Speaking up against castigation


Caylea Ray

To be happy and healthy, you need to surround yourself with people who are good for you. My stepfather was not one of those people. When I was six, my mom married a man who had been in my life since I was two.
I absolutely adored my stepdad. We could talk for hours about anything and everything, from politics to music, and he always made me laugh. The good moments with my stepdad clouded my judgment when he turned into a monster.
One of the earliest memories I have of “this monster” was when I was eight, and my mom and I were downstairs. We couldn’t hear him from upstairs, and when he came downstairs, he began screaming at my mom, all because she didn’t answer him quick enough.
In that moment, everything changed. Little things like interrupting him, being late, even not eating enough would bring on a screaming match.
He would attempt to make amends by showering me and my mom with gifts, but he would always go back to being his old angry self.
I was terrified to speak to my stepdad in case of saying something that might set him off. My mom received most of his wrath and eventually became fed up, so they divorced.
Because he had legally adopted me, he shared custody of me after the divorce and he found as many reasons as he could to yell at me.
If I didn’t eat enough at dinner, I would be yelled at for wasting his money, so even if I felt sick I would have to eat everything because I was terrified of getting yelled at.
If he came to pick me up from my mom’s at 6:30, and I walked out the door at 6:32, he would yell at me for being late; he didn’t want to wait for me and wouldn’t speak or even look at me for the rest of the day, so I learned to be ready two hours before I would see him.
I apologized profusely to him for forgetting something at home or getting a less than perfect grade or interrupting his television show; everything I did, it seemed, would result in him screaming at me.
The yelling became so frequent that I would have panic attacks at the thought of having to see my stepdad. I never thought panic attacks were abnormal; I thought panic attacks happenned to everyone.
When I was 15, I went to the hospital for depression and an eating disorder. While there, I was diagnosed with anxiety. My stepdad never visited me. He called once, but that was it.
Eventually I changed my last name to my mom’s, Ray, instead of keeping my stepdad’s name.
I was not 18 at the time, so I had to get his permission to change it. In the 16 years I’ve known him, I have never seen him so mad. He told me I had never really been his daughter, that the years we were in each other’s lives didn’t mean anything.
So I did what I have always wanted to do: I told him exactly what I thought of him and what his constant anger has put me through, the anxiety and sadness it has caused and how he rarely acted the way a father should act.
We haven’t spoken since and the amount of anxiety I used to have has gone down significantly. The panic attacks that occurred every day are now rare and almost nonexistent. My life has become simpler and happier.
I now understand what unhealthy and healthy relationship are. I notice unhealthy relationships quicker and get out of them faster.
I can speak my mind and tell people that what they’re saying is hurting me or end a relationship without feeling guilty because I know what I’m doing is going to be good for me later on. This type of relationship was harmful and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I now know to stand up for myself.