I don’t know if any of you have had a chance to watch Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia, but it is an excellent movie. Emotionally painful, but excellent. One of our drug reps made sure we got copies and our team watched it one day during our weekly meeting.
I bawled my eyes out.
The story is about a woman reconnecting with her father years after being unlisted to avoid him, because her son wants to know about his grandfather. I have been similarly unlisted ever since I have had my own phone. My dad would occasionally call when I was in middle school and high school and ask to talk to us, but I would make my siblings say I wasn’t there so I wouldn’t have to talk to him. I begged my mother not to tell my dad where I went to college, and not to tell him where I moved to after that. I don’t know if he has a clue where I am now.
I don’t even know if he’s still alive.
The last time I saw him, I was sixteen. He had been brought back to Michigan from California for child support evasion- at this point, it had been five years and he owed somewhere in the ballpark of $80,000 for the three of us. He was being held and was medicated, and mom wanted us to all go because she knew we had all demonized him in our minds, and she wanted us to see that he was simply a very sick man suffering from a mental illness. I was only able to last ten minutes in the room before I went outside and stayed there. All I remember from that day is the color of the walls- that sort of teal blue they use in prisons and hospitals- and that the women outside were wearing handkerchiefs as tube tops. That, and being angry and crying for a long time, though I wasn’t really sure at whom I was actually angry.
The last time I heard his voice, I was eighteen. It was my graduation day from high school, and when we got home from the ceremony, there was a message on the machine. Dad had called during the graduation ceremony and left a message saying how proud he was of me. I’d never heard him say that he was proud of me in my eighteen years of life; all I could remember were screamed obscenities, him threatening my life if I ever brought home a B, that he was disappointed that I wasn’t a boy, crazy schemes that he believed would work as much as we would believe his words. I cried for a long time, and my stepdad accidentally deleted the message before I was able to listen to it more than once, as it was too painful but I wanted to hear those words again, those words I’d fought to hear and only achieved after eighteen long years.
That was the last contact I had with him, and it’s been nine years, now. Last I knew, he’s alienated his entire family except for his mother, who passed away unexpectedly from throat cancer two years ago. Mom says she sometimes would bizarre emails from him when he was manic but that he fell off the map once gram died.
I don’t even know if my own father is alive or dead, and I have the idea I should feel badly about this, but I just feel numb. There is so much pain associated with him that I don’t even know how to quantify it all. I’ve been in therapy for years because of this man, and I inherited his illness. At least by inheriting it instead of my siblings, I’ve managed to protect them from him in one more way.
After watching “Unlisted,” I felt horribly guilty, like I should reach out and find him, take care of him, how the daughter does in this movie. But I can’t. I can barely take care of myself. I can take care of my clients because I don’t have to take them home with me, I don’t have to deal with them at all hours, day or night. I don’t have to let them crash on my couch when they’re evicted, give them my food, buy them things with my own money. I can take care of my clients because it’s my job. I couldn’t take care of my dad, and I feel I should feel guilty for that. I’m still just numb, and vaguely guilty for that numbness.
So much guilt, and anger, and I still don’t know how to deal with it. Fourteen years or so of therapy, and I still don’t know how to deal with it besides feeling numb.
I’m still unlisted.