at my wit's end, don't know what to do...

shantyelApril 28, 2009

hi all, I'm new to this board.. I will be 43 next week, married with three wonderful kids 19, 17, and 11. my parents live just 10 minutes away and are 66 and 64... just to give a bit of history first, they have been married 45 years and have ALWAYS fought. Not the physical kind, as far as I know, Dad has never laid a hand on Mom and viceversa.. but they would get into these vicious verbal, screaming fights, telling each other how much they hate each other, etc and have always done it in front of me and my two younger brothers. Mom had bipolar illness but it was treated with lithium, she was able to lead a somewhat stable life. Sometimes they would have a blowup then stay mad at each other for days. Dad moved out and filed for divorce once when I was about 16 but went back to her.. The stress level in my home was awful, I hated it so much and always swore I would never do that to my kids..

Fast forward, I married an easy-going laid back man, we rarely ever fight and if we do, it's usually about something important and he never lets either one of us stay mad, it always blows over within a few hours. We've taught our kids to treat each other (and us) with respect and to try to work things out instead of fighting. Screaming and yelling is only an occassional thing such as when that little brother really pesters them, etc but is not an everyday common thing.

As for my parents, they are still together and it's even worse. Dad is retired and health/physical ability is still good, he mows, goes out on the lake fishing, etc. Mom has had a string of illnesses one after the other, I mean this woman cannot win for losing. Besides the bipolar illness she developed diabetes, horrible triglyceride problems, essential tremor, neuropathy, and now the latest, Parkinson's. Cannot walk well anymore and depends on Dad for total care. She is angry about it all and everything is now about her and how horrible things are for her. She sits in her electric lift chair and cries all the time and harrasses/henpecks Dad to death no matter how much he does for her..screams how much she hates him. yes, we do realize she may be suffering depression but she insists she's not and Dad will not say anything to the doctor about it. They get into these horrible horrible screaming matches and she will look at me and cry/scream "I HATE HIM!!" and Dad yells right back at her that he is trapped and doesn't want to be there. I have discovered I am now so emotionally affected by this, I cannot stand it. My two brothers have moved away to another state.. they came in one weekend to have a workday and both left shell shocked and said they will never bring their kids back because they did not want to expose them to our parent's situation and emotional level in the home. I have tried to just stay out of it and deal with it the best way possible and just help where I was needed. I had to go over a few times during the night to help Dad get Mom out of the floor where she had fallen, helped her use a potty chair when she couldn't get to the toilet, cleaned up incontinence accidents, cut her nails and moisturized her skin, cleaned in the house, just all different kinds of things like that just trying to be with her and take some of it off Dad. A few weeks ago they had a real biggie, it was so bad Dad's face was an odd shade of gray and he was in a sweat, I became alarmed he would have a heart attack or a stroke so I intervened and told them they could not continue to live that way, Dad needed a vacation and they needed professional sitters or caregivers come into the home and provide a buffer of sorts and take some of the load off, etc. I said it in a nice but firm way. Dad turned on me and it got ugly. Yelled at me that I better not tell him what to do and I just wanted to run things instead of help. (what the freakin hell?!?!?!) and Mom just totally went ballistic because he jumped on me and pratically had a seizure she was so angry. I could not believe it, started shaking all over and just told them I was going home to calm down. By the time I got home I was shaking so bad it scared my husband and oldest daughter so bad they wanted to call the doctor.. I could not stop for a couple of hours. By that night I had fever and chills and diarrhea that lasted for the next two days. This week is now coming up on a month since I've been back over there. My brothers called checking on me to see what happened (apparently Dad told them I had gotten mad at them and left and wouldn't go back over there) when I told them what happened they both chewed out our parents saying this type of living situation is totally unnecessary and is toxic for everyone..tried to convince Dad to set up sitters or in-home care, housecleaning services, and they would pay for it... so of course Dad ripped into both of them too... he has yet to talk to me since it all happened. They both said Mom cries alot because I have not been back over there. I feel so bad for not trying to spend time with Mom and try to get her out of the house, etc but I know if I go see her she will want to re-hash everything that happened, pick it apart, cry, get mad again, etc..and I simply cannot deal with it anymore. I don't know if all those years of fighting has left an effect on me and it's come to the surface or what, I really don't understand it but when I think about trying to help anymore or do things for Mom I get physically sick to my stomach all over again. I'm sorry this is soooo long, once I started typing it just all came out, wow... Would love to have anyone's opinion or feedback, anything.. thanks so muc

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Assuming your post is accurate..........Your folks are psychotic. Stay the hell away from them. Make arrangements at a distance. Don't deal with them. You can't deal with them. Don't pretend to yourself or your siblings that you can. It's over, dear. Let the professionals do what they're trained and paid to do. It will be expensive and emotionally painful. And unavoidable.

And whatever comes is NOT your fault.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2009 at 8:41PM
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your parents are 'toxic' people - they probably don't know any other way to live with each other - you can't change them now after so many years - it doesn't seem they want to change either.

Bottom line - stay away from them as much as possible. Tell them you simply cannot be around them when they act like they do - you could when you were younger (even though you didn't like it) and now your health simply will not allow you to be around them if they are going to carry on like that.

If you go over there - at the very first hint of trouble simply leave. After doing that a few times they might improve. Good luck. Carolyn

    Bookmark   April 28, 2009 at 9:34PM
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Wow, heart goes out to you and your family. It sounds like your parents have been living with fussing and fighting for a while. That may be how they are use to dealing with each other. You can't change that or them and it's heartbreaking that it's upset you so. I think you do love your parents dearly and want to help them, I just don't think they will let you.
I would stay away from them as much as possible. If you do have contact with them, leave if it gets wild. You can't fix them, you can't change them, and you can't let yourself get all torn up because they are act the way they do. Love them the best you can--from a distance.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 3:58PM
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Question? Have you ever been a 24/7 caregiver? I can tell you there is no way I will be around verbal abuse, but; until you have walked in your dad's shoes- do not judge him.

By your account, your mother is a verbal abuser,too. It takes two people to argue. Do you have any any idea of what bipolar people do? Do you know the games they play, the highs and lows they have, and; the fits they have coupled with rage, yelling, throwing things, to being outright down. How do you know your mom is taking her meds? Some refuse to take meds for fear of losing the highs to the side effects.

I do not know why your father ever went back to her? Maybe she conned him.

Mam, I have been a 24/7 caregiver to my wife for so long I cannot do it anymore. She needs much more care then I can give her. Love makes you keep going even when you are risking your own health.

Let me ask you if you could care for a person 24/7? I mean never leave your house for over one hour to get meds, groceries, etc.

I do agree your dad needs a break. He may be so depressed he is lost. I would call a mental health pro- send he/she over, and; then I would make a decision based on independent professional advice.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 5:58PM
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Not only are your parents in a death-spiral toxic relationship, but you need to realize you can't actually DO anything for them. You have no power of attorney and it's doubtful they'd give it to you or your brothers.

Definitely step back, try to call in the pros, and keep your interactions with them as limited as possible. You have a responsibility to your own family not to allow this to burden you in a way that would be emotionally harmful to the next generation.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 11:56AM
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WOW!! I really feel for you. This sounds like a highly volatile and abusive situation. They're abusing not only each other, but you too! You tolerated it as a child because you had no choice, but now that's changed. You have the power to not let yourself by subjected to this. I agree with what barker has said here. I would tell them that you love them and want to help them, but if they start up when you're there that you will leave. And then follow through and leave if they do. I really do think things might improve if you do this. Even if it's a little bit, it will help. You can't let them make you physically ill. You have a family of your own that you have to be healthy for. It's your parents choice to live this way. You don't have to be subjected to it anymore. There's actually a book that's been written that might help you. It's called "Toxic Parents", and the author's name is Susan Forward. I wish you luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Toxic Parents

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 11:54AM
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shantyel, My heart goes out to you. But, I agree with everyone else. Stay away and help from a distance.

lumper20, I'm so sorry. Please try to at least find help so you can get a break. 1 hr is not enough time away.
Love is really all we have and your wife is blessed to have your love. There are so few men left in this world that will take responsibility. My Dad was one and I'm glad I just met another one.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 11:10AM
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I have to agree - helping others should not come at such a cost to you and your well-being. For your own sanity, literally, you should talk to a therapist yourself who can explain what is going on, it is some sort of codependency thing when your dad defends your mother's reprehensible behaviour etc.

Clearly something needs to be done, but you need to look after yourself. There is nothing wrong with approaching their doctor and discussing the situation with them, it happens all the time. I would say it's clear that your dad isn't coping and has some mental issues himself.

My mum is herself very self-centred and somewhat verbally abusive of my dad, it took me a long time to see him through my own eyes and not hers, and work out he's a pretty cool guy. It was a shock to me to realise my first wife was very much like my mother, and my role very much like my dad's, although I didn't resign myself quite like he did, and eventually got out. I had to ask him one day why he put up with it, and he sheepishly replied since he'd put up with it for so long he couldn't do anything now.

I know this sounds callous, but I sort of hope she'll pass first and he'll remain reasonably healthy so he can enjoy some of his time a little more, and maybe come and visit with us (overseas) a bit, she's been too unwell to travel for some time.

I hope you can find the strength to do what needs to be done and distance yourself a little, if that's what it takes. Make sure your kids understand all this, again, talking to a therapist would help.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 1:12PM
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