A Letter to My Dad

Disclaimer: The stories on this blog touch on difficult issues and experiences.
CW: This week's story involves situations pertaining to family relationships, mental health, sexual assault, suicide

"Dad --

It may seem strange or off that I would be typing a letter out to you, rather than picking up the phone or stopping by.  But maybe after reading this you will understand the deep feelings I have never been able to muster up in your presence.

All my life you have told me I’m too emotional, or that I cry too much.  So why would I pour my heart out to you face to face, when there is a constant fear of rejection and shame ingrained into my history of crying around you.

Little girls need their daddies, and grown women need their daddies too.  I remember when I was in dance, you would put our makeup on for our recitals.  I also remember when I tried to learn to help you build something, you would have me hold the nails rather than teach me to be your little helper.  Since having a child, I can say I understand why you wouldn’t allow a six year old to help.  Sometimes it’s more important for the deck to be structurally sound in those cases.  I’m not saying that you never took the time to teach me things, you did.  But the things you taught me ended up being that I wasn’t strong enough to carry the piece of wood.  Or that I always did something wrong and you had to go behind me to fix it.

Ah, the disappointing dad sigh.  That deep huff of air you let out before saying “Kate……” and continuing on with my reprimand.  Even as an adult, I dread that sigh, because I know somehow, in some way, I messed it up and you feel obligated to do something about it.  I can cite so many times I have heard that sigh.

“Dad, I broke up with so and so….”

“Dad, I am going to quit my job….”

“Dad, I’m pregnant…..”

It has taken me many years to realize that I will never hear the sound of your hands clapping for me in pride, and that the words will never leave your mouth about something I have done right.  I have spent endless nights, searching my memories for those things.  Why can’t I find them? Why am I a disappointment to you?

You have compared me to my mother in the most negative ways possible since you two have divorced.  Let me break it to you Dad, I am 50% of my mother.  But I am also 100% my own person.  I have a brain.  I have a heart.  And I have feelings.  I shared with you, something I felt was really neat, my results from the 23andMe test I took.  You ended up saying, “Don’t forget .1% bitch.”  Then proceeded to literally brag about how you tell me and my sister how much we’re like our mother all the time.  Wow.  Shame on you.

Let me continue on now, to tell you a little more about myself, since in reality you know nothing about me.  When I was a teenager, our family went through a lot of changes.  I’m not writing to you to blame you.  I am writing to educate you.  When I was about 14 years old, instead of doing drugs and drinking with my friends, I made the choice (let me reiterate – I made the choice) to begin self injuring.

After that, I found myself deeply depressed and suicidal.  Did you know between the ages of 15 and 21, I tried to kill myself five times.  FIVE times.  Now tell me who’s disappointed more?  You that I tried, or me that I’ve failed myself five times?  More disappointment.  More failure.  Deeper depression.  I cannot expect anyone to feel what I feel, because they are my feelings, and only I have my brain, my hormones, my synapses.

When I was 15 years old, I was raped by one of my so called friends.  Want to know why I never told you?  Because you are infamous for victim blaming.  Would you have told me it was my fault because I had a friend over when you weren’t home?  Would you have told me I should have fought harder?  You were already disappointed that I had lost my virginity earlier that year.  So would you have called me a slut and told me what a terrible person I was turning into?

grown older, keeping all of these things locked away, I have done myself no favors.

I know I haven’t been the perfect child, and I understand you have a life to live too.  But please allow me to point out a few things I’m disappointed in you for.

When I had my son, he was the first male grandchild for you.  I secretly thought maybe you’d want more to do with me since I birthed a boy instead of yet another weak, crying little girl.  Maybe now you would see me as stronger.  I birthed a child.  I have raised a child.  I have taken care of my child.  But along the way, you have scrutinized, harped, and shown a general disgust for the way I have raised my child.  I should be doing this, or why haven’t I done that?

Why can’t I do anything right in your eyes?  Why have I been such a disappointment to you?  I have raised a child while working full time.  I have worked on myself to get past the pain and hatred I’ve felt towards myself.  I have taken care of your home the best I can, including stripping the carpets and mowing the lawn, but that was never enough for you."

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