Sunday, March 13, 2011

What was done to me

First, my father basked in my mother's undivided attention for 10 years of dating and then 12 years of marriage. Then, when they were 39 and 40, I was born.

He could have resented me. He could have ignored me. Instead, he usurped me and used me to get everyone's admiration and my adoration.

When they brought me back from the hospital, it started. All my life I've been told my mother "couldn't" nurse me. Recently, I got the story from the other women who were there. Basically, I wanted to nurse a lot and it seemed wrong to them for some reason. My father insisted I was starving and triumphantly "saved" me from my mother's incompetent breasts, by buying a bottle and formula. He also accused her of being incompetent in other areas, so he was the only one allowed to bathe me, feed me, take me for walks, and play with me.

I assumed he was just a doting father and my mother just wasn't as interested. Only recently did a friend of my mother's tell me how much she suffered because her baby was basically taken away from her. 

And I've been feeling a mother-shaped hole in my heart my whole life and tried my hardest to suppress that, by acting masculine and cynical and thinking of myself as incapable of motherhood and nurturing.

I adored him. He was the center of my universe and I was so happy he thought I was special enough to hang out with him.

I knew, though, that I wasn't allowed to love anyone else. He'd instantly go all dark or lash out or say something scathing if I showed affection to anyone else. My mother. Or her parents.

I remember him beating me with a belt on my bare bottom when I was two or so. For something like disagreeing with him. My maternal grandmother told me it was not an infrequent occurrence, and that she wept alone in her room when it would happen, but didn't dare confront him. When I asked him about it, he said "You don't remember right. Only your mother ever spanked you" and "Nana (his MIL) was crazy and she always hated me". Now I know the term for this - gaslighting.

When I was 7, a friend and I roughhoused with him, "attacking" him playfully, and he really very roughly threw us on the ground. I told him "You can do that to me, but I think it's not right to be rough to someone else's child" to which he said "You need to know I'm stronger than you". Jokingly, I said "Well, when I'm 30, you'll be old, and then I'll be stronger than you".

He then started to slap me, over and over again, slowly, methodically, and with such contempt and hatred in his eyes, saying "You little twerp, I'll teach you to say that to ME". Afterwards, he acted grandiose and still unforgiving.

Several months later, I told him this event bothered me but I love him and I've forgiven him. He said "I don't even remember that, you must be mistaken, but I forgive you too, see I've already forgotten about it, so it was nothing." Without looking me in the eyes.

For me, the love affair was basically over then. I realized there was something profoundly disturbing about my father.

Once, around that time, he gave me the silent treatment - a regular punishment, where I needed to realize what I'd done to offend him this time and apologize in order to get the grandiose reconciliation and be loved and noticed again - and I just couldn't think of what my offense could have been. As it turned out, he didn't like what I'd written about his mother in my diary.

I was supposed to know he reads my diary and I'm not allowed to be honest in it. 

If I was ever angry with him, I wasn't allowed to show it. Not even make a face in another room - he'd catch me. Not even bang my head against the wall in my own room - he'd barge in and yell that I wasn't allowed to be mad at him.

At 13, I wrote a coded message to my mother, saying "I love you and thank you for the shorts you made me". For some reason, I added "I hate dad". He took the message. DECODED IT. Showed it to me. Offended, angry, grandiose, frowning, dead-eyed. I tried to get out of it. I think I even lied, saying I didn't mean it and that I was expressing my friend's current emotions, as she was having dad-trouble at the time. It wasn't a full lie, as I didn't realize at the time why I felt the need to write that. Don't all 13-year-olds write they hate their parents at some point?

Red flag: it wasn't just the "I hate dad" part that got me into trouble - he was cold and full of hatred and rage for months after that. It was the "I love you, mom" thing too. "Why are you so grateful for a stupid pair of shorts?" 

Maybe I wasn't. But his love was always "apparent" in all the things he'd always done for me - and I don't even remember any, but this was repeated ad nauseum. So I thought I needed an "excuse" to show love to my mom.

When my mom died and he found a new girlfriend and I got married and moved an hour away... I no longer existed. I'd served my purpose. My once obsessive, "worrying", doting father rarely called, came to visit 2 times in 3 years, wasn't interested in my grad studies or my pregnancy or his granddaughter.

I thought he just lost interest because he had "another woman" in his life now.

I had horrible PPD and was angry at God for "ignoring" me. While my earthly father was ACTUALLY ignoring me, and I couldn't admit that to myself or allow myself to be angry at HIM. It was less scary to be angry at God.

But then, when I was defending my M.Phil. thesis, he came! He bragged about me to all the professors and then, instead of "Congratulations" or "Good job" he said "Thank you for making this possible for ME."

Then I was again on the radar when I moved back into the city. My first daughter was now old enough to be a brand new little mirror. He'd spent maybe ten hours with her, never alone, never noticing her, and then I really needed him to babysit. Once. For a total of 90 minutes. He took her out, they played, and when he went home, she started crying. Because he took off in the middle of a game. And because she was 3, and this is what 3-year-olds do when anything fun stops.

He called later. Said he was the only one who understood my poor daughter. That she was sensitive, just like him. That we're obviously neglecting her, because she cried when he left, he, the only person who ever paid any attention to her in her young life. He got all this from 90 minutes with her.

I hung up. Went on a family forum and wrote about this. Was told to look up NPD. And then the lightbulb moment happened.

I told him this discussion was off limits. That I was only interested in a relationship which included respect between two adults. He's been faking it well.

The mean, degrading, critical comments that have been the norm whenever we were alone ever since I declared my independence, were, I realized, the consequence of me saying something about myself, because I assumed he was interested.

"I got a job at the X university", for instance, got a disgusted face and "That's not as prestigious a university as Y" (that X is actually better than Y is beside the point here).

Recently, he called me to ask where I worked. After 3 years, he didn't know. But a neighbor of his apparently seemed interested and potentially impressed, so now he needed the information.

If I worked in a factory, wouldn't my father remember which factory? Wouldn't he be interested in anything I was doing, simply because I was his child?

But he's not. And he doesn't know anything about me now. He probably never did.

Now I don't volunteer any information about myself. I wait to see if he'll ask anything. He doesn't. He goes through his laundry list of chores he did that day. I listen and pray for him. I ask him about his family. He recites their successes. I listen with a sad smile and hear a very different story, a story of a horrible narcissistic mother. But that's another post.

1 comment:

  1. I have been lurking for a while. I finally have the courage to post.
    Our stories are similar. Thank you for sharing yours.
    i am just starting to learn how the impact of my father's NPD and possible ADHD has affected my life. It seems like many of the blogs of ACoN are dealing with NM's, so I am thankful to find yours.
    I am learning from you and your journey.
    Thank you so much


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