Stuck in the Middle of a Collapsing Family

In all honesty, I cried a few times during the process of writing this. Writing about what happened to me as I grew into my later teen years is still a very difficult thing to do, seeing as the memories are still so fresh, but long story short the relatively simple and stable life that I had been living previously began to fall apart half way through high school.

In the first 15 years of my life, I don’t think that I faced that many hardships when compared to the rest of the world; I’ve grown up in a middle class family, live in one of the safest cities in the United States, have three sisters that love me dearly, a caring mother and father, and have flourished academically and athletically. I knew that I was living a life that allowed me to reach my full potential and only focus on bettering myself, and I was always grateful that I had been put in such a position.

High school is a delicate time for everyone; you’re focused on getting the best grades to get into the best schools, you’re stressed about sports because you need to show in your best form at the college showcases in the summer, you’re worried about if what you’re doing is good enough and you constantly have to remind yourself that occasionally your best is going to have to do even if it isn’t necessarily the best. I was doing well, reaching all of my goals, and hoping that the time would fly by quickly so I could run off to college. But about half way through my sophomore year, my parents announced something that you never want to hear:

“We’ve decided to get divorced.”

In that moment, it felt like the family that I knew had managed to slip between the spaces of my fingers and shatter against the floor beneath my feet; my father moved into the basement away from the rest of us, one of my sisters ran away for a week and hid at her friend’s house, my mom spent her time alone in what was now exclusively “her room”, and I spent the week sleeping on my other sister’s couch in her condo. Resting in the quiet spaces in all of our conversations were the emotions that we were leaving unspoken – the anger that was building in the pit of our stomachs mixing with the pain and fear that we felt in our hearts, leaving a confusing and disorienting whirlwind of emotions that words couldn’t even begin to describe even if we had tried.

My family was collapsing, and I, a 16 year old teenager, was stuck in the middle and left in the dark.

Initially, we weren’t really told what it was that made my parents split – they made it sound like it was a mutual decision that they had made with the best intentions. Later it came out that it was completely my father’s fault: he had been cheating on my mom with numerous women throughout the entirety of their 25 year marriage, and was currently in a committed, “swinger” type relationship with another woman.

It was entirely his fault, and even now I still blame him. I, a teenage girl, still cannot stand to talk to her father or even be in the same room as him without some sort of discomfort.

I stopped talking to and seeing my dad; I couldn’t stand to be in the house because I could always just feel the tears that my mom was holding back and the sight of my dad made me sick; I couldn’t focus in school because I just felt like I was carrying around a secret so large that it was stuck in my throat. Nights at home were hard, and there were many nights that my mom and I would sit on the couch together and cry, the weight of a collapsing family proving too much to handle some days and the fear of what was to come crushing down on our minds. There were times where I would hide in my mother’s room while I heard my parents fighting in the room below me, constantly fighting. I would ghost down the stairs and sneak out the front door, often times calling one of my friends and begging them to come and get me. I’ll never forget what my best friend’s parents did for me on the worst day of it all:

They pulled me into the warmest, tightest hug and said, “I know it’s hard, but we’ll be your family for now.”

It took me almost the rest of the school year to tell most of my friends what had happened, because I just felt like it was something that was my burden to bear, not theirs. I didn’t tell my teachers because I didn’t want them to pity me or look down on me as I tried to do my best. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want them to lose sight of who I was and start seeing me as some pathetic kid. I didn’t want to tell my friends that my mom had to go back to work because she was now going to have to raise a teenage daughter and a disabled child on her own. I didn’t want to think about the fact that I would now have to move out of my childhood home with my mom while my dad moved away to probably live with the whore that he called his… whatever the hell he called her.

“I just want to go to sleep because it hurts less than when I’m awake!”

I remember yelling that at my mom one night when she tried to get me to stay with her on the couch for a while, and the look on her face is something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget: hurt, sad, regretful, and lost.

Through all the sleepless night, tear stained pillows, strained family moments, and struggles to get our footing, I think that there was something to be learned, in the end.

Today I am stronger; I’m loud, determined, and fully independent when it comes to something that I want. I’ve set the goal of paying for myself to go to the college of my dreams, not only because I don’t want to put that kind of stress on my mom, but because I want it to be a great fuck you to my dad. I’ve learned that sometimes just throwing yourself into something bigger than yourself and succeeding can be better than wallowing in your own emotions and letting tough times get the best of you. Today, I’, going to achieve all of my goals without the help of the father that I’ve cut out of my life, and I’m going to make the mother that was always there for me proud.

Today I know who I am; in the nights where I felt like it would just be easier to go to sleep and never wake up, I realized that I was better than that. I realized that I am a positive person that wants to be there for myself but also for others when they need it most. I realized that I am someone that doesn’t need other people to know that I’m beautiful, strong, and capable.

I’ve realized, through hell and back, that sometimes you have to take one step backwards to take three steps forward, and I guess I’m thankful for that.

I am a 17 year old girl still struggling through the hell that is my home life, but I think that I’m making my way there.

I’m going to make my mom proud, and raise a big middle finger to my dad in the process.

User Comments
Anon-1

Thank you for having the courage and the bravery to post this. It's not easy to talk about such personal things as this. I really, really appreciate how you ended things on such a strong and positive note. Hopefully, your story has helped other people in positions like yours to realize that there is still a dawn, and that there is always hope... always hope, no matter how dark and grim things might seem in the meantime. 

Best wishes to you, truly. I'm sure your mother is very proud of you.

Anon-1

Hey... you might not want to hear this, but I hope it helps. I mean, you  might not want to hear from me. I'm a guy, in his thirties, and I've been in swinger and polyamorous relationships before. Ultimately, I decided they weren't for me, but the thing is... the people who do this sort of thing, it's supposed to be a mutual decision. It's supposed to be something that everybody involved agrees to, or is a part of. And maybe it's not healthy anyway? I don't know; like I said, I decided it wasn't for me when I met someone that I actually cared very much about. 

But everyone who's been involved in this as a lifestyle knows someone who did what your dad did. It's not cool at all. He had a responsibility... to his wife, to his family. To you, and to his other children. It's no wonder that you can't be in the same room with him. It might take a while for you to forgive him. That's totally okay. That kind of thing... it needs to happen on your schedule. Not his. Not anyone else's. 

I hope that life improves for you. I'm so glad that your best friend's parents have been there for you, but I hope that -- with college, and with what comes after -- life turns itself around for you. You sound like a good person who deserves to enjoy life at every step of the way. You have my very best wishes. 

You deserve a family... a whole, intact, and loving family. I'm happy that your friend's family was willing to take you in, but I hope that your mother turns herself around and realizes what a treasure she has in her children. It sounds like she really lost touch with herself when your father left the scene. You shouldn't have to strive to make her proud of you; live for the day, and build the sort of life -- be the sort of person -- that makes you proud of you :)

Best wishes, always.