It’s a new year again, and although it would be good for me to resolve to exercise more, I don’t have the physical or emotional energy. A resolution to find some additional contract work wouldn’t be bad for the bank account. Deciding to be social and at least leave the house once every day or two would probably be helpful as well. But those seem a little out of reach at the moment. So instead I’m resolving to lighten up on the language front and not say fuck so much. Hence the catchy title.
Next December I might just play grizzly bear and decide to hibernate. If I could sleep through my birthday and Christmas and New Year’s, I’m sure I’d be in better shape. I’m just not made to be merry.
This year for the holidays, my husband and I took a road trip southbound to my sister’s house in southern California. The road trip was fine, but long. My sister’s kids are a pleasure. It’s amusing to watch her two small dogs adapt to the presence of our two big dogs (they ended up great friends).
But it gets more complicated on Christmas eve when my sister and I drive out to the assisted living home where my dad has been living this year. We bring him back to her house for dinner. He’s thinner than the last time I saw him, more frail looking. Even with his cane, he’s unsteady on his feet.
And my thoughts start spinning:
Yes, he’s been irresponsible in his life, true, but he also had a lot of bad luck.
He’s not really so bad. All the worst of it, I made that up. Yes, he exposed me to a sexualized environment, to pornography. Yes, he communicated to me that women’s value was best measured by the size of her boobs or how sexy she looked in bed. But he didn’t actually touch me or do things to me. That’s just my imagination working overtime.
I have dreams, sleeping and waking dreams, and sometimes I can’t tell what is what, and it all feels painfully real. Everything bad I’ve thought about him, I’ve made that up.
What kind of daughter makes things up about her father? She must be sick. I must be sick.
I recognize this. It makes sense, I tell myself, that Doubt might come for a visit along with my dad. It’s hard to recognize this frail, sometimes confused older man as someone who might ever have molested a child. For a while, I can calm myself down, usually by sitting in the living room when my dad is in the kitchen, and vice versa. There are eleven people and four dogs running around the house, so I hope no one notices how I avoid him.
He’s an old man. I don’t seem him often. I could at least have the grace to sit and talk to him.
He’s been thoughtless but never mean to me. I shouldn’t be mean to him.
I hate him.
No, I love my dad. He used to be extroverted and funny, before he was in the car accident. It’s not his fault he had the car accident. I should remember all the times I enjoyed being with him. Now that he’s old, I can give him some happiness back.
It’s hard to manage the conflicting emotions. I poke around a bit to find out where my sister keeps her iron, but it’s in her walk-in closet which unfortunately doesn’t have an electrical outlet. I can’t even make an excuse that I need to iron my clothes, since it’s an informal gathering; I’m in leggings and a sweatshirt. A discrete little burn on my arm to calm things down sounds so appealing but doesn’t appear to be an option, fu–dang it.
He’s over the next day for Christmas, as well. I meditate in the morning, trying to find my center, the wise and healthy part of myself that can keep me steady. That part wanders in and out during the day however. I’m quiet while others play noisy games. They don’t imagine that I’m thinking about how it would be better to be dead, that I just don’t want to face the rest of my life with this yes he did-no he didn’t-I’m such a horrible person earworm stuck in my head.
My dad gets tired and asks to go home early; my other sister drives him back to his place. When he’s gone, I can breathe a bit better, and with enough alcohol, we get a hilarious if rather revolting game of Cards Against Humanity going with my two sisters, my brother-in-law, my husband, my other son and his girlfriend. (I have very mixed feelings about this game, actually–but I digress).
I’m listless and lazy for much of the visit. I’m not very helpful to my sister and brother-in-law at mealtimes or when there are errands to run, and I’m ashamed of myself for that. But fu-gosh darn it anyway, I just can’t summon up my best self or even enough energy to impersonate my best self.
I also notice, more than I usually do, my sisters’ issues. My one sister, a lovely, talented underachiever who openly says “I don’t like to reflect too much on my life,” went briefly to therapy, and when the therapist asked her, “Did your father sexually abuse you?” she quit. And she drinks, a lot. My other sister has a lot of anxiety, tremendous difficulty sleeping, and an ever-changing list of foods she decides she cannot eat. She will take all kinds of homeopathic remedies that don’t help and coffee enemas and has been, at various times, gluten free or grain free or egg free or dairy free and/or soy free and vegetarian, no she’ll eat fish, no she hates fish but chicken is okay… But she won’t go to therapy at all. I love them both dearly, but they are not okay, and they don’t want to talk about it.
We drive home, and in the car I make a schedule for a weekly routine that will have me exercise more, protect meditation time, and still have me working more than I have been over the past three months. I feel a little optimistic about the new year. After all, haven’t I made progress? I quit my job before it devoured me. I am kinder to myself, at least a lot of the time. I can better observe my thoughts.
But once I’m home and it’s freezing and we’re supposed to celebrate, the optimism fucking abandons me. (I’m still allowed a few swear words, when necessary). I think about the best way to kill myself, which I’ll probably never do but can’t stop thinking about. I plot out ways to hurt myself that my husband won’t notice. Today I couldn’t get out of bed until 1:30 in the afternoon.
E has been on vacation in New York, and though she said she was available by text or phone, I haven’t reached out to her at all. Maybe I wanted to prove something, though I’m not sure what. It’s been a little over two weeks, but I’ll see her tomorrow. I’m kind of looking forward to it, but I also know she can’t do anything.
This is just me. I’m a person who is depressed a lot, a person who can’t be sure of her own story. I’m a person who wishes she had parents who were grown ups and cared for her the way good parents do. (Note: my mother has not called me or reached out to me over the holidays at all. I called her on December 23, but that’s the last time we spoke.) I’m a person with wounds that don’t seem to want to heal DANG IT. I’m a person who can sometimes manage her pain but a lot of the time allows it to derail her.
Although I don’t feel that others are weak when they stay depressed, I wonder about myself. I wonder if I try hard enough.
Sorry, bit of a downer this post is turning out to be. Kind of like the dang holidays. Thank goodness we’re done with that shit for another year.
q, I am sending love and hugs your way! Breathe, remember to breathe. Its ok to feel depressed, I am with you, I get it and can relate. I’m sorry you are doubting your story. Its hard to comprehend that a parent could or would do that to their child. xxx
Q, if you’re sick, then I’m a pink spotted elephant. But I do understand how quickly and naturally those self-doubting, self-loathing thoughts come rising up in response to situations where we feel uncomfortable emotions. Simpler, to just hate ourselves, than to sit with the conflicting and messy feelings.
It can be frustrating and isolating, watching people we love live in a bubble of denial. Sometimes I just want to grab my foster brother and shake him. And at the same time, your sisters’ issues are affirmation and validation of how damaging your childhood was. There’s no fiction in that. I’m sorry that your mother didn’t call you, or otherwise make an effort to let you know you are loved. You’re one of my favourite people, and I wonder if she sees how great you are.
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The holiday period sounds tough. You kept on counselling yourself through it, something to be proud of. Hope January is more neutral for you.
I second Rea. It sounds like an incredibly difficult holiday season, and it also sounds like you’ve been coping incredibly well, all things considered (even though it might not feel that way).
Maybe I’m wrong, but it might be possible to love and hate your dad at the same time. Part of you loves him, and part of you hates him – the two are not mutually exclusive, and there is nothing wrong with that, if that rings true for you.
Sending warm and loving thoughts xx
Q, it’s a cycle, it’s okay that you go back and forth and back and forth – progress and regression (but regression you notice now, so progressive regression?). You were around a source of all your pain, of course it was hard. Even the body memories, the intangibles, would be hard.
You have made progress, so much progress, it’s the work of a lifetime, and you will continue to make progress. And we will be here through it all. Xx
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Holidays *ARE* such a downer, aren’t they? The forced pleasantries, the forced socialization, the forced gift-giving… And if you don’t do any of that, you’re the asshole or the Grinch. It’s ridiculous! I often get very stressed and anxious during the holiday season as well but who can blame me for being that way, right? Who can blame you for feeling that way as well? All these unattainable expectations that comes with family…
I’m sorry that Doubt keeps telling you things that make you feel bad about yourself. I definitely understand how you feel on that aspect because I often feel the same about my parents as well. It really is such a hard emotion to cope with – that feeling that you can’t hate your parents because they weren’t all that bad… Or rather, the feeling like you *shouldn’t* hate them. I’ve been struggling over that myself lately – I keep thinking about how my parents are getting older, and I haven’t seen them in 5 years… I hope you’re able to allow yourself to feel justified or validated for feeling the anger towards your parents though. Your Dad wasn’t the father you needed – one who would protect you – and it’s okay to be angry over that.
You try so hard, Q. Look through your blog. Read your other entries, and you’ll see what we all mean when we tell you that you’ve worked so hard and that your progress has been monumental! I totally get your reservations (because don’t we often think that we’re never good enough or that we’re not working hard enough?) but trust your progress. There is evidence of progress, plus evidence of how much hard work you’ve put into recovery!
I hope that 2017 will be a year that we can both stop being so hard on ourselves. It’ll be difficult, but I trust that you and I both will never stop working hard for it.
I tell ya, you’ve written an entry that many, in various stages of therapy, can relate to.
I saw a photo of my 90 year old grandmother and thought to myself, she’s so cute. I smiled inside, then it faded bc she’s the primary person who helped my mother develop as a sadist. Ninety years old doesn’t absolve her of war crimes against her family. I was a prisoner of that war and in many ways feel I still am.
I’ve gone back and forth in my head about if I made up the abuse by my mother. Maybe I’m just sick, crazy and she was the patient, devoted mother who loved me through my horrible accusations and insanity. I’ve thought this more times than I can count but I come back to truth – I’ve not made this up. I’m telling the truth. My mother destroyed herself and my siblings the way her mother destroyed her. Truth – I made a conscious decision not to be an abuser. Truth – just as with all abuse survivors, I fluctuate between being able to stomach what was done and taking the lighter load of believing I made it all up.
Very helpful and insightful entry, dag-nab-it!
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Thank you for these kind, understanding words. I truly appreciate them.
And your dag-nab-it made me smile.