I took some time off for family birthdays these past few days and I ended up discovering something about myself that was unexpected: I had really unrealistic expectations for myself as a father. I am not sure when the thinking started this way, but it caused me a lot of problems and made me feel helpless to do anything about it. It caused my PTSD to flare up and I needed to make sure that this never happened again.
After my daughter was born, I felt a lot of pressure to provide for my family. All of that pressure was put on me by...me. I was already providing well for my family, but I didn't feel it was good enough. I wanted to be a good father and a good provider, so I doubled my efforts at work, thought about how I could get better and learn faster. I became obsessed with the next promotion. I began neglecting the emotional needs of my family - not intentionally, but because I was obsessed with being the perfect provider and husband.
Boy did I have a serious disconnect. By striving to be perfect at work, I lost sight of what it really means to be a good father and provider. It means being a good husband and partner. It means being there for your child when she needs a hug. When I realized that I had become emotionally detached from my family, I thought it was because of my obsessive behavior at work - coming home with nothing left in the tank. I realized the past few days that this was not the case. You see, I have this little problem. If I think I don't have the ability to be 'perfect' (like I thought I had the ability at work), I avoided what would cause me not to be perfect. In this case, it was my family.
It all started with simple comments: "You are an amazing father. Your daughter loves you so much. Oh wow is she a daddy's girl! You are so calm! Are you sure you haven't done this before?"
I heard these questions and comments everywhere that I went with my daughter after she was born. Everyone seemed to think I was this perfect father and I kept on thinking one thing: What happens when they find out I am not? I need to be perfect for everyone. I need to be the perfect father for every one...I need to be perfect...I need to be...but I can't be a perfect father...I don't know how or what that means, but I need to be perfect...
This circular train of thought was latched onto in a very unhealthy way by my PTSD. I started having catastrophic thoughts about royally screwing up as a father. I thought through every possible scenario I could imagine and how I was bound to screw it up. I became so afraid of making a mistake as a father that I stopped trying to be one. I closed myself off emotionally and focused on the one thing I felt I had control over: work.
This is where PTSD can get ugly. The PTSD wouldn't let matters stand. There were other insecurities it could latch onto and boy did it. I started thinking about how I was screwing everything up at work. I became more and more agitated about trivial things as the year went by. I lost the ability to control my temper. It just kept on getting worse. And worse. And worse.
And then everything came to a head. My family was reaching its breaking point because of my drive/need to be perfect. When I realized this a few days ago, I swore to myself that this would never happen again. The problem was I had no idea what had caused the obsessive perfectionist behavior in the first place. I am still trying to figure that out. Maybe that will be tomorrow's post...
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.