This is an open letter from a 20-something female to her dad. A letter I’m only ready to write now. But an important and hugely valid one no less.
I felt obliged and ready to write this because I haven’t heard any similar stories and I think putting this out there is going to be important to someone.
I still don’t know, Dad, if you realise that you are the root cause of my mental health issues. I don’t really know if you can even see to this day that how you treated me was wrong. By anyone’s standards.
As far as you were concerned, you were doing nothing wrong.
I mean, I’m yours after all, right?
It took me until I was in the (most stable) relationship in my adult life to realise that the way you treated me while I was growing up was totally inappropriate. The problem with growing up in the environment I did is that, you have no context to anyone else’s normality. Your environment is your environment and so it’s all you know.
The reason I want to write about the psychological abuse I endured at the hands of my dad while growing up is that I feel like the only stories I’ve heard or read are those of physical abuse. My experience never got physical… although that’s not to say I don’t believe it could’ve gone that way had the circumstances been right for him.
Looking back, from the age of about 5, it was clear to me and the rest of the family (I’m one of a few siblings) that I was the favourite. This was shown through excessive praise, grooming and extravagant gifts that my siblings weren’t to know about.
From as young as 5, I can recall my dad using inappropriate language to describe my appearance and the appearance of others to me. It was embedded in me from a young age that beauty was important.
I can recall my dad shutting me away with him separate to the rest of he family while he got progressively drunk, using adult language and preventing me from going to bed at a decent time when I had school the next day.
I even remember vividly my Mum popping her head round the door in tears and pleading with my Dad to let me go.
But it was Dad’s way or the highway.
This language and I guess “grooming” continued into my early teens and beyond.
I remember when I first got blonde streaks in my hair at about age 14 and he compared me to “Jenifer Anniston when she looks hot”. I remember trying to continually meet this standard. At that age, all I wanted to do was keep up the high standard and continue to impress. I craved his attention and validation. Looking back, he created that in me but like I said earlier, I didn’t know this was not normal because it’s all I’d known.
I remember when I was 11, we heard the song “She’s the one” by Robbie Williams and he talked about how that would be his song about me.
He managed, throughout my early teens to continue this sort of control and exercised it in all manner of ways to suit himself. My most vivid memory is getting my first boyfriend at age 16. I couldn’t have been more excited to introduce this special person to my family… but telling my Dad is something which I’ll stick with my forever.
“Dad, I’ve met a guy! He’s 17 and he’s so lovely”
His response was:
“I just can’t get over the thought of his rat claws being all over my daughter’s body”…
In that response alone, you can almost hear the control. Or at least the emotional control. I also remember telling my Mum I’d lost my virginity and Dad sitting perched on the end of my bed that night sobbing and explaining that he’d lost his girl.
I felt like I was no longer of any use to him. I felt like I’d never impress him in the way I used to.
My Dad left my Mum for a younger woman when I was 18 and we’ve had a strange relationship ever since, really. Throughout the years since I turned 18, I’ve felt intense rejection over and over. Even the odd time when I have gone to meet him, I’ve made sure I got really dressed up but would go home to my husband upset and feeling inadequate.
To this day, the relationship is strained. I don’t know if he even realised that the ways he treated me would be classed as abuse. They are what have led to me having mental health difficulties and I know that because I explored all of this intensetly via regression when I spent some time in a psychiatric ward earlier this year.
Fact is, my Dad is a loner. And a narcissist. Having his first daughter gave him something to really craft and take ownership of. I’ll never forgive him for tainting my childhood but I don’t think I’ll ever stop seeking his approval no matter how bad that persistence is for my mental health.
He’s blood and, it’s just the way I was conditioned.
I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has had a similar experience at the hands of a “loved one”. This has been extemely therapeutic and I hope that if you relate to any of the things I covered, you don’t hesitate to explore these things further.
Anon @ TEWP x