A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

My Father


Sorry I haven't picked up the pace. I've been preoccupied with two things: the I Ching and the fact that my father fainted on Tuesday and is in the hospital. He took a stress test today and they found something. Tomorrow morning they are going to put a catheter into his groin and up into his heart to see if there is some kind of blockage. It might be serious but it might not be serious. We won't know until tomorrow. Tuesday I asked the I Ching "What can you tell me about my father's fainting spell?" I got the hexagram 19 - Approach - with a moving line on line 6, changing into hexagram 41 - Decrease. Hilary has taught me that when looking to interpret an answer first try putting the names of the two hexagrams together. In this case that would be Approach Decrease. Which makes sense in that my father is almost 81 years old and has to come to terms with gradual (hopefully) decline in health. But the hexagram Approach is a very positive hexagram according to a Chinese translator Alfred Huang. At least for a while. The text reads: "Approaching. Sublimely prosperous and smooth. Favorable to be steadfast and upright. Ends in the eighth month; Misfortune comes." The text for the moving line reads: "Sincerely approaching. Good fortune. No fault."


No news yet about my father's diagnostic test. I will call him in a few hours.

After my father called me from the hospital on Tuesday, I felt a bit nervous and numb. For the rest of the day and the next day I just sat with it. I prayed. The day before he fainted I had sent him an email asking him to tell me about his nervous breakdown about forty five years ago. When he called me on the phone from the hospital he began tersely to answer my request. That took only a few minutes: He had been in a psychiatric hospital for two months, took no drugs and then was in therapy for two years. He said his illness had nothing to do with mine. He said his illness had less to do with paranoia than with some kind of panic reaction. I wanted to talk to him more about it but realized, once again, that he really didn't want to go into it and him being in the hospital stopped me from pressing it. Later I thought, what if my question about his breakdown triggered him to faint? Could the topic be that powerful to him?

My father has always been kind and gentle with me but emotionally distant. He is perfectly willing to analyze a worry but not to go into the more private and personal problems of his life. Over the years my mother, brother and I have come to assume that the reason my father is often unavailable emotionally is because his father was an alcoholic, sometimes an abusive alcoholic. Again, my father never has discussed the abusive aspect of his father's behavior towards his mother with me even though I became involved with an abusive alcoholic. On the other hand, it was my father who was there for me emotionally when I was going in and out of my relationship with Brendan. My mother was just angry at Brendan (though she never really got to know him) and also at me. She said I was a "sucker". And to a certain extent she was right, but my father didn't spend time like my mother judging Brendan and me, instead he listened and offered support. And when I became acutely psychotic, he was there for me from Florida the very next day and stayed with me for a month. It's obvious to me that my father has a good heart and a smart mind which is why it is frustrating that I can't talk to him about my illness or his or his childhood with an alcoholic parent. He can tell me facts about it but not so much the emotional content of it. When he has talked about his father it's been with great sadness but always a brief touching on it and no delving into it.

I've been told that, unlike my brother, I was an affectionate (if whiney) child. I've seen pictures of me crawling on my father and giving him hugs and kisses but I don't remember it. I do remember that when I was around four or five my father would tickle me but way too hard. I never told him because I didn't want to hurt his feelings I guess. When I was a little older we would go bike riding in the park and sometimes go to movies together. He worked a lot and so I didn't see him as much as I saw my mother. And so I bonded with my mother more than my father.

There were no paternal (or maternal) rules in our home and no chores. My father was not the stern patriarch of some families. While I was growing up it was my brother who was the focal point of the family. He had emotional problems and problems in school. From a very young age he started trying to compete with his brainy parents. He needed a more traditional father to lay down some rules for him and to encourage him in sports. But my father was not athletic. He was a lawyer who faithfully read his New York Times every morning over juice and an english muffin or cereal. He would talk history or politics but not sports. Like me, my brother spent more time with our mother. There were tensions there too but they did talk to each other about their feelings. Talking about feelings with my father was just not done and so my brother and I went to our mother. For a while there it was the three of us who bonded and my father who kept to himself. But when my mother and brother would try to gang up on my father I invariably took my father's side. I guess I instinctively knew that my father was wounded in a way that none of us had been.

Until now. Now I've experienced some of the hidden things that my father has experienced: living with an alcoholic and mental illnes. I thought maybe we could bond over this and who knows, maybe we still can but for now, I'm not going to push it on him and if it turns out he can't, I'll still love and respect him.

(A few hours later...)

I tried calling my father's hospital room at three but a nurse answered and said he had gone to another hospital. I tried calling my parent's cell phone, no answer so I left a message. Then I worried a bit. Why did he go to another hospital? Was there a problem? Why hadn't my mother called me? I felt tired and lay down but I had said I would bring a tape of a soccer game over to my brother who is a soccer junky. Also I had to go to the pharmacy which would close for the week-end in the next hour and a half and I was hungry and thought my brother and I could go out to lunch. So I called my brother. No answer, then he called back 20 minutes later. So we went out to lunch. When I got home still no message. So I started working on a portrait of my father and mother which kept me occupied till the phone rang. It was my father saying he was home. The diagnostic test did did show two blood clots in more minor veins but this could be treated through drugs and there was no need for any surgery and so he was let go and went home with my mother. He called me soon after they returned.

It is a great relief to know that he doesn't require surgery. He has a slow acting leukemia which is in remission but because of his age and condition surgery would not be a good option for him. He will go see his doctor on Monday and have his medications adjusted. He sounded in good spirits and glad to be home.
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