regular basis if they didn’t nap when you did, or if they didn’t do what you expected them to. I am sure my sister feels the same. We never did make it to the US or Canada. We were refused and had to go back to our small town while our new friends were allowed to move to the US.
Fast forward 2 years later, our dad moved to the US and we remained in Bulgaria for 6 months. I swear those were the most blissful 6 months of our lives. There was no one there yelling at you or calling you names. We could play outside and not be scared of what mood or state our dad was in. We arrived in Canada in 1991 and settled. We started school and mom started working a million jobs trying to support the family, while dad drank and bossed everyone around, expecting perfection.
In the last few years, I’ve read countless amounts of books about childhood trauma, abuse, anger, narcissism, cognitive behavioral therapy, and abandonment issues. I have taken the time to try and heal my childhood wounds because unfortunately, they started to creep up just when I thought life was beautiful, perfect, happy. What I thought was a normal household was not, I learned that my sister and I grew up in an abusive home, a violent home, a home where you either shut up and tiptoe to make sure dad isn’t angry or you would get beat as if you were a 40 year old grownup. I also learned that many places around the world didn’t (and probably still don’t) have the resources available for abused women and their children. I learned that people behave in abusive ways because they have never learned to deal with or heal their own traumas so they project their abuse onto their own loved ones.
Growing up in an abusive home, I learned fear. I learned to be fearful of my father to such an extent that to this day, when I hear a man and a woman yelling, I have to leave and get away. Between the ages of 23 and 38, I would fall into this extreme panic and anxiety and the only thing that helped me was if I put my hands on my ears and cry as I sit in a ball. I fear people fighting so much that if I see grown men (or women) fighting, my heart races, I get scared and can’t look or listen. It makes me so scared that I become the 6 year old little girl wishing someone would save me.
I am sure I am not the only woman in the world that grew up in an abusive home. I am sure in some abusive households, it was way worse than what we experienced. I didn’t start this blog to ask for pity or get attention, I started this blog because I felt the need to tell my story and make it the last part of my healing journey. I guess you can say this writing process is my final healing project. A platform where I’m able to come out of my comfort zone, and be my true self, be vulnerable and encourage women to stand up for themselves, find the courage to change their situation and build a safe and calm life for themselves and their children. I hope wherever you are, you find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. There are resources and people that are willing to help, and I will share these in my “Resources” tab on my page. As I dive into writing more about my experiences, I hope to find my peace as I pour out the traumas that have haunted me for years…and in doing so, I hope I am able to reach at least one person and inspire them to change their life. My hope is to one day open a safe place where women and children can go to get the help they need to end the cycle of abuse.
Until next time, be kind to yourself!