I want to write more about my father and his dysfunction. Firstly the little I know about his childhood. He was born to Irish parents and his mother, in particular was extremely bound down by the Irish superstitions. Her whole life was governed by them. To me it is insanity, yes, but extreme dysfunction to believe that throwing a handful of salt over your shoulder can stop bad luck, or any one of a number of completely irrational beliefs she lived by. And so, of course, caused her husband and son to live by. My father was her only child. He was born after she went through the sad experiences of 3 still born baby boys. She smothered him completely. Fear that something might happen to him bound her, and so him also. When my mother met him, he was the leader of the resident band on radio station 4GR Toowoomba. He had an exceptional gift for music. He could hear a song on the radio and go over to his piano and play it perfectly. But he had never held any other job. He was, as I have found musicians are, extremely temperamental. He was also extremely dysfunctional. After they married, if something upset him, he would go to bed and not move for 2 or 3 or 4 days, and not eat, shower, speak, go to work, until he felt he had punished my mother enough. She would spend the whole of however many days it was sitting on the floor beside the bed, begging him to speak to her, have sex with her, any response at all. She never got one until he was ready. But his mother had kept him a little boy because of her fear of losing him. And she had spoilt him, giving him his way in everything, and he carried this into adulthood.
When I was 12, I woke up one morning vomiting green bile and in extreme stomach pain. I was diagnosed with acute appendicitis. My parents were told I needed an immediate operation to remove it. I lay in a hospital bed all day until about 6 pm that night before my father would give permission for the operation. He just kept saying that no daughter of his would ever have an operation. No, it was not on religious grounds. It was just pure dysfunction. Unable to face reality. By the time he gave his permission, the appendix had begun to rupture and I was lucky to live. My healing time was far more than it should have been if he had signed the papers early that day.
Then, because of the method of dripping ether onto a mask to put you to sleep for an operation, no injections in those days, I lost a lot of my medium and long range sight. When I came out of the operation, I could not see properly. My father again refused to allow me to have glasses as, again, no daughter of his would ever have to wear glasses. What did this make me. Not his daughter? Certainly ugly and unlovable.
This is just one type of dysfunction, the one I grew up with. It damaged me severely. It left me feeling unvalued, unloved, uncared for; he didn’t care if I died, if I was in extreme pain, if I could see the blackboard at school. There are many types of dysfunction.
So to the next damage growing up in a dysfunctional family does. I always knew that my parents were dysfunctional, but I knew I was okay, even though for many years, I displayed dysfunctional behaviour myself, and in fact, ended up in a psychiatric hospital with a very unusual mental illness when I was 34. But to admit that you come from a dysfunctional family is very hard to deal with. I was able to do it, but I have come across a significant number who are completely unable to admit that they come from a dysfunctional family. If your parents are inarguably dysfunctional, what does that make you? The answer is, of course, dysfunctional also. So hard to admit to. But without “owning it” as it is called today, we cannot heal from it. Being dysfunctional is the truth, it is not a Lie we can fight. It is something we have to admit to, definitely not embrace, but acknowledge so we can heal it. I found my strength to admit it came from knowing that my parents were dysfunctional, but they chose to stay this way. I looked for anything that would help me to heal, that would show me that I did not have to be like them. That I was dysfunctional because they were, yes, but I did not have to stay like that. I could make different choices to them.
The most important thing that helped me was to not hold anything against them for their behaviour to me as a child. I came to realise that dysfunction was a byproduct of Original Lies planted in each of us in childhood, and that everyone has one, and that we are all affected by damaged childhoods because there are no parents without their own Original Lies. Therefore, they did do the best they could, within their own Lies. It is a very hard thing to come to fight these lies, and I am daily grateful that I have found the way to get rid of my original Lie so I can live a functional life. I hope you will come to admit your dysfunction, to whatever depth it goes, and chose to fight it, so you can be free. After years of going to psychiatrists and counsellors, it is the only thing that worked for me. And I have seen it set a number of others free over the last years, depending on how hard they worked and how much they wanted freedom.