Read part 1 …
When Brittany left for college, things in her family got harder. She was enjoying her independence and took on lots of responsibilities at school. But back home, her dad’s abusive behavior intensified. Her parents’ marriage was falling apart.
One day her mom packed up and tried to move out, but her dad climbed on the hood of their pickup and threatened to throw a brick through the windshield if she drove away. She was forced to stay, but Brittany knew she and Jacob were planning to leave as soon as they could. There was nothing Brittany could do from a distance except support her mom by phone. The anxiety for her family was overwhelming. “People noticed that I was acting different. I wasn’t as bubbly and outgoing.” She recalls how the anxiety turned into depression. “I didn’t have any feelings about things. I mean, I did, but I had my feelings on an on/off switch.”
Brittany went home for summer break. She says the family still had dinners together every night, just like they always had. “We faked it for a really long time. Those were the most stressful dinners, the most inappropriate dinners. My mom made dinner and we’d pretend things were normal. If we could just make it through dinner without a blowup, we could go our separate ways.” Her mom was moving forward with a divorce, so Brittany’s dad used mealtime as a last-ditch opportunity to humiliate and control her in front of the kids. The family would be eating calmly, and her dad would abruptly insult her mom. “I remember it being surreal. He’d try to force normal conversation. We’d talk about school or stuff in my life because I was neutral, then he’d transition to, ‘Well, your mom’s a dirty whore, so let’s talk about that.’ So many dinners I couldn’t even eat. He was so inappropriate and crazy.”
Back at school, Brittany decided to confront her dad’s behavior through email. He vented his rage and abuse at her, harassing her constantly with phone calls and messages. She had one close college friend who knew the situation – an older girl in her sorority who was also her roommate. “She was my best friend there,” Brittany says. But her roommate found a boyfriend and started hanging out with him more often. Meanwhile, Brittany was dealing with the crisis back home, getting more and more depressed. “One time my roommate had ditched me to go out with her boyfriend, and when she got home, I had been crying. I was so upset about my family. The floor was covered with Kleenexes. She just looked at me, like, ‘I’m not qualified to help.’” Eventually the friendship fell apart and Brittany was left to deal with her situation alone.
TO BE CONTINUED