The mess he made

Crooked spin can’t come to rest. I’m damaged bad at best.

~From Say Yes by Elliott Smith

I’m never proud to fit into a cliché. I don’t want to be just another girl with daddy issues. I don’t want that hanging over me for the rest of my life. I don’t want my stomach to twist in knots because a sound or smell or facial expression brings me back to the days when I felt small enough to step on. I don’t want to cry for reasons even I don’t completely understand.

I want to be the exception. I want to be the one who’s come through the emotional abuse, neglect, and abandonment unscathed. I want to be stronger than I am.

I don’t want to take every piece of criticism from the person I love to mean that he thinks I’m stupid or uninteresting or inconsequential. I don’t want to pull apart every word and examine its meaning.

Growing up, my father would disappear for months or years at a time. And then he’d show up out of the blue. I’d run to him and he’d pick me up and hold me tight and everything was wonderful in the world. My daddy loved me.

I’d spend every moment I was with him trying to be perfect. I never talked back to my father. If I disobeyed, it was not intentional. I had to make sure I didn’t do anything that would make him leave again. I had to make sure I was good enough for him to love me.

And when he’d poke fun at me, belittle my ideas, or just choose football and beer over me, my heart would break. It was almost never the words he said. It was his voice – that tone of condescension and beration. He’d look at me as if I were nothing and I’d feel as if I were nothing. His power over me was always absolute.

Hatred began to seep into me. I tried to hate him. I ended up hating myself instead. After all, I was the one not perfect enough. Maybe if I was better. Maybe if I was different. Maybe if I was a boy and played football and baseball. Maybe then he would love me.

I spent years working through all that self-loathing. I came to understand that my father did love me in his own twisted way. I came to understand that I would always love my father, regardless of his lack of involvement in my life. Time and time again, I thought I moved past the ant-like feelings of my childhood.

Time and time again, my father would show up out of the blue telling me how things would be different. He still does it. Mostly in the form of tearful phone calls now. He’s sorry. He knows he screwed up. He wants to have a relationship. He wants me to know how much he loves me.

Time and time again, I fall for it all. And my heart is left broken in pieces again. And I’m left disbelieving that anyone could possibly love me because if my own father can’t, there has to be something wrong with me.

It doesn’t matter how ridiculous these thoughts are. It doesn’t even matter that I know they’re ridiculous when I have them. The feelings can’t be squashed. And so I’m left here, uncomfortably fitting into that cliché.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. “I want to be stronger than I am” — me, too. I can relate to a lot of what you’ve said. Though I guess I was kind of lucky, because my dad didn’t tease me (that would have been worse). He was just gone. But that back and forth you’ve had to deal with — and still have to deal with…ugh. That would be so hard.
    But…you are not a cliche. Your perspective is unique, your understanding of the world your own…. and perhaps it’s what helps make you such a great writer – all those feelings you have — put to great use for all your readers…that is the way you can take your pain and make it work for you (and for us, too!)


    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Anne. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through the abandonment as well.

      The way I feel about my relationship (or lack of) with my father is extremely fluid. There are days when I’m grateful just to know that in his own messed up way, yes he does care for me. And there are days when I wish this in-between shit would just end and he’d be gone.

      I wrote this after finding out that my father is drinking again, and apparently has been drinking again for a couple of years. Goes to show how involved we are in each other’s lives.

      I *want* to just “get over it” and move on, but I am slowly starting to accept that this, like my mother’s death, is something I will never “get over” and that it is okay to feel how I feel.


  2. So I know I’m a complete stranger, but I stumbled upon this blog post and it really moved me. Your words sound so familiar, and I guess I too fall into that same cliche. That belittling feeling, the tone of voice you analyze, pick apart, and the blame that—despite “knowing” better—you place upon yourself.

    I grew up with an alcoholic mother, and sacrificed most of my own childhood taking care of a woman who spent every day telling me how worthless and ungrateful I was. And for years I’ve been dealing with the scars that childhood left on me. The anxiety, the fear, the depression, and the war between my head and my heart as they constantly contradict each other.

    But when you said, “I want to be the exception. I want to be the one who’s come through the emotional abuse, neglect, and abandonment unscathed. I want to be stronger than I am.”

    I had to take a moment to say you CAN. You can be the exception. You can come through stronger. Things CAN get better. And I say that because I never thought I’d be an “exception”… I was even told at one point that I would never truly heal… that I’d carry the pain and the doubts and the fears and the anxiety with me every day of my life.

    But today I can say that’s not true. It’s taken several years to get to where I am now, and I had to face the things I felt. I had to talk about them, to challenge my fears and prove to myself that they weren’t valid. And I needed friends to love me and walk through that process with me.

    Today I’m doing things I never thought possible, and learning to live and enjoy life without letting the pain control me. And I truly believe that you can reach that point, too. There is the opportunity for peace for you, and for better days and maybe even a better relationship with your father.

    Keep fighting, and don’t be afraid to talk to people or ask for help. It’s not easy dealing with this sort of struggle, but you don’t have to face it alone. You shouldn’t face it alone.

    I find you incredibly brave just writing about your experiences. I hope you continue to let your voice be heard, and that you fight to know that not only does that voice of yours matter, but so do you. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to know you’re worth.

    And on top of it all, you deserve to be free. 🙂

    Peace to you, friend.



    • Elli, first off, thank you so much for reading and taking the time to write such a beautiful comment!

      I’ve spent a lot of years working through all of this and I have had some incredibly wonderful people to help me along the way. I think for me, it’s about finding a balance between moving on and allowing myself to feel what I feel.

      You said, “I was even told at one point that I would never truly heal… that I’d carry the pain and the doubts and the fears and the anxiety with me every day of my life.”

      That is certainly *not* something I believe, and you are 100% right that things can (and will) get better. But I also believe that some days just suck and that’s okay too.

      It also makes me sad that I have a little sister (she’s only 7) going through all of this. I had hoped that he’d learn from his mistakes with me and do things differently with her. So that has kind of drudged things up again as well.

      My motto for pretty much everything is progress not perfection . . . and I will always work towards that progress.

      “And on top of it all, you deserve to be free.”

      So very true . . . for all of us.

      Thank you again for your words and for sharing a piece of yourself here.



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