I always knew there was something wrong with me. Other kids didn’t understand why I acted the way I did around adults. I spent my entire childhood wondering what the hell was wrong with me, afraid to say or do anything, afraid to interact with other people.
30 years later …I know that the problem really wasn’t me. It was the monster who calls himself my father. The beast in me wants vengeance for him handicapping my emotional and psychological well being …vengeance for leaving me afraid to have my own children …vengeance for being afraid to get married for fear I’d end up marrying someone like my father. But this same beast has given me a voice. This same beast gives me the courage to stand up to those who try to use me as a doormat. This same beast drives me everyday to heal the deep wounds and to unlearn all the nasty crap that was beaten into my head as a child and teenager.
I used to worry that everyone was right when they’d say, “You’re just like your father.” I now realize that I’m NOTHING like my father. I just managed to pull myself out of a fucked up mess of a “family.” IT HAS BEEN HELL!!! Forty years of being told that I am nothing, being emotionally neglected and abused, told repeatedly that people don’t like me, told that I don’t deserve friends, that everything I have belongs to my father, that I am a pet to be kept at his discretion, rewarded for good behavior or punished for failures.
There was nothing that I had that he could not take away, everything I had and everything I was, according to him, originated with him and therefore was his to control and do with as he pleased. If I tried to express my feelings I was greeted with anger. “It’s not okay to cry. It’s not okay to show your feelings. It’s not okay to express your opinion. In fact, you are a child – be seen and NEVER heard.”
My father would hit or grab and shake my mother when she did things he didn’t like. He still does. He only ever spanked me twice. When I got to be a teenager he’d just shake his fist in my face. I never understood this. Ultimately I think it was because he was afraid if he hit me he’d end up exposing himself publicly. If I were to report him for child abuse, or if one of my teachers, seeing unexplained bruises on me, would have brought his “I’m the perfect husband and father” public mask crashing down.
I didn’t start to understand what my father had done to me until I graduated from college. The more distance I put between us, the more I understood that I wasn’t the problem. This was wrong. Abuse isn’t just about getting physically beaten, it can also be about getting the emotional and psychological stuffing beaten out of you everyday.
Thank the gods for my grandparents who looked out for me and sent me to college. My father made no bones about refusing to work. He said he “had a problem with authority,” and that no one had the right to tell him how to do his job. When I was 7, he was fired from the only job he’d had. So my father forced my mother to get the paying jobs, and then promptly got her fired from every one of them. He’d try to tell her bosses how to run their businesses or he’d tell lies or exaggerated truths about her boss around town. No one would stand for it, and my mother paid the price.
When I was 5 or so, my father got into a fight with his parents. I didn’t see them again for many decades. I only know who my relatives are because I see them on my family tree, there are only two or three I would even recognize if I was face to face with them. The ones I do know are narcissistic just like my father, so I don’t mourn the loss anymore. Most of them are just as toxic to my well being as my father is.
My father’s mother, his brother and his wife came to our house on the day of my high school graduation. My father’s mother said, “Here is a card for you. We’re going to your cousin’s graduation.” With that, she and my aunt and uncle turned their backs on me, got in their fancy car, and left me standing there. They were just there to rub it in my face that my cousin was more important than I was.
My father is a saint in the eyes of many people. He gives lavish gifts and bails people out of financial trouble, when he can ill afford to do it himself. He invites strangers to holiday family meals and springs it on us at the last possible moment. Meanwhile, utility bills go unpaid, disconnect and repo notices arrive. In the past, if he couldn’t scrape the money together to do these “humanitarian” things that people “love” him for, then he’d send my mother to beg from her family. Later, he would demand the money from me. The last time he did this to me, I threw him out of my home, returned the last of the “gift” money he had given me for Christmas, and told him never to come back.
My father has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He blames his abuses of my mother and me on PTSD, for which he is considered disabled by the VA, but the truth is, my father is simply a manipulative, truth stretching, self-centered, self-serving, “The world revolves around me, I will live my life anyway I see fit, I don’t care if it’s legal, I’m never wrong, everyone is entitled to my correct opinion, the sun and the universe revolve around me” NARC!!
A huge weight has been lifted from my life. I still find myself wanting to cower when someone gets in my face or publicly criticizes me. Sometimes I have to take anxiety meds, but I can get angry now. I can scream and yell. I can say no and not cave later. I can cry. I can laugh. I’m learning slowly how to love. The anger reminds me that I am a person. I’m not someone’s possession. I’m not a doormat, and I deserve better.