Today’s #SurvivorSunday comes all the way from Sydney, Australia but shows us the pain and aftermath of abuse is universal. Here, the fiercely resilient Aimee Bell-Hay, shares a heartbreakingly honest account of growing up with an abusive mother and trying to overcome the PTSD that followed as a result. Thank you, Aimee, for sharing your truth and allowing us to be a small part of the not so easy path towards healing.
I don’t want any sympathy nor do I need apologies from anyone for what our putrid mother put us through on a daily basis. Most of you who know me, know that I’m pretty open with my past because I find it helps me heal. All I want from this post is for adult survivors of childhood trauma to know they aren’t alone and for drug abusive parents to wake up and stop traumatizing their children with their actions, words, and putting their addictions first. I want people to SHARE this story as I’m hoping to get the awareness of child and drug abuse out there! Get this post out there to help survivors and drug using parents realize the long term effects of their everyday actions on their children into adulthood.
My name is Aimee and this is my story.
I’m a 27 y/o female who suffers complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) from on-going childhood abuse. This is worse than normal PTSD being that it’s prolonged. I’m going to start with my first day on this earth as a fresh baby girl. Barely alive, I came out an underweight, premature drug dependent baby, with asthma and constant colic, who was kept in a humidity crib. From then until now, my life has been a constant fight. From a young age, I was a sick kid with no immune system and was always in the hospital for asthma and pneumonia. When I was 5 y/o, DOCS was contacted by neighbors regarding me and my siblings. I have three other sisters and by then, our grandparents took one in because she was found in her crib as a toddler crying and our mother passed out. One was adopted out at 3weeks old after being weaned from drugs also (I met her at the age of 20), and the other sister lived with my mother and I. Our father was such a beautiful caring man who loved us with all his heart and never did drugs or anything to harm us. What he was doing with a person like my mother will forever be beyond my understanding. He was a hard working family man and put up with his lover’s addictions and abuse. He ended up getting very sick with cancer and passing away when I was 9 y/o. After that, everything just got so much worse.
What I remember before our father passed is the abuse and neglect was pretty moderate. Our house was normally kept clean; dinner was cooked a few times a week, our punishments were no TV, smacks and confined to our rooms. After our father passed we all suffered physically, emotionally and mentally. Our mother was constantly high, passing out or overdosing with us in the house. Our neglect and abuse would start at 7:30 am when we woke up for school to 9:00 pm. Sometimes even later, with her yelling or carrying on at 2:00 am, scaring the absolute shit out of us. My sister and I were so scared of her we started sharing a room in a 3 bedroom house and slept together; sometimes with cupboards against our door. Sometimes we would call the police on her, or jump out a window, or we would run away at night and not want to come back. We lived in constant fear. We were 9-10 y/o and 12-13 y/o then.
She never cooked us dinner but she always got microwavable food for us. Though there were a couple of her friends that would buy us food for the house, we were always super malnourished and underweight. Abuse and neglect turned into hitting us with objects that made us bleed and throwing things at us. She wouldn’t take us to the doctor when we needed. I can remember her throwing my sister around the kitchen, locking us outside in the morning, refusing to take us to school. Letting us run away at night, not caring what males she brought into our house, yelling at us until the neighbors heard. I remember sexual assault, her needle abuse, letting her druggo friends use in our home while we were around. She was just constantly angry with us like we were the biggest burdens to her. It was her and her addiction against her own children.
DOCS eventually realized what was going on after hearing from neighbors and our school and took us from her. I was 9 y/o. DOCS used to make “her” take drug tests that she made us take for her during our visits, or there would be all hell to pay. When we weren’t around she used the neighborhood kids for the dirty work but I’m sure she was a bit nicer to them. When I was 11 y/o, we started to realize that this life was not worth the repeated process of coming back just for the same painful shit. Like why would she even fight to get us back anyway; especially when we were rebellious against her and naughty? So, she eventually rang DOCS herself and got them to permanently remove us because she couldn’t handle it anymore.
Under section something of children’s law, we were announced wards of the state until we were 18 y/o. To make a long story short, I went through 12 DIFFERENT foster homes. The system was ridiculous! This process was absolute hell, those years were hell and the fear it caused us was absolute hell as well. I know foster care isn’t all that bad, realistically. But for a small child it’s purely the most traumatizing thing they have to go through. “Here, go live with these complete strangers after years of abuse from your own mother.” Not only would we never understand what was going on and why, our mother would continue to let us down with her supervised visits. She would come and go from rehab, was never allowed to call or know where we were. Oftentimes, she would ignore calls and visits from DOCS and we would always run away because we didn’t want to listen to or know the complete strangers we were placed with. For us, strangers were dangerous so we never slept or felt safe. Kids teased us at every school we changed to. I suffered from chronic anxiety since I was a child and used to chew my clothes until they had holes in them, a habit that to this day it has NEVER left me. We were thrown away from people CONSTANTLY when we would act out. To be honest people, we never learned how to be good kids because our mother never taught or showed us how to be good, feel safe, or feel good about ourselves. She never praised us, showed us affection and never loved and nurtured us. That in itself is a mix of disaster for a child, let alone everything else that was going on in our chaotic little minds.
When I was 13 y/o, my mother finally overdosed herself to death. She never even got my respect to attend her funeral. I eventually found a stable long-term foster home but even that had its difficulties because of what I had been through. I loved them so much, even when they sent me back to the DOCS for acting out. These were my favorite days though. Sadly, I ended up losing that foster father when I was living in Sydney over a sudden motorbike accident. It has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through because for the first time ever, a man loved me like his own. He disciplined me the right way, made me laugh every day, and made me feel safe every day. He never ever doubted the broken little girl he knew he had to protect from the pains and doubts she went through daily. He would always be the one involved with DOCS and my case. Oftentimes telling his wife, “There’s something about her that just gets me”. He finally gave me something I never ever believed I would have… my own family. He gave me his family.
People think children just get over things, but even when they seem to be “okay” it’s the damage to the changes in brain function that make them suffer. They seem fine because they get put into survival mode. A bird doesn’t show it’s weak until it’s almost dead, right? This is how trauma in children and adolescence make adulthood hell. So now, I’m left to constantly fight myself every day to just get up, be happy and survive. The trauma, damage, memories, abuse and the constant living in fear completely ruins you as a person. It makes you think the worst of people because everyone who was meant to be there for you has let you down, hurt you or died. It makes you feel so isolated because when you finally find safety and peace you never want to leave it. Your brain is burnt-out from all the worries, grief and let downs you’ve had to experience. You don’t sleep because of all the nights you felt unsafe and memories of fighting your own mother off are implanted deep inside your mind and body clock. You end up with sensory issues due to brain function and being sensitive to everything. There are so many “triggers” around that take that create flashbacks. I am constantly fatigued and sometimes rely on sleeping just to stay alive. Everyone new is scary, everything new is scary, and life is just scary because your chronic anxiety makes you that way. Being in your comfort zone is a way of life. You detach from humans and attach to animals and their unconditional love. I can’t work full time because it’s too chaotic and overwhelming. Overwhelming situations create panic attacks. Medication stops working and food becomes a substitute because of neglect. People have to wait weeks/months to see me before I want to leave my house (my safe zone) on a low. You are just different to others because chronic pain changes your body, mind and soul. Not to mention, I feel like the system totally failed us in so many ways! The world is just a petrifying place because your own blood, your own safety… your own mother made you hurt so bad that you now have to live with it like a survivor that has just come back from a war that nobody will ever understand. Children are still being treated like this so give people some time. Sometimes they are just trying to heal from a childhood they had to fight. PTSD, nobody asks for it.