I’ve spent over 20 years battling with memories of the cruel and abusive things family members did to me as a child. I must stress none of them were physical or sexual, but mental, and left deep scars that even I didn’t know were there. This won’t be a post about what happened – I’ve already been over that. My focus now is on working past it, and ultimately moving on with my life. To do that, I’ve begun attending counselling as part of my therapy sessions to try and get some direction.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in thoughts of what I should do now or what I should have done then. I’ve said on so many occasions “I wish I could go back as I am now, it would have been different”. If you’d asked me more recently how it made me feel, I’d have told you I was over it, no longer angry, but I just wanted answers. What surprised me is that during counselling, I realise how angry I am about the whole thing, how bitter I am at the treatment, and how cheated and punished I felt when I was just a 10 year old boy.
The main thing though, is that I know hanging on to these thoughts and feelings isn’t healthy. I know if I continue to hang on to it, letting it affect me like it does, then ultimately this will impact on my mental health, and we can’t be having that now can we?
I’ve spoken at length with my therapist, and she’s asked so many questions to try and help me understand exactly what it is I want to get out of counselling, and ultimately what I want to get out of this whole situation. The truth is, I want answers and accountability. I want my dad to be accountable for the horrible things he did to me as a child. The disconnect is that he doesn’t see what he did as damaging, instead seeing as part of life with which he feels no guilt. For now, this means I’m searching for answers I’ll never get, resulting in ongoing feelings that could never go away.
So what’s the answer? Well in my last session we talked about two things:
1) Write a letter to my dad. This can be anything I want it to be. I don’t have to send it, but it’s my way of having my say and letting him know exactly how he made me feel. Will I send one? Probably not. The last time I did aged 10, when a therapist told me to, I was blamed for upsetting him and thus refused to acknowledge any responsibility.
2) How can I learn to move on without actually wanting the answers and accountability from him? I know I’m not going to get the answers, but I don’t want to want them anymore.
The second of those two is what has stuck with me the most over the last few days. While trying to understand what I want, my therapist asked me a question:
”Picture yourself at 80 years old, sitting next to you now, listening to what you’re saying. What would he be saying to you? What advice would he give you?”
This question stopped me in my tracks. I’ve spent 21 years looking back at what should have been, what I could have done, I’ve never looked to the future. I fell silent for a short while, wondering exactly what it was I’d expect myself to say. He knows everything I’ve been through better than anyone else, he knows how tough it’s been, he knows what is yet to come, so what on earth could he say? And then it came to me.
“Let it go”
I choked up. I knew exactly what I’d be telling myself. You need to let this all go. You won’t get the answers you want, so how long will you chase them before realising you’re wasting so much time. I turned out alright, I’m a good person, kind, generous and thoughtful. There are material things that come along with that but being decent is what’s important to me. In life, I want for nothing, and all of this happened despite all of the issues I had. “Let it go”.
Those three words have stuck with me ever since. Life is, after all, too short, and each second I spend wanting something I don’t think I’ll get seems like a huge waste. They’re powerful words, and I can actually see myself saying it. “You need to let this go. Life is too short and you’ve been through enough. You’ve struggled enough. Let it go.”
So what does this mean? I’m not quite sure yet. It has, however, changed the way I’m thinking about the whole thing. Rather than look for answers, I’m looking for understanding. Rather than fight for his acknowledgement, I have my own. The next chapter isn’t me trying to get answers, it’s working with what I have and moving on.
So when I write my letter to my Dad, it’s going to be different to what I originally expected. It won’t be a letter of blame built on tears and anger. It’s going to be a letter of honesty and acceptance allowing us both to move on positively in whatever direction life takes us in.
I can’t change what he or other family members did and said. I can’t change how it made me feel when I was just a young boy trying to understand. What I can do is begin to accept how it made me feel, and know that I’m no longer a young boy, I’m no longer in the firing line and I’m capable of standing up for myself. I have a good life built on my strength and determination, hard work and good morals. I have everything I need to move forward into a happier future.
It’s time to let go.