I knew I was going to find my dad’s birthday tricky. Any sort of anniversary tends to churn things up for me, not least the ones connected with my family. I didn’t want to have to talk to him, or give him any sort of special attention, because our relationship is not in a good place. But I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was.
I didn’t go to work today, because work is rubbish at the moment and it’s not doing me any good. My boss is being rude and unsupportive, expecting unachievable quality in short timescales and giving mo gratitude when I exhaust myself trying to meet those demands. I also had a run in with one of the directors this week, who was disrespectful and made me feel small and insignificant. It’s all wearing me down, whittling away what little resilience and strength I was clinging onto.
Despite dealing with all that, I resolved to deliver the obligatory birthday phone call to my dad while I walked home from the office yesterday. That would mean I’d get it out of the way instead of dreading it all afternoon. I talked myself into thinking it wouldn’t be too bad. It would just be ten minutes of faking I cared about what sort of day he was having, and feigning interest in what he’d been doing.
Pretending I wanted to talk to him was challenging, but I’ve done it a lot before and it wasn’t too bad. It made me nervous, but then talking to my dad always makes me nervous these days. The conversation isn’t natural, because the relationship is strained and forced.
What threw a spanner in the works was the sudden sound of my brother’s baby playing in the background. It really distressed me. My stomach knotted and my heart beat harder. I felt all this anger boil up and I just wanted to tell my dad to f*** off. I didn’t know if my brother was there with him, overhearing our call. I hated the thought that he was. I hated the reminder that everything is hunkydory between them all and my parents take pleasure in spending time with the man who abused me.
Clearly, it isn’t the baby’s fault. He’s innocent of course. He didn’t ask for any of this. But I can’t help but feel angry even towards him – a little one who’s not yet a year old. When I spoke to my mum, it transpired that they were babysitting their grandson for the day. I know this happens. I know they love him and have a relationship with him. But it still felt like a twist of the knife, to have to hear him laughing and squealing as I talked to my parents.
My mum kept me talking, even though I was desperate to get off the phone. I just wanted to detach from the situation and the horrible, painful feelings it was evoking. I don’t want to feel all this about a tiny child who has no real connection with his father’s crimes. It’s hard to admit it, and it makes me feel like a terrible person, but this baby’s mere existence hurts me. His being in this world is a slap in the face to remind me that none of this is fair, and my brother will never suffer like he deserves to. He will never suffer like I do.
I got home and I was struggling to keep myself safe. I wanted to do everything reckless and harmful. I wanted to get so wasted I didn’t have to feel anything anymore. I wanted oblivion. I can’t figure out how to keep feeling these feelings and live with that. Nobody – literally nobody – can understand what this means for me, what is brings up, where it leaves me. It’s so incredibly lonely, and it makes me feel like I am totally insane. It doesn’t help that J is on holiday at the moment and I can’t work through any of this in therapy.
Once I was home yesterday, it didn’t take long for me to be fully immersed in my hermit response. The safest thing for me to do in this kind of situation is to shut down and dissociate. I was foetal on my sofa, wrapped in blankets. I didn’t feel much comfort, but I also didn’t feel capable of anything else.
Then I stupidly glanced at Facebook – and it all got worse.
My dad, who never posts anything on Facebook, has posted a photo of my mum and her grandson napping together. She was cuddled up with him, both of them cosy and asleep. It knocked all the air out of my lungs to see that. And to see it when I was already feeling so low, vulnerable, worthless. To see her giving my brother’s child what I so desperately needed in that moment was horribly painful.
That photo was the first thing I thought of when I woke up this morning. And that sense of rejection and abandonment. It hurts. I can’t find words for how much I am hurting right now. I love my family, and I want to feel loved by them. But they consistently cause me harm. Being involved with them repeatedly tears open all my old wounds.
I just don’t know what to do. I don’t want to keep going through this, but I know they are not going to change. The only realistic option is to cut my losses and walk away from it all, but I don’t want to lose the possibility that one day I could belong with them again, one day I might find them nurturing in the way I need. It’s so hard to negotiate all of this, without reaching the conclusion that my life is never going to feel like it’s worth living if I can’t find a place with my family.
I know that this is all very juvenile, and I’m angry with myself for not moving past it. I am an adult. I am capable of creating my own ‘family’ of people who do love and accept me for who I am. People who make me feel valued and who won’t keep putting me through this kind of pain. But that doesn’t feel good enough. Nothing could ever feel like a good enough replacement for being accepted by the people I love most of all.
Image: Daniele Adami, Creative Commons.