In this blog post, I’m going to talk about how I ended up homeless when I was 14. I come from a middle class family in Sydney. I am one of 3 children (the middle child, no less!)
For pretty much my whole childhood and into adulthood, I was emotionally and mentally abused by my parents as well as, at times, physically abused. My parents are the type of people who probably shouldn’t have ever had children. They had expectations that their children would act in a certain way and I didn’t fit that mould. At all.
I was defiant. I had my own mind. I had my own opinions. I challenged my parents constantly and they didn’t like it. They couldn’t deal with it. Because of that, I was basically treated like I was nothing more than a worthless piece of shit.
As well as this, I was abused sexually at age 4 by an older man who was part of our extended family at the time. Then when I was in primary school, I was sexually abused by a friend of my father.
The result was I never really felt loved or wanted by my parents. Or by anyone, for that matter.
The way my parents treated me made me feel like I was a burden and I was ruining theirs and my siblings lives. This resulted with me misbehaving.
My grades dropped dramatically in year 3. I went from being equal first in my year in year 2 to the very bottom of the year the next year. This was about the time that I was sexually abused by my father’s friend.
Sadly, these bad grades caused my parents to tell me what a failure I was. They would tell me I was a huge disappointment and wouldn’t amount o anything. This led to even more bad behaviour which led to even more bullying and abuse. The cycle just went on and on and on.
My parents were reported to the authorities several times for things they had done to me. The mental and emotional abuse was documented but I was not deemed as being ‘at risk’ enough to have been removed from their care.
The feeling of worthlessness and the overwhelming feeling of not being loved or wanted crippled me in every way possible and it did so for a very long time. I tried to take my life between 20 – 30 times over the years. Sometimes I slashed my wrists but mostly I overdosed on tablets.
Sometimes I was hospitalised. At other times, I told no-one what I had done and I just slept it off or went about my day feeling really, really ill.
Once when I was in primary school I used my dressing gown cord to try to take my life. I won’t go into details of this because it is pretty confronting realising someone of such a young age had the urge to take their own life. That I wanted to die when I was so young.
I look back now and I am just so sad that I was ever in that place but I’m so glad none of my attempts were successful.
I have had to fight really hard to get out of that very dark place, but it was worth every bit of that fight. I am so glad I did because there has been so much more for me than what I experienced back then.
I’m actually blown away by how much more there has been for me than those awful experiences. I don’t think I would’ve ever believed it if someone had told me what my life would be like today.
The hard thing is when you are young, you believe what your parents say. You trust them. Because of this, when my parents kept telling me how bad a person I was, I believed it.
There was always a small part of me, however, that was defiant and refused to accept what they were saying. For the most part, that defiant part was silenced.
This is why I kept trying to take my own life. I believed on almost every level that I was causing my parents and siblings all of these problems and heartache. I thought I was such a horrible person who could not and would not ever be loved.
At the times I tried taking my own life, I felt if I were dead then everyone’s lives would be so much better.
As I hit my teen years, my behaviour got worse. My parents separated when I was 12 and very quickly, my mother started a new relationship. The animosity between my parents was awful and more often than not, my siblings and I were used as ammunition in their attacks on each other.
Because I was ‘bad’ in their eyes already, a lot of their anger and frustration was taken out on me and in turn, I acted out even more. I didn’t like my mother’s new partner. He came into our lives and my mother played the ‘damsel in distress’ to his ‘knight in shining armour’. He ‘saved’ her from everything that was bad in her life which included ‘saving’ her from me.
There were times when my mother and I butted heads and she would antagonise me by saying nasty, manipulative things out of his earshot and I would get really angry. I would lose my cool and swear at her. When that happened, there were times her partner would chase me through the house because I had sworn at her and when he caught me, at times he would beat me, throwing me around the room.
There was never any consideration of what she may have had said to me. There was never any thought that maybe she had antagonised me by saying nasty things. The story was the way my mother had told him it was. I was the one at fault and that was all there was to it.
I was treated like a leper in our family. I was left out of family events like holidays. I was spoken down to and whatever I said or did that was positive was completely dismissed. It was a different story, however, when I did something wrong though. Those times were blown out of all proportion because they ‘proved’ how awful I was.
When I was 14, I had a party at my mother and her partner’s place when they were on holiday and after this, it was decided I could no longer live with them, so I was sent to live with my father and his partner. My father’s partner had two children, one who had special needs, and she did her best to help me fit in but things became harder and harder because of the way my father treated me, which slowly but surely influenced her view of me. In the end, I left because I just couldn’t cope with how I was being treated.
What I didn’t realise at the time was no matter what I did, my parents were never going to acknowledge I was not the person they said I was.
If they did, then they would have to admit they themselves did something wrong. It took me a very long time to come to that realisation. Decades actually.
Going back to my story, I probably spent 7 – 8 years homeless. By this I mean no fixed abode or in short term accommodation. I occasionally slept rough but for the most part, I couch surfed, sleeping somewhere different every night.
During this time, I fought a daily battle with feeling unloved and unwanted. My family just kept going with their lives as if I didn’t exist. For them, I guess it was ‘out of sight, out of mind’. They had no idea where I was every night which means they clearly didn’t care.
The thing is, all I wanted was someone to love me and want me to be a part of their life. I didn’t really ever get that back then, to be honest. I had to find my own way out of that dark place. And I did.
Over time, I have learned that I am important. I do matter.
I will talk more about this in other blog posts, but the absolute game changing decision – the one thing that has enabled me to get to where I am today was making the choice to not take drugs. Whilst I was homeless, I tried to avoid areas where drug use was high and stay in the area I went to school in, because hard drugs weren’t as readily available there. I am very aware of how different things could have been had I made a different choice.
As I think back over my life, there is one thing I’ve seen time and time again and that is there has been so much more for me than what I believed there ever would be back when I was homeless. I now know what it feels like to live a life without having to fight my head and my heart to get through the day.
I know what it is to feel love. I know what it feels like to be loved. I know how it feels to feel peace and contentment in my heart. I certainly didn’t when I was in the middle of everything I went through but I do now and it is a beautiful feeling.
This isn’t to say life is easy and there are no difficult times. It’s just that I now know that I am lovable and that I do matter. When it comes down to it, that’s all that each of us wants to know.
It’s all that we need to know.
All my love, Gretel xx