In October of 2015 I wrote, “I’m going to stick this out and stand with my father” after finding out he had been diagnosed with more than one mental health or mood disorder (which he would not disclose).
Because of the rejection & demonization I faced whenever I would disclose my diagnoses and express my struggles with them, I just believed him when he said it. I didn’t ask about his treatment plan or anything. I just wanted him to know that I’d still be there regardless of what he had (or hadn’t) done.
But then we became estranged again.
A few months went by and we reconnected. He begged to see me repeatedly and I repeatedly declined in-person meetings because I wanted us to establish an actual relationship in which there was mutual trust, honesty, & understanding before doing so. He thought I was using his past [in]action & lack of involvement in my life (due to addiction & imprisonment) against him & I told him that it wasn’t about that, however, if who he is in the present moment was reflective of who he was in the past I wanted no parts.
Against my better judgment, though, I finally agreed to see him. We set a date and up until the day before the appointed time I told him that if anything changed or he needed to reschedule he could just let me know and we’d work it out.
I went to the meeting spot & long story short, he didn’t even show up. No calls or texts beforehand and no responses to texts or answering the phone. I waited there for a little over an hour.
Since I have a tendency to try & cope with humor, I wanted to make it a bigger deal that I had to $15 pay for parking & however much for gas at the time (boy, do I miss those days) than the fact that I had been stood up by my father once again. But this time was different because I couldn’t make a joke of it or dismiss how I felt, and while driving on the CA134 freeway I was bawling my eyes out. Not something I would recommend, by the way. I couldn’t tell you how I got home but for the grace of God.
While on my way back home he texted me saying, “Hey Britt didn’t intend to strand u up I worked really late last night and in just getting up… a little depressed by not seeing you.”
[Sidenote: Yes, he said “strand” and yes, I still have the texts from 2016. Google Voice doesn’t auto-delete old texts & for some reason I enjoy(?) torturing myself with old memories of painful experiences. Not really… this is just from a number I don’t use so I don’t think to reference anything there until it comes up as an example to help someone else deal with similar or relatable experiences.]
Anyway, more texts were sent detailing how upset I was & how I decided to be done with the relationship entirely. Texts were received about how I lacked understanding, how stupid & immature I was, and how “un-Christian” I was for cutting ties. I blocked him, & haven’t spoken to him since July of 2016.
By the way, if you’re wondering, no he did not apologize.
Another layer to this estrangement is I have a half-sister & half-brother. We are connected because of him yet are all estranged from him & damn near each other, to be honest. My brother & sister are close but I’m the… odd man out, so to speak. We don’t talk much, just check in every now & again. I was the one who found them on social media years ago & am usually the one who makes the first move when reaching out. It makes me wonder what our father has said to them… what kind of picture he’s painted of me… what seeds did he plant… do they find it hard to connect with me because of the depression & anxiety I deal with? Is it the same depression, anxiety, & trauma that is the root of what hurt them & caused them to be abandoned & mistreated just as I was? Do I remind them of our father in any way?
Because if any of those things are a factor or are true then I get the distance, honestly. I visited my sister a few months ago & for the majority of the time I was there I heard how much I look like him. Multiple times. From multiple people. I almost wanted to apologize. Still do, to be honest, though I have nothing to be sorry for – at least when it comes to that.
[How much is plastic surgery again? Just kidding, I’m probably not going to do that]
My sister is a now mother & my brother is now a father and amazingly, they are absolutely nothing like our father. I couldn’t be more proud of how excellently & intentionally they love my niece & nephews. But me, I’m still very much like him (at least in appearance). When they look at me they might see all the fires he started & the pain he left behind, & maybe that’s why they choose not to for the most part. These are just thoughts in my head that I don’t fully believe, it’s just… I just wonder.
From my experience, I’m sure you can get the picture of how estrangement can be both beneficial & detrimental to mental health. Severing ties with my father was the right move because I experienced nothing but shame & condemnation from him. Because there are no good memories with him, I’m not exaggerating by saying that there are none that I can remember & remaining connected to anyone who condemns you, belittles you, or attempts to manipulate you can be extremely harmful to your mental & emotional health. Your mental & emotional health remains optimal when you distance yourself from those kinds of people and ensure you don’t become that kind of person yourself.
But you can also see how fatherlessness can be a root that leads to more internal & external brokenness because estrangement that causes isolation from relationships that you actually need is a different kind of lingering & annoying pain. A pain that leads to more unanswered questions, speculation, & grasping at straws on how to get things to change.
I got an olive branch tattooed on my arm for my birthday/graduation gift because I want to be an agent of peace, connection, & reconciliation – the opposite of what my father was & the person I am supposed to be, regardless of who my father is. So this father’s day, instead of internally grieving what I don’t have or celebrating my mother again (since she is not a father & inherently placing that role on her adds pressure she doesn’t need), I’m going to intentionally connect with & honor the fathers around me fully & finally be at peace with the choices my father & I have made. I’m also going to continue to hope for the best regarding my relationship with my siblings & keep extending the olive branch as I have the courage to.
I still have hope and expect to eventually get through life with no lingering negative feelings or regret, just forgiveness, acceptance, and ultimately, freedom.
Click here if you need help dealing with negative feelings stemming from an estranged relationship, if you need support, or if you you’re struggling with mental distress.
If you want to share your father’s day lessons and experiences, or tell your story or journey as someone with a diagnosed mental health or mood disorder in order to connect with and encourage others and you’re OK with that being shared on the YNF website, shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or contact me through the site. Anonymous submissions are welcome.