Did I have daddy issues? I don’t know. I still don’t.

I’m a 26-year-old lady from the beautiful city called Bengaluru. I have been happily married for almost a year and a half now but my tryst with happiness hasn’t always been, well, a happy one. For the most part, I felt vulnerable, lonely, and very sad as a child caused due to the void left by my absent father. He took his own life when I was barely two years old. In some ways, he almost set a precedent. As you can probably imagine, the childhood that followed wasn’t a happy one. My single mother tried her best to raise me and to provide for me but she obviously had her limitations, given that she had to work and also look after my two sisters.

There was always a void – a void I felt that only my late father could have filled and that void defined my life. The fact that I didn’t remember anything about him because he died when I was hardly two years old didn’t help me cope better. Many told me it was easy to cope up with the death of a dad when kids are very young as they don’t have memories attached. But, I felt quite the opposite. When your dad leaves when you are hardly two, it leaves you with many unanswered questions. Especially when he took his own life. He drank poison and died.

I had many questions that haunted me and it still does. Why did he choose death when he had three beautiful daughters? We were so young and innocent. Didn’t our smile melt his heart? Didn’t he feel like living even after I hugged him with those tiny hands? My dad had an affair. Why did he think I would love or respect him any less if he had an affair? Didn’t I deserve the right to decide if I can forgive or not? Was he such a good man that the guilt of his mistake made him end his life? Did he have a mental illness like me? Did he love me? Did he still love my mom? Did he feel bad when he took that decision? Was it because we were all girls? Was it because I was dark and ugly as a child? Was it because he loved the other women more than anything and anyone? I don’t know. I still don’t.

Voids and unanswered questions apart, I felt underappreciated, neglected, and unloved – feelings that I could not even define back then. All those traumatic feelings soon became a desperate search for acceptance. I wanted everyone to accept me. I don’t know when it all started but I wanted people to love me, accept me, and be there for me. When one craves so achingly for acceptance, it usually results in the disappearance of normal, healthy boundaries that kids learn to inculcate. In my story, I became victim to sexual abuse at the hands of a neighbor’s son when I was 10. I did not know how to react. I didn’t know if I should even tell my mother. I felt that’s how a brother expresses love. Though I didn’t know I was abused, I felt something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Though the abuse of this sexual predator ended after we shifted our residence, soon a teacher started abusing me. These traumatic experiences tied back to the void I felt inside.

I felt that men were taking advantage of me because I didn’t have a dad. I was so angry with my dad for not being there. I was sad that the world did not protect me either.

These distressing events defined my growing up years and turned me into a depressed child. I expected people to understand me even if I didn’t communicate with them. I wanted someone to look at me and understand what I was going through, though I didn’t speak out. I developed this trait during childhood and it still exists. I still expect people to understand me even when I don’t use words. When I hit puberty, many guys from whom I expected love from, took advantage of me, continuing the circle of abuse. They mocked my past and tried abusing me just like the abusers. Going back to school and seeing these guys weren’t easy. I couldn’t walk in front of them because they would tell others that I was characterless. It is very easy for a guy to shift the blame on a girl when his needs aren’t met. The worst thing is the world believes these guys.

My first true love broke up with me when I was 16 years old. He broke up with me because of our religious differences. He slapped me in front of his college and I went begging behind him in my desperation. It was the lowest point in my life. After that, I have not felt such intense pain again. I used to stand in front of his house every day. After my first breakup, I wanted attention. I always saw a father figure in the guys I dated. So, when a guy breaks up with me, I lose a bit of my dad too. I couldn’t handle his absence and I felt fatherless again. I wanted the world to stop and look at me and feel my pain. I wanted him to come running to me and tell me that now he understands how great my love was. I wanted attention. I could have lived without him but I wanted him. I wanted his attention so I tried taking my own life. I felt that he will come running to me and I will be dead by then. I felt nice imagining that. But deep down, I didn’t want to die. I wanted to be there for my family. But I did it anyway.

This traumatic experience had a great impact on my life. I was convinced that every guy I date will take me for granted, break my heart, and leave me. I felt that I was not worth fighting for. I felt like I did not deserve love. Because of broken relationships, I had low self-esteem and body issues. I felt I wasn’t beautiful. I felt that no guy will like me for my soul. Because of this, my standards became very low. I started compromising. I started settling for guys who were not up to my expectations or standards. I fell for the bad ones, the cheap ones, the perverts. Back then I thought that if I get into a relationship with bad guys who didn’t have standards, I would end up being an angel. I could change him with my love and he will forever be grateful to me and never leave me. I tried this with few guys and had devastating experience. No matter what I did, the bad ones remained bad. I wasn’t a goddess. I was again thrown out and used for money. Even the bad ones didn’t choose to stay with me. That shattered me even more and brought my self-respect and self-esteem to its lowest point. Every time I had a break-up, I plugged in my earphones and listened to a sad song and cried on the floor! At times, I won’t know why I was crying in the bathroom. I wept when I was kissed for the first time. I didn’t deal with it. I just let it be because back then people didn’t talk about or accept mental illness.

It is said that we always want what we did not have. Without any guilt, I can say that I want to be someone’s goddess. I want to be someone’s princess. I want to be the center of somebody’s world. I still do. Amidst all that pain, there were a few bright spots that helped me come through. My mom, who was my role model, used to buy me one pastry from Nilgiris the very day she got her salary. I did not have a luxurious life but these small things made me a very grateful person. I respect money and food even today. I became a very compassionate person because when I see a kid now, I know how it feels not to have a teddy bear or a cycle.

I have two best friends from my childhood – Susan and Ruth – who always stood by and loved me. We cycled together, stole tamarind from the jar at midnight, had sleepovers, and spoke so much! Their houses were my safest places. No one could abuse me there. friend Susan’s dad was my role model. I have visited her so many days and have had several night overs but he was so decent. He was the ideal dad. I respected him so much because men of his age abused me, but he treated me well. Things began to change for me when I was about 19 years old. After my second break up, I sensed that I knew better and developed a certain amount of self-belief. I had dealt with pain before and I knew for sure that I would cope and feel better in some time. I knew time heals everything. I was working by then and was too busy to feel anything but it wasn’t easy.

It was an everyday battle. I was dealing with extreme anxiety and depression. It took me a long time to find a psychologist I was comfortable with. But when I found her, I went for counseling sessions regularly, took my pills on time, read many inspiring self-help books, and joined many groups where I met similar people, shared my story with others, wrote poetry, took frequent trips, and danced it out. What kept me going was love! Even days when I felt unloved, I knew I was wrong. I knew love was out there. I’m a strong believer of true love and I knew this world was a loving place. I knew I will find my love. That hope kept me going.

My church helped me divert my mind, find some peace, and learn new things. It was a very happy place. Music and sermons in church motivated me a lot. My faith kept me going. My friends Susan and Ruth stood by and could feel what I was telling. They still do. I changed my playlist. That helped. I got a dog and named her Puppy and raising her was my true motivation. Just seeing her would change all my negative thoughts. Even today, she is my bundle of joy and my comfort. Finally, my mother has been supportive throughout.

I have come a long way from where I was in a short span of time, once I started believing. I wanted to be a writer and I’m one right now. My dreams are unquantifiable now. A peaceful home, a day without depression, small trips, many cups of coffee, many dog tail wags, and loads of books. I make a wish list and I make sure I do it. My husband is my partner-in-crime. I have many other loving people who push me to do things that I need to do.

The inevitable question. Do I still think of suicide? I don’t. Maybe, not now. If I do, I just tell myself, “This too shall pass” and go cuddle up to someone I love or my dog. I’m a part of Living Stories – a group that is always there for me. I met beautiful souls here. I’m part of other groups too. My family is a great support system. They are always there and help me by being patient with me and my doctor also completes my support base.

To those people out there who have lost hope or think that taking their own lives is the only option they have, I have this to say to them: Hold on. This world is a beautiful place with many loving people. Human beings at large are loving and kind. Just be patient and wait for this to pass. Take your phone and call that someone who you think can understand you. I have called a customer care number once and told I just want to talk. Guess what? The rep actually spoke to me. You are stronger than you think you are and many people will miss you if you take your life. Many lives will be devastated. So, hang on. Find your tribe. A tribe that loves you back and eliminate everyone else. Zoom out and see the bigger picture even on days you can’t see anything. Create a strong support system. Ask people to help you. Trust me, there are people who will.

I choose life because there are a million beautiful things that I can do if I’m alive. I can lend a listening ear, give my shoulders to someone who is going through what I’m going through too, to make someone’s life a little less difficult, and to spread this powerful feeling called LOVE. I choose life because I deserve this. I do not deserve pain, death, or sadness. I deserve much more and so do you.

So, you can choose life too.

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