Can’t Change Your Past

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Lydia Zyjewski interviewed Ivy Hackney about her family.

You can’t change your past; it helps create who you are. My past isn’t all happy dilly and I’ve survived a lot of s*** in order to get where I am today. My earliest memories aren’t all that bad, but that’s because I was too young to understand what was happening around me.

I lived in Grand Rapids with my parents and my older brother, Randy, and my younger brother, Jack. At first life seemed normal. My only conscious problems were when my mom would call my brother and I names, and I noticed that we moved around a lot. She would call Randy “shut the f*** up Hipps” and I was “bitch.” After Jack was born, my mom seemed to calm down a bit. However, we ended up moving once again. We moved a total of 17 times and were homeless three times while I was growing up. Instability seemed to be a recurring theme in my life.

It’s hard to pinpoint when I began to realize things, but in my mind it began around Christmas one year. My mom just had neck surgery, and we were setting up some of those pretty, antique village houses. My dad became angry about something and kicked one of the houses, threw the Christmas tree box at my mom, and hit her. Once he left, my mom told Jack, who was 3 at the time, that daddy hit her. Therefore, he associated mom’s neck brace with my dad hitting her. The rumors began to spread. The whole situation was over-dramatized, and it sticks out as one of the first bad fights between my parents.

After they made up, we moved to the west side of Grand Rapids, which is an extremely dangerous area. Things just seemed to be getting worse. Randy was always getting into trouble, gone all the time, and getting into fights with my parents. With all of the trouble Randy was getting into, he got the majority of my mom’s attention. Jack was only five, so he needed a lot of attention too. I began failing a couple of classes. I was known for getting perfect grades, which is why I was hoping to gain my mom’s attention. The school had an idea of what our life was like at home. They decided to send me to sixth grade, even though I had failed three classes. My mom was furious.

We moved again, back on the safe side of town. This is where I began to realize my mom’s addiction to pills. I was old enough to understand the code words she used for her addiction and how it impacted our everyday lives. My dad also seemed to be struggling with things. My parents would get into fights almost everyday. One day I took my little brother outside to play with him, but I started teasing him. Then my dad, who was already worked up, came out furious and pinned me against the garage and choked me. My mom noticed and came out yelling at him; he decided to leave. My mom refused to let him leave until she got her pills. She was holding the driver’s side door of my dad’s car open, and my dad floored it backwards. She got caught up in the door and was thrown into the air against the fence. The only way I could describe what it looked like is a rag doll. It looked like a doll that was thrown and did cartwheels. After this she looked dead. My brother was screaming so I brought him to her. She had a huge gash in her back, and we had to call for help. I told my dad I hated him for hurting her. Before the cops came, my parents said we had to lie otherwise my dad would go to jail and we would be homeless. I was too scared not to lie. When I gave my statement ,I said that my dad forgot his phone and she was trying to give it to him. The cop didn’t seem to believe me and looked to Jack; he nodded along with my story. Then the cop dropped it. After that, my parents acted as if nothing had happened and expected us to do the same.

We went through a rough patch after that house. We were homeless a couple times, but we finally found a nice trailer. Both of my parents started working nights, so I would have to take care of Jack and everything around the house. I’d come home from school or practice to make dinner, clean, make sure Jack did his homework, brushed his teeth, and then do my own homework. I’d wake up and make sure Jack ate breakfast and got on the bus. Not only did I have to take care of the house and Jack, but I also had to constantly pick up after my mom. She would get cortisone shots in her back every couple of weeks and take her pills on top of it. She was high out of her mind, so she would lay on the couch for about two days straight. I was also the middle man and had to lie for her all of the time. Everyday was hard and it didn’t seem like it could get much worse, but it was added on every day. My dad started drinking more. It was then I decided to start standing up to them. Not only for me, but for the safety of my little brother. Standing up to them made things worse for me, but it took their attention off of Jack. My mom became more physical, and my dad would tell me I wasn’t going to get anywhere. I was becoming depressed and began to hurt myself.

After a day of fighting with my mom, I told my parents that I was going to my boyfriend’s (Matt’s) house and they said okay. Three hours later, my mom called and claimed that I didn’t tell her where I was. We began to fight and I told her I was cutting myself and how I really didn’t want to live anymore. She told me I was being over-dramatic and needed to get over myself and come home. Matt and I were walking back to my house and my mom starts chasing us with her car. She was going 50 in a 25! When we got to Matt’s house, she slammed the car into park and tackled me in his yard. She proceeded to choke me until Matt’s parents pried her off of me. CPS didn’t believe me. The next day or so, my mom asked me why I was hurting myself, and I told her I don’t know why. I didn’t want to tell her it was because of he,r and she kept smacking me for saying I don’t know. This went on for about two hours. I tried to scream, but she held my mouth shut. She told me it was all my fault and that I made her this way.

A while passed in this trailer before instability reappeared. I found a note saying we had thirty days to get out of the house. I packed up my brother’s and my stuff. My grandma picked us up and took everything. When we got to her house, I asked to take a shower because I hadn’t taken one in a week. My grandma was shocked, and I realized my parents had lied. They had told us that the pipes were frozen, but they actually turned the water off. My grandma refused to take us home, so she brought us to my Aunt Jackie’s house for three weeks before my mom showed up with a caseworker and said we had to come with her. The caseworker told me I didn’t have to come. I didn’t. I was starting to get some control over my own life, but we had to go to court in order to gain guardianship. The judge didn’t believe me about anything and said that I had to go back with my mom.

Living with my mom meant fighting all the time and moving from house to house. Eventually, Jack and I went to my grandma’s house without my mom knowing. Legally, we couldn’t keep my little brother at my grandma’s so he had to go with my dad. It was fine because my dad had left my mom at the time and was getting his shit together. My mom got caught stealing money and went to jail. After summer passed, I moved back with my Aunt Jackie and she got guardianship. Everything was good, and my mom was still in jail.

The next few years went by and my life was finally stable. I had everything I needed: food, clothes, support, and a steady place to live. I got a job, got all A’s in school, and began to plan for the future. Although I am happy, I worry about my brothers. My mom’s impact on Randy is still getting him into trouble, and Jack is back living with my parents. My grandma is trying to help get Jack out of that environment, but legally he can’t try to get out until he’s fifteen. He is going to get a job this summer and follow in my footsteps. I want him to be happy and live a successful life.

As I took control of my life, my aunt was a constant supporter. She helped build my confidence and saved my life. I would’ve killed myself if I didn’t get out of there. I take everything I went through as motivation to prove my mom wrong. I don’t hate my mom. I do miss her, but I don’t want to talk to her because of everything she put my brothers and me through. I am determined to make myself something. I use my mom as an example of what not to be, and I want to be like my aunt when I am older: strong and successful. My career goal is to be a psychiatrist because I want to help those impacted by mental illness just like my family.

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