This is a Really Real Mental Health post.
Today is the last day without my dad home. Here is what it was like in my head as I made lunch.
Grab the bag of salad out of the fridge. (I hear my dad’s voice, “Why did you put that on that shelf? I don’t put things there.”)
Grab a Tupperware container to mix the salad in (His voice again, “Why would you use a container that big, it’s not that much salad.”)
Pour the salad in the container. “You’re making a mess.”
Close the lid and shake the salad up. “It’s going to spill all over the place.”
Get a knife and fork to cut chicken off the bone. “Why are you using that knife? Get one of the sharp ones.”
Grabbing paper towels to put over the chicken so it doesn’t splatter. “You don’t need to use that many paper towels.”
Shut the microwave too hard. “Be careful! You don’t need to beat things up.”
Rinse the utensils in the sink “Don’t turn up the water so high, it’ll splash everywhere. And make sure you’re using hot water.”
You see, even when I’m home, I hear my dads voice with almost everything I do. It’s the sound of my critical voice, the voice that tells me I can’t do anything right.
But now I’m in his house, his space. The voice is so much louder here.
And with every sentence I heard him say, I was, in my head, offering up a rebuttal.
“Dad, it doesn’t really matter where things are on the shelves, it’s fine”
“Dad, I’m going to wash the container when I’m done with it, it’s fine.”
“Dad, I’ll clean up any mess I make, it’s fine.”
“Dad, that was an accident, it’s fine.””Dad, I can buy more paper towels, it’s fine.”
And finally. “Damnit, Dad. If I’m going to spend this much time here, I’m going to treat this like it’s my home too. Chill the fuck out or I won’t be able to do this.”And then I cringed, because I can’t imagine saying something like that to my dad. But also, I’m pretty sure I’ll have to say some version of that, within a day or two after I bring him home.
Years and years of being criticized loudly for everything I did, that voice is just there. And it doesn’t matter if he’s still that critical of me, it doesn’t matter if he says this stuff out loud.
That voice won’t stop, the one that makes me think that everyone is judging everything I do.
That voice, the one that used to ‘jokingly’ say “Dad is great, dad is good, lets thank dad for everything.”
Even after he dies, his voice will live on in my head.
I wonder how much of my mental health bullshit was caused by that voice?
I wonder why parents think its okay to raise children like that. Why they treat young people like they are somehow less than. That they aren’t worthy, that they need to be sternly micromanaged with everything they do.
I wonder why kids are held to a higher standard than most adults.
I hope, so very much, that I’m not this voice in my own sons head. I hope when he hears my voice, he hears love and approval.
I never heard that from my dad.
I just heard that voice.