July 14, 2011

OCD and Family Patterns....

I think I’ve used this title before.....

How does one finally – if ever – have enough distance from their family upbringing that it doesn’t pull them in anymore?  My family is so dysfunctional – actually – more specifically – my parent’s relationship is so dysfunctional, and after all these years of therapy, I STILL find myself getting pulled into old patterns, and then feeling very emotionally affected.  And it is a HUGE trigger for my OCD.  This is something that I long to be free from. 

For years I hated my father.  He is incredibly old fashioned, chauvinistic, and domineering.  In short – he scared me.  My dad is basically completely emotionally inept.  He REFUSES to experience any feelings other than the “happy” ones.  So – feelings like sadness, fear, depression, and anger were NOT allowed in our house.  The other day I was talking to him on Skype about my Mom and her current physical and emotional state.  I asked him if he thought that she was depressed (she is dealing with terminal cancer), and his response was: “I have no idea.  I don’t know how to read those kinds of feelings.”  So sad on so many levels.  First that he has been married to my Mom for over 40 years, and he is that emotionally disconnected from her AS SHE IS COPING WITH TERMINAL CANCER that he can’t even tell if she is depressed.  The man wouldn’t know what it looked like if it hit him on the head.   

Gradually though my overall anger towards my Dad has diminished and I’ve started to see the balance in the responsibility for dysfunction in their relationship.  My mom does the “victim” role REALLY WELL.  It’s comfortable for her, and she uses it to her advantage.  Everyone feels sorry for my Mom.  She’s a GREAT martyr. 

Since my brother and sister are several years older than me, I was basically an only child, left alone with my parents, for several years.  Within that time, a very unhealthy pattern developed between the three of us.  For some reason I felt like I had to protect my mom.  Usually what would happen is I would end up in a big fight with my dad, and go away crying because he was so hurtful and abusive, and my mom would end up in a big fight with my dad because of how he treated me.  Or, I would be witness to all the ways my dad would mistreat my Mom, and she would cry and not stand up for herself.  Now that I’m older, I really wish that she just left him.  But – that was her choice, and she has to own it.  I’m SO TIRED of protecting my mom from something that she CHOSE to stay in. 

Tonight was an emotional night.  My mom has had severe back pain for over a month, but being the great martyr that she is – she has refused to go to the doctor to get to the bottom of it.  Dad and I have been – as she calls it “bullying her to go in and get it checked out”.  We’ve argued about this on and off for the last couple of weeks.  Finally tonight, after talking to my dad about both of our frustration with the situation, I got her on the phone.  Mom, I want to tell you that I am very concerned about your health, and because you have refused to go to the doctor, I am feeling very frustrated.”  This conversation went on for over an hour and a half.  She immediately became defensive.  I was told that we were bossing her around etc etc.  She then said: “I will go on Monday.  Dad has to take the car in for servicing tomorrow.”  (Are you kidding me????) To which my Dad said: “I don’t have to take the car in tomorrow, I can re-schedule that.”  When we finally got her to agree to go to the hospital, my Dad said something about going to take the car in first, and THEN going to the hospital.  See!  My Mom said.  Dad isn’t being very nice to me!”  When I questioned her about what she meant, she said that he agreed to not take the car in but then reneged on his agreement (my mom is in a lot of pain so doesn’t want to sit in a car dealership waiting).  I finally said to her:  Mom – you have a voice.  If you don’t want to sit in the car and wait while Dad takes the car in for servicing, then say so!  Do not allow yourself to be a victim here!”

Then I felt guilty because I think I made her feel bad.  I just can’t win.  My family is so f%*&ed up.  I hope someday I have the confidence to know that things don’t really have to be this way, and that I can create my own reality.  I am not doomed to repeating the past. 


  1. Hey POC! My grandpop is EXACTLY like your dad is. It's sad, at a very young age I was terrified to be around my grandfather. Being around him alone actually caused some of my earliest panic attacks.

    Families are very hard to deal with, and most of the time highly disfunctional! I have a brother who just recently moved home, and I've had a rough go at accepting him back, but he's family, so... Ugh.

    It's very frustrating, but you will create your own reality for yourself. Maybe it'll take a year, maybe 5. I *try* to think confidently that dispite my OCD, that there is a plan for me. Gotta have some hope, right? Oh, and your plan won't be modeled after your parents. It'll be modeled after YOUR dreams and YOUR values and YOUR morals. Amen. :)

  2. Thanks Lolly for that vote of confidence!!!

  3. I think you have the right attitude but that doesn't change how difficult the situation is...I'm sorry to hear of your mother's cancer. No matter what issues you have with your family, it is hard to see a parent suffer....you're in my thoughts!