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A Survivor Story: Kaydie

Kaydie is the fur momma to Stella, Milo, and Bella. She is sharing her story so others don’t feel so alone and to educate people on the importance of counseling.

My Adoptive Dad

“The first time I experienced what abuse looked like was the day that my adoptive dad lost his mind. He put his hands on my mom. I was only three and a half. I was in the middle of my bed playing with a doll. I remember I had the same comforter as the comforter in Full House. My mom came into my room to get me. He ended up choking her in front of me. My mom was trying to figure out how to get me away from the situation. My brain wanted to say, “Stop,” but I couldn’t get it to come out. My adoptive dad and I made eye contact. I still remember the look in his eyes. It was as if he came to a little bit after that. My mom called the police. I can’t remember anything that happened after that, that day. My mom left him and we lived with my mom’s friend for a little while.

Even though choking her was the first and only time he put his hands on my mom, he was very verbally abusive to my mom, especially if he didn’t get his way. I remember little things like going to a duck pond to feed the ducks. Over time, my adoptive dad grew more and more frustrated. He was gone for work a lot though so it was mainly just me and my mom. I remember putting a puzzle together with him when I was around 4. I had all of the pieces colored-side up so I knew how to put them together. I guess he wanted to make it more challenging for me and he flipped the pieces over. He got mad because I didn’t want to put the puzzle together that way. I remember feeling really confused. I just wanted to put my puzzle together. I didn’t understand what he wanted from me.

The reason why my mom stayed and wanted to work on things was that she felt like her love could fix him. She thought that if she loved him enough, he would change. They wanted kids together but couldn’t have them so she hoped adopting a baby would help things. That’s where I came in. He struggled with alcohol abuse before he met my mom, but was sober and clean when they met. I think my mom just kind of gave him some slack because of his past. She spent 8-10 years with him.

After he choked my mom, he was convicted of assault in the 4th degree. While my mom testified in court he laughed at her. The judge kicked him out of the courtroom. It was easier for my adoptive dad to blame other people than to take accountability for his own actions. Had he done that, we would have had more of a relationship – it would have been more forgivable.

Kids remember traumatic events forever. I would wake up with nightmares about him choking my mom during nap times at daycare. Later, when I was older, I found a letter my daycare provider wrote for the court hearing. I started crying as I read it. I felt bad for her and for the younger version of me. As an adult, I was able to come to terms with things, but as a child, I didn’t know how to make sense of what happened. She had to watch how I was napping because I would wake up crying, saying, “My daddy’s a bad man.” My nightmares impacted her, her family, and the kids around me in the daycare. I wonder how many parents had to talk to their kids about what was happening to me.

I was a super clingy child and I had a lot of daddy issues. I also had a lot of trust issues. I always had to have my hand held through things. My teachers were really supportive, but I got called a baby a lot in school. Kids made fun of me because I carried my blanket with me. It was my security blanket. I remember getting frustrated and hitting one of the kids who made fun of me. I had watched how my adoptive dad handled his anger so I automatically responded the same way.

He started to become verbally abusive towards me after my mom and I left. When I was eight years old I wanted to fly out to see him. It was around 9/11. He bought a plane ticket for me. Then 9/11 happened and I called him and told him I didn’t want to go because I was afraid I would die on the plane. My mom put the phone on speaker so she could monitor the conversation. He was saying I was ungrateful and a little brat. My mom told him, “This conversation is done” and hung up.

When I was younger, he was really good at manipulating me. He would tell me my mom did this or that to try to cause tension between us. The best way to hurt my mom was through me. That was his main goal. At the time I needed validation and his love so I believed him. He got so lost in everything that he forgot he also had a child whose emotions were getting lost in it. I remember one time I got into a fight with my mom because of him. I accused her of something she didn’t do. My mom told me she never said that – and I realized she was right. I talked to my counselor and decided I wouldn’t be manipulated into starting a fight with someone I cared about.

For the longest time, I was super perceptive of my surroundings. When my adoptive dad was getting mentally abusive, I could sense it. I was always checking people’s moods to get a feel for where they were emotionally and mentally. I always tried to fix things and was always drawn to helping people. I thought if I could fix it then I could stop them from hurting as I did. He is the reason I can immediately pick out someone super charismatic working a room and then stay away from them.

I was in counseling from the age of 4 to the age of 17. I stopped going for a little bit at age 15. I felt like I didn’t need to go and that it wasn’t that big of a deal at that time. I only went one or two times a year. When I was in high school though, if you couldn’t find me I was probably talking to my counselor. I went to counseling in college too. When I was 14, I told my counselor that I didn’t want anything to do with my adoptive dad anymore. I told her I didn’t want to talk to him or see him. When I was 14 or 15 he sent me a birthday card saying that he accepted the loss of me and signed the card with his name, not as “dad.” Every year or every other year after that he would file lawsuits against my mom around the time of my birthday.

I don’t think if I had the counseling that I did, I would be in the place I am now. I was forced to talk about what had happened and my feelings from a very young age. It helped make me more rounded. I learned if you aren’t feeling okay, talk about it. Not talking about it makes everything worse.

Today, I am more hyper-conscious of everything. The negative things followed me through to today. I am an over-analyzer. I’m always thinking, “What if this person doesn’t like me or something I said.” I am continuing to work on not taking things so personally. Not everyone has to like me. I have also learned that when I get frustrated, it is okay for me to set a boundary and walk away when I need a break. If I ask someone to leave me alone and they don’t, I feel backed into a corner. I will pinpoint their weakest link and attack them for it. I am learning that just because I feel backed into a corner doesn’t mean I have to say the mean thought or be mean. I can just stop myself from saying it or walk away.”

My High School Boyfriend

“I dated this boy in high school. He was never physically abusive. He was fine while we were dating. When we broke up, however, emotional manipulation came into play. The thing is, we were broken up so I didn’t really have to put up with it, but I had given him so much of myself and was emotionally attached. When I was younger I thought if you give something like that up, you get married. In my brain, I always thought we would end up together so I put up with more shit than I should have.

He would message me, “I miss you” or “I want to be with you” and then turn around and message me, “I don’t want to be with you” or “You are psycho.” This happened over and over again for a year to a year and a half. It was an up-and-down rollercoaster. I never thought to say, “No, I don’t owe you anything. I don’t need to put up with this.”

I was suicidal by the time I was 16. I tried driving off of the road and down a 40-foot drop-off. If I didn’t have the fear of surviving it and being paralyzed, I would have done it. During that time I wasn’t going to counseling. Initially, I didn’t tell my mom what happened, I just said I wanted to go back to counseling. My mom continued to push until I opened up more. I showed her the messages my ex-boyfriend and I were sending and told her everything that happened. My mom blocked his number from my phone and got me a whole new number. She also had me block him on Facebook and MySpace. I was able to break the cycle.

It took a long time for me to understand what was okay to put up with. Even though he and I talked about it as adults and he apologized for everything that happened, I don’t think he understands the gravity of what he did. When I tried to kill myself, I stopped myself and then had a long time to think about it. I just wanted my pain to be done. I was really shaken. I didn’t feel like I was worthy or that anyone loved me. I didn’t feel like I was myself or deserved to be on Earth. I felt everyone would be better off if I wasn’t around. With all of the counseling I went through, I knew rationally where I should be in this situation, but that was not how I was feeling. Eventually, I realized I gave one person the power to make me feel that way. To think I would have caused my mom, my friends, and him so much devastation and pain – over one person. My counselor also really helped me come to the realization that I don’t have to put up with that and just because someone treats me badly, doesn’t mean it’s okay. At the time I felt like I deserved it. I have spent years trying to build my self-worth. I still struggle with validation and knowing that not everyone will like me. I struggle with knowing I can’t fix all of the world’s problems and overthinking all of the things I could possibly say or do to hurt someone.

I want you to know that you are worth so much more than what one person thinks about you. It breaks my heart that people who are hurting, are hurting people, and the people they are hurting don’t understand what they are worth. Happy people don’t hurt people. Thanks to my counselor and my mom I know that now. When you have suicidal thoughts, get help. Had I not had the realization I didn’t want to die, I probably would have ended up killing myself – especially with high school and all of the drama. Not every teenager understands high school is a very temporary thing because in the moment it seems so permanent.

As a society, we need to help kids understand that if they are feeling this way, it is okay to talk to someone – to a trusted adult. Even adults too need to understand this. It’s okay you feel that way, but you should also talk to someone because no one is worth taking your life over. I have learned how to own when I am in a bad mood. It’s okay, but how can I change it? I have also gotten better at knowing when it’s beyond my own capability to handle it and to go get help. I am never going to wade through that kind of stuff by myself again. I hate that I have had to tell so many people that. No one can handle suicidal thoughts on their own or with a friend who isn’t trained. It is a lot to try to deal with on your own. It’s okay to need a life preserver.

I also want people to know that a person with suicidal ideations is not selfish. I can’t believe people honestly feel that when someone is going through something and thinking everyone is better off without them, they are selfish. Until you walk through that space, you don’t know. The stigma needs to go away. If there was no stigma, people would get help. It wouldn’t be uncommon. People have no issue asking for help with a math problem or medical issue. They should feel the same way about getting mental health help.

Everything will be okay. It seems like a dumb thing to say, but it will be. I know it doesn’t seem like it when you are going through it. Seek help and utilize your resources. You can’t leave an abusive situation without resources to back you up. It’s too easy to slip back into what is easy and comfortable.”

Photo: Flickr – gabe popa

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