Tag Archives: Parents

Happy holidaze

27 Dec

12:58 am

I do sort of feel like I’ve been in a daze this season, mainly because of everything that’s been going on. The other day, I posted something and then deleted it, worried that it was too revealing about my father. And, I’m glad I did; this isn’t a blog about him.

I haven’t felt much like blogging recently; not sure why, it just feels like overexposure. I’ve also been working a ton and going-going-going with my brothers, getting my dad situated in a nursing facility–simply put, we think he has dementia, and it is *probably* not going to get better. I mean, we can hope it’s related to a transient, post-operative effect (he recently had surgery; the reason he had surgery, though, was because of his “dementia” thinking, which I see so clearly now)–but, he’s been in decline for like, at least three years, it just wasn’t presenting itself as memory loss, per se. Anyway, it’s been draining; there is no rule book, which is bizarre since so many people go through this!

In light of everything that’s come to a head this year–started menopause, put my dog to sleep, watched my dad literally go from, ‘Oh, Dad’s just being Dad’ in August, to, ‘Holy shit, there is something really very wrong here’ in November–I do feel grateful. I mean, I’m still here, for one. I’m still sane, still working (uber-grateful for this), still breathing, still loving, still content with most everything that comes my way.

Everything that has happened this year that could have definitely been given a strictly negative spin has actually led to something better. I lost my job–but I needed to leave anyway, and ended up finding something better, for the most part. I had to put my dog down–but she needed to Rest, and we were just holding onto a creature who was in unbearable pain. I went into menopause–but I feel SO much better, overall, than I did in perimenopause, and, I’m no longer on the birth control pill, which, I would say is much worse than hormone therapy (today’s bioidentical versions). What else? Oh, so yeah, my dad sort of “went into” dementia–but, considering that these past three years have been a long, crazy lead-up to what we’ve all just realized is actually cognitive decline, at least my dad is safe now. Even Covid has had many silver linings–one could say that Covid allowed nature to come back, people to take stock and be more mindful, mRNA vaccines to have their day probably faster than they would have had.

Anyway, it’s been a long few months. I had a GREAT Christmas, though; yes, we got together, and no, I don’t feel guilty about it (though, there are some people in places where Covid is still raging who would blame me and my friends for spreading the virus)–we are not a hot spot, and the people I hang out with are like me in that, no one really socializes! I am not worried that anyone in the group last night had Covid or has been exposed recently; there were three younger people (someone’s kids in their 20s) who had flown in, but, only two were recent arrivals and everyone has to take a Covid test before being allowed to enter the airport.

Tomorrow, we’re going on a boat trip–a big, twin-hulled catamaran, which should be awesome! I have never stepped foot on a boat like that, so I am looking forward to the experience. Speaking of which, I’ve had some down time to actually remember and cherish some old trips and friends lately–to mind come volunteer trips to Haiti, to Ecuador; a self-styled yoga retreat to Nosara, Costa Rica; years ago, a solo trip to Turkey; years before that, one to Greece; a year abroad in Paris; many exploratory trips all over the mainland through recent years. Ahh, the memories; I am proud of the trips I’ve taken of late, and really, truly can’t wait to be able to travel again…

I hope my dad can entertain himself with his own memories; it’s painful, wondering what he is thinking about right now, you know? I know he has some great memories, so…that’s a small consolation.

Oh, and we got another doggay! He is the most ridiculous dog ever–his cuddle factor is so high, he’s almost TOO cuddly! I do miss my girl so very much–and our boy–but…life goes on. It’s nice to have a little buddy to care about, to walk, to have sleep all over you (we are not letting him on the bed; he will never, ever leave if we do…).

The parent trap

5 Dec

10:12 pm

No, not the movie. MY parents–or, rather, parent…though, both have their issues.

I haven’t really felt like writing lately, considering work and life. We did have a nice Thanksgiving–with old friends and new, a small group; so far, so good re: Covid–and I took a SWEET day off to go hiking with a friend. It was THE best thing I’ve done in a while, to get out of my ‘hood, my house, my head for the entire day, to spend it talking and walking and swimming with a new friend. Today, we went by the shelter to check on our new boy–YES, we’ve finally decided that we’re ready to welcome a new dog! We get to take him home on Monday. (Actually, it was my boo’s pick, so I guess I should say, HE is ready to have a son again. I had my eye on another dog at the shelter, but when I walked her today, I just didn’t feel like we had a connection; I feel bad for her, since she’s been there a year, but…I don’t know if I am ready yet. My old dog, who we put down almost four months ago, was such a smart, ridiculous friend–she was part chow, part shepherd, and I don’t know if I’ll ever meet a girl like her again, so maybe I should lower my expectations? It might be that I’m just not ready for another pup yet…)

Other stuff hasn’t been so good or easy, but I’ll get through this, too. The older I get, the more I realize that I will get through anything; and, a positive, selfless (as in, it’s not about ME, ever; I don’t ever have to choose to take anything personally) attitude goes a long way toward keeping self, others, and events in perspective. However, this thing with my dad has really thrown me for a loop!

Past couple months, shit has truly hit the fan with my dad. To summarize, he has always had what I would call a personality disorder (the closest I can come to describing him is narcissistic–like, according to Wikipedia, he has all three of these: exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive craving for admiration, and struggles with empathy; in fact, I would say his lack of empathy has always almost bordered on sociopathy, mainly because he has often had very little regard for others’ well being and he lies a lot). BUT, he’s also had lifelong UNTREATED bipolar disorder (yeah, it took me until 40 years old to unravel my issues from growing up with that shit!), which seems to have morphed into a full-blown dementia somewhere between five years ago and now–which seemed to be kicked into high gear by going under general anesthesia during a recent hip surgery (in fact, he has had serious mood/personality changes from past surgeries, too, it seems).

Anyway, it’s been a trip trying to deal with him because he’s not incompetent, but…he can’t do what he used to do (work-wise) OR take care of himself anymore. It’s very bad; I don’t really have the energy to go into details, but he is 100% unable to take care of himself (as in, he does not shower, he has not been eating, he didn’t think it was a big deal that he has no heat–it’s freezing cold where he lives now), and he seems 100% incapable of making rational decisions, of executive level thinking. Yet, he is also 100% in denial about this and does not believe anything is wrong.

Tomorrow, a social worker is coming to the house; I guess she will interview him and make the decision on whether to send him to a care facility. It will be interesting to see if and how he takes that; he has been extra-belligerent with my step-mom, and there is NO forcing him to do anything. I don’t know. It’s interesting to wonder about all the mental health stuff–I had no idea that people could pass for so long, as in, hide their dementia; I had no idea that dementia can include all sorts of mental changes, like delusional thinking that can be so very subtle that you don’t distinguish it from “normal” personality-disordered thinking; I had no idea that untreated mental health disorders can actually cause issues like this or wreak havoc later (he’s only 73; pretty young to be this bad, right?).

I have spent hours on the phone with him, my brothers (yep, plural; first time I have talked to the one brother who wrote me off in 3.5 years–eh, I am so over it that I felt next to nothing), my step-mom, trying to get him to understand that he needs care, that he can’t go home–he has no bridges left to burn, and at this point, I am not sure what the future holds for him.

I have thought once or twice about how this would feel if I had wine to rely on for escape; probably just more muddled and overwhelming. No, thanks–I like the extreme clarity re: other people’s “crazy” that being sober affords me these days! It has caused me some anxiety, though…

Anyway…just a short post. Even though I haven’t blogged much lately, I am always reading and following your posts, so keep ’em coming!

Whose mental health are we talking about?

4 Aug

1:58 pm

Lately, I’ve been sort of offline; I just haven’t had the time or ability to wrestle with my thoughts too much these past few days…

A quick life update is that, no, I didn’t get the job I applied for–after a long series of interviews (gah!)–but, that’s OK since there are other jobs out there. I’ve been on the hunt in one way or another since mid-June, and um, I am at the point where I feel like it’s OK (slash, necessary for my mental health) to sit back and let it be for a while. Let it percolate. Enjoy the fact that I was fortunate enough to collect a bit of unemployment, remember that this is just a phase and the economy will rebound, and put some faith in my network. I have worked with a lot of great people over the years, many of whom are still looking out for me, I have no doubt.

Anyway, I’ve got some time to re-focus on this blog and my “e-book project,” which is simply, to compile my posts and self-publish a version of this blog. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and it’s a way for me to sort of close one chapter, as it were. A lot of what I post these days–and will continue to post–isn’t really related to getting sober, and I want to re-read some of my past posts in order to get more of a grip on who I was then and who I am now. It’s a process–and there are probably a LOT more “important” things I could be doing right now and/or thinking about–so I will keep you posted!

What else has been going on? Well, as I think you all remember, I have posted about my parents’ mental health a few times. And, I remain committed to not writing that much about it and them on this blog since it’s not my mental health I’m talking about. However, not writing about it does not mean I don’t think about it a lot–especially as I watch my father devolve, as it were, into what seems to be a worsening mental health “situation.” I mean, if I knew nothing about his past and his personality, and was confronted with only his behavior today–I’d probably avoid him, and then I’d forget about it.

I know from my own experience with alcoholism that MOST people don’t want to know (or admit that they know) about your mental health disorder, or they oversimplify it because they can’t (and don’t want to) delve deep. I like to wonder, I like to ask questions, I like to look for patterns; MANY folks do not.

That being said, I just don’t know what to do about or for my dad–and, if I should do anything? He’s a grown man–in his 70s–yet…from what I can tell, he’s just getting worse. I have to assume that untreated mental health disorders only get worse as you get older. I fear that it’ll all come crashing down, sooner rather than later. Yet, you can’t convince him that there is anything about his behavior he should change–and, a lot does need to change. Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t anything I can do at this point; he won’t hear reason, he won’t hear truth, and even if he acknowledges that things need to change, he won’t choose to change. Yet…there is this feeling of, If something happens to him, well, it’s my fault, I should have done more.

It’s probably the feeling one has trying to get an addict into recovery before they’re ready to get sober–and then, who dies from an overdose or suicide. It’s my fault for not forcing them into recovery. I should have done more.

All I can do is let it go, let him go, let his mental health be HIS mental health. What more can one do? I probably think more about his mental health–and how he’s hurt me and others–than he ever will, which is sad, but probably true.

On that note, it’s time to get outside and enjoy some of this sun!

Helping or enabling

1 Jul

11:22 am

I used to think that I knew the difference between helping a person and enabling them–until I was no longer on the receiving end. As someone who drank alcoholically for years, I never had to wonder if I was helping someone or enabling that person. It was their problem, and they had to figure out how to help me without enabling my ill behavior.

These days, I am the one having to decide between helping and enabling during every phone call I make to both parents. I can say, almost without doubt, that both my parents, by choice, are living with untreated mental health disorders that negatively affect their family members.

It’s sad, but it’s the truth.

And there is not a damn thing I can do about it.

What is this called? Transgenerational something–issues, addiction, trauma? I can clearly see my own workaholism in my dad’s behavior; I can clearly see my neurotic thinking and tendency to catastrophize in my mom’s behavior. Yet, both my parents either don’t see it in themselves or choose to not see it. I chose to see it, and I chose to try to fix it, within myself. It’s a work in progress, but I decided that I could no longer live in denial–that was eight years ago.

Let me give a few “for instances”: I recently found out that my dad and his second wife are divorcing; she served him papers, and he seems to be in this state of “I don’t know why on Earth she would want to divorce me” haze that is just, well, utter bullshit. He knows; the problem is, on our calls, he denies knowing and spins a tale of what he believes has happened (versus the reality, which I know, because my step-mom and brother have seen or heard different versions from him, and they’ve told me about those). The question is, do I listen and not say anything, or do I confront him on his denial? I have tried a version of the latter, but he is deep in his denial so it doesn’t work. Yet, allowing him to go on without being questioned just reinforces this behavior–enabling him to keep it up without facing any kind of consequences.

The last time I talked to my mom, she was complaining about her health issues, about she was feeling overwhelmed and alone. I feel bad for her, but, after decades of telling her what she knows she should do, she’s chosen to not expand her social circle to include even one friend! She chooses to obsess about her health issues instead of letting them go/be; I get that it’s hard, and she has a lot of problems. However, no matter how “bad” you’ve got it, at some point, you have to choose to stop the mental looping and try something else–maybe, meditation, or yoga, or staying on medications consistently, or believing that these medications will help (there is power in placebo; she knows this, as a former nurse). Now, I could tell her, again, that she should do this, that, and the other; she can say, yes, I know I should do that, and then, she can not do it–or, I can just listen and then hang up, not really telling her how I feel because it doesn’t seem to change her behavior, which is in essence, a form of enabling as well!

Why do I feel guilty–and somehow responsible–that my parents, both of them well into their 70s, are very seemingly stuck and unhappy? And, even more guilty that I have decided to give up on helping both of them, wishing their choices were different but not trying to engage anymore in a discussion about any of it? What if it does not end well for my dad, who is soon going to discover just how much of the physical, daily burden my step-mom carried? Should I feel like it was my fault, that I didn’t help him enough by literally screaming the truth, as I know it, into his ear? Same with my mom: should I just let her be, grasping but unwilling, or should I continue to force the issue of personal responsibility for one’s own happiness?

I have chosen, after all these years of getting sober–it was a lot of work to extricate myself from these learned behavioral patterns, some of which really affected me and “caused” my drinking problem–to just let it go. Let. It. Go. I can’t care that much about their problems; I can’t keep trying to “reason” with them when they don’t want to change, essentially.

Is this what it feels like to try to help an addict or alcoholic who is not ready to get sober yet? Maybe…

On boundaries and saying ‘no’

7 Apr

12:40 pm

So, this morning, as I was scrolling Facebook, I became frustrated:

Why do I have to care about you?  Ugh, I should have gone to that thing last night–why am I so lazy, why am I so antisocial? 

And, on and on and on.  I saw in the early years of my sobriety just how much I could overthink and overanalyze, and how this contributed to my unhappiness and dependence on wine to escape my thinking.

It got me thinking about something else, too:  here I was, on a beautiful Sunday morning, and what was I doing but berating myself because I had let my Facebook feed intimidate me!

In getting sober and staying sober, I have come to realize that creating boundaries and saying ‘no’ are essential to my peace of mind.  There are a LOT of things that caused me to binge drink and drink alcoholically, and I never made the connection between that reactive behavior and the bullying forces in my life until I got sober.

In fact, there are a lot of bullies in everyone’s life–whether your friends, parents, or coworkers are consciously aware that they are being bullies is up for debate, though.  And, until I started to understand the concepts of boundaries and saying no–that there could be emotional bullying, and that this is far more prevalent than actual, literal bullying–I didn’t get that I could both say, No, I will not do that, and say no to taking on other people’s stress or expectations of me (or themselves).

It still makes me feel angry when I delve into this aspect of long-term sobriety, and I feel like this is something that will never go away completely because almost everyone out there (including myself) is engaging in some form of bullying–whether it’s dumping their emotional baggage on you, manipulating your weaknesses, or just using your reactions to make themselves feel better.  I have to remind myself, almost daily, that it’s ME who is in control of how I perceive and receive people, and how I react and interact with them–that ultimately, bullying is a two-way street.

Some real-world examples:

Facebook/social media–Before I got sober, I would scroll relentlessly, and I would allow everyone’s story to affect me.  I would internalize my feelings of “not good enough” and “guilty” and “should have, could have, would have” without realizing that one, I didn’t need to feel any of that, and two, I had control over who and what I let into my worldview.  These days, when I feel that coming on, I try to remember that social media is not real life; people posting to social media are not trying to offend me, personally; and if I want to not care, I can choose to not care and close the app.  I don’t have to feel guilty about not really interacting with my so-called friends; I have friends in the here and now, and I can interact with them–and this is healthy, and it is good enough.  These days, I would much rather engage people offline, in the real world, and not on social, email, or text.  And, some days, it’s as simple as closing the app and moving on with my day–and not judging myself to be a bad friend, somehow, because I have chosen to be a spectator on social media and not a player.

Parents–You know, before I got sober, I didn’t have as much frustration toward my parents for their mental health issues as I do now.  I knew that my mom’s difficulty setting emotional boundaries and my dad’s bullying behavior definitely contributed to my drinking, but I didn’t know exactly how.  In any case, I internalized my mom’s pain, and I always tried to please my dad–two things that I have to work very hard at today, every time I talk to them, to NOT do!

These days, I don’t know if I’ve figured out exactly how these family relationships have made me who I am, but in getting sober, I have learned that calling my parents less is OK, that not allowing them to control how I feel is OK, that putting up boundaries and saying no to their projections and expectations is OK–I wish it was different because they are in their 70s and “should know better,” but…

My mom has a lot of health problems these days, and so, our calls are always quite long and tedious. I feel like she feels slighted that I don’t call often, and I feel almost unconsciously judged for having become an alcoholic drinker and for not having had kids; but none of this matters when it comes to me needing to say no to taking on her bad mood or her feelings of helplessness.  In part, I think she wants me to share my own health problems, but I refuse to go down that road because it’s almost as if she relishes that; simply put, I DO NOT relish it.

My dad is an entirely different beast in that the family believes he has multiple actual mental health disorders, and his entire way in the world with everyone has always been about manipulating other people to do what he wants them to do for him, and expectation (I am hard on myself and need to prove my worth, so you should be, too).  I have simply come to the frustrating conclusion recently that nothing will ever change in our relationship except the way that I deal with it.  I have decided that while our conversations won’t change, and while I’ll never likely be able to directly say no to him, I can say no to his expectations–I love our life, and I don’t have to let him lead the conversation toward accomplishment as a measure of success.

Job and school stress–It took me getting sober to see that I was putting a TON of unnecessary expectations and pressure on myself for many, many years.  And, that I don’t have to respond to stress the way people around me are either responding to it or worse, telling me how I “should” respond to it.  It’s like, I don’t have to keep up with the Joneses by wanting that house, or that car, or that “bigger” job–likewise, at work, I don’t have to stress out just because my boss or coworkers are stressing out, necessarily or unnecessarily so.  You don’t have to stress out to care, or to prepare; stress will not help you have fun.  You can (and should!) take long showers, eat nice dinners, go to your yoga class, or hey, even hit the beach (man, I miss it!)–AND get your work done, and be a careful, caring employee who is worthy of her paycheck.  This mentality is really hard to push back against, but I have to push back–if not just in defense of my health, but in defense of my sobriety.

Exhale.  We all have to set boundaries and guard them fiercely, no matter if we’re getting or staying sober.  Likewise, we all get to say ‘no’–and that is a beautiful thing.  I think that is the most empowering aspect to my sobriety, and to my evolving life and lifestyle these days.  As recovering binge drinkers or alcoholics, saying no is essential to our happiness, to our joy, to our continued sobriety.

So…just say no (sometimes)!

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