Sunday, December 26, 2010

painful holidays

My head is spinning. I have a headache. I can't sleep. I need to decompress.

The holidays are always bittersweet with my family. I love Christmas, on the one hand. There are the good things, the laughter, the giving and receiving of gifts thoughtfully picked out, the funny pictures we take. The fact that I'm actually seeing my dad and my half-brother and half-sister who I only see on holidays.

Then there is the crap. There is the overwhelming tension and stress, which starts at my mother's house and continues at my father's. There is the fact that my mother is lonely and we always have to leave her alone to go to my dad's, and it always upsets her. There are the awkward gaps between my dad and some of us, the lack of closeness that nobody intentionally created and nobody knows how to fix. There is the alcoholism which runs rampant and unchecked in my family, or semi-unchecked. There is the fact that I know someone is secretly getting drunk. There is the fact that my dad drinks and offers wine and beer to someone else who's a self-proclaimed alcoholic and supposedly doesn't drink. There is the being stretched too thin that comes with having divorced parents. There is the awkward lack of knowing what to say to people in your own family because you really don't know each other at all, and you have nothing in common. There is the trying to blend in with people who are joining your family. There is the way my mom wishes everything was better than it ever is and gets angry at other people because it isn't.

There is the fact that my dad still has not said a word to me about my college graduation which took place a week ago, and never bothered to respond to emails which I sent him about it, including one that had a link to all the pictures. Yet his girlfriend did mention it. And he didn't join the conversation, because he is not only not proud of me, he thinks I am a failure and that it is stupid of me to even be trying to go to college at my age. And he's ashamed of me.

My dad still hasn't really forgiven me for things I said about him eight years ago. I said things when I was psychotic which I only said because I was psychotic. Sometimes people do things they can't undo. I apologized for all this years ago, but because you can't really pick up the pieces that easily after you don't have any communication with your dad for six years, there is still no closeness between us at all. And I miss my dad being like a dad to me.

For those new to this blog, I will explain. When you are psychotic you have delusional thoughts. One of my delusional beliefs was that I had been molested by my dad as a child. I reporter this to social services a few years ago because I was worried about my youngest brother and sister. In a psychotic state, what you think is real does seem very real. When I realized years later that I had probably not been abused at all that way, I apologized profusely to my dad. I thought we came to an understanding when I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia that the reason I had those thoughts was the psychosis. I thought we would put it all behind us. But I guess some things are so major you can't put them behind you. And this was apparently one of those things. So, no, today, five years after I apologized and had an explanation, I am not close with my dad.

Mental illness and alcoholism both run rampant in my family and nobody talks about any of it. I am tired. My dad is not interested in NAMI or in what I am doing with public speaking. He's ashamed of me, and he doesn't want to hear about any of that, so I don't talk to him about it. I doubt his fiance even knows I have a mental illness that I'm getting treatment for, or if she does, I wouldn't know that she knows because it is all to be hush-hush and not spoken of in my dad's house. I am tired of having to feel ashamed of who I am.

No, I am not a success compared to my cousin who is a lawyer, but yes, I am a success, damn it, in the case of someone with Schizoaffective Disorder who has gotten better and fought hard to deal with this illness every day of her life. Why doesn't that count for anything? No, I am not 17 and in college at a state university like my youngest sister. I am 35, and I just got a two-year degree. But I got a degree. That should count for something. That should matter to my dad. He should care. And he doesn't care.

I'm sick of the stress that I get from being around my family. It starts out all good and well and I'm glad to see them all. But I'm sick of the lifelong tension that has to be there, the anger and hurt and the lies and deceit of the alcoholism, and the fact that nobody's really very happy at all. I'm sick of that. I'm sick of watching people destroy their lives with untreated, or incorrectly treated Bipolar Disorder and active alcoholism. I'm sick of that. I'm sick of the fact that I always feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, and I always worry more about everybody else than they even worry about themselves, because I always feel like it's my responsibility to do so. I'm sick of that. No, I can't fix their lives. No, I can't give them advice, because none of them take my advice when I do give it to them. And no, I don't really need all these people's problems when I have enough of my own problems already, which I deal with all alone.

In the end we retreat to our own corners until the day ends. As my dad would say, it's every man for himself. We all live our own quiet lives of desperation. We all can only hope to help ourselves. In my family there is a lot of pain. And being around all those people with their pain in one day is too much for me. I cannot take it.

For weeks, I would drive around singing Christmas songs in my car, and enjoyed shopping for presents. But in the end, I'm really glad Christmas is over, and once again it was rather disappointing. But I'll cherish the good memories. The laughter, the goofy videos my brother took, the good food, the taking of pictures, the playing of Trivial Pursuit. I'm really grateful for the lovely presents I received. And there's a whole year before I have to do it all over again. Thank the universe for that.

Right now I just long for sleep and the ability to stop worrying about my family. I suppose I should go back to those Alanon meetings I was going to a few months ago. But I'm not sure I want to do that or have the time. Mostly, I just want to stop feeling other people's pain all the time. I'm just not sure how to stop doing that. I can't rescue the world, and the feeling that it is my duty to do so is really causing me a lot of unnecessary stress that is not good for my mental state. I'm open to suggestions.


  1. Hi Jen,

    I can relate to your bizarre thoughts while experiencing psychosis in a round about way. While I was psychotic I believed a relative had molested some of my other relatives and I cried about it a lot. Another weird thought I had was that my parents were not my parents but one of my aunts was my real mother. After I received treatment I did not believe those strange thoughts.

    It is unfortunate that your father cannot do research on the illness to have a better understanding and to let the past accusations go because you were not well.

    I am glad you acknowledge all the things you are doing because it does take a lot of hard work to accomplish so much while living with mental illness. I am very happy for you for getting your degree, you give me hope that I can do the same.

  2. Thanks, Ashley! Unfortunately, my dad is not interested in learning about the illness. I wish he was though. Things might be a lot better if that were the case. I'm glad you are going to college!

  3. Jen it is so unfair that your dad won't educate himself about your illness. I mean to say if one's child was afflicted by any illness you read up on it.

    I think it is wonderful that you have such empathy and compassion for your loved one's. I hope you have a wonderful rest Sunday to recharge after the holidays.

  4. The holidays never seem to turn how out I figure they will. You shouldn't have to put up with that kind of behavior from anyone; let alone from your family.

    I dread family time because it always seems to turn into a disaster where I end up getting hurt. I read your post and I felt like I was reading my own life story.

    I connected to the feelings you were expressing and just wanted you to know that, you're not the only one. You aren't alone. Your family my not show you much respect or concern, but we in the online ward do. :)

    We SA's have to stick together!! ;) Let's create our own online clan and plan our utopia!! :)

  5. I'm sorry, Jennifer. Your father sounds like he holds grudges and doesn't go out of his way to understand behavior. I hope that you are feeling better today.

  6. In the Pink ~ Thank you for your empathy. It is appreciated.

    H.B.W. ~ I love being part of the "online ward". When I read blogs like yours, I know I'm not swimming alone in this river of brain disorder and this world which makes no sense.

    Jennifer ~ You are right about my dad. Thank you.

  7. Hi Jen,

    You know, I had a similar experience when I was first psychotic that my father had molested me as an infant, luckily my therapist didn't support me on that and avoided the whole psychoanalyst approach with me and so I didn't wind up believing in the delusion. It does make me wonder why some of us have that particular delusion along with delusions of grandeur such as being Jesus.

    Jen I appreciate your consistent and disciplined honesty and your eloquence. I am sorry that you had to face all the family tension yet again this year, but I think it's a good thing that you showed up and took part. Though it can be hard sometimes, you are setting a good example for the rest of us, both those with mental illness and those without. You show up, you stay receptive, and you do the work. The fact that you earned your degree is a huge and wonderful accomplishment. Do not let your Dad's lack of reaction get you down.

    About holding the world on your shoulders and worrying so much about your family members, I really do think you should give Al-Anon another chance. Get one of the daily readers, they are very good. I know you are agnostic, but I still think you can get something from the 12 step philosophy of keeping the focus on yourself rather than on others. Codependency is just as much an addiction as drug addiction and it doesn't help you or anyone. And there is nothing wrong with detaching with love. Do what you can for those you love, but also set boundaries and learn to let go. Just my two cents...

    Happy New Year Jen,

    Kate : )


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