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Anxiety - please tell me I'm not responsible for my parents actions/reactions

(9 Posts)
Saiditagain Sun 31-Jul-11 00:35:54

Brief history. When I was a child my father gambled and drank. When something happened he didn't like he would have a screaming fit and throw things. I've spent my life keeping my head down and not doing/saying anything that might make him angry.

Fast forward to the present and I have a DP and 2 young DC's. I visit my parents occasionally for short periods of time. I dictate when I see them as I guess this is the only way I can have some control. (I also tell myself that I keep in contact for my mother's sake.) My father is medicated for anxiety and depression and on the surface appears to be "ok".

I visted them today with DP. On leaving the house he commented on some work they were having done and said it would look better once the outside was painted. My mum immediately (too quickly) said that she liked it as it was and it wouldn't be painted. My father then said that he couldn't go up a ladder, he was scared of heights, couldn't repaint it etc.

When we drove away I started to berate my DP telling him that becase of his comment my mother's life would be hell for a few days. He said I was being silly because it was a throw away comment. However, I know my father dwells on comments like these - he simply can't let them go.

I in turn feel terrible, terrible anxiety even though I know his reaction wasn't my fault.

I think over the past few years I've kidded myself that my father is "better". If you scratch the surface he is the same person he ever was, an angry bigot. When I visited them recently he hit his arm on something and started swearing and shouting. I immediately felt like a child again made worse by the fact I had my small children with me. I felt paralysed and sick.

How do I deal with my anxiety? I think I'm especially upset because I realise that my parents can never be the people I want them to be. How do you cope with this?

Sorry I've rambled just needed to get it all out. I have had some counselling but know I need more.

mumblechum1 Sun 31-Jul-11 00:47:34

tbh it sounds as though you are way oversensitive to your father's feelings and reactions.

So what if he can't or won't get the outside of the house painted? If he has a problem with the fact that your DP made a throwaway comment, that is his issue. Not you, or your DP or your mum.

If it wasn't that comment, it would be something else.

Sometimes you just have to let people stew in their own juice. I presume that he's getting on a bit now and isn't going to suddenly change his personality, so you worrying about whether he's happy is not going to make him happy and it's going to make you unhappy. He has to take responsibility for his own feelings and if that means grumping about, then so be it. YOu just get on with your own life.

bushymcbush Sun 31-Jul-11 00:48:42

I don't have any experience of your situation, but I wanted to say that I think everyone (even those with 'stable' parents) has a lightbulb moment at least once in their lives when they realise their parents are not perfect, but are flawed, and sometimes downright wrong. It's a hard fact to swallow, but I would imagine even harder for you.

Is your dad recieving any treatment for his illness? What support systems does your mum have in place to help her cope?

bushymcbush Sun 31-Jul-11 00:51:07

And btw, of course you are not responsible their reactions! Nor is your DP.

madmouse Sun 31-Jul-11 08:11:10

As an abuse survivor (different from what you suffered, but that doesn't matter) I immediately recognise what you are doing. You still respond as a child to his behaviour as he keeps throwing you back to your still largely unprocessed childhood. That's not something you have any control over at the moment, but that can change. I can't say it never happens to me anymore, but it is so so much better.

Obviously you were not responsible for his behaviour then and you are not so now. But what children do is this: You are my caregiver, you are very angry and unreasonable, it can't be your fault because you are my caregiver and if you are bad then what will happen to me. It must be my fault. And at least if it is my fault I can try to fix it.

I would recommend more talking therapy. And not CBT, but psychotherapy or person centred therapy. For as long as you need. After that if the anxiety persists some CBT can help to change your actual thought patterns and reactions.

tawrag Sun 31-Jul-11 08:17:53

Good advice, madmouse.

Also, OP, if visiting your father makes you feel bad, then don't visit him. You don't owe him anything. If you want to see your mum, can you arrange for her to come to you sometimes?

WyrdMother Sun 31-Jul-11 08:25:00

You are absolutely not responsible for your familys reactions but I so recognise that feeling of dread.

I think Madmouse has the right idea about therapies, neither you nor your husband needs to be policing your every utterance.

Getting talking treatments on the NHS can be hard work, the key is persistance (and I think some doctors are quicker to refer then others) and mine was a little over-inclined to throw tablets at the problem. It can help to write all the issues down and what you want to achieve before you go, and/or take someone along to support you.

Good luck and simplistic as this is, keep telling yourself it's not your fault, it really isn't.

NestaFiesta Sun 07-Aug-11 18:14:00

Don't know what to suggest OP but just wanted to say your post rang so many bells I was nearly crying. My Dad is the same and I have walked on eggshells for so long. You did NOT over react- this is a product of your past experience and it's very sad that you are so on edge around your father. I am the same and if other people had been on the receiving end of my Dad's rants as I have been, then they would understand.

It's NOT your fault, keep living your life on the periphery of his. You are free now! He is not in charge of you.

SardineQueen Sun 07-Aug-11 19:03:47

I think that given your fathers past behaviour your reaction was entirely understandable. And that you feel for your mum, you know how this will pan out.

I don't think that you have a problem with anxiety in this situation, I think that your reaction was perfectly rational and understandable under the circs.

The others have given good advice but I just wanted to say that smile

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