Depression, Mental Health

And That, My Friends, Is The $64,000 Question…..

Do you remember when you were a child and did something that got you in trouble? Maybe you were chasing your sister through the house and hit a table and knocked off the lamp. As soon as you heard it hit the floor, you knew you were in trouble — big trouble. Your mom or dad would come after you and ask that ridiculous question — “So, young lady, just how many times do I need to tell you not to run in the house?” And they’d stand there and wait for you to answer them. Good gracious. How do you answer a question like that? Do you just stand there and say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to knock over the lamp.” (I tried that many times and it never went over well.) Or do you get brave like I remember getting one time when dad was raging and answer, “Seven times”?  Let me tell you now that that was not the answer he was wanting. Maybe I should have said, “More than a thousand times” because evidently that’s how many times he had said it to me already and I was still running in the house. I guess I was a slow learner.

Anyway, I finally made it to Macon to see my therapist this week after three long months of not seeing her. It wasn’t that I was staying away on purpose — I was sick and then I got busy with the class reunion stuff and then I spent a week of medical testing and appointments and I just couldn’t get over there. But, whatever the reason, I was finally there. And I was lamenting about the fact that I am still screwed up. I was talking about how I couldn’t forgive myself for being such a screw-up as a kid and then a screw-up as a wife and now I’m just a plain screw-up. Period. After a few minutes, she took a deep breath, looked at me, and said, “Betty, just how long are you going to let your father run your life? When are you going to take your life back? When are you going to forgive yourself and go live the life that you know you should be living?” Well, damn. What was I supposed to say? Do I (as I did) just look at her and say, “I know. I need to let it go.” Or do I look at her as I looked at dad all those years ago and say, “I’m going to do that next Thursday. Or next month. Or in three weeks. Or evidently, never.”

How do you answer that question? That question, to me, is what we used to call the “$64,000 Question.” It’s one of those questions that I have no clue how to answer. How do you decide when enough is enough? I’ve made that decision many times. I’ve decided that enough is enough. I’ve told myself that I didn’t deserve all the crap I got from him and that I was going to let it go. I’ve even said out loud, “This is enough, Betty. Let it go.” And maybe I would for a bit. And then, something else would happen or I’d have a nightmare and wake up remembering it all over again. And, Wham! It’s back! All the feelings of worthlessness. All the pain. All the anger. All the guilt. All the hatred. And I’d have to start over again.  I am so very, very tired of starting over.

She says we are going to work on that question at our next session. That ought to be a fun time, huh? If any of you have any answers for me, please clue me in. How do I let it go? How do I convince my heart that what my head knows (I don’t deserve the pain; it wasn’t my fault; It’s nothing that I did to make him not love me) is correct? How do I make it stick? How do I really and truly forgive — not only him, but myself, also? If any of you have the working answer to that question, I’ll scrounge up the $64,000 for you. You will deserve it!

THOUGHTS ABOUT MY THOUGHTS:  I so wish I could just go buy a book from Amazon that has the answer to my question.

TODAY’S FEELINGS BAROMETER:  Been a pretty good day.  Talked to my friend, Dennis, tonight and he said I sounded like I was in a better place.  I had to admit that I just had some new, better drugs.  Ain’t that a kick in the rear?

~~~ Betty 

Depression, Mental Health

Before I Go To Bed…

I feel that I must say something about today’s post.  It is important to me for you to understand the following:

  • Did my dad do terrible, cruel things to me as a child and as a teen-ager?  Yes, he did.
  • Did I hate my dad?  Yes, for many, many years I felt great amounts of hatred.  When those feelings began after the kitten incident, I don’t think that I was mature enough to feel, or to know that I had an option to feel, anything except hated.
  • Do I now understand why he did what he did?  I’m not sure.  I have finally come to understand that he was a sick, sick man.  I know he grew up during hard times and that he evidently never learned how to love. I know he suffered from alcoholism and I am sure that had a lot to do with what he did.  However, I don’t understand how or why, if I choose to blame his actions on the alcohol, he chose Mom and me as his punching bags.  Not that I ever wanted him to do anything to anyone else, but there were four of us girls in the family and it was ME that he chose to physically and emotionally abuse.  I don’t think I’ll ever understand why I was the chosen one.
  • Was everything about him mean and cruel?  No.  He was a hard worker and I guess he had always been.  I know that he worked his way through college, graduating from Syracuse University.  He had a successful business composed of three auto parts stores.  He was well liked and respected within the business community in the small town in which we lived.  He provided for his family.  In a time and place where working was what a husband did, he did just that.  His work seemed to be everything to him.  I guess even my dad had the “mask” thing down pat.
  • Was I ever open with him about how I felt?  Yes, especially during the years in which I thought my only feelings toward him were hatred.  In his later years, I was not nearly as open.  I tried throughout the years to show him that I loved him, but there was always a wall — a huge, huge wall — between us and as an adult I never sat down to really talk to him about the past.  I tried a couple of times and he said he didn’t know what I was talking about — that he’d always supported us and did what had to be done — so I’m not sure that he ever believed me when I said I loved him.  And I really don’t think that I believed those feelings either.  I spent my life trying to prove to my dad that I was good, that I was worth his love, and that I deserved better than what he had given to me.  In the end, I really just tried to keep the peace with him.
  • Was my objective to bash him in my post?  No.  Absolutely not.  I am trying to be honest about my life and how my childhood affected me.  I cannot tell my story without being honest about my experiences.  In reality, I am extremely embarrassed for anyone to know any of the cruel things that Dad did to me, but my childhood experiences have always been the driving factor in my depression and I have kept these experiences bottled up for over 60 years. They have eaten away at my life, my thoughts, and my personality.  My objective is to rid myself of the guilt and shame of those experiences and to become whole.
  • Do I still hate my dad?  No.  I don’t think that I do.  So, if I don’t hate him, does that mean that I love him?  No, I don’t think that I do.   I have tried for years to somehow feel love for him but the love never sticks.  I try to close my eyes and see him as “Daddy” but each time I do that, I am overwhelmed with the cruel actions and words that he so freely heaped upon me throughout my life.  I always wanted to love him but don’t think that he was interested in any way in having my love.  I will have to settle for acceptance that he was the man who raised me.  That’s about the best I can do.
  • Do I blame everything on my dad?  Good Lord, no.  As I stated in today’s post, I became very defiant.  During my teen years, when the abuse and beatings became just about an everyday thing, I was bound and determined to not let him rule me.  When he said “You can’t,” my usual response was, “Watch me.”  When he said “No,” I was determined to do whatever he was against.  When he hurt me, I made sure I did something in return to hurt him right back.  There were times when I did a good job of paying him back.  In the end, I embarrassed him greatly and I am sure that hurt him.  He finally felt some of the hurt he had given me.  The sad thing is that in that final action, he wasn’t the only one hurt.
  • Have I forgiven my father?  Phew, that’s a hard one.  I want to forgive him. I pray each day to be able to forgive him.  I know God says that I should. Sometimes I think I have but then I’ll have another nightmare and it all comes rushing back and I know that the forgiveness didn’t work. I do know I am not, and never have been, responsible for his actions, but part of my mental illness is that part of me still believes it was my fault.  Until I can forgive myself for everything that I blame myself for, I don’t think I will ever be able to honestly forgive him.  But, I will continue to try.

THOUGHTS ABOUT MY THOUGHTS: I read many messages today about what a sorry father I had and what a sick man he was.  That had not been my intention when posting about the kitten.  I don’t need anyone else to hate my dad.  To many people, he was a good man.  My intention was not to diminish those feelings for others.  I was just trying to tell about where my depression began.  I feel badly that some people have joined me in my hatred.

TODAY’S FEELING BAROMETER: I feel guilty for telling about the kitten incident.

~~~ Betty