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by Jaded Savior Blog 26 days ago in trauma

More frank than even frank ever was.

photo credit: Showtime Frank from Shameless

DECEMBER 23rd. That is my birth father's birthday and I have no idea how old he is anymore. Though I know his birthday, I don't care to do the math.

In many ways, it feels like his life ceased many years ago.

At least, for me.

As an only child, I grew up bouncing between divorced parents and had two entirely different relationships with them.

Cathy had full custody which meant she could dangle me over Charlie's head like a cat toy, while her hostile husband watched with scissors hanging low to his side.

Charlie did pills and shot up heroin. On and off he tried to get clean throughout my childhood but it just never quite "stuck", as he said. No one in my family ever uttered the words "mental illness."

It would take years and years after he abandoned me at 15 for him to overdose on heroin and be found unconscious, only to be revived in the emergency room and sent to an 18-month long program.

But rehab didn't stick either.

In my mid-twenties, while raising my little girl as a single mom in college, I discovered he was in that program and finally got diagnosed.

"Schizophrenia", I was told. Along with "Bipolar and depression."

Organ failures. Addictions.

"Accidental overdose". I was pretty sure it was very on purpose.

I was bitter. Angry. Frustrated. I spent my whole childhood trying to process, diagnose, and make sense of the man who was my birth father.

But finding out these words and the fact that he had mental illnesses did not erase what I had gone through as his daughter. My whole childhood into adulthood, that man was just a terrifying person who constantly lied and did inconsistent things. He made up details of things for no reason (that I could comprehend) and behaved like a child in a grown man's body. But not because he was immature... it was almost like split personalities. It was scary as hell.

I cannot stomach the show "shameless".

My father is every bit of FRANK. In fact, I think he is a real-life depiction of what the character is trying to convey.

I can promise you that no one watches the show SHAMELESS and thinks to themselves, "man, I wish I had a dad like Frank Gallagher. What a DAD."

Charlie longed for appreciation and attention, always. Charlie kept himself constantly talking about anything to make himself sound good.

Charlie never got high in front of me. Just like I never knew what high looked like, until I saw him when I was 16 and it all clicked.

After Cathy and her husband told me to "go find my father" when I announced my teen pregnancy to my mother. So I walked 3 towns in rubber flats and morning sickness in the summer heat to locate him.

All I knew at the time was his last job address, so I tried there.

The whole walk I stomped angrily and replayed the last voice mail I had sent him, about a year prior.

He had been jealous and angry that I was dating. That his 15-year-old CHILD had a boyfriend and that he was no longer getting "listened to" or "seen as much".

I remember screaming at him in the snow around 11 pm because Cathy had been blackout drunk and tried to hurt herself. So I ran out and called him what felt like 100 times to pick me up because I was scared. And only in pajamas.

But he didn't - No, he wouldn't, answer.

So I chewed him out in the allotted 4 minutes that the answering machine allowed and I thanked him so very much for abandoning me when I needed him. And for not even having the decency to end our relationship with an apology. As if he was breaking up with me. No, had ghosted me.

Because he had simply stopped showing up for weeks. And then months went by.

And every Saturday that I cried in his absence, Cathy made sure to rub the dirt in my eyes. Their entire relationship after the divorce had simply been a contest of who would build a better sandcastle.

Frank Gallagher reminds me of Charlie because he has only one commitment in this world. And that is to himself.

Though I am the only surviving child of his, I paid dearly for years as he lived in his own mind.

It did not matter finding out an actual diagnosis for Charlie.

I spent my childhood idolizing an addict who was childlike and had a broken personality. Several of them actually.

When I arrived at his job the day I told him I was pregnant, I met one of them, eyes to truck bumper.

His problem-solving method of discovering I was pregnant was to get in his big work truck and start the engine in my direction --- His eyes lime green and raging like a rattled snake.

He did not see me, but beyond me, that moment.

It did not give me relief to know he was also homeless.

For years actually.

The day after the episode at his job, the 4 brothers who owned the company and had daughters my age fired him.

They had been absolutely mortified at what Charlie did.

So he spent years after on the streets. Doing god-knows-what.

He then lived with a woman for a while and "helped" with her triplet teenagers. One of them contacted me and we even met up at the mall.

As it turns out, we had something major in common.

We both hated Charlie.

After we met, I never heard from her again.

But I put to rest any ounce of sadness or curiosity I had of his existence. He was real shit to them. And did nothing to actually help provide or be a "dad".

Which, duh.

But it was one of those things that just put the cherry on top.

He'd told them Cathy wouldn't let me talk with him.

He had made himself out to be a helpless hero who was stripped of his own child.

He had told them stories about me, ones he wouldn't have known ---> unless he made them up.

The breadcrumbs he had gotten out of my Nana that I was in college and a young parent, he used to his advantage.

Everything was always to make him look good.

To pass as sane.

He was back out on the streets not long after I met her.

Again on drugs. Homeless and jobless.

I found out last year he had been hospitalized for a heart attack. Twice. Also a stroke. Organ problems.

Still using.

Still not wanting to seek help.

He had been brought in because someone called 911.

And like a FRANK, he made sure to take photos to soak up the "are you oks?"

He then reached out to me via social media.

He had a prepaid phone and would use Facebook to connect with old friends + distant relatives.

So he wanted to connect with me.

Discuss apologies.

Make amends.

And when I WOULD NOT give him one -- yes, he meant me -- he got hostile.

But within a few weeks time and messages between us, I tried to be calm + patient.

It had been so many years and I was now married with 3 kids. In a safe space. Grown.

I thought I would handle it just fine.

Try my best to rationalize his mental illness. His addictions.

Not seek out a father. Or a friend.

Just accept this person and situation for what it was and trail away silently after.

But all the drama and stories came rolling back in.

The gaslighting.

The guilt games.

The clear delusions that I now knew were part of his sickness.

So I tried my best to do what I thought was "being a bigger person".

Over the years, on and off I'd wanted to reach out.

I can't tell you exactly what it was I wanted.

I did not "miss my daddy".

Growing up he had acted like a big child.

He would converse with me like so and want to hang out like we were friends catching up.

He was messy and dirty, often quick to snap or explode from confrontation of any kind.

He was poor but he made damn sure to let me know who made him that way. What was everyone else's fault.

I'd heard years worth of why everyone abandoned him.

He would also ask me advice with women. He dated quite a few throughout my 15 yrs of him.

And each time they hated me + wanted him to move away with them. Then dropped him out on the street shortly after with nothing.

"Just like my mother did".

I learned from a young age that daughter meant "emotional consultant", "psychiatrist", "bullshit buyer", "punching bag".

He never hit me. In fact, he never hit anyone in his life besides the one hit that ended his marriage to Cathy, after he finally snapped at her for all she had done.

But I also learned young that words hurt much much more than hits. And so do "no show, no call" waits at the window.

I tried my best last year, before starting my blog or tackling my own emotional issues.

I hadn't thought into healing or facing my trauma yet.

I thought years passing meant healing.

That "time healed all wounds", because that's what trauma victims are told.

Go on. Laugh with me.

I was wrong.

It was painful to talk with him.

When he would be nice and friendly, I felt safe to keep talking.

When he would tell me the great details of his life, I felt pity. And sadness.

He was homeless, living for years on the streets in his favorite town.

A town his parents loved when he was little.

A town he had brought me to for years, when I was a kid.

So many fond memories had been since tainted by truth but were in that place.

Like a ghost, he wandered those streets and "built a life" as he puts it.

Playing his guitar on the streets.

He was doing something amazing, he said.

Charlie told me he was playing guitar for the youths of the town. And the great people at Starbucks.

He was talking with a youth leader at the local church theater program and would soon be teaching music.

A homeless man with addictions, health problems, and no education or training whatsoever.

He swore to this and said they all told him how amazing and talented he is. That he would be such a high value to the program.

And that this would be his big break.

So I said ok.

I kept the line open.

He soon asked how I was and how my kids were. Hesitant, I replied and told him my kids were well. That I was fine. And happy.

He said things like "you are so smart" and "you are so beautiful" to compliment where I was at in life.

He told me he was going to make slingshots for my sons.

And that one day we should plan to meet.

I knew I was brushing off something I should say NO to.

And I knew some children of addicts spent their whole life caring for their parent & not leaving them in spite of the abuse.

But I vowed to never live my life for my parents.

So when each let me go, it was just as necessary for me to let go of them.

To let adults live with the consequences of their own actions. To let sick people be sick if it was of their own choosing.

I was not aware of definitions like Trauma or Disassociation then.

I only knew the life of addicts and what mental illness looked like when it came knocking at my door for something.

Shortly after, Charlie announced via Facebook that he was in love and dating.

As a homeless addict, he was dating what Facebook checked out to be an 18 yr old high school senior.

He told me, searching for a congrats, and then told me she was a celebrities cousin. And she loved his music.

That she was in love with him too.

Days later he would message me again, this time asking for dating advice. Wanting to know my thoughts because as he put it "I was wise in this area".

Me, his child who dated way too young -- got pregnant and abandoned at 16 -- then dated an abusive sociopath for years mixed in with several NARCS in between.


His adult, legally emancipated and fed up daughter.

He wanted to know if they should have sex already or wait.

At that point, my head spun.

I was blinded by anger. We begun to argue via messages and I thought to myself "Why in the hell did I let myself even begin the contact with him?"

What I really needed to ask myself was why do I expect an unhealthy person to be healthy?

What would make me think that someone in his position could be any different without the help or the rehab? Without long term rehabilitation.

Longer than 18 months?

Longer than the few years he spent as a teen living at a facility after his father died...

He had been sick his whole life.

And I answered the door every single time chaos knocked.

And then scolded it for ruining the party.

I ended the connection that day. I blocked him and made sure to vent after about my feelings to my partner, whom I feel safe to confide in.

I felt shame, more than anything else.

Every year I had felt hurt. Not by the man who existed but for the man who never did.

I never had a real father figure.

I had something no one inherently wants.

A frank.

Weeks later I would come to find out he was on the news and articles were published online.

He had robbed a car of Christmas gifts right in the driveway and the owner tackled him down til the cops came.

That holiday season he thought it would be a brilliant idea -- while high -- to steal someone's gifts.

I don't know why but that article made me weep deeply.

Not for him.

Maybe for me.

Maybe just for the situation.

The idea that Charlie was and will always be a FRANK.

I decided to Google his name in May, when I was forming my blog and diving head first into what "trauma" actually looked like.

Charlie had been in the news twice.

Once as a criminal, once as a hero.

A duality shining light on his illness.

In the other article, he was interviewed about planned development of his beloved town.

"despite the project providing new income and growth for the small city, some residents are opposed to the project. [Name removed for privacy] is a street performer and aspiring actor in Glen Cove. For thirty years, he drove a tow truck until a heart attack forced him to retire. He feels that the redevelopment has some benefits but is more of a money grab."

I've wanted to talk about that article since discovering it.

To write about mental illness and its many faces.

I wanted to share with you how is got angry and commented on the news blog that they were incorrect and had quoted a homeless criminal. And actually got the comments shut off.

I was pissed. Again.

I realize only now that Charlie was a pain point in my life long after he left it because I lacked awareness and education of what he was and what I was for experiencing it all.

The flashbacks, the nightmares, the panic attacks.

The PTSD I did not know I had.

Outside of myself, the things wrong about his behaviors and the decisions he made...

He was not acting like a healthy adult because he isn't one.

He is likely going to leave this world in the same condition.

I've struggled with how to write about Charlie because I think people need to know what it feels like to be raised by addicts. To have a father that had an amazing father. Who then died suddenly. And left his family of 5 in poverty and extreme depression.

My father hovers around that beloved town like a ghost from haunted hill, repetitive in his steps and cyclical in his down fall.

It was his fathers favorite place.

In many ways, my father left this world when his father did. Emotional stability cracked.

He swears the day my grandpa passed he saw him in the mirror saying goodbye.

He knew before the telephone rang and my Nama dropped to her knees in grief that his father had left the world.

He said he told him.

Spiritual or practical, what I feel about that story is that my 14 year old father took the wheel.

And has been driving on autopilot ever since.

Drugs numbed and blurred the memories that haunted him but all he ranted about for years was the way everyone would abandon him.

How everyone always left. 14 year old Charlie was devastated. And no one was equipped to notice.

I want to write about my experiences to raise awareness.

To invoke all different emotions.

There is no one and no right way to feel. Not as the victim of someone else's abuse. Not as the child who played psychiatrist to her parents. Not as the grown woman who now has to get educated and understand what mental illness and addiction does to the brain, body, and soul.

All the while still feeling angry at the man who only ever let her down.

If everyone else idolizes their hero father but you loath him, does that make you wrong? Unaware? Apathetic?

When you are the abused person and you do not see the ailments, just the abuser --- should you have to stay quiet?

My journey now is towards education and awareness because I wish to be informed AND express my emotions even at the risk of feeling irrational.

Of feeling angry and sad and bitter and detached.

For weeping at the loss, no the absence of a healthy father.

Of a grandfather for my kids.

Of a parent to have given me off at my wedding.

As a father to have gotten out of bed at 11 pm to find me cold and shivering in the snow.

I expected more.

So I wont let anyone shame me for feeling like I got so much less.

Some of you may have a FRANK.


"Shameless" [the series] gives me panic attacks and crying fits. But I can't look away.

I feel normal when I see or hear about situations like I had.

It was the loneliness that hurt me most growing up.

I don't feel good that more people struggle with abusive parents.

Or addict parents.

But if I don't speak out about it, or hear someone else's story ---> I will perpetuate my trauma and own struggles.

So I choose to process it all.

And to share it visibly.

Today is my father's birthday.

I don't know where he is or how old he is. I don't know much about him now that I created my boundary and honored it.

Zero contact.

Zero wonder.

I would rather heal than extend a hand to an illusion.

I can't say if I will ever have closure. Or be able to breathe without holding my breath all the time.

I don't know when my anxiety or depression will go away.

But I'm thankful every day for my life. For raising myself.

For learning what not to do and how to survive.

- J.S.



Jaded Savior Blog

Mental health blogger, content creator, and creative writer. I write about trauma, mental health, and holistic wellness to empower other trauma survivors. Follow my blogs @Jadedsaviorblog @Startthrivingnotsurviving

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