I’ve been kicking this post around in my head for the past two weeks, longer if you consider I wanted to write a post about what hasn’t changed about my living situation in the past year for the year-in-review rush, which I ended up missing entirely. January ended really abruptly this year. But that’s not what I want to write about.
There’s something going on today that’s called #TimetoTalk and revolves basically around speaking up about mental health. That’s not what I want to write about today either, but it’s closely linked to it, and I wanted to give it a shoutout even though I’m not overly aware of what it’s all about. I just think any excuse to speak up about mental health is a good one. I wrote about my history of and with anxiety here last week.
I’m putting it all under a Read More, with a trigger warning for child abuse.
Anyway, here’s the thing: I don’t want to pay the electricity bill.
I found myself going over this when I realized that I could, if it came down to it, cover it with my own money, which is a completely new thing and I don’t feel comfortable saying I’m making an income yet, but I have enough money saved up that I’d still have money saved up if I paid the ridiculously high two-month electricity bill. I’m pretty sure there’s something messed up there because we’ve had appallingly high bills come in for years and we have no heating, no air conditioning, nothing hooked to the power all day short of two fridges, but I know my parents had the counters looked at and replaced and my mom no longer goes on about that when she boggles at the numbers that come in so whatever, moving on.
Obviously I don’t like to spend money on things that don’t make me directly happy. Who likes paying utility bills? I don’t think anyone does. Besides that, I live with my parents and my sister and it’s not the kind of set-up where I came back after having a job and living on my own for a while or anything. They’ve never made me pay rent or forced me to look for work, so I’m still somewhat in that mindset where the basics are someone else’s responsibility. (I say somewhat because we’re going on three months of me paying the phone bill, and I often have to give my mom money to buy me things like deodorant because she literally can’t afford it. She hates to ask. I wish she didn’t. I also wish she didn’t have to.)
In short, the electricity bill for November and December is enough money to buy an iPad mini and I don’t want to part with it. Blah blah blah. No one is surprised. This is not actually the issue. Do you guys have any idea how much stress it takes off me to know that if my mom doesn’t figure out a solution, I won’t have the power suspended because there’s still money set aside to pay off the bill? Because holy shit, it is a huge relief.
This all started in, I think, summer of 2009, when my father kindly failed to let us in on the fact that the electricity bill was due and we got our power cut off for the first time.
That was bad. I mean, that was really bad, for me, on a mental health context. I already had an anxiety disorder I wasn’t medicating, and I spent most of my time on the Internet. I needed to use my laptop for everything, because I’d built my entire entertainment system in it, since I couldn’t afford to like, rent movies on a regular basis and oh yeah, we’d had our cable suspended and never reinstated a while before that. Fandom was also online. Fandom was — and still is in a big way — my support system. Being without it made me crazy in the purest, most reclaimed sense of the word. It threw me for a spin.
This happened a number of times after that over the years. We had our electricity cut off through Christmastime once. I went over a year without Internet and another year on a little Movistar device that worked at dial-up speed for the plan I was on. My mom got a job from the unemployment office for three months once, and for three months another time. She did all the paperwork every month to get unemployment benefits despite my father making it incredibly hard for her and on her.
Last year, my aunt — my mom’s sister — began to help us out with the bills and food as well. For whatever reason she’s now decided that my mom isn’t trying hard enough to find a job, which is hysterical.
Anyway, a week ago one night, a lightbulb broke and the fusebox went off, and I still had that initial paralyzing terror even though I was on paroxetine and lorazepam and we hadn’t had our electricity cut off in ages and if we did, I could afford to pay the bill anyway.
That’s what I mean by emotional scar. Because for a while, I checked every morning — every morning I clicked on the lamp next to my bed to make sure the electricity was on. Because I didn’t trust my father with the bills and my mom hadn’t taken over and started keeping me in the loop just yet. Even then, any time there was a power outage, my legs began to shake.
The worst part? Sometimes at night, when my sister was an annoyance and my father got mad at her and started yelling at me as well, intimidating me, kicking my bed and calling me names and driving me to hyperventilate, sometimes to actual anxiety attacks, sometimes, he threatened to cut off the power.
Sometimes, just because I was still using my laptop late at night, or my sister was, he threatened to cut off the power.
I want to say he knows how I feel about all this, he knows how much trauma it all caused, but the truth is, I no longer know if anything I tell him gets through his thick fucking skull. He certainly doesn’t believe that I have anxiety, he’s pushed me to stop faking it whenever I hyperventilated, he mocks my mom for taking trankimazin on a regular basis, he was the reason I took so long to become okay with the idea of medicating for my mental illness. He doesn’t believe that he’s abusive, either, and I’ve told him why so many times, with and without that word making it into the conversation.
You know what? Sometimes I don’t believe he’s abusive either. He rarely hits me — the worst it gets these days is going after me and using his size and strength to terrify me — and he’s never hit my mom and he doesn’t abuse any substances or alcohol; whenever I feel like he’s out of control, it’s escalating anger. Many days the worst he’ll do will be a word of criticism, one of his ubiquitous “if you’re not going to do it well, don’t do it at all,” which I’d guess is the motto that runs his life, too, except for how he’s convinced he’s absolutely ace at everything and he just doesn’t bother.
Sometimes I’m not in the way of his abuse at all, and I hear it through the walls; I hear him tell my sister off for no reason at all, getting progressively angrier and angrier even when it starts like play and turning my stomach. Or I hear him pick at something my mom made or did, going on and on and on like he wants my mom to feel small and apologize and have a breakdown, like she’s not close to it just by breathing in his presence and not having financial security every single goddamn day.
Then he’ll ask why I have such a problem with him, why I’m so bitter, why I don’t respect him. I’ll try to bring up something that hurt me recently that he did, and he’ll speak over me, saying things like, “Never mind, you made it up inside your head and you believe it.” Sometimes — always, now — I’ll say I don’t want to get into it, he never absorbs it anyway, and it’s the usual, “Of course you don’t, you can’t think of anything because there isn’t anything.”
Sometimes I remember the only time I’ve come close to calling the police on him. It happened early last year, maybe the year before, I can’t remember it very well. It may have been sometime in June, when my sister moved back into my room and she wanted to be able to play games in the terrace. I suspect this because it all came about because of that, because the terrace was a fucking mess of his things and he wouldn’t let anyone touch it, and I went ahead and did it anyway — I went ahead not because I wasn’t scared, oh, I was terrified of the way he stood his ground, but because I really needed alone time and I needed my sister to be able to give that to me.
He kept coming in and cornering me, kept trying to bodily drag me out of there, accidentally dropped a wrench on my foot, and my mom tried to defend me and he started yelling at her and physically intimidating her too, yelling in her face, calling us names. I kept going with it because there was nothing wrong with cleaning up a shared space, absolutely nothing he said made any sense, but it was awful and he was screaming and I was really, really scared, so I put my hand on the receiver… and did absolutely nothing.
I didn’t know what I would say. I didn’t know what I could have said until later. All I had to say is “I’m terrified. I’m afraid of what he might do.”
But I’ve never made that phone call. No one has, not my mom, not my sister. I’m the one who’s been on the end of his abuse longer, since I was thirteen years old. I’m the one who was done with him first, and I’m the one who wants to get rid of him most, with the least amount of doubt. But even I feel bad about the idea of kicking him out, because he has nowhere to go.
But then it’s not like he’s going to let us kick him out. Maybe if my mom did it, but my mom definitely won’t when he has nowhere to go. Even if she tried, he’d go on about how this is his house — it’s shared by him and my mom — just like he did when he drove my sister into a full-on crying meltdown over where in her room she wanted to put her dresser, and kept threatening her while she was crying. Just like he does whenever my sister runs into my room instead of hers and he goes after her to corner her and sometimes intimidate her, sometimes hit her, triggering my anxiety — another huge emotional scar that neither my sister nor my father seem to believe I have even though I go into hysterics every time this happens.
Anyway, I realized a year ago that kicking him out wasn’t a viable alternative, which is why I dubbed 2013 the year of getting out. But I can’t afford to move out, not yet, and I’m saving up for my dream move, a move to London, and hoping to make enough money to pay rent on a place for my sister and my mom down the line.
The point is I’m still here. And he’s still here. And I don’t want to pay the electricity bill so he can watch TV and browse sports magazines online and spend all day smoking in his room and in the living room, criticizing everything we do and reaffirming why I no longer eat with my family on a regular basis. I don’t want to pay the electricity bill so I can get on the defensive every time I hear his steps on the hallway when I’m up late at night, and brace for whether he’ll open the door or not, and whether he’ll open the door and act disappointed or open the door and yell at me about wasting too much electricity with the heater and the light on at night, wake my sister, hit the wall that connects his bedroom and mine so I’ll go to bed out of fear and anxiety.
But I can’t cut him off, and if history has taught me anything, it’s that he’s completely fine living without electricity, or Internet, or not knowing how we’re going to pay for our next meal, and we’re all weak and acting out the victim and being depressed on purpose.
So even though I will if it comes down to it? I don’t want to pay the goddamn electricity bill.
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