Growing Up Jenny

I’m feeling a pull to tell my life story. My memory’s not great. And it doesn’t seem to be getting much better.

I don’t trust it. And science tells me I really shouldn’t. So in general, I don’t bother with details. They bore me. But lately I’ve been more curious. I feel like a glacier thawing and releasing psychological pathogens that had been trapped for decades.

I’ve either forgotten or repressed most of my childhood. So this is my attempt to put some pieces together and face it as I prepare to start seeing a new psychotherapist.

My mother still hangs this in her guest bedroom

(TRIGGER WARNING TO MY PARENTS if they ever read this blog: This may be upsetting to read.)

I just found a bunch of old photos and think they help me tell my story. But there are lots of blanks. Hopefully friends and family can help me fill them in if it’s not too painful. We have a strong family tradition of avoiding painful topics.

I’m always really surprised when a person I knew has a story about me that I don’t remember. Like there are parts of my life where I was just walking around blacked out.

Full disclosure— I’ve done mushrooms, LSD, a lot of MDMA, have drank to excess on and off for years and have smoked pot for decades. I’ve also taken psych meds for the past decade or so. I’m almost 48 and it’s the middle of a pandemic, just for a referential snapshot of the chemical brain stuff. So if you’re thinking: yeah duh- of course you can’t remember shit, then congrats. I’ve just helped confirm your bias.

Have all the ways I’ve tried to cope with ADHD, anxiety and depression had an effect on my memory? Probably. Does that make me unworthy of caring for my mental health now and regardless of the past? Absolutely not.

Trauma also wreaks havoc on your memory. And that’s what I’m trying to tease out and heal. The good news is my new therapist tells me that just because I don’t have all of my childhood memories intact that doesn’t necessarily mean there was trauma I repressed. In fact— traumas are usually recalled in vivid detail.

And when I really think about some of the trauma I can specifically recall, yeah. I remember it and can recall details. The smell of Doritos will forever remind me of a man I was in an an unhealthy relationship with.

With the ending of Hollywood Gazette chapter I’m in the middle of the escrow process of selling the website and digital assets and I’m slowing down and noticing the sadness, depression and anxiety that shows up as this lack of self-confidence. Almost 15 years of my life went into that business and it kept me pretty busy.

This is in Newport News, Virginia. Before we moved to Deep Creek. This was the pinnacle of our affinity for each other at that time. It was before my brother was born. Before my relationship with my step father went from dysfunction to malfunction.
This seems to be much earlier. Looks like the same yard. Is that me in the white in the back? If it is, it must have been the first year we moved to that home on Boyette Court in the Deep Creek neighborhood of Chesapeake, Virginia.

This is my Dad. I idolized him. I guess that’s what little girls do. My mother hated how much I loved him. It outright angered her. When I would come home from a summer visit with him in Florida, she said I sounded just like him. That seemed to make her the angriest. That the man who cheated on her and callously deserted us— for the other woman… that really bothered her.

I didn’t get it then. I do now.

This is where I grew up, in Deep Creek Virginia.

I’d say this is around 1988. I’m wearing the necklace of my boyfriend at the time. My first “serious” relationship.

Clearly, I was an angsty young adult. To be fair at this point in my life my step father did the best he could but I had already grown to resent him.

Because I see I’m wearing the necklace that belonged to William Viron Cross, I had already normalized physical abuse. He was my first real boyfriend who I allowed to become increasingly abusive. I can’t remember at what point I decided it was a good idea to tattoo his initials into my groin. But I’m pretty sure it was before he had kicked me in the rib cage laying on my side and knocked the wind out of me.

There were many, many altercations. I only remember a handful. But that was one of them. He lived with his mom and sometimes they would happen in the garage or in his bedroom.

The first one was in his car. He was lost and frustrated. And he hit my leg. They escalated to the point where I would sometimes fight back, like I did my stepfather. But mostly I didn’t resist. I would just be sad. And then he’d turn the love and apology dial up to 12. It worked every time. Until it didn’t.

My first abortion was at 15, it was WVCs. I don’t remember much about it other than my mom was really upset when I told her. And my stepfather made a snide remark about how irresponsible I was one night at dinner.

That remark has left me feeling low-key ashamed of myself all my life. It’s hard to shake.

UPDATE: I spoke to my mother about this and it turns out she thinks she was actually the one who told me I should get an abortion. Which makes more sense cause I have no idea how I’d know about that at 15.

I wanted to get out of the relationship by the time I was 16. I had seen a school guidance counselor, and I don’t know exactly what he said, but what I heard was: “you like it and you’re going to keep repeating the cycle unless you break it now for good.” His “advice” made me angry. It stirred something inside.

It was harsh to hear and it made me angry, but he was right. And I was determined to prove him wrong. I either contemplated getting a restraining order or got one shortly after that and broke up with him for the last time.

Every other time we broke up, he would come to knock on my bedroom window, and because I was mortified at the idea of waking my parents, I would meet him outside on the front porch while they were asleep. Sometimes he would restrain me from going back inside until I caved and told him I would give him another shot.

This happened a few times.

He would also threaten to kill himself if I broke up with him, so that was really persuasive for me until one day I was like, “OK, then just do it.” I was over it all.

The day it all came to a head was when he was in my kitchen talking to me, my mother was in her bedroom, but in the house. He and I got into some altercation that resulted in him hitting me in the face and ripping from my neck a beaded necklace with a Shark’s tooth I had gotten in Mexico that summer.

A few weeks after William ripped this necklace off my neck I found it repaired as best it could be in a bag on my windshield one day. It was creepy, but I appreciated the effort. UPDATE: I told my wife this story and she surprised me with a new similar shark’s tooth necklace. 🙂

Immediately he started to pick up the beads from the floor and collected as many as he could before my mother, for the first time I think, realized he was abusive and told him to leave, or maybe he just knew to leave. I’m still not sure if she really knows the extent of the abuse. But that was the second to last time I saw him.

The next time was when he followed me on a date with someone else. He parked behind us, got to the car window and I should have never opened the door. He took the keys from the car and threw them in a field somewhere. I have no idea how my date got home because I just started running. I ran into a large supermarket and hid from him in the stock area. I fantasized about hiding there all night. The whole thing seems like it were a nightmare. I have a hard time believing it all happened.

Somehow, and I really have no idea how this happened— I wound up spending the night at my friend Jeff’s house.

My friend Jeff was a really good friend in high school. We were in Mrs. Rode’s art class, but we never dated, because of William mostly I think. Or maybe we even tried and we were better as friends. I think we kissed once in the pottery area. I remember because it was so awkward.

Anyhow, this is before cell phones so somehow I got in touch with Jeff, he approved it with his mom and I “hid out” at his place until I felt safe at home later that night. I have no recollection of how my parents reacted or if they even ever knew that was happening.

It’s one of my many early memories that in retrospect seems a little messed up. I’m grateful to have this time to get some fresh perspectives as I prepare for 2021.

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