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Struggling with my dad

(8 Posts)
PaperHeart Mon 17-Oct-11 16:09:37

Hi, this is my first post on MN but I've been lurking for a while. I just need some advice and perspective as I'm really struggling with my dad. I'll try to cut a long story short...

My dad has suffered from depression for a long time, which culminated in a nervous breakdown several years ago. It was the worst time of my life and although he eventually got through it, I've always been terrified it will happen again.

He was involved in an accident at work a couple of months ago and has some health problems related to this and to other things, and I know that he worries a lot about his health. However, he is a huge hypochondriac and I think because he tells himself how ill he is and how his problems will only get worse, they do, IYSWIM. In reality, if he was less pessimistic I think he would feel a lot better.

The part I'm mainly struggling with is how he treats my mum. He talks to me when I go to visit and on the phone, but it's like drawing blood from a stone. However, he basically just ignores my mum. She's done so much to help him in the past few months, but he hardly talks to her and shows no interest in her at all. He reacts with anger towards her when all she wants to do is care for him. I'm struggling because I feel like she is so alone. She is such a lovely, positive person and she has to put up with him treating her like crap. All through my life, she has done absolutely everything for him. He doesn't lift a finger round the house or do any cooking etc., and although I think he's incredibly lazy, it's one of those things where it works for them, as she's glad to do everything. I just wish he would show her more appreciation.

Sometimes I just want to cut him out of my life. I spend so much time stressing and worrying about mainly my mum, but also him. I love him but I don't like him, and at times like these when he's acting like a selfish child I feel anger towards him, but then when he's his normal self he's a lovely, caring man. I have problems of my own and worrying about my parents is taking its toll. I feel like I have to deal with it all myself as I don't have any siblings to help out.

Sorry it's long, I feel like I need to pour my heart out! Has anyone been in a similar situation or can offer some insight?

headnotheart Mon 17-Oct-11 19:40:14

Not much help, but my dad, who has Apergers, and my mum had a relationship where he was the breadwinner, and she stayed at home (it was the fifties and sixties). However, unlike in your case, my mum confided in me how unhappy she was. We learned to put on a family front that everything was fine. (Not trying to imply that your mum is necessily unhappy overall.)

Then he got made redundant aged 50 and was very depressed. I was at uni, bro and I v young so weren't much help. DM found it incredibly hard to live with him during this period.

He did get work again, which he enjoyed. But DM always said to me she dreaded his retirement. A year after he retired, she moved out. They have remained friends, and get on better now than in earlier life.

I tried to support them equally without taking sides.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that you can't do much except listen to your mum and let them sort it out themselves. They are adults, you are an adult, but it seems as if you feel you have to parent them?

Sorry I haven't been much help, but saw no-one had replied, and that my own experience could possibly be relevant I hope.

OlderNotWiser Mon 17-Oct-11 19:42:55

Have you spoken to your mum? Is she as unhappy as you fear she is? Relationships are strange things, she might just accept your dad as he is and not be as cut up about it as you think..?

headnotheart Mon 17-Oct-11 19:43:10

You could also try the Mental Health forum, there are some wise people there too.

BluddyMoFo Mon 17-Oct-11 19:45:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PaperHeart Mon 17-Oct-11 20:58:12

Didn't make it clear but my mum does confide in me. She tells me that she feels so unloved when he ignores her and snaps at her all the time. I think she does put on some front though to protect me from worrying about her too much.

I try not to stress but I suppose I just want a perfect family, as silly as that sounds. My dad is such a great person when he isn't depressed and acting selfishly, and I haven't seen him like his normal self for a while. I'm only 22 so I still rely on my parents quite a lot.

Thanks so much for the replies. just trying not to worry.

crispface Mon 17-Oct-11 21:31:53

I'm sorry to hear about your worry Paper. I am also a worrier, and whilst come from a slightly more stable background than you, have some difficult family stuff going on at the moment which means my anxiety level is quite high (Dad has cancer, mum isnt coping with it and relies on me for support)

What has helped me is finding time to have time for just ME. No-one else can intrude unless I want them to. I go running as this me time. It stops me feeling guilty as it is something that I need to be doing, and could not be time better spent doing something else, and it means I can process all information, even negative emotions by taking my anger out on the road. If you are at all exercise minded, i would recommend it smile

It also helps me to recognise that other people's feelings are not mine (iyswim?) so if your mum feels low, be there for her, hug her, but don't let her feelings ruin your day. If you need a hug and go to her, the last thing you want to know is that you have upset her, right? so try (it takes time and practice) repeating to yourself, "this is not my feeling right now" whilst being there for your mum.

Also make time, a specific time to visit your parents so YOU are in control of when you see them and how often you stay. whether it is a saturday moprning coffee or a monday evening tv session, it matters not. make it regular, make it routine and stay in control of the situation. If your dad upsets you, tell him so and go home. Do not allow your mum to apologise or try and change your mind - your dad needs to know he cannot be allowed to upset you.

Remember also, your mum married this man, it is up to her what she wants to do, or what she wants to put up with. if she chooses to stay with him but moan to you, this is her right. let her get it all out and then let her go home and have a bottle of beer.

good luck, it is not easy.

PaperHeart Tue 18-Oct-11 13:50:23

Thanks crispface. I think I will try giving running a go, although maybe not today as it's freezing and pretty much blowing a gale!

I know my mum will never leave him. No matter how badly he treats her she loves him and deep down, he loves her too. I think when he is depressed he tries to push people away, but he would be floored if she left him, he cannot manage by himself. Saying that I do think it might be a good shock to the system if she went away by herself for a few days, although that is not really possible with his health problems at the moment and she is too kind to leave him to fend for himself. Part of the problem for me as well is that he doesn't consider how his childish behaviour affects me. He tells me that it's between them as a couple, which it is, but he doesn't realise that I worry too. I've fluctuated over the past few days between feeling sorry for him with his health concerns and feeling angry, which is how I am now. I am just fuming that he can treat my lovely mum so poorly. I'm incredibly close to her and all through my life she has sacrificed everything for her family, and he repays her by being a miserable, grumpy bastard.

I also feel a bit of guilt, in a way, because my DP is fantastic, we rarely have a cross word. My mum is a much kinder, more generous woman than I am and I suppose I feel like I got the great guy whereas she deserves that more.

I'm going to try your strategy of saying 'this is not my feeling'. I have to detach myself or I will end up miserable and bitter like he is.

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