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CHRONIC TONIC posts on Thursdays at 9 p.m. EST. It is a place to share stories, advice, and information and to connect with others with chronic health conditions and those who care for them. Our diarists will report on research, alternative treatments, clinical trials, and health insurance issues through personal stories. You are invited to share in comments (and note if you'd like to be a future diarist).

Tonight's diary by: anonymous

We didn't get a diarist on health issues to show up, so you're getting the benefit of what's on my mind tonight.

Sorry for the anonymity, friends.  It's just that I'm going to express some things I've learned, some feelings, and it's likely that those about whom these feelings are would be hurt to know this is how I feel.

I guess it's actually more complicated than that... for a long stretch, I really tried to communicate about how I was feeling, and I didn't get anywhere.  I think what I was wanting was to be seen and heard, but since that didn't come to pass, I didn't get to find out if getting that would fill the void I've been carrying with me for 3/4 of my life or longer.

I guess this story works best by beginning close to this end of it.  I moved half way across the country from home in January a few years back.  I was very ill.  It was very scary.  I felt very alone.

I returned 'home' the end of that year, ahead of the holidays, so I could be there for my father's birthday as his odometer changed in mid-December.  Being there for his birthday meant that I was NOT there for the holidays, which I would have love to have been, but it seemed to me that coming for the birthday was the right thing to do.

Not sure I'd make that same choice now given what I learned back then, but I likely would not have learned any other way...

So, I hadn't been home in the better part of a year.  After all the plans were made, I got a phone call either from my father or my stepmother - maybe it was both.  They needed to tell me that my father has Parkinson's disease because it would be clearly evident when I saw him.  Apparently, he'd known about the diagnosis since before I left, but they decided to not share that with me.  But since I would now be confronted with it visually, they needed to warn me.  Or something.

I did not know what to expect.  I'd been aware that Dad's cognition had become more challenged, and that his athletic abilities, such as they had been, had substantially eroded.

But this all had the feeling of some kind of line in the sand - some kind of mark that I was not sufficiently intimately connected with him (them) to have been told about what was going on.

His tremors were quite noticeable.  His response time to conversation and general ambulation were notably slowed.

I am sorry he is hurting.  And I know quite a bit about diminished mental and physical capacity, so on some levels, I feel a sense of compassion for his situation.  And then I remember that apparently, he is not interested in my compassion - they only reason I am told of his situation is because I will see it.

So, on the plane as I return from the trip, I realize that my window has closed - that the time to try to find a way into relationship with the daddy I was so in love with as a very small person, the man who walked away before I no longer really needed him there all the time... the time was over to try to heal what had been lost so many years before.  All gone.

I suppose that realization helped me fundamentally.  As silly as it may seem, the major motivating force in my life has been trying to get back to those moments when I felt loved and whole as a small person with a wonderful daddy.

It was really only a few short years he played the role of 'Daddy' in my life.  I remember the fighting between them and how I willed myself away from the discord.  I don't remember the time or times when he stormed out and my mother thought he'd taken me with him, only to find me crouched and hiding under furniture many hours later.  I was two and a half when my brother was born.  By then, my father had started leaving for days or weeks at a time.

We moved as a family when I was six just ahead of first grade.  By Christmas, he had moved out and a boyfriend of my mother's would come to stay.  I inadvertently discovered that there was no Santa Claus as all the other innocences where smashing at my feet.

He'd moved out.  My brother and I would see him on weekends and sometimes stay at his place.  We ate at Arby's and McDonalds.  

When first grade ended, my mother moved my brother and me 2000 miles away.  I saw my father only two times the year I was in second grade.  I remember holding my breath so my emotions wouldn't swallow me.  A friend of mine in school explained to me that I did not have a father.  I, uh, never could get her to understand that just because he didn't live with me didn't mean I didn't have one.  But as I write this now, I realize that in many ways, she was more correct than I was.  He wasn't there.  He didn't see my struggles, he didn't feel them.  He didn't encourage me.  He didn't help me know that I belong.

My mother likes to be larger than life.  She has BIG emotions, and it is important to her that people respond to them in BIG ways.  She likes a lot of information all at once, and she often sees things as first black and then white - beautiful and wonderful beyond description and then hideous and unloveable and unworthy.  Of course I was those things to her because everything and everyone in her world was part of that for her.  Big.  Significant.  Wonderful-then-horrible.  And she screams.  Back then, it was a lot.  It wasn't, I'm sure, but it felt like always.  I was always in trouble for acting like 'Goody-Two Shoes,' trying to get everything right all the time so that the firestorm would not come down upon me.  Unless I was in trouble for whatever I'd done wrong.  The tantrums always had an arc.  They required my contrition and admissions of wrong doing, and especially my being broken somehow.  It wasn't enough to say I'd do it differently next time, or to explain what I had been trying to do when I hadn't done whatever it was correctly... I would try to stay calm and together and do whatever was required.  But was was required was that I understand exactly how wrong and unworthy I was.  I apparently needed to listen to it, again and again, hour after hour, outrage upon outrage at my audacity and outrageousness.  Until I had run in every direction I possibly could, offered every explanation or promise I could possibly think up... and finally, in exhaustion and exasperation, I would tumble over the cliff and watch the walls run up over my head, and I would just sob because there was no way for me to negotiate my way out of that storm.

...and then it would get substantially worse.  When I would finally tumble, lose control and sob, she would hold me as if to comfort me.  But by then, I was so traumatized that all I knew was that it was not ok for me to be feeling whatever I was feeling and that I was not safe.

Somehow, it was what she needed...My losing it would break the spell of her raging, and she imagined herself a comforting and compassionate mother.

I love her, but my earliest memories of her are from recurring nightmares.

So, I never blamed my father for leaving, but I always felt that at some point he would come back for me.  Surely, he could not leave his beloved children with a woman who could act like a monster, right?

Always, I imagined ways he might be in my life again, show me the world as he had when I was tiny.  I tried to be really, really good.  I was patient.  And I kept making up ways it might happen.

It never did come to pass, of course, but I developed some habits which protected me then but haven't served me well as an adult.  I began living in a future which would never arrive.  I didn't understand this, and I did not understand what the difference was between wanting things to be better and being present with things the way they are.

I guess my biggest dream was that I would magically reconnect with him through my children.  He was brilliant with me as a toddler, if I gave him a grandchild, perhaps I could see him be that way to a child of mine, and I would be able to absorb what I had missed so devastatingly from my own life when it disappeared.

But it hasn't happened that I have had a child.  I've chosen partners badly.  I've still been pursuing the fairy tale father I lost so many years ago.  Recognizing that pattern hasn't actually helped me to break that pattern.  I'm honestly not sure that I can, although I have literally spent decades trying to think and feel and choose my way out of those patterns.

Somehow, I thought, if he could just hear what it was like for me, perhaps that would be enough.  Perhaps I would somehow feel more substantial, more real, more like I count and like I belong.

But they said 'no thank you' when I asked to share my experience.  They only heard that I wanted to make them wrong.  I didn't care so much about rightness or wrongness, I just wanted to feel like I exist.  I just wanted to be heard.

The metaphor is likely pretty close to correct.  I kept nearly not existing in these spectacularly dramatic and traumatic events bringing me past the brink of life.  Three times I was retrieved and brought back.  I never really knew quite why.

After one of those times, my father and stepmother actually moved in with my then husband and me for several weeks to help us through the struggle.  For a short time, I had a family.  I had lost a baby and my husband had lost his mother.  But for a time, I felt like I had support - you know, the kind you can count on.

That was a life time ago now.  My new marriage lasted a year after that.  I've been sorting myself out since, I guess.  Probably trying to figure out the lessons of the parts of childhood I didn't actually have.

It's been four years since I realized my time for working things out with my father had expired.  Recently, I've noticed that he and I just have different definitions of family.  What I see as his image of a father-daughter relationship looks to me like distant cousins who would be happy to know that extended family is doing well, but not interested enough to know more than that.

It felt like more than that when I was small.  Until it was gone.  I did not find a way to get it back like I was absolutely positive I would some day.  Life went on.  His days are mostly past.  Mine haven't added up to what I thought they would, but they're mine, and I've done ok, given the challenges.  It's not anything to write home about, I guess.

But. I. Am. Ok.  Maybe healing begins with letting go of what was never really there.

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Comment Preferences

  •  thanks for being here tonight (14+ / 0-)

    "Injustice wears ever the same harsh face wherever it shows itself." - Ralph Ellison

    by KateCrashes on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 06:03:03 PM PDT

  •  beautifully written yet (15+ / 0-)

    so hard to read. This is as real as it gets. Thank you for sharing.

  •  I hope you find peace on your journey (10+ / 0-)

    I, too, am missing this huge void in my life when it comes to family, parenting, growing up....I have a notion of what people mean when they say the words, but my experience has been so twisted I know I don't have a clue as to what they're talking about.

    I'm fucking 48 years old and only Jesus recently was everything clear as to what happened, crystal clear about what felonies happened over the years, what the sick denial was all about and of course why I didn't do well.  I cannot believe all the vast expanses of years in different places that were utterly futile, I was lost until I got to this place.

    It was and is very hard to know the grave is waiting right there any day for those people and they will do nothing.  Nothing about what I went through, what sick fuckups they are, they searing rage at realizing they'll just skate.  Your life, one of those things.  Sorry.

    So it is all up to me, I'm still adjusting to it.  I never substantively speak to them, ever, and I show up for the ceremonial stuff.  For them, nothing is their reward for saying nothing at all, for leaving me out here on my own in utter misery all those years.

    Someday peace may come to us.  Sooner rather than later, we can hope.

    [chews lip] Yeah, sooner.

  •  Alcoholic, emotionally unavailable fathers... (12+ / 0-)

    Rageaholic, batshit crazy mothers....I know it well. What I had to realize in order to heal is to recognize that they both did the best they could at the time. Maybe not the best they knew how to do, but the best they could based on their own crazy, broken childhoods.

    I had to learn to let go of the illusion that either of them could ever be there for me. I had to forgive them for not being able to give me what I needed. I had to learn to seek that nurturing from people who were capable of giving it to me. I had to learn that you can't change other people; you can only change yourself.

    I'm sorry you're in so much pain. Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver, and The Brady Bunch are not real. It would be nice if all little girls had good Daddies that loved them, and Mothers that did not betray them. Unfortunately not many children have those storybook parents. I don't know many people that did. I have to create that for myself and parent myself the way that I dreamed my own Daddy and Mother should. I even asked a male friend to rock me in a rocking chair one time while I cried. He was enough of a friend to do that for me and not be embarrassed. He even stroked my hair and said, " There,'re a GOOD girl." The very words I so needed to hear.

    I can only tell you what has worked for me. Give yourself permission to give yourself what you need. That door may never have been open at all. I'm so sorry.

    One Life ♥ One Heart ♥ One Love

    by Donna O on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 06:52:28 PM PDT

  •  Sorry, I'm late to the dance tonight. (7+ / 0-)

    I was a birthday dinner with some friends this evening.  I came out alright with the parents department.  Not that they were perfect or anything.  Dad was always kinda aloof and distant, more in his own world.  But, as I got older, he became more 'involved'.  But, it wasn't really ever hands on.  He's more of a friend than anything else now.  Mom.... I never could do right by her.  I was never smart enough, pretty enough, etc... there was always something not right about me.  After she died, I found out a few tidbits of her childhood.  It gave me some insight as to why she acted the way she did with us.  She was never a 'friend'.  She always sat in judgment of me.  Right now, I'm glad she's not around.  Cause I just know she'd be brow beating me for not doing something right about finding a job.  Something must be wrong with me because I've not gotten a job yet.

    Last Friday, I got a call for an in-person interview this past Tuesday.  I think it went well.  I had a phone interview yesterday.  Don't have a warm fuzzy for that one.  This afternoon I had a screening hr call for another job.... it would be in Franklin, TN.  When asked what price, I said 60k.  She asked if I knew anything about TN, yes... no income tax and 11% sales tax, roughly same costs as living here.... She asked if I'd be willing to negotiate... ok.... afterwards I looked up apartments there.  They have NO apartments for less than 1k a month.  And they think I should work for less than 60k with rent like that?!?!?!?!?!  What planet are they on???  Technically, I could make it, but please.....  I've not heard back on the other 3 positions with this particular company, nor have I on the other 3 with another company (that just changed CEOs 4 hours ago).  So, back to waiting.....

    •  Was curious about how things have been going (6+ / 0-)

      ...any more word since Tuesday on that gig?

      ELEVEN% sales tax?!  What are those people smoking?

      'Give away to the rich and punish the poor for the extravagance.....crazy' --LaFeminista

      by MsGrin on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 07:42:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I won't hear anything about the Tuesday (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MsGrin, triv33, Ice Blue, shari

        interview for at least another week.  There are at least 4 more people to interview and each will take 3 hours.  So, it's going to take a couple of weeks to get through the interviews.

        They have no State income tax.  They only get money through sales/property tax for everything.  I recall when I was in grad school in that area, that the local elementary schools were having funding issues for everything. And that was in 1990.  Sales tax was 10% then....

        •  There are communities around Franklin (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nchristine, MsGrin

          that should have lower rental rates for apts or houses. Check Spring Hill, Columbia,  Murfressboro, etc.

          Sales tax is still just under 10%. Income tax is only on investment income.

          God knows we need some more sensible people in TN.

          Good luck.

          You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

          by sewaneepat on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 04:40:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'm here latish. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy2009, nchristine, MsGrin, jabney

    Out at dad's. I spent most of the forepart of the week sick as a dog, but when I come back I always come back well, and it's good because Thursday and Friday are demanding days.

    I take the laundry (load and unload baskets on both ends) out to my father in law's house, because (1) I'm there anyway all night, might as well do something, and (2) Dad's house is all on one level. Going to my basement in the course of doing the laundry runs through spoons like an ice cream social for me.

    I also take the foodstuffs to make a Good Meal for everyone. Generally of the meat and potatoes variety, and I always do biscuits, because Dad likes biscuits and then I can do bread pudding for him with the leftover ones. I do all the dishes I create, too. So I put through, fold and hang six or so loads of laundry, get up at what is for me the middle of the night to give Dad his morning meds and do his breakfast and feed his animals, and then pack it all up, go home, unpack all the laundry and foodstuffs and put it away, and get ready to go to the club for the evening. I spend most of Saturday asleep. I don't think this is at all surprising.

    Tonight I'm working on the rather mundane job of putting elastic in the cuffs of several blouses where it has worn out, while wathing movies.

    When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

    by Alexandra Lynch on Thu Sep 22, 2011 at 09:16:09 PM PDT

  •  lowering expectations is right. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nchristine, MsGrin

    i realize that i am often busy on other things and miss CT, but i fill in when I can and i volunteer when asked to help out.

    Tonight I asked for help from YOU guys because I really needed support for the Moving Planet Earthship, a project I have been working on with no help from what remains of the eco team here at Kos.

    No body showed up.

    Feeling really  hurt and disappointed right now.

  •  ((((Anonymous)))) (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nchristine, MsGrin, jabney, ladybug53

    I don't know if it helps to know that many of us are in similar situations.

    Like Donna O, it helped me when I realized that my dad was giving as much emotionally as he was able, and that that was sadder for him than for me and that both my parents did the best they could. Just like I did with my kids - nowhere near perfect, but the best I was able under the circumstances at any given time.

    The other thing that helped me was meditation. Particularly with a teacher who somehow  helped me get to the place of forgiveness. I remember the specific instance when that happened. It was an emotionally draining experience in that I felt all the feelings of abandonment I was trying to repress, but afterwards, there was such a release of expectations, resentments, and pain. At that point there was nothing left to forgive. My regret is that my parents were deceased before this happened, but even so, it changed my life.

    You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

    by sewaneepat on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 04:52:55 AM PDT

  •  i came back and read your diary again (0+ / 0-)

    today. I wanted to say again how brave and powerful you are for sharing this and for allowing yourself to reveal those frightened, bewildered, lost and hurt parts of yourself that many of us can relate to so well.

    Thank you again. I struggle still with a family that grows further and further divided ... i live 3000 miles away and have since 1973! I rarely see any of them. But things still shatter whenever we get together. The pain still returns at realizing that the never knew me. And there is always a part of me that goes but what if they actually do and I am this horrible , ugly, lazy waste of a person they think i am?

    Such a powerful, powerful and painful share.

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