Did you ever meet someone who was so messed up you wondered, "What happened to them? How did they get that way?"
Meredith says she's never been adequately diagnosed, but she guesses she was "developmentally slow" or maybe has a "touch of autism." She didn't talk until she was 6. Her mother couldn't cope and pawned her off on relatives.
That was the least of her problems. She was sexually abused by her older brother and father. As a result, says Meredith: "I interpreted sex as love. It was the only way my brother would have anything to do with me. My father was cold, distant and hypercritical, except when he was abusing me. Then he would tell me, 'I love you more than anything in the world.' These became the magic words I wanted to hear.
"As soon as I became a teenager, I became promiscuous but at the same time I was looking for the one guy who would love me unconditionally, something I never received from my own family. If it didn't work out with one guy, I simply moved on to the next."
Meredith spent summers in a small town where everybody knew everybody. "Rumors started spreading about me — some of which were true — but most were not. I basically became Wendy from 'Porky's.'"
While Meredith was still in her teens, she met Steve. "I fell long and hard. He was everything I ever wanted, even though he was jealous. I considered it a plus; it meant he loved me." Meredith got pregnant on purpose so she could get married and leave home.
The marriage was good for the first few months. Then Steve met Meredith's brother and everything changed. "He started treating me like dirt." Meredith says she became so "emotionally messed up" that she couldn't take care of her daughter and she left, giving the child to her grandmother.
"I still loved my husband very much and I was hoping that somehow we could get a second chance." While they were separated, Meredith found out she was pregnant again. "It worked the first time, so I figured the new pregnancy was the key to saving my marriage. It didn't work."
Meredith supported herself during this pregnancy by working as a prostitute. "I didn't have any education and that's all I could do. I hated it and only worked to get enough money for a roof and some food." Meanwhile, she was trying to reconcile with Steve. "He drove me out of my mind by giving me false hope. I tried to kill myself. Thankfully, my baby wasn't affected."
Meredith's parents adopted her second daughter. "I couldn't cope. I was still in my teens at that point."
Meredith went to trade school and never had to work as a prostitute again, but her problems hardly ended. "I was still the black sheep in my family, the men still went after me, and I responded pretty much the same way as I did in my teens. I married three more times before the age of 30. At the end of my fourth marriage, I had a nervous breakdown and spent two months in a psychiatric hospital. It became the turning point in my life."
Next we hear about husbands five and six.
Have you turned your life around? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to [email protected] And check out my e-books, "Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front" and "I'll Call You. Not."