ok so I have been contemplating doing this post for a while now but didn’t think it seemed relevant to the topics I discuss here on RwS, nor did it go along with my “past is in the past” mantra. I have a lot of “skeletons in the closet” so to speak. As the About me section of this blogs states – I really did a lot of lifestyle changes. Trust me, you’re no where near ready for the old me. Most of you wouldn’t believe it!
However, since I have mentioned this to a few people in comments already I have decided it’s time to tell you about the one family member who you’ve never seen featured on the blog, my father.
Given the responses to my anxiety post way back when, most of which I was completely surprised about (given that I felt like me talking about anxiety and negativity may be a bad idea for a foodie, runner blog) how many of you suffer from anxious feelings yourselves. I have decided to share this “skeleton” with you…..so read along if you’d like. *warning this is long and there are no pictures*
My father suffered from anxiety disorder and was also an alcoholic. Two diseases that usually go hand in hand. I wouldn’t figure out why that was until my early twenties when I met a boy in my first year of college that suffered from anxiety and drank. He explained everything to me, he explained the endless circle and constant battle; feel scared, worried and anxious – drink to make yourself feel better, drink more to make yourself feel nothing…only to find when you wake up the next day your anxious feelings have come back with re-enforcements and thus, drink again and drink more.
During my childhood I never knew my father as either of those two things. All I knew about him other than “go to this guy when you want your way” was that he was quick to anger, unpredictable and “not nice”. Sure he was fun sometimes but living with someone who isn’t predictable, especially as a young child is a scary thing – you never know what’s going to happen and thus, you never feel safe.
My mother did a great job of covering up for my father’s short-comings but she worked full-time shift work at the hospital and wasn’t around all the time. It wasn’t until I was around 10 or older that I finally realized all those times my dad couldn’t get up to play with me or missed work because he was “sick” were really because he had drank too much the night before. Driven to it through the insanity in his own mind; most likely a result of his own childhood issues and not dealing with them.
However, what ever the reason I suppose my father was drunk a lot more than I ever realized. I was a child, why should I realize? It’s not my job, yet. As I grew older and my dad drank more. I began to realize my parents fought, and they fought a lot. I guess I always knew this, just another unpredictable aspect of growing up in an unstable environment. However, entering my pre-teens and becoming more mature I began to enter these battles. I recall one memory in particular where my parents were having an argument and I was playing the middle-man; going between them and relaying bad messages. Why? I guess I just wanted to fix everything. I felt like living with them was a constant struggle and a pull at my soul. If I think about it now I can still feel this tiny tightness in my heart – the “you’re just like your mother” and the “you’re just like your father” – and if I was just like both of them and they didn’t like each other…..what was I?
It isn’t a surprise that as I grew so did my rebellious nature and my temper. I had no where else to relieve the pent up energy and I had no other way to gain attention from my parents. However, this backfired. My mother continued to blame everything on me and now I had a bigger body my dad could throw around if he needed somewhere to let off some steam. [I was actually telling Colin a few months back "it's not like he hit me all the time" - he said I sounded like a battered wife that was in denial] I still have a few scars on my body as reminders of how easy it was for him to threaten to kill me, throw me into a closet and push me around.
When I was 13 years old I was at one of my soccer games. The game got rained or rather stormed out. When we (my mom, me and my sibs) returned home we found a very intoxicated dad. My mom freaked out. I don’t remember everything that went down but I do remember her asking him if he had been drinking and when he said “no” she said well then I guess I’d better call an ambulance because something’s wrong. I also recall my father getting mad, going into the downstairs washroom and throwing his entire bottle of anxiety meds in his mouth. We had one of those old dial phones on the wall and when my mom stated she was calling for an ambulance my father lost it. Nicole and Jason (my two younger siblings) were sitting at the top of the stairs crying as they were so young, too young to witness what was about to go down. To this day I can not stand when someone is that drunk, it makes me very uneasy and scared, even as an adult.
My father was pissed that my mom was calling the police, or 911 or whomever and when he started trying to wrestle her for the phone I just left crying. Unfortunately the fight that went on was too verbal and loud for me to ignore. The phone left dangling off the hook as it recorded everything that happened that stormy night. My father wanted to get his keys to drive. He was drunk so my mom wouldn’t let him. They chased each other around everywhere. I can’t remember what abuse happened as everything is jumbled now but I do recall the coffee table flipping over, me getting on top of my dad and hitting him, trying to make him get off of my mother. He flipped me over and got the keys from my mom. He went to his van and we both followed. I stood in front of the van hoping that I, his eldest daughter would be enough to stop him. I wasn’t. He put the car in drive and if my mom hadn’t pulled me off to the side screaming at him and me there’s no doubt in my mind he would’ve driven over me.
The police got there shortly after and we gave our statements. I had to give one because I had gotten involved. If I hadn’t hit him I wouldn’t have had to say anything. My father ended up going to jail but only for a few days to a week. He was no longer allowed at our house, he stayed with his mother, my Grandmother. Finally we went to go see him and I remember his words as clear as if they were being spoken to me right now, they still cut like a knife as I type them out, “you didn’t have to be so damn descriptive”. I hadn’t seen my father in however long and those were his first words to me; his 13 year old daughter, who needed a father more than anything else.
Needless to say after this event my parents relationship dwindled and so did mine and my fathers. However, my dad had finally made the decision to become sober and he really did change. I was entering my teens and started smoking and this is when I also began realizing I could get male attention from other sources. My father encouraged this with his inappropriate comments and stupid behaviour. Now that I’m older I can only assume he was trying to be perceived as “cool” in a teens outlook but all I took from it was that if I wanted to be liked I’d have better look good and putout. My father and I argued all the time during my teens because my mother had given up fighting him and I just took over where she left off. I can’t even count how many times my father “disowned” me saying I was no longer his daughter.
Eventually my parents got separated and believe me it was like a breath of fresh air. We wanted this man out of our lives. He was toxic. I still didn’t get along with my mother and it didn’t help that she continuously compared my to the man I thought was insane and hated by all. So my father and my relationship basically dwindled. He began filling the void in his life with other women. He moved into his own place, which was fine, but I always felt like such an idiot when people would ask where does your dad live? in regards to why I didn’t see him very much. I’d respond a neighbouring city that was literally a 20min drive at most. This point in my father’s and my relationship is very fuzzy because while he was sober, he was absent and therefore I spent much of my spare time drinking, partying and hanging out with boys or men that WOULD give me the attention I so despretly needed.
The women in my father’s life came and went but finally there was one that stuck around. She was alright and always tried to be a part of the family. However, there wasn’t much of a family there. For years the only time I ever saw my father was a Christmas and he would always have a girl friend with him. I don’t know if he felt embarrassed at his relationship with his children or was completely oblivious to how we felt but he’d always act like nothing had happened and come and try to hug and kiss us. I hated that feeling. It reminds me of every man I ever let touch me. Inside my heart I knew they could all care less about me. That energy is branded on my soul – never to be forgotten; complete disregard for my emotions. I did always wonder what the girl friends thought. Surely they must’ve known we hated being around our dad. Not because we didn’t love him but because nothing was ever resolved and we never felt important enough. There was no relationship.
In my eyes there was always time made for my siblings but never for me. My therapist would later explain years later that that was because I wanted energy/attention from my dad and my siblings didn’t – thus is the circle of relationships. I recall one day in particular; father’s day. I was working at the mall and had saved up money and bought my dad some nice shirts. When he showed up he opened my gifts, thanked me and then took Nicole and Jason out on his new boat, there wasn’t room for me. Shattered, I spent the rest of the afternoon crying in my bed. These are the memories that would make me doubt the person I was to this day. I will always feel like my father never loved me. I will always question why that was.
Around my late teens, heck maybe I was even 20 I don’t remember but I couldn’t get a summer job and so my father offered that I could work for him; he owned his own business repairing yachts. During these summer months, although my father still treated me poorly on occasion (just in his nature, I didn’t take it personally) I felt like we were finally beginning to form a relationship that wasn’t based on fear and anger. I had a really great time working for him, I liked his current girl friend and he had maintain sobriety for over 5 years! Things were finally looking up and the prospect of actually including my dad in my life was a rational possibility.
But that was all an illusion and soon the man I knew deep down was back. I worked with a girl Kim that lived above him and I still hate this girl even though I know it isn’t her fault my dad began drinking again, she definitely prodded for reasons why he didn’t and when she found out he had an issue began offering it to him regularly. She took his money, took advantage of his generosity. That’s actually a funny thing about my father, he always made it a point to tell everyone he was “a nice guy” – when really he was just a guy that did things for people that took advantage of him. Kim would eventually try to turn my father against me, not surprisingly my father sided with yet another female over me. However, that would be the least of my worries.
I remember the day I found out my father had started drinking again as clearly as I remember the day Logan was born. It was nice out, the sun was hot. I was outside smoking and the phone rang, it was my father. He didn’t need to say more then Hello, I knew it. My stomach twisted and it wrenched at my heart: he was drunk. I accused him of this and he tried denying it at first. I started to cry. Finally, I had begun developing an actual relationship with my dad and he had to go and start drinking again. I hung up, crushed.
The months and years that went on from there are blank. I saw my father on occasion but it was basically the same song and dance as in the years prior: only at Christmas, with some new girl, awkward and unloving – completely unaware. I spent my time in school, away from everything and slowly began realizing that maybe I did have other things going for me in my life. I made lots of new friends and began excelling in school, at a subject I loved. I lived on my own (with some roommates) and really blossomed.
In my last semester of school my father had a stroke and was not allowed to drive. His doctor informed him that if he didn’t stop drinking (while taking all his countless anxiety meds) he would die. My grades dropped a little and I found it extremely hard to focus. I fell off of the honor roll but managed to graduate with decent grades. Even though I couldn’t even tell you when the last time was that I saw him, my father came to my graduation. I wish I had a copy of the picture my grandmother took of us because I’m sure you can actually see the hurt in my eyes. It was almost like everyone in his family purposely chose to disregard what this was doing to us, to me. It was tearing me apart inside.
The following Christmas my father was not invited to. I remember the energy of that entire event being very thick – as the saying goes, you could cut the tension with a knife. There were some side emotional breakdowns from a few of my fathers siblings, having a hard time leaving my dad out. I remember one story my Aunt told me about my father dropping the milk when he was but a child and my Grandfather beating him and calling him stupid for doing so. I think a lot of the time my father just couldn’t deal with being the scapegoat – a role I knew too well.
I won’t go into it here but at the time I was in a very emotionally abusive relationship and instead of taking on another year at the college I loved that was more than a 2hr drive away I chose to go to a local college and take on another 2 year diploma. I decision I still regret today. I disliked everything about this program and felt, in a lot of cases, I could’ve taught the class. Needless to say I excelled and I actually found that since I felt trapped within my love relationship I would retreat and keep myself busy with studies. Which in turn landed me a peer tutoring job and a spot on the honor roll.
Feeling more confident in myself, I had started attempting to reach out to my father, since I was back in the area but he was just the same toxic person I remembered from before. Nothing had changed and I was stupid to expect it had. Eventually I told him I didn’t want him in my life until he was sober. A fair decision, in my opinion.
The next time I saw him was, of course, at a family Christmas party, where I met yet another girl friend. We only attended this family event because this was the first year my mother had told my father he was not welcome to spend Christmas morning with us, as he would normally pop in to exchange gifts. My siblings and I ignored our dad completely. We had no interest in doing another hug and kiss, fake exchange with someone we felt we barely knew.
However, feeling bad about actually witnessing the state of my father in the flesh, I followed him out for a smoke. I began talking to him. This was December 18th 2005 (the date is important). He broke down and started to cry asking for a relationship with us. I simply told him “Dad, you can have a relationship with us. If YOU want it” – he seemed surprised at this. I told him all about the alcoholic boy I met in school and how he explained the relationship between anxiety and alcohol abuse. I told him that if he needed help and wanted to change, we could be there for him but that he’d have to understand that he hurt us and that things would take time.
As we came back into the house we went our separate ways. I went to sit at my usual post; in the other room with just my brother and sister. After hearing what I had to say my brother waved my dad over. The remainder of the family event was spent with my siblings and my father reminiscing of our childhood and the “good old times”. That day would be the last day I would ever see him again.
On December 31st 2005 I was outside smoking at my ex’s house and the phone was for me. It was my mother. Strange, as I had just gotten off the phone with her telling her that I would call my father this evening as he had sent me an email saying what a great time he had and that he wanted to do something for new years. This time, her voice said it all. I immediately knew something was wrong. I asked, “What?! is it Nic? Jay?! are they alright?!” she replied, “It’s your father” ….”He’s dead”. I immediately fell to the hard, cold concrete and started bawling. I have no idea what happened next but I drove to my moms and met my brother and sister there.
Once inside we waited for the cops to arrive. I had no idea whether my dad had been in an accident, had a stroke or whatever else. When the police arrived they told us something I never expected to hear, “He took his own life, there were no signs of foul play”. Even typing this out right now I can’t believe anyone could do that. My father hung himself at 50 years old. He chose to die. It is something that has been extremely difficult for me to deal with. For I will never gain the closure my heart seeks.
No note, no explanation, no reason.
I managed to finish my school semester with amazing grades, only to barely make it through the following year. I went crazy. Literally. I seriously felt insane. I numbed myself with drugs, alcohol and basically didn’t know what to do. It wouldn’t be until years later when I finally figured out that I was loved, I am important and it’s probably better that I don’t have to deal with that toxic man in my life and to top it off found one amazing father for my own child :)
Obviously the loss of a parent or anyone of significance is something I will battle till the end of my days. I missed him at my wedding, I missed him at Logan’s birth and I miss him today: what would’ve been his 57th birthday. However, now I’ve accepted that there is nothing to figure out and no one can ever tell me why he chose to do that. It’s in my hands whether I get up and accept it or wallow around waiting for some miraculous healing that isn’t going to come.
Dad, I miss you but I’m glad you’re not coming back.
I have come a long way from everything that has happened. However, just typing this out over the last few months in small segments is enough to tell me, I’m not “over it” suicide is hard because it’s unexpected. The people dying have a choice. I am not saying all death isn’t hard, because it is. Death only hurts the living, as the saying goes. Suicide hurts the soul. There are so many bad things associated with suicide it really is hard to get closure. Most belief systems and religions don’t view choosing your own death too highly. I will just always wonder what was so bad you couldn’t talk about it and deal with it? Why weren’t we worth enduring for?
I found this quote a week after my father died and for anyone who may have stumbled here dealing with suicide themselves, I’ll share it with you:
“Suicide is not chosen, it happens when pain exceeds our resources for coping with pain”
Here are some other links you may find helpful:
- Canadian Mental Health Association
- Mental Heath America
- Suicide Hotlines
- Survivors of Suicide
- Al-Anon Family Group
- Alcoholics Anonymous
I have closed the comments on this post but if you need help, want to talk or wish to share your story feel free to contact me.