The following post contains details and specific events surrounding domestic violence. Proceed with caution.
I was sitting in the living room with my mom watching television one afternoon. We, at the time, had a TV in our living room and a TV in our kitchen so that when one of my parents was using one, one could use the other. My dad had gotten home from work and sat down to watch some sort of sports show when he realized the remote control didn’t have any batteries.
My brother and I were notorious for taking the batteries out of one thing and putting them in another, especially when we needed some for a video game controller. We rarely put them back.
My dad, frustrated that the remote wouldn’t work, came into the living room and yelled at me to find him batteries. So I did. When I handed them to him, he followed me back into the living room, yelling and swearing that I should have put them back in the remote. He then took it and threw it at my head. I was 9.
Throughout my childhood, I felt abandoned by a man who seemingly preferred my older brother to me. My dad always spoke highly of my hockey playing brother. He was the prodigal son, the one who would do something with his life, the one worth showing up to every event to be with. He was the one that my dad took golfing on Father’s Day in 2003 when I was told to stay home because I wasn’t good enough to play.
I, to this day, am unsure about which man is going to come home from work. Will I see the dad that is mostly calm and just wants to watch TV and eat dinner, or will I see the dad who takes his worst days out on everyone around him? I used to be afraid, as a child, of the times when my dad came home because I didn’t know what to expect.
The second last day of summer in 2006, my dad had a bad day and was forced to help my brother with his paper route that night. Apparently upset with everything, my dad left my brother in the middle of his route and came home yelling. I was washing the dishes after having just folded my parents’ clothes. He noticed that I left some work pants on a cabinet in his room, unsure of where to put them. He came downstairs, yelled at me to stay out of his room and to leave his clothes alone. He turned off the lights to the kitchen so I couldn’t see the dishes I was cleaning. I told him he was acting like a 2-year-old, and when I walked into our basement, he followed me and hit me in the face four times. I didn’t know what to do until my brother grabbed him by the neck and threw him off of me. I was 14.
I’ve always been afraid of the men around me. My older brothers made fun of me for being effeminate at a young age. The boys in my “friend group” in high school didn’t want to be seen with me even though their girlfriends thought I was nice enough to hang out with. Nearly every guy I interacted with called me a faggot. I was thrown into lockers, laughed at, and teased.
But my dad ruined me. And though my older brother likely felt the same way about the emotional abuse and uncertainty, I’ve never fully recovered.
And I haven’t trusted a man since. I still have nightmares, with the most recent happening last week.
When I met with my therapist during our second session, I told her I was sick of falling in love with the wrong men, but the truth was, I never actually fell in love with any of them. I wanted someone to love me enough so I didn’t have to. I’ve always thought of myself as an annoyance and burden to those around me. I care about things that no one else does, I need the validation of others to feel good about myself, and my insecurities keep me from fully realizing the extent of the love around me as I question the validity of all of my relationships.
In my entire life, I’ve only told one man that I love him and meant it. He’s my best friend, and the only man I’ve been able to trust in 24 years. And in less than two years, he has become such a powerful force in my life. There are days when I’m afraid that I’ll never trust another man like I trust him, and I’m afraid that no one will love me for all the good and bad like he does. And it scares me.
Whenever I felt abused by my dad, whether it was physical or emotional, I never thought to blame him or question why these things happened. I viewed them as a part of my life, and I always blamed myself for not knowing how to handle things better. And as I look back on how these situations have shaped my self-perception and how I view the relationships around me, I realize that it’s okay for me to feel this way, but I can’t continue to let it define me.
Knowing that it’s possible for me to trust and love a man as much as I do my best friend shows me that one day I will be capable enough to do so again. But until that day comes, I will continue to better myself until I no longer need the approval of those around me to feel whole.
We are shaped by our experiences. I am who I am because of what I’ve been through, good and bad, and I wouldn’t trade who I am and the people I know for anything. I’m a much stronger person because of lessons learned through life, but we can save so many people from emotional stress, depression and insecurities by simply showing more love than hate. So speak kindly, treat others well, and love in ways that make others appreciate themselves.
And for now, I’m going to remind myself that who I was and who I am now deserve to be loved.