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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Father's Day Phone Call

Nightmares are, for me, a regular thing. Generally, assuming I sleep, I have at least one nightmare every day. Every so often, a nightmare will be particularly powerful, and it will leave me feeling off kilter (or worse) for the entire day. Last night, I had a nightmare like that, and it has served only to highlight the fact that I really need to sort my head out about my father.

My father's birthday falls right on the tail end of August, and I made the decision not to call him and wish him a happy one. I challenged my guilt and refused to bow down to it, but when Father's Day came around a week later, I didn't keep it up. I gave in to my fears, to my guilt, to my desire to be viewed as a "good" person-- a good daughter.

I think, above all, that's what I wanted. I want(ed) my mother and father to be pleased with me, to be pleased and proud and to tell me I was good. Silly, isn't it? Rationally and logically I am aware that neither of those was going to happen.

In fact, what happened is that my father and I discussed my move. (Since my stepsister found my old Facebook account and messaged me about the impending move, I knew he would already know.) I expected he wouldn't be pleased. I expected to hear how irresponsible I am and so forth, and I expected anger at the fact that I am moving so far away -- far enough that I will finally (I hope) be safe from him. What threw me was the hurt in his voice.

I've heard other survivors say that hearing their person sound afraid or hurt in that way was quite healing for them - it helped them see their attacker as human and infallible; it gave them a sense of power over the person who had hurt them. I didn't feel any of that - I felt, I bet you can't guess! - guilt. Deep, burning guilt.

I had hurt my daddy's feelings so deeply that it showed in his very voice. How dare I? Who am I to hurt my father that way?

And more than that, I felt deep guilt/shame for feeling guilty over hurting him, because, after everything, shouldn't I be glad about it? (And if I'm not, then maybe it provides more evidence that I deserved it, that it was all my fault.)

I have struggled daily with both lots of this guilt ever since, though I have tried to challenge the thoughts and use my skills to handle this situation and these emotions. I have tried as much as I can to take myself out of the situation ("what if [acquaintance] felt this way?"). Unfortunately my counsellor has hurt her back and has been unavailable since before Father's Day, so I haven't been able to discuss it properly, but I have been trying very hard to keep this from becoming an implosion.

I believe in the power of words, the power of visibilised thoughts, so in the absence of Carol, here are some challenges and the like to the situation/emotions.

Who am I to hurt my father? What about who was he to hurt his daughter? I may have hurt his feelings by planning to move, but I might not feel the need to move so far away if he was a safe person to have in my life! At least I can say that my actions (moving) weren't done with intent to hurt him. I wonder if he can say the same?

As for the second half...
Feeling guilt for hurting someone's feelings just indicates that I'm compassionate - it definitely doesn't mean that I deserved what happened to me as a child. And how I 'should' feel is however I do feel!

Challenges/cheer-leading statements:
I am not a bad person.
It's okay to do things that are for my health and well-being, even if those things do upset others.
I'm not responsible for another person's emotional health.
All emotions are okay and valid, even the ones I don't like.

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.


  1. I love that you were able to see that second part as a clue that you are a compassionate person. You are so right that you didn't deserve what was done to you. The fact that you can still have compassion in your heart shows the amount of love and strength that you carry with you everyday, and that is powerful!

    YAY for you for making the decision to do what is best for yourself and your safety and make that move. That is a huge thing and you rocked it!

    Thanks for submitting this to the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse.

  2. Oh, I know how this feels in this kind of situation. I'm hoping that you can remember that you are NOT a bad person, and that you are not responsible for another person's feelings or emotional well-being. Thanks so much for your courage in sharing this for the blog carnival.

  3. Thanks for sharing this post. I too know how you are feeling. My dad's birthday just passed in September. I often think of him with sadness on his birthday.

    Having compassion for ourselves is such an important part of growth and healing. Safety always comes first in these situations.

    I only saw my dad twice in the last 10 years of his life - once in the hospital where he was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and once in a nursing home that my aunt put him into after his brain surgery. It was not safe for me or my children to be around him before he died in 2001.