The aftermath of talking to my father

It is probably highly irrelevant, but I´ll just write down how I feel after an ordinary encounter with my father.

I still live at home (that is: with my mother), my father lives a few blocks away and stops by every day. My mother is currently on holiday. My father just stopped by. After he interrogated me about my activities yesterday and the activities planned for today (well, technically he just asked, but whatever I tell him, he just replies with “oh yeah?” or “oh really?”, as if he somehow doubted the validity of my statements, which is annoying as hell), he asked me in that I-hate-to-reprimand-you-and-you-know-I-normally-don´t-do-this-but-this-time-I-really-have-to-say-something tone to please clean up the kitchen because apparently the neighbors had remarked on the “strange situation” our family was living in (it is unclear to me whether they referred to the shape the kitchen was in or to the fact that my mum is hardly ever at home).

So. “Apparently” means that he got this from my mother. I can actually hear her behind his words, he is just the messenger. She has said something that rang the “bitch at your daughter” bell in his head. My mother is on holiday. So the neighbor´s comment (whatever he may actually have said) must have been made before she went away, which is also before the kitchen was in the messy shape it currently finds itself in. So what´s the kitchen got to do with anything, and how will cleaning it up help other than in terms of coziness? I should add that my father is nobody who should be preachy about tidying up. He lives in such a mess he´s had mice in his apartment.

When I quizzed him on what the neighbor had actually said, he wavered, saying that it is clear they are keeping an eye on us. I told him that we´ve been living here longer than our neighbors, and, again, demanded to know what they had said. He made a dismissive sound, said “well, just clean up the kitchen, will you?” in a why-can´t-you-just-be-a-nice-person tone and left.

I am ashamed of the state the flat is in. I am ashamed of the state my room is in. I´ve had mice in my room, too. I somehow had to keep it secret from my mother, who would have freaked out. I don´t manage to keep it even remotely tidy. I simply can´t. I have no energy. Half the day I´m sitting around bored to death, but I don´t manage to do anything useful. And suddenly another day has passed. The minutes creep, the months fly.

Officially I´m still a student, which helps keeping up the denial, but practically I´m a wreck and apparently people are starting to notice. There is so much to fix, so many areas of life in which I´m at the bottom end of what is just about acceptable, but I don´t even have the energy to pick up my clothes from the floor (for any other reason than to wear them). Normally I manage to wash the dishes at some point; cleaning up the kitchen is among the things I can do. But my father´s remark has drained me of all the energy I could have used on that task. Now, cleaning up the kitchen would be like repeatedly kicking myself in the face shouting: “You worthless piece of shit!”

Wait, no.

Kicking myself in the face would be cathartic.

Cleaning up the kitchen would not feel like a task anymore, it would feel like a punishment. It would feel like I deserve it that the garbage stinks. I would deserve it that the water is too hot and burns my hands. And when, predictably, our slimy neighbor passes by the window and grins at me, it would feel like he is making fun of me, as if he was oh so in the know: “So they received my message and finally put you to work, huh?”

God, am I paranoid.

Most of all, though, I feel like I have to leave the kitchen in this disgusting state just because otherwise my father will come back, see I cleaned up and praise me in that condescending fashion. Like, “oh good, so you cleaned up the kitchen, and I bet now you feel better, too. Living in such a mess is not good for anybody, it really weighs on your self-esteem. You should make a habit of cleaning things up sooner, I´m sure your mother would be much happier, too.”

Wait, why do I call this praise again?

It isn´t. It is a punch in the stomach. One before I clean up the kitchen, and one afterwards. Both times, he makes it clear to me that the messy kitchen is a shame; and that if I feel ashamed (that is: it weighs on my self-esteem) it is for a good reason. And he also shows me how much influence he has: He says so, I do it.

Can´t let him have that.

Why not, though? Knowing how he would react, I already feel all the rage that his reaction could evoke in me. I am so full of rage that I get extremely irritable with regards to noises; I could slap people for blowing their nose. I want to yell and kick stuff and I think “if only he just died”.

Next, I feel all empty and resigned again, thinking that my rage just shows how immature I am; that I´m a failure for not being able to take criticism; that it is normal that parents reprimand their children and that I have been spoiled anyway, that in other families I would have been beaten black and blue for my behavior.

Then I feel so tired and weepy and think that it might be the best idea to kill myself. No more need to fix myself, no more need to enable myself to manage my life, no more obligations, nothing more to do. And knowing I will not do it, I start to wish that somebody else kills me.

At this point I typically enter another phase: Daydreaming. First I´ll dream that somebody has me cornered, maybe a professional killer working for the mafia who has to kill me because I witnessed some crime, whatever. It will be someone who works cleanly, without great emotions, but with some sympathies for me because at least I don´t make a big fuss, put up a fight or resist in any way. In that dream at first I just sit there huddled up waiting to die, but since I don´t really die, black out or fall asleep, the dream has to take a different direction. I might start to talk him out of killing me, there might be others present and I talk him out of killing anybody. Or I imagine that I am the killer, that I have killed many people and now I´ve finally been caught and people want to know why I did it.

And at some point I´m so far away from that horrible sense of self my father reduces me to that I can resume living. Cook, shop, clean up the kitchen. This is how I work. Set me off – then I will at first rage or feel really miserable or both, then I will just walk away from myself, drift to some different sense of self; and at some point return to mostly normal and continue. I don´t really lose time, but it feels a bit like becoming sober again when you´ve had a glass of wine in the middle of the day. The day does not feel complete. It doesn´t feel like one day.




3 Responses to “The aftermath of talking to my father”

  1. vicariousrising Says:

    I recognize a lot of myself in this post. Being around my parents always emphasizes the “wrongness” of me. I always end up feeling immature and small. Agitated and hopeless.

    It probably won’t do you much good for me to say you would be better off if you could get away from them. At the state you are in, that probably feels emotionally and financially impossible. Maybe you can ask you dad to stop stopping by?

    It just seems to me that it is too hard for you to discover the truth about who you really are so long as your parents are around pushing their skewed perspective on you.

  2. I don’t think that your reactions are wrong or crazy. From what I’ve read of your blog, your parents seem abusive. You also seem like a very sensitive person, which is why you can pick up on the underlying meanings of communication. You remind me a lot of myself, as I mentioned in my posting on your “About Me” page.

    I agree with the poster above who said that it’d probably be best for you to get away from your family for a while to discover who you really are and what you are capable of doing. Also, I know that you’ve had a terrible experience with therapy and can understand why it’d be painful and scary for you to try it out again, but the right therapist might really be able to help you work through stuff.

  3. Thank you for your comments, both of you. I´m really glad you don´t think I´m just crazy or spoiled. I agree I should leave home; I want to, but I feel pretty much unable to initiate the necessary steps, like finding a job that gives me at least some financial independence. I don´t think this is a coincidence, so I´ll probably write an entry about that sometime in the near future.

    Regarding therapy: The person who said that really useful stuff about me and my sister also said that I ought to try therapy again. I am considering it if for no other reasons then simply because of my problems with anxiety. Having talked about Dr. Stoneface I feel like I might be more able to protect myself this time, but I´m still not very comfortable with the idea. We´ll see.

    “Agitated and hopeless”, by the way, is an excellent description. Sometimes I feel inadequate simply because I´m so agitated. Like: “Why couldn´t I just stay calm? Why do I have to behave like a sullen kid? Will this never stop? What made me such a wrong person?”

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