After much research and therapy, I’ve realized that as a child, I was emotionally neglected by my father who has had schizophrenia (disorganized type) since well before my birth. My mother, who passed recently from cancer, also had depression and later, BPD. I was raised in the home as an only child and whilst my mother was higher functioning and managed my better than my father did, my upbringing was still dysfunctional. My father was never affectionate and during his manic episodes, would turn verbally abusive and physically threatening. My mother, a trained nurse, tried to cope with her own struggles and being the only responsible parent (financially, physically and emotionally) in my family, but it was difficult. We endured homelessness among other things. No extended family support existed since relatives turned a blind eye. In many ways, I still blame my father for our struggles and his decision to have a child.
As an adult, I live overseas from my father, who lives in an assisted living home since my mother passed and he suffered a stroke about 18 months back, which has caused cognitive issues (memory loss and incoherent speech). I Skype him every two weeks since he has people locally who are from his church that visit him once a week and set that up, and I have been grateful for that. However, I have noticed that since his stroke, he seems more manic and more emotionally aggressive than in the past. Hallucinations were never a big part of his illness before (as I said, he has disorganized schizophrenia, which is a different subtype), but I feel that he may be suffering from them more these day. To make matters worse, his nursing facility stopped his psychiatric consults for over a year (without informing me or his local Power of Attorney), and I only just discovered this and had him re-assigned to that Dr, who is again managing his care.
I am happily married and have one child and another on the way. We have been through a lot (I was diagnosed with depression myself and hospitalized briefly after my son was born) and I see both a psychiatrist and therapist for my depression, which is being managed well. Last month however, a lot changed when I returned “home” for a wedding and to see my father. My husband and son stayed back at home in the USA. My father was very verbally abusive, demanding and even physically threatening towards me. For example, he would call the house phone where I was staying at 5am and want to know where I was taking him out for the day. I calmly told him it was still early and to call back later. He then swore at me (quite bad swearing too). The next day at the nursing home, he leaned in to take a punch at me, and I am pregnant. I had to stop visiting him in the assisted living home for a few days after that as he was causing my depression to escalate and I felt again like when I was a small child, humiliated, unloved and angry. He would come back the next morning and act as if nothing had happened.
After returning from my visit and talking with my therapist, who I have seen for four years now and knows my whole situation well, I was advised to cut communication off from him, at least until my pregnancy is over. I wrote my dad’s friend who sets up the Skype and told him, but I know he doesn’t understand why I want to do that. It’s so hard trying to tell people who weren’t there during your childhood, just what damage was done by my father. They think that because he is elderly, and has had a stroke, that I should be sympathetic and understanding towards him. The trouble is, caring for my father has been my whole life’s job, not something recent like most “normal” families with ailing elderly parents. They think the verbal abuse and physical threats are stroke-related, even his psychiatrist suspects that, and it may well be. But I am nonetheless supposed to cope with that reality and at the same time, preserve my own emotional health, while still communicating with my father?
Hoping others of you who have endured the same situation can offer your feedback. I’d be particularly interested to hear if you have had to cease communicating, even temporarily, and whether that helped you at all. I feel so guilty, but I also am worried for my own health and the stress that this situation may have placed on my unborn baby.