Updated: Jul 9
| This is the 123rd story of Our Life Logs |
I grew up with a warped understanding of love and received little attention from my parents. I searched for affection all my life, but found mayhem instead. As an adult, I was still mistreated by those I felt closest to. But through all the hurt, I learned how to treat people better, including myself.
I was born in 1960 while my dad was stationed in Colorado through the Air Force. Not long after my father was discharged from the service, we moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. I was the middle child of seven kids in a loud, chaotic house. My sisters and I fought like sisters do, and my little brothers always wanted to play with me when I just wanted to get out of the house.
In short, life at home was hell. My dad wasn’t involved in our lives because he was working all the time, and it made my mom turn to alcohol as a support system. Both she and my father were drunks, often getting into fist fights with each other in the kitchen. My mom was stricter on me than her other kids, and irrationally so. I remember once when I was five, my mom walked with me to kindergarten before the first day of school. From then on, I had to walk there all by myself—this was her way of teaching independence. I wound up missing a turn after crossing the street and walked all the way down the long road. Lost and scared, I sat down by a tree and cried until a stranger was nice enough to help me get to school.
As I inched into my teenage years, I began working so I’d have spending money to go out with friends. I tried to create a makeshift version of a normal life. I visited friends, dated a little, but no one ever came over. It wasn’t that kind of a home.
When I was 17 and a half, I began to see a boy named Jimmy. At the time, we were in love and had made plans to get married. During this time, while I was still living with my parents, I came home one night to find my mom on one of her bad drunken days. Without warning, she kicked me out. What was I to do? I found a place with my new fiancé, Jimmy, and we got married the day I turned 18.
I loved Jimmy, but we were way too young. I gave birth to my oldest son in October of 1979, but our child couldn’t save our marriage. By the time I was 24, we had grown apart and decided to get a divorce. Determined to start over, I moved to Texas for a couple months and lived with one of my older sisters and let my son stay with his dad. I wanted to clear my head before taking him in. I didn’t want to be like my parents and raise him to feel neglected. After only a few months in Texas, I moved back to Ohio.
While I had moved out from my childhood home, my younger siblings were still stuck with the constant anxiety of our household. We were all affected in some way or another. I remembered back when my brother Mike was about nine, he overdosed on my dad’s blood pressure pills. I’m not 100% sure if he wanted to die then or if it was just an accident. My older sister tried to kill herself a couple times when I was a teenager. We lived in a toxic household, so I can’t blame them for going over the edge sometimes.
In 1986, my mom was diagnosed with and quickly died from lung cancer. She and I never had a close relationship, so I wasn’t very impacted by her death, but my younger brothers and sisters were devastated. By 1988, death took my younger brother Mike, who was only in his early 20s when he was found dead in his car. He had overdosed on painkillers. This time I wasn’t as sad as I was frustrated. We were all hurt by our childhood but chose to keep going. At the time, I didn’t understand what made Mike so different. However, it was through these deaths that really bonded my siblings and me, and I’m grateful for that.
While I was working at a gas station in 1986, I met my next partner, Ricky. I always wanted us to get married, but he never wanted to settle down. He was so charming at first, but I learned years into our relationship that he had a drinking problem, a hot temper, and selfish personality. In hindsight, the only good thing out of our relationship was my second son who was born in 1991. We moved to Delaware in 1999 so that my sons could get to know Ricky’s family who lived there.
Despite Ricky’s destructive behavior, I stuck around partly for my sons’ sake, but also because I didn’t have good self-esteem. Ricky didn’t help me feel any better about myself. He would call me fat and shove me around when he had too much to drink. There were stints where I would leave him, but I’d always end up coming back. As sad as it is to say, he was still the closest thing I had to love.
For the longest time, I was able to fight Ricky off when he came at me. By 2014, I was beginning to develop health problems and I wasn’t strong enough to fight him off anymore. This is when I decided it was time to leave, and for good. I packed my things and moved to Virginia to live with a friend. My younger son stayed in Delaware, but my oldest later moved with me to Virginia with his girlfriend and child.
Virginia was the perfect place for me to clear my head and find myself again. I looked back on my life at the time and realized I had gone for people that had terrible behaviors and habits like drinking and abuse without realizing the dangers of it. After watching my parents fight and drink all of my childhood, I had become desensitized to it all. I watched my mom handle my dad’s beatings with her head high, and I thought I could do so too. I thought it was supposed to happen that way. I thought maybe love could be different than what I’d experienced after I met Will in Virginia.
Will and I met through a dating website. We met for dinner and to my surprise, he was kind and sweet each time we got together. We delved quickly into our past. I learned that he had been married for five years before his wife left him and took most of his stuff with her. I knew all about bad relationships, and I felt a connection with him that I had found someone who could understand me. As we went on more dates, I also learned how gullible and easily influenced he was.
Still, I fell in love. He to this day is the only man I ever felt I was truly in love with. But sometimes, good things can’t last. In 2015, his son (not knowing about me) convinced Will to marry a foreign woman who needed to get in the country. His son had successfully found a good woman that way and thought Will should too. Gullible and willing to help, he married her. I was devastated. He soon realized that this woman was just like his ex-wife, using him to get to his money. She treated him terribly and never spent time with him. Though I was angry, I remained his friend. At one point in 2016, I thought I had convinced him to leave her when suddenly his wife got cancer. He didn’t want to divorce her because he knew doing so would revoke his insurance to help with her treatments. So, he stuck by her and took care of her. I knew it was the right thing for him to do even though it tore me up.
In 2017, my son and his family wanted to move back to Cincinnati, so I decided to come with them. There wasn’t anything good for me in Virginia anymore, so I moved back to the city where my life began. Soon after we moved there, my son broke the news that he was ready to live apart with his family. I had helped him a lot lately so this hurt me. I had dropped everything to move with them and wasn’t prepared to live alone.
My son had kicked me when I was already shaken to the core. In that moment, I realized something. I don’t deserve to be treated like dirt. No one does. All my life, I allowed people in my life to hurt me and I just took it. My moments of strength were rare, and that wasn’t okay. I put up with people mistreating me all my life, but one constant was there through it all: me. I was always my own best friend and confidant. I spent my life leaning on others when I could have stood on my own if I had just found my confidence and blocked out all the noise from my past.
That day, I looked at my son and said, “Okay.” I saved up enough money and got an apartment, living on my own for the first time in my life. Before then, I had always lived with a child, friend, or relative.
Standing on my own two feet was the turning point for me. After all I’d been through, I was done trying to appease others. I was done looking for a companion. I had been led to believe that I deserved to be treated so terribly starting in my youth. My son asking me to move out on my own was the wake-up call that this kind of treatment wasn’t what I deserved. I needed to realize that I am worth a hell of a lot more than I ever thought. I’m happy with myself for the first time in my life, and that’s a thrilling feeling.
This is the story of Teresa Helmers
Teresa lives in Cincinnati, Ohio living in an apartment and working. After a childhood without much love, Teresa found herself choosing people in her life that mistreated her. She finally realized that she deserved better than what people in her life had led her to believe, and she found a way to be content with being alone. She loves to read, especially fantasy books. After only hearing her mom say, “I love you” on her death bed, Teresa decided she wanted to be better for her own kids. She tells them she loves them all the time. Though she was upset with her eldest son, she still loves him no matter what and tries to spend time with him and her granddaughter. In October 2017, her younger son was caught with drugs and sent to jail. Since then, he has sent to rehab and has decided to sober up. With him still living in Delaware, Teresa and her son communicate on the phone almost every day. They are very close. When she isn’t too tired after work, Teresa spends time with her family living in Cincinnati.
This story first touched our hearts on July 22, 2018.
| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editor: MJ; Adam Savage; Colleen Walker |