“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start from where you are and change the end.” ~C.S. Lewis
It was a dark January day in 2008 when my auntie called with the news “He did it.”
I felt so confused. “Did he try? Or did he succeed?” I asked as my body moved into shock.
“He succeeded,” she said. In that moment, my entire life was changed.
This was a moment I often wished for—my dad was gone.
Dad had taken his life on January 8th, 2008, two days after my twenty-sixth birthday. He had even told me of his plans, I just didn’t believe him. I believed he was way too selfish to kill himself.
But I was wrong. Although I was consumed with guilt, I thought maybe life would be easier after he died.
After 26 years of marriage to him, my mum left him, months before he committed suicide. She couldn’t handle his behavior anymore. They made snide remarks. They made snide remarks. They were not only directed at her, but also to her children.
All those years, she stayed with us. She stayed with us for all those years. Because he was a very mean drunk, we wanted to keep her safe. We kept telling each other he didn’t hit us, so it wasn’t that bad.
He was used to me holding my breath and not realizing what it would be like to cause him to panic.
Maybe I didn’t shut the door. Maybe I wasn’t working hard enough for him. Sometimes he was just a little too angry for me to care.
Since I was little, I have been walking on eggsshells. That was my normal behavior. I lived in constant fear that I would have an outburst.
Since a child, I knew how to make him happy so he wouldn’t shout. His approval was the reason I survived. He wanted me to do the research he desired. I was on the right track to finding a groom that he liked. He was the reason for everything.
He took his own life one day.
My brother, mum and I used to fantasize as a child about what it would look like. There would not be any shouting, silence, or chaos. Although I had my wish, I was mistaken to believe that things would become easier without him.
It was like I lost the reason why I lived.
My dad was the reason I existed, so I had unconsciously lived my life to please him. Without him, I would have been completely lost. I was numb to the core, and I wouldn’t allow myself to grieve him. I was so hurt by him right to the end.
It got even worse when I reached my 30s. I was the world’s biggest people-pleaser after years of perfecting this skill with my dad. I sought validation and approval from outside, but felt self-loathing.
While he might have passed, his voice was still in my head. You’re too fat. You’re ugly. Nobody will love you.
I was desperate for love and affection, yet I looked in all the wrong places, often chasing men who didn’t show me love back. I was always single, but obsessively sought out unavailable men.
Perhaps he had been in an unhealthy relationship, or was struggling with depression and drugs. They were my drugs! These men were my addiction. I always found them and did my best to make them happy with all my love and kindness. However, they got very little.
I accepted any little bit of kindness that was offered to me, and later hated it. I sometimes wished I could go to heaven.
I didn’t just do this with men, I also did this with friendships, spending so much time trying to save others and resenting it. I felt worthless and like I was here for everyone else and just a spectator of other people’s happiness.
I felt unfixable. As if I had been a broken man. This was an attitude I hated and resentful of.
All around me were having children and getting married. In this endless cycle of misery, I obsessed about a man, lost weight, and put it back on again. I’d numb the pain with my fantasies, food, people-pleasing, and wine, keeping myself stuck in it all.
It was like I had been trapped by my pain.
One day I read somewhere that self-love was sexy, and that was the way to get the man you loved to leave their relationship. So I bought The Miracle of Self-Love by Barbel Mohr and Manfred Mohr and began to do some of the exercises in the book—affirmations and asking myself questions like “What do I enjoy?” I soon discovered I had no idea who I was, what I liked, or what I needed.
This kicked off my journey of healing, self-discovery, and learning how to love myself.
CODA (codependents anonymous), meetings were a way for me to discover that I was extremely codependent. To stop being a pleasing person, I learned to say no and set boundaries.
It was a panic attack that would set in at the start. My dad’s fear for my life had caused me to develop complex PTSD.
I discovered Melody Beattie’s books on codependency and began doing all the exercises so I could stop self-medicating with addictive behaviors and make real changes. Daily self-care included rituals such as affirmations, meditation, grounding and earthing.
The shock was I didn’t think I had ever been abused. Through working with various healers and therapists, I learned that I was the victim of emotional abuse, gaslighting, and other forms. Some narcissistic and emotional abuse.
The way I felt wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t a broken human. My traumatized childhood was manifested in my adult body.
My mum was abused by my dad and I had to be a caregiver. She was my constant protector. It felt like I was trying somehow to save my parents.
It was a huge weight that I carried all my life.
Their example made me terrified of relationships, which is why I unconsciously sought love from unavailable men—I was afraid of how toxic relationships were. This was all that I knew. So I found relationships that wouldn’t go anywhere. To be safe.
Like my dad, I pursued their love. My first unavailable love.
By investing in my own health, time and money I was able to overcome the addiction to love, codependency, and disordered eat habits. I was so good at showering others with love but didn’t ever show it for myself. It was a struggle to make this change and I began to see the beauty within myself.
Through self-healing practices and reparenting, I was able to connect with my inner child. This made a huge difference in my life.
It was difficult to accept and love adult me, but I loved the little girl from my childhood photos. She was my constant companion. I kept pictures of her all over the house and spoke to her every day, telling her how much I loved her.
Writing letters and doing inner-child meditations to her was a regular habit. I was able to establish a relationship with my younger self and my self-love increased. The way to my true self was found.
The little girl in me became my protector. There were no more men available for her. This little girl deserves the very best.
However, it was necessary to forgive and love my dad before finding love. It was necessary to accept my grief. Then I saw how much he meant to me. Without him, I was devastated. I was also able to see the beauty in his dark side. He gave me so much love. His character was a Jekyll and Hyde.
It took me a while to learn to forgive him for all of the horrible things that he did to me. I also began to feel connected to my inner child, and to the traumas he’d experienced. It was clear that the unhealed trauma of my father had continued to repeat itself for years.
His parents traumatized my dad, who carried the pain onto other people. He had taught me to be patient in order to survive and I to learn to fight. His dad was physically abusive. He also drank heavily. My mum, too, was repeating the same patterns within her family. She allowed herself to be domestically abused.
Understanding intergenerational trauma allowed me to forgive those who had caused me pain. These were simply repeating behaviors and patterns, so I resolved to make changes and get better.
Slowly, relationships got easier as I became more conscious of my relationship with my dad and the impact he’d had on me. I found love with a healthy man who has my dad’s best qualities, is 100 percent available and no drama. I didn’t even know love like this existed. Then, just like that I stopped being attracted to unobtainable men.
The magic ingredient for those who have difficulty in relationships is to connect with your inner child, and then reparent. You can give them everything they require. You will be validated. The acceptance. The love. You can help them learn how to be emotionally stable and self-soothe. Your dream parent is possible.
Be open with yourself and admit to the things that keep you trapped or cause you pain. You can then invest your energy to gradually change those behaviors and heal any wounds underneath them.
Listen to what you feel and how it hurts. Accept what it is that you want. Accept yourself.
You’ll soon find the power within and learn that anything is possible.
As C.S Lewis wrote, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start from where you are and change the end.” That is what reparenting your inner child does.
You learn to give yourself the life your little one deserves—a life that is safe and full of joy, where their voice can be heard, allowing them to be their authentic self.
Be different from those who have come before and continue to repeat the same unhealed traumas. Allow love to enter your life.
My father let darkness rule his life. By projecting his suffering onto his children and family, and using alcohol to help him down, he then committed suicide.
I hope his story and mine inspire you to keep going and to find love for the child within you so you can find your own heart’s happiness.
About Manpreet Johal
Manpreet is the creator of a podcast called Heart’s Happiness where she talks about intergenerational trauma and is also a coach who helps people make peace with their past and rewrite their story by learning how to love themselves and their own inner child. She can be found on Instagram, facebook group, podcast, youtube, talking at corporate events and her website.
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