Something important happened at my last therapy session, other than me confronting my therapist.
We had about fifteen minutes left and my therapist asked what I wanted to work on. After thinking for a minute I suggested we talk about my dad. I told my therapist that we are coming up on a time when things get difficult. Father's Day is coming up. Shortly after that is my dad's birthday. And family will probably come to town during the summer and invite us up to my parents' to spend time with them. I'm just not sure how to handle those things.
He talked about forgiveness. In fact, he called it doing the forgiveness dance. He suggested I go to their house on Father's Day, stay as long as I'm comfortable, but if my dad is mean I have to leave. It's my job to protect myself and get out of there.
He's usually fine lately. He's not warm and fuzzy -- he never has been -- but he isn't usually demeaning or controlling. But sometimes.
I told my therapist that I don't always notice when he's mean until later. It's just been such a part of my life that I don't see it. He asked if I could recruit my husband to help me see it and be my backup to get me out of there. I cried and said no. He's not reliable enough. Sometimes he would see it, but more often than not he will just join in. He and my dad will bond by picking on me together. He asked if there is anyone who would be there that would be able to help stop it in the moment. There isn't. I won't put my kids in that position and my mom isn't stable.
As we talked I realized that while I don't always see it when he's mean, I know how I feel. I know when I start to feel unsafe. I can usually sense the tide turning before it gets ugly. I have just ignored it in the past. I told my therapist. He asked how often I'm right when I sense that my dad is going to be mean. I told him I am always right. 100%. So we decided that I can go as long as I have an immediate escape plan that I will use as soon as I sense it's getting dangerous. He made me promise that I would leave if that happened. I did.
I semi-jokingly asked if I couldn't just take a Xanax before I go. He said that if I needed one to calm down enough to go it was okay. But if taking one would incapacitate me enough that I wouldn't be able to leave when I needed to it wasn't okay. I said I never take that much. Just a little. Just enough so that it doesn't matter when he's mean.
And my therapist said, "It matters when he's mean."
That one simple sentence brought instant tears. That moment was so powerful. I had difficulty processing it.
He could tell it was important and he said it again. It matters when he's mean. All that encompassed came rushing in. I deserve to be treated better. It's not okay for him to treat me that way. It's not okay for anyone to treat me that way. I have every right to be hurt and scarred from the way he's treated me. When he's mean he doesn't deserve to be with me. When he's mean I don't have to stay. I don't have to take it anymore. He has to earn my presence. Just being my dad doesn't give him the right to be mean. It's not okay.
Those words changed my life. I now offer them to you. Whatever brought you to my blog, whoever is unkind to you, you deserve to be treated better. You have the right to protect yourself. You have the right to walk away. It matters when he's mean.