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Emotional abuse.

Not a word I ever thought I’d associate with myself. And yet here I am, writing this post.

It’s a little confusing; it didn’t always feel like it does now. I’m the eldest of four kids, and I remember my dad, for the most part of my early years as a different person. He was sweet and funny, he taught art and gave us drawing lessons on weekends. We lived on one farm, then moved to another. He sang this song about a little baby duck. He watched movies with us. He bought us watercolor paints.

Unfortunately, that’s ancient history. And it stops somewhere – I’m not for sure of the date, but I do know that it stops around the time I was seven.

It’s been a long time coming, or it feels like it, but that’s not my dad anymore.

These days, he has almost constant migraines, he treats his kids like something that should be “useful” to him, is critical, cruel-worded, and dismissive.

It’s eggshell territory – I’m always stepping on them, can hear them crunch under my feet when he’s around. He’s not friendly and there’s no camaraderie and joking. There’s only what we’re supposed to be doing, and that we’re not doing good enough.

I don’t know if that was always his personality or if it’s a new thing. I do know that he’s gotten progressively worse, so much so that now, if I didn’t know him before, I wouldn’t realize it used to be different.

My sister, who’s 12, doesn’t realize it. And I remember what it was like the first time I realized that not only was he being abusive in an emotional way, but that I was scared of it.

It was Father’s Day, 2014.

He had a headache, which wasn’t news, and everyone was done with breakfast and scattered around the house. Some tiny thing flipped him out – and it was my fault. I’d been in my room, reading quietly out loud because it helps me concentrate.

My family calls me out on it and doesn’t like it, so I try not to do it often, but for the most part they ignore it.

This time he didn’t.

I guess it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, or something. He blew up, stormed around, slammed stuff on the kitchen counters, screamed his fucking head off at my mom.

Normally when he’s angry, critical, trying to correct something, or give us a job or order, he doesn’t shout. He uses this *reasonable* and patronizing tone that says he’s disappointed in you, that you’ve really just been incredibly incompetent and useless THIS time, and he hopes you’re happy with yourself.

It’s the worst thing in the world.

Well, the shouting was worse.

My sister ran into my room and we hid under my desk until he left the house and my mom found us there. She was half-laughing, half-crying, like she wanted it to not be as big of a deal as it was.

I ran out and hid in the field crying for the better part of an hour, not wanting to be in the same airspace as him. When I got back, he was waiting on the front porch. I remembered that he wanted to talk to me. I sat there feeling sick as he went on and on, this self-victimizing speech I couldn’t stand hearing.

I wanted to tell him it didn’t excuse his actions, but I started crying instead. He put his arm around me, which just made it worse. I wanted to get out of the entire situation, and he wasn’t trying to comfort me. He was using me as a way to comfort himself.

Since I’m at school, I don’t see as much of him. I think my second-youngest brother realized that, because he got a job away from home this year and his own apartment. I don’t have a license, so I couldn’t make that happen, and when I’m not working I’m home all the time. It’s not much different that it was that day or before that day, except that now, I notice it.

Today, it was towels in the bathroom. He called all of us in to see how there was a towel on the floor and another one *improperly* draped over the rack. He gave us this lecture on the *correct* bathroom procedures, and as we were leaving I said something to my sister, which I’ve been using to comfort myself and get myself through the constant tension in my household:

I’m a spy, just witnessing and gathering data.

He heard it and asked me what I said, so I said I hadn’t spoken. He told me I was being childish, acting like a “whipped puppy.”

And the thing is?

That’s EXACTLY how I feel, and I can’t stop it.

I don’t even know if it’s as bad as I think it is. Nobody else in my family goes on crying jags about it. My sister’s a feisty little fireball and fights back. My younger brother doesn’t give a shit. My mom doesn’t like his attitude, but also she defends him and sympathizes somehow.

It’s just me, hiding in the bathroom choking on tears. Because every day in this house I feel judged and afraid and anxious. I don’t like to go anywhere with my father.

I don’t feel I HAVE the same father I did when I was six and loved him. I don’t feel like I love him now. I don’t respect him anymore, and I don’t even particularly LIKE him.

And for some reason the same thought keeps going around and around in my head.

Someday, if I get married, he’s going to want to walk me down the aisle, this person I don’t respect or even particularly like.

And I won’t be able to tell him “no.”