The Long Shadow of a Father’s Betrayal: Woman chronicles the struggles of growing up in an abusive home and overcoming depression

The Long Shadow of a Father's Betrayal: Woman chronicles the struggles of growing up in an abusive home and overcoming depression

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Mental health awareness. /ISTOCKPHOTO

They say a daughter first learns to love from her parents, both father and mother; but what happens when fatherly love is toxic?

Sharon Zawadi, 22, knows all too well the impact a father’s actions can have on a daughter’s mental health.

In this heartfelt account to Wananchi Reporting, Sharon shares her story of how her father’s behavior influenced her life and shaped who she is today.

Growing up, Sharon looked up to her father as her hero.

Growing up in a lower-middle-income home, Sharon said she didn’t have much but was grateful to have the love of both her parents.

Sharon said it was her father who taught her to ride a bike, took her to car shows and showed her how to change a tire.

But as Sharon got older, her father started drinking heavily and she started to see a different side of him.

«He became controlling and emotionally abusive, constantly criticizing and belittling my accomplishments,» she said.

Sharon said she found herself walking on eggshells around him, never sure what would trigger it.

«I remember nights where I had to cover my ears so I wouldn’t hear my drunk father hitting my mother,» she said.

«During the day, he would come and slam all the doors, throw glasses at me and my younger siblings, and burn my mother. The list is endless; there’s nothing he hasn’t done.»

Sharon recalls her worst day, when her mother had just won a writing contest that was supposed to change their lives.

«I was ecstatic and so proud of my mom,» she said.

Among the prizes he won were a 55-inch television, a Nikon D7700 DSLR camera, Ksh.500,000 and a MacBook.

“While we were celebrating my mother’s successes, my drunken father came in and took all the rewards, he beat us all until my mother passed out, then he left. That was the last day I saw him He literally left us with

nothing,” said Sharon, pain in her eyes.

The incident was the last straw for Sharon’s mother, who she says fell into depression which led to her losing her job.

This made the family’s situation worse, but slowly the family started to put the pieces back together and Sharon’s mother started selling chips and bhajia by the roadside to pay for her children’s school fees.

Although the family struggled and the children managed to finish their education, Sharon said her experience with her father took a toll on her mental health.

She struggled with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and found it difficult to trust others or form healthy relationships.

This caused her to cut and burn as she said it was the only way she thought she could deal with the trauma.

Research shows that some people dealing with mental health disorders cut themselves to experience physical pain in the hope that it will deflect the emotional pain they are dealing with. This, however, is not a solution to address the problems.

Sharon finally realized she needed help and sought the services of a psychologist who helped her find hope again.

She said despite the pain and trauma she experienced, she refused to give up.

She found solace in writing and photography, using her talents to express herself and find purpose.

I forgave my father. I won’t let his actions derail my future, I just hope he can be better for his next family, he adds.

Today Sharon hopes to become a successful writer and photographer and has dedicated her life to helping others who have experienced similar hardships.

She also urges her peers who are experiencing the same to seek help by going to therapy as holding onto the trauma will only lead to self-destruction and mental health issues.

Kenya offers several free and subsidized counseling services for those suffering from mental disorders. Government institutions offer services at discounted rates.

Some of the symptoms people should look for in their loved ones that indicate possible mental health disorders include: Withdrawal – when a person stops enjoying themselves or participating in activities they once enjoyed for an extended period of time, this could indicate a problem.

Other symptoms are lack of attention to personal care, slackness in daily activities, and having episodes of extremely bad or good mood.

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