SA and my life – My Dad

I don’t know if it’s because we’re now getting into the darker months again, or whether it’s due a number of things, but I can feel myself starting to sink down into the same old depression again. I’ve also been back at uni for the past 5 weeks now and this blog is obviously secondary to uni assignments, so for these reasons I will probably be updating a lot less often for the next couple of months. I’ll still try to get at least 1-2 posts done each month though. Apologies that this post is rather jumbled at parts.

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Before I move on to the next ‘chapter’ of my life, I felt that I should write a bit about how my dad has affected my mental health. Whilst I do love him and he is generally a lot nicer to me now, there are a lot of things that he has done in the past that have had very negative effects on me.

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It seems that my dad has always been angry and had a very short fuse. I’ve never been quite sure as to exactly why this is, though most of his anger over the years seems to have stemmed from his work, which he has always hated. Perhaps it also stemmed from relationship troubles with my mum…I don’t know. But whatever the reason, he usually chooses to take his anger out full force on other people (usually those closest to him). Don’t get me wrong, he can be nice sometimes but it’s like he’s two completely different people – the angry version of him vs the calmer version.

Like many families, we were brought up with corporal punishment and my dad would hit us if we did anything “bad” when we were younger. When it’s what you’re brought up with, it just becomes normal, but sometimes I couldn’t help but feel rather concerned after he’d hit my then 3 year old sister across the back of the legs and she wouldn’t stop crying. Another interesting issue the whole thing raises is being hit by your father as a lesson that it’s not okay to hit… I’d hate him for the fact that the only way he could discipline us was by hitting us (sometimes leaving marks) or threatening to do so. We grew up fearing him, and when he was angry, you soon learned not to get on his bad side. However, when I was about 13, he suddenly seemed to become angry a lot more frequently and to a much greater extent.

This was about the age I first started overhearing my parents fight at night when my siblings and I were in bed (I’ve always found it difficult to drift off at night). I hated him for the way he’d make my mum cry. And I too would cry myself to sleep sometimes after I heard them fight (they’ve never found out about any of this). It made me even more reluctant to talk to him or try to be nice to him – I despised his selfishness. It seemed he had his life, and then he had his family – when it was convenient for him or he had nothing better do to. He’d be out a lot. It seemed that he just left my mum to get on with raising the four of us – usually only chipping in as disciplinarian here and there – whilst not really stopping to consider how she might be feeling or the fact that she never had a “night out” or any other kind of social event unless it was with her work. I don’t doubt that he worked hard at his job or that his sole motivation for staying in it (despite loathing it) was to support us financially. But it just seemed to me like he didn’t want to be around his family most of the time. As I mentioned, he’s always been quite an angry person, but in the 3 years leading up to him eventually moving out after having separated from my mum, he seemed in a more foul mood than ever. I remember him frequently saying to my siblings and I that he’d be glad to see the back of us when he moved out and didn’t have to deal with our shit anymore. However, it was about the age of 13 that he seemed to take his anger out more on me than on anyone else (except the dog*).

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*He’d disgust me with the way he’d treat our dog. He knew that he could obviously get away with even more with a helpless animal than he could with me. If our dog had been ‘bad’, he’d pick him up by the collar until he made choking noises, then throw him across the room, back him into a corner and kick him or beat him with his leash, or a shoe, or another solid object. And if the dog bit him (which any animal would do if backed into a corner and attacked), he’d hit him all the harder. Whenever I told him to stop, he’d simply get more angry and shout at me. It sickens me that someone can treat an animal like that…apparently using a creature around 1/7 your size as a punching bag is what real men do…

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There were occasions (about 2-3 times a year) when it seemed like hardly anything set him off. Something I said or did would set him off, or he’d yell at me to do something and if I didn’t do it straight away, he’d explode with anger. To give an example of this, there was an occasion when he shouted and swore at me to do something, and when I said I’d do it later, he kicked the living room seat I was sitting on so hard that he left a large hole in the side of it, dragged me to the floor, then promptly started kicking and hitting me, with me crying and begging him to calm down. There were other times when I’d run to my room and sit in front of the door in an attempt to escape his physical abuse, but he’d simply kick the door in, taking it off its hinges, then come in and continue to leave marks on my skin and swear at and insult me, again, with me pleading for him to stop. Though I think what he did verbally always hurt more than physically. (He stopped being physical with me but started to verbally abuse me a lot more after my psychiatrist had learned how he was with me and had threatened to get a social worker involved – which thankfully never happened). He’d often attempt to instigate a fight with me for no apparent reason other than his own amusement/ to take his anger out on someone else (all the better if it led to him being physical). I remember his comments well: “No wonder you’re so fat”, “No wonder you’ve got no friends”, “You’re so selfish”, “You’re an ungrateful little shit”, “I’m not surprised you have no friends if this is how you act”. The part about friends hurts a bit even now. I think he victimised me more than anyone else because he knew that I was already being bullied at school and had extremely low self esteem so would believe anything he said. He knew I was a pushover, and could be used as his punching bag. If we’d had a fight, he’d take my belongings and throw them out in the street. There was one occasion when I’d only just got out the shower and started to dry my hair, when he yelled at me that we were out of milk and I was to accompany my sister to the supermarket to get some. Not being satisfied with my answer of “Okay, once I’ve finished doing my hair”, he grabbed me, shouted “NOW!”, then pushed me out the front door and locked it, leaving me standing in the front garden, hair still wet and all over the place, with neighbours staring at me, crying. Just the thing for social anxiety…

Another main event that sticks out in my mind was one night in April, after my parents and I had been to an induction night for the summer school I’d attend later that year. I was feeling very suicidal at the time and hence spoke very little to my parents. They’d spent the night seemingly taking pleasure in doing their utmost to embarrass me in front of 60 or so others my age by treating me like a child, talking loudly and playing human pinball with me as we sat in lecture theatre. I don’t know what the hell they’d hoped to achieve by doing this (especially since my mum knew about my SA at the time), but it only made me even less keen to talk to either of them. Anyway…as we drove home from the induction night, we stopped outside Tescos for a bit and my mum went in to do some shopping, leaving me and my dad sat in the car. It would always be when my mum wasn’t around to see for herself that he’d do the worst – either verbal or physical – to me. I can’t remember word for word everything he said while we waited in the car that night, but he basically just showed me once and for all how much he hated me simply for being me, and essentially for having depression and an anxiety disorder. Up to this point, whenever I’d tried to talk to my parents about my depression (which I usually only did if I was feeling very suicidal), he’d simply interrupt me by talking about his work and how ungrateful I was. He was always insulting or degrading me based on the things I did because I was so badly depressed. Because I wanted to be away from everyone, I’d spend excessive amounts of time alone in my room, which he decided must mean “You’re doing it for attention, aren’t you? That’s pathetic, Gemma”. On the contrary, I wanted the world to swallow me up, I wanted to disappear completely, to fade away, to die. The last thing I wanted was attention; I couldn’t stand to be around others. He decided that my being depressed was just me having a bad attitude and being the ungrateful bugger I am. It was at this point that I completely lost all hope of ever being able to let them know about my self harm or feeling suicidal…I couldn’t bear to think of what he’d say or do to me if he found out. Even after I’d been on antidepressants, it’s like he refused to believe that my depression even existed.

Anyway, that night outside Tescos, he succeeded in taking from me any hope of ever being understood by my family. He basically told me that he didn’t love me, and worsened my suicidal state. He kept talking about how I wasn’t “bubbly and happy” like my sisters were because of my ‘bad attitude towards life’, and that unlike myself, “it’s actually nice being around them”. I was nothing but a spoilt, ungrateful and selfish little shit who would get nowhere in life with my ‘attitude’. He told me that this ‘attitude’ was making it difficult for everyone in the family to be around me, and I was a disappointment to him as a daughter. I was thinking of myself too much and should be thinking more about him and how his day and work was, and what he had to go through at work. This ‘bad attitude’ and my selfishness was the reason I had no friends and would continue to have no friends unless I took a long, hard look at myself and stopped this “pathetic, attention-seeking act”. I gave up on ever trying to tell him anything at that point.

Anyway…it’s late and I’m not sure how to end this post. My relationship with my dad has generally been better since he moved out. There are so many things he has done that I can’t really forgive or forget, but I still love him to an extent. I think that a combination of the way he treated me and of being bullied by mostly males is what has caused me to fear men so much. I’m generally very distrustful of them. I’m glad that I don’t see him very much nowadays (usually only once or twice a week, for a few hours). In the last few months, although he still doesn’t seem to understand my depression or social anxiety, it seems he has accepted it, which is a massive step in the right direction.

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