Friday, November 30, 2007

Anxiety & Depression

As much as I try to focus on the normal day to day activities of my life I find my mind wandering and wondering about my confrontation with my father on Saturday. Provided he is home and willing to talk, this will be one of my life's defining moments. It must be this knowledge that is forcing me to think about it.

As the time draws closer, I admit to feeling more nervous, more anxious, and surprisingly more scared. I think that what may be scaring me the most is that I know how this is going to play out. I predict he will try and placate me and blame my mother for the majority of things. When that happens, I know it will be at this point that I start to lose it.

Despite how horrible it may sound, I want to hear the truth from him, or at least what he has convinced himself to be the truth. To the best of my knowledge he has never had to answer for his actions, or inactions towards myself or even my sisters. I'm tired of ignoring the past and giving him a free pass for helping to make my childhood into a complete mess. He has no way of answering me and making me feel better, and I accept that. What I will no longer accept is his teflon ability to avoid accountability for his lack of parenting.

When it is all said and done, what may be the most frightening thing to me is the official revelation that he just doesn't care about me, or just doesn't love me. I suspect it, I truly do, but that validation will feel like I've been hit by an entire mountain. It's going to hurt, but I'm not going to be able to get past this, let go, and heal from all the wounds he's caused me without confronting him.

In the end, once I've come to terms with everything that happens, I'll be able to stand much prouder as a man, as a husband, and most importantly as a father.

Fate has allowed me a great opportunity to prepare for this day with a nice outing with my son Ryan who will be going for his first haircut. Then he and I are going shopping for some new toys and a few pairs of jeans for daddy. Once the terror of the haircut is done I think he's going to have a great time and I may even treat him to his favorite drink, pumpkin spice coffee (decaff of course). More than anything else, this will prepare me for what I will face the next day. Besides, how can I go wrong taking Ryan out on the town with me????

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Confronting My Father

As all of my issues from the past are being stirred up and mixed with my depression, I've written about how tough a go things have been for me of late. They've reached a point now where I've finally agreed to go back on medication to help treat this. I still absolutely hate it, but I don't want to end up taking things out on my kids, so I put their needs ahead of my own wishes and decided to give it a go again.

As I was explaining all this to Ivan last week, we somehow segued into the topic of my father. As we talked about all the things he's done to me in my life, which almost all center around his abandoning me several times through out my life, all of the hurt and anger I have over this came welling up to uncomfortable levels. After talking about my feelings and expressing myself in the form breaking some art supplies Ivan asked me how I felt and I said kind of off-handedly that I wish I could just confront him about everything he's done.

Ivan said. "Why don't you?"

I sat there staring for a few minutes and I realized there wasn't any good reason I shouldn't. As I thought about whether or not I should do this, I felt a small weight being lifted from my shoulders as I leaned more and more into that direction. So that's what Ive decided to do, I'm going to talk to my dad and confront him about the horrible way he's treated me for almost 39 years. I'm also going to do it this weekend too.

Some friends and loved ones I've mentioned this to have expressed concern and some surprise with the speed in which I've decided this and decided to execute it, and I'm grateful for their interest and support. This has really been a long time coming, at least 7 years, but really longer than that.

Come Saturday morning, I intend to show up unannounced at his place and ask him the following questions:

  • Why was I treated so inferior as compared to my two half-brothers?
  • Why did he offer to have me come live with him, and then refuse to take me when I asked him to?
  • How come he never paid child-support to my mother when I was a child growing up?
  • Why didn't he come to my wedding?
  • Why didn't he call me instead of calling my aunt to tell me this?
  • What did I do to deserve to be treated this way by him?

I have no idea how this is all going to work out though, or even if he'll be home. Knowing my luck I'll drive all the way out there and he no one will be home. I prefer for him and I to be able to go into a private room at his house and do this, but he may bot allow for that. I can't even know if he'll be willing to talk and answer these questions, he's a liar and a coward, so there is no way to know what he'll do.

The thing about this whole confrontation is that I can't imagine any possible answers that could absolve him his past. I'm not interested in having him be a part of my life, or my children's or anything like that. I'd just like the chance to let him know how much he's hurt me and screwed me over and I'd like to hear how he responds to those questions.

I'll be solidifying the hows and whys with Ivan tonight so that I have a more solid game plan going in. Once I've figured that out, I'll most likely write about that here before Saturday.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Horizon

Lately my therapy sessions have been exhausting and frustrating. I've left them feeling aggravated and less sure of what I am doing or even what I want to do, or even what my exit strategy should be. I think what this means is that I'm being challenged to look at solutions to my problems that I've tried to avoid for many years. All the progress I'm making is eventually going to come to an end point, and while I'd love to have this wrapped up in a tidy little package in time for the holidays, I have to face the realization that it may not happen.

That means I may be facing a holiday season without my family for the first real time in my life. No dinners, no get-togethers, no phone calls. Even though I often feel stressed and frustrated when I participate in any of the former activities, I've always tried to stay connected.

Barring any miracles, I just don't see it happening. Sorting through all of the memories and pain of the past just serves to remind me of all the feelings of hurt, neglect, and abuse that I went through. I tried for so many years to ignore these things and try to just move past them, but it's almost impossible to do this even though I truly thought I had a handle on it. The surprising thing is that what made me realize this wasn't what came out of my therapy sessions with Ivan, but in real situations with my wife and kids.

Just growing and spending time as a family brought these issues from my childhood up and I was unable to handle these unexpected feelings and they came out as anger and frustration directed towards my undeserving wife and kids. That was a situation that I couldn't allow to happen again and taint the life I wanted for my beautiful kids and wonderful wife. They are everything to me and I have to protect them and myself, which is why I've taken time away from everyone so that I could sort through my mess and set up new boundaries to live by.

But if I were to relax this plan, even for a brief timeout for the holidays, I'd be invalidating everything I've tried to accomplish to this point and I'd have to start again from scratch. I can't, and I won't do that. Yeah, it's going to be hard, but it would be harder, and possibly unsuccessful, if I did this any other way. As it is now, I'm just barely holding it together and that's not an exaggeration. I'm tired of the sleepless nights, anxiety pains, and the horror that I might fail and lose everything I hold dear to me. It's no way to live.

But as each day brings me to the brink of tears and self-destruction, I'm fortunate enough to have my children to give me strength and make me laugh when I'm down, or my wife to love me and calm me and stay grounded, and my friends that have gone through this and are there for me, as well as my friends who haven't been through this but are there for me regardless. I have to get better for myself because they all believe in me and through them I slowly learn to believe in myself and exactly who I really am.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Communication Breakdowns

On the advice of my therapist, who I will always refer to as Ivan because she doesn't want her name out on this blog due to confidentiality reasons, I have been avoiding my family members that I am having some issues with.

The first thing you need to understand is that I am one of those people who always answers the phone, regardless of anything because you never know what may potentially happen. Day or night, good or bad, I've always taken phone calls. So for me to avoid and screen all my calls is something new for me. Ivan suggested that if I didn't recognize a number on my caller ID, I should let it go to my voice mail. That's exactly what I have been doing and it really helped with my stress.

The only problem with this is that the people I'm ignoring don't know about this and they keep calling. While I am justified to take this stance, it's also hard on them not knowing. It wasn't until my sister sent me an email that I decided to momentarily interact again. I tried to imagine myself in her place and realized she should be told what I was doing because it was only fair.

But even as much as I felt this was the case, I hated the prospect of telling her because I knew she would not handle this well or respectfully. I knew that telling her I felt hurt and beaten up and I would need time to process everything that happened, she wouldn't listen to what I would ask her. That's why I struggled with responding, but eventually I emailed her back when I was ready. I did this even though I believed that instead of honoring my request, she would begin a new round of accusations and attacks against me and my wishes.

There was no comfort in being correct. Regardless of what anyone thinks, when she disrespected my wishes for space and privacy to sort things out for myself and laid into me for wanting to take that stance, I never felt good, or superior, or vindicated. Again, she hurt me by choosing to attack me.

All she had to do was say something supportive and acknowledge that she understood what I wanted, even if she didn't agree with me. But that's not how things work in my family, at least not when I try to talk.

What often happens when I try to explain myself or a point is that I am cut off in mid sentence, and then denounced as being arrogant, or cold-hearted, or acting as though I know everything. When I try to re-establish what it is I was trying to say after this initial opening shot against me, I am often blatantly ignored as they introduce a new topic that diverts the conversation into a new direction (often with a statement or accusation for me to defend) or they'll want to start the original argument all over again. It's counterproductive and highly stressful. Don't get me wrong, there isn't a script or set structure to this, but that's a pretty good summary of how conversations are in my family.

And that's what happened when my sister wrote me back.

But my counseling has helped me to avoid getting pulled into to these unhealthy tactics and to stay focused on communicating my intentions or positions. I simply ignore all of it and just try to restate my previous comments politely, but firmly. If I feel I need to add some additional information to help get my point across, I do it, but I mainly just restate my initial request.

I have to be honest here and say how hard it was for me to do that. I have some ideas as to why my sister acted the way she did and said the things she said, but they still angered me and hurt me further. The names she called me were unfair and wrong and I felt that after all these years of trying to get closer to each other, she truly has no idea of who I am and how I treat people. The assumptions she made about how I treat people were short sighted and I feel as though she operates on a false ideal, or image of me, and it's one that I find repulsive.

But I am proud of myself because followed the steps and tools Ivan and I talked about in our sessions and let them go (although I Will bring them up later at the appropriate time because they need to be addressed) so that I could restate what I wanted and get back to processing what I needed to do.

I fully expected my sister to jump further along the path of emotional chaos and bring her next response loaded with a world of hurt. I am so thankful and happy that didn't happened.

Instead, she acknowledged what I wanted, agreed to respect it, and even went a step further and offered to be there for me if I needed her. I am so proud of her for finding the strength to do this productively. That was precisely the response I needed. If she discovers this blog and reads this post I hope she realizes how sincere I am about this. It's a major step for us to be able to move forward once I'm ready.

This is also why I've decided to use email for most, if not all, of my correspondence with her because it allows me to be in control of expressing myself without interruptions.

I don't know what the final outcome will be, but I have more hope now than I did before.