I know Father’s Day isn’t until Sunday, but my little sister is getting married on Saturday and I know I will run out of time and forget. Also, the sermon I heard this past Sunday reminded me of God’s grace in my life and in the life of my father. Shea was talking about how after many years of not even speaking with his father, he finally had the opportunity to dialogue with him about his parent’s divorce and the fact that his dad abandoned him and his brothers. He told of how his father listened but did not ask forgiveness or say he was sorry to admit wrongdoing at all. It was in that moment that I remembered and praised God for how my father was gracious to me and how God was the healing salve for both of us. So, in honor of my father, I have a story to tell.
Growing up, my home was chaotic, and at times felt unsafe. There was lots of anger, rage, sadness. There was joy, too. Times of great laughter, but I always wondered when the other shoe would drop, when would someone get mad, when would I be afraid. I learned at a young age to disassociate. That’s just a fancy way of saying tune out. I still do this today, if I hear yelling or someone gets mad, I just tune it out and pretend it’s not happening. I have had to do lots of work to undo this habit and to realize that not everyone who gets mad is mad at me or going to hurt me or anyone else. My dad and I have a special relationship. I feel as though we are kindred spirits. We are both very sensitive, perfectionistic people who find joy in playing outside, being silly, learning, and seeing the world. I spent lots of time with him when I was little, but at times I was scared. Scared of fighting and anger.
As I grew, I began to learn that anger was not okay to feel, but nothing else was either. If I was angry, it meant I was bad. If any rage occurred, it was my fault. I strived to be good. Strived to be perfect, and when I wasn’t, I punished myself. When I was little, it was with huge fits. I couldn’t play my violin perfectly, so I threw the bow down and broke it. I couldn’t draw or write perfectly, so I ripped up the page. I couldn’t hit that serve in or volley well enough, so I would throw my racquet. This perfectionism and rage soon turned into anorexia. I couldn’t control my world so I controlled what I could. My behavior and food. I had been traumatized by things I had experienced growing up, and years after my parents divorced and married different spouses, the house I grew up in and what it did to my soul nearly killed me. I weighed near 100 pounds at my lightest, and at 5’9″, that’s not a good thing. My body was so hungry I developed a leaky heart valve because my body started eating my muscles. I would be too exhausted to carry my backpack inside at times and would have to rest in the car before coming inside. I hated myself, and because I hated myself, I starved myself more. I became angry but not outwardly, because I still needed to be the “good” girl. My anger came out in my rituals, my obsessive exercising, and in forcing myself to vomit if I ate anything that was not deemed “good”.
After three years of this, and countless interventions on the part of my family, I finally hit the bottom. I told my mom it was time to go to a treatment center, that my outpatient work wasn’t enough and I needed 24/7 supervision and intervention. We flew to Arizona two days after my older sister’s wedding and I checked into Remuda Ranch. It was surreal. They weighed me everyday, they measured my food, they flushed my toilet, they checked my bed every hour, they monitored my heart, they made the decisions about food. They did this because they wanted to make sure I could deal with why I was there, not worry about the calorie count of granola. Part of dealing with anorexia is dealing with the why of it. For some people, it’s shame. For some people it’s fear. For some people, it’s trauma. For me it was all of those. A big part of this was family week. And I was scared.
During family week, my whole family, all nine of them, came to Arizona. They spent a few days learning about eating disorders, what relapse would look like, and the like. The pinacle of this week was the “Truth in Love”. During this time, I was to share with them why I felt I had developed anorexia. I remember being terrified because I knew I would have to talk to my dad about how his behavior in our home growing up had affected me. I felt like I was jumping off a cliff and did not know what the landing would look like. I walked in the room, where everyone waited, and shared my heart. I remember saying to my dad the words “You scared me”. I let those words go, and watching what God did next was nothing short of a miracle in my eyes. My dad wept. He wept, he said he was sorry, he said he was wrong. And in that moment, the Lord touched my heart, and the heart of my dad, and a healing happened that I cannot describe. A weight I had carried for 20 years was gone. With the words “I’m sorry.”
I know this may not seem like a Father’s Day post, but since that day my dad and I have been even closer. I am no longer scared to share my heart, to stand up to him, or to have boundaries with him. I have learned to trust him and I have seen him love his wife, my siblings and step-siblings, and his grandchildren well. I have apologized for being a punk and ask for apologies. My dad loves me well.
So, Dad, thanks. Thank you for writing me letters in treatment. Thank you for coming to every single tennis match or tournament I had. Thank you for taking me shopping, buying me groceries, and visiting me in Honduras (twice!). Thank you for feeding my dog. Thank you for calling me every single day from the time you and mom seperated until today. Thank you for not punching you know who on the airplane, and thank you for wanting to punch you know who. Thank you for painting my room, fixing my car, taking me to dinner, and telling me you love me.
I love you, Dad.