From Empty to Open
Updated: Jul 4, 2022
When you pick the wrong guy people usually blame it on daddy issues. When you fit the mold of having a dad that wasn’t around as much as you would’ve liked, it can be easy to associate yourself with that narrative even if it isn’t yours.
I’ve actually always been more of a daddy’s girl, so when my parents divorced when I was six it was pretty difficult for me to bear and it remained that way my whole childhood. Even as a young adult it confused me why my dad and I weren’t closer. We’re so much alike, and when we’re just existing in the same space it’s a feeling that can only be described as therapeutic. Nevertheless, our kindred souls just didn’t connect. My mom would invite him to birthdays and different events that we had at our home, but he didn’t show up. As I kid, I took that as a sign that he just didn’t want to be there. At the very same time, I was bombarded with one-sided horror stories about what happened between my parents and honestly just felt confused, angry, and empty. What I was being told didn’t seem to align with his character, but it was the only story I was being told, so it was the only truth I could believe.
I won’t go into too much detail about my parents because I know they both loved me deeply and did what they could. I also know that when you know better you do better, and sometimes cycles of mental and emotional abuse are so engrained that you don’t even know that they exist. What I will say is that when my dad moved away, the environment in which I was raised was very hot and cold. I learned to walk on eggshells at a very young age and I learned to keep a strong exterior because you’d be yelled at for being too sensitive. I learned that good grades got you compliments and things like poetry and singing got you ignored, and in the absence of any other kind of affection I was damn sure going for compliments.
Here’s the interesting thing about these kinds of hidden childhood wounds—we’ll call them internal wounds, since you can’t see them but they’re still there eating away at you nonetheless—they manifest themselves all over your life and act like cancer if they aren’t discovered and treated, metastasizing and killing you softly without leaving a trace.
At twenty-six I found myself leaving a relationship that felt a lot like my childhood, but I couldn’t place my finger on why because it looked so different. However, the story didn’t start out as a nightmare. To be fully transparent, it actually started out as a hookup about seven years earlier. I’d gotten out of a relationship a few months beforehand and just wanted to have fun, but was prudish about “sleeping around” so I really just wanted one person to hook up with. I found a guy. He was nice but things always felt pretty distant between us which was weird because we had fun times but the intimacy and personal connection just wasn’t there. I went along with it though, not because I was in need of or even desirous of a relationship, but because it felt familiar and comfortable.
We didn’t really get serious until he asked me if he could come to Chicago for my birthday. I thought it was really sweet that he’d want to come, and naturally I obliged. He planned days of incredible dates and I was flooded with gifts. I felt…special. He met my friends and family, I eventually met his, and things seemed great.
Then it was like one day a switch was flipped and things just changed. All of the affection became a far-removed memory. The relationship started to feel a lot like a roller coaster and there started to be these weird inconsistencies here and there…like stuff you feel in your gut but can’t make sense of. He began to isolate me from his friends and family and come up with reasons for the distance. Then, when I did finally come around it was like everyone knew something that I didn’t know.
At this point you’re probably like, “girl, he was cheating on your ass,” which yes, turned out to be true throughout the entire course of the relationship, but when you’re in a situation like this it’s hard to see signs of anything because it really is a roller coaster, and when your baseline (childhood) is just as skewed, it really does feel normal. Not good by any means, but normal.
So, that being said, I just went along with it. Plus, he knew how to make holidays special and whenever something would go wrong, even though he would never want to talk about it, he would always find a way to take the attention off of it and onto something different. This is one reason that it’s so important to work out your childhood wounds—you can’t work out problems you don’t know exist, and when you’re left with no answers you start to think that not receiving answers to completely logical questions is okay.
Overtime I began to devalue myself worth and was left with little to no confidence despite my outward appearance. In fact, my outward appearance made it even harder for me to ask for help and open up because people always assumed I was fine. It was that “smile, bear it, and don’t tell anyone what’s going on in this house” that I’d learned from childhood. Additionally, you can’t be pretty and shy, or pretty and sad. The fact that you’re standoffish automatically makes you a bitch…so I also had that going for me.
On top of that, I was with someone who on the outside was perfect—decent looks, good education, but it was a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and when you’re in it you’re in. So, if the gaslighting is good enough and the manipulation is covert enough you stay. I have countless stories of things I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemies: finding out he was secretly recording me when I was getting dressed, the dozens of women he’d cheated with. There was even a time I was lounging in the apartment we shared and he’d lost his keys, so he had to enter the house using…unconventional methods. Thinking that someone was breaking in I grabbed one of the fireplace tools to try to defend myself against what I thought was a robber. When I realized it was him I put it down and we started laughing and talked about how the situation would’ve played out if I didn’t realize it was him. I later found out that he told his friends and family that I tried to beat him for coming in late.
I’m not saying I’m Mother Teresa by any means, but it was one of those things where after some point you decide you have to speak up and defend yourself. So you talk back. However, when you’re doing that in the midst of gaslighting you end up becoming someone you’re not because your feelings are never validated, and you end up just feeling aggressive, confused, and again, empty.
It’s funny because the reason I broke up with him was so trivial in comparison to all the things that transpired between us, but I was done being squeezed dry and left to feel empty. It was difficult, but overtime I realized that rejection is God’s protection, and the good thing about people taking from you until there’s nothing left is that you get to start anew.
A few months later I went home for a family birthday and in talking with different family members I began to uncover some massive inconsistencies and flat out lies that I’d been told as a child. A lot of them were about my father. He would never tell his side of the story for fear that he wouldn’t be believed, so the truths that were being revealed didn’t come from him or anyone that could’ve known that they were making some big reveal.
When I tried to bring the stories up to my mom I was yelled at and berated. The narrative was flipped in an instant and that’s when I realized how broken my foundation was. We can’t heal wounds that we don’t know exist, but in my time of solitude after breaking things off with my former partner, I took time to go to therapy, meditate and teach myself what love means and how it feels. I didn’t know the gaslighting and maneuvering that went on until I saw it rear its ugly head again, and things really came full circle.
I came to realize I didn’t have daddy issues at all, I had a dad that was strong enough to remove himself from a situation that was tearing him down. A dad that built himself back up. A dad that had to keep a healthy distance from certain triggers to maintain his own mental peace of mind. A dad that had been through the same hell I’d gone through, but with kids involved. It was this realization that allowed me to really see him for the first time, and it was this moment that allowed me to see myself for the first time.
I’ve been spending the last few months raising my vibration, healing my wounds, and filling myself up. I’m a new person—a whole person, who is no longer empty and who knows that she is worthy of answers.
I am passionate about the work that I do because I’ve lived it, survived it. I was able to fill my cup back up after feeling empty and find so much joy in helping others do the same.
Thank you for reading and welcome to CD,