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Monday, March 16, 2015

Love From Outside of the Door

It is possible to love someone who is toxic and to not keep them in your life and I am living proof.

A few weeks ago I received a phone call from a person in my family who has been extremely hyper-critical, hyper-cutting, judgey, angry, sarcastic...toxic to the extreme for many years. Interestingly enough, my extended family (aunts and cousins, et al) have always adored that sharp personality of hers.

We used to be incredibly, incredibly close. Those years ago, as time went on I saw that she was simply killing me from the inside out. I talked to her many, many times and she knew her behavior was hurtful and harmful and she knew that I was telling her what I needed from her. Yet she could not change.

The burden of change was on me.
Keep that in mind; the burden of change is almost always on the person who is capable of seeing things clearly.

I told her that, in spite of loving her, I would not remain in the same room with her. I would move my life outside of the door of her life and hope that she could become a person of kindness. About ten years ago, I did this, I closed the door and moved on. She continued to try to reconnect for awhile, then she started smear campaigns of me whenever she could...

It was painful, but I was grateful to myself for closing that door.


A few weeks ago she called me, these many years later, and she asked for my forgiveness. She told me that she knew that she had treated me appallingly and she knew that those years of her life were lived in serious anger and derision. The intervening years have been good and bad and have taught her many lessons about what is truly essential in her life. 

Her tears and insight were remarkable and hopeful.  I told her that I forgive her completely (because, why not? Why ask for more than her sincere growth and her sincere apology?
She said, thank you, you just forgive me?

Yes, I said, fully.


We talked again today and her loving heart and thinking mind are very obvious. I am happy for the major transformation that her life has afforded her. Today she said, When I think of what I want, at the end of my life, when I think about what means everything to me, one of those things is you. You were right, she said, to make the decision that you did to close that door on me because you are so strong and peaceful. I am happy to be in your life again.

I remain hopeful for the people who carry such hatefulness and cruelty and anger and pain-causing emotion in their hearts. But the door is there for a purpose. When I closed that door (and I would do it again if necessary) I was able to move forward, to see our history clearer, and to feel strong about the door's existence. 
I didn't expect her return; that is a hopeful new chapter; I am happy for her!

After a short conversation with my son I need to add:

Leaving this beloved person was not only better for me, ultimately, it required them to rethink their own choices...and moved them toward the path toward a healthier life...

Friday, March 6, 2015

My Parent is a Hypochondriac

child of a hypochondriac 
A First Person Account:

Her health, or lack thereof, is always the focus and always has been. I honestly have no idea if she is truly ill or not, ever. My responses to her claims vary from alarmed to tuning out ... because I'm exhausted.

I know I can't count on her because her issues always trump my needs. I have paid for personal help when I was on bed rest while she told people how ungrateful I was.  I only mention this because it, as a single example of a life long awareness, is to show that the reality of adulthood was one that I, alone, carry. She is free to be helpless, uninformed, unable, needy...  Somehow her weird alchemy results in her having power in those choices.

Life moves on, I'm an adult.  How does this affect me now?
As a parent I often have no idea how to respond to illness that my children go through. One of my first reactions is She's faking it  (insert shame emoticon here).

As the child of a hypochondriac I have a constant internal struggle between knowing the reality of a health situation and having no idea how to respond to it.

  • Is this really happening?
  • What are the realities of the illness?
  • Am I overstating the symptoms?
  • Am I understating the symptoms?
  • Am I being whiny?
  • Do I understand the necessary components to a medical issue?
  • When is it a crisis?
  • When do I need to see a doctor?
  • Is my child a hypochondriac?
  • How skewed are my perceptions of physical health?
  • What to do with the shame of not knowing?
  • What to do with the feelings that happen on those occasions that I need help from a friend or family member?
  • What of that odd moment when I need help and someone steps in generously?
  • I'm unsure how to respond to illnesses of my children. 
  • Am I ill...?
  • When I am ill, am I being a hypochondriac?

It feels shameful and embarrassing to never really know if my perceptions are accurate or not. And there is that additional confusion between uncertainty and appreciation when I need to ask for help and someone steps in...  I tell the healthcare provider I am the child of a hypochondriac and that makes it difficult for me to know if/when this is a problem so I appreciate your patience and information. Just today a physician said to me This is an issue that is real and that needs care.

I appreciated her understanding.

I continue to learn, to be honest, and to inform myself. I have surrounded myself with caring people who help me with my perceptions when I need that.  I am learning to trust my instincts. I am learning appropriate responses to illness and first aid needs. I am gentle with myself for my growth areas.  I am closer to the place where I know what to do. 

  • I can locate and trust good medical advice.
  • I can learn healthy responses to illness.
  • I can inform myself about how to respond to illness.
  • I can show my children these healthy responds.
  • I am gentle with my own level of understanding.
  • I can explain to my children and to myself how to arrive at a diagnosis and how to determine an appropriate treatment plan.
  • I can trust my senses.
  • I can keep my empathy and compassion whenever illness is involved.
  • My children are honest reporters.