"The picture that I had in my head of abuse growing up. It didn't reconcile with my home environment."
Mary: We all have stories that are behind closed curtains. You know, the ones that are untold. These are not for the faint of heart. We dive into these stories that may have authors who write wish to remain anonymous, yet are ready to expose the light some untouched memories of those who deserve better. Together, we want to spur courage, hope, and education to those who are in similar circumstances.
I'm your host. And I want to welcome you to the first episode of the Untold Story Project.
Taylor. Welcome. I just want to say thank you for taking the step to even say, I want to share my untold story. We don't tell these stories because they're hard, but they come with great impact.
And, when we get them out of our heads and actually talk about them, we can analyze these stories for what they really are. So, to start, we have these pieces of our lives that are told that the world sees, and then we also have this part of our lives thats kind of untold and unseen.
So, could you kind of describe what life was like for you growing up?
Taylor: I just want to say thank you so much for even having me. Thank you for wanting to hear my story. That means a lot. I think that the world could use more of telling each other our stories so that we can understand each other better.
But yeah, growing up, I definitely looked like a typical child. My childhood was good in a lot of ways. My dad loved me very much. He still loves me very much. He was a stay at home dad and some of my favorite memories in life are spending time with him just doing all kinds of random stuff— going to zoos and museums and all different kinds of fun places.
My dad used to fill up the back of his truck with water by using a tarp and we'd go swimming in it. I have lots of fun memories growing up. But, what people around me didn't see was that my dad was really sick. He had untreated diabetes which gave him really bad mood swings. He had untreated gout, which left him in a lot of pain. He also had a lot of issues with like his rotator cuffs and different things.
He was in a lot of pain on a regular basis. I mean, I think we can all say that we don't always make the best decisions when we're not in our right mind. I know for me when I'm in pain, I'm not in my right mind. I guess that's, that's what people didn't see and that manifested in my life in abuse, and not in the typical was that you think of. You know, what I'm talking about.
You see the movies that are about child abuse, right? Where you see the dad break a handle off a broom and starts beating a kid or something. I'm not trying to make that seem like it's not a big deal and that it doesn't happen.
It does. But, that was the picture that I had in my head of abuse growing up. It didn't reconcile with my home environment, if that makes sense. But my home environment was abusive, even though I can’t reconcile those pictures together. So, I never really felt validated in the experience that I had as a kid with abuse. I feel like abuse is a very scary label or term to put on your experience.
Mary: Yeah. Especially when you're talking about somebody you love.
Taylor: Yeah, my dad is my favorite person alive on this planet. So when I think about him, that isn't what I think of. I think of the great man that he is now, and even the great qualities that he had then. I was 18 years old before I ever even used the word abuse.
And even now, when I say it, it feels too strong. Like you said, but like, it feels strong, but at the same time, I think that it is the right word. Wow. And that's so strong of you to be able to say, you know, all this stuff went on and it wasn't right. And it was abuse, but I still choose to love my father.
Mary: That's so beautiful.
Taylor: Yeah. I mean, I would say that's so much of the Lord. If the Lord has taught me anything in my life, it's definitely been a story of redemption and also a story of his goodness in the fact that we all glorify the Lord in parts of our lives. And we all reflect the Lord in our lives.
I believe even people who are not believers, they're still created in the image of the Lord. So they still reflect him in some ways. I've seen how a person can reflect the Lord in their best moments even if they have really low moments.
Mary: Yeah. It's crazy that even in these situations, no matter where we are, we still have qualities of God in us. It's beautiful. I love that.
You had mentioned that you never used the term abuse or even recognized that until you were 18. So, when did you realize that something in your household was wrong? Was it when you were 18 or was it before?
Taylor: I’ve thought about this question so much as an adult.
I was eight years old, the first time I realized that my house was different than other people's houses. I was at a birthday party. It was a slumber party for one of my friends from school, so, we were staying the night there.
And, I remember my friend was walking through the kitchen, she dropped a glass plate, and it shattered. And, I internally started freaking out. I thought: “Oh no! She's about to get in so much trouble.” It was an accident. “What am I going to do? What am I going to say? How are we going to handle this? The whole night is ruined.”
I immediately went into freak out mode because in my life an accident is a purposeful, willful act of disobedience. So, I'm internally freaking out. And I remember that he grinned, walked over to her, and said, “it's okay. It's fine. It's just a plate. It's okay. It happens.”
I was like, it jut happens? What is happening? I was so confused and as an eight year old. That was the first time I realized my house was different. This isn't normal. And I have those realizations throughout my life. Like I remember being six years old and getting dressed for kindergarten.
I remember putting on two pairs of clothes because at some point that day, I was probably going to get hit. So, if I have two pairs of clothes on at least maybe it won't hurt as bad. And that was my thinking as a child, but I did not know that wasn't normal. I did not realize that wasn't a universal experience.
And even now, there's experiences that I realize weren't universal, even outside of the actual physical abuse. Its been years in the making of a process for me. As an adult I’ve taken these pieces of what my normal was and understanding what actually is normal and what isn't normal to the rest of the world.
Mary: And what do you do with that? When you experience other households that are different than yours and their reality is not the same that you live in.
Taylor: Yeah, that was so hard. It was such a wake up experience for me. It was the first time I realized that there was something to consider there.
I babysat a lot when I was in high school and I babysat for this family one time. The 12 year old was telling me about a fight that her parents had and she was very torn up about it. She was crying to me and confiding in me. She said, “Taylor. I just, I'm so scared. My parents got in this big fight, my dad slammed a door.” I remember waiting for the rest of the story.
“Okay? And then what?” That's what I'm saying in my head. But to her, that was the end of the story. He had slammed the door. That was the angriest she'd ever seen him in her entire life. And in my head, I'm thinking, “Wow. What a different reality that is the anger in my house ends up with holes in doors, ends up with things being thrown ends up with people being hurt.”
A slammed door has never been the extent of anger in my house. That makes me realize again how different my life was. And again, like coming to terms with the word abuse, thinking that it's too strong, but also thinking that there's, there's not another word. And that is the word for it. The things that were happening were abusive.
They were manipulative. They were not okay.
Mary: I think sometimes we wait for this tipping points just cause my skin's not bleeding or something, you know, doesn't mean everything's fine.
Taylor: Yeah, I totally hear that. And I think sometimes we have that picture though. Even people like us, who've grown up in homes that are not maybe as they should have been.
And then we question ourselves growing up. Was it really abusive? Did I really have it that bad? But then you talk to other people and they didn't have the same experience.
Mary: Yeah, you start to go crazy after a while. You're like, is this right? Is this wrong? Am I exaggerating things? Am I really just living in so much fear, or is this real?
Taylor: That is so real. And honestly, the mental abuse was far worse than the physical abuse. I would prefer someone to hit me over and over and over again, over the mental abuse that I feel like I sustained at my home.
Mary: Which is crazy because no one can see that. There's no proof of it. There's no way to prove it's happening either because the person who's doing it is normally pretty intelligent and they know what they're doing. They know how to do it, and they know how to make you feel.
What are some things you learned throughout your experience growing up?
Taylor: I feel like it's twofold. I have learned the lessons that are beneficial to me now and I've learned lessons that I try to unlearn.
One of the really impactful and good things that I learned is that the Lord can use anyone, it doesn't matter what your faults are.
He also dearly loves everyone. That was such a big eye opener for me because I was always afraid as a kid that the Lord wasn't going to love my dad because of what he was doing. I was afraid that he wasn't going to be in heaven and God wasn't going to love him.
It took me until I was older to realize that the Lord deeply, deeply, deeply loves him just as much as he loves every other person on the planet. And there was nothing that would change that. That has stayed with me in a really impactful way, because now when I see people, especially my job working in child welfare and seeing people who have done really horrific things to children, sometimes understanding that the Lord values them and wants them to be a part of the kingdom, no matter what they have done, or sometimes what they continue to do.
Mary: Wow. What a realization that is— that we can look at the person who might have hurt us the most, or manipulated us, or whatever it may be, and realize that God loves them just as much as he loves me.
Taylor: Yeah. Which is such a beautiful thing. Only the Lord could do that.
And, I would say on the flip side of that, some things that I learned that I've had to unlearn are things like not trusting people or thinking that people are totally different than how they present, because my parents did present very well. They are educated, they are good people. They truly are good people, but that didn't change the fact that things were thrown in my home, that property was destroyed in my home, that people were screaming, name calling, and hurting each other in my home.
That didn't change just because my parents had friends and could be in public, you know? So, that as an adult, has made it really hard for me to trust people because I don't believe that people are who they say they are.
I have to know people for a very long time before I start to trust them and believe them and that they are who they say that they are. And sometimes that takes years for me. I don't think that's necessarily like a normal or universal experience.
Mary: Have you been growing in that? What steps have you taken to start to trust more people?
Taylor: You know, I think the World Race was a really big part of that for me. The Rorld Race was an 11 month mission trip is a really incredible experience. That trip was the first time that I actually opened up to a group of people and said some things that happened to me and had to trust them with these things moving forward in relationship. That was a really big step for me to start trusting people at the beginning and saying, “I’m going to trust you, even though you haven't earned it yet.”
Mary: Trusting before they haven't earned it yet. That's, that's big.
Taylor: It may not feel like a big thing to a lot of people, you know, but when you come from a home that is like mine, it it.
Mary: I’m so proud of you for taking those steps and continuing to take those steps. This is an example of that too. I mean, you're sharing with your story and trusting people with that, even people you don’t know.
Taylor: Yeah, that's definitely true. I could not have imagined myself ever doing this, but I think that what you're doing is so impactful because I wish I would have had someone when I was a child, tell me, “Hey, this is not okay, but you're going to be okay.” And I think that's what this will be for others.
That's what I needed when I was younger. And that's what I want to be now, you know?
Mary: Yeah. I completely understand. Thinking back to our younger selves, this question of “What did I need” has been a huge discovery process. That's a huge reason why I started this podcast.
Taylor: Right. I hear that. Recently I went to a training as part of my job that was about trust based interactions. It was a theory of how to raise kids , and it talked about raising kids with grace and with patients.
And, I literally left during the lunch break and went to my car and cried because I feel like I've gotten to the point in my life where I've grieved, what has happened, if that makes sense. I went through a process of grieving the abuse that happened, but never until that moment had I grieved what I missed— those moments of patience, those moments of grace, growing up without fear of making a mistake, or without fear of being in trouble. I didn't understand that people grow up without fear.
Mary: Yeah. That's a whole separate concept to even deal with and understand. I feel like you're right. A lot of us go through these points of needing to process all the bad things that happened, but what didn't happen, that should have, there is almost another type of trauma.
Taylor: I truly had never noticed that. I mean, I'm saying that now as an almost 26 years old, and this is a moment that I realized, Oh, like, I'm sad about the things that didn't happen too, which seems so to me almost seems insignificant. It's like, of course you should be sad about what did happen, but what do you mean?
You're sad about what didn't happen, but I think that's just another layer to it. You miss out on things because of what's happened.
Mary: And that's okay. It's okay to be sad about those things. That is what I've been thinking and praying about as well.
Taylor: That's definitely true. I think it’s important to say that too. It’s okay to be sad. It's okay to be angry. It's okay to feel those emotions about the things that happened and the things that didn't happen.
Mary: So, Taylor, if you think about other people who grew up like you, grew up maybe with a lot of fear and a lot of hurt in your household and are processing these things as an adult, what would you want them to know?
Taylor: That's good. You know, a big part of this is just to give yourself grace. It seems like a simple thing, but I didn't grow up getting grace for my mistakes. Certainly now, as an adult, don't always allow myself grace, when I make mistakes. But, I should. Everyone should allow themselves grace for the mistakes that they've made and for the pattern of growth they are walking in.
This is a hard thing. Whatever you want to call it— abuse or neglect or whatever you face growing up— learning to not act in that same preservation mode as you did back then is a journey. That's a hard process to walk through. Just give yourself grace and credit for even choosing to walk in a pattern of growth to begin with.
I truly, from the bottom of my heart, believe that my parents did the best that they could. That does not mean that it was good enough. That doesn't even mean that it was okay or acceptable. And like I said, there was a lot of really, really incredible memories and moments in my home growing up too. It wasn't only the abuse that was happening, but I truly do believe that they did the best that they could.
But, they had the choice to walk a path of more growth and they chose not to. I think that that's fair. People get to make their own decisions, but if you're making the choice to walk in a journey of growth and to not act out of those patterns that preserved your life in some ways— preserved your life not not necessarily physically, or maybe it was physically, but also mentally, spiritually, emotionally— you're choosing to walk and healthier patterns you deserve credit for that. You deserve grace for that. And, I commend you for that.
Mary: Taylor, I commend you for all of those things that you just mentioned. You walk in so much grace for those around you. You love people so well and have a big heart to fight for justice. And I love seeing you thrive in your job right now with people who grew up in homes who are in some ways similar to yours and in some ways, with different types of trauma. I commend you for not only sharing your story, but living out love in a really radical way.
Taylor: I seriously, seriously appreciate that. I mean, the Lord is really, really good.
And he takes the things that don't make sense and he makes them make sense. He has them bring him glory. You know, I think about this often, that grace is so counter to our culture in general, but very counter to me and what I tend to lean into. And it truly is the Lord. The grace is the Lord. It's only him.
Mary: All we can do is lean on him sometimes because we definitely don't have the power to do it ourselves. Especially after seeing some of the things that you did growing up.
Taylor: Yeah, definitely. I kind of want to go back to when we talked about what abuse looks like, how this can look different from home to home and from life to life. Even within your house and different siblings, this can look different. I know for me growing up it felt like my house, isn't bad enough to be abusive.
And it wasn't what you think of. I never thought I was going to die. That’s true. But the thing was there was still abuse happening in my home, but abuse in my home looked most of the time like screaming and yelling and name calling. It looked like putting each other down and making each other feel really small and unimportant.
That was the biggest part of it. There was physical abuse in my home too. I remember probably the worst instance was when I was eight years old, my dad threw me off of his bed and I hit the wall and. Two of my toes were black for days. As an adult, I realized that they were broken when they hit the window sill.
When I hit the wall, I remembered landing on the floor and my mom walking out of the bathroom while still brushing her teeth. She asked me, “What happened?” And I explained that my dad had just thrown me.
She looked at me and said, “well, I guess you shouldn't have bothered him.” She turned back around and walked into the bathroom. I mean, that's the end of that story, right? It's not like I was being beat up or, or it was this long lasting thing, but it was this moment of anger that ended up in me getting hurt.
And that's what a lot of it was. It was just a moment of anger that was misplaced and not responded to well. That's what abuse looks like in my home, but abuse can look like someone never touching you, but the mental and emotional abuse that you sustain is still worse even than physical abuse at times. It’s important to realize that.
Just because your home doesn't look like somebody else's doesn't mean that what's happening in your home is okay.
Mary: And I'm so sorry. Those experiences are hard. And I think sometimes, you know, we'd rather have the scars to prove that to ourselves, that it wasn't right, because you just keep going crazy in your head.
Taylor: Yes, because in that moment, what was worse to me wasn't being thrown against the wall. It was what my mom said. That was more difficult. Even now as an adult that is more difficult for me to reconcile. The angry decision of throwing me, I can actually understand that. I think we can all understand getting really angry and making a stupid mistake in our anger, but as an adult, those words that were said. It hurt more than actually being thrown.
Mary: Yeah. I feel like a more accurate way to say the phrase is “sticks and stones might break my bones, but words will actually kill you. They'll actually kill your heart. Yes. Because of words cause you to believe things about yourself. That aren't true in that moment. I was being told. That I wasn't worth treating with respect and patience and grace.
Taylor: And I learned that from the action. Yes, but I learned it even more from someone else knowing what happened and not validating me and saying actually, it's your fault. Your trauma is your fault. Your pain is your fault. These things other people have done to you, that's your fault. And that's simply not true, but that hurts worse than the actual trauma.
Mary: Yeah. And I know you've been processing through these things, but I just don't want anyone to leave without being validated. And the fact that, that wasn't right. And like you had mentioned earlier, God never designed that. Right. Right, right. Let's totally true. Well, Taylor, I just want to say thank you again.
I pray blessings over your story and how God has been using you in the world to impact other people as well. So thank you for taking a bit of time to share your story with me and means so much and to all of our listeners, too. Yeah, thank you for having me. Thank you for listening to my story. And I hope that I can make a difference to somebody who hears it.
Well, you've definitely made a difference to me. So you have one win. The Lord has the wind. No, I think what you're doing is incredible. I think that's incredible.
Thank you for listening. And if you have an untold story that you'd like to share, join our community at untold story, project.org.