This article was being written against a backdrop of rather sentimental dad advertisements floating on social media, and perhaps was written solely out of a sense of severe resentment. Because you see, when you finally understand you’ve had a bad parent, you’re also left to consider that in societies such as ours, you’re officially damaged goods. Parental abuse, as I’ve recently come to learn, damages us in ways we don’t really find out till the time the sky falls. The damage isn’t the worst bit, even if it is one of the worst things to grow out of. What’s worse is the sense of loss and the subsequent envy, which can never really be fixed.
My childhood isn’t that many memories. It’s a haze, with almost every memory locked behind static. A few stand out, good or bad, but mostly bad. It’s only in nightmares when I actually remember things and it’s in my mother’s charges against my father where things I think are just fanciful inventions of my crazed mind turn out to be just a partial description of the truth.
Make no mistake though. My father isn’t all bad. He’s quite smart to be honest, can hold conversation glibly enough for anyone to fall prey to his charm. He might be deceitful and manipulative, but I’ll give the man credit. He’s a smart psychopath. His use of emotions and rousing words to change how people feel and think or perhaps to just wear someone down, is impressive. I remember an elephant ride with my father once, me laughing as the elephant squirted water all over us. I also remember a few birthdays when our family wasn’t just pretending, when we were actually happy with each other.
Of course, the problem is that in too many other ways, my father has completely destroyed who I am as a person.
He is the man responsible for me having a panic attack whenever I hear the Powerpuff Girls theme tune, or most references to it, because he’s the person who took a pressure cooker to hit me while the show was in the background and I think I was young enough for it to be embedded into my behaviour like a tick I can’t itch anymore.
Even now, I have to bleed before I can hit someone back, merely because I’m too afraid.
He’s the person who when he found out that his son was a weakling afraid of the dark, stuffed chillies in said boy’s mouth and locked him in a dark room.
He’s also pretty much the reason I have a strong rooted belief that I am inadequate for almost everyone and that at the end of it, no matter how faithfully someone might try to convince me that I’m worth their time and they won’t leave me alone, I’m still to be convinced. Why you ask? Because my own father looked at me when my lungs were full of blood and asked my mother to deal with it herself.
But this article isn’t a charge sheet of his crimes. It shouldn’t have talked about him at all, but hey. Let me have my moments.
It’s about parenting in general, and how all of us (even the ones who’re lucky and didn’t have parents out to kill them) need to realize that sometimes, our parents give us things that we really don’t want to carry forward. And unless we confront that, unless we choose the red pill over the blue pill of denial, we’ll just be making a perpetual cycle of people like me and my father. Sons crippled with anxiety and a slew of other disorders and fathers who treat their children as extensions of their own lives.
This isn’t me being condescending, of thinking that there are some amongst the readers who can’t understand abuse. This is me recognizing that sometimes the lines get blurred and we do end up thinking that love is supposed to hurt. Sometimes, we start justifying our parent’s actions, out of our love for them and for the little times that they’re nice to us.
Love isn’t supposed to be that. You’re not supposed to be your parent’s punching bag. No matter how much they pay for whatever you do. You could be doing acid on your dad’s money, but that gives him only the right to discipline you, not to own you.
You are not your parent’s property, no matter how much they’d like you think otherwise.
It’s only when you confront that possibility, that maybe, just maybe, you didn’t have the best parent in the world, when you can outgrow them.
This article is about me realizing how often I act like my father and this is about me denying him that pleasure, the pleasure of watching me become his son. Because that is an identity I chose to reject recently, a rejection which is perhaps my revenge on my father. My family’s trysts with bad parenting, hopefully, stop here. He shall be the last one to carry out such abuse, only because I can finally reject his presence in my life.
Even now, while I write this, I realize where I can feel my father’s phantom in many of the facets of my life.
Most people who know me think I have anxiety issues, which is only part of the story. I overthink every little thing, to the extent that my careful thought becomes the result of inaction. Every time I speak to my dad, my roommate leaves me alone, while a close friend starts patting me on my back, just because each conversation is another war, with him trying to drag me down again and again.
I’m great for a beating, since I generally can’t hit back till I’m bleeding. Yet once I start bleeding, I can only see red. I’m forced to take the backseat then and watch my father’s son take over, see him beat down people regardless of how badly I’m hurt. In a twisted way, my life makes the most sense when someone’s trying to kill me (even if nowadays, the attempts are more half-assed than anything), because violence is a lot easier to understand and deal with than emotions. Thanks to my family’s brand of parenting, I’m better equipped to deal with a hostage situation than to court the person I like.
I’ve lost track of the number of times my knuckles have bled, because after everything that goes askew, even slightly off track, I’m crippled with severe anxiety and in that moment, the only thing that makes sense is violence against myself. When it starts to hurt, I automatically become calmer. This coping mechanism might be a prison of my own making, but the jailor wasn’t me.
It isn’t just in the obvious and overt actions that my father continues to torment me. It’s also in the underlying patterns of my behaviour, in the lessons I keep on etching on myself again and again.
Take friendships for example. As my friends will attest to, I’m not the easiest person to be friendly towards. I’m extremely condescending, say the most inappropriate things and behave quite unpredictably. To put it nicely, I’m someone who’s an acquired taste, all because I try to push people away as much as I can. Positions of trust such as friends have been scary for me. After all, if my own father can turn against me, who says they can’t? I’m glad that’s changing now, and I have friends, a family I chose. I’m no longer the kid who’d only enjoy the luxury of associates. I have friends now.
If I was to talk about affection and adoration, well, I’m just as screwed there. I put people I’d like to care about on pedestals, then annoy them in a manner so that neglect is the only thing they have for me. What follows is an intense feeling of inadequacy and a tinge of depression. All of this, just so that my father’s lessons are freshly carved on my personality. It’s in those moments where I can hear him sneer at me again, reminding me that at the points that matter, I won’t really be able to escape, and I’ll just be that child locked in the dark room all over again.
None of this is something I really want but at the same time, I couldn’t help myself from doing all of that. These are the things that make the base of who I am and are the fail safes I fall back to when my life hits the blender. It’s tough to break away.
Yet before a bird is born, it must break the egg. If I, or anyone for that matter, is to discard the identities our parents intentionally or unintentionally gave us, we have to be prepared for the consequences of the same. Half-assed efforts simply would not do. We have to fight against the process, fight against the traits our parents would leave us with.
The thing is I know how it works. We rationalize it. I’ve done that. I’ve pegged my father’s abuse to his own abusive home, his struggles with breaking away from my grandfather and partly his alcoholism.
Yet no matter how bad his life sucked, the point I’m trying to make is that, none of it can justify him letting the cycle continue. None of this justifies him trying to ruin my life. This is about toxic relationships and how all of us are better off cutting toxic things out of our life while we can.
We have to kill our fathers.
At least I do. What I mean is that, I have to kill the parts of my father that are in me, the parts that only pull me down or put the ones I truly care about in jeopardy.
Only then does his abuse truly stop and only then does my revenge truly end.