Hello board -
I tend to suffer terrible anxiety/panic in the face of "going home" for the holidays. The problem is I understand where my anxiety stems from, however, I'm wondering if anyone would have thoughts/insight into my parents' situation. In a nutshell I believe there is mental illness in my parents and I don't know how to deal with it. I have tried talking to them a number of times over the past several years but they think and communicate very irrationally so it's next to impossible to get them to understand.
Both of my parents have socially isolated for years. They both suffer from a high degree of paranoia - they are convinced the government is watching them, that people are out to get them, that everyone looks down on them. My mother is obsessed with death and talks periodically about her fascination with suicide - this was a theme while I was growing up as well. My dad is a rage-a-holic who has calmed down in recent years (after I stopped speaking to them for two years after my father threatened my boyfriend's life), but the anger still quickly surfaces when you say something he disagrees with or perceives as "judgement". For example, he quickly became angry when I couldn't contain the look of shock when, driving through a nice neighborhood, he pointed out where the black people live and how they're "actually nice people". My mother is also obsessed with her dog. She expects the dog to eat immediately on command twice a day. When the dog doesn't eat she yells at her, berates her, and sometimes force feeds her. Usually the dog eats one meal fine but doesn't always seem super hungry to eat the second time. This is when my mother gets highly upset, claims her blood pressure is sky-rocketing as a result, yells at the dog and generally acts like the world is coming to an end. My mother is also a hyperchondriac - each Christmas she's convinced she has a major illness - two years ago she was convinced she had Alzheimer's and would cry periodically over it (she's fine and had no discernable symptoms), last year she was convinced she had lung cancer and would cough so excessively, to the point of dry heaving, it came off as fake. Previously she said Irritable Bowel Syndrome was causing her to "hemorrhage" from her rear (this one occurred when I was young and she would tell us she was "probably going to die soon" as a result.)
They are very stuck in the past. When I try to talk about current things I'm doing or involved with they usually act disinterested and change the subject. They can be dismissive of any accomplishments - i.e. my mother didn't attend my college graduation because she hadn't slept well the night before. They've removed all pictures of me and my brother from their house.
In a nutshell there's a lot of paranoia, control, hypochondria, rage, dismissiveness. Nothing is ever their responsibility. They blame me for our poor relationship - except I'm the only one who calls, emails, visits. My father has made it clear they won't call or respond to emails or visit because they are "the elders" and as a result "the children" should do all the work. I am frustrated, weary, and in therapy. My brother is broken (sadness/rage) and an alcoholic.
I guess I'm just interested in other peoples' take on the situation or if they've dealt with anything similar? My therapist agrees they're unhealthy and she's concerned when I spend too much time around them. Some of my friends think they're cracked... others think I'm being too hard on them. I do love them both and it makes me sad to see how they're living - but there really is no getting through to them.
I guess I'm just wondering if there's true mental illness on their part of if they're just.... weird.
Thanks for any insight... <3