Monday, June 8, 2009

And it all comes back to you...

Like most young girls, I idolized my father. He was my hero. He could kick anyone's ass. He was smarter than everyone, better than everyone, funnier than everyone. He could protect me from anything.

But he had a temper. A major temper.

It wasn't that he was angry all the time.

It was that, sometimes, he'd get on edge. And the littlest thing that would not have bothered him an hour before would send him into an explosive rage that he could not contain, that he had no control over, and he would not hold himself back, no matter who he was laying into.

When I was younger, it was my mom, and occasionally, myself.

I realized what he was doing when I was about 9 or 10.

I love my mother.

So, whenever he would get near to blowing up, I would provoke him.

I remember too well, huddling in a bathtub with my sister in some hotel out in the desert, listening to him scream at her in the other room, ripping into her before leaving her sobbing while he drove off into the night with no word as to where he was going.

It had been my fault because I wanted to eat off of the adult menu at the restaurant we went to for dinner because I was really hungry and none of the kids meals looked good. He told me that last time I tried to eat off of the adult menu, I didn't finish my meal, so I would not be allowed to waste money again by ordering more food than I could eat.

My mother stood up for me, saying that we were on vacation and that I'd eaten off of the adult menu a lot and it was only that one time I did not finish my meal.

For some reason, this sent him over the edge.

We did not get dinner.

He flipped out and dragged us out of the restaurant, my little sister totally distraught.

Back to the hotel room, where the only thing I could do was hide with my sister in the bathroom and attempt to keep her calm, entertain her with stories and make a bed in the tub out of towels so she could sleep (if the yelling didn't keep her up) if they went on through the night.

I might have been nine or ten, placing her at four or five.

She still remembers me making us that bed in the tub out of the hotel towels.

After that, I took the attacks for my mother. I never wanted to see her hurt like that again.

Throw yourself on top of the bomb.

And he was a bomb.

Sometimes, a year would go by with no incident.

Sometimes, he'd explode every few months.

Sometimes, there would be build up, we'd know and walk around the house like silent ghosts when he came home, making sure everything was clean and nothing was in his way, bolting off the couch when he opened the front door so he would not see us in his spot.

Sometimes, we'd be having a family meal, laughing and joking like normal, and someone would make another joke about nothing in particular and he would attack. Wild dog.

But he was still my father, still my hero, still protector, still would stop anything from harming me.

Aside from himself.

When I hit fifth grade, it became apparent that I had inherited my family's chronic depression. This is something I've had to battle with my entire life and have coped with it better than any of my other extended family members. Unlike everyone else, it came with a healthy dose of social anxiety, though I'm begining to think that was nutured into me, rather than a genetic predisposition.

Therapy ensued, but nothing was truly helping.

Junior high came and went, me coming home in tears constantly.

I do not remember if it was my freshman year of high school or my last year in junior high, but my mother encouraged me to talk to my father about his experiences with depression, about how it affected his life, about how he dealt with it, and about how it made me feel.

We went on a father-daughter day. Minature golfing and arcade games with pizza, then to Fry's for a quick errand. I remember walking towards the store, finally able to open up and pour out how miserable I was, how everything made me feel so bad all the time, how numb I felt the rest of the time, my tendencies towards self-destructive actions in order to combat the internal numbness and disconnect.

He listened and talked, and I felt so much better afterwards, that I finally had a confidant that would understand me, someone I loved so dearly, who I thought so well of.

It was a wonderful day. We became closer than ever.

A month later, something set him off.

I took the bullet, as was habit, leaping in front of my mother, distraction. Because I fight back. I argue, I become cheeky and sarcastic. I make sure that no one else is going to catch the schrapnel. Focus on me.

He did.

Everything my naive and trusting twelve-year-old self had told him the month prior was ripped apart in front of my mother. Every weakness exposed, every flaw in my character laid open as he tore me to shreds like a rabid animal.

Heh, I'm almost crying right now.

It was a defining moment for me, as much as I would like it not to be.

I remember us, standing the the entry way by the stairs, chandelier above us, my mother following just a few steps behind, but too scared to stop him.

She didn't start standing up to him until very recently. She has always been too afraid.

I try not to hold it against her. I voluntarily took the position of shield and punching bag after all.

It was a devasting day. We were split from each other and, thirteen years later, that rift has yet to heal.

And it's hard to think of all of the ways this has echoed through my life. Overwhelming, almost, in how many areas I have been impacted.

But part of this blog is for accounting.

I was twelve, maybe thirteen. Maybe.

Transitioning from junior high to high school. Hitting puberty. Going from one hell to another. Therapy, eventually my parents giving up on that ever solving the problem and trying a few different prescriptions until my brain chemistry meshed with one enough to pull me out of the pit and get to functionality, to stop being in this sad pit all the time.

I did not get along with my classmates. Through high school, I can honestly say that while I occasionally hung out on the outskirts of social groups as the whipping dog and scapegoat, I only had one actual friend. Sexual harassment became the norm. I did not realize my figure at the time, wishing so much to be one of those whippet thin beauties that reigned over the school, instead of being all curves.

I'm sidetracking myself.

Pull it back.

My relationship with my father was never the same. I never trusted him again. We no longer did father-daughter days, or went on walks in the morning. I spent all of my free time at home on the computer, writing or playing video games. I would write and write and write, up all the time, listening to the few CDs I had over and over, creating so many stories. I did not switch into non-fiction accounts of my life and mind until several years later.

I lived in my room. During summers, I would walk down to Borders, less than a mile away from my house, in the blazing heat, and read comics and fantasy novels all day, occasionally getting ice cream at a Rite Aid that has since shut down.

I started walking the neighborhood dogs during my sophmore year. I'd be all over the community we lived in, dragging or being dragged by anywhere from one to seven dogs at a time. And when I got home, if my father was there, I would retreat back into my room.

I was never lonely.

My parents found it so very odd that I was constantly going off by myself, never cared if I was with other people.

Again, more distraction, more sidetracking.

When he did that, I think he created a fear that never left me. Not just of him, but of people in general. That the most kind, loving, protective and intelligent people could, without provocation, turn into thoughtless and uncontrolled rampaging beasts. That no matter how well I thought of a person, no matter how controlled they were, they could be become nothing but a being of rage and any relationship we might have shared would be reduced to less than nothing in their eyes as they set out to destroy me because of a perceived slight.

Which, quite possibly, is why I am so focused on control, and so desiring of it in a partner, and why I look down on people who are lacking in control over their emotions, who are unaware of themselves, their needs, their issues, the things that push them over the edge.

If you can't monitor yourself, if you can't realize when you're about to break... it scares me. People like that frighten the hell of out me.

When I was about 19, I was at a party. Two people went out to the front of the place and, as a silly gag, I sat behind the door so they could not get back in. One of the two guys that went outside was a man who had been interested in me, who was slowly trying to convince me to be his lover. When he found that he could not get back inside, even though there was no rush, and I did not move immediately, he completely lost it. Screaming and yelling, he threw himself against the door repeatedly. I thought he was joking, because who flips out about not being able to get inside someone else's house?

He wasn't. He continued to ram the door until the force he was exerting swung it open and crushed me against the wall. I tried to escape from behind it, but so great was his rage he decided to continuously slam the door into me, not letting me out.

Once he calmed down, and I retreated as far away from him as I could, he proceeded to blame me for his reaction, and then inquired if I was still coming over to his place after the party.

I left.

I never went back to that social group. I never spoke to him again.

He had shown no hint of temper before then. He was always quiet and polite, always gentle and courteous.

That event left me freaked out for months, though I never showed it.

I don't show any "weak" emotions if I can help it. And, again, it probably relates back to showing weakness to my father and then having it used like that against me.

You have to be strong. When a 6'5" man is tearing into you throughout the course of your life, venting his rage that you had no actual source in, you have to learn how to shut off and you have to learn how to protect yourself and the people around you. You have to manage and maintain because if you don't you will be a puddle on the floor.

No freak outs.
No tears of anything but anger.
No weakness.

Fight back.
Show balls.
Draw him in so he doesn't go after your mother and sister.
Adapt to his rage, learn what to do in order to keep control of yourself and him.

Don't rock the boat, just take the blow.

Let him reduce you to rubble because you no that no one else can take it as well as you can.

And when you leave, be prepared for the phone calls. Be prepared because, by protecting them for so many years, you've left them defenseless against him because one never had to learn how to deal and one is out of practice.

When your mother or sister phones you at 11PM, sobbing and needing a place to stay, you shelter them.

And when they just need to cry, you listen and feel frustratingly impotent because there is nothing you can do anymore.

And when your sister finally breaks and you know the boat is about to tip over, that the status quo is going to no longer be maintained, and your mother will be devasted and everyone's lives can change in one evening depending on how you handle the situation and you try so very hard to make sure you do it right, so you can maintain the balance your family has kept for years because the fear of the alternative is so much worse, you drive, you listen, and you betray your sister in the way that you were betrayed so many times as a child.

And then you live with the regret of the fear and the love for your mother and keeping her world together for her.

Because it's what you do.

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