I haven’t spoken to my father in at least 6 months. I haven’t seen him in over a year. When I was having the EMDR for my childhood I was very unstable and the counsellor advised that I didn’t have contact with my parents (she didn’t really advise as they’re not allowed to do that but y’know we spoke about it and her feelings were clear). The reasoning being that any contact with them was going to destabilise me and that could be life threatening.
So many months ago I sent my dad an email saying that I was having some mental health trouble and I needed some time. He was ok about that…until the time I needed exceeded what he found to be acceptable. The occasional text from him was laden full of guilt inducing news of how I was hurting him and my mum. Never asking how I was doing for that was unimportant. My mother was even worse. She texted and attacked me for being so selfish and uncaring. I rose above it. I responded as a calm adult although the abused child inside cried in fear.
Finally I felt I had to talk to my dad. I missed him and was prepared for a negative response for him. However there was also a sense of being on borrowed time and if I didn’t make contact then I wasn’t sure what they would do. Mercifully (or more truthfully) I live over 200 miles away from my parents and where I grew up but I knew they may come to my house. That would be unacceptable so I had to act.
I texted him to ask if we could have a casual chat – nothing heavy. I told him I missed him and we arranged a time to speak.
I rang. Hi Dad, it’s me.
What do you suppose a father tells his adult daughter who is struggling with mental illness that has stopped her working, stopped her living?
Yes, he tells her how much she has hurt him. Unqualified with any understanding of her situation, just that she has hurt him. Then he goes on to tell her how she has especially caused pain to her abuser, her mother. That was when I knew the call wouldn’t go well; he cared more about how my illness was affecting my abuser than me. I don’t like the word victim, who does? But here was a victim being told off for indirectly hurting her abuser by having the audacity to be ill. I defended my position and I’m glad to say I did so calmly. I only lost it slightly about my mum and he told me: well, that’s your opinion.
He told me he was sure that I’d told them all about it. Translated this means ‘you have told our secret. You were not allowed to tell. We will deny everything. You are wrong.’ And there it was, that feeling, that sense of not knowing what was real, of doubting myself, of blaming myself. Everything is my fault. I have brought this on myself. My emotional mind feasted on what he said. My rational mind could recognise guilt-ridden denial when she heard it.
He told me he had nearly driven down to see me. This was my fear. I knew he might do something like that. His reason was pretty interesting though. You might expect that he wanted to help or to see how I was but you would be wrong. He wanted to see me to physically inspect me. What did I look like now? Had my shape changed? Had I grown long flowing hair and started wearing long hippy skirts, y’know, like some women with depression do. Even I was caught off guard by this absurdity but I still had the presence of mind to see that he didn’t want to help, only assess and judge. How bad had I got? And it struck me: he doesn’t care about the real me. He only cares about the idea of me. Surely it shouldn’t matter what hairdo or clothes I was sporting?! I would still be his daughter. His daughter that is going through absolute fucking hell trying to recover from the damage that was done to her.
He rubbished my treatment. Not blatantly. Subtly through intakes of breath or “14 months….really? That’s a long time….”
Eventually we moved on to chatting about the banal: new cars and the price of metal. I wasn’t engaged in the conversation. For a start it doesn’t interest me, but my mind was also busy making sense of the actually very heavy indeed (despite my request) conversation that had just ended. And I saw it: he will never acknowledge what happened to me and that he played a part in that. She certainly will never acknowledge it. There will be no apology from either. Ever.
I didn’t know where that left me.
I know I don’t want a relationship with her. I’m not sure I want a relationship with him. I’m not sure of anything. Reality. What even is real? I can’t be real. I don’t understand.
I suppose that I have to work on accepting it. That’s it then. Forget the family reunion. The loss feels big but it isn’t, not really. What have I actually lost? Just a fantasy I guess. The fantasy that they would acknowledge the abuse, perhaps even apologise, that they would see me as a real person and I that I’d finally have a mum and dad.
But that’s never going to happen.
It’s not fair that they get to live contentedly in denial whilst I battle through this. But hey, if there’s one thing they did teach me it’s that life ain’t fair kid.
Now that is the truth.