I hardly ever talk about the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that I have. It stems from growing up with a narcissistic, alcoholic father who emotionally and verbally abused me, my Mom and my brother. He belittled us every chance he got. Nothing was ever good enough…not grades, jobs…nothing. He also had a volatile temper made worse by drinking. My brother and I witnessed him get physical with our step mother during one of their fights.
Lucky for us, we lived with my mom and only had to be with my father every 5 or 6 months. He did not ask for any visitation rights during the divorce. Throughout the years he has maintained that “children are hell…they change your whole life” and advised my brother and I never to have children.
A Houseboat Full of Bad Memories
He had a houseboat and one weekend when my brother and were there, he disappeared in his “little” boat for a long time. When he came back, he was drunk and furious. He yanked a jet ski out of the water saying, “You cocksuckers didn’t take this out.” Then he started to yell at me. I accidentally put my hands on my hips and this sent him over the edge. He was cursing and getting ready to take the houseboat out. My brother and I were scared. He was way too drunk to be piloting the houseboat. And now we were trapped on board with him. One of my father’s friends who was on the boat, said we just needed to calm down and be nice to my dad. I spent the next several hours trying to hide on the houseboat. Carefully sneaking around the outside to avoid my father. I’d been a part of this scene before and I knew the only think to do was apologize, grovel and kiss ass. I also felt like I needed to protect my brother as my father was much harder on him than me. I told my brother what we needed to do and encouraged him to make up to my father.
My father would typically just stare at my brother and I when we were apologizing for whatever it was that set him off. Sometimes he would grunt, other times there was nothing but silence.
When my father still lived at home, these episodes often led to one or both of us getting spanked. My father spanked until he left bruises. He would get so angry when punishing us that he couldn’t seem stop himself.
The Effects of Spending Time With My Father
Living in this environment left my mom, my brother and I with PTSD. It affected me by lowering my self-esteem to an almost non-existent level. I also became very good at figuring out what other people wanted and providing it without them needing to ask. I tended to think that everyone was angry with me so I did a lot of apologizing. When my brother and I would come back from a weekend with my father, we were both dazed and in bad moods. Spending a weekend trying to guess what someone wants and giving it to them is exhausting. Because it was never enough. No matter how hard I tried, my father still was not interested in me as a person. He certainly didn’t provide unconditional love. His love was very conditional and changed from minute to minute.
Following are the main symptoms of PTSD:
-Intrustive thoughts and memories
-Distress from reminders and events
-Avoidance of reminders and triggers
-Emotional numbing and detachment
-Sense of limited future
-Irritability and anger
-Hypervigilance and jumpiness
-Guilt, shame and self-blame
-Physical aches and pains
How Do I Lessen My PTSD?
So what was I to do with all my teenage angst, plus mental illness, plus a parent that didn’t want to parent me? Therapy, therapy and more therapy. I saw a therapist when I was 20 that said, “This is going to take years and years to sort out.” And she was right. I still carry around vestiges of my father’s cruelty. But I have been in therapy for about 26 years now and I think I’m on top of it. I also got smart and cut my father out of my life 18 years ago. I had to stop that intense violence from happening. I’ve been lucky enough to have a wonderful father-in-law that treats me as his daughter with unconditional love to boot.
In therapy, you and your therapist will carefully go back over the traumatic events and memories, processing emotions as you go. You can also expect to:
-Explore your thoughts and feelings about the trauma
-Work through feelings of guilt and mistrust
-Learn how to cope with intrusive thoughts
-Address problems that PTSD has caused in your life
This is a rigorous process that may require little breaks and lots of self-care. (Check out a self care plan just for you at www.mentallyinteresting.com/self-care-plan).
I experienced a very powerful release of my trauma during Group Therapy. Our therapist placed asked me to read a letter I had written to my Father explaining why I was saying “Goodbye”. At the end, our therapist placed a chair in front of me. He told me to kick the chair gently over and say “Goodbye”. I did it. Twice. I felt free. Of the pain and the guilt and the intrusive memories. Free.
www.kyliehaack.com, “15 Symptoms of PTSD”.