I’m writing this not to ask for apologies, not to ask for forgiveness, but so someday you will hopefully understand why I did what I did. Why I cut contact for a year and a half, why I asked Dad not to contact me. I know it will hurt. It still hurts me. It’s never easy to hear that someone thinks you did the wrong thing.
I hope that you will be able to read this and know that I am doing my best to repair relationships. I will not just come and kiss a** because that is not healthy for anybody involved nor would it be true to what I actually feel and believe. I want a better childhood for my younger siblings. I do not expect change overnight and I fully appreciate the changes for the better that I have seen.
To start with, I have mentioned in the past that I was depressed when I moved to BC. You may or may not know that I also have PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) symptoms. You may or may not know that I had to have 6+ months of intense therapy and a year of low dose medication for this.
Growing up I had the impression that crying was weak and that I would be made fun of for it, I hid my tears many years. I didn’t cry when I had to sell Jewel, I didn’t cry when I sold my cows, I bit my lip when I had to go milk a wild cow that scared the living daylights out of me. I went and hid my face when Zayn called for me the whole way out the driveway when his new owner took him away, I felt like I had betrayed my best friend. I learned not to cry when all the kids ran off and didn’t allow me to play with them because ‘I was fat and wasn’t fast enough to keep up’. I always put on a smile because whenever I was either sad or mad, Mom or Dad would wistfully remind me how as a young child, when crying, they would ask ‘Where’s your smile?’, I would look down and come up with a smile. I always put on a smile because as a person I want to please people. When the most important people in my life insinuated that the only emotion that I should show is a smile, well, I smiled. I hid my other emotions. I became a robot.
Life got harder. I had emotions. I felt like I couldn’t show them. People don’t care, all they want to see is a smile. If you showed sadness or anger, you were bitter or just being a crybaby.
I learned to never ever ask why. That was reason to get a spanking because it was rebellion. But you told us to always question what people told us to do, except if it was mom and dad. We were supposed to be smiling, obedient robots at home, yet go out in to the world and think for ourselves. It doesn’t work that way. You don’t think for yourself, you look for a leader. When that leader fails you, you fall down all the way down the well. That is where I was when I moved to BC. I looked for a leader, I found someone who more than willingly took that position then it crashed. Even though it was a small crash and set back, it hit me like a ton of bricks and knocked me back onto my a**. I’m lucky I was living with a psychotherapist when I hit rock bottom. She diagnosed me, got me into see a doctor and therapist. My Dr. told me later that he was very scared for me. I had no emotions other than sadness and I hid it so well behind my smile that he was fooled at first. I was numb. I couldn’t feel anything. I knew I was supposed to be happy. I had been told my whole life that I had it good and had no reason to be sad. I felt like it was my fault that I didn’t feel good.
I was told my whole life that I needed to lose weight, that I’d never be as good as Ellie, that my dreams and plans were stupid, my animals were the stupid ones. If I liked sheep and Ellie liked goats, then goats were the cool animal. When I liked Halfingers and Ellie and Hannah liked Fjords, then Fjords were cool (dad even looked into getting them) and Halflingers were stupid (although mom did actually stand with me on that one). Later on, Ellie got sheep and I liked goats, suddenly sheep were cool. I got a Fjord, he was known as a stupid, lazy horse and dad was all interested in getting Halflingers. These may seem like silly things to be upset over. To me now they might be. But as a child and a young teenager it was devastating. Every time the family laughed at my dreams and what I liked, was like a physical slap in the face. I felt like my dreams weren’t worth saying because anything I wanted to do was bound to be laughed at, and in turned I felt like my life was worthless. I felt like a stranger in the middle of the people that were supposed to be my main support system. I turned to my animals because they never laughed at me. My horses became my best friends. It broke my heart when I had to sell Jewel, Zayn, and Fury. I didn’t cry because ‘they were just animals’.
As the fourth child and the fourth girl, I always felt like I was a disappointment to dad. I was just another girl, and I wasn’t super athletic, and the fact that I was sensitive (mainly called a crybaby by the siblings) made it a bit harder. I felt like I could have disappeared and nobody would’ve missed me. I was just a number, “are you the oldest?” “no, I’m just number 4”, “oh..”. As long as I did my work and didn’t say anything, I was practically ignored. Most of my memories with dad are negative. It would be him coming out to the garden in the hot MT summer and telling 7 year old me, that I hadn’t hoed the row properly and had to do it again, or I hadn’t washed the dishes properly, or I had to refold the laundry, vacuum the carpet again because it wasn’t up to his standards. The only time he would ‘teach’ us how to do something was if we had done it wrong the first time and he was getting after us. I learned to dread any interaction with him. He wasn’t a dad to me, he was a boss. I would be excited because I thought I had done a good job and then he would have nothing but criticism for me and I learned that I would never be good enough.
Out in BC after I had met everyone for coffee and supper, dad sent me a letter telling me how good I looked and that he was proud of me. I waited 21 years to hear those words. Every child wants their dad and mom to be proud of them. But after waiting that long to hear it, it was almost too late and the words seemed empty to me. I almost felt like dad was trying to take the hard work I had done and claim it as something he had done. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps. I flew halfway across the country by myself, moved in with strangers; I worked my butt off at two jobs and school. Every time I would mention that people were impressed by my hard work, dad or mom would say, ‘well that’s how we raised you to work’. I felt like even as an adult I wasn’t an individual. I was just one of those Holter kids and that mom and dad would always get the recognition for anything I had ever done.
The only people in the family that payed attention to me was the young kids that couldn’t keep up with Ellie yet. I would tell them stories, play games and help them. As soon as they could keep up with Ellie (and later on Jesse and Martha) they would go hang out with them and would laugh at me as well. I always felt like I didn’t belong. I was an outsider looking in on the family that was supposed to be mine. But I wasn’t needed or wanted. I was born into the wrong life.
Out in BC I cried like I have never cried before. I cried so hard that I couldn’t breathe, I’d crumple onto the ground, curl up into a ball and cry all the tears I had hidden away for the last 10 years. I cried about being left behind. I cried about being ignored. I cried about selling my horses. But the hardest I cried was when I mourned being alone. I felt like an orphan, except my parents were still living. I have never had someone there to tell me that I was worth something, that they were lucky to have me. Never had someone tell me that I was a beautiful person and mean it. I never had someone care enough to take the time to talk over my dreams with me and get excited about them. When I sat on the ground in the round pen and cried that I wished that I had never been born, someone hugged me and said that she was happy I had been born because the world needed me. That was the first time I felt like someone loved me and needed me. I am extremely blessed to have met Sandra and Tom. Had I not met Sandra, I would probably not be here today. I was more scared of death than I was of life, but life was quickly becoming blank, grey lifeless. I don’t know if I would’ve killed myself, I honestly don’t know if I would’ve had to guts to do that. The truth is though, I was on the edge of being psychotic and I have no idea what I would’ve done.
I have PTS symptoms. My saddest realization was that the mental image I got when I would have a panic attack was my own dad’s face, his disappointment and disapproval. I am sad to say that sometimes his voice puts me into a panic attack. My therapist worked with me with EMDR (a movement therapy). She taught me how to deal with my panic attacks so I don’t become immobilized. I now know how to watch for the beginning symptoms a panic attack and take the proper steps to divert it.
I am getting better. My panic attacks are as severe or as frequent as they were before. Part of what has helped is seeing the changes in dad. I have seen many positive changes. I see more positivity at home. I see that both mom and dad are trying to do better.
My depression is very low and I keep a good eye on it. I know what to do if it starts getting bad. I am managing it.
I have written this not to make you feel bad. I am hoping that you can see that I am trying to explain why I have taken the actions that I have. I did have to cut contact for a time so I could heal enough to be able to come back and see the new mom and dad without be overrun by old memories and emotions.
I know that you never intended to hurt me the way you did. I am writing this to you because I don’t the younger kids to ever have to feel the way I did. I don’t ever want anyone to have to feel the way I did. It’s scary as hell to not have any emotions. Some days I am completely blown away by the fact that I actually feel happy. I am smiling because I want to/I feel like it, not just because I’m supposed to.
I don’t want my dad to be the source of my panic attacks. I want to be able to remember the good times and not always have them blotted out by the bad memories. I want to repair relationships because life is too short. I don’t want to be bitter. I’m not going to ‘forgive and forget’, it’s not realistic. But processing and moving on is realistic and healthy.
I don’t want apologies. Apologies do not change my childhood. What would do a million times more for me than an apology is seeing my younger siblings loved, dreams encouraged, time taken to spend just to be with them, if they have an idea it may never be something that they do, but it could mean the world them if you help them research it and find out everything that you can about it.
I want to see the kids have the encouragement that I never felt like I got. I want them to be told that they are beautiful and them to know that you mean it. Don’t just say the words. Find something you really like about them and make sure and tell them. Cut down on the negativity between the siblings. It toxic and hurts way worse than you’ll ever know. I know this isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it’s so important.
Ezekiel can’t wait to get out. He never got the one on one time with dad. He is a genius. He is afraid of being laughed at, he hides it behind arrogance. He is going to require careful work if you don’t want to lose him.
I see Priscilla’s face just crumple when the younger kids say that she’s fat. I see her dreams fall flat when I hear someone mock her dreams with horses. She puts on a good face and laughs. She’s crying inside, can’t you see it? Her eyes are sad even when the smile is there. She gets loud because she doesn’t know what else to do.
Uriah needs one on one time with dad. Not necessarily even working time, maybe a fun project. He’s gonna hit the arrogant stage. You’re going to say that he’s rebellious. He needs love and encouragement.
Ruth thinks that she’s not pretty. She’s gorgeous. The amount of times I’ve heard her say that she needs to lose weight kills me. (I don’t know what our family’s fixation on weight is, but it’s horrible.) She is young but she is pushing boundaries and looking for that love. She doesn’t need correction as much as she simply needs guidance and encouragement.
Sara is cute and she’s still the baby. But she also has plans and dreams. She needs to hear that you’re proud of her and that she matters.
I have seen a lot of changes. I see you trying to do better. Thank you for trying to do better and provide a better childhood for the younger kids. It means the world to me that you recognize your mistakes and are doing your best to change.
I appreciate that you haven’t tried to change me back. I have found my happiness and my niche in this crazy world. I know you don’t agree with the choices I have made, but you have respected me. It’s the same respect that I have for you and I will not try to change the kids. I won’t talk religion with them. If they ask why I dress the way I do, why my hair is short, I’m not going to tell them because I don’t agree with you, I just tell them, because I want to. I have no need to convince them that you are bad, because even though I don’t agree with you, I do know that you aren’t bad.
I love you guys. I scared to death to send this. I’m not ready to talk about it in person and that is why I am writing it.
I’m doing my best to accept dad as my dad again. Please be patient with me. It won’t happen overnight. If you push too hard I will panic, I can’t help it.
I see the hurt in dad’s eyes every time I visit and don’t hug him even though I hug everyone else. That is what prompted this, that and the fact that I feel like it’s the season for changes. I have learned to follow my gut feelings. My gut feeling was that it was time to try and mend this broken relationship. Don't expect a hug next time I see you, but know that I am trying to work towards being able to do that and it not just be a motion that I need to do.
I thank you for the respect you have showed me in my choices even when you didn’t understand. I couldn’t explain at the time. I hope this helps you understand. I am hoping with all my heart that it doesn’t cause more stress and tension.
I will never understand why my personality is to care so deeply and to always try to set things right even if it means that I get hurt. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.