I Had An Emotionally Abusive Dad & It’s Had A Big Impact On Me

I spent too many years of my life not knowing who I was because of my narcissistic, manipulative, and controlling father. Now, at 26, I’m still vulnerable and scarred. Here’s how my life has changed because of it.

  1. Fear controlled me. My childhood consisted of my beautiful mother loving me unconditionally while my father couldn’t be bothered, opting for textbooks and work over his own child. He didn’t know how to be a dad but he did teach me that studying is more important than socializing, textbooks are vital, and education is respect. I was so afraid to talk to other people because to me, he was successful in his commitment to everything and I had to be exactly the same. To this day, I suffer from social anxiety because of it.
  2. His absence was power over me. I can’t remember my father as a kid and my parents were divorced before I was even a pre-teen. Bits and pieces of the few things we did together would occasionally float to the surface but I always question if it’s real or just imagined by the part of me who wishes he would be there. His lack of a presence in my life always left me guilty of saying “no.” If I said “no” to going to his work gatherings, family parties, or dinners, it was my fault that we didn’t get to see each other, right? I learned all too late that I was so, so wrong.
  3. I was diagnosed with OCD when I was 10. I was an overly anxious kid. Do you know what didn’t make that any better? The fact that my father liked so often to play on my worst fears of losing him. I spent five years in therapy not only to cope with my anxiety but to deal with my father turning our relationship into one long, twisted guilt trip. I was so irrationally terrified of making my father upset or mad, knowing that he also had health issues, that I agreed to virtually anything and everything even if it wasn’t good for me just so he wouldn’t be upset. I spent five years in therapy trying to work through this.
  4. I trusted no one. I still don’t trust anyone. Relationships were a bitch for me and anyone who dated me soon learned what a nightmare I would become. It was all I could do as an adult to express how most of my young adult life, the only male figure I’d looked up to had taught me that it was simply not OK to be myself. My father still doesn’t know I’m bisexual, and half of the “guys” he never met that I was with were actually women.
  5. I nearly lost the best relationship I’ve ever had. I’m currently married to my best friend who stuck it out with me through everything. However, things weren’t always happy. I ended things with us about halfway through the relationship because my partner did something completely unintentionally that my father then felt the need to go off about with me in private. Rather than choose my own happiness, I ended it. Luckily, unconditional love is much smarter than stupidity.
  6. I learned that mentally breaking down can be a good thing. After years of trying to be perfect according to my father’s standards, I finally broke down. I sat down on the floor of my living room during my senior year of college and I literally fell into a thousand pieces in front of my mother and stepfather. After crying my eyes out and repeatedly saying I couldn’t do it anymore, I acknowledged all the pressure I’d felt my entire life. I recognized that my grief wasn’t spawning from within myself and that my happiness finally needed a place to land. It was cleansing, terrifying, and life-changing.
  7. I cut my dad out of my life and began healing. I was emotionally battered, bruised, and broken from convincing myself that emotional abuse was OK. After so many years of hearing how wrong I was and being motivated by the idea of love rather than actually loving itself, I finally starting learning how to let go. I realized there was life around me and I was sitting in a room full of people just waiting to help me up. I was loved and couldn’t see it through all of the judgmental fog I’d lived in for the first two-thirds of my life.
  8. My graduation and wedding days were reminders that I made the right choice. Caught up in what I just assumed to be his own drama of “fog while on a business trip,” my dad didn’t show up to my college graduation. Instead, he texted me mid-ceremony to tell me he wasn’t going to make it. He didn’t turn up to my wedding either because he “got some things mixed up.” I’ll always remember his absence, but I’ll also always remember running into the arms of my stepfather who was beaming with reassurance, empathy, and pride. I also won’t forget my mother walking me down the aisle, smiling at me with all the love that I should have seen much earlier. She’s still my best friend.
  9. The battle will never be over. The pain will always be there and hurt will always be there from my father’s manipulative presence and destructive absence in my life. After I finally decided to go my own way post-college, we stopped talking. I’ll never fully be over it, but I have learned it’s OK to pursue your own happiness. Never apologizing for who you are can be the most liberating experience. I’ve learned that another person’s judgment will be always their problem, not mine.
I'm brash, brutally honest, a little too compassionate, and totally okay with that. Be yourself, because everyone else is too busy looking at their phones.