I suffer from daily anxieties contributing to what I believe to be mild depression.
The cause: Worrying about my dad. Not only about him in his own dreary world of depression, but I worry about how he will affect my quality of life each day.
I find this to be a bit ironic because ultimately my dad’s own mental illness is a HUGE if not the only contributor to mine.
I dread the awkward texts from him, implying that he wants to spend time with us by telling me he has steaks that have thawed and need to be eaten by the weekend. One – I HATE steak. Ever since I was a kid. He should know that. And two – The roundabout way that he asks to spend time with us makes me cringe.
Then there are the moments when I give in and spend time with him. It always ends with regret. He barely talks or pays attention to what myself or my son is saying and then randomly talks about himself or inappropriately discusses the context of a sex documentary he watched over the weekend. I can see that he feels the need to talk but doesn’t know what to say. But is that really my problem? I try so hard to talk about normal father-daughter topics but he is not responsive.
In fact, if we are sitting at a dinner table – in the house or at a restaurant, he rarely makes eye contact. He just looks around while we all chatter and then chimes in when he has an opinion or wants to plant a quick comment that will cause you to feel insecure. He’s REALLY good at talking when he’s putting you down or talking poorly about my mom.
By the end of any style of visit with him, I just want to run away. It breaks my heart to see him give my son about 20% of his attention when he literally has nothing else to focus on but yet finds a way to be absent while he’s with us every time.
When my parents split a few years ago, my dad decided for some reason that it had to be someone’s fault. Blaming it all on my mom and telling us children (adult children keep in mind) just how crappy my mom is. Every visit would end with him trying to convince us that the reason we don’t have a positive relationship with him is my mom’s fault. Telling us that during our childhood our mom framed him as the bad guy and she always came out on top. Reality is, there may have been some behind the scenes stuff that my mom was doing, but the fact is – my dad was mean, verbally abusive and mostly not there.
You see, he’s been practicing his dreaded absence while being present our whole lives. Only ever there to punish us, (scream irrationally while banging and slamming around) never ever a calm conversation. EVER. So this “framing” my dad speaks of was really just protecting us from all the negativity.
My mom spent our childhood protecting us, almost to a fault, because at times we resented her for overcompensating for him. But now that I am a mom, I see how broken-hearted her mama heart must have been.
And yes I know it’s clear my dad is suffering from a mental illness. He has admitted to suffering from depression in the past. But the way he treats us makes it hard for us to be empathetic. Although the fact that we still let him in to torture us mentally pretty frequently is showing some empathy now that I think about it. Why would I keep letting him in when there is no value to our visits except for keeping him content?
Sometimes I ask myself why he even bothers to visit? He doesn’t seem to enjoy himself, but I do understand the need to be in good company. He lives alone and I don’t believe he has many friends to spend time with. I won’t get into details about his checkered past with confrontation with the neighbors, law enforcement, retailers etc. But know he is most definitely one to be avoided. ***Sigh***
So yes, it’s scary. My sibling and I worry every day – when will he confront the wrong person? When will it be his last? When will he have enough of himself and our unwillingness to agree with his bs synopsis of our childhood?
This is my daily struggle. I feel bad if I don’t reach out to have him over for dinner but then I feel bad if he’s reaching out too. No matter what I do, I feel the weight on my shoulders. People tell me to cut him out of my life, but I know I would still feel this way whether he was in our out. And yes, his visits are awful and I dread them before, during and after. But if they were not to happen anymore, I would still worry about him and live with the anxieties of wondering if he is going to call and lash out, send another text about steaks or even worse harm himself or someone else. Plus, he is in so much denial about himself and how he treats us that I don’t even know how to begin to cut him out? He wouldn’t understand. I have had to say a lot of very hard things to him over the years and he never gets it. He just pushes it aside blaming someone else.
I can’t win. And I find myself wishing I could just be like my mom and walk out and get a divorce. It makes sense, but at the same time rarely happens. Instead, the children young or old have to keep navigating the split. As an adult child going through this I put pressure on myself to make it easy.
It must be easier as an adult right? I don’t truly know because it feels SO HARD. I have this irrational expectation of myself to muscle through it, when all I want to do is give up and cry. I’m so lost on how to handle it all and protect my family (mostly my children) from all the harm he causes. I don’t know what to do.
But what I do know is this – I want a dad divorce.
If you know of any outlets or just have some advice, I would greatly appreciate a kind word in the comments below. Thank you for reading my heart today.