Sunday, June 19, 2011

Things I wish I could tell my father

Dear Dad,

I know you don't read this blog. Probably, you don't know it exists, and that's okay. But here are some things I wish I could tell you.

Dad, when I was a little kid, we were really close. I enjoyed the fun times we spent together. I remember when you taught me how to swim, when I was three, by telling me to swim towards you, and then walking backwards so I swam all the way across the pool. I remember when you taught me to drive a boat, when I was seven, and you told me, "Put that throttle down!!" and wanted me to be a little Navy sailor. I remember when you taught me to ride a bike. I remember when you told me you were leaving, and you didn't love my mother anymore, and then you moved out.

As I got older, we were not so close. I remember writing you a letter to tell you I was upset that you drank too much, and I remember when your second wife treated me like garbage, and I hated going to your house. I remember how I avoided going to your house, because I didn't feel welcomed there or wanted, and I hated being there. I remember that I wished you would get a divorce. Many years later, you did, and you told me everyone said you shouldn't have married her. I said it too.

But still, I felt a bond with you. I resented you, at the same time. I resented that you had tons of money compared to what I lived on with my brother and sister and mother, and that you didn't seem concerned about that fact. I remember when I'd take pennies to buy a gallon of milk from the store, and you lived in a three bedroom house in an upper class neighborhood, and had a new car every two years. I didn't like that. But now, I don't care about it so much anymore.

I remember when you stopped talking to me. I called the police on you, because I was psychotic, and I thought you were going to kill me. I was delusional. You didn't know that; nobody knew that. Nobody knew I hallucinated, that my mind had turned against me and was destroying my life. But that was the end of our relationship for six years. In all those years, you never spoke to me, and I never got to know my youngest sister and brother. I accused you of terrible things, because I believed, then, in my delusional mind, that the terrible things had happened, and that kids were in danger. But later, when I was medicated and thinking clearly, years later, I apologized, and I was so sorry. I told you and I drew you pictures of us on a boat, on a card I made in the hospital, right after I was taken there by police for nearly shooting myself, and I was childlike in my manner because I was so sick. But I told you, I said, I was sorry. You cried. You said you forgave me.

Dad, I know you never really forgave me. It's obvious in our interactions, and our lack of interactions. I know you still resent me for the fact that I called the police on you, that I had you investigated for things you had not done. What I wish you understood, after all these years, and my many suicide attempts, hospital trips, years in treatment, and recovery, is that I was SICK. I was sick. I didn't do anything to you on purpose. I didn't set out to harm you. I was sick. I couldn't control my brain telling me things that were not accurate. I thought the CIA was after me too. The CIA doesn't resent me since they don't know me there. My dad still resents me. This makes me really sad.

Dad, I appreciate the times when you've shown an interest in me or my life. It doesn't really happen often, but when it does, I appreciate it. I wish, to be honest, that you cared more. I wish when I invited you to NAMI events, you would actually come, just once. I wish you had shown up at my college graduation, after it took me 17 years to get my Associate's Degree. It would have meant a lot if you had, just once, said, "congratulations", or something, about that. It would have been amazing if you had been there for it. I wish you understood how much it would mean to me, if you wanted to understand my illness, Dad. I wish you showed an interest in knowing what exactly it is that is going on with my brain. I've tried to give you information. I've told you about how I speak to police officers now to teach them about mental illness. I'm not sure if you realize I do this, partly, because I harmed you by things I told police officers about you when I was sick. I am still trying to make up for it.

I love you, Dad. I wish you didn't drink so much, and I'm sorry that you probably don't like yourself very much underneath your exterior. I wish you had more of an interest in your older kids' lives. But I know, I know, that you do what you are able to do.

I hope you realize one day that I don't want money from you. I never ask you for it, but it seems you're always afraid someone is going to ask. I won't. I'd invite you to my apartment, but if you saw the prostitutes and homeless people right out front, and the conditions of the building, you'd look down on me for living here. I can't afford to live anywhere better. It's not really my fault. But it embarrasses me, because, compared to where you live, it's a different world. So that's why I don't invite you. I don't think you'd really want to come here.

Someday, I hope we'll be closer. I'm not sure that will happen. I realize I am partly to blame for this. I don't know how to fix it. I wish I did. I'm sorry you're so disappointed in me as a daughter, but I have an illness. The illness doesn't define me, it just changes the landscape of my life. I wish you weren't embarrassed by it. It's not really something to be ashamed of. It's just a brain disease. That's all. It's just a brain disease that really messed up my life and our relationship. I manage it the best I can. I work hard at doing as much as I can. I know you wish I made more money and worked full time, and that I had graduated from college years ago. But I do what I can do. I work, I go to school, I volunteer, I do public speaking, I write, and I try to be the best person I can be as much as anyone can do. I'm not perfect; I have many flaws. But I'm not really something to be ashamed of, either.

I'll see you for Father's Day and bring presents. And I know, that on the way home, I'll be sad, and I'll be wishing there was so much more. I wish we could have an honest conversation. But I don't think you're interested. Regardless, you're my dad. I care about you.




  1. Your dad sounds similar to mine, but rather than teach us to swim, he threw us in the ocean and said "swim". My dad has since passed, but if I still had it, I would let him know I loved him regardless.
    Take care.

  2. Aw, Jenny, I know how you feel. I never feel like I'm good enough for my dad either and I feel like he's ashamed of me and my writing. He's never acknowledged how much I am trying to change.

    This was a great letter and I really hope he does read it.


  3. Such a touching letter Jen, I hope that your Dad will someday read it and I hope that you two will somehow get a second chance at your relationship. I'm sorry this has happened to you, I really am.

  4. This is such an awesome letter. I bet it helped you to write it and get it out. I think if I got a letter like that I would do anything I could to mend the relationship. I hope it really helps and I'm thinking of you.

  5. My father was abusive throughout my childhood, teen and college years. I lived with so much anger toward him that it ate me up for years. I've finally let go of that anger and it's helped my mental health so much. I almost called him Sunday morning to tell him that I want to make peace because my older brother is having his first child soon and I don't want the baby born into a family that fights all the time and hates each other. But I chickened out and didn't call. I keep wanting to write a letter like this but I can't get the words out. It's like my brain doesn't want to go through with it or something

  6. One day you will say this and I hope he hears it. You have a lot of courage in spite of your illness. It gives me hope.

  7. Thank you for writing such an honest and moving letter to your Dad. You know what? I totally forgot about father's day and it's not because my father has been unkind to me. He's been very kind and supportive of me, but we never got really close. He's always been a bit aloof emotionally just generally, towards everyone. I know it has to do with the fact that his father was an alcoholic and a compulsive gambler and his mother overcompensated for that and smothered my Dad a bit. So his way was to pull into himself. Unfortunately that hurt his relationship with my older brother and with me as well. It's so sad, the cycle of abuse and addiction and the ensuing mental illness in various members of a family. I'm proud to be your friend because you are smart, sensitive and upfront and you are out there fighting stigma. I know there are good things about your father that he passed on to you and that are part of what makes you the great woman that you are. It is unfortunate that he is so ignorant about your illness. I think he's just trying to cover up his heart. So many people armor their hearts because they are afraid of it being touched. May your father someday remove the armor on his heart and love you the way you deserve to be loved!

    Kate : )

  8. I hear you Jen. I hope your father does too, somewhere deep in his heart. I have so many of the same emotions towards my father, but we are totally estranged and have been for most of my life. I wish I could write such a beautiful letter.

  9. Hi Jenny,

    My name is Langdon and I have been diagnosed with Bi Polar 1 and Schizo-Affective Disorder. My story is a bit bizarre, Maybe someday if we get to know one another I'll share it with you. Regardless I can relate to your father's actions as my father knows very little about what goes on in my life. I just don't feel like he understands me. Anyway, thanks for your post, I enjoyed reading.

  10. Hi jenny,

    My story is a bit bizarre. I'll share with you one day if we get to know each other. But I too am diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder. I can relate to your dad's actions, my father is unable to quite understand me either. It is very frustrating. The other day for father's day I just hung up the phone in mid sentence because I felt like he couldnt understand my life. I can relate. Thanks for sharing.


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