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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Screwed Up: Growth

For those unfamiliar with my story, Screwed Up: My Life, please start at the beginning here. The purpose of me writing this intimate account of surviving a difficult childhood is explained here. This story in its entirety can be found at and is available for purchase for $12.95 plus shipping and handling.

A True Story
By Allie Van Wagoner

This online chapter is edited from the book version.

The depression didn’t end. The unexpected happened.

I wanted to call this family's parents "Mom" and "Dad." I wanted to do it. However, each time I attempted to call them those names, I would become flustered and nervous--sometimes experiencing a panic episode. I tried to force myself to say it, but I never could do it. Instead, I resorted to calling them "Mom" and "Dad" in my journal and “Hey You” to their faces.

One of the hardest things I struggled with living with other families was wondering if they loved me. Living with this particular family, I wondered if I was loved pretty much all the time. I wondered about it constantly, because I never got to snuggle or kiss or hug. I needed physical loving nourishment. I craved it. However, this family was not the physical love showing kind.

This would hurt me down the road in my relationships. It was my craving and longing for physical love that led me to choose men in my life that liked me only for all the wrong reasons. I equated sex with emotional nourishment. Oftentimes, the boyfriends I chose were after my body and not after the real me. I thought that if a man wanted to feel me and stroke me sexually, that he must love me. However, each time I was intimate with a man, it would leave me feeling emptier and angrier than I had before. Sex could not feel this emotional void.

I have many journal entries where I pleaded with God to make these families say, "I love you” or “I’m proud of you.” I especially wanted this from their dad. It was the moment during my life that I needed a father the most—my teenage years. I needed alone time with parents and I longed for it each and every passing moment. I thought about it at night, during the day, while eating, while doing my chores, when I was at school and when I was at church. There was not a time I didn’t think about it. I was absolutely engulfed with longing to know I was loved.

The year and a half I lived with this family were some of the darkest times for me in my life. I often felt exactly as that poem reads for years until after I left college.

Living with this family was also some of the most joyful. This family taught me a lot about the future family I wanted to have and they tried to involve me in activities and in their life. This family taught me about hard work. Their dad went out with me and helped me find a job when I was sixteen. I got my first job at Kentucky Fried Chicken working as a cashier. There were good times at my job. I put on twenty pounds eating spicy chicken strips and potato wedges when the customers weren’t looking. I also vividly remember scraping a bowl of mashed potatoes off the greasy floor and serving it up to customers at the manager's request.

This family taught me how to save my money. I had a savings account where all the money I made working at KFC went to savings. I also had an allowance which I used to buy things for myself. I learned the principal of tithing when I lived with this family. I gained a testimony of attending church. I learned the importance of making close friends and getting good grades--even if I didn’t have much of either.

I learned it was okay to eat whatever I wanted out of the pantry and to help myself to donuts and crescents in the breadbox. I still love buttery, fresh crescents. I learned the value of pulling my weight and I strove each week to do my chores around the house the best I could. I loved cleaning the bathroom and I usually got to choose that chore.

I had fun weeding the flower beds for Spring Break. I enjoyed playing two-man baseball with their youngest. I loved my pet tree frog, Elvis. I was a pro at catching flies for my pet. My biggest goal every day was writing something I learned. I wrote things I learned down in my journal for every day for over a year.

I wanted to be a part of this family. I did little things to make myself feel like I was a part of their family. I tried to pluck my eyebrows so I could have beautifully manicured Asian eyes. I copied one of the daughter’s handwriting to make into my own. I tried to dress in the same style and talk just like them. I resented being introduced with my real last name—it made me feel like an outsider. I was embarrassed by it. However, every day I woke up and looked in the mirror, it was a daily reminder of just how different I was and that made me more uncomfortable with myself.

What I am saying is that even though I was genuinely depressed, I did have good moments with this family. This family was not a bad family, but there was more that each of us could have done to better understand each other. I could never have expected or been prepared for what was about to happen.

One day, the mom and dad called me into their office.

A True Story
By Allie Van Wagoner


Michelle Johnson said...

I understand completely about the boys. They are always wanting more than a girl wants to give. And, when the girl gives in it isn't always good for them. I'm sorry you longed for the father's attention and didn't get it the way you anticipated. Sounds like you were able to learn several things before leaving them behind though. As always a great story. You manage to leave one hanging in just the right spot. Can't wait to come back for more of the story. Have a great night.

Billy said...

I think the way you end off each post is perfect. It basically leaves me mouthwatering for more. Thanks for being an awesome writer!!

Kristi said...

I'm sad that you didn't get the affection you needed, too. Maybe the father was being cautious in this overly-litigious society we live in. He was probably scared that if he did show any affection, it would be interpreted as sexual harassment. Just thought I'd throw that thought out there. :)

Screwed Up Texan said...

Kristi, I can see your point now as an adult and I understand if he was worried about that back then, however that was the furthest from my mind as a teenager.

The interesting thing is that even though it hurt me then and for several years afterward that the mom and dad did not show me affection, it doesn't hurt me anymore. I wasn't the most adept at explaining how I felt and only now have been able to come to terms with my misgivings and express myself. It is amazing the healing and confidence that forgiveness has given me.

Lynne said...

With a busy summer I haven't been here in quite a while, but I just caught up...I have to comment on your mention of scraping up the food and still serving it -- I had to do the same at Wendy's way back when. Totally makes you want to grab lunch at a drivethrough tomorrow, doesn't it? lol On a more serious note -- fabulous writing as usual. Very gripping and honest.

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