Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997

"Home"

My home growing up was a place of severe neglect and abuse;
Broken drywall, exposed insulation, screaming, kicking, things being thrown.
A place where the television took priority over myself and my nonverbal autistic brother.
Where at 13 or 14 I was forced to become practically the secondary caregiver to my mentally dis-
abled sibling who my parents allowed to run naked and masterbate in every room of the
house.
Imagine having to teach your brother two years younger than you to wipe his own ass because you
didn't want to have to wipe it for him.


As I got older, I knew something was off, and I started plotting my escape, at 13 I had begun stealing money from my parents so I could buy a bus ticket to B.C.
People always treated me like a brat and a troublemaker for wanting out and not caring about school. One time when I tried to run away and the cops came, but because of the outward appearance of
middle class normalcy, the cops urged me to stay,
Saying that I'd probably get raped on the streets. I stayed, not understanding at the time that having
to watch my brother masterbate in front of me was a form of sexual assault.


Once after my brother had kept me up all night kicking in walls and screaming, I was called into the principals office at school and accused of being on drugs. It took a lot of convincing for them to believe I was just tired, I never said why I couldn't sleep. I was and ashamed. I hadn't even tried drugs yet.
As my brother older and grew bigger and stronger, the hitting and kicking began being directed toward us.
My parents used to force me to help restrain him, having been handcuffed, restrained and had pills forced into my mouth during my own mental health crisis, I understood why he would bite and spit, for even with a better capacity for social comprehension, I was driven to these lengths of flight or fight.


He hit puberty and every surface of the house became coated with ejaculation. Couches, tables counters, faucets, anywhere he touched. I remember using my feet to turn the lights on and off and flush the toilet.


I remember people used to think I suffered from agoraphobia and so did i, but really I was afraid to leave my mom alone with him, terrified he might beat the shit out of her. Or worse, rape her or kill her.

I used to blame him for lashing out until I understood it was the only eat for him to communicate his frustration at the neglect and abuse we faced at home. A situation he was offered little opportunity for even temporary escape.


I began trying other ways of dealing with his outbursts and tried pleading with my parents, often des- perately over them restraining him while he screamed,spat and bit, not to treat him this way.
But to no avail, I was told I didn't understand, and I was making the situation worse by arguing. The only time I felt safe or even remotely at home was outside of my home,wandering the streets
alone, or when I was with my friends, the few friendships I could maintain because everyone
thought I was crazy and i isolated myself because of that.
As much as I wanted to escape, I couldn't leave my brother behind in that place. I spent a lot of the
time when I was watching him alternately neglecting him and trying to teach him life skills in hopes that he would become independent enough that he could leave with me one day.


Operating in secret we made alot of progress,but upon revealing it to my mother, my brother picked up on the subtle queues of her ableist attitudes and anxiety which signalled to him it wasn't safe for him to be doing these things and he regressed.


I knew I had to get out of there. Staying was only hurting me and wasn't really helping anyone. I moved out, it felt like I was abandoning him.


I remember taking mushrooms after I knew I was moving but before I left, and realizing the bus felt like home to me because I associated it with warmth and safety. My brother is really scared of dogs, I started tripping out about leaving him to the wolves to get eaten.


My new "home" wasn't alot better, constant fighting with my roommates, witnessing and experienc- ing their domestic violence.
Again my only comfort and escape was my friends. And a new friend, drugs. My addiction became my home, the place I felt safest and most comfortable.


Shortly, I became homeless and ended up sleeping outside.
This only worsened my drug use and alcoholism.
I found myself staying up partying for days at a time as a means of staying inside with people but I'd
always end up back outside, cold, hungry and sick.
I knew I had to quit but my friends and drugs were all I really had. At that time in my life it was the
most difficult home I had had to leave behind so far.


Wash, rinse, repeat for a few years with sporadic periods of recovery and relapse peppered through- out, but what recovery is there really in unsafe rental units, living out of a storage locker, sleeping on people's couches and floors, getting treated like an indentured servant for the privilege.

 

I fell in love, or what I thought was love at the time. She became my home, we spent most of our time together, me at her place or her at mine in the streets and forests. She became pregnant and we got a place together.


July 6th 2017, our child was born. I didn't want them to have my families last name, I don't even want it, it makes my skin crawl when people use it.


I had a new home, not our slummy infested apartment but my child in my arms and my dog at my feet.
Finally a place to truly call home, a family I could actually feel safe with, somewhere and something untainted by memories of abuse.


But it wasn't to be so.

 

I'm not sure if the constant crying of a baby alone would have been enough to trigger memories
of my childhood trauma, or if it was the pressure of having to care for a family members disability, a mother screaming at her crying child while restraining their limbs in frustration that brought me back. But I found myself wondering, is this all home and family truly are? Caring for people who treat you like shit and having to restrain a screaming child?


I was determined that it didn't need to be. Not this time, not to my child, this is the hill I die on, not if I can help it.
Dead set on breaking the cycle I even cut off contact with my original family so the toxicity of the coping mechanisms I had developed to survive my childhood home wouldn't taint my new family.
Ironically I was treated as cold and not caring about family by my partner, I wasn't able to explain yet that those people were more my captors than my family.
Or maybe that's just what it takes to have a home, to have a family, to be a parent and I just don't have it in me.


And even though my home has always been wherever i hang my hat, I've never felt so homeless sleeping on the streets. Even with all the wonderful friends who love and support me, I feel as though I'm travelling and can't wait to get back, because now my real home is in my child's laugh.