Friday, October 28, 2011

making peace with my childhood

This year has been a huge milestone in facing a lot of my childhood demons head on.

I broke off communication with my dad (who lives in California) about a year ago.  He has always been an absent father, never seemed interested in really getting to know me or invested in me at all.  His wife abused me, he abused me, and as an adult, he engages with me only when he needs something or wants to brag about how great his life or adopted (step daughter) is.  She's a rocket scientist.  No, really.  She was a competitive ice skater as soon as she could walk.  She got her pilots license in high school (after I told my dad that I was taking an aviation science class and wanted to purse my pilots license).  I got into photography, suddenly my dad and she got into photography.  She has her scuba diving certification.  She got a two week trip to Paris for her graduation present.  He didn't even come up to Alaska for my graduation.  She now is an aerospace engineer, grows a hydroponic garden, and at least at one point had a website profile to become a surrogate mother, as she has no children of her own.  I guess I'm a little bitter. 

I didn't need a graduation present.  I just wanted a father.  I wanted love.  I never got it.

Finally last year, after feeling so bitter, and emotionally abandoned and used by him constantly over the years, I decided to stop all communication.  He emailed me last year around Thanksgiving and asked if I wanted to come down.  I ignored it.  A few weeks later he called me and left a voicemail, asking again and also asking me to answer some photography question.  I never responded.  I haven't heard from him since.  He tried to add me on Facebook a few months ago.  I blocked him.

I'm just done with the huge emotional toll it takes to communicate with him and coming away feeling so neglected and hurt each and every time.  I don't think he's doing it on purpose.  I don't know that he even knows it's happening.  I also don't even know if it's worth trying to talk to him about it, because he's so intimidating and self-centered he probably wouldn't see it anyway.

The detachment that I've felt from him since I was just a baby (earliest memory is crying myself to sleep at age 2 and feeling so desperately alone and not understanding why he wasn't there) after my parents got divorced and he moved down to California has created a huge attachment disorder that I've never understood until now.  This year, it's painfully, obviously, loomingly present. 

Reggie and I went through some stuff this spring/summer which plunged me deep into this attachment awareness and opened up Pandora's box.  From it sprang all of my insecurities and this kind of attachment dysmorphia, if you will.  When I got a good glimpse of what I was dealing with, I tried so hard to find a way to deal with it, to understand it, to find a way to live with it and continue on our journey, but in the end I couldn't control the amazing power it has on me still to this day, and we had to choose a different path.  The safe path, where I can remain comfortable and everything is familiar.

The whole experience was traumatic on our relationship, and I'm still struggling to understand what I felt and how I coped.  Why did I react so strongly?  What was so threatening and dangerous about it? 

I read something today that shined a big huge light on my struggles and makes a lot of sense to me.  This article, about attachment styles, basically describes how your attachment style as an adult is in direct correlation to the attachments you had with your parents as an infant.

It describes the "anxious or preoccupied" style, which I was floored to relate to so accurately:

Anxious or preoccupied adults are constantly worried and anxious about their love life - they crave and desperately need intimacy - but, they never stop questioning their partner’s love (“do you really love me?”). Anxious individuals are concerned that their partners will leave them. These adults are obsessed with their relationships and everything that happens in them. They rarely feel completely loved and they experience extreme emotional highs and lows. One minute their romantic partner can make their day by showing them the smallest level of interest and the next minute they are worried that their partner doesn’t care about them. Overall, anxiously attached individuals are hard to satisfy; you can’t love them enough, or be close enough to them, and they constantly monitor their relationships for problems. Ironically, their need for love, makes it easy for anxious individuals to be taken advantage of when it comes to love and romance, which in the long run can create even more suspicion and doubt.

Interestingly, when it comes to platonic friendships, I tend to carry a more "dismissive" attachment style, pushing relationships and intimacy away.   Friendships feel awkward and uncomfortable and vulnerable and most of the time I just can't be bothered to put in the effort.  Conversely, I spend a lot of time feeling a terrible and vast hole in my life because I don't have a healthy, attached friendship that I can be vulnerable and honest and intimate in.  It's all too much, so I push it away.

It's all stuff I've been doing a lot of thinking about, and though I am making strides (or baby steps), to understand and heal from these attachment fallouts, I'm still feeling a bit lost in the woods.  It's sad, really, because I feel like if I could get past my inner fears and phobias, I feel like I could have some truly amazing relationships. Instead, I feel like I'm hiding in my safe family bubble.  I am married to an amazing, loving, respectful and sensitive man who fulfills me in ways I never thought possible. 

Sometimes though, it would be wonderful to step into that unsafe place and feel like I had the tools to slay the beasts.  Until then...I'll just keep blogging and processing it all!

1 comment:

  1. I'm getting caut up on your new blog and wanted to say ME TOO. I am the exCt, exact same way in my marriage and it is indeed hard. In friendships I tend to default like my mom in that I push people away and find reasons not to like them. I feel; fortunate that I've been able to push past some of that and make friends, but it's literally a daily struggle not to push them away again. And my marriage is a daily exercise in trust and chilling :).