(warning: all kinds of abuse and suicide)
I’m not a jealous person, for the most part. Instead of feeling jealous of others, I tend to feel ashamed of myself. I would never take away someone’s happiness in order to have it for my own. But there was always one thing I desperately envied: a good dad. I envied Daddy’s Girls. Girls whose fathers loved them and protected them and did anything possible to help them in life. Girls whose fathers didn’t abuse and destroy them. I wanted a daddy. A daddy who told me he loved me, who I wasn’t afraid of, who I didn’t flinch away from every time he came near. But that’s not the card I was dealt and, usually, I’m okay with that. We all have our crosses to bear and my parents are part of mine.
My father was abusive in a way I struggle to understand. It wasn’t the result of a drunken rage or a complete loss of control...it was calculating and cold. He did it because he enjoyed it. When I told my first therapist some of the things he did to me, she said, “Heidi, that wasn’t abuse...that was torture.” And that idea is strange to me still. I operate in the mindset of, “Everyone struggles, there are people who had it worse than you did, don’t co-opt their suffering by thinking yours was that big a deal.” I’m good at minimizing, always have been. He didn’t hurt me that badly. He didn’t touch me that often. The reality is, though, if someone else told me they experienced what I had, I would be horrified. I’d be livid and want to kill their fathers because no one deserves that. And, see, that’s the part I struggle to accept; that no one includesme.
I can look at what he did to me on paper and think, Jesus Christ, he was a monster and you were an innocent victim.
In pre-school he taught me to make myself throw up and told me to do it after I ate so I wouldn’t get fat like my mom. No one would like me if I got fat. (Hello bulimia and bye bye any chance I had at a normal and healthy relationship with food or my body!)
He would fill the tub with scalding hot water and hold me down in it as I screamed and fought. The most disturbing part to me is he’d laugh the entire time.
Until I was 14 he molested me. It stopped because I finally snapped. I hit him as hard as I could and screamed that if he ever touched me again I’d slit his throat.
Plus way too much more. And let’s not even bother getting into the emotional abuse because this post would never end! Let’s just say that everything I’ve heard from “haters” and “trolls”? How I’m fat and worthless, hideous, should kill myself…? Bitch, please, I’ve been hearing that shit since I was in elementary school! You aren’t telling me anything my dad hadn’t said to me or I said to myself on a regular basis.
But, see, when I think of him now, those aren’t the first things that come to mind. It’s a worn out, beat down, suicidal, untreated and unmedicated severely mentally ill man, who was emotionally and even sometimes physically abused by my mom for as long as I can remember. While I’m aware of and acknowledge what he did and the myriad ways it completely fucked me up, it’s not what I tend to think of. I tend to remember how broken and ill he was. And I know it doesn’t excuse what he did - I know that - but it’s given me a way to move on. Maybe, on some level, it’s the only thing about him I can relate to. Being empty and crazy and hopeless and obsessing over putting a gun in my mouth because I just couldn’t take the pain anymore.
I believe that, for better or worse, we always love our parents. No matter what horrible things they put us through. Even if we hate them and cut them out of our lives, we love them...no matter how hard we may try not to. It would be so much easier if we didn’t. And, god, we so desperately want them to love us. To be proud of us. We just can’t help it, no matter how hard we try, there’s a tiny part of us that desperately hopes our moms and dads will finally love us and give us the parents we deserved. When he killed himself, I lost that hope. That’s what I mourned, the loss of possibility of him ever being the dad I wanted and needed.
When I think of him, I think of the time I was 30 years old and he said, “I love you” for the first time in my life. The first time. We had said goodnight and I was standing in the hallway as he closed his bedroom door and I froze. I stood there silent for at least 10 seconds before I whispered back, “I love you too.” Because, in some way, I did. In, some way, I always will.
I never really had a dad. I never had a dad who loved me in a healthy way and respected me and took care of me. And I never will. But I don’t blame him, not anymore. The hatred and bitterness I harbored for him is gone. Not because I’m oh so enlightened because, hi, I’m totally not. But when I heard that gunshot in the next room and I opened that door to the sight of blood and the smell of sulfur, everything changed. His grip on me melted away. I felt safe for the first time in my entire life. I never understood the term, “like a weight was lifted off my shoulders” until then but, god, I could literally feel my shoulders relaxing for the first time in 30 years. He could never hurt me again. He could also never turn magically into the dad I wanted...so I no longer grasped desperately onto the impossible. I could let that dream go. I could mourn the loss of that but I could also mourn for a man who felt so dead inside that he finally pulled the trigger. I could pity him and empathize with him and feel deep and intense sadness for the pain he must have been in. Pain I understand all too well. His death allowed me to show him tenderness without putting myself in danger. I could make myself vulnerable and not risk his abuse and rejection in return. I could stop seeing him as a monster I had to constantly be on guard around. I could see him as human.
Whether you wanted it or not, I forgive you. Whether you acknowledged to yourself what you did to me or not, I forgive you. Whether you deserve it or not, I forgive you. Whether you truly loved me or not, I forgive you.
No matter what, I forgive you.