I could go into long detail about my dysfunctional family dynamic. Suffice it to say my father is extremely controlling, and has a vast history of violence and manipulation to get his way.
When I was sixteen, he had made his mind up that I would go to med school. In his last fight with me, he roared “If you live under my roof, you will do as I say.” Something clicked in my teenage mind. Self preservation kicked in. That night, I packed two gym bags and cut all contact for the next ten years.
It was tough. I was heartbroken. I was basically homeless for a while — couch surfing and going through a string of toxic boyfriends. I didn’t quit school. I worked full-time too. I found love. I healed. I grew. I began a fulfilling career (not med school!). Eventually we bought a house and so began a new journey as a Mommy.
At this point, I established tentative contact with my parents. They are still dysfunctional. They still try to manipulate me. But I am changed. I am strong. I am profoundly happy.
A month ago was one of the few times a year I saw my father. He (once again, unfailingly) brought up med school. At this point, it is laughable. Realistically, I am almost forty. Even if I wanted to become a doctor (I don’t) I would practice only ten years before retiring.
Later, in the car, it hit me. He does not want me in med school because he thinks I would make a good doctor. He does not want a successful career for me, so that I can feel accomplished and do good. (I already have that!) It’s that he can’t accept that I didn’t bend to his will. I stood up for myself. I defied him. He can’t accept this “defeat.”
I will never make my father happy, because he doesn’t care about my own happiness.
It was momentous. All the cliches about feeling free, about a weight you didn’t know was dragging you down lifting; they are true.
This is a very personal revelation. And while I’m sure you’re all very happy for me, I couldn’t objectively understand the pressing urge to write my story. And yet, it wouldn’t stop. I needed to get this realization out there.
And then I finally understood why…
I know my father has issues. I’ve learned to deal with him, to be remote but understanding, to forgive. Mostly, his barbs don’t hurt much anymore. I have perspective, I can see when it is manipulation. I have based my whole life on going my own way. I understood that he was not pleased with me, and I was okay with that.
But I never really believed it. Deep down in my core, that young girl still cowered, still thinking that if only she did more — did better — maybe he might love her. I thought I was over it. Honestly. And now, I’ve suddenly realized that I wasn’t, despite doing all the “right” things for me.
So my point is; to all you survivors out there, to all of you working to find yourself, who are doing what they need; Keep at it. If you know it’s the right path for you, be strong. Even if deep down there is this niggling unconscious doubt, be yourself. The fault is not yours.
If you make it a way of life, some day you will actually believe it.