Too stressed to cope


Registered User
May 30, 2003
Like her mother before her, my mother has dementia - every time I forget something I wonder if I'm next. My father has only recently agreed to have any 'outsider' involved ("cos mum'd never forgive him"), but since we found mum had herself requested an assessment a year ago.

Problem is, I really don't like my parents, neither does my sister. They have emotionally abused us, particularly me, all our lives. All my life I recall coming between them to separate violent rows which I thought I had caused, I felt guilty & responsible. They divorced about 10-12 years ago and we had one each for a number of awful years. I had Dad and he lost me my job, and put an immense strain on my wonderful marriage. Mum caused my sister to lose her business and go bankrupt and tried to destroy her marriage, cos she hates men, particularly sons-in law. Then, quite inexplicably they got back tog 6 years ago. I am currently off work being treated for stress caused by work, so when mum kept ringing me cos she thought dad was a stranger I just couldn't handle it and had to be sent away to a friend for a stay. I cannot at the moment go to see them on my own, and am scared of being at home on my own in case they come round. I have a caller display phone and can't answer a call from them. I'm terrified Dad will try the emotional blackmail he's so good at and try to make me promise to take them in and care for them or he'll threaten suicide. He actually tried it a number of times in front of me as a kid when I upset him. But he excels at denial. He has no idea how they have hurt us. The scars are inside, not visible.

My husband, friends and family are telling me I do not have to care for my parents, and I know it'd destroy me to do so. They say I have a responsibilty first to myself, my marriage and our children (19 & 22). I have such dreadful memories of having my grandparents in our home, my mother nursing her father through lung cancer and her mother through Alzheimers; I at about 12 was attacked a number of times with a poker by her for being her husband's fancy woman, but still outside services were shunned. I was taught you don't tell anyone your problems. School didn;t know, I just had to deal on my own with punishments for hwk not done, then with Dad's wrath for poor exam results. I was supposed to just cope. My teenage years were a dark nightmare that I still have immense problems with. I do not cope with stress and conflict at all well. My younger sister fared better, she went to boarding school where she had normal adult role models in her life.

How do I cope with the guilt? I have grown up feeling guilty in general thanks to my parents. Whenever anything goes wrong, I assume it's my fault and want to punish myself publically so people know I am sorry about it. I feel I should do that now over this and put all emotions aside, and be super-woman and nurse my parents like society expects daughters to. But I finally have come to something I just cannot do, the cost is too high. I just want to run away and hide. My husband's being wonderful, and wants to protect me, but I think I'm being an awful trial. Should I go bigtime for the 'happy pills' and invite my parents to move in even if it threatens my marriage and sanity? Finally, for the first time in my life I am asking myself do I really deserve that punishment? I think I'd be in the psych ward or graveyard first.


Registered User
Apr 28, 2003
guilt, stress, whatever

Hello Heather - I'm sorry to to learn of your mothers diagnosis. You're not alone in the way you feel. Many people think that because a parent suffered a particular condition they will 'inherit' it. Couple this with other feelings of guilt, low self esteem, etc. and it's pretty easy to convince yourself - harder to convince yourself otherwise.

Some of us are fortunate enough to have/ had wonderful, supportive, loving, kind, etc. family backgrounds with happy, sun-filled childhoods (just like in the tv ads).

Others, like yourself, have had a horrendous time (I think it was Alan Bennett who said something about it being just as well that childhood happened early in life - we'd never survive it if it came any later). Most peoples life experience falls somewhere in between the two.

No matter what, these experiences shape and help determine how we are now. Threre are no hard and fast rules about loving, or even liking, parents or anyone else for that matter.

The expectations of 'society' are open to a variety of interpretations and, as well as champions, there can also be victims of 'doing the right thing'. True it is generally more common for people to feel they should care for their parents and it's great when people are well placed and able to do so.

Given the experiences you describe and the way you now feel I think the 'right thing' for you to do is to consider yourself. You might feel you have some moral responsibilty for your mothers care (I don't think you have, but you feel what you feel) but you have no legal responsibility whatsoever (I know this isn't about the law but it's important you are clear about this). The only people who have legal responsibility for her care is her local social services department. They are required, under the NHS and Community Care Act 1990, to assess her needs and provide the necessary care for her and, under the Carers and Disabled Children's Act 2000 for her carer, your father.

If you walk away from the situation your parents are not going to go hungry, homeless, or fail to receive the care they need. True the services of the welfare state vary from area to area but you have no control over that and your parents will not suffer through neglect. Perhaps in separating yourself from the situation (and getting some other help for yourself, more on that later) you might feel differently in the future - perhaps you won't but you need to take some action now.

Guilt can be such a fickle emotion. Sometimes helpful in influencing us to do 'the right thing', often a gnawing, toothachey irritant. I don't think 'happy pills' alone are an answer, although modern Prozac type anti-depressants can be a useful crutch for a while. They might make you feel 'better' but they won't take away the guilt. There are lots of different counselling type services and finding the right one for oneself can be a bit daunting but 'a thousand mile journey starts with the first step, etc.'

Some suggestions for your first step:

1. ask your gp if he/ she can help

2. No Panic (help people with anxiety problems) Help-line on (FREE PHONE) 0808 808 0545 or website

3. British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
(can help you find a qualified counsellor)
BACP House
35-37 Albert Street
CV21 2SG


MIND infoline: 0845 766 0163
confidential information on every aspect of mental health – from where to get help if you’re in mental distress, treatments and alternative therapies, to who’s who in the health services

nothing you say to any of the above will shock them nor will they judge you for your attitude or actions.

Hope this is of some help