My dad lost his arm after an overdose that left him unconscious. He fell directly on his arm and stayed there for two whole days before he regained consciousness. From there he spent over a month in a coma-like state. When he was released, he hated himself.
(These images are 2016 when he spent a month in the hospital after a bad fall)
His arm that hung lifeless by his side along with his early onset Parkinsons Disease, I knew that I wouldn’t be receiving one of those beautiful letters that gave me hope and confidence for a long time. I didn’t realize that I’d never get another letter again.
Regardless, I felt an urge to write my dad a letter. I’d think about it relentlessly and for every time I lied to myself that work was more important than that letter, I despised myself.
A mentor that came into my life at quite possibly the perfect time instantly could see that I wasn’t focused. He called me out, something that is rare for people to do and something that I admire and search for in any relationship especially work. He said make flashcards of all the things you need to do and know you’ll only do one thing. He didn’t ask me what I was writing but I ended up with one thing that trumped all my work.
It was to write and send my dad a letter.
My dad was and always will be the number one person, thing, and faith I have in my lifetime. I am so grateful for that and the addiction he suffered from made me realize that even more. You know that phrase you always want something you can’t have? Or… you only miss something once it’s gone. I felt like I had been living those quotes to the fullest of their potential for a long time.
Every time my dad ended up in the hospital, every time I found out my dad was unconscious for weeks, every time my dad was numb to my words because of his depression, every time he was high… it felt like I was losing the person I loved and that I missed him so much even though he was right there.
Writing helped tremendously. I could write to my dad as if he were the daddy I remembered. Writing to people (handwritten) lets us slow down. It lets us express ourselves and envision the person we are writing to. Have you ever written a letter to someone you’re angry at? By the end, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how you aren’t angry anymore. Writing to my dad was always a happy experience and I loved being able to express my love to him.
Along with the letter I sent him a card as you can see below.
The letter is what I had said I was too busy for but when I looked at what I really cared about, it was expressing my feelings to my dad. There’s no hiding what you care about and if you do, you’ll feel mundane and have that feeling like something is missing.
After he received his letter, he texted me this:
My dearest Daughter I stayed in my room for two days and did not want to even get up because I am so depressed I finally got up just now and Grandpa told me that there is a letter from You so I just read it. I love You so much my Baby , You are the only thing in my life that makes me happy . I always brag about You to everyone . I am a very lucky person . I thank the good lord above for a doughter like You . I only wish that I could live up to what You deserve . I love You very much . Thank You so much for Your letter . You have no idea how much it means to me. Thank You very, very much for Your letter I love You with all my heart I think You know that . Thank You Lord for my Daughter. My love I wish I could hug You and cry, instead I get to cry by myself . I realize how much pain I caused to my family , I hate myself in a way that only I can understand . I love You my Baby , I failed You my Angel , please forgive me
I think hearing that my dad thinks I deserved better than him is impossible for me to comprehend because to me he is perfect and maybe a bit of the truth about what I believe is that I wouldn’t be considered a strong person if it weren’t for what I went through. In fact- it’s not a bit of the truth- it’s the whole truth.
When I told John this, he said that I should accept that he believed that I deserved better. And that I should still believe I deserve the best- from everyone- especially myself.
It seems impossible to expect better from my dad because of the unconditional love he gave me. But when it comes to friends- I am a mess. I can’t seem to have real friendships and that’s been my hardest battle. It choked me up when he said I deserve the best because honestly, I don’t know if I expect too little or too much. I want to tell you the story of how weak I really feel because I deserve to be honest with myself.
My dads fall happened at the end of May. For the last week of May, I was in Colorado. Then I spent a week with Eric while he had surgery. Immediately after that, I flew out to Chicago, then I came back to watch Eric get sworn in as a lawyer and within 24 hours I was in Washington DC for a week in a half.
By now it’s the end of June and I am dealing with bad anxiety. It wasn’t the worst I’ve ever felt, but I was on the road which made it uneasy. I would spend at least 2 hours on the phone with doctors and social workers who were trying to understand my dad’s situation. While I was in Chicago I remember sitting at a coffee shop trying to quietly whisper that this wasn’t the first time my dad had problems and that I was more worried that upon being released he’d kill himself.
I felt hopeless and guilty by the time I got home from my trips. All I wanted to do was be told it was okay and feel supported. But that is in fact not what I came home to.
On June 20th I came home and I found a half drunken bottle of Vodka in my room which was alarming. It made me feel uneasy. Since I live with roommates a bedroom is the only sacred place you have. It felt like that feeling that someone had broken in- someone uninvited was in your space. It hurt not knowing answers. Worse than that, I overheard one of my friends say that my friend would be way better off living with her than me.
I was crushed, but being a coward, I tried making myself smaller. It’s when I really first decided to minimize. Get rid of anything that made me take up more space and that made my life more meaningful- making a positive out of a negative I suppose. I wanted to make up for why I was being talked about by seeming less of a burden. But still- nothing will fill the void of hearing people you care about talk about you.
On July 8th my mom left for Washington State to be with her family. I was so happy for her, but that was the last time I knew we were a family. Dysfunctional of course, but now it wasn’t unified dysfunction and I could taste my dad’s downfall. I visited her to say goodbye and stopped by to see my dad first.
For 15 minutes my dad stood here like this, hollow as if he had been in a concentration camp. Staring blankly. Dirt on his face. Lifeless. It scared me to see him like this because unlike heroin which made him nod off and come back, he was frozen. He looked starving. For both hope and food. His arm unbandaged lifelessly hung by his side.
On July 15th my dad texted me:
BabySo, I am so sorry for everything I put U through , please forgive me .. I am serious , I just feel like my end is near and I had to at least apologize.. I love U my darling
I can only stand so much. I felt like I was losing everything (besides my love, Eric who would bring me flowers for most of the month of July to cheer me up).
In August I was distant, overwhelmed, scared and trying to make lemonade out of lemons. I visited grandpa and dad and knew I was the key to their livelihood. I was trying to flourish at work and trying to be the happiest I could be while still making myself as small as possible.
On August 26th I ditched my best friend on her birthday.
I guess it’s no surprise that when I was a bad friend and called out for it, I exploded with anger. I’ve never been a bad person but I certainly have been a bad friend and I’m ashamed to admit it.
It hurt me because, in that instance of already feeling vulnerable for being a bad friend, my friend looked me in the eyes with hate and said: “You just feel so bad for yourself because of your dad.”… wow. It didn’t hurt because it was true, it hurt because what I had thought I was doing was begging for support and love and acceptance and help. I couldn’t have been if my own friend believes that I feel bad for myself. If I felt bad for myself, I would’ve given up a long time ago on everything. I would probably still be on disability and not be living in Boston.
I felt like I lost two friends because I didn’t know how to tell them what I deserve, what I want, and what my boundaries are.
Eric and I talk about how hurt I am a lot. A lot of our deep conversations lead back to my insecurities about ruining the friendships I’ve had.
“I hate that I feel like I ruin my friendships,” I said out loud at dinner one night a few weeks ago. I locked eyes with him and looked for an answer in his. You could tell he wanted to help me but he couldn’t give me an answer. Instead, he did what he’s best at and made me feel like there’s a reason for the way I am and that its okay.
He said, “Your dad was loyal to a fault and you saw that. You saw your dad leave you at such a young age when he went to prison but he was still so loyal. So maybe you expect the people around you to either be extremely loyal or to leave you completely.”
I teared up. Exactly.
Eric has said it before- I need to stop acting like the world is against me. Sometimes I pin myself against the world because I want to take on everything. I want to be a superhero for everyone but then when I can’t express what I need in return I become sad.
So as I’m sitting here without my dad giving me advice, I’m searching to find the answers within.
It came back to that last letter and how disappointed I’d be in myself if I hadn’t expressed myself in those words. My strengths are that I am as genuine as they come and wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m also very emotionally invested in everything I do.
If it weren’t for those letters where my dad and I were 100% honest with each other, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to love each other as much as we did and have as deep of a connection as we did. Looking back on it terrifies me to think in my 25 years we only spent 12 years together. But, because of the letters, it feels like we had the full 25 years and an eternity lives through them.
So how are these two situations related at all? Because when we are going through something that we don’t understand and that hurts us it makes us lose ourselves and makes us feel like we don’t belong in our own bodies. For me, it’s losing friends but for you maybe you’re being fired or you’re going through a divorce. It makes you feel like what you had believed to be true wasn’t at all. You doubt yourself. It affects your confidence.
I was forced to really revisit my priorities today and to remember that letter I wrote and how because I wrote it made me be able to do everything else better. I am flourishing in all aspects of my life but because I can’t process and put aside losing my friends, I have a void in my heart and my soul.
I lost my dad for God’s sake and I dealt with that better than this.
I keep trying to hush these feelings and prioritize other things before addressing my insecurities. Because of that, I’ve tired myself out. Instead of being honest by writing down my feelings on paper, I’ve been trying to tell myself I’m okay in my head. I am a positive person to a fault and I will always say everything is okay- and truly believe it in my brain.
It’s just not. John has brought that to light.
I have been losing touch with my positivity and momentum to change the world. I find myself getting angry at little things. And I know it’s because I keep asking myself questions that make me doubt myself because of my insecurities. Do my friends keep canceling plans with me because they don’t care? Did my friend spitefully text me “Sending you good vibes” when my dad died? I didn’t want good vibes. I wanted to be hugged. Did people not see that? Is every compliment I hear another lie until you stab me in the back? Then it gets worse. My friends don’t even believe in me, how are other people going to? I can’t even get my friends to come to an event, how am I going to get total strangers to want to? Those aren’t healthy questions to have in my head.
I don’t need to be loved or forgiven but I do need to take care of myself and stop acting like I am okay. A lot of people think I’m a strong person because of what I’ve been through with my parents but that was easy. Feel bad for myself? I had a man in my life that even while he was dying he prioritized my well being. That’s pure beauty I was apart of. It’s easy for me to love someone when that person is never going to betray you or leave you or ever stop loving you.
It’s nearly impossible for me to accept that people I care about talk bad about me. That is a self-mutilating weakness. It’s my Achilles heel. I hope that I let go of my unrealistic expectations or if I’m going to have them, at least express myself better. I hope that I never have to write a last letter to a friend.