I’ve been struggling lately.
(UGH, that sucks to say…)
Not like, using full-out behaviors struggling, but having eating disordered thoughts popping back in my head. And when they do, my wise mind quizzically says, “huh?” and pushes them away, at least for the time being. That’s the cool thing about working so hard on my recovery – having old thoughts doesn’t mean they become old behaviors.
Eating disorders are just a distraction from the real issues at hand. For me, they’re a way of “numbing out” or dissociating from current emotions because they’re simply too hard. And if you have strong emotions, like me – it’s deceptively helpful, because who wants to live with sky-high and below-ground emotions 24/7?
In an attempt to not slip back into old thoughts, I’m going to tackle one of the issues at hand.
Yesterday, Father’s Day put me in a really bad mood. And I felt really fucking guilty about it, because I have another Dad to celebrate now – my daughter’s father. But I couldn’t get out of it and here’s what I’m guessing was the cause:
My Dad’s health.
My Dad is 83. He was born three months before the Great Depression. Up until two years or so ago, my father was unstoppable. He lived 5 lives before he even met my mother, flying airplanes in the Air Force, schmoozing with celebrities as an actor, teaching classes and co-opening his own theatre.
And then old age struck.
But it wasn’t just physical health – in fact, the emotional health fell away first. He stopped working, started getting depressed, and then his physical health began to fail. He needed to use a cane. He needed to use a walker. And then he needed to use a wheelchair.
Not to mention the fact that the stuttering which he struggled with as a kid mysteriously came back about 8 months or so ago. So basically, he can’t talk.
Or hear well, or see well. He has hearing aids in both ears and has macular degeneration.
My mother takes care of him, and also takes care of my daughter two days a week. One of those days, she brings my father with her, and he lights up at anything my lady does, but it’s a production just getting him in the house.
So, you’re thinking, I must be torn apart. And I am, on one level. But let me give you a little history.
My father is from a totally different generation. The kind that thinks mental illness doesn’t exist, or maybe that it’s a choice. So he’s had trouble understanding or even acknowledging what I’ve been through at times, and denies any depression on his part. I jokingly remind him that I’m licensed to diagnose him, but he dismisses it.
And let’s just say he wasn’t given the best upbringing emotionally. So, he and I were never particularly emotionally close. Maybe it was because I clung to my mother in the early years and he took it personally. Or maybe it was because we were too alike and clashed during my teenage years (We are so alike. Stubborn as anything, intelligent, independent, ambitious, curious.). Either way, the “Daddy’s girl” thing always eluded me. I’m not putting him or I or our relationship down – it just wasn’t us.
So, now that his health isn’t great and it’s obvious that he probably doesn’t have 30 years left to spare, I’m left thinking I should feel something different, or do more. I’m sad – it’s fucking inhumane to watch your parent decompensate like that. And I feel bad on a daily basis that I can’t do more because I have my own family. I feel bad for my mother. But I also have about two minutes to spare on a daily basis, and when I do, I try to take care of myself.
It always comes back to that issue – that I’m not doing enough.
My partner likes to remind me that I have, however. He likes to remind me that I’ve made my amends to my father for past transgressions, and I’ve set up VA services for them, and made calls to the Council on Aging to look for any services they could utilize.
I don’t know.
It just sucks, and this is the work I have to do, writing about it and talking about it, instead of distracting myself with useless thoughts and behaviors. And I usually don’t do it out of fear of insulting some family member, but I’m sick of living my life for others, and I think everyone would agree with what I’ve written anyway.
Have you ever had to deal with the loss of a parent in one way or another? How did you healthily cope with it? Did you ever catch yourself numbing out?