Yearning For A Father.
(5th August 2017)
I am really struggling at the moment. Since going back to the Pentecostal church I have been falling apart again, feeling things I haven’t felt for a while, and doing things I haven’t done for a while. I am not coping with a situation within the church. It involves another person.
I am worried that by writing this I will come across as whiny, or self-indulgent, or depressing, or a basket-case, or selfish, or whatever else. I am worried I will be told to “get over it,” as I have heard before. But at the same time I am wondering if it might help to actually get it out and say it, so that it will be out there rather than just inside me. So I am going to try and write about the issue.
I need to give some background information first, which I will do in this entry. In the following one, which I’ll type at a later date, I’ll explain what is going on at present. I’ve decided to split it up into two entries just so that it doesn’t become excessively lengthy. So, this is the background:
I have father issues. I grew up with my mom, dad, older sister, and then my younger sister, who was born when I was 12. My dad was always angry, cruel, impatient, cold, critical, and explosive at times, particularly when he had been drinking. I remember growing up feeling constantly afraid. My dad would shout and scream, throw things around, and threaten verbally, sometimes even with knives. My mom and I were made to witness things we would rather have not. I remember going to school unable to speak to my classmates because I was so troubled and disturbed by things I had witnessed the day before. I left home when I was 18, yet for years I still had regular nightmares about the things I had seen.
That is bad enough, I guess. I think all of it contributed to me growing up to become a nervous wreck. By the time I was 12 I was depressed, paranoid, and suicidal. I thought the world was a threatening place. I still do. I was afraid of men. I still am to some degree, mostly when they raise their voices.
But the thing I want to write about in this entry is about the sense of rejection I felt from my dad. My dad never really spoke to me while I was growing up. Sure, we lived in the same house, but there was never a relationship between us. He just wasn’t interested. He knew nothing about my life, what I was doing at school, what my interests were, etc, and he didn’t care either way. He didn’t spend time with me, not that it would have been much fun anyway with his temper. He would hardly look at me. He shouted at my mom, my sisters, and anyone else who crossed his path, but he never shouted at me. That sounds like a positive thing, but in some ways it was worse, as I’ll explain.
To me it was all completely normal. It was all I had ever known. It was only when I started high school that I realised things weren’t so normal after all.
I vividly remember waiting in line with my classmates one day, waiting for the teacher to come and let us into the room. They were all talking about various things. I remember hearing some of them saying things like, “My dad is taking me to football on Saturday,” or “I spoke to my dad last night and…” or even “My dad won’t let me go out tomorrow, he is such an idiot!”
I remember feeling confused and incredulous. I remember thinking, what? You talk to your dad? You have conversations, even arguments, with your dad? Your dad spends time with you? Really?!
It sounded unbelievable. And that was when I realised that what I had with my dad was not normal. That is, I had nothing.
I felt confused. I wondered, why didn’t my dad talk to me? Why didn’t my dad spend time with me? Why didn’t he take an interest in me? Why didn’t he even shout at me? It was like I wasn’t even worth that! It was like I didn’t exist. I couldn’t think of anything I had done, and so I concluded that it must be me. There must be something wrong with me as a person. I must be lacking something, deficient in some way, and that is why my dad didn’t want to know me.
The ultimate conclusion I came to was that I am worthless. I had to be. It never occurred to me that my dad might have his own issues. No, I just concluded that it must be me.
I felt a mixture of confusion, jealousy, and self-hatred. Confusion because I suddenly realised that other people had very different relationships with their fathers. Jealousy because I wanted that too. I wanted a father who would take an interest in me too, even a negative interest. And self-hatred because it was all my fault. It was because I was a bad, terrible, worthless person that my dad didn’t want anything to do with me.
I didn’t want my dad. Quite frankly, I detested him. But I wanted a dad. Desperately. It took over. My life from that point on became dominated with my one desire to have a father who wanted me. It caused me a great deal of anguish. I used to imagine that my dad wasn’t my real dad, that my mom had had an affair or something, but that my real dad was out there somewhere, and that one day we would meet each other and it would be great. He wouldn’t be like the man I had to live with (by this point I refused to call him father). He would be gentle and caring, and he would be interested in me. We would meet up maybe once a week or so, have a chat, he would hold me in a loving embrace, and it would be happily ever after for me. That was my dream. That was what I held on to.
So as I grew up, that was my number one wish. A dad. It made me quite vulnerable with older men. Initially I was just terrified of men, but as I got older I came to realise that there are some genuinely nice men out there, men who are nothing like my dad. That was when I developed a new problem, that of attachment. Whenever I spent a lot of time with an older man, particularly if they were caring and gentle towards me, I would become attached to them. I would look up to them as a father, idolising and adoring them. It happened with a college tutor, and also with various male support-workers when I lived in hostels. On the surface it didn’t create many problems as such. People just thought I was a bit too close to certain men. The men themselves would sense it though, and inevitably it would end up with me in pain, as those men couldn’t be, and didn’t want to be, a father to me. It meant I was feeling rejected over and over again by each man, believing that no man wanted me as a daughter. I wanted a man to see me as special. I wanted to be wanted. I wanted a man to look at me and say, yep, that is my daughter. But it never happened. So I was stuck in a cycle of pain with older men.
It wasn’t until I was about 19 that I finally realised that I was in this cycle. Once I understood what was happening, I decided that the safest thing to do was to try and keep a distance from older men. And that is what I did. I minimised the amount of time I spent with male support workers. I requested females whenever possible. I did my best to minimise the risk, and it worked. For several years I was relatively free from the cycle. The father issue had settled. I was getting along okay.
Of course, the issue never went away, nor did my inner yearning for a father. But it was stuffed down inside somewhere, buried and dormant.
But that was to change when I started going to the Pentecostal church. And that is where everything has fallen apart. I will try and write about exactly what has happened there in the next entry.