When I was younger, I thought something was terribly, terribly wrong with me

I was convinced something was wrong with me, but I didn’t know what. I mean,

Why did I have nightmares every single night?

Some of them, I woke up screaming. Almost all of them involved my dad. Being chased and can’t get away. Trying to fly, but negative energy dragging me down. Waking up in dream-pain after dreaming about being pelted by hailstones in a tornado.

Why could I not quite be the perfect child?

Every time I thought I was doing okay, dad would find something to rage at me about. Including crumbs on the floor after sweeping carefully. I’d be cursed at, called stupid, and then grounded and assigned extra chores, including mopping and going at the crevices with a toothbrush.

Why did I forget traumatic memories all the time?

I was so angry and upset after one of his rages. I’d feel unsafe enough that I’d think about running away–even just witnessing him raging at a sibling. It consumed every waking moment of my life…until one day my brain locked it away. I could not for the life of me remember anything. I later learned that this is a protective mechanism, to keep me from going insane. It allowed me to pretend to be happy all the time for him.

Why was I so unhappy?

Especially once I hit puberty, I was so unhappy. I’d smile, I’d enjoy some things, but there was always a pervasive fear in the background, a dark cloud. It became a depression around 14, and deepened over the years until I finally asked for help (and was raged at). Depression was apparently only me being selfish.

And I sort of believed it. I had to. I had to set up a structure in which I was a selfish girl too big for her britches and do more, give more, sending me deeper into depression.

Why didn’t prayer work?

Well. This one. I think it does, but sometimes I really don’t know. See, I prayed the novena, the prayer for fathers, the Rosary, and asked and asked and asked for dad to be changed. To be better. To be happier. To be nicer.

It didn’t work. Now I know that it doesn’t work that way. And instead, I realized that my beliefs turned into a miniature version of dad–because he used it to bully us into obeying him at every turn. Now I hold belief at a distance. It’s too painful to deal with closely.

I thought something was terribly wrong with me, something that could be fixed with self-help books, books I ran across while shelving at the public library job. I’d hide it in my locker at work and read it during breaks–so my parents would never know I was reading titles like Codependent No More.

Then I stumbled across a book about borderline personality disorder. I had a revelation.

Maybe it’s not me. Maybe the problem lies in my dad.

I joined an online group mentioned in the book. I slowly gained knowledge and courage. I became more independent. I moved out. I was disowned because I was no longer an extension of dad.

Then I learned that he didn’t have borderline personality disorder. It fit narcissistic personality disorder much better. But at least that book started me on the right path. Whatever the name, I learned the problem wasn’t me.

The reason why I felt like a terrible person, the reason why I was constantly depressed, was because dad was abusive.

Verbally abusive. Emotionally abusive. Psychologically abusive.

I thought all fathers were like my dad, and I’d scuttle around them like a crab whenever I was at friends’ houses because I was so scared of them. I only learned in college that not all fathers are like that. I learned that some fathers are actually patient. Forgiving. Kind. Open to letting their children branch out and fly.

It’s been a painful realization. It still is. I need to go take an anxiety pill after writing this post.

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