Chronic Depression Increased by Death of Abusive Father

Reader’s Question

I will try to be as brief as I can. I have barely tolerated depression for pretty much all my adult life (I will be 45 in two weeks), although looking back, it began prior to puberty. I am the third of four children and the youngest boy. To cut a long story short, I was the butt of my father’s anger, mostly unwarranted. Don’t get me wrong, my siblings were never shown much affection either, but I was always the one who was physically abused and worst of all, given solitary confinement (made to stay in my room) for months at a time. I never had a single two-way conversation with my father, ever! None of the abuse could be blamed on alcohol. My father died two years ago and I never had the courage to ask him why. Why me? I wasn’t afraid of him, so…? I’ve never allowed myself to enjoy close personal relationships. In fact, I tend to avoid them. More and more I find myself taking myself away from everyday life and reverting to a life of seclusion. Believe it or not, all my friends tell me that I have a great sense of humour and are envious of my quick wit, which may come from endless nights talking to myself when I was younger. I love writing humorous stories and sketches (?), but the trouble is, I start and then simply give up, feeling it’s never going to be good enough. I once ingested a quantity of paracetomol and once did the same with some pain-killers I’d needed. Clearly, both times I couldn’t finish what I started and in hindsight I’m glad. Of course, I don’t want to die just yet and I know it was foolish of me and I don’t want to do it again, but I do still think about death a lot. I guess the problem is a matter of self-esteem, but what do I know?

Psychologist’s Reply

Chronic depression, perhaps at a moderate level, may have been with you most of your life. The death of your father may have increased your depression to the current level. Your question is all about “unfinished business” — issues that were never settled, resolved, or discussed with your abusive father. Depression and bereavement always contain guilt and “unfinished business”. You are now being tormented by not only the symptoms of depression (fatigue, loss of self-esteem, low concentration, etc.) but my tons of unfinished business issues. These issues also activate “Emotional Memories” — feelings connected with your childhood memories regarding your father. In reality, your father was probably a “personality disorder” in psychiatric terms — a chronically mean-spirited and abusive individual who didn’t need alcohol to justify his abuse as he actually felt entitled to treat those around him in an abusive and controlling manner. These folks treat everyone with equal disrespect and aggression yet often target certain folks for more abuse — for a variety of reasons, none of which are created by the victims.

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I’d recommend first treating your depression. Your preoccupation with your upbringing at age 45 is a clear sign of depression, as is your frequent thoughts of death. Consult your physician or mental health professional. I’d also recommend reading my article on Emotional Memory as well as the article on Identifying Losers on this website. The Loser article will outline some of the behaviors your father used against the family and the Emotional Memory article will discuss how to manage the mood created by your dwelling on the past. At present, you are being held captive by these abusive memories. It might be important to note that your father’s death actually released you — not imprisoned you.

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