Tag Archive | abuse

Forgiving Father

My dad is seventy-six years old. He currently resides in a rehabilitation center, where he’s been regaining strength in his arms and legs to hopefully live on his own again. This week the staff there informed us that living on his own is not a viable option for him, because of his cognitive difficulties. He has dementia. This is only one problem of many.

Dad struggled the past fifteen or so years with the sensation of having bugs in his skin, crawling, itching, and hoping someone could verify their existence. He thought he got the bugs from some kittens he had at the time, which all died soon after he started itching. Dad went to dermatologists, emergency rooms, physicians, and psychiatrists repeatedly over the years hoping for relief. Blood tests and examinations found no markers for parasites of any kind. Dad went to all lengths to kill the bugs he thought lived inside his skin. He put Lysol in his bathwater (don’t do this!), scrubbing at his skin for hours every day. He refused to let family members touch him, for fear he was highly contagious. He tried swimming in the Great Salt Lake, hoping the salts would heal and disinfect. He insisted on a blanket covering car seats he sat on, requesting we wash coverings as soon as we got home. He wiped off chairs in his house before we were allowed to sit. He withdrew from grandchildren, terrified they could catch parasitical bugs. Despite being told by dermatologists that he was safe to be around, or to swim with, Dad held fast to his fear of being highly contagious.

Dad thought anyone who disagreed with his self-diagnosis of bugs were in on a conspiracy against him. He also thought people were stealing from him. He claimed people were coming into his home, replacing his nice things with old versions. He had elaborate theories of why neighbors and others would do this, and stories of what they had done. He opened nearly half a dozen bank accounts, closing one whenever he thought it compromised and opening another. He hoarded possessions. He put multiple locks on his doors. One hospital psychologist told me in passing that Dad was paranoid delusional.

After my parents separated, when I was nine, Dad insisted on psychological examinations for himself and for my mother, hoping to prove he was a more fit parent and should receive full custody. Although my mother suffered from depression, the profile showed that my father had multiple personalities.

I didn’t learn this until I was an adult. I knew as a child that my dad was sometimes Santa, happy, loving and giving. Other times he was Mad Dad, scary and mean–to my mother especially, but also to my sister, brother and me. Dad grew up mainly in foster homes, Grandpa taking him at times until drinking and beating my dad, who was just a boy. It was the kind of home Grandpa grew up in, and Grandpa ran away for good when he was only twelve. Alcoholism went back to my great-great grandfather, with mean drunks, abuse, and divorce. But Dad doesn’t remember bad things he said, the beatings of my mother. He doesn’t understand why she left and destroyed his perfect family.

Now my father is not to live on his own, because it isn’t safe. Neither is it safe to have him in our homes. He still succumbs to temper outbursts. This crossroad is heartbreaking. I feel we have come around full circle. Where once we were dependent upon Dad for our sustenance, he now depends on us to manage his bills, his finances, help him get groceries, and now we decide where he will live.

He won’t want to be anywhere other than home. He wants to keep his house to pass on to my brother. He has no long-term-care insurance. He has some savings, but those could deplete over the years. There is no way that we can satisfy all my father’s desires: to be at home, independent, and in control.

This isn’t just about deciding where my father will live. It is about forgiving Father. It is about understanding his pain, his heartaches and fears throughout his life. It is about recognizing that Santa Dad is my true father, his true heart revealed. Mad Dad is his alter-ego, the suppressed side of fearful anger, the wounded inner child of generations lashing out. It is feeling his anguish, his desires to be a great husband and father, and how life screwed him over as a young child to the point where he couldn’t ever completely sort it out or heal. But he tried. He truly tried.

Santa Dad taught me to tell time, to dive off the edge of the pool, to ride a bicycle. Santa Dad taught me to stay away from drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Santa Dad taught me to be a virtuous woman. He likened me to a butterfly, encouraging me not to let others rub off the pretty colors from my wings. Santa Dad lived his life for his children. He wanted to keep them safe, keep them healthy, keep them happy.

Father still loves our mother. Two years ago she dreamed about what he’ll be like in heaven, and that when he is healed she will want to be with him again. I too have hope for him to heal in heaven. When Jesus walked the earth, he cast out devils, made the blind from birth to see, cured leprosy, made the lame walk. I know He will heal my father: “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

My parents both express desire to be together in heaven. I’ve told each of them my lifelong plan: that when they die, I will have them sealed together by proxy as husband and wife, and then I will be sealed to them, too (see Matthew 18:18). This to me is the ultimate forgiveness. That imperfect people, living imperfect lives, have hope of being cleansed, purified and healed in Christ, to live together as a truly happy family.

I not only plan where my father will spend the rest of his mortal days, but prepare a place in my heart for him in heaven. I have forgiven Father.

Self Esteem Building Activities for Former Victims of Child Domestic Abuse

Are you a former victim of child domestic abuse? Do you struggle to feel good about yourself as an adult? Perhaps you hear voices in your head of names you were called, or discouraging experiences replay in your mind. How can you get past all that to feel good about yourself?

Here are some Self Esteem Building Activities just for you!

Before sharing these activities, please know that I am writing from my own experience. As a former victim of verbal and emotional child abuse, I had a lot of baggage as an adult. This was compounded by difficult marriage situations. In my second marriage, my husband sometimes treated me the way my father treated me as a child. It wasn’t until I reclaimed my self respect that I learned the proper way to treat myself. My first step was to respect and love myself.

How do we respect and love ourselves, when we don’t believe (or at least doubt) that we are worth anything?

I found my answer in the scriptures. I knew that it was a commandment of God to love HIM, and to love others (see Matthew 22:36-40). I tried to do this, but seemed to be failing miserably, especially in my own family! Then, as I searched those verses more carefully, I found a section I hadn’t paid attention to: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor AS THYSELF.” Wow! It was actually a commandment to love MYSELF!

Now, how to do that? I decided my first step was to treat MYSELF as if I were my own neighbor, my own best friend. If my best friend had a difficult day, would I criticize her? NO!!! I would encourage and help her recognize the good she did. I changed the way I talked to myself.

Second, I began to take care of my body and appearance. For me, this meant sleeping early hours. I included regular exercise as part of each day. I cut back on junk foods and began to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, lean protein. I dressed and groomed for each day, dressing my hair and wearing attractive clothes and makeup.

Third, I began developing my talents. I loved music, so I took voice lessons and joined a group of singers who sang at rest homes and played handbells.

Fourth, I looked for ways to serve others, such as singing. I paid better attention to the needs of my children and husband, realizing that Charity Begins at Home.

Four Self Esteem Building Activities:
1.    Treat myself as if I am my own best friend
2.    Take care of my body and appearance
3.     Develop talents

4.    Serve others, beginning at home

If you found this helpful, I would love to hear from you! Please share your experiences. If you would like additional support and ideas, feel welcome to contact me about building self-esteem.

Recovering from Emotional Child Abuse

Did you experience emotional child abuse when you were growing up? Do you carry scars from that which affect you today? Do you worry that you are not “normal” because of what you witnessed or experienced?

As children, we often internalize guilt for what goes on around us, not knowing how to stop nor prevent bad things. We grow up believing that we are somehow deficient, defective, because we experienced horrible events. We feel damaged, wounded.

As we become adults, we may try to feel normal, to act normally. We may even bury the past and try to forget it ever happened, at least the worst parts.

Unfortunately, burying the past does not help us to heal. Pretending bad things never happened does not make us feel “normal” even when we try to get on with our lives. What CAN we do?

I didn’t realize how much my past affected my present until I found myself divorced with three children. Growing up, my father had multiple personalities and I’d compartmentalized “Good Dad” from “Bad Dad.” Only when divorcing did I recognize that my ex-husband also had multiple personalities and I hadn’t known it. I’d dealt with negative clues by explaining them away and forgetting about them. This was how I’d coped as a child, the way my father did, by not acknowledging the bad.

It was only when divorcing that I began to see how much my past was affecting my present. I’d always thought I could be free of the past by marrying a wonderful man and having a beautiful family. I never thought the past would reach out and be part of my future!

The good news was, I finally recognized how horrible the past was. My eyes opened to see the pattern of compartmentalization that started in childhood and continued into adulthood. This was the first step to healing and recovery from childhood emotional abuse: RECOGNIZING it!

The journey towards healing began at that point. Not until I clearly saw and accepted that what happened while I grew up was abuse, and that I was wounded, was I ready to begin the process of recovery.

At first, this scared me. I went through a period of years where I felt defective, scarred, second-class. Relating with others seemed impossible. I didn’t think anyone could understand what my life was like. It didn’t help that I jumped immediately into a difficult second marriage. Yet that was part of the healing, too, as I continued learning about myself and about abuse and recovery.

Where are YOU in your journey of recovery? Have you accepted that what happened to you while you were a child and youth was abuse? Do you recognize false patterns you may have adopted as survival mechanisms when you were but a child?

We’ll continue to explore the journey to healing, wholeness, and fulfillment in further posts. Meanwhile, if you would like personalized assistance on your journey, please contact me. I would love to chat with you about where you are and how I may support your healing.