You are home alone. In bed. In the dark. Suddenly there is a loud thud. It came from inside the house. What was that? You are trying to fall asleep, but your nerves won’t let you. Laying on your back staring at the ceiling, you clutch the blanket around your neck. You are careful not to move. What if there is someone – or something – in the house? Did you lock the doors? Are you sure? You strain your ears to listen. The little hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Goosebumps cover your arms. Your heart is pounding. You hold your breath. You are so frightened that tears well up in your eyes, but you don’t dare cry. Audibly crying might attract the attention of……it.
That fear was something my brother and I felt almost daily as children. We were raised by two sociopaths. For children of sociopaths, the boogeyman IS real. My father was the violent sociopath. There was no telling what might set him off. Facial expressions, dripping gravy on the kitchen table, laughing too loud…..we never knew what would send him into a violent rage. Crying or running away from him was like pouring gasoline on a fire. If I was in my bedroom, I had to cry silently so my parents didn’t hear.
Dad’s volatile behavior occurred (for the most part) at night, when he was drunk. One thing remained constant: he had an ego and an ideology that rivaled Hitler. If you were any nationality but German, you deserved to be snuffed out. If my dad didn’t like you (maybe he just didn’t like your hairstyle), he wanted you gone. He talked constantly about wanting to kill people (whether he ever did and got by with it, I don’t know). Naturally when I was in bed each night and heard the garage door open, I was filled with fear and dread. I was on a high alert. I listened for voice inflections. What was going to happen tonight? Was he going to beat mom, or me? Was he going to beat my younger brother? My younger brother had Down’s Syndrome, and I feared for him as much as I feared for myself. Like all sociopaths, dad felt no remorse. Ever. Whatever he did to you, it was your fault, and you had it coming.
During the day, mom was our tormentor. I resented mom more than dad. She knew this, too. It fueled her anger when I showed preference for my dad. For me, mom’s cruel mental abuse was worse than dad’s physical abuse. I felt very conflicted. I wanted someone to comfort me, but had no one to go to. Aren’t mothers supposed to care about their children? Isn’t she supposed to be nice to us? Shouldn’t she hug us or something? Yet mom never tried to protect us, let alone nurture us. Instead, she created ways to inflict harm on us. My brother and I were frequently accused of things that happened only in mom’s imagination, or things that she did and let us take the fall for. For example, she was known for rummaging through dad’s things and then telling him one of us did it. She didn’t flinch seeing my brother and I punished for things she knew we didn’t do. Attempts to seek comfort from her were thwarted by more accusations. “That didn’t happen. I never said that. You’re just an ungrateful spoiled brat. You should feel lucky to have us. You never appreciate anything we do for you.”
The constant fear – that something bad was going to happen but we didn’t when or how – took a heavy toll on our mental and physical health. My brother “relieved” his anxiety through self-harm. When he was young, he used to bang his head on doors or walls until he bled. He had perpetual scabs on his forehead. As he got older, it escalated to cutting himself with sharp objects or burning himself. We had to buy him shoes with velcro because he would use shoelaces to “saw” his skin until he had an open wound. Me, I didn’t deal with the anxiety at all. I bottled it. When I became overwhelmed, I shut down. I dissociated. I remember having a little book with a cartoon of a child in a cabin. The room in the cabin was filled with toys and a loft area with a ladder. That was my “happy place.” I pictured myself in that room. No violence, no screaming, no gaslighting mother…………..just me. In my cabin. Sitting in my loft with my books or toys.
That is what motivates me to spread awareness about sociopathy. Many adult lives are destroyed by sociopaths, but the biggest tragedy is when children become their prey. Children’s minds are fragile. They don’t have a way to comprehend personality disorders. Sociopathic parents leave their children feeling extremely conflicted. They have an innate need to bond with their parents, but are faced with the doomed reality that their “protectors” are the perpetrators. It is a scary, lonely, painful experience. I never want another child to go through that. Boogeymen should only be in Scooby-Doo episodes, not living in your home.