“You’ve shown high scores for self sacrifice, emotional deprivation, unrelenting standards/perfectionism and a fear of losing control”. I stare back blankly. “That’s a solid effort,” I laugh. “Is that why I’m depressed or is it the whole chemical imbalance thing? What came first – the chicken or the egg?”
We spend the next few sessions exploring these areas but I purposely avoid some topics. The idea of lowering my personal standards makes me want to vomit. All of my rules. All of my methods to organise and maintain control. I love bringing order to chaos. I love my diary and you guessed it, stationary. I love the unrealistic goals that I set in order to then fail, and then beat myself up about. Press repeat. Again and again and again. Let’s not go there. Not yet.
I’m 14 and it’s the last day of year 10. It’s time to receive our report cards. I’ve tried really hard. I’ve studied. I’ve chatted to my teachers to keep on track. I made sure all of my assignments had drafts, and were handed in on time. I did everything I could. It takes me a while to understand and process things; so I know that I need to work harder and I have done just that.
With my classmates, we all sit, waiting. I’m nervous, almost holding my breath and can barely focus on the chatter around me. My report card is handed to me. I look down and I see.
Maths – A
English – A
Science – A
Health & Physical Education – A
History – A
Business Communication Technology – A
Drama – A
Film & Television – A
My heart is pounding. I’m excited and I sit quietly staring at the page of As. Maybe this will be something to celebrate. And then my eyes catch the bottom of the page. Absent days – 10. Yikes! I don’t think I’ve actually missed a day. Have I?
My heart sank in that moment. I hadn’t missed any days. School was my sanctuary but I wasn’t allowed a lift to school. I had to walk. We didn’t have enough seats in our car and I was the oldest. Most mornings, I would get the kids up. I loved singing to them “It’s time to get up. It’s time to get ready. Ya gotta go to school today. You’re round and you’re fuzzy. I love it because it’s a school day. A school day” (Insert Winnie the Pooh melody).
Despite my merry tune, the kids hate it. And despite my cheerful attempt to start the day, it usually takes a turn pretty quickly. Mum is up making lunches. He’s also up. He usually takes longer to come out but then he begins. Right on time. Name calling. Stirring. Teasing. Things get louder. More name calling. Anger building and building, and yep, here we go again. Tears, cries, smash, yelling. More yelling. Alright, here I go. I yell back. Everyone is crying. I’m going to be late again. I can’t leave the house with all of this going on. I’m too embarrassed to step out our front door. Eventually it calms down. Eventually I can slip out and walk to school.
I walk everywhere. Walk to and from school. Walk to and from work. I walk to and from my friend’s houses. My Dad sends me a bike. I start to ride everywhere. At some point, he hocks my bike. So I walk again. I usually rock up to school just on time or 10-15 minutes late. I always go straight to class. I’m too ashamed to go to the office to sign in and I don’t want to answer any questions. I might cry. I usually miss only the home class but I’ve been marked as absent anyway. That’s why I have 10 absent days. My friends on either side of me congratulate me for my efforts. It feels good but they don’t notice the 10 absent days. Maybe they won’t either? I doubt it.
Home time. I walk in proudly with my report card. Initially there’s some nice words but very quickly it turns ugly. “Who will ever employ you?” “You won’t get a job with 10 sick days”. “Your As mean nothing in a workplace if you don’t show up”. He knows I go to school. I don’t understand. And he continues to rave on like a lunatic. I take one last look at my report card, the marks that I worked for. In anger, I scrunch the paper into a ball and throw it at him. I cry. I go to my room, like I often do and I sit. I daydream. I write. I read. I keep my distance.
Nothing I do is ever good enough. I did the best I could and I still failed. What’s the point in trying? I can’t ever please him. Why do I even care? Maybe next year I’ll do better. Maybe next year we can celebrate. Maybe next year I will be perfect and worthy of praise.
I wasn’t raised by my father. I was raised by someone who I now have no contact with. He also didn’t allow my Mum the space to raise me, as she wished. He didn’t allow my Dad access either. He, in many ways, stole my childhood and wrecked havoc in my relationships. He was in control. I, alongside my family members, were his prisoners. Unfortunately, he shaped much of how I viewed God as a child and then as an adult.
Looking back I can see why it took me so many years to believe in a good and loving Father God. I am still learning that I don’t need to earn God’s love. I don’t need to come to Him perfect and in order. I can come as I am. I don’t need to be good enough to receive his affection. God sees me through the filter of Jesus, in his Holy perfection and because of His sacrifice. This man wasn’t a reflection of God. He chose to again and again reflect the cold, hard heart of the one who slithered into the garden that was not his own; to disturb and destroy the lives of God’s children.
Still, he isn’t my enemy. He was merely a broken vessel that the enemy worked through to break my spirit. Oh, how lost and cruel we can become when we choose to walk in darkness with our own moral compass and brokenness. I pray that one day this man seeks redemption and falls into the loving arms of his Savior. Somewhere in him is a very hurt little boy who grew up and hurt others. I have a son now and every little boy deserves love and kindness. To feel as if he matters and is worthy of love. May God bless his soul.