I never wanted the dress

Last week the girls and I went prom dress shopping. I didn’t expect it to trigger emotions in me, but it did. I am so easily triggered now it seems.

My mom and I never went prom dress shopping together. One day she just brought home a prom dress for me. It was the ugliest light pinkest thing you ever did (or in this case, you didn’t) see. I hated it, but wore it anyway.

That evening at prom a “friend” told me another girl wore the same dress last year and that my boyfriend was planning on breaking up with me. I should have never went out with this guy in the first place. He was a complete jerk. During study hall, he would sit at a table in the library with his friends instead of me. I guess that wasn’t a big deal. But sometimes he sat at the table with a girl “friend” he flirted with constantly. She was way out of his league and had an obsession with polka dots. After that I hated everything polka dots when I should’ve hated him.

But anyway, sometimes when your dad doesn’t care about you or who you are dating you pick guys that are emotionally distant like your dad. The night of prom started out rough. Now I can’t totally blame it on the dress. Or maybe some would. My boyfriend’s step-dad really liked my dress and grabbed my ass when no one was looking. The whole night was a nightmare.

Then after prom, my boyfriend and I were headed to a party but got into a huge fight instead over the rumor he was going to break up with me. It was raining and we were pulled over at the side of the road arguing. Several people stopped to see if we were okay. It happened so many times that my boyfriend just told the concerned citizens we were fighting.

Why don’t normal things ever happen to me??

But anyway, the dress. I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t pick the dress out. I didn’t even like it. I felt guilty for wanting something else, so I just wore it. My mom did spend a lot of money on it.

I felt that way a lot as a teen, though. I didn’t have any choice, although it seemed like I did. When my autistic brother Matt was home bound, my mom pulled my younger brothers out of school as well. I was entering 8th grade when this happened. She told me I had a choice between homeschooling and going to school. What I heard was…are you going to choose your family or your friends? I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I had to pick family.

Instead of spending my last year of middle school with my friends, I stayed home in isolation. Then I spent my first two years of high school at home as well. The chasm widened between my friends and I, my peers and I. For three years I rarely left the house. I became a recluse. My mom became my best friend. My mom was jealous if I had other friends beside her. It’s still the same today.

When I turned 18, you might think I would’ve left home as fast as I could. But I didn’t even consider it as an option. How could I leave behind my best friend when she needed me? But I don’t have any regrets. Do you know why?? Because I never lived. I was never allowed to be a child, a teenager. I had to be an adult when I was a child. I had to emotionally support my mother. I had to take care of my violent autistic brother.

Mom didn’t want me to play the piccolo, so I played a flute instead. I wanted to take singing lessons, but got piano lessons instead. When mom didn’t like my boyfriend, she set me up on a surprise date with an ex-boyfriend she did like.

When I wasn’t perfect, I was punished. I couldn’t be perfect, but I could be manipulated and controlled. I could be guilted into doing things I didn’t want to do. I hated not having any control over my life. My mom even read my diary. She was mad at me for the things I wrote in it. I never felt accepted for who I really am and for the decisions I made.

Part of it was my fault. I thought it was selfish to live my own life. I never stood up for myself. I never said I didn’t like the dress. I never said I wanted to go to school. I just wanted to be independent and live my own life.

I wanted to play piccolo. I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to choose my own clothes. I wanted to choose my own boyfriends.

I have a hard time as an adult making decisions and having choices. I sometimes still feel selfish doing what I want to do. But if I learned anything from this experience, it is to let my adult children live. Let them have their regrets. Their lives are not mine to control. But I will give unsolicited motherly advice.

The whole me

What does the whole healed version of me look like?

  •  Sleeps restfully without insomnia or nightmares.
  •  Does not let the bad choices of others affect me!!!!!!!!
  •  Energetic without anxiety.
  •  Quieted inner critic.
  •  Healthy, no more gut issues.
  •  Does not excessively worry.
  •  Relaxed, not always on alert for danger.
  •  Peaceful. Serenity. Tranquility.
  •  Wisdom to help self and others.
  •  Joyful despite circumstances.
  •  Able to feel and express feelings.
  •  Sets boundaries.
  •  Less black and white/all or nothing thinking.
  •  Able to admit faults, tolerant of imperfection in self and others.
  •  No longer tries to fix/control others.
  •  Unconditional positive regard.
  •  Works on relationships/trust issues.
  •  Funloving.
  •  Gratitude for what I have.
  •  Be able to see the best in others.
  •  Trusting, but not gullible.
  •  Takes better care of myself.
  •  No suicidal thoughts.
  •  Able to depart from a routine without stressing out.
  •  Able to enjoy accomplishments.
  •  Not let the past dictate my future.
  •  Not be triggered so easily by everyday things.
  •  No delayed processing of feelings.
  •  Work less, play more.
  •  Decisiveness.
  •  Saying ‘no’ more to things I don’t want and ‘yes’ more to what I want.
  •  Not being afraid to speak my mind or stick up for myself.
  •  Be honest.
  •  Embrace both my strengths and weaknesses.
  •  Appreciate everything I’ve been through and allow it to be an inspiration for the      healing of others.
  •  Deeper meaningful relationships.
  •  Being willing to listen even if I have to set aside my to-do list.
  •  Be patient with myself during the healing process even if progress is slower than I’d like.
  •  Get out of survival mode.
  •  Let go of things not worth holding onto.

Well, I think this is a good start…..

A weekend in Chicago

We decided to take our foreign exchange students for their first trip out of the frozen tundra. My husband had a conference in Chicago. We thought we would kill two birds with one stone. Now that I think about it, boy is that a strange expression.

Unfortunately, I had to break the bad news that although we were heading south it wouldn’t be any warmer. We took off after school on Friday. We were planning to stop halfway for supper, but decided to keep going after I saw the big blob of heavy precipitation on the radar. The temps were hovering around the freezing point.

The sooner we could get there the better. This caused some hangry arguments from our daughter. Tears were shed. In fact, all three girls cried before we even got to Chicago for various reasons. That’s life with teenage girls.

We got to Chicago in a torrential downpour during rush hour. Meanwhile, I frantically tried to scrounge up some green for the tolls. They don’t just nickel and dime you anymore. We checked into the hotel Fieldhouse Jones then found a place to eat. Our daughter said her culinary arts teacher raved over a restaurant which we were glad was close to the hotel. We ate an average meal there and left to see a sign that they didn’t pass their health inspection to find out later the restaurant was nothing special, just a chain. Thanks a lot!

That night the hotel didn’t have any open parking spots, so Paul had to drive around several blocks to find an open spot in the rain after dropping us off. I felt like we were visiting Gotham city.

I let the girls pick what they wanted to do in Chicago. The girls were interested in seeing Mean Girls, but the cheapest tickets started at $150. We all thought it was too pricey so we didn’t go. I suggested the aquarium to deaf ears. Estelle wanted to search for something called the bean. Then they wanted to shop until they dropped. Me personally, I would’ve preferred to drop shopping.

We set out late the next morning. Our first stop was the Hard Rock Café for an early lunch. While I was there, I started feeling very light headed. My body started to freak out like it tends to do when I break out of my normal routine. I thought maybe I was dehydrated and started to guzzle down globs of gross chlorinated city water. But after that I felt better.

Then we set off in the rain to find the elusive bean. We circled around the city blocks only to circle around again for another time. Skyscrapers sometimes mess with maps on country folks phones. I created my own detour when we got to a sketchy area I didn’t want to walk down. It seemed unsafe. I didn’t want my nightmare of the girls getting murdered to come true. I felt nervous worrying about their safety because I didn’t even know where I was. With all of the trafficking and crime, you can never be too safe with young girls unfamiliar with our culture. It was a big responsibility.

We finally made it to the bean which was like a huge mirror in the shape of a bean. (See pictures below). We walked and walked some more and shopped. It was a cold, windy, snowy, rainy type of day. By late afternoon we put on 6 miles. It was getting dark and the prospect of walking back to our hotel in the dark was not very positive. The girls wanted to take an Uber back. Again thoughts of murder crossed my mind. An Uber or walking back on the dark rainy streets?

We took an Uber back. Our driver was great. He was a philosophizing theologian. We had an extremely deep conversation about life which was right up my alley. Later that evening Paul, the girls, and I went out for Chicago deep dish pizza. Since I am dairy free, I ordered mine with vegan cheese. It wasn’t the greatest. Vegan cheese looks and tastes like glue when it melts. My husband still makes the best pizza. Sorry Chicago. Everyone else was happy.

Then the next morning we headed out, but not before Paul and I played a close game of air hockey at the hotel. I was very impressed with the hotel. The décor was very unique. Plus we were able to get an affordable two bedroom room. One on the rooms had two sets of bunk beds. The other room had a double bed with an outside wall a couple feet from the El. I thought I would be up all night with the noise, but it wasn’t bad. That says a lot from an insomniac who can’t sleep well in her sleep number bed set to her comfort in her perfectly dark, quiet, and cool bedroom at home.

We thought we were going to have to drive home through a snow storm, but thankfully it never showed up. It’s hard to believe that our time with our foreign exchange students is half over. In a few months I will go from having four teenagers in my house to zero. Our son will be turning 20 the same month Clara and Estelle leave. Then our daughter Arabella is applying to be a foreign exchange student in France living at Estelle’s house. I’m trying to enjoy every moment I can because in the blink of an eye it will be over.

I’ll close with a couple pictures…

 

Gratitude week 3

  1. Tonight we are having some friends over to watch the Packer game. I suggested that we just order pizzas although I couldn’t have any. I am grateful my husband made me a dairy free pizza late last night for today so I don’t feel left out. I think that is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. I didn’t ask him. He just went to the store, bought my favorite ingredients, made a yeast free crust from scratch, and shredded goat cheese. His kindness towards me makes me feel loved. Way to go!!
  2. I am grateful I have a really good therapist. The last couple sessions she worked with me right through her lunch break. We started up brainspotting again this past week and for awhile I felt at peace.
  3. I am grateful to learn about Complex PTSD. I am eager to keep healing and growing into the best me I can be.
  4. I am grateful my kids made it home safely after driving through winter weather.
  5. I am grateful to have 700+ awesome followers who are interested in hearing my story.
  6. I am grateful to be able to push through my fear and anxiety which has been running rampant this week.
  7. I am grateful for my kids that keep me too busy so I don’t isolate myself from the world.
  8. Yesterday I had a pajama day. I’m grateful I didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything. (C’mon, some introverted isolation is okay!).
  9. I’m grateful to have an industrious husband. Yesterday he plowed out the driveway and he is working hard to start a new business.
  10. I am grateful my friend Cara liked my book. The test readers want me to go deeper. I am ready to go deeper now. It’s time to rip away the security blanket to embrace brutal honesty. It’s time to face my demons. It’s okay to write about things that are uncomfortable if expressing my thoughts and feelings is good for me.

When fear calls

I called my daughter that Sunday morning right before church started.

She was worried about suicide…or murder/suicide. After everything that happened, I shared her concern. What could I do about it?

I had been scheduled to sing that morning with the worship team. I ended the call abruptly as I saw everyone head up to sing.

I worried. Maybe this is good-bye. Maybe I will never see my parents again. It’s a horrible feeling especially when I had to act happy and sing on a live recorded feed. I felt so fake.

Smile! I felt like I was going to throw up or pass out. I started shaking. Smile. This could be the last day he is alive, they are alive. My God, the horror. Twenty minutes later, I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. Everything in my body told me to run off the stage. Flee. I had to stay. Everyone was watching me, in church and even online.

Maybe they would think I was having stage fright. I wish that was all it was. I couldn’t tell anybody. I wanted to drive out to the house. But the day before the car broke down, the only one free that afternoon. Plus I was asked not to because my family didn’t feel like it was safe.

I wanted to ask for prayer that day. But my husband was not in church that morning. He got asked by a friend of mine to help her out with something in place of her husband who spent the night in jail. I told him that helping out someone in need was more important than attending church. He agreed.

Shallow, I suppose. If I left the stage for prayer, it would be obvious. Then people might wonder if I was having problems with my husband because he wasn’t there. It could be misconstrued and gossiped about. I didn’t want that.

I called my brother Luke when I got home. Although he was treated the worst by our dad, he was the first to try to pull dad out of the grave he dug. That day my mom took my brother Matt back to his group home and stayed with us for several days. I made sure the doors were locked and became hyper-vigilant to signs of trouble.

Sometimes I wish my only stress was worrying about the holidays. The simple worries of getting that perfect gift. I couldn’t even think. Or worrying about hosting parties with special diets. Or having 4 teenagers in my house. Anything but this.

We are all worried. You’ve been depressed, suicidal before. Now you have a reason to end it all. Is this the only way your heart will change? Will your curses to God change to cries for help? Maybe this is the only way. But it’s not what I wanted for you, for the rest of us.

It’s been a month since I initially wrote this. I feel anxious. Tomorrow I will be singing on the worship team for the first time since this happened. I don’t want to do it anymore because it is triggering my feelings of fear. I understand why people seek isolation in times of despair. So many seemingly innocent things trigger bad feelings and memories associated with them. I’ve been trying to see my world as it really is but at times it is utterly terrifying and I question everything I blindly believed before.

Trust in healing

Last week I had a follow up appointment with my wellness nurse. Since my last appointment, my acid re-flux went away. I’m attributing it to avoiding the foods I am allergic to. However, other symptoms did not go away which the nurse thinks are stress related.

I went into the wellness appointment thinking I was going to start a 30 day detox diet. Incidentally, our church is starting the new year off with a short period of prayer and fasting. I decided not to participate because with the detox diet I was already going to have to give up a lot more foods in addition to coffee and alcohol. I already gave up my favorite foods last year. What more was there to give up? It would be like giving up meat for Lent if I was a vegetarian. What’s the point?

At my appointment, the nurse decided I was not ready for the detox diet. I decided not to participate in fasting anyway, which is unlike me. You see, I am really good at denying myself things. In fact, I excel at it. I could probably go a week without eating, whip myself, and finish the week off with a marathon.

Self-discipline and pain come easy for me. What is really hard for me is trusting, allowing myself joy, and accepting love. For most people it is the other way around. But I did what I had to do to survive and I got used to living there.

I’ve never really felt God’s love. I don’t feel his joy and peace in my life. Everyone says that I need to pray more, read my Bible more, and forgive. I do all of those things and feel nothing. I have to believe more and have more faith. Guess what? Still nothing. So I am asking God for a specific sign to see if he really loves me.

If God loves me why didn’t he protect me from the things that happened to me? It’s hard to trust God. It’s easier to trust me. I was the only one I could rely on.

In the meantime, the wellness nurse put me on St. John’s Wort and CBD oil among other things. If my body can be calmed in the next couple of months, I can start the detox diet. Then after that, I can have my allergies retested after I wipe the slate clean.

I can’t stress enough the importance of seeking therapy and a wellness program especially if you experienced childhood trauma. Myself, I fought this for a long time. I figured if I survived without anyone’s help, then certainly I don’t need help now when my life is going good. I justified having insomnia more than restful nights and nightmares more than dreams was normal for me. None of my symptoms were normal, yet nothing was ever wrong with me.

If you have lived through childhood trauma, it can be very frustrating if you are trying to heal. There are not going to be a lot of people who can relate. Well meaning people may at times make you feel worse. Perhaps you have trust issues that people say you should somehow just get over. That happened years ago, let go of it and get on with your life. I wish I could. Every time I try to outrun it, it haunts me more.

Some people have told me I should be happy for all the blessings in my life. This only makes me feel worse. I see my blessings but something prevents me from feeling the joy. Then I feel guilty because the outer things don’t make the inner me happy.

Is this all there is for me? Am I only going to be able to see my blessings by pressing my face against the smeared glass window of this zoo I am caged in? Or will I be able to somehow some day touch it? Feel it?

Sometimes I feel blamed for not being able to get over the things that happened to me. It’s incredibly hard to ask for help or trust others (even God) to guide me in this healing process. It’s hard not to feel frustration that the progress is very slow. I wish I didn’t have to fight so hard to be healthy.

I feel like an 80 year old wise woman and 5 year old little girl are living in my body simultaneously. Thankfully, the wise old woman is able to filter out comments that are hurtful and realize that people are only trying to help. But the 5 year old is scared and I can’t get her to stop crying.

Gratitude week 2

  1. We spent the weekend in Chicago and didn’t get murdered. The girls and I went to Chicago with Paul. He attended a conference and we went shopping. I had a nightmare before we left that the girls got murdered. I was a little nervous being the “chaperone” of my daughter and our two foreign exchange students. I was afraid because they do not understand our culture and might not know what is safe. All the people that we met were wonderful. We walked 6 miles then took an Uber back to the hotel and didn’t get murdered. I don’t know what I was so worried about. Ah, I am too much country mouse.
  2. We were supposed to get a major snowstorm on the way back from Chicago. Instead we only got a dusting of snow which made the drive a lot better than we were expecting. Gotta love when the weather forecasters are wrong!
  3. I met with my therapist who read my book over Christmas break. She said it was a Christmas present to herself (which is good I told her, since I didn’t get her anything). She thought it was so wonderful she wanted to read it again. She thought I should go deeper with my writing. I am grateful that so far two out of three readers were very happy with my book. I am meeting with my third test reader tomorrow.
  4. I decided to get an even shorter haircut this week. I also am growing out my blonde hair color and letting it go grey. I think it doesn’t look the greatest. However, I got complimented by two strangers on my hair this weekend after wearing a hat on it most of the day. Bizarre. Two people raved over my unbrushed hat hair. Then another stranger complimented me on my new glasses.
  5. I am grateful my son was in a really good mood all week. Although now that I think about it, maybe it was because we were all leaving for the weekend and he had the house to himself. I also found a really cool shirt for him that he loves.
  6. I am grateful to find a beer that I am not allergic to. Also, I am grateful for goat and vegan cheese so I can enjoy macaroni and cheese and pizza. Although we had good Chicago style pizza, I am grateful that my husband makes the best pizza around that I can eat.
  7. Although I love to travel, I am grateful to be sleeping in my own bed tonight with fresh clean sheets.
  8. I am grateful we stayed at a really unique hotel called Fieldhouse Jones in Chicago. The decor was amazing, all antique sports stuff. Our bedroom wall was about 10 feet from the L which was cool. Paul and I played a game of air hockey in the hotel basement this morning. Although he beat me by one point, it’s been a long time since we had fun together.
  9. Although there were periods of rain and snow, I am thankful it wasn’t too cold to walk around Chicago.
  10. I am grateful that I don’t have a lot of plans for the rest of the month and can finally have some down time.

Good Girl, the fixer

It didn’t start well and probably won’t end well either.

They got married almost 50 years ago on a cold February day in front of the justice of peace. That evening the bride cooked supper for her new groom and sponsors. Then her husband walked out the door for his 3rd shift job as the freezing rain started to fall from the heavens. The bride spent her wedding night alone.

He wasn’t the same after the war years before. She wasn’t the same either after watching her mother die while he was away. The husband spent many long hours staring off into space holding a gun. Many a times he wanted to pull the trigger. He flew into awful rages that one time left his bride with bruised ribs. She wanted to leave, but he said he would change so she never did.

Soon after they had several kids. First came the Good Girl followed by the Wild Child, then invisible, and ended less than 5 years from the first with Baby Boy.

The husband didn’t really change all that much. He still was depressed and flew into rages. Good Girl wished her dad loved her. She wished she was as beautiful as the girls in the magazines her dad loved. When she was very little she stared at the glossy photos of the girls on the center page. She showed the pictures to others little girls who told their parents which got Good Girl into trouble.

The wife never told the husband she would not tolerate her children seeing the magazines he left laying around the house. She buried her head in the sand. She was always working. After the wedding night, the husband didn’t want to work that much. Plus Wild Child was always taking up her time. Wild Child physically attacked all of his siblings. He hurt them then they were sent away to mend their own wounds because they were normal.

The mom screamed and confronted anyone that posed a threat to Wild Child. Even if he was hurting someone, the mom yelled not to hurt Wild Child as he was pulled off of them. The mom yelled if Wild Child was not treated like royalty. He was sacred and meant to be worshiped. Everyone should know that their world revolves around him. There was a list of rules to be followed in the sacrifice to him of their childhood.

Meanwhile, invisible was invisible. Baby Boy acted like Wild Child so he could get attention. Dad was fond of harshly disciplining him. He called Baby Boy lazy and stupid. Dad liked to scare Baby Boy so he could laugh at him. invisible laughed along with dad and dad protected him. Good Girl acted like she didn’t care to stay under the radar. Dad neither hugged nor hit her. He just said mean words. She felt bad for Baby Boy, but instead of protecting him she hid so she wouldn’t get hurt.

Mom complained, but didn’t do anything. She wasn’t cruel herself, but didn’t protect the children from Wild Child or dad. She cried louder than the children so they would take care of her. The mom was a martyr and Good Girl became the fixer.

One day everything changed. The children grew up. Good Girl stayed close to home to help fix. Wild Child became Mild Child. But still the mom raged. They didn’t brush Mild Child’s teeth good enough. They don’t exercise him. They don’t make him the right foods.

invisible moved far away in the middle of nowhere. Baby Boy left too. He told his parents how much they hurt him. Then he left home, got married, and joined a healthy family so he didn’t have to come back to his broken one.

The mom and dad grew old. Still the mom did nothing, unless she had to yell at someone about Mild Child.

Then one day the mom decided she wanted to confront the dad about all of the bad things he has ever done. She asked the Good Girl to come with her. This made the Good Girl feel upset and stressed out. She asked the mom why she wanted to confront now and not 25 years ago. The mom said she couldn’t then because invisible would disappear forever if she did.

Good Girl did not want to be put in the middle of the mom and the dad as missiles were being fired. She wanted to be the Bad Girl and say ‘no’. The mom’s family was calling up Good Girl to be the fixer. They tried to make her feel like a bad daughter for not helping the martyr so they did not feel guilty living their perfect lives.

Good Girl is very strong because she built a fortress around herself, but she is crying to be let out. No one sees that.

Good Girl no longer wants to be a fixer and will not go. Good Girl never wants to see her dad again unless he is calling with an apology. Good Girl is done and just wants to live her own life. She thinks her parents should be helping her, not the other way around. This makes her sad. It is hard for her to move on because it never seems to end.

 

Gratitude week 1

I’ve decided to do something new this year. Once a week I am going write 10 things I am grateful for. Life has been pretty stressful around here lately and frankly I don’t think it is going to get better for awhile, so…..in an effort to be more positive…I want to also write about the things I am thankful for. Some really awesome things are happening too.

1. I am thankful to start off the new year with a pajama day. I only do this twice a year (unless I’m really sick), but maybe I need to do it more. It forced me to slow down and relax. Plus I wore the new pajamas and socks my mom got me for Christmas.

2. I am thankful that I am done hosting Christmas parties.

3. I am thankful half the people I expected turned up for the foreign exchange student Christmas party on Saturday. I honestly didn’t know where I was going to fit 30+ people in my house (that I didn’t know) in the winter. I wasn’t happy most of the people that didn’t attend went to a funeral instead. Maybe I shouldn’t be grateful for that. Hey, I’m new at this whole gratitude thing…so…bear with me.

4. I’m grateful to take down the tree and all of the Christmas decor. It feels like a crisp clean start to the new year now.

5. I’m grateful that I had my best workout this morning in months. I ran 6 miles at a pretty fast clip. Maybe it was just the anxiety, but I felt energetic and motivated.

6. Although the parking lot and machines at the gym were full, I was grateful to find a treadmill open in front of the TV so I could watch Family Feud. It’s a distraction from the pain and boredom of running inside.

7. I’m grateful to run into my aunt and uncle at the gym. I wasn’t too excited that my uncle’s ex-wife was also there at the same time. But hey, it makes things more exciting on a Monday morning. I’m grateful friends and enemies alike are opting for a new year of improved health. LOL

8. I’m grateful to meet yesterday with the first person who test read my book. My friend Sue is a child psychologist who specializes in autism. We had a long conversation about autism then versus now as far as diagnosis and theories go. She also explained autism in the education system. When my brother was growing up, the teachers were taught aversion therapy and punishment. Now they offer a reward based program to autistic children. I am grateful that there are so many wonderful resources out there for families now so they don’t have to go through what we went through. Sue also loved my book!

9. One of the host moms commented at the party that our house is like a resort. It’s nice to have people appreciate something we worked hard to earn. I am grateful to live in a beautiful house debt free.

10. I am grateful, although I struggle with depression, to be able to pull myself up and keep fighting the good fight.

 

Compassion rages

After I heard the news, I felt both intense compassion and rage towards my father simultaneously. It’s really hard to explain because I can’t remember feeling such extreme polarity before. How can I still feel compassion towards someone who is so easy to justifiably hate?

He was a horrible father. He was the role model of what I didn’t want to be as a partner and parent. He hated us and called us stupid. I never felt like I was good enough. I never felt like I was enough of anything. Smart enough. Brave enough. Happy enough. It’s hard to feel like I was never enough, unlovable, despite my best efforts.

He tormented us. He laughed at our fears. Even worse, he taught us to laugh at our siblings shortcomings and fears. If we laughed, we wouldn’t be targeted next. We were pitted against each other for sport. How could there be unity? Most of the time it was safe to pretend not to care. I’m sorry I did not comfort you, brother, while you cried. I was just a coward trying to survive.

My dad is a depressed man. He lived a life of regrets. I see that now. He wasted his life in front of the TV screen, not playing ball with his kids. But I always felt calm if the TV was blaring when I came into the house. It was the silence I feared most. In the silence, I never knew if I would find him dead. Do you know how scary it is to feel that fear as a child?

He often flew into rages over nothing. He was abusive, but he is still my dad. When I was a child I hated him and wanted him to burn in hell for all of the things he did to hurt us.  But now I feel pity for the mess he has become.

I had to see him one day after it all happened. My mom hasn’t been well and needed me to give her a ride to the doctor for tests. After the appointment, I sat down with my dad. It was mostly small talk, the only real conversations I ever had with my dad.

I felt a lot of stress leading up to our visit. What would I say? Would the rage or compassion come out? I had to be wise with my words, but was coming up blank. Should I tell him what a fool he is? Should I tell him how some of his actions hurt me? Should I scream and yell at him like he did many times to me?

Instead I told him I loved him as tears poured down my cheeks. He told me he loved me too. I said I was sorry. He asked why. I said I was sorry that it had to be this way. This wasn’t what I would have chosen.

He looked sickly, like he lost a lot of weight. He is already in hell. That is what you get when you live a life you regret. What good would heaping a few more coals be for someone who is already burning in hell? I felt pity towards him. I never wanted to see him burn. I just wanted him to be a dad to me.

I don’t have any regrets over how I handled the situation. More than anything, I don’t want to live a life of regrets. I don’t want to be like him.

I don’t want to be his daughter, yet I am. My compassion rages.