How being abandoned by my Dad shaped my life

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The last time I saw my Dad was 25 years ago. I was 15 years old, a hormonal, confused, growing teenager that needed a father figure more than ever. I needed someone to talk to about the ever increasing and scary changes I was experiencing both physically & mentally. I needed someone who had been through it and could tell me it was normal, and everything would be fine. I had my Mum, she was always there for me, but I needed my Dad too.

So what happened? Why did my Dad suddenly decide he didn’t want to be a part of his sons life anymore? Well honestly, I don’t know. That’s the hardest part, not fully understanding why he made that choice.

Background

My parents divorced when I was 10 years old. My younger brother was 8. I still remember my Dad telling us that he and Mum had separated. My brother and I were playing, being silly, being happy. My Dad called us in the living room and we sat down on the sofa. I can’t remember what was said exactly but my brother immediately started crying but I had an almost uncontrollable urge to laugh! I don’t know why, coping mechanism maybe? I don’t think it really sunk in, the reality of it and what it would mean for my brother and I going forward. One thing I do remember though, is that my Dad didn’t give me a hug and in that moment, I felt very alone. In that moment, consciously or unconsciously, I chose to hide my emotions. My brother was crying but I didn’t feel like I would get the comfort & support I needed from my Dad to express my true feelings so I didn’t, I boxed them up and threw away the key.

‘One thing I do remember though, is my Dad didn’t give me a hug and at that moment I felt very alone’

From 10 to 14 everything is a little blurry. That box I created in my mind, not only suppressed the bad memories from that day but a lot of my childhood got caught up in there as well.  I struggle to remember large parts of my childhood, especially when it comes to time spent with my Dad. After my parents separated we lived with my Dad initially, I don’t know how long for, could be months or a year, no idea. I don’t remember this part of my life. I don’t remember getting ready for school in the mornings, having dinner in the evenings. I can’t remember having fun, playing, laughing. I’m sure I did, but it’s all just lost. There are no special moments that come to mind. No father son bonding moments.

After that initial period living with my Dad, we moved in with my Mum and saw my Dad at the weekends. I don’t particularly remember enjoying that time spent with my Dad but I don’t know if that’s a true reflection or just another coping mechanism making it easier for me to come to terms with his abandonment.

When it comes to the period of my life when we stopped seeing my Dad (or he stopped seeing us) it’s even more blurry. At 15 years old you’d think I’d be able to remember everything. It’s not as if I was young after all! But no, when I think about it I just get fragments that I can’t make sense of. A conversation here and there, a game of pictionary where I remember actually laughing with my Dad, an argument with my Mum over renewing passports so my Dad could take us on holiday and then that was it. The weekend visits just stopped.

I don’t think I ever really processed any of it. Time spent with my Dad was never the most fun as I’ve already said, but he was still my Dad. It wasn’t as if we knew we’d never see him again. One week turned into two, two weeks turned into a month and that turned into a year. It just happened, slowly and without explanation.

Where I am today

Fast forward 25 years and here I am. I’m almost 40, I am now a Dad myself with three beautiful children, I’ve been married, divorced and now married again, and for the large part I’ve put the thought of my Dad to the back of my mind. I’ve been happy, I love being a family man and being the best Dad I can be to my kids. My boys have asked my about my Dad and I’ve told them what I can whilst making it clear that what he did was a horrible thing and that I would never do that to them. My experience with divorce as a child means I know how much it can effect young kids, so when I got divorced, the boys emotional well-being was my priority.

Being abandoned at a young age has effected my self esteem, actually to be more precise, being abandoned without a proper explanation, effected my self-esteem because you question how your own Dad could leave you, am I that unimportant that my own Dad could leave me?? This lack of self worth made me overly needy and attention seeking. It made me view other people and other peoples wants and needs as more important than my own. I wanted people to like me and this led to me becoming a doormat. I’ve been taken for granted, especially in relationships, because people soon learnt that they could treat me like shit and I’d still come running back because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. I would often see people for who I wanted them to be as opposed to who they really were. All because I didn’t want to be abandoned, but guess what…those relationships didn’t last and instead of blaming them, I just assumed it was me. But low self-esteem isn’t the only difficulty I’ve faced. Below is a list of commonly experienced difficulties as a result of childhood abandonment. I’ve highlighted the issues I have faced over the years:

  1. Abusive relationship
  2. Anxiety Disorders or symptoms *
  3. Attachment Disorders*
  4. Borderline Personality Disorder
  5. Care-taking and Codependency
  6. Chaotic Lifestyle
  7. Clingy/needy behavior*
  8. Compulsive behaviors may develop
  9. Depression*
  10. Desperate relationships/relationships that happen too fast*
  11. Disturbances of mood, cannot self-regulate and experiences emotions in extreme*
  12. Extreme jealousy and possessiveness*
  13. Lack of confidence, self-esteem issue*
  14. May be poor at self-soothing
  15. People-pleasing behaviors to detriment of self.*
  16. Poor coping strategies*
  17. Promiscuity
  18. Relationship problems*
  19. Trust issues*

So as you can see there are numerous issues I can attribute to being abandoned at a young age. But the question is, what have I done to overcome these issues?

Overcoming my abandonment issues

It was only after recognising the issues I had and why I had them, that I could start to focus on overcoming them. This took years. Years of making the same mistakes. Failing relationships, people pleasing, being needy, trust issues and depression. It was a viscous cycle and one I didn’t know how to break. To be honest I still haven’t completely overcome them all. My self-esteem is still low, I still suffer from anxiety & depression but these are aspects of my life I work on constantly. I am learning to deal with them and keep them under control so they don’t have the negative impact on my life like they used to.

I’ve always said that my Dad taught me the best lesson. How NOT to be a Dad. But that’s not how it should be, I shouldn’t have to learn from what I wasn’t taught. There is still a part of me that wonders if I would be a better person had he stuck around. Would I have learnt more? Would I have been a more emotionally stable person? Would my relationships have been different growing up? Who knows and honestly, what’s the point in asking these questions? Is it going to help? No. I’m married to an amazing woman, I’ve got three beautiful kids, so I’ve not done too bad.

I don’t know my Dad but I know me. I would never put my kids through what he put me through, and even though it’s been a tough journey and I’ve made mistakes, I can honestly say, with hand on heart, that I am proud of who I am and how I’ve turned out. I am a great Dad, I am kind, thoughtful & loving. I am everything I need to be for my wife and my kids.

Would I ever want to meet my Dad?

I’m going to end this with a question that has often thought about. Would I ever want to meet my Dad? And the answer…? No, I wouldn’t. I have heard arguments from both sides of the story over the years:

Yes – Go for it!

  • He is your Dad after all
  • He is 70 now, he’s getting old
  • You will regret not meeting him if he passes away
  • You should put the past behind you
  • Everyone deserves a second chance

No – Don’t do it!

  • He abandoned you, he doesn’t deserve it
  • He hasn’t contacted you
  • It will complicate your life
  • It will complicate your children’s lives
  • He might not want to be contacted

There are times when my Dad doesn’t even cross my mind, then there are times when I can’t stop thinking about him. I think about reaching out, but every time something stops me. Something in the back of my mind that says, no, you don’t want to do this. I think it’s a combination of fear, and the unknown, but mainly it’s self-preservation. I am in a good place and for the sake of my mental health, I’m not going to risk that.

 

 

 

 

 

Men have body image issues too…

In this article I want to talk to you about men’s body issues, how society is slowly moving in the right direction when it comes to opening up and speaking out, and about my own issues with my body, how it’s affected me and what I did to deal with it….

Men have body issues. I think men have always had body issues but it’s only now that we live in a more open & acceptable society that we are now seeing more & more men coming forward and speaking up. Men are being more honest, spurred on by the ever increasing mental health campaigns out there. Society is moving in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go. Body shaming is big news and something I abhor. Whether it be mocking an overweight person in a gym changing room or claiming it’s ‘just a bit of banter’ between mates, it needs to stop. I know men that have been the butt of this ‘banter’ and they outwardly join in and laugh but on the inside it affects them deeply, often leading to low self-esteem and confidence issues. The press are the worst for it. Nit picking any celeb that has a hair out of place, or has a wrinkle, or the hint of a belly! I mean come on, really?! It’s the inconsistencies & hypocrisy that really annoys me. The same websites/media sources will post a story of how a model fat shames a fellow gym goer, get’s on the ‘society needs to stop this kind of bullying’ bandwagon, and then post a story about celeb X looking old & stressed because someone took a photo of them without their makeup on. Or a previously toned male celeb has suddenly put on a few pounds and now has a ‘Dad bod’. Young guys & girls read this crap and take it as the norm. They believe that if they have ‘a bit of a belly’ people will mock them, laugh at them and shun them. Why wouldn’t they when they see it everyday online? Anyway, this is a big issue for me as you can tell.

Let me tell you about my body issues as a man….

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This is me…Not so long ago I would ever had posted this photo. Why would I want people to see my body? My flat pecs, skinny arms and ever expanding back fat. But I have a different mindset now. More of a ‘I don’t give a shit’ kind of attitude. It’s important to point out here that our issues are relative. Some of you will think there’s nothing of me, I’m slim, what am I going on about, I’m just being silly! But to me I’m not, and to you, you’re not. It’s all relative.

I suffered from body issues from my late twenties (relatively late in life). Here are the reasons why…

  • Unrealistic expectations of getting the ‘perfect’ physique
  • Photos of ‘masculine’ physiques online / on TV
  • Partners commenting how hot and fit certain male celebs look
  • Constant comparison with other men
  • An underlying self-esteem issues

The biggest issue for me was the underlying self esteem issues I had. We could go deep into why I had low self esteem but the important thing for me was recognising it and doing something about it.

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The ‘Perfect’ Physique doesn’t exist. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I spoke to a therapist to address the issues I had, why I had them and what I can do to overcome them. This helped a lot but the biggest help I received was from my wife. She understood, she empathised with me, listened to me and told me what she thought. She made me focus on being mindful, told me not to ignore my negative thoughts, but to acknowledge them and then just let them go. Understand that those thoughts are not you, and you are not controlled by them.

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On holiday in Majorca June 2018

Now when I look at the above list, this is what I see…

  • The ‘perfect’ physique doesn’t exist but we have a preconceived, distorted, media fed idea of what that means (think Chris Hemsworth, Zac Efron etc). And not only does the ‘perfect’ physique not exist, the idea of perfection varies from person to person!
  • Look at it objectively. If I see a photo of a toned, muscular body I accept it for what it is. I may say ‘Wow, look at those abs’, ‘he obviously works out’, ‘that’s a good physique!’. His body has nothing to do with me, it has no impact on my life, it doesn’t change the way my friends & loved ones view me. Only I can let that seed of jealously in to grow in my mind. And if it does sneak in there I go back to the bold point above. I acknowledge it and then let it go.
  • This is something I had to work hard at. If my partner commented on Zac Efron being hot I would immediately think ‘hold on, I don’t look like Zaf Efron, does that mean she doesn’t fancy me?? Is she going leave me for a Zac ‘Efronesque’ guy?’. It’s irrational guys and again we need to take the subjectivity out of it. Women are allowed to find other people attractive just like we find other people attractive. It’s completely normal. It’s not a dig at you, it’s not about you. And actually, the fact she feels comfortable saying that in front of you is a good thing! If your partner does then go off and find someone else then that’s their issue and you are way better off without them! Now if my wife says some guy’s hot on TV I will agree, or disagree and we could have a little banter over it.
  • I used to compare myself with other guys all the time. And I mean everyday guys in the street here. This was all down to my low self esteem. My self worth was low so it was easy for me to see other guys as fitter, stronger, more masculine, funnier, more popular etc etc…I then realised that most of these were just assumptions that I’d made up in my head! Did I know the facts? No, I didn’t. Yes, there might be a guy who has a more athletic physique but what does that mean? Well it means just that, he is more muscly than me. The idea that that makes him more popular, more attractive, more of a threat is all in my head. And the ironic thing is, this guy is probably looking at you thinking something similar! So again, I recognise those thoughts, acknowledge them, and let them go.

All this was not easy, and it took a long time. I’m not saying that I’m completely over my body issues but understanding them and rationalising them goes along way to making them seem insignificant. I speak to my wife and support groups like @dadscomm on instagram who are a bunch of Dads like me. I can do it so you can do it. Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Welcome…

Welcome to my blog! Let me start by telling you a bit about myself…

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When hair pulling is life

My name is Matt Baron-Thompson and I’m a hands on Dad of three wonderful kids; two boys & a girl. I’ll introduce them to you properly later on. I’m trying my best to be a husband as well, think I’m doing alright, although you’d have to ask my other half about that. When I’m not blogging I’m being a family man, it’s what I love being. My family is my life & my life is my family.

I’m coming up to 39 years old, it’s a really odd age. I don’t know if I’m middle aged or not. I have three kids, I’m married, I have a mortgage, I don’t tend get road rage anymore and I have muttered the phrase ‘it’s your time you’re wasting’ to the kids, so does that mean I’m middle aged, like a proper adult? At the same time I still feel youthful, I still like to play music loudly, I can be infuriatingly lazy & messy, sometimes I drive a bit too fast, and I still like the odd game of Fortnite on the Playstation (although I’m absolutely rubbish at it). Maybe that’s what middle age is, a good mixture of responsible adult and youthful exuberance.

I live in the seaside town of Southend-on-Sea, the much maligned and often misrepresented Essex spot. I love it. I love the beach, I love the culture, the people & the atmosphere. Yes, it has it’s downfalls like any town, but I think they are far outweighed by the good points.

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Chalkwell Beach Sunrise, Southend-on-Sea

I suffer from social anxiety & depression and have low self esteem. It’s been an issue that has affected me all my life but I’m working on it, I’m learning how to cope and as I’m getting older, I’m becoming more accepting of it. I’m learning to speak up and share.

My blog will mainly be me waffling on about my life, my kids, relationships & my battle with mental health issues. I’ll try and offer nuggets of wisdom but I’m no expert in any of the subjects I talk about, except for the fact that I’ve lived, experienced & learnt, so maybe that does make me an expert? Who knows…

I hope you enjoy my blogs. They will be from the heart & unfiltered.