An Open Letter To My Father: How Childhood Abuse Yields Adult Mental Illness

Dear Dad,

Today we decided to stop speaking. I know in your head you think I’m reeling with sadness and woe. I need you to know: I will never miss you. I will never long for the way you swell with pride at the fact that “not once did you raise a hand to me, at least not so bad as to have broken a bone or dislocated a joint.” Somehow in your twisted mind the mental torment and light corporal punishment “wasn’t that bad. No, not that bad at all, not when you think about what other kids have gone through.” The nights I spent throwing up in fear of you, cutting myself until I needed to be taken to the hospital, sleeping for days having taken one too many painkillers, those mean nothing. They are fleeting moments.

You paid for my tuition so I should revere you. You bought me a car so I should worship at your altar. You helped with rent so I should kneel at your bedside singing your praises. Nothing else matters, and how could it? You pay. You pay and you pay and you pay, because to you there is nothing but money to you. It equates to love. Every dollar repays a cruel word, a month of abandonment, or a bruise in the shape of a hand. 

I am writing this so you know what a monster you are, because you seem to have forgotten. You left us when Mom was seven months pregnant with J. because you loved someone else, someone you hired to work for you so she could be closer. You broke it off with this woman only when your own father threatened your inheritance. The first time you called me a bitch I was seven years old. The first time you hit me I was eight. “Bitch,” “cunt,” “shithead,” and “asshole”: the words that peppered my formative years were the very same words that shaped who I would become. You fought with Mom, leaving her covered in bruises, clumps of hair visibly missing from her head. Do you remember that time you kicked me out of the house at fifteen because I forgot to shut the door and the air conditioning was on? How about the time you gave me a list of things that were wrong with me as a present for my eighteenth birthday? What about the time Mom tried to kill herself in front of all of us because of you, and then a year later at twenty one, I followed suit? 

You don’t remember any of this. Each day you awake a saint, so perfect, so pious, and each day I am shocked, shaken to my core at what I was raised by. You wonder why I am the way I am, and why I can’t control my anger or sadness or anxiety. You ponder how I could have become so addicted to drugs and alcohol. You muse over those aspects of me and how you, the paragon of human existence, could have produced a cancer like me. But I remain amazed that I am still alive, still fighting, in spite of having someone like you as a parent. 

Well Dad even though I addressed this letter to you, I am writing it instead for everyone who has had hatred woven and stitched into his or her life since infancy. I am writing it to tell those people that they can find strength. They can succeed beyond what they ever though possible because they aren’t the parents they came from. They aren’t that horrible home or those sickening circumstances. They are so much more than that. Women, you don’t deserve the abuse from men, and men you aren’t obligated to abuse those women. We are all our own people, and the most we can ask of ourselves is to be kind in the face of such ingrained cruelty. We can love defiance of your hate. 

You made me feel so small for so long, but I’m finally ready to be strong. 

M. TC Mark

image – Look Catalog

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