Here we are celebrating Father’s Day, another holiday that honors a parent or father figure. Everyone is abuzz about cards, photo shoots, gifts, family meals, trips, and phone calls. Well actually, not everyone. What if your dad is not someone to celebrate? What does this day mean for you?
There are many of us who have severed relationships because of abuse or neglect. We had narcissistic, deviant, cruel father figures. Everywhere we turned, pain and suffering faced us. Cutting off my father is the best thing I ever did for my mental health.
I lived with a man who called himself my father, but he was not worthy of the title. He abused me in many ways. I was an innocent child that had no way out. I was trapped and could not escape the prison I was living in. There were many sleepless nights, painful secrets, panic attacks, isolation, physical pain, and emotional distress. But every year when Father’s Day rolled around, I went out of my way to get him a gift he would truly love. I wanted him to love me and stop hurting me. I felt not good enough and thought if I could just do better, he would love me back.
One Father’s Day when I was in college, we went on a family trip to the Gulf of Mexico. We hung out in a house on the Gulf and relaxed for the weekend. I saw my father working on his legal pad as usual, so I just ignored him. Later that day, Dad said he had a project for me and my brother. He told us he did not want any Father’s Day gifts but instead, he wanted us to take a survey he had prepared about his parenting. Oh. No. He was serious. It was several pages long and had multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and essay questions, and it asked many personal questions about his parenting. Now I had a decision to make. Do I lie or do I tell the truth? What are the consequences and am I willing to pay them? Would he retaliate? Would he cut off college if I told the truth?
I sat down to complete the survey across from my younger brother (he still lived at home). He leaned over to me and said, “Are you going to tell the truth or tell him what he wants to hear?” I was paralyzed by this choice. I had recalled some of the abuse he inflicted on us as children (I was in therapy by this point) but I had never confronted him. He had no idea I was cognizant of the abuse and that I would speak of it.
Now here was my chance. I could lay it all out and really challenge him and put him on notice that I was no longer his victim. I thought better of this coming out. He had one way he wanted us to complete the survey and that was what I was going to give him. All in the name of self-preservation.
I told my brother my decision. He said he was going to tell the truth. I cautioned him but he did it anyway. Months later my father confronted him, and he paid the consequences, but he still thought it was the right decision.
When I officially broke off communication with my parents, my mother mailed me a copy of the survey with my answers. She had been keeping it in her safe. I got her message loud and clear.
I was an adult by then and had the freedom to do as I chose, but the hold on me my parents had was intense. I absolutely had Stockholm syndrome. When I split from them for good under the direction of my psychiatrist and therapist, I felt my body was being separated limb by limb. How could I be without them? How could I exist on my own? How could I be separate and in the world on my own?
After the initial shock and many therapy sessions. I began to realize what a hold they had on me. How they had hurt me mentally and physically. I had been trapped in a cycle of abuse and powerful coercions. They were not acting in my best interest. They were only interested in what I could do for them. How I could bolster their image in the eyes of the community.
It has been 15 years now since I have spoken to any of my immediate family. It took a while, but I am finally mentally and physically separate from them. It is the most freeing feeling to no longer have toxic people in my life who were making me mentally, emotionally, and physically sick. My mental health challenges are extensive and originated with my father and his abuse. My life would be so different right now if not for him and his deviant behaviors.
I hope my story prompts you to choose to rid yourself of anyone who is toxic in your life. They have been cruel to you and you owe them nothing.
It is incredibly hard and you may in many ways be dependent on them for shelter, food, finances, and such, so choose your exit strategy. Have hope that you can get out from under his thumb. Many of us have done it and have survived.
So, I know Father’s Day is hard for many of us. I encourage you to take the day to ponder how strong you are. How you have overcome (or are working on it) your father’s toxicity and have built a life free of his influence.
Living trapped in a relationship with your toxic father leads you to be in a negative mental and physical state. It is hard to separate, but it is necessary to have a fulfilling life.
My father was toxic and I finally escaped. My mental, emotional, and physical health improved once he was out of my life. I encourage others to take this step. You deserve to be free of the toxic and coercive behavior of abusive parents. Father’s Day should be reserved for those who identify as male who are positive role models and who treat those in their care with respect and dignity.
Stay strong — you can do this.
I am Black, lesbian, disabled, mentally ill, fat, a birth mom, mom and grandmom (grand ma Coco to be exact) and Funny. I am a woman who is constantly fighting for my and your liberation.
I have a history of working for those living at the margins mostly in activist and nonprofit spaces. I currently work in the mental health field serving those who have been convicted of felonies and are in mental heath court. I am also a writer. I write about disabilities, chronic illness, mental health, racial trauma, sexual violence and disordered eating. I am also a public community speaker on the same topics. Hit me up if you need my writing or speaking skills.
Please use she or her pronouns when referring to or about me.