To Be Brave Again

I was a typical child, raised in Kentucky during the mid-1990s, often playing games with my three siblings. Our favorite was hide-and-seek. We would hide in unconventional places like the fridge or dryer. My father worked in logistics, and my mother could never keep a job.

When I was about 13, my parents divorced, and my big sister moved out. With the divorce came other shocking news. I learned my parents were cheating on each other for last few years of their marriage, and that my mother was heavily involved in drugs. This forced my father raise my siblings and me, though we still got to see our mother on the weekends. Not long after the divorce, my father married the woman that he was seeing during the affair.

I have heartwarming memories with my father, but unfortunately, I also have a huge chunk of bad memories. Our relationship was disillusioned. When he remarried, he changed. Problematic bipolar tendencies started to form. His new wife and step-daughter could do no wrong in his eyes. My younger sister and I were often blamed for everything. He’d go through our phones, diaries, whatever he could to control all aspects of our lives. He even went as far to have his friends post up around our small town, so they could watch us while we were away from the house. If I told him I wanted to go to my mother’s, he’d fly off the handle and ground me. We tried reporting him through school, but nothing was ever done. It was disheartening.

My mother wasn’t much better. She, like my father, blamed her problems on other people. As I got older and started working, she’d always ask for me money and become angry if I refused. At one point, she got a hold of my card information and left me with the aftermath of her shopping spree.

In hindsight, I’m not surprised my mother had a drug problem. She’d sleep for days at a time, tell us she was visiting a friend and wouldn’t come home for days, and claim her medication was for anxiety. At the age of fifteen, I remember walking in on her snorting something off the kitchen counter. When I got older, I also learned that she’d stolen a doctor’s pad to write herself prescriptions. Despite her drug problems, I tried to build a relationship with her. I wanted to believe that she was capable of change and she just needed someone to support her.

As I continued to live with my father, his snooping turned into violence. He kicked my brother out of the house when he was 16 after getting into an altercation with him. One day, when my sister wouldn’t give him her iPod, he grabbed her by the throat, and slammed her against the wall.

For years, I didn’t stand up for myself because I felt trapped. I also didn’t want to cause conflict. As the middle child, I tried to be the good kid. As demented as my parents were, I wanted them to be proud of my attitude and my accomplishments. I wanted to follow all the rules and trust them.

My senior prom, 2013.

After years of cowering, I decided that the abuse was no longer welcomed when I saw him harm my younger sister — outside, in broad daylight. My father took my little sister out on the front lawn and told me to stay inside. I watched him slam her to the ground and scream in her face. My insides collapsed as I watched this happen from the front window. Later, I told my sister that I wouldn’t let it happen again. At age 17, I stopped allowing my parents to make me feel inferior.

I graduated high school and moved to out to begin school at Morehead State University in Kentucky, freeing myself from the restraints of living under my father’s roof. Unfortunately, college wasn’t the release I’d hoped for. My freshman year, I had two separate altercations where I was raped. I didn’t cope well. I was anxious in crowded areas, always on the lookout for a red truck to drive up, or a giant man to appear around the corner. I was terrified that one of my assailants would hunt me down.

I felt powerless all over again. I isolated myself and lived with major anxiety, having breakdown after breakdown. I started hating my hair because that’s what drew my rapists to me. Then my hair started falling out. I’d have flashbacks at random, I couldn’t stand to be touched. I lost control of my life before I’d even gotten a full grip on it. I showered twice a day and obsessively made my bed because I thought that if I made my bed to a certain standard, then I could regain a semblance of sanity. I tried to tell my counselor, but she didn’t give me useful advice. And so, I started going through the motions, not enjoying college. I believed every person was going to be terrible.

It wasn’t until I got to know my husband at the end of my freshman year that things began to turn around. He made me see that not everyone was out to get me. The first time we talked to each other, I was rambling because I was nervous. With an air of confidence that I respected, he told me to put my number in his phone. We started dating from there. We were only together for eight months before he proposed. He came when I was at one of the lowest points of my life, and he lifted me back up. We were married in August of 2015, young, and ready to begin the rest of our lives.

On our wedding day, 2015.

A few months after our wedding, I got pregnant with my first daughter. My husband continued with school, and I decided not to re-enroll so I could be a stay-at-home mom. It wasn’t something I had always planned, especially with my childhood. But after seeing my mother-in-law raise her young children, I realized how powerful a mother’s job could be. I watched my mother-in-law’s face light up as she played with her kids and care for their needs. I wanted that for my own child.

I gave birth to my second daughter a year after my first. Having two babies to care for is a lot to handle, but I’m enjoying every moment of it. I know they’ll grow up quickly, so I’m cherishing this time while I have it.

I had already got the momentum to start standing up for myself, but without my husband I wouldn’t have found the courage to cut ties with the toxic members of my family. My mother would say terrible things to me about my husband. When I’d try to get her to see reason, she’d shut me down. I’d cry to my husband, not knowing what I was doing wrong. I decided that her comments about my husband were the last straw. After I had my daughters, my mom tried to reach out, but I decided it was best to cut ties with her for sake of my children and my sanity.

My husband is my rock, keeping me grounded. He’s cried for me, been angry for me, and when I have terrible flashbacks, he talks me through them. When I’m afraid of being rude to my mom when she asks for money, he wipes away my doubt. He stood by me while I made the difficult decision to cut my father out of my life. I’ve had the support I need in forging a future.

With my husband.

It was thanks to my childhood, my struggle, and husband that I am the strong, assertive person I am today. I could have followed the same path as my mom, but I chose to be different. I chose to be better. I’m married and happy with two beautiful daughters. There is no shame in my growth, and I’m thankful that I was able to be brave again and become who I am today.

This is the story of Emily Knight:

Emily currently lives in Kentucky with her husband Ezra and their two daughters. Emily spent her childhood trying to please her family and let them control her. As she grew up, she became more assertive and broke away from the toxic relationships she had with some of them. Emily spends most of her time these days taking care of her 15 month and 5-week-old daughters. Emily hopes to begin writing fiction books when she has more time. She hopes to have about 10 children, if she’s able.

Emily and her family, 2018.
This story first touched our hearts on April 4, 2018.

Life Log #58




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