Fair warning: this is going to be a deeply personal post. It's probably not going to be to everyone's taste, so if reading about someone else's family problems at length isn't your cup of tea, feel free to move along now. I'll be back to posting lighter fare next time.
Here's a cute George picture to enjoy before you go:
Last night might well have been the beginning of the end of my relationship with my parents. I guess some things have been coming to a head for a while now, but I'm still shocked at the turn things have taken all of a sudden. Things got ugly. Both my mom and my dad said hateful, hurtful things to me and the worst part was, it was unprovoked on my part.
My dad was always a really nice guy. He's had certain mental health issues off and on his whole life, and the last few years his physical health has deteriorated significantly, but despite all that he's always been kind and gentle, without a bad word to say to or about anyone. But it would be a lie to say he was a good father. He was an alcoholic for years and years, and didn't quit drinking until I was in my twenties and had been living on my own for years. He was fully 50% of the reason I was so very anxious to leave home the moment I was able to in the first place. In the early years of dad's sobriety he went all-out born again evangelistic Christian and that took the place of alcohol. He was (and is) obsessive about religion in exactly the same way as he was about drinking. It's been a strange thing to watch. And slowly, over the years, he's become less nice, less gentle, less loving.
Fast forward to today, and his physical health has declined to the point that he's taking a ton of prescription medications, two of which happen to be strong pain medications and Xanax. Sometimes he sounds and acts exactly like he did when he was drunk all those years ago. Except back then he was a nice drunk and these days he's anything but. I think I found out the reason why yesterday: Fox News.
Dad has become a Fox News junkie. His mental health issues are back full force, his physical health has gone downhill to the point that I expect him to die any day (that's not hyperbole), he's hopped up on all kinds of pills, and according mom he watches Fox News day and night. He has recently, for the first time in his life, started cursing and ranting and raving, being angry and aggressive, and having manic episodes. Apparently he barely sleeps and goes on long, furious tirades about Liberals and Democrats and Jesus and the Wrath Of God and the Danger Of Hell.
So on Thursday night, out of the clear blue sky, he started sending me private messages on Facebook, cursing me, ranting and raving about abortion of all things, telling me I'm evil and I support baby killers (Democrats) and that I'm on a fast track to hell. It was so profane, so unlike my dad, that I finally responded with: "'m going to assume my dad's account has been hacked. This isn't the kind of stuff my dad says to me. And if it is you, you owe me an apology." He proceeded to scream at me some more, cursing me out, basically acting crazy. I finally disengaged and messaged my mom: Do you know the stuff dad is saying to me? She messaged me back and started going into how my dad has been unwell and almost delirious for a few days now, so I said, "This isn't a conversation for Facebook messenger. Let me call you" and she told me emphatically NOT to call, that it would "set your daddy off". What the hell?! So I said, "Mom, he needs to see a doctor asap. This aggression and personality change is a warning sign. Something is really wrong. You need to go talk to his family doctor." I told her to call me when she felt comfortable doing so, because we needed to talk about this.
The next day (yesterday) she called. Dad had gone somewhere so she was free to talk. (Like he needs to be driving a car (!!!) but I digress...) Anyway, she started in about how out of control he gets: manic, aggressive, then crashes and sleeps for days. Really alarming stuff. But then she launched into her familiar litany of woes: how hard her life is, how nobody helps her, how she's "sick myself" with diabetes and how hard it is to deal with my dad when she never feels good herself, she cries every day, her doctor had to up her dosage of "nerve pills" to deal with the stress of it all, etc. etc. Now, that all sounds pitiful but you need to understand that my mom's a narcissist. Everything is about her, the world revolves around her, no one has problems like her. Her, her, her, her, her. Always her. Her feelings, her wants, her needs.
I kept trying to calmly steer the conversation back to getting some help for dad, but she deflected everything I tried to suggest, just as she always does. When I pushed the point that she needs to step up and get him medical help for whatever is happening to him right now, she got defensive, totally lost her cool, and started screaming at me. She's apparently been holding back lots of things she's wanted to say to me for years now, and last night was her opportunity.
She told me what a shitty daughter I am, how I never come to see them and never help them, how my dad is right and Democrats and Liberals "love abortion" and "hate God" and they know that I'm both, how I treat their "grandchildren" (my cousin's grandchildren that my parents have decided are going to be their grandkids since I didn't give them any real ones) like dirt and refuse to be "a part of OUR family", how she loves my cousin's daughter and her husband because they care about her the way Gregg and I don't, and furthermore, we think we're better than them all.
Then she started in on Gregg, which was just a fucking bridge too far. She kept referring to him as "your husband" instead of by name. She listed the things she dislikes about him. As I sat there and let her talk she kept getting more and more personal and more and more offensive so I finally just hung up the phone. She might be my mother, but no one on this goddamn Earth is going to talk to me like that, much less say nasty things about my husband. Like I said, a bridge too far.
Later, instead of cooling down and rethinking the way she went off on me, she doubled down and starting sending me Facebook messages elaborating on even more ways that I had been a terrible daughter to her. She even brought Gregg's family into some of it. She called me names and told me to unfriend her on Facebook and that I was "on my own" from here on out. Just nasty, and so upsetting!
You guys, I'm exhausted. I've had enough of being bullied and emotionally abused by my parents. I'm 45 years old and I've tried, I mean I've really tried, to be the best daughter I could under the circumstances. Remember when I told you earlier about my dad being a nice drunk when I was growing up? Well, mom was a mean drunk. She was an alcoholic, too, just like dad. Some of my earliest memories of her involve so much emotional abuse that sometimes I could weep for the little girl I once was. I'm not being melodramatic here, at least I'm trying not to be. There were only a few times when the abuse I experienced became physical, but that happened too. Then there was domestic violence between my parents that I was a witness to in my preschool years.
Want an example of some of the things I experienced when I was young? When I was about 4 years old I watched my mom put a gun she fully believed to be loaded to my dad's head and pull the trigger. The only reason he's alive today is because he had unloaded it at some point, probably after another one of their terrible, furious, knock-down drag-out fights. From the time I started school I suffered terrible attacks of anxiety, and the OCD I inherited from dad started to manifest itself early on. My parents never noticed. When I was 16 had the first of two emotional breakdown/mental health crises that I would suffer before I reached the age of 30. My parents didn't notice. I got involved with a much older guy who treated me like total trash when I was 15 and in the 10th grade. My parents didn't notice or care that a 20 year old man was taking advantage of their daughter. In fact, they kind of liked him. I left home and moved in with him at 18, married him at 19, and fled the marriage at 22. He was abusive in (surprise!) much the same way my parents were. When I left that marriage I moved away from my hometown and put a little distance between my parents and myself. It was the best thing I could have done. I haven't looked back since.
Since then, I've built a life that I love, and a small family of my own, and I'm fiercely protective of both. But despite all that family history, I've never confronted my parents about anything, nor have I ever said one single word of reproach to either of them. I tried hard to understand the reasons behind some of their actions: my dad's mental illness, the abuse my mom suffered at the hands of her own father, alcoholism. I've chosen to be polite and, admittedly, somewhat distant with them over the years, and any time they've had health emergencies and the like I've dropped everything, took time off work, and been there for them. I'll admit, I don't enjoy spending time with them and as people I don't like them very much. But because they're my parents I still love them. And I've always shown them respect and tried to keep some small vestige of a relationship alive because it seemed like the right thing to do. You know?
I think we've reached a turning point now. I'm really close to saying: Enough. I'm sorry my dad is mentally ill and not fully aware of the horrible stuff he's saying to me. I'm sorry my mom feels like I've somehow failed her instead of the other way around. On the phone last night, when my mom told me that my cousin, my cousin's daughter, and her daughter's babies were precious to her and she thinks I'm just a "jealous little shit" I finally snapped and said, "Fine. Call them the next time you need something. I'm done." and that's when I hung up the phone. And until I get a sincere apology from both of them for the way they've treated me this week, I have nothing left to say to them. And even if I get an apology, they aren't welcome in my home or in my life for a while. I need (and think I deserve) a good long break.
If you're still reading here, thanks for letting me get that off my chest. This has felt horrible and writing it all out has been cathartic. If you have any advice or experience with family estrangement I'd love to hear about it in the comments. I think my biggest issue is the guilt I feel about cutting off contact with my parents, no matter how awful their words and actions make me feel. Advice, thoughts, observations welcome. And thank you for being here. I love you guys.