Skip to content

What it’s like to not have a dad.

Posted in Uncategorized

Trigger warning for reflections on mental health and parental abandonment.

I have so few memories of my biological father, I can count them on one hand.

I remember going to a circus with him once. I was probably about three years old. And I remember so vividly how special I felt. My dad wanted to spend time with me. It was so unexpected and precious to me, even at that early age, because I knew it didn’t happen often. Already, I had a concept of needing to prove myself to my father. I made sure I behaved perfectly, because I thought the reason he didn’t come to see me, the reason he didn’t live with us, was because I wasn’t good enough. And if I was good enough, he would come see me more often.
I think the next time I saw him, I was four. He took me to a pet store to buy goldfish to feed his piranhas. Then he took me back to his house, where he and a friend drank beer and smoked weed and fell asleep. I wandered around the house. I didn’t know where the bathroom was. Eventually, I wet my pants, and it eventually dried. My dad’s wife came home from work and found me in the dark house- I didn’t know how to turn on the lights or where the switches were-, my dad and his friend still passed out.
I never went to his house again. I saw him only occasionally. He never paid child support. He never came to another birthday party. He came to my high school graduation. I was a ball of tears and anxiety, looking out the window, wondering if he was there. Asking my mother, who had sacrificed her life and her dreams to have me and raise me, if my dad was there, because that’s all I cared about in that moment, and just having her there wasn’t enough. I feel so incredibly guilty about that now. But at the time, when I walked down that aisle with my classmates, praying, “Please. Please be here. Please,” and I saw my father sitting there, I felt validated. I felt like, “This is it. This is proof that he loves me.”
Now that I’m older, I can look back on all of those times and I realize that I was never getting proof that he loved me. Because he doesn’t, and that’s something I accept. What I was looking for, in all of those horrible moments, was proof that I was worthy of love at all.
When a parent rejects you, you don’t see the problem as being with them. You see the problem as being with you. This is something that haunts you for the rest of your life. You carry it around like an open wound, and you try to patch it with little scraps of what appear to be affection. And they never work. It’s like putting a band-aid on an amputated limb.
To give you an idea of how pervasive and insidious this is, let me give you an example of the crazy shit that goes through my head: if I go to a store, doesn’t matter what store. Doesn’t matter for what reason. If I go to the grocery store, and the cashier is a little snippy with me or hell, even if she’s tired and her feet her and she doesn’t want to be there and I get a sense of that, I decide that it’s me. That I am unlikeable. That there is some mark on me, something invisible but that everyone can sense or see, that tells them how broken I am. And I get a paranoid fear that the reason this stranger that I am interacting with knows that my own father rejected me.
That is fucked up, but I know I’m not alone. I know a lot of people, probably even a lot of people who read this blog, feel the same way. Or they don’t know they feel that way, while feeling that way. Because it takes a little while to make that connection. And when you do, you’re like, “Wow. I am way messed up.”
I feel as though there is something broken inside of me, and I should be ashamed of it. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know how to fix it, and the more I think about it, the more angry I get. And I get angry at myself for continuing to exhibit behavior motivated by this need to prove that there’s nothing wrong with me, to prove to everyone that I am worth something, even though I know that if I had never written this blog post, none of you guys would have ever known that my father abandoned me.
I wrote this because today, I had a really bad episode. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but hospitalization was considered. Calls to friends were made to talk me down. And this breakdown was triggered by something I would have thought was completely unrelated to my issues over my father. But in the course of talking to a friend, she said, “Jen, you have a really hard time feeling like a victim.”
Nobody likes feeling like a victim. Nobody likes being a victim. But hearing that sentence, hearing someone say, “Yes, you have been victimized, and it’s okay to acknowledge that,” moved me beyond what I thought was bothering me, to the very root of what was actually causing the problem. And I thought, “if I can’t share that with Troutnation and all my wonderful Troutlandians, then who can I share this with?” Because you guys have always been cool with my sharing my mental health issues, and I’m always down to hear yours, and we can be all sorts of fucked up together.
If Troutnation were an actual place, when you crossed the border there would probably be a sign put up by the tourism commission that says, “Welcome to Troutnation. Come be fucked up together!”
But I digress. I learned a couple really important things today that are going to help me, and I think will be helpful to some of you:
  1. If someone does something shitty to you? It’s okay to feel like they did something shitty to you. You don’t have to rationalize all the ways you probably deserved it and will continue to deserve it the future.
  2. Living “in the moment” is only a good thing if the moment is good. If you “live in the moment” and you hit a low time, that’s where those stupid suicide thoughts come in, and nobody wants that. Appreciate the moment, but don’t live in it. Live to see what’s next.
  3. (I realize three is more than a couple, but this is important) You don’t ever have to forgive anybody. No matter what Oprah says. If forgiving someone is going to be detrimental to your mental health at the moment, you don’t have to do it. Because faking forgiveness and being okay with shit just means everyone else moves on, and you’re still stuck back in the angry spot.

That’s all I’ve got for today.

Did you enjoy this post?

Trout Nation content is always free, but you can help keep things going by making a small donation via Ko-fi!

Or, consider becoming a Patreon patron!

83 Comments

  1. Laina
    Laina

    Dude, what is it with absentee fathers and circuses? Also one of the only memories I have.

    Also much hugs and I hope things get easier for you soon.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  2. anonymous
    anonymous

    Thank you for sharing; this is something my husband deals with also and it has always been hard for me to relate to. I always knew my dad even if he had his own issues. I really appreciate you baring your soul this way, it’s really amazing to get a glimpse of this perspective.
    I hope you feel better, your blog always make me happy so I hope you get happy too!

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  3. Natalie
    Natalie

    Wow. Number 3 is something I really needed to read.
    Thanks Jen, hope things get better for you.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  4. I used to feel insecure because I felt like everyone in the world was surely noticing and reacting to me being inadequate. Various experiences have shown me that the average non-fucked-up person is so deep inside her own life that she hardly sees you at all. If she does, either she’ll see you with the same compassion with which you see her, or she’s a jerk, and who cares what jerks think? So that cashier: either she didn’t notice you, or she loves you, or she’s a jerk.

    Does that help? Because it sure as hell helped me. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

    Also, have you read Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things? Because I thought I was coping with father abandonment issues/self-esteem issues pretty well, and she showed me a whole new level of issues/coping. And I felt better.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
    • Marimba Ani
      Marimba Ani

      That helped me, Katharine. Thank you.

      And thank you for posting, Jenny. I wish you the best. And kittens. But not kittens you have to take care of, just ones you can look at and maybe snuggle and then give back.

      July 23, 2013
      |Reply
  5. Mojitana
    Mojitana

    Amazing how fucked up you can get by the absence of someone. I used to think it was my fault that my mom was never around. Once I accepted that it wasn’t me, but her, my life got significantly better. Once I realized that I wasn’t the reason my dad drank, that he was just an alcoholic, my life got significantly better. I hope you are on the path to getting better.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  6. Something else that can happen is people who don’t understand what it means to have a parent so profoundly screwed up tell people to not only forgive their parents a la Oprah (I sincerely doubt she really means this and think she says a lot of what she does because she’s pandering to an audience) and try to build bridges. Build bridges? No. Sometimes it’s better to keep the chasm uncrossable, and to widen it when necessary.

    Emily Yoffe (Dear Prudence) wrote this article about what adults owe to parents who weren’t good parents, whether due to abuse or abandonment. It’s a good article on how it’s okay to let go. I don’t know if you ever start to think you might owe your dad something because “he made you,” or if others ever tell you you should reach out, but this article might help. This is the one I tell people to read when they tell me I should forgive my abusive mother and reach out to her, and it’s helped some people get it. It does focus a bit more on active abuse, but what your dad did is still abuse. His choice to leave and forget about you is an active choice to abuse by neglect.

    slate DOT com/articles/life/family/2013/02/abusive_parents_what_do_grown_children_owe_the_mothers_and_fathers_who_made.html

    Your dad’s actions are a reflection of him, not you. He’s a despicable person, and it can be easy to feel, on a subconscious level, that since you are genetically half of him, that you are part bad. But you aren’t him. He’s the awful one no one should like. You, Jennifer Armintrout, are an entirely separate person. People aren’t going to see your awful dad when they see you. They are going to see YOU.

    You are you, and you are a mother to some kids who won’t be part of the cycle. Let your dad be an anti-hero, an example of all not to do. Learn from his…”mistakes” isn’t the right word since he chose what to do…his stupidity, I think is better, and continue being the good mom you are. Try to cut off the past after taking from it what lesson you can, and look toward the generation you’re raising.

    Any time you need to take, please feel free to. Don’t feel like you need to hide, like you are someone dirtied by you past and need to hide. A lot of people here care very much, and are going to support.

    XXXXX

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
    • lauraqofu
      lauraqofu

      That article was very helpful for me. Thanks for sharing it.

      July 23, 2013
      |Reply
  7. Alison
    Alison

    Oh, Jenny. I’m so sorry. I have an absentee father, too. I know how it messes with your sense of self and ability to have relationships with other people. My big revelation that I learned in therapy was that it was ok for me to not love my dad anymore. It didn’t mean that I couldn’t still love the important people in my life.

    My little brother is still struggling with missing our dad. He still feels like if he just had the chance to show our dad what a great person he is, then dad will realize what he’s been missing and want to spend time with him.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  8. Funny, I’ve been going through some really similar bad episodes this week. Love to you! I hope it gets better soon. 🙂

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  9. I’m so sorry that you’ve had to feel that way. I always think that I’m lucky in that I never had a father. He didn’t even want me to call him dad. I only found out who my father was because my grandad was awesome and refused to stay away from my just because his son was a useless coward. So I used to see my grandad, and eventually when I was old enough I realised that, hey, my grandad’s son must be my dad!

    I’ve never cared. Never. I love my mum. I love my grandad. I love the rest of my family. I don’t feel like I’m lacking anything and I’ve never actually considered it from the perspective of rejection. I’ve always thought it was his loss. I wish that everyone suffering from abandonment could take it so easily.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  10. It’s amazing to know that there are people like you that have issues like this and actively make an effort to try to help others as well as themselves. 🙂 It takes a strong person to admit their feelings and then rationalize and try to learn and grow and make their life better. Reaching out to other people and sharing experiences is so powerful and being able to talk AND listen is so important. You’re a very inspiring person Jenny, keep rocking!!

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  11. Nadia
    Nadia

    I am very sorry you had such a rough go of it. And I am sending all the help I can t hru this blog. Your point number three hit home with me. I will never, under any circumstances forgive forget accept or try to understand why my sibling did what he did. Several therapists have tried to talk me into the forgiving mind. Sorry not happening. I’m hesitant to say due to my respect for you and it’s a huge trigger. Thank you for saying what I needed to hear. I want a position on Troutville welcoming commity. Love u Jen

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  12. Amanda
    Amanda

    Neither of my parents left, they’re still in the same fucked up marriage that they always have been, but they might as well have been gone for all they gave a shit about me. I remember begging them to take interest in the things I was doing. To come to a concert, anything. If they weren’t interested they didn’t bother. I raised my brothers, cleaned their house, made their dinners and was completely invisible otherwise. I seriously had to tell them about what my brothers were doing in school before parent teacher conferences because they had no idea.

    And yet I had to feel like I owed them something. My whole life my dad told me that it was pointless to make friends that they would abandon you and then all you would have was your family. Your family were the only people who would stay around you, because they had to. Not because they liked you, or loved you, because they were your family and you had to be chained to them forever. So, even though I was irrelevant and no one cared where I was, when I tried to move away to school, they resisted. I’m glad I didn’t give in. Yet even then still I would call and ask them to come visit me, to see a concert I was going to play in, to send me a damn letter. Nothing. I wasn’t far away, 40 minutes, but they never came to see me. Not once. It tore me up because these were ‘the only people who would ever stick with me’ and they didn’t even like me.

    I was a mess for a really long time, my relationships were seriously fucked up. I couldn’t believe that anyone would want to be around me. It’s gotten better as time and distance have healed somethings, but I’m still afraid that I will be alone. That I am inherently unlovable. I have my dark moments where I’m sure that my husband will someday leave me (even though he’s never been anything but supportive and wonderful), that my daughters will grow up to hate me. It’s been hard especially as of late, because my friendships have gotten harder. The people that I care about are far away and I spend weeks and weeks seeing no one but my husband and kids. I don’t make friends easily and rather than acknowledging that my friends still care about me but time and distance make things hard. I take it to mean that they’ve given up on me, that it is proof that I’m unlovable. That my dad was right, that everyone that I care about will leave me behind and they only people I will have left are they people that are tied to me by blood. Obligated.

    I don’t even know why I just wrote a book here. But, major love for you. You make my days better and you don’t even know me. Seriously, I came for the recaps, but I stayed because I genuinely like you.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
    • Aura
      Aura

      Wow, I feel the same way. My parents were so caught up in their own struggles and mental illness/addiction that I was left alone, and unsupported creatively. The only thing that was important to them was that I went to school, and they’d always say things like “You’re smart”, or “You know the right thing to do.” It got tired after a while. I rebelled in senior year by smoking weed and skipping class to be with friends who actually gave a damn about who I was uniquely as a person. Skipping class left me unable to graduate and only then, when I fucked up, did they turn their backs on me. My father’s alcoholism came to a head and we were homeless and penniless. I blamed myself for so long. Even after I passed the class and received my diploma, they looked at it and put it under a placemat and continued their conversation about themselves. I was devastated. I got a job working at McDonald’s because no one else could get a job. I brought home my very first check; I was so excited and I gave it to my mother and told her to take it all for food. She looked at me with disgust and said, “I don’t need your fucking money.” I was basically raised by two people who had such severe issues that all they could think about was their struggles and unaccomplished dreams. I didn’t go to college and stayed smoking weed and hanging out. Fast forward through 5 years of depression so bad that I couldn’t get out of bed, and basically losing all my friends, I’m still emotionally and creatively stilted in ways I may never know. I have a hard time trying to figure out who I am as I had no outlets offered to me in my formative years. But I’m almost 25 now and I’m fighting to get my life back. Both of my parents now have basically given up on life and I’m determined not to let them drag me down another inch.
      I agree with you that reading Jenny’s blog helps A LOT. To see someone so open about her struggles, it really brings a feeling of not being alone. We’re all fucked up, either secretively or openly, and it takes real courage to admit that to an audience.
      I hope you find strength from wherever you can, Jen. I personally find escape in music, and I see from the sidebar that you do as well. Hang in there, kiddo. There are strength in numbers, and your blog seems to have that in spades!

      July 24, 2013
      |Reply
      • Amanda
        Amanda

        “Raised by two people who had such severe issues that all they could think about was their struggles and unaccomplished dreams.” That’s really it in a nutshell. They were way too young when they had me, and their problems were so severe.

        It’s also been a lesson in forgiveness and how it works. I’ve been able to forgive my mom, it wasn’t her fault. My dad was an abuser/still is an abuser and it’s taken me until just this year for me to finally realize it. I’ll be thirty next month and it’s just now that I’ve realized how deep the problem is. He was that good at making everyone feel like he was the perfect martyr for his family and that we were all less than him. My mom suffered a psychotic break when I was in junior high that raged unchecked until I was 20. My days were spent with her sobbing and talking to walls and doorknobs. With my dad screaming at her and breaking furniture and telling her that if she was just like him she would be better. That if he had started hearing voices that he’d be able to ignore them. She started drinking when her meds weren’t working well enough. And no one was ever like, ‘hey there are kids in the house.’

        My dad doesn’t deserve forgiveness and he wouldn’t understand that he did anything that needed forgiving.

        I’m glad that you’re on your way to getting your life back. The feeling I had when I realized that I was on the way to getting mine back. It was amazing and scary all at once. It’s been seven years since I moved out of my parent’s house, in seven years things have come so far. It’s good for me to remember when I am going through a hard spot.

        July 24, 2013
        |Reply
    • “That I am inherently unlovable.”

      I am certain that is untrue. You sound like a very lovely person and you deserve the love you receive.

      July 25, 2013
      |Reply
  13. I’m so worried that this is how my boyfriend’s daughter will feel. He took great care of her as a baby, but then he and her mom split, he went to jail, and her mom got full custody. A couple of years ago, his daughter (N), who was 4, started making up stories about seeing her dad, so her mom (M) decided to let him visit. We started dating shortly after, and he would go to their apartment every Friday, often bringing me, and we’d bring her presents and just play with her for hours. We would take her to the zoo, the museum, the Ren Fest, or just the park. Every now and then she would come to our house, where we had a room and toys for her. N loved her dad, and she loved me (always wanted to sit with me, hold my hand crossing the street, hug me goodbye first).

    Every now and then M would go off the deep-end (she’s type 1 bipolar, I’m type 2) and we wouldn’t see N for weeks. In December M decided she wants child support. Boyfriend said he’d be happy to pay, but he wanted partial custody. M said she’d be talking to lawyers and that we didn’t get to see N in the meantime. We’ve only seen her a few times since Thanksgiving, and only at boyfriend’s grandma’s house (without M, she’s not around much). I don’t know what people have been telling N, but she barely talks to her dad now, and won’t even look at me. Her birthday is Monday (she’ll be 7), and we don’t seem to be invited to the party.

    I’m so worried that she’s going to grow up thinking that her dad doesn’t love her, and that we don’t want to spend time with her. Sorry for the long post, this just really brought all of this to my mind.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
    • lauraqofu
      lauraqofu

      I don’t know what state you’re in, but most states do not make child support a requirement of seeing the child. It is easy to vilify this child’s mother, but look at it from her perspective. She had a child, had to care for that child on her own, without any financial support. Four years of being the only parent, dealing with tummy aches and diapers, doing all the work. And then dad shows up, and is still not paying child support, asks for shared custody as a requirement for doing what he should have been doing all along.

      I am sure it is difficult dealing with a mother who is mentally ill…but her bad behavior doesn’t excuse his. Building a relationship with a child when you haven’t been around from the beginning is hard. You can’t just jump in and be mom or dad. It takes time to form that bond. Just because we as parents love our kids immediately doesn’t mean the kid feels the same way. He may be her father, but he was also a stranger.

      There are legal options here. Unless he’s been proven an unfit parent, he does have rights, ad she can’t keep the child away from him, but that means a lot of time, money and effort. And it means making sure what is being done is for the greatest good of the child, not for what is best for the parents.

      July 23, 2013
      |Reply
      • Actually, she hasn’t done anything on her own. When she lived on her own she only had N a couple nights a week (the rest of the time N was with her grandma or her dad’s aunt), and for a couple years now M has lived with her mom, who does most of the work. There are times that M takes off for days or even weeks without anyone knowing where she is. I know his behavior hasn’t been perfect either, but he doesn’t have the money to take M to court. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to have a relationship with his daughter. I just don’t want N to grow up thinking her dad doesn’t love her, that’s all I’m saying.

        July 23, 2013
        |Reply
    • Laina
      Laina

      I don’t know if it’s the same in the states, but when my mom went through custody stuff, her lawyer was through social services. She didn’t pay anything.

      July 24, 2013
      |Reply
  14. “Because you guys have always been cool with my sharing my mental health issues, and I’m always down to hear yours, and we can be all sorts of fucked up together.”

    Solidarity. Damn straight.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  15. lauraqofu
    lauraqofu

    Wow…just…ouch. I’ve been having such a rough time, too. My dad split when I was 4, and I didn’t talk to him again until I was 24. He has friended me on FB, and I don’t know why I accepted the request. But, then, I’m also FB friends with my mom, and she and her boyfriends abused me and my sister our whole lives, and then she kicked me out when I was 16.

    As the Bloggess says “All the best people are broken.” I’m really glad to be a part of Troutnation…I’m so glad I followed that FB link that brought me here to your awesome recaps, and more importantly, your total awesomeness. I’m glad you made it through the day. Some days that’s all we can hope for.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  16. My biological father was also one of these non-persons. I can remember the three times in my childhood that I saw him, clearly, like they were yesterday. No circus, mind you. But he did take me to the beach, then back to his parents’ house, where he and his grandfather both got roaring stupidly drunk while I sat in the corner and played with the cat. I was eight, the age that my oldest son is now, and I cannot fathom him being in that situation.

    Anyway.

    It *does* fuck you up for life, having an absent parent. EVEN IF the parent actually raising you is wonderful. I hear this. Everything about this post resonated with me.

    I’m proud to be part of Troutnation. I’m glad that you have good friends who were there for you in your crisis. I hope you keep sharing, if it helps you. I love this blog. It’s one of my favourites, and this space you’ve created feels safe.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  17. Alexis
    Alexis

    Thanks for this. I’ve been feeling…terrible about family shit lately. See, my mom and I haven’t spoken in a couple months. I can’t even begin to sort out my issues with that. But exacerbating it is the fact that, in that two-month span, I got engaged. My dad–who was so absent during my childhood a lot of the time–has actually been there the whole time to help plan and go to appointments with vendors for the wedding and everything. And just nothing from my mom. It’s like my world has been flipped upside-down. That coupled with a few other things and I have been in Deep Depression City for like a month now. I have all this stupid Catholic guilt and all this fucked up deep seated childhood shit and I can’t even deal with it. So somehow this made me feel a million times better. Thank you. Be strong. We are people, not just our parents’ children. I try to remember that.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  18. Juliet'sDagger
    Juliet'sDagger

    This post was something of an unexpected eye opener for me. I don’t have a dad either, he is a waste of space alcoholic who drifted in and out of my childhood whenever he felt like. He would come out of nowhere after months of being absent and whisk me off to the cinema or arcade, always falling asleep drunk and leaving me feeling abandoned when he dropped me off back home again. In the past he has stolen from me, made me feel incapable of being loved and on a few occasions, he has walked past me in the street without acknowledging me, but the worst thing he did was make me turn against my mother. In my young mind, it was her fault he didn’t love me, her fault that he didn’t want me, and I always voiced that opinion whenever I was shouted at or punished. The look on her face when I would tell her that I loved him more and wanted to live with him is something I still remember and something that will never stop haunting me.
    It was only when I hit my mid-teens that I realised he wasn’t someone I no longer wanted in my life and when I told him that on one of his rare visits, I knew it was the best decision I could have made for my future. I don’t crave his love or wonder why I was never able to earn it… I simply don’t care about him anymore and I will never make any excuses for this. My way of thinking regarding the male parental figure since that day has always been ‘I was not worth his time so he is not worth my forgiveness’, and I haven’t given him a second thought up until today when I read your newest blog post. I assumed that when I cut ties, I had cut them completely, but I can relate to everything you say about mental health being connected. I have had OCD since a very young age, one of my nursery teachers called my mum in to her office when I was five to discuss my ‘strange habits’, and around two years ago I suffered with anxiety so bad I did consider suicide a few times. I am forever looking at the people around me, seeking some sign of approval and trying to guess what they’re thinking because I know that there is something about me that they don’t like, and I have always done this… I think it is about time I stopped.

    Thank you, Jenny, for this post. I like me, mental afflictions and all. My habits, washing my hands 3000 times a day and baby wiping the work office equipment before I use it to name a few, might be ‘strange’ to others and yes, it pisses me off something ruthless at times, but it makes me feel safe and if other people can’t understand that then they can go and fuck themselves with a sharp stick for all I care, same goes for anyone who decides they don’t like me. I wasn’t born like this, my past made me this way and I see my mental problems as battle scars for what I have had the courage to drag myself through so far in this lifetime.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
    • So much of what you’ve posted resonates with me. The absent father, the subsequent OCD and anxiety, and the final realization that I don’t need him in my life. Which his just as well, since I don’t HAVE him in my life. I mourned the day that he died to me. But I was mostly mourning everything that never came to be.

      July 25, 2013
      |Reply
  19. Sending you Internet hugs, because I can’t give you real ones.
    Also, as much sympathy and understanding as I can. Absentee father is rough. Mine was abusive THEN absentee (and no child-support from him either, it’s a theme!), so yea, I get that feeling of inadequacy thing. I’ve been getting better as I get older and spend more time with people who clearly care deeply about me. Oddly, having a baby helped too. Being the center of someone’s world gets old after a while, but it sure is validating, y’know? Plus, it pushed me to inspecting my own internal fuckery as often as possible in an effort to root it out so I don’t inadvertently inflict it on my little one.
    But it still comes back to bite sometimes.

    Anyway, #3 is definitely helpful, yes. I always tell myself that, but it’s hard to fight against the prevailing culture of “forgive and forget, no matter how heinous the original hurt.” Frankly, I feel like the message “you must forgive to get better” is really damaging to people who have been victims of abuse, especially emotional abuse. It invalidates the person’s hurt in a way, and places an unnecessary burden on them. Do I think people have to stop dwelling on something and holding a grudge to get better? Yea. But that doesn’t mean forgiving OR forgetting, frankly.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
    • Sassy
      Sassy

      I genuinely read an article once where it was argued that someone who had experienced rape must, in order to move forward, forgive their rapist. It was phrased all nicely as ‘the rapist is a horrible person and by forgiving them you are the bigger, enlightened person’ but holy crap that article almost made me put my fist through my monitor. Like, what the actual fuck. No. So much no. All the no in the world.

      I agree with you that this awful ‘you must forgive’ mantra is very damaging, and needs to be seen as such. And what the hell does Oprah know anyway? She liked Twilight! :/

      July 24, 2013
      |Reply
      • Twilight? Piddly stuff. Oprah loves Fifty Shades. LOVES it. She even tells readers on her website (and you know nothing goes on that site she doesn’t agree with, so it doesn’t matter the author of this piece) to just skip to sex. oprah DOT com/entertainment/What-Not-to-Read-in-Any-Book–Parts-of-a-Book-You-Can-Skip/3 Go ahead and cry at this video: youtube DOT com/watch?v=pKppY09vPJQ Oprah talks about how, for the first time, she can “enjoy something and just read.” So basically these books are the best things she’s ever read.

        thestir.cafemom DOT com/entertainment/145057/oprah_thinks_50_shades_of I love the first comment for the writer’s attempt at chastising the article author for calling the books poorly written while using “than” instead of “then.” Try to ignore the rest of the comments praising the “deep love story” of the books. It’s terribly upsetting that so many people see blatant abuse as beautiful.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people read about child abuse and think of it as a way a parent is expressing love “the best they know how.” How on earth did this world become one where so many people are completely willing to overlook abuse and even consider it to be love?

        So screw EVERYTHING Oprah ever has to say. She lost a lost of credibility in my book by taking credit for the Pontiacs that were given to the audience by the Pontiac corp back in about 2005 (that she claimed came from her, eve though Pontiac supplied them free of charge, and then she claimed they were promotional prizes so she could write the retail cost of them all off on her taxes and pass the responsibility for tax onto the audience who were all people who couldn’t afford vehicles – if they had been given as gifts, which would have cost Oprah nothing, the audience wouldn’t have had to pay taxes), and the tiny shred of credibility she still had disappeared entirely when I saw she endorses these books. And that whole thing about just forgiving abusers? Yeah, easy to say when you’ve got billions and can afford the best therapy money can buy and plenty of relaxing vacations with $150-bars of soap (that she recommended as gift items last Christmas) so you can unwind when you feel pressure getting to you and have people fawning all over you. What she has to say is irrelevant to everything.

        July 24, 2013
        |Reply
  20. Anonymous
    Anonymous

    You shouldn’t be quick to forgive someone who hurts you really bad, because that just hurts you more. You start to feel obligated to forgive them because its what’s expected, even if you feel they don’t deserve it.

    But you shouldn’t hate them either. Hate is self destructive and leads nowhere. It’s better to just acknowledge that while you don’t forgive them, they are human and have their own shit going on and they need to deal with that shit away from you.

    Anyways. All the hugs, Jen, you’re one of the coolest chicks I know, mental illness or not.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  21. Sara
    Sara

    Thank you for sharing this, Jenny. As someone who has a father who has been emotionally unavailable in my entire 27 years of life, I understand and appreciate this blog post. I’ve carried around the feeling of being unloved and unworthy in all my relationships for years and just recently realized it stemmed back to my father not being there for me. I love how strong and upfront you are about this feeling that so many of us share.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  22. Katherine C.
    Katherine C.

    Virtual hugs aren’t as awesome as real ones (although coming from a complete stranger, perhaps virtual is better), but I’m sending some anyway. I also just want to say how much I admire your willingness to be open about things I assume are hard to share with the vast world of the interwebs in order to help others who may be struggling with the same things. Add that to your fabulous writing — both your books and the blog — and all I can say is I hope to be as awesome as you someday.

    July 23, 2013
    |Reply
  23. susmagooz
    susmagooz

    Yes. the cashier thing. Yes. Except mine is more that I just feel invisible. And god bless it if someone bumps into me and doesn’t say “sorry” or acknowledge it. It is the tipping point of a spiral into days of feeling worthless and inadequate and I don’t even KNOW WHY. That’s the frustrating part. So ugh. I feel you . I’m working on it. Hopefully someday I’ll uncover the why but for now I’m working on telling myself that I am enough.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  24. Robin
    Robin

    Number three is something I had to come to terms with at a very young age. My very Christian extended family kept insisting that to find any peace in my own paternal abandonment, and horrible things that happened to me before and after it, I had to forgive my father and the other people that had hurt me.

    I realized after a while that for me, and for a lot of other people, forgiving someone for horrible things is a LOT of work on my part to essentially let a bastard off the hook. Forgiveness never made me feel better about anything, and was a LOT of work to keep up what was essentially a lie. Having to smile in people’s presence because I had “forgiven” them when they had permanently damaged me was *further compounding the damage* and I realized that was a lot less healthy, for me, than holding them responsible for their actions.

    I have forgiven a lot of people for a lot of things, and it’s felt just fine and we’ve moved on. That doesn’t mean I’m required to forgive, or that anyone is entitled to forgiveness. If I’m still struggling to work through being someone’s victim, they don’t get the victory of winning my forgiveness. And I’ve come to a point where I just don’t care who disagrees.

    Thank you as always for sharing your experiences. 🙂

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  25. ceedee
    ceedee

    Jen don’t ever feel bad about your childhood, it is never your fault what a parent does, they own it not you.
    My soon to be brother-in-law left my sister and their 12 year old daughter right before Christmas last year and he told my niece that he always does things for everyone else and it was now time to do something just for him, what the fuck does that mean? Now he picks her up every other weekend and spends most of the time texting the woman he was cheating on my sister with. I think my niece would rather he not pick her up, So sometimes it’s better that they not be in your life. Whats funny is that he is now spending more time with her since he left them than when he was living at home, so some dads aren’t there for their kids when they are there for their kids, if you know what I mean.

    We all love ya Jen

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  26. Andi in NZ
    Andi in NZ

    Jen, you are all kinds of awesome. Your spirit and personality come through so clearly in your writing, and we all care about you, even though we’ve never met. Please be kind to yourself, and let others be kind to you as well, because you do deserve it.

    I’m not sure it’s possible to grow to adulthood without being f*cked up to some degree through someone else’s actions or inadequacies – they’re already messed up as well.

    My partner was abandoned by his mother when he was only about 2, and he is painfully shy, avoiding social gatherings whenever possible, and expressing doubt at times that he is worthy of my affections. Mostly, he’s fine, but now and then, these things get the better of him, and he needs reassuring. It’s hard to know how much of that is his natural personality traits, and how much comes from being abandoned by her so young.

    On the other hand, I had an abusive parent I couldn’t wait to get away from. He did pretty much all the creepy abusive behaviours that we’ve seen Chedward exhibiting in those horrible novels, to my mother, siblings and myself. My way of coping with that has not been to forgive or forget, but to interact with him now as little as possible, to surround myself with people I really care about instead. Which is tricky, because he turns up occasionally expecting to play ‘happy families’, like everything that happened when we were kids is in the past, gone and forgotten.

    When he does call or turn up, I am civil, but that’s about it. And I never seek him out. He’s not worth the energy to get strung out over, stewing about the past and things that were beyond my control, but I don’t feel like I need to forgive him either, because I too have ongoing effects from his brand of parenting. Fortunately, I had other, better role models in my life as well.

    Your 3-point list up there is really important, I hope many more people see it! Kia Kaha. 🙂

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  27. Daisy
    Daisy

    I REALLY hate how common it is to see people on tv shows and in movies forcing/tricking their significant others into reconciling with their crappy parents. I get where the sentiment comes from, but it’s really inappropriate to tell anyone that they MUST have a relationship with a crappy parent. Biology doesn’t mean that this person will be good to you and it doesn’t obligate you to keep banging your head against a brick wall trying to make it happen.

    One of the things I realized as an adult is that I do not have the power to change anyone but myself. I can’t make someone love me. I can’t make someone respect me. I can’t make someone see how awesome I am. And you know what? That’s their loss, not mine.

    My dad is still married to my mom so it’s not the exact same situation, but I do not have a good relationship with him due to many factors. It’s pretty minor compared to some other people’s stories too. For so many years, I tried to get his approval, his love, his respect, but it always ended in tears and frustration because nothing was never good enough for him. I was pretty stoked when I got a 1290 on my first stab at the SAT. He told me he thought I’d get a 1500 (I’m obviously dating myself since this was back in the olden days when the highest possible score was a 1600). I guess I should have taken it as a compliment that he expected me to do so well but all I saw was the disappointment. When I was growing up, he told me regularly that I was stupid, that my friends didn’t really like me, and essentially wore down my self esteem on a regular basis.

    I don’t hate him or anything, but I know better than to think we will ever have one of those Hallmark father/daughter relationships. He has never been deliberately cruel or neglectful, but he still managed to make me feel terrible about myself for most of my life. The day that I realized I didn’t need his approval anymore was really freeing. Now I do what I want because I know it will make ME happy and I don’t worry about how he will react.

    Seeing the way our relationship is in black and white has helped me choose better relationships with boyfriends as well as friends. One of my very first boyfriends was different from my dad on the surface, but what they had in common was that they both totally looked down on me and thought that I was inferior. I let that boyfriend treat me like crap without realizing that I was just repeating the relationship I had with my dad (I know, that’s psych 101!). Once the light bulb went off, I made very conscious choices about all my relationships and made sure to surround myself with people who thought I was equal to them. I cut off the “friends” who made the relationship all about them (constantly canceling plans at the last minute, bitching to me about their problems without ever listening to mine, etc). I essentially got rid of all the selfish people in my life and only kept the ones who actually liked me for who I am.

    As adults, we choose who we want to have relationships with. It’s okay if you choose not to have a relationship with someone who treats you poorly, whether they are related to you or not. You shouldn’t feel obligated to keep trying to make a relationship work when the other person clearly has no interest in changing it. And you DO NOT have to forgive people in order to move on. That is a load of crap!

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  28. Laura
    Laura

    I think I’m lucky that my parents divorced when I was newly born. I always grew up without him, and never missed him. I saw him once a year if even that, because he lived in a different city, and when mom told me to call him on his birthdays/christmas/etc I just always felt awkward.

    I did have my mother and her parents who raised me, so you might say I was actually raised by two moms and a father. though.

    When I moved to the city my dad lives in when starting university, we started to know each other, and now we’re friends.
    We like similar things, and our taste in movies for example is similar, but he is kinda not a parent, because he is pretty immature himself.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  29. Errant Endeavour
    Errant Endeavour

    Is it okay to cyber hug you? Okay, I’ll cyber hug you, and if you don’t like it, you can be all cyber ninja and cyber kick me in the balls. It’s okay, I went to an all boys’ school, I’m used to it. And I have sisters. *Hugs*

    You were very brave for opening up about this.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  30. Lisa
    Lisa

    I am so sorry you are having a shitty time right now, and also glad that you had a kind of breakthrough.
    I was in tears reading this blog, I always think I am over it, that my Dad was a shit father, but I guess it still hurts. I am also devastating if a random stranger is rude to me, I think it must be something inherently unlikable about me.
    My mother was fabulous, but I dont think I will ever quite forgive the fact that she kept up a party line that “he is still a great father and he loves you” in order to foster a good relationship between us. It wasn’t until i was a parent myself I looked back and thought, no he wasn’t he was a shit father! And I dont buy that version of love.
    Thanks for sharing your epiphany. It has made me ponder my own inner world a lot tonight.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  31. Lisa
    Lisa

    *devastated* ^^typos above*

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
    • Andi in NZ
      Andi in NZ

      Oh yeah, my Mum did that too – “He’s the only father you’ll ever have’. Doesn’t mean he was any good at parenting, or that we were any less nervous about what sort of mood he was in, walking on egg shells around him all the time.

      My mum was lovely, but it took a bit to work out that she made her choices where he was concerned, at least initially, but became trapped in much the same way that Alys described Ana becoming trapped after the last 50 Shades of Fucked Up recap – possibly more so, because he threatened to kill her if she tried to get away. She couldn’t leave, and was trying to keep the peace and make the most of a bad situation. It really didn’t help any, though.

      Big virtual hugs. 🙂

      July 24, 2013
      |Reply
      • Lisa
        Lisa

        🙂 The best example my mother ever set was to walk out of that marriage! It drives me batty that she still questions her choice, because he was clearly an abusive twat, luckily the type that pretended she didnt exist after she left, rather than the type that threatened to kill her… but still. I think she lead by example, if not with her “pearls of wisdom”.
        I’m sorry your mother couldnt find a way for you guys to escape. *hugs back at you!*

        July 26, 2013
        |Reply
  32. Jenny, as always thank you for sharing.
    Actually I don’t know how it is to have a shitty parent, because mine are/ were fantastic. Of course they screwed up sometimes, too. But that’s normal, it’s human.
    My in- laws are/ were a different kettle of fish.
    My father- in- law used to beat up my husband regularly. Once my mother- in- law stepped in, stabbed her husband in the back with a big meat fork.
    Soon after that my hubby went to live with his grandparents. They spoiled him with all things that money can buy, but on the other hand they abused him emotionally.
    When we met, my husband was pretty fucked up.
    Now we are married for 12 yrs, have a 32 month old daughter and my husband is a gorgeous dad.

    But back to you, Jen.
    Your blog, your honesty helps others so much. Especially when you write about such issues as this.
    You help me cope with my mental issues. (I’m suspecting for some month now, that I suffer from a Borderline PD)
    Reading your blog helps me a lot to not feel too insane.
    I’m so sorry that you had not the father you deserved, that every child deserves:
    a loving and caring father, who could have made you feel as wonderful and special as you are.
    Of course it’s not the same, but always remember that there are people who love and admire you deeply. And a lot of them (like me) know you only from your books and blog.
    We love and respect you and whenever you need support just say so.
    I hope that I might meet you personally some day.
    You are wonderful and please feel hugged.
    Thank you!

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  33. AshaB
    AshaB

    I guess I was lucky in a lot of ways. My mom and dad haven’t been together since before I was born. I never once blamed myself for this, and for as long as I can remember I’ve never thought of myself as having a father. From the time I was about 4 my mother educated me about where babies come from (with child appropriate educational films), so I understood the implications of the fact that I had a half sister 3 months younger than me. My father has at least 11 children, and 10 of us have different mothers. There was no question of who the problem was. My father would call me on Christmas for a few minutes, and MAYBE on my birthday if he remembered. My mom was shockingly diplomatic and always encouraged (frequently forced) me to talk to him. I had no interest. I had, and still have absolutely nothing in common with my father. He would organize a visit once ever 3 years when I was a child. To me he was a stranger that I was supposed to call “dad”. I felt and still feel nothing for him. I guess I’m extremely lucky in that sense. My mom was a superhero for me, She’s strong, very educated, a great mother, and an all around wonderful roll model. I guess I never wanted anyone else. I never saw what a father could add to my life, even if I had a father who wasn’t a chronically unemployed womanizing douche bag. I always hate it when people find out about my father and accuse me of having “daddy issues”. I may very well have the fewest daddy issues in history (read: none) because to me I don’t have a father. I have always tried to encourage other people I meet with bad fathers to think about things more dispassionately. If you knew your father well as a child and then he left, that’s one thing, but if you never really knew him, then you can learn from my experience. Why do you care about him? Is it because people told you you should? That’s bullshit. I’ve never been one for societal standards. Think about it objectively. Do you have a good mother? If yes, then perfect. Give her the love and respect she deserves for being awesome. Stop thinking that you need more from a dead beat father. He would never have added anything to your life. Don’t let society and the image of a nuclear family fool you into thinking that that’s the only road to a good childhood. Society knows very little if you have the wherewithal to see it.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous

      my roommate (whom I love dearly) has almost the exact same story: deadbeat father whose mom threw him out because he returned to drugs, and roomie has no memory of him, has never met him, and has actively refused to see him every single time the mans’ tried to come back into his life. I’ve noticed that there are still differences between him and others (and maybe him and you?) in that he (and maybe you?) have that remarkable ability to disassociate yourselves from people like bad fathers. for him, it’s just a straight-up carving of that person out of his life and for all the times I’ve gotten mad at him for the emotions he refuses to acknowledge as affecting him, it’s also clearly been super helpful and I can’t imagine how much worse off he’d be without that boundary.

      July 24, 2013
      |Reply
      • AshaB
        AshaB

        Don’t try to force him to “face emotions”. I loath it when people do that. When there’s nothing there, please trust us that there is nothing there. We aren’t repressing, we aren’t ignoring issues. We feel nothing because the person you want us to acknowledge is a stranger. We feel no need for that person in our life. Don’t try to drag us down and force us to have fake and unnecessary problems.

        July 25, 2013
        |Reply
      • Anonymous
        Anonymous

        I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said “emotions” as in touchy-feely stuff. I meant it more about recognizing things like “gee, it’s hard for you to recognize that other people do feel differently than you and have different mental schemas for processing things.” super touchy subject for both of you, obviously.

        July 26, 2013
        |Reply
  34. Betty
    Betty

    Jenny, your post made me cry. I was so very, very fortunate to have an engaged and loving Dad throughout all of my childhood. He passed, at the age of 84, 3 years ago. My siblings and I, as well as our Mom, never doubted that he loved us and that he had our best interests at heart. I miss him – he was a loving and loved man. I cannot imagine how it felt to grow up either without a Dad or with one who just wasn’t involved in your life or chose not to be. Big hugs to you.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  35. I have a different take on forgiveness. I no longer speak to my mother because of how she treated me as a child and how she just hasn’t changed. I’ve forgiven her- but I see forgiveness as being for me. I’ve accepted what she did, and I’ve come to terms with it and I’m in the moving-on process. I forgive her for what she did (more along the lines of your point 1)- but that doesn’t mean I ever have to let her into my life to continue the same, or to perpetuate the behaviour with my children.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  36. Stella
    Stella

    I can’t relate to this specific scenario, but I really, really appreciate your #1 and #3.

    You’re actually the first person I’ve ever seen say “You don’t have to forgive anybody.” Popular wisdom has it that my continuing hatred and lack of forgiveness for the abusive ex-friend who almost destroyed my life are eating away at me and will eventually lead to the Dark Side. This post made me realise that those feelings are actually just sitting here quietly alongside my burgeoning self-esteem, keeping me warm. I’ve ‘forgiven’ people for being really shit to me and it didn’t make me feel better; it made THEM feel better because it meant they could stop apologising. This person has never, ever apologised for anything she’s done to me or anyone else and the fact that I can move on and have a good life WITHOUT a ‘te absolvo, everything’s fine now’ makes me feel a power I’ve never felt before.

    I will never, ever forgive this person because she almost certainly doesn’t believe she needs it and definitely doesn’t deserve it. And I’m 100% comfy with that. So there.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  37. This is another one of those times when I weigh in with my comment then go back and read everyone else’s later. Speak first, read later, you know me…

    I completely agree with people who say you don’t HAVE to forgive. To me – and I know there are some who would disagree – forgiveness is tantamount to saying “What you did to me? It’s totally okay.”

    In my case, I’d be talking about my mother. I’m not sure yet how much I’m prepared to say here. Need to give that some thought. But I was told recently that “You shouldn’t be so bitter about it,” and all I was doing was telling this person my experience. Apparently even REMEMBERING childhood abuse is classed as bitter, or not forgiving.

    To forgive, or let go of bitterness, apparently one must also forget. Pretend it never happened. Pfft.

    So basically, a huge FUCK YEAH to your number three. Which is a whole lot better than cheering someone’s number two, right? #inappropriatepoojoke

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  38. Kat Farrington
    Kat Farrington

    Okay this is potentially creepy but I really don’t mean it that way? I’m hoping it’ll make you laugh. Anyway so after some quality twitter-binging I was walking around my house singing Funny Face by Tammy Wynette (as you do) only instead of “funny face” I was saying “Jenny Trout”. So….that happened. I hope that ridiculous mental image changes your life for the better, as it was naturally meant to do.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  39. Emily
    Emily

    “I feel as though there is something broken inside of me, and I should be ashamed of it. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know how to fix it, and the more I think about it, the more angry I get. And I get angry at myself for continuing to exhibit behavior motivated by this need to prove that there’s nothing wrong with me, to prove to everyone that I am worth something….”

    I know the feeling. I’ve been reading your blog for a while but have always been too shy to comment. However, this post hit so close to home and meant so much to me that I just had to say thank you. I definitely understand abandonment issues and public paranoia. When I go out, I worry constantly what strangers think…what they can see in me. The feeling follows me everywhere, and I hate myself for being so self-conscious, because it makes me feel like I’m self-absorbed and needy. I’m even hesitant to post this for the same reasons. How silly, right? And I’m so worried about seeming needy that I push those that do care about me away rather than open up to them or ask for help. I don’t want to be someone who needs reassurance.

    Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your stories. It really does mean a lot.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
    • Emily, I’m the same way about fearing being seen as too “needy” all the time. I once overheard a friend telling my mom that I was very clingy (I was about 11 and it was soon after my father had left so I probably WAS pretty clingy). Every since then I’ve had this pathological fear of being too clingy and annoying people. Even in my professional or academic life it sometimes interferes as I won’t bring up legitimate needs until they’ve gone un-addressed for too long, out of my fear of being “too needy.”

      Anyway. Just wanted to say, I understand. *hugs*

      July 24, 2013
      |Reply
  40. Sassy
    Sassy

    I’m sorry you were hurt that way, Jen. I understand. My experience is a little different, but I do understand.

    My mother and father split up when I was 1 after being together for over a decade, so I had the whole ‘they split up because of me. I fucked up their marriage just by being born’ thing going on very early. I still sometimes feel that way now if I’m low.

    My mum moved away with me, and my dad came to see my once when I was 2, and again when I was 6. I am now 24 and have not seen him since. That’s 18 years. He has promised occasionally to come visit, but long ago I stopped getting excited when I read those words in an email. I now know not to believe them. He used to call me every year on my birthday. I would look forward to it so much, but was so emotional that I could often only speak to him for a minute before bursting into tears, and my mum would have to gently take the phone away. I don’t know if this put him off or what, but he hadn’t called in years. Not since I was about 13, I don’t think. I get an email, and some money wired over, but I’d trade it in for a single card. Something physical, written in his hand, that I can hold.

    He’s missed my college graduation, and if I ever get married he’ll probably miss that too. My mother’s reaction to me getting a first class degree was to cry and scream and bounce and hug me, and then immediately fly onto the phone to tell everyone in our family. His response was ‘oh, well done. Guess what grades your step sisters are getting!’. And what did I do? I burst into floods of tears, because I still cared what he thought. Because he was the parent who had long wanted me to go to university, and I’d finally done it and thought it would’ve made him proud, and yet it still felt like I hadn’t lived up to what he wanted.

    What really annoys the shit out of me is how much my mother defends him. I understand that she kept her divorce amicable, and doesn’t want me to hate my father, but what she doesn’t seem to get is that I have the right to be angry if he does something shitty. That all I want is a cuddle and a ‘yeah, he should have done more, I know that it hurts’. Not a ‘don’t talk that way about him, you know he loves you, he’s just bad at communicating’.

    So yeah, parents can fuck you up. And casual abandonment can be just as damaging as all the other kinds. Wow, it felt good to let that out. I’mma read some of the other comments now and send virtual hugs to everyone. Let’s all be fucked up together, indeed.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  41. Leechi
    Leechi

    #3 – I am with you Jenny. Sometimes, self preservation has to be the number 1 priority. I have similar issues and now that I have a young family I no longer feel the need to apologize of feel bad because I don’t let my f’d up parents in. I am the mom. I get to decide and it feels great! Also, much happier to not deal with all their b-s. hugs to all.

    July 24, 2013
    |Reply
  42. Jess
    Jess

    I’ve been reading for a whole now but never commented. After that post I really feel like I want to say something -just anything really. I don’t have abandonment issues but I do have mental health problems and I know how hard it can be to break those destructive self-beliefs. I’m so glad you have supportive friends and family. I only know you as a blogger but in that capacity I love you and think you are amazing.

    July 25, 2013
    |Reply
  43. zee
    zee

    I hope you’re on the up Jenny x

    I’ve never known my real dad, my biological one. He left when I was six months old. Apparently, just before my mum remarried, she took me, my brothers, my sister, and my step siblings into town, and we walked past a beggar crying in the street and I felt bad for him, asking my mum all about him … and yeah, it turned out to be my dad. I didn’t hear from him again until I was fifteen, when he started asking my mum to see us all. I was the only one to reply to his letters, saying I didn’t know who the hell he was, so thanks but no thanks. He tried all sorts of emotional manipulation, but after fifteen years of nothing, it was way too late. Yes I was curious, and I still am, but my dad just feels like a fantasy figure. I never felt scared of the bogeyman growing up, but going to live with my dad? Mum’s number one threat. My dad was an asshole.

    I think with my dad, I feel like I have to put on the tough front, because he was an asshole and he was my childhood bogeyman, so being asked if I missed him ever always confuses me, because it’s like someone’s trying to pry under the armour I’ve never tried to take off.

    What sucks even more is that my son’s dad doesn’t want to know, and my son always asks about daddy. It’s hard to stay pleasant and talk about daddy working hard when you’re just so completely gutted that you couldn’t give your child the one thing you didn’t have growing up. His dad has seen him twice, and ignored my recent emails saying my son’s asking for him again. It’s like seeing your own childhood in your kids.

    July 25, 2013
    |Reply
  44. willaful
    willaful

    Wow. I put this aside for a bit and there are 57 comments now. Lots of crap dads out there, I guess.

    I read this right after a session with my therapist on pretty much the same issue. I was just at a family member’s fairy tale wedding and seeing the bride dancing with her loving awesome father opened up a lot of stuff I usually manage to forget about. My therapist suggested I think of ways to “father myself” but I’m thinking it would be more fun to have my husband father me. 😉 (I can laugh about it a bit now, several days later. I hope you can too.)

    I also take a lot of comfort in the fact that my kid has a great dad. Some things I didn’t manage to spare him, but at least I can be proud of that.

    July 25, 2013
    |Reply
  45. My dad died unexpectedly 5 years ago. It’s not the same kind of abandonment, but I think I can understand the feelings of wondering if you did something wrong. I’m an atheist, so I knew that his body just couldn’t keep functioning: 30 years of smoking, multiple heart attacks, and a stroke in 2002 that left him nearly blind (and forced him into early retirement at age 52), which brought on depression, significant weight gain, and a careless attitude about his diabetes. It makes pretty good sense why he died at age 57, but that didn’t make it any less heartbreaking. At the time, I was only 19 and finishing my first year of college. It’s a pretty fucked up way to start adulthood. Over and over again I asked myself why I had to be the one to lose my dad. I was barely done growing up. I’m still not grown up, honestly. There were so many things he still needed to teach me, to help me with, to experience with me. He was supposed to be there for my graduation, to see me moving into my first apartment, to congratulate me on landing my first real job. When I lost him that day in May, I lost all the memories I thought we’d have; the future I thought I would share.

    I wish he were still here. I know he’d be proud of everything I’ve accomplished. I owe so much of who I am to him. He was the best dad, husband, and brother anyone could ever ask for, but now, instead of him, I have to live with this gaping hole in my chest for the rest of my life.

    July 25, 2013
    |Reply
  46. Anonymous
    Anonymous

    This article had actually helped me in more ways than i can tell you.
    My mum is a clinically depressed alcoholic and my dad walked out on us (me and my 3 younger sisters) when i was 11, I remember watching his car drive away.

    My mum is a completely different issue but i do know now (after years of seeing therapists and counsellors) that i dont have any reason to forgive him. I’ve spent my entire life trying to hold my entire family together and essentially being a parent. My mum one week didnt get out of bed so we lived off takeaways, so i learnt to cook. I told my dad this and rather than being alarmed and trying to step in he made fun of the food i made.
    I washed my sisters clothes and made sure they got up for school. I cooked for them and did all the shopping. I cleaned the house. From the age of 11.

    Once while I was at my step mums house, my mum was so drunk she walked into the road and got hit by a car. Instead of checking we were ok my dad proceeded to sit in the kitchen and talk for 40 minutes about what a disgusting, pathetic alcoholic my mum was.

    I started working when i was 15 so i could afford to take the bus to school and the only thing he has ever seemed insterested in is my career. I now go to one of the best drama schools in the UK and still dont feel that I’m enough for anyone. He has taken away any confidence i have in my own abilities and any trust i have in people. and that is not ok.

    I’m not angry at him for leaving my mum, im not angry at him for getting remarried. I’m angry that he left 4 children in a house with an alcoholic who could not take care of herself and never once tried to support us.
    I’m 20.

    July 25, 2013
    |Reply
    • Lisa
      Lisa

      I am so proud of you for being an amazing strong person! I hope you thrive at drama school (one of the things I wish I had done when I was younger). I’m sorry your childhood was taken from you, and hope you get to live your life in a strong and happy way now your siblings are old enough to fend for themselves.
      I hope you find your confidence again, you are truely an amazing person to have dealt with life the way you have, SO many kids in your shoes would tune out and turn to substance abuse themselves as an escape, its really admirable that you were strong enough to do better for your family than the adults in your world could.

      July 26, 2013
      |Reply
  47. Your post made me tear up, Jen. As always, I appreciate your openness. I am proud to be a part of Troutnation.

    I share the absent father with many of the commenters here. It’s a difficult thing to reconcile why your father doesn’t have an interest in you even though you are his child and live one city away. It’s even more difficult when he begins a replacement family. The uncertainty haunted me through my childhood. I doubt I will ever truly know the answer.

    I respect my mother very much for the strong woman that she is. But we were never as close as I would have liked. Insidious misogyny is a poison among the women in my family. And so, the favored spot was saved for my brother. Children always know who is the favorite.

    I was, however, my step-father’s favorite. We would have great intellectual discussions and he introduced me to many of my geeky interests. But there was always something off about him and it culminated in his voyeurism towards me. Always a sensitive child, here, my anxiety truly took root. Home never felt safe for me and our relationship naturally became strained.

    I feel I’ve been let down by each of my three parental figures. One of my therapists pointed out that I have been raising myself. I try to acknowledge that we are all flawed people, including them. But sometimes it’s hard. As someone noted above, these wounds are our battle scars.

    July 25, 2013
    |Reply
  48. Elinor
    Elinor

    Struggling at the moment myself. Thank you for sharing! Take care of yourself. You are amazing. Big hugs.

    July 25, 2013
    |Reply
  49. Marley
    Marley

    Don’t ever feel embarrassed about having to think about going to the hospital. Fuck that stigma that mental illness sufferers carry. Intervention like that can save your life. Remember that mental illness is a physical one – one you should never be ashamed of. Is someone ashamed if they have liver problems or require knee surgery? It’s the same thing for mental illness. It’s not you – it’s your brain and the way it works. And yes being traumatized on top of that is a terrible thing. You are very brave to share your thoughts here – it shows that you are a very strong person, Jenny. And your blog is a very insightful, humorous one. Thank you for sharing this.

    July 25, 2013
    |Reply
  50. Sarah
    Sarah

    Wow. From the very first sentence, you had me, dude. I felt myself tearing up (not your fault, no feeling bad!!!) because of how similar my relationship with my father is. I know that feeling, that you have to prove something to him. I did visit him every other weekend, as I was supposed to, for a few years, but he was living with a young woman (who he left my mom and our family for) who had schizophrenia,and was emotionally abusive. He did nothing to protect us from her. I have very few memories of my father, and that time in my life.

    There are a lot of nutty details, but long story short, it’s been years since I saw him. Your post describes the pain that I still feel from that so incredibly accurately.I still think about him a lot, and it’s tough for me to think about how this person I should have such a strong tie to is a complete stranger to me.

    I’m so sorry you had to go through what you went through, and how it is still affecting you. Thank you for being so honest and open, and talking about your experience. It makes me, and a lot of other people like us I’m sure, feel a lot less lonely.

    Dude, you rock!

    July 26, 2013
    |Reply
  51. Verity
    Verity

    Hey, Jenny. Me too. My family situation isn’t quite the same (my dad’s physically around, severely mentally ill– it’s messy), but that thing about being afraid you’ve offended random baristas who’re probably just having a rough day, beating yourself up all the time over nothing until your brain goes cannibal and eats itself…. me too. It is good to know it’s not just me.

    July 27, 2013
    |Reply
  52. Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Thank You. <3

    July 29, 2013
    |Reply
  53. Shitty episodes are shitty. I haven’t had one in quite some time, but I remember. Glad you came out of it okay. Jedi hugs if you want them. 🙂

    My own father skipped out on my brother and I, and when he eventually came back all he did was fuck shit up. Our stepfather was supposed to be the stable dad we never had, but he sexually abused me, and maybe my brother and sister, too. The closest thing I’ve had to a proper father is my Grampa and some male teachers. My biological father doubles as manipulator/hard drug addict. I don’t talk to him anymore, but I pity him in a way. My stepfather? He still appears in my nightmares from time to time. I will never forgive him for what he did, and I truly don’t feel that my life is worse for it. Why should I forgive him? He hasn’t even acknowledged what he’s done, let alone apologized for it. My therapist once said that people have to earn forgiveness. That is:

    1) They have to acknowledge what they did.

    2) They have to take responsibility and make appropriate amends.

    3) They have to promise not to re-offend (whatever it was they did), and they have to make good on that promise.

    That said, I have forgiven my mother for the verbal and physical abuse, but that’s because I understand how and why she was that way (without condoning or excusing). My brother hasn’t forgiven her, though, and she’s not entitled to his forgiveness.

    I remember reading another woman’s account of childhood sexual abuse, and she said she would never forgive him and that she could live a full and happy life without ever forgiving him. That went a long way toward helping me come to terms with my own abuse.

    Feminism, too, has helped me a lot because when we talk about victim-blaming, we’re saying that sexual assailants have to take responsibility for their own behaviour, rather than their victims having to take responsibility for someone else’s behaviour. And I think that applies to most everything else, too. Each individual person has to be responsible for eir own behaviour, and not other people’s.

    So your father’s abandonment of you is on him. The cashier’s snippiness is on em. And whatever you do, good or bad, is on you, but it’s a lot easier to change your own behaviour than someone else’s.

    July 30, 2013
    |Reply
  54. Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I am sending you virtual hugs.

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I think it was something I needed to read. My dad wasn’t an absentee father, and actually for the first part of my life he was a wonderful father. Things changed around the time that I hit puberty. I thought it was me at the time. It took a long time and some people filling in some blanks for me to realize it wasn’t. Even now I still doubt that sentence. I’ve actually tried to move on, forgive and reach out to him. I don’t think he intentionally meant to hurt me. He was just wrapped up in an affair. However, my attempts at reaching out haven’t really been reciprocated. I don’t know if he’s ashamed, doesn’t care, or is still just too wrapped up in his now wife. I can only try so much before I give up. It hurts though. And it brings back a lot of the old pain. It’s hard to deal with it, and at some point I may have to stop simply to avoid hurting myself further. I think I needed to hear that doing that is okay and doesn’t make me a bad person.

    July 30, 2013
    |Reply
  55. I have insane problems with justifying other people’s bad behavior towards ,me as being my fault or at least not their fault. Until my dad passed away last year, I thought it was just because I’m inherently neurotic and paranoid. Since he passed I’ve been having grief counselling and I’ve realised a lot of it is to do with how I was raised and how my parents acted around and towards me. Not that either of them are/were bad people, but your parents’ behaviour is your only guide to how the world works as a child and what I saw was that A) you should always put other people first even if those people are utter shits because that’s what a good person does and B) you are not entitled to be happy but everyone around you is.

    I’ve had depression on and off all my adult life and I can relate to that feeling of “it must be me, I must be wrong, I must be broken or badly wired,” and although it’s for very different reasons, it goes back to parenting and a need to prove to myself and other people that I deserve basic things and an unwillingness to ask for them.

    So, I guess, thank you for sharing a painful story and thank you for helping me edge a bit closer to understanding some stuff.

    August 3, 2013
    |Reply
  56. Kelly Price
    Kelly Price

    Question for you… but first some background. I have two adopted daughters, aged 4 1/2 and 1. They had to be removed from their biological mother because she is an addict and a train wreck and a criminal, but interestingly enough I believe she loves them in her own bizarre way. The older one we have no clue who her bio dad is and no way of finding out, the younger one we know but he has just sort of drifted out of her life. My girls live in a crazy normal suburban family with a mom and a dad and soccer and Girl Scouts and swim lessons and as much love as we can give them. Now on to the question: When they go through the pain and loss of wondering why they weren’t good enough for their birth mom to quit using and why she didn’t want them and why the younger one’s birth dad didn’t “want” her, what would YOU want said? I know it’s going to hurt, I know I can’t stop it from hurting, but what happened to them as tiny babies was not their fault and was beyond all of our control. I would, of course, do anything to spare both of them this pain, but I can’t, and I would like to give them as many tools to help them get through it as possible.

    August 3, 2013
    |Reply
    • Kelly, I have a friend with a daughter adopted from China, dumped for being a girl. The daughter is having issues right now. What’s helped is trying to frame it as the birth mother having problems she didn’t know how to control, and thought the best thing was letting a stable mom/dad/family become their new mom/dad/family. As her daughter gets older, more detail will be appropriate. But it’s important to not make the birth parents sound outright bad if you can prevent it. To kids, “I am part of them, so if they’re bad, I must be bad too.”

      Your daughters are getting stable parental presence if their lives without wondering if someone will be there. This will help them. But they need to know they weren’t abandoned out of inconvenience but rather given, with love, to someone capable of meeting their needs.

      August 3, 2013
      |Reply
      • Kelly Price
        Kelly Price

        Alas, they weren’t given to us with love, they were removed by force via social services channels and placed with us in crisis, but rest assured we NEVER badmouth their birth parents. We have discussed addiction as an illness and I flatly refuse to lie to them about their story, but we have stated that they WERE (and are) loved by their birth family and that their biological parents were much too sick to take care of them. Thanks for your perspective, I am always interested.

        August 14, 2013
        |Reply
    • Don’t make excuses for the parents. Just say, “Sometimes, adults make selfish choices and it hurts their children.” If anyone had told me that when I was growing up, I would have felt so much better. Instead, all I heard was, “It’s his loss,” and “He’ll regret it.” It didn’t help me understand at all, and it only reinforced that I was pitiable.

      August 3, 2013
      |Reply
  57. Reblogged this on Everything You Were Told Not to Believe… and commented:
    I know I have parent issues – my mom always tried to make me into her little clone, if I ever did something she didn’t like, she’d tell “I never would have done that!” And I’d modify my behaviour accordingly.

    Then, there was my dad, who would only do stuff he was interested in, and if you wanted to spend time with him, it was doing his stuff.

    This post has some really fantastic advice.

    Also, TW for mental health and parental abandonment

    December 17, 2013
    |Reply
  58. Anon123
    Anon123

    I was skimming books for children of BPD and NPD mothers at the bookstore and was just floored by this sentence: “Forgiveness is optional.”

    The book (which I will probably never be able to find the title or author of now) went on to say that sometimes it’s actually detrimental. The therapist-cum-author’s often religiously motivated clients who rushed into forgiveness often just got more wounded for it.

    I think it’s cool you were smart enough to come to #3 on your own, and excellent that you put it out here to spread the good news about how f***ed up forgiveness is. 😉

    June 14, 2015
    |Reply
  59. Hav
    Hav

    I started to cry reading this because I have never really had a dad. I broke all contact with my dad (to the extent that is possible seeing as i live in the same town as him and obviously I run into him sometimes) in 2012, and even before I broke contact with him I didn’t really have a dad. He was never there, never gave any sort of support, never loved me and the only times he hugged me or acted like he cared at all was either when he was emotionally manipulations me or when other people was around so he had to act like he cared so the truth wouldn’t be known and hurt his reputation or the reputation of his company. As happy as I am that I don’t have to have any contact with that dickweed anymore it still hurt so very much growing up and knowing that he didn’t love me or care for me (I knew that from a very young age since I’ve always been very observant and able to recognize manipulation even thought I didn’t know the word/s to explain it until I was about 20. For so long I’ve refused to entertain the very real fact that even now things my dad have said and done to me still hurts me deeply. So I guess what I want to say is thank you for talking about your experiences. It has helped me realise that I need to see a therapist and work through the emotion pain and issues that my dad has inflicted on me. Thank you, Jen.

    July 4, 2015
    |Reply
  60. ARIADNE
    ARIADNE

    I definitely still have stockholm syndrome from everything that went down with my parents. They’re both still in my life, after years of me reclaiming my rage and my body and my horror and sadness and shame, but it’s still pretty hard. They still deny that any of my problems are a result of anything they did, for the most part [although my abused-wife mother still takes some responsibility for things that are the result of stuff both of them did].
    But what I’ve realized is way worse is the part where other people just cannot deal. Like, I’ll try to talk to them and the kind, compassionate ones will be nice about it, but they can’t really relate. Most people though just sort of assume people with truly horrible childhoods, people like me, will disappear and have the decency to not be part of the world anymore.
    And like-everything else is just an extra burden I can’t really deal with [the basic challenges of life, I mean, or at least of life in a patriarchal society]. So like-stuff that’s not a huge deal to others, like disrespectful teachers or manipulative male bosses, to me are enough to make me nearly hysterical because it’s like, NOT ONE MORE THING…
    and there’s this awesome societal conversation happening about oppression, but not about how it plays out in the lives of individual people–people like me, who have parents who are like…closer to evil stereotypical villains than to anyone that society will admit exists.
    I think the reason people can’t admit Christian Grey is a psycho is because we don’t want to admit psychos can be CEOs, can be hot and young and rich and not obviously mentally ill or homeless. That they have the power sometimes to get away with it, and their victims just have to go on surviving.
    I’m angry at the people who hurt me. But I’m MORE angry at the fact that what happened to me has the same title as what happened to my friend, whose parents believed her and whose abuser was ostracized from the family for years, and who herself got tons of therapy and support for years…because it’s not the same, and the impact is not the same, and it’s only literally right now that I’m realizing that she is not more inherently deserving of that kind of support and faith than me.

    March 25, 2017
    |Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *