I was asked to talk about father issues and the sense of abandonment you feel when a parent isn’t emotionally or physically present. It’s no secret that my father was abusive. I have discussed it in several posts and the trauma from that clearly impacted who I am. For the better part of my life I had trust issues as a result of my upbringing. I always assumed the worst in people and they seldom disappointed me.
I had very low self-esteem as a child and I had trouble opening up and expressing myself outwardly. I was exceedingly introvert and was more than willing to go with the flow. I had few friends which only added to my awkwardness. Rather than give people the opportunity to reject me I shut myself down emotionally and ostracized myself from my peers.
During my senior year of high school, I started to come out of my shell a little. My hormones got the better of me and my desire to date overrode my fear of rejection. Even while dating I had difficulty opening up and communicating with the boys I was interested in. This inability to communicate resulted in a myriad of painful, angst-y attempts at connecting with my male peers. These struggles only strengthened my belief that people were not to be trusted and I shouldn’t let anyone close enough to hurt me.
Well into my twenties I struggled with these issues. I found myself dating men who were not interested in any real relationship. When I did let my guard down enough to emotionally connect with someone, I had already set myself up for failure by choosing to date men who weren’t emotionally available. I would get hurt and my wall became more fortified. I finally came to the conclusion that I shouldn’t date. I needed to focus on my family and all of the pain and rejection I felt was not something I wanted to project onto my son.
I stopped dating and I stopped having sex for thirteen years, from the time my son was five until he turned eighteen. That period in my life was beneficial in so many ways but one of the most important things I learned was how to show love and be open without fear of rejection. I was finally in a situation where I could love and accept love.
Ultimately, the time I spent without the pressure of romantic involvement allowed me the time to really examine why I felt and behaved the way I did. I had time to work through those feelings of insecurity and pessimism. I learned to acknowledge my strengths and use them to my advantage rather than a means of keeping people out. I just worked to change those behaviors and ideology that prevented me from participating in my own life. I stepped up and took control of who I was, what I had accomplished and wanted to accomplish. I learned to love myself and that helped me open up to the idea of accepting love.
I understood that I was in control of every situation I found myself in. If I were ever uncomfortable or felt like I was shutting down, I knew that it could end it simply by removing myself from the situation. We control whether or not people hurt us, we don’t have to stay in any situation that can harm us. I took comfort in that knowledge. It made allowed me to be more optimistic, more social and helped me to see the good in people.
I don’t look back at many moments in my childhood with fondness but I also don’t resent my past. Everything I experienced happened so that I could grow as a person. I am strong, driven and resilient. I learned a lot about forgiveness. I still hear my father’s voice when I stumble or fall down. Now I know that those things he whispers in my ear are only true if I allow them to be.