My childhood..

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Fairy Lights

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My childhood..
« on: February 26, 2021, 02:39:52 PM »
Hello :wave: I tried to keep this post short, but it’s grown quite long, sorry! It’s been quite therapeutic to write it all down… so anyway, here’s my story:

I'm very new to this. I'm late 30s, female, and just over a year ago something triggered me and my brother to talk for the first time about our dad, and how he was as we grew up, from as early as I can remember. We had never spoken about our dad's behaviour until that moment, and it was quite emotional as well as a relief and validating, and lead me to contacting a therapist who I’ve been talking to for about a year.

So, for as long as I can remember, my family life was like walking on eggshells around my dad. He could ‘explode’ at any time. For example, one of my earliest memories, I think I was about 4 (or very small at least), we were watching tv as a family, and my dad came in to the room and tripped/stumbled on a foot-stool, but he then totally lost it and started kicking it, and losing it, smashing things. Which turned in to a big argument as my mum tried to stop him. My brother (2 years older) took my hand and we ran in to the kitchen and hid behind the long curtains for some time.

His anger/rage was very scary and unpredictable. He could flip in to a rage at any time, throwing things and smashing things. I’ve been trying to figure out what the triggers were, and it could be anything from ‘He couldn’t find his keys, or a tool, or something’, or if something went wrong (like tripping on the foot-stool or, god forbid, if he tripped on one of my toys), or if he (very rarely) had to cook me and my brother dinner, it would be a massive drama often involving something being smashed, or for seemingly no reason at all. I keep trying to figure it out, like, maybe he was stressed/frustrated/tired/low blood sugar level or something. But there are no excuses right? He was supposed to be the responsible adult.

His rages would turn in to arguments (screaming matches with mum) and then followed by a period of time (a day or up to a week) where he would give us (mum, me and my brother) the silent treatment, stonewalling. I would be totally on edge, not knowing what to do, and eventually dad acts like the victim, he would say something like “Oh, why is it always me who has to make things better” (as if it was our fault!?). It could oscillate between rages and stone-walling for some time. He never apologised or acknowledged that he’d been scary or wrong. Things would just creep back in to some sort of ‘normal’ until the next rage. I would end up feeling like I need to keep dad happy, sort of forcing myself to do 'normal' things to make him feel loved.

Sometimes he would rage on his own, in his home-office, he could completely destroy that room, It was terrifying! And other times, it would just be where-ever he happened to be, and if we were in the way, he didn’t care. (I keep thinking, there must have been A LOT of broken stuff in our house.. and looking back, there was a lot of dodgy DIY and mis-matched things and damaged furniture/walls).

(Side note: We used to watch the old 80s ‘Incredible Hulk’ series, and I remember watching it and thinking as a child, “That’s dad” when he changed from a man into a scary monster. I guess it’s that sort of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character).

I grew up on edge, always watchful for dad’s mood to change. If he kicked off, I would go and hide somewhere (in my room, under my desk, or the bottom of the garden). When I heard dad’s mood change, or something get thrown/smashed, then the pit of my stomach would drop, I would feel sick and dizzy, and sometimes I ‘froze’ not able to run (I ended up thinking I would make it worse if I ran away to hide, I'm not sure why. I think he'd notice I've hidden therefore highlighting that he's doing something 'wrong', which would turn in to an argument and more raging).

He was very over-bearing and scary if we did something wrong, he’d grab hold of me/my brother and yell in our faces/in our ears, and we’d get a swipe over the head. The worst time was when I was about 9, I was in the kitchen, and dad came storming inside the house from outside asking where my brother was. Then stormed upstairs and I heard a crash and a commotion and screaming. I remember a period of time after that my brother had a curtain for a door, and his models were broken. Then, a year ago, I spoke to my brother and he told me that dad had ripped the door off it’s fixings and thrown it in to his shelves breaking his models, and then pinned him to the floor yelling and hit him across his head. All because he’d written in chalk outside that ‘Fairy lights (my name) is mad’. (To be honest I would have been less upset seeing that than the way dad reacted).

Dad never took responsibility for his actions either. He constantly loses things and is so messy (He’s absent minded and never puts things back, eg. tools or books or whatever) then flies in to a rage because he can’t find the things. Then our mum always has to run after him, looking for the thing or tidying up after him. And when she finds the thing and gives it to him, he’d just snatch it from her and glare, followed by stone-walling. (Like it’s her fault, or some mysterious entity, but certainly not his responsibility!)

Sometimes his driving was scary, and mum would ask him to stop or tell him he jumped a red light. And then he’d slam on the brake and say “Do YOU want to drive!?” As if mum was unnecessarily criticising him. Or if mum was map reading and we got lost, dad would lose it, and snatch the map and then stone-wall for the rest of the journey. I hated this, as I was trapped, strapped in the back of the car.

Dad was also, bizarrely, an adamant ‘positive thinker’, he was always telling us to think positively and didn’t really allow negative emotions from us. If we were angry about something, that wasn’t allowed. We were certainly not allowed to question dad or say how much we didn’t like his behaviour. I grew up thinking I’m not allowed to be sad or angry, and even now I struggle to let myself feel these emotions, especially amongst friends.

I realise a lot of people have had it a lot worse than me, and I struggle to validate myself that dad’s behaviour wasn’t ‘Ok’. I’ve never told anyone about dad, and hadn’t even talked to my brother about it until last year. It’s so deep rooted and unspoken that ‘we don’t talk about dad’s rages’, that I always felt that it was ‘normal’, it’s ‘just dad’, and also ‘no one would understand how bad it was’ or ‘no one would believe me’.

Do people here think my dad could have BPD? I wonder if other people had a similar experience?

Also, I’ve never spoken out loud that maybe dad’s behaviour was abuse/neglect…. but I suspect it was, and I’m scared to say those words out loud.

So I’ve been in therapy for a year, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I should have done it years ago. I tremble/shake when I talk about dad with my counsellor, which I’ve talked about with her as a remembered reaction, although it’s getting easier. And I have a lot of ‘patterns’ in my present day life, particularly around relationships, that I’m working on trying to change.

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Hepatica

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Re: My childhood..
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2021, 03:42:42 PM »
I realise a lot of people have had it a lot worse than me, and I struggle to validate myself that dad’s behaviour wasn’t ‘Ok’.

Hi Fairy Lights,

Good for you getting that out and sharing it.

I want to address the quote above because I think it's so important to avoid comparing, which can lead to a downplaying of your experience. From what I've read you lived through some really challenging things, long term, your entire childhood. That's super hard.  :( I went through it too, and the thing is we all come out, having survived and not knowing anything different, until we meet someone, go to therapy, or read or see something that makes us wonder if we need to explore more.

I am coming to the conclusion in my own healing process that it does not matter what our parents might be diagnosed as. What you pointed out is far more important. You grew up on edge. And all of the examples you gave tell us why. Of course you did. As I become more mindful of my emotions I notice every time my heart beats faster, for example, the dog barks for some reason and my pulse races.

Our bodies react to sound, to facial expressions that are linked to in-coming rage. We notice the smallest things. It is basic survival. But when your body is living like that long-term in the home that is supposed to be safe, it can cause an elevation of hormones that is chronic and we become hypervigilent.

For me, I finally understand that I have not been depressed my whole life, or suffer anxiety, but that I am recovering from trauma. It isn't a scary word for me anymore. It just is the truth and now I am learning how to heal that, here on this forum, with a therapist who has training in it. I honestly think there are many people in this world with undiagnosed trauma from raging parents.

My mother was a rager. My small dog used to run and hide under the beds and I did too.

It was a hard environment to thrive in.

But you can heal. I am healing. I am finally hearing the loving parent I've cultivated inside my own mind and my days are not nearly as hard as they were before I got help.

Don't worry about terms and what your father had. You may never know. Just focus on your own healing and what you need to move from survival to thriving.

Thank you for sharing your story. From someone who went thru similar, my heart goes out to you.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2021, 03:45:29 PM by Hepatica »
“There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there's
still a sureness in you, where there's a seamlessness in you, and where
there is a confidence and tranquility." John O'Donohue

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Sneezy

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Re: My childhood..
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2021, 05:24:57 PM »
So, for as long as I can remember, my family life was like walking on eggshells around my dad.
Hi Fairy Lights and welcome!  I think the feeling that you are walking on eggshells is a pretty classic sign that you are dealing with a PD or something similar.  It's a terrible feeling and especially hard on children.  I'm so glad to hear that you are working with a therapist.  For me, it was so wonderful to have a therapist look me in the eye and validate that my mom's behavior wasn't and isn't acceptable. 

The kind of anger your father exhibited sounds awful.  Definitely not your run of the mill quick temper, it sounds downright terrifying.  And it seems to have encompassed every part of his life.  If he just got angry when driving or just when there were toys on the floor, that would still be disturbing.  But the fact that everything made him so angry - definitely a sign that something wasn't right.  And absolutely abuse when directed at his wife and children.

I'm wishing you all the best as you work through your questions and feelings.  There are so many helpful people on these forums, and I've learned so much by asking questions here. 

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Fairy Lights

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Re: My childhood..
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2021, 03:43:16 PM »
Hi Hepatica

Thank you for your kind and thoughtful reply, everything you said is so comforting to hear: Your empathy from going through similar with your mum, to how you've been growing since talking with your therapist, and how our bodies and minds grow to become hypervilgilent (I totally relate to 'how we react to sound, and to facial expressions that are linked to in-coming rage.'

You're right, avoiding comparing experiences isn't helpful. I read/heard somewhere that one person's experiences doesn't invalidate another's.

My therapist has been brilliant. It's been such a relief to talk about it in depth with someone. I still need to work on my own self-validation though. I feel like I constantly have to remind myself that it *was* bad, that I'm not over-reacting.

I'm glad you've seeked help and are on the path to thriving! I am too... It's slow, but steady, I just have to be patient :)


I realise a lot of people have had it a lot worse than me, and I struggle to validate myself that dad’s behaviour wasn’t ‘Ok’.

Hi Fairy Lights,

Good for you getting that out and sharing it.

I want to address the quote above because I think it's so important to avoid comparing, which can lead to a downplaying of your experience. From what I've read you lived through some really challenging things, long term, your entire childhood. That's super hard.  :( I went through it too, and the thing is we all come out, having survived and not knowing anything different, until we meet someone, go to therapy, or read or see something that makes us wonder if we need to explore more.

I am coming to the conclusion in my own healing process that it does not matter what our parents might be diagnosed as. What you pointed out is far more important. You grew up on edge. And all of the examples you gave tell us why. Of course you did. As I become more mindful of my emotions I notice every time my heart beats faster, for example, the dog barks for some reason and my pulse races.

Our bodies react to sound, to facial expressions that are linked to in-coming rage. We notice the smallest things. It is basic survival. But when your body is living like that long-term in the home that is supposed to be safe, it can cause an elevation of hormones that is chronic and we become hypervigilent.

For me, I finally understand that I have not been depressed my whole life, or suffer anxiety, but that I am recovering from trauma. It isn't a scary word for me anymore. It just is the truth and now I am learning how to heal that, here on this forum, with a therapist who has training in it. I honestly think there are many people in this world with undiagnosed trauma from raging parents.

My mother was a rager. My small dog used to run and hide under the beds and I did too.

It was a hard environment to thrive in.

But you can heal. I am healing. I am finally hearing the loving parent I've cultivated inside my own mind and my days are not nearly as hard as they were before I got help.

Don't worry about terms and what your father had. You may never know. Just focus on your own healing and what you need to move from survival to thriving.

Thank you for sharing your story. From someone who went thru similar, my heart goes out to you.

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Fairy Lights

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Re: My childhood..
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2021, 03:49:44 PM »
Thanks Sneezy. Yes, it's been great having my therapist confirm that my dad's behaviour wasn't ok. So validating! After so many years thinking it's just normal and I'm being over sensitive. I broke down in tears when she said "That's definitely not OK". A combination of relief, and sadness/grief for my childhood self.

Thanks for your thoughts, I'll never know exactly what my dad suffers from, but I'm learning that isn't necessarily helpful. The behaviour wasn't ok, whether it has a label or not. The more I think about, the more I feel angry that it still has a hold over me. I really hope to harness that energy to pull myself 'Out of the FOG' and start living a full life :)


So, for as long as I can remember, my family life was like walking on eggshells around my dad.
Hi Fairy Lights and welcome!  I think the feeling that you are walking on eggshells is a pretty classic sign that you are dealing with a PD or something similar.  It's a terrible feeling and especially hard on children.  I'm so glad to hear that you are working with a therapist.  For me, it was so wonderful to have a therapist look me in the eye and validate that my mom's behavior wasn't and isn't acceptable. 

The kind of anger your father exhibited sounds awful.  Definitely not your run of the mill quick temper, it sounds downright terrifying.  And it seems to have encompassed every part of his life.  If he just got angry when driving or just when there were toys on the floor, that would still be disturbing.  But the fact that everything made him so angry - definitely a sign that something wasn't right.  And absolutely abuse when directed at his wife and children.

I'm wishing you all the best as you work through your questions and feelings.  There are so many helpful people on these forums, and I've learned so much by asking questions here.

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pianissimo

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Re: My childhood..
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2021, 09:08:45 AM »
Thanks for sharing your childhood experience. I had a similar experience with my father.

I can't remember the specifics very much, I don't know how much of his anger was warranted but his anger was terrifying.  As a child, I plotted revenge plans a lot. One thing I resented so much was that I was small, weak, and that I needed my father. I hated that. I also felt very guilty for using my father's financial and other resources while not liking him. I hated that I had to like him. I hated that people thought he was a great father when I couldn't like him. I felt guilty and I thought I was a sociopath or a psychopath who can't feel love for her father. I thought there must be something wrong with me for holding on to grudges and for not being able to tolerate my father's anger.  It feels like I have been following a revenge plan I plotted since I was a kid. What is the revenge plan? Well, it's to use their resources to get away from them, and to get the upper hand to never be at their mercy ever again. I am kind of lucky to be able to move away from home to be on my own for seven years. That healed me a lot. So, I don't feel as angry with them now, but I do keep my distance. There was a point I thought I had come to terms with my father and mother where I felt gratitude to them for keeping me alive or providing me with resources that helped me reach where I am, but later, it turned out, this is how you end up feeling when your are in a narcissistic family dynamic. I think that, the only way the child in me could reconcile the anger I experienced with the enormous amount of resources given to me was by thinking that they raised me and financed me despite being so angry with me. I suppose, as a child, I felt stuck in fearful situations a lot, and I feared that I would be stuck there forever. I feared they would not let me go my way. They seemed so mean and angry, so, I assumed that, that would involve them being mean and angry about everything else.  The other thing is, I suppose, as a child, I was playing the "good kid" because it served my interests. A lot of the time what I did was also what they wanted me to do, but I was doing what they wanted me to do to get away from them. They didn't seem to understand how much I hated them. A part of me thought they knew it (because we would fight, and I would rage as they did, and my rage came from the hatred I felt for them at the time). So, I thought they were providing me with financial resources despite knowing I hated their guts. I felt guilty for deceiving them and for thinking that they raised me despite knowing I hated them . All this made me feel like I was a cunning and dishonest person. In some ways, I think that I was. I now feel lucky that I can tune the way I behave around my parents to how I feel. I'm also glad that I don't have to feel guilty for not calling them to look like I care about them. I mean I still care about them but less than some and more than others. It's good to not pretend and not feel guilty or feel like a con artist.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2021, 09:20:33 AM by pianissimo »

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Fairy Lights

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Re: My childhood..
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2021, 06:10:59 PM »
Hi Pianissimo

Thanks for replying, I'm so sorry you had a difficult experience with your father too. I can relate to some of what you said, in particular how other people think he's a great father!  Outside of our home, he was brilliant! All my friends always told (and still tell) me how great my parents are, what an idyllic childhood I must have had, so perfect etc etc. And I just thought I was an awful person for not loving my dad as much as I should. He was so confusing, sometimes he could be really nice and supportive, and then other times he'd just flip out and explode and start throwing/smashing/destroying stuff around the house  :-\ And then go through a period of stone-walling, where none of us could question him, we just had to let it 'blow over'... no one acknowledged dad's scary behaviour. It was crazy-making!

My dad still acts like we had a great childhood - he even suggested we all buy a big house together and live together again (errrrr NO THANKS!) He always offers financial support too, which I hate accepting, I hate being financially supported by the man who terrified me. It's like he still has control. But, maybe I should take a leaf out of your book and just take it!

I also had to play the 'good kid', there was no space for my anger and I couldn't tell dad how his behaviour frightened me. In my head, I thought if I'm good, and don't make 'waves' then dad won't explode. Sadly that didn't work. But that has become one of my 'patterns' as an adult.