Assignment for my writing class- write a short story inspired by a PostSecret.com card.
| “It’s your responsibility to deal with the condition that you have, in whatever way you can,” the man on the screen said, looking straight into the camera. He had dark hair with a clean shaven face, wore an even darker suit, and spoke with a Scottish accent. I paused the video, unable to speak. His words and obvious sincerity did something that just clicked inside my mind, like a connection I’ve been searching for finally made contact; the missing puzzle piece was found and fitted perfectly into place. This man, who’s words have so struck me was Craig Ferguson, host of The Late Late Show. He hosts a tv show that is viewed by 1.6 million people, and he just stood up for shrinks. I sat there thinking about the possibility of seeing a therapist and the image of my father suddenly pops into my head and in my minds eye, I start to imagine a scene with my father standing in front of me, berating me at the idea of me wanting to see a therapist.
“You aren’t telling a fucking shrink about our goddamn business,” he threatened, stepping closer to me. He was in my face now, poking me hard in my chest, “I didn’t raise you to be a weak little sissy-girl, so don’t you bring up that fairy-fucking bullshit again and suck-it-the-fuck up!”
Fucking prick has been dead for 23 years and the sound of him yelling at me still rings in my head.
I felt my anger growing and the heat in my head started to rise, and soon my entire body felt like it was on fire just from a goddamn memory. No. Not a memory, a fake, imagined scenario. An accurate scenario. One that captured the man my father was to a T.
Sitting back in my chair I tried to control my breathing and after a few minutes, the storm inside me began to calm down. My little fantasy I’d just imagined was too real and it was pissing me off. I would think about things he’d done- things that left me terrified for my life- and I’d hyperventilate, the small child in me cowering with crippling fear. But now? Now I just get angry.
Insane, blinding hatred would consume me as I’d imagine times when he’d berate me for the stupidest fucking things. Even for things as small as sharing my opinions on the goddamn weather. Some days he’d reply with snide, cruel responses and I’d just shut up, instantly regretting opening up my mouth in the first place. I was a very skittish kid as I was always constantly on edge, walking on eggshells fearing any type of repercussion. I remember once when I was thirteen I’d gotten frustrated about something and simply sighed a little too loud for his liking and he began yelling at me. It was as if a switch would flip in him and my ears would be ringing as if a gun had gone off, my heart would race like I’d ran ten miles, and my whole body would be on fire just from the shame.
Nowadays, being 43 and quite physically bigger, I’m not as afraid of people like him anymore. I figured that it was now because I knew how to hold my own. I was fit and as healthy as I could be at my age, and had bulked up a bit from spending 13 years overseas ultimately ending up a Gunnery Sergeant. So basically I’d be able to put up a fight if I ever needed to, no longer being a scrawny, terrified 11-year-old boy anymore. I guess I fared pretty well after he’d finally been arrested for various felonies and had been sentenced to life in prison, only to have a heart attack after the hearing and dying on the way to the hospital. I was 20 and to this day, I still don’t know how to feel about it. Did I feel safe now that he was gone? Or was I angry and heartbroken because I had lost my only family and that some part of me still loved him?
Things were pretty damn rough and wonky for a few years after, though- I felt free in a way, yet at the same time, I became numb. I didn’t feel like a straight line. I was like a smashed windshield who’s pieces didn’t fly everywhere, but were actually still held together in place because the shards were stuck to a piece of tape. I didn’t even know how to feel or act now that I was freed from a man who’d always kept me emotionally and psychologically chained to him through fear and intimidation, yet now with this freedom to finally break away, I just shut down. At my age, I’ve had less than five relationships, I work a job where I’m constantly alone and stuck in my head, and the thought of being in a car with someone for over 20 minutes makes me shake so badly I can barely keep myself from upchucking.
I feel jagged and unable to function like a normal adult and, worse, like I don’t know what a normal functioning adult even looks like. I didn’t have any siblings growing up and I know pretty much nothing about my mom as she skipped town when I was two, so I’ve basically had nothing but a psychopath as the only person to look up to my entire life. A psychopath who always shamed, scolded, humiliated, and ultimately threatened me at even the slightest show of basic human emotion that was anything other than hostility. He was all I’ve ever known, so what do I do now?
But this man- the one on the screen- he unabashedly talked about his problems, his own darkness. In one of his videos he’d talked about his mother who had died a few days prior. I could see in his eyes the passion he had when he spoke about her and was envious that he’d been so praised on showing such emotion on live television. The praise he’d received for showing such vulnerability. In another video of his, he had struck another chord in me when I had watched him talk in earnest about a pop-star and her recent emotional breakdown, clearly trying to tell people that something very wrong was going on with her and that she needed help, and talked about his refusal to poke fun at her like every other big-time talk show host had been doing. He didn’t go along with the popular kids, not about this stuff. Not when it came to something like your health, mental or otherwise.
If a man like Craig Ferguson can stand up in support of getting the proper help you need in front of the entire country, then, maybe.... I can too.
I opened a new tab and tried to shake off the voice in my head- the voice of my Inner Critic which had taken to form of my psychopathic father- who was again mocking me for what I was to do and typed the words ‘therapists near me’ into the search bar.
“Fuck off,” I muttered, addressing the nagging, berating shadow that wore my fathers face, and imagined him wearing a tutu. I felt the urge to laugh at my petty little act of defiance and could feel a smile creep onto my face as I saw a list of therapists and clinical psychologists pop up. The idea of rebelling and doing something that my father ultimately detested fueled me and, getting excited, I started to read.
I’m tired of feeling this way- feeling jagged. Feeling like I’m not allowed to feel happy, or angry, or sad. And the ghost of a father I didn’t choose and an Inner Critic wearing a tutu isn't going to stop me from feeling the things inside me. Not anymore.