Psychoanalyzing my Dad

Recently, my dad has done a shitty thing. He’s always been selfish and unreliable, but this was a new low. While speaking with my counsellor about this recently, he asked if I knew why my dad might be like this. I know this wasn’t the intention, but his question prompted me to begin a process of internet searches and unprofessional diagnoses in an effort to understand my dad for the first time in my life.

I recently wrote a post about my childhood, and a lot of that content involved my dad, so there will be some overlap. Just a heads up.

My dad has been what he is for as long as I can remember. At a young age, I accepted that he would never change. I never had language that described my dad succinctly; when it came up, I could only say that my dad was my dad. He was different. And not in a good way. To explain the problem, I would have to explain everything. And I hardly have the language to do that. But language is the vehicle I am currently using to communicate this story, so I’m going to have to try.

The Story:

I don’t remember my dad being an especially unique parent until his divorce from my mom. He briefly lived in a townhouse where my sister and I stayed part-time, then we moved in with his girlfriend. I’m increasingly convinced that household was abusive, but I still can’t explain why. My sister has more specific memories, but I just remember how I felt. There were countless little things that all culminated in a shitty situation. When they broke up a couple years later, we quickly moved in with his next girlfriend. My dad asked if I thought it was too soon; I said it was; it happened anyway. After that relationship ended, my dad, my sister, and I lived in a townhouse. My dad promised me he wouldn’t move in with another girlfriend until I graduated high school. But six months later, we moved in with his next girlfriend. (Throughout this time, my sister and I lived part-time with our mom) Eventually they got married, but last year they divorced. My dad lives alone now (with my sister still visiting part-time) but he has a new girlfriend.

Then there were the broken promises. For years on end, my dad would claim we would take a family vacation in the Summer, and it never happened. At one point, we were going to get a dog. Nope. My dad would promise me a ride, or say my sister and I would get home at a certain time. No. These might sound petty, but the consistent inconsistency was frustrating.

But again, it was mostly the little things. Never being able to visit my friends. Being looked at like a brat when I asked to turn up the heat because I was cold. Having my dad scream at me if I got upset about any of this. When he got married without inviting my sister and I, I never expressed my sadness because I knew he would get mad. We always had to be happy for him. We always had to forgive him.

And I’ve always loved him. He’s my dad. I’ve been convinced that he loves me, because he makes a point of saying it every once in a while. That he loves me and I’m the reason he’s gotten through everything. And he gets incredibly clingy when I don’t live with him. But after some research and reflection, I’m not sure of these things anymore.

Current Thoughts:

I’ve become somewhat convinced that my dad has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or some undiagnosable level of narcissistic traits.

I have thought this in the past, but I forgot about it, since my dad is not the person I picture when I think “narcissist”. He doesn’t seem to have an inflated ego, and doesn’t go around bragging about how great he is. But he has so many other features, and exhibits these traits in subtler ways. Yesterday, my mom said something about my dad thinking he’s the centre of the universe and everyone else is just a satellite, and it made me think there’s something to this theory of mine.

My dad is selfish; this has always been obvious. His needs come first, and everyone else is an afterthought. But what’s always struck me as more pathological is the way my dad reacts to other peoples’ emotions. He seems GENUINELY confused. He doesn’t just seem angry when his actions impact other people; he seems surprised. Like it never occurred to him. That can’t just be regular selfishness. To this point, one symptom of NPD is “Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.”

Further, as I said, criticizing my dad in any way is futile. He gets extremely angry. Though not a diagnostic criterion, it is a feature of NPD to react with disproportionate anger and hostility to anything threatening one’s ego.

Many of the diagnostic criteria involve an inflated sense of self-worth, which I never saw in my dad. But on reflection, there is something there. He owns a soccer academy and thinks he’s going to fundamentally change Soccer in North America, maybe leading to international success for the men’s team. That’s a bit much. He also had trouble working with others before he was self-employed, as he doesn’t like taking orders. And he’s done well in the business world, which is apparently correlated with NPD diagnosis.

I might be grasping at straws, but in some areas, this assessment makes so much sense. My dad has always lived in his own world, disconnected from the thoughts and feelings of others. He has made countless decisions with little or no regard to anyone but himself.

When I began reading about narcissistic parents, what I found disturbed me. It is claimed that narcissists have children, not to care for the child, but to have someone they can control and someone who will love them. Essentially, they don’t love the child; they want to fill their own emotional needs. And when I look at my childhood, this kind of makes sense. Whenever my dad has told me how much he loves me and that I’ve gotten him through so much, it’s possible that he’s trying to make me feel guilty enough to stick around. Maybe he ignores me when I live with him but gets clingy when I move out because he wants to control me. Looking back, I think he’s only really expressed affection when he’s in danger of losing me. So there’s that.

I’ve also read that children of narcissistic parents often learn to view their own needs as selfishness, and thus have trouble expressing them. This has been a huge issue for me. It feels nearly impossible for me to ask for anything, because it feels so selfish and inappropriate. I shouldn’t need anything from other people. I can’t inconvenience them.

Maybe I’m reading too much into things that aren’t there. But a lot of what I am reading makes sense, and whether this diagnosis is true or not, framing my dad’s personality in terms of narcissism makes a lot of things make sense. He’s always been an unpredictable enigma, but this helps me understand him a little better. Of course, what I’m reading suggests that my dad doesn’t love me, but there’s not a whole lot of evidence to dispute that either. So I don’t know. That’s all I have for right now.

I’ll also quickly mention that my dad grew up during the violence and terrorism going on in Northern Ireland, so that’s another possible cause to look into. I know internet-diagnosing people with mental disorders is one of the most unbearable things a person can do, but it’s helping me understand myself, so I think it’s okay?

Sarah

Things are Hard

That’s what she said.

TW: SUICIDAL THOUGHTS

I’m typing this on my phone while trying to fall asleep because I feel really shitty and I just need to talk about it. I talked about my ex in counselling today and have been sad ever since. It’s been 11 months since the breakup; when will this end?

I feel like I’ll never feel better, and I’ll always be in this much pain. I know my recent restriction is playing a role, so I need to stop doing that, but ugh.

Maybe I’ll feel differently after a couple days of eating more, but I don’t really want to live right now. There’s so much pain and it never ends. Everything is pain. But death is nothing and that’s scary so we won’t do that. But it seems like a decent deal from where I am.

I’m sorry for this depressing post.

Sarah

Lapsing

TW: EATING DISORDERS

I’ve been trying not to post about this, partially because talking about my disorder helps to fuel it, and partially out of a disordered hope to not “jinx it”.

Things have been slipping, eating-wise. I was doing well for a long time, so this lapse was surprising. It’s only been 10ish days, but I don’t remember the last time I restricted for that long.

I did lose weight after my breakup due to depression, and it was hard gaining it again. The time between regaining my appetite and returning to normalish eating could be considered a lapse, but it didn’t last long. And even so, that was over 9 months ago. Before then, my lapses had been a couple days at most since Fall 2015.

So whoops.

I don’t remember what started this. I have been trying to eat “healthier” and “more balanced”, so that could have played a role. I’m not uncharacteristically unhappy right now.

This also feels quite different from other lapses. I am usually driven by a desire to lose weight, and I turn things around when the restriction starts to impact my mood. This “turning things around” usually feels somewhat relieving, as it improves my mood and satisfies my hunger. It also ends the constant battle in my head.

But this time, I have been largely driven by anxiety. The thought of eating makes me feel panicked. I feel like Anorexia has already taken me captive, and there’s nothing I can do to change this. I don’t necessarily believe that I can’t be happy with an eating disorder; and the prospect of losing weight, while not my main motivation, seems worth it. I don’t feel like me. I feel like it’s 2014 again, and Anorexia has taken me captive.

While part of me is horrified at this development, part of me is also thrilled. I can see a subtle weight difference already, and it’s intoxicating. The high and the confidence boost of restriction are addicting. I feel like maybe I’m doing things right. Maybe the alternative to this is eating crap all day and being fat and hating myself. Maybe this will make me happy. Maybe this is all I have.

I feel like crap physically (my body has such a low tolerance for this shit now), I’m more anxious/depressed, and it’s hard to study for my calculus final, but YOLO? I don’t know.

Sarah

Quick Gay Vent

This post won’t be eloquently written. Okay, none of my posts are eloquently written. But this is material I was going to share in text-venting-to-friend format and subsequently decided I would spare said friend and vent this to the world. Well, my tens of followers.

My point is, my thoughts are not organized in any way, and the purpose of this post is for me to describe my current feelings in order to make sense of them. Basically, it’s all about me. I’m sorry.

Let’s jump in. As I’ve alluded to in earlier posts, I identify as gay/lesbian, but am not entirely sure I’m not bisexual. I’ve felt this way for about two years, so it might be a while before I finally figure it out. But it leads to a lot of inner turmoil.

Firstly, I feel like a liar. All the time. When I tell people I’m gay, there’s a nagging voice in my head telling me I haven’t told the whole truth. But the whole truth isn’t concise enough for daily conversation. If there were one word to describe how I feel, I would gladly use it. But there isn’t. Maybe reverse bi-curious? Although I think “bi-curious” implies you are in the process of exploring your possible bisexuality, which I am definitely not. I just live my life and hope that I figure this out at some point.

I should mention that I don’t want to be bisexual.

That sounds terrible, and it is terrible, but it’s true. Bisexual people deal with way more shit than gay and lesbian people at this point (at least in this society). I love fitting the lesbian stereotype of cat-loving, introverted homo who wears converse and men’s shirts on the daily. But the stereotypes for bisexuals are all negative. They’re seen as greedy, slutty, and unsure of their sexuality. Some people see them as half-gays who aren’t really part of the LGBTQ+ community. I love the way my gayness is becoming a larger part of m identity, but because of the stereotypes, people won’t perceive me the way I want to be perceived if it turns out I am bisexual. So anyways, all this is going on in my head.

But I hate feeling like a liar. I would rather know I’m bisexual and unlearn my internalized biphobia (which I need to do regardless), than never know. I’m often terrified that, after screaming from the rooftops about how gay I am, I will fall in love with a man. By the way, I know it might seem like I’m attaching too much of my identity to my queerness, but I am coming to love it and I feel like I have found my people.

I’m starting to experience feelings that I haven’t felt since grade 7, when I began (and then officially decided to end) questioning my sexuality. I felt dirty and unlovable. I remember once telling two close friends that I wasn’t sure if I was straight. I thought they wouldn’t want to be friends with me after I told them that. I couldn’t love myself or expect other people to love me if I wasn’t straight.

These feelings are resurfacing as I battle with not knowing, feeling like a liar, fearing biphobia, and wondering if I’m denying my existent bisexuality due to internalized biphobia. I feel dirty. I feel unloveable.

I didn’t even feel this way when I found out I liked women. And I thought that made me bi at the time. Maybe spending more time among the LGBTQ+ community has made me fear the ostracizing that exists within the community.

Anyways, this all came to mind because I was talking to a man on a dating app. Sometimes I change my settings on dating apps so I see both men and women, sort of to test whether I’m attracted to men. Usually, doing this reaffirms my lesbianism because you find some interesting characters on Tinder. Today, I wondered for the first time whether I’m trying to make myself straighter by talking to men and trying to feel attracted to them. I never considered that homophobia could play a role in all these thoughts. I just don’t know what to think. Here are some contradicting pieces of evidence:

The only relationship I have ever cared about/ sex I have ever enjoyed was with a woman.

I only dated three men, and they were all kind of meh, so maybe that’s why.

I used to be super convinced I was ultra-straight. I would have conversations about how straight I was.

But that’s the most homosexual thing I have ever heard of, minus Mike Piazza’s press conference to tell everyone he was straight.

I currently want to date a woman, and do not want to date a man.

I am still having trouble letting anyone in after my breakup, so maybe I want to date a woman and a man equally but because I think I’m gay I’m looking for a girlfriend but I would be equally into a boyfriend?

I’m definitely more attracted to women than to men. And I don’t mean that I find women attractive more often than I find men attractive; I mean I would feel like I’m settling if I was with a man.

I was attracted to Bennett in season one of Orange is the New Black. Like 10/10 would sleep with. But wouldn’t date. Even if he wasn’t a shitty person, I wouldn’t want to go around living life with him. (I know this is a fictional character, by the way.)

I don’t know. There’s probably a million other things and they swirl around my brain all day and I don’t know. I have “tried on” the label of bisexuality in the past, and it just didn’t feel right, but maybe that’s the internalized biphobia? I feel like a dirty, tainted gay just talking to men on dating sites. I should stress that I don’t feel any of these things towards other bisexuals; I just… I don’t know)

There are a million other things I could say about this, but I need to get ready for queer pub night. This post did not end up being quick at all whoops.

Sarah

My Childhood

I really don’t want to read about inner product spaces, so I have returned to write another post.

I am aware that writing about my childhood as it relates to my mental health is very cliche, but it’s been on my mind recently and I am hoping that writing this post will help me to better understand it.

The thing that confuses me most about my early years is that nothing horrible happened. No traumatic, catastrophic event ever occurred. And yet, I am still profoundly impacted by the things that did happen.

Firstly, I have memories of being anxious as far back as I have memories at all. At 3, I was pulled out of ballet because as soon as my parents left the room, I would sit in the corner by myself ignore everyone. At 4, if someone brushed up against me on my left side, I would purposely brush up against someone on my right side to “even it out”. I got so terrified of the dark that I had extra appreciation for the morning, because it’s the part of the day furthest from the next night. My point is, I’ve always had some issues, whether they resulted from genes or poor parenting before I can remember, or both, or something else entirely. So I am not “blaming” all my problems on things that happened in childhood.  I just believe that these things were one of many factors.

Again, nothing horrible happened to me. I wasn’t abused. I wasn’t kicked out. I wasn’t neglected. I keep stressing these points in my endless preamble because I feel so guilty. I’m sitting here, painting my parents as abusers when they love me and they tried their best, and I’m trivializing the experiences of those who survived much worse circumstances.

Now that we are all on the same page, my childhood:

Things were relatively uneventful for the first few years I can remember. I had minor issues that can be tied to mental illness in retrospect, but nothing that set me apart from my peers. Things were fine.

My parents got divorced when I was 8 years old. I wasn’t too upset, because they had been fighting for a while, and I thought having two houses would be cool. The divorce was fine; the main problem is what came afterwards. But from the beginning of the divorce, I felt the need to protect my sister who was only 2 at the time. I was now the only one living with her every night, so I wanted to provide some stability and protection.

Anyways, when my dad moved out, he immediately started dating a woman named Michelle. I didn’t mind this relationship, as I enjoyed spending time with Michelle’s two daughters, who were 13 and 14 at the time. Within a couple years, my dad and Michelle were living together, along with Michelle’s daughters, and my sister and I. I think this is when they started treating us poorly. My sister and I would be yelled at for making a mistake while doing chores we had never done before, not greeting people properly when we entered the house, and other things with that level of importance. Beyond this, it’s hard to even remember individual events; I just remember how I felt. I remember that I wanted to talk to someone, anyone, about what I was experiencing. But I couldn’t begin to explain it. Again, nothing terrible was happening. At one point, I remember wishing they were beating me, so I could describe what was happening. So I could explain the source of my pain in terms that people would understand. I wasn’t being beaten, but I would dread the days I spent I spent at my dad’s, and felt extremely relieved when they were over.

At one point, I hated being at my dad’s house so much that I told my mom I didn’t want to go back. But still, I couldn’t explain what was happening and why it was affecting me so much. And my mom knew my dad would be furious if she essentially got full custody. I’m tearing up as I write this because I remember the horrible, horrible feelings I had at the time. My sister and I were being treated poorly, and neither of our parents were doing anything to stop it.

I had a dream once that I was in a bookstore with my dad, and a man was attempting to kidnap me in order to rape me. I screamed for help, in full view of everyone including my dad, and nobody noticed. The way I felt in that dream is how I felt at this time in my life.

I know I must sound dramatic, especially since I can’t recall many actual events that took place. But I can remember the feelings like they occurred yesterday.

When my dad said he and Michelle were breaking up, I cried tears of joy. So much dread and anxiety was lifted off my shoulders. But five seconds later, my dad met Sue.

Sue was fine. She didn’t really interact with my sister and I, which was a huge improvement but was also awkward. Before my dad even found somewhere to live that wasn’t my grandparents’ house, he decided to move in with Sue. He asked me if I thought it was too early, I said yes, and he proceeded to tell me why I was wrong. My dad, sister and I moved in with Sue and two of her daughters, and we all managed to live together for 2 years and yet remain strangers to one another. My life was much better during this period, and Sue caused no problems, but my dad’s unreliability started to become a big issue. He had already broken many promises at this point, but now I was hanging out with friends and sometimes needed to rely on him for a ride. Many times, he would agree to give me a ride and then live his life as if he’d never said anything. He would have to work, and would get angry with me when I pushed the issue. I know this sounds particularly frivolous, but when you have very limited ability to take public transit, transportation is very important. Anyways, at some point my dad and Sue broke up as well.

After two failed common-law relationships, my dad promised me he wouldn’t move in with another woman until I graduated high school. I was in grade 10 or 11 at the time. After I turned 16, I told my dad that I wanted to live with my mom full-time (at 16, I gained the legal right to decide this), and he got very angry. We agreed to have coffee to discuss it further, and he was even raised his voice in that public setting. He wasn’t listening to me; he was just explaining why I was wrong.

My dad actually bought a house for just him, my sister, and I. When I first saw the house, I vividly remember thinking, “We’re not going to be here long.” And then we lived there for 6 months. I think my dad started dating Shalaina around the time we moved out of Sue’s house. Apparently Sue and my dad had been secretly broken up for a few months but remained amicably cohabiting while they figured out new living arrangements. So my dad insisted he had really been taking things slow when he began to date immediately upon moving.

I was incredibly skeptical to meet Shalaina, but it happened eventually. And she took the opportunity to buy my affection with designer purses and trips to the nail salon. It worked. When my dad wanted to move in with Shalaina, I was happy, despite the addition to the broken promises pile. Apparently, my grandmother tried convincing them to wait to move in together, and my dad didn’t speak to her for two weeks. So anyways, we were soon living with Shalaina and her two children. They were/are actually pretty cool people, and my sister was close in age to Shalaina’s daughter, so we were all pretty happy.

At some point, Shalaina no longer felt the need to buy or otherwise obtain my affection, and she started being mean. Not Michelle’s brand of mean; there no yelling or confrontation of any sort. She was much more passive-aggressive. Often, she and my dad would agree they were mad at me, but she would send my dad out to play bad cop while she remained innocent.

In 2011, they went on vacation together. They came back and told us they had gotten married and the trip was their honeymoon. My grandma and uncle were invited; none of the kids were. I didn’t express my feelings about this to my dad, because I knew he couldn’t undo anything.

Long after the marriage, Shalaina would also frequently take her kids out and leave my sister home alone. She claimed to want quality time with her children, but a) I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to treat step-children as your children; and b) It’s not like my dad ever had the time or desire to take my sister anywhere. My dad and Shalaina were just generally selfish during this time.

One day, I got in a fight with my dad, so I packed a suitcase and went to my mom’s house. I finally made the decision to live with my mom full-time. To catch you up to what my mom had been up to during this time, she had a couple short relationships, then met my stepdad, and he moved in with us after they had dated for a couple years. My mom hasn’t been a perfect parent, but she has been a parent. This is why she isn’t heavily featured in this post.

At this point in the story, I’m about 18, so we’ve reached the end of my childhood. I did live with my dad full-time a bit later after thinking he had changed, but I won’t get into details about this time. I will, however, list a few shitty things my dad and Shalaina have done, because I’m still angry about a lot of them.

-They prevented my sister from getting diagnosed with ADHD for years, claiming they didn’t want her to be labelled or to be on medication, then randomly decided one day they were fine with it (During this time, my sister had essentially been diagnosed after an extensive process, and she wanted to access resources for ADHD as she was struggling in school)

-They would make up rules and change them frequently; one day, they decided there can’t be any shampoo bottles or loofahs around the bathtub/shower, so we had to take them out every time; Shalaina would get angry when I left my loofah hanging to dry before putting it with my toiletries

-When I was anorexic and frequently cold, I would close some of the windows that were often open during weather cold enough that the heat was on; I asked my dad once if we could keep the windows closed because I was cold and he looked at me like I was the biggest brat on earth; my stepmom began passive-aggressively keeping all the windows open, even though the heat was on, because that’s who she is; I got to sit under a blanket in my room all day

 

This post started out quite serious and has grown increasingly whiny; for that I apologize. The main thing I wanted to talk about was the time when my dad was dating Michelle, as I think that has really impacted me. I also wanted to describe all the moving and instability, but cared less about the details during the Sue and Shalaina eras, respectively. Apparently at some point, I decided to use this post as a place to vent anger I was never allowed to express about things that have happened more recently. So, it hasn’t really turned out the way I planned, whatever that was. And I really wanted to communicate how much these events hurt me, despite the individual events being so insignificant, but I don’t know if I did that. But anyways, here it is.

Sarah

 

 

Lonely

I’ve been dealing with constant feelings of loneliness since my breakup last September. I miss always having someone around, someone to give me cuddles and buy me ice cream when I’m upset. To this day, I call my ex repeatedly in desperate attempts to feel anything close to those feelings, but she never responds.

And I should clarify that while I feel lonely, I am not alone. I have good relationships with my mom, my stepdad, and my sister. I’m thinking about distancing myself further from my dad, but that is what it is. I recently ended 2 important friendships, but I am still friends with people from school and have acquired a gaggle of gays to hang out with. There are people around me. I just don’t feel like they see me.

It has now been longer since my breakup than the relationship actually lasted, but it still affects me. I imagine I’ll have abandonment issues to work through for years to come. I am having fun going on dates, but when I think about having a girlfriend, I only want Jenn. Not even Jenn though. There were a million things wrong with our relationship that I ignored because I was in love. So I imagined a Jenn that doesn’t exist, and I still do that today. She brought a lot of negativity into my life, but for one brief second, she made me feel less alone.

I don’t think this post has any real thesis. Usually, when I sit down and write, my thoughts form some sort of coherent structure, but maybe that isn’t the case today. I guess the point is that I’m lonely and I miss Jenn and those things are very much related. I’m in a writing mood, so I might post again later. Until then,

Sarah