Feelings of Guilt Dealing with Emotionally Toxic People – Father in Hospital

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    I am struggling with feelings of guilt and anxiety. My father went to the hospital yesterday for a block in his pancreas. This happened while I was at work and when I checked my phone I had nearly 8 missed calls from my dad’s partner. Both my father and his partner have majorly overreacted in the past about medical issues. My dad in particular makes a huge deal out of his sicknesses. He tells everyone he can that he is far worse than he is and feeds off of the attention. I am enraged by this behavior. I am now an adult but I have a deeply rooted trauma of him telling me he was going to die from illness when I was 14. I remember being absolutely miserable whenever he got sick growing up because he would make the entire household such a terrible place to be. If he wasn’t feeling good, we were all expected to feel bad too.

    My Dad’s partner is very similar to him in this way. After leaving an incredibly long shift at work, I called my father’s partner and he said I needed to spend the night in the hospital or at least come visit for a few hours. Two people were already staying with my father but my dad’s partner insisted he couldn’t be alone in the hospital. Every cell in my body wanted to scream. I tried to tell him how it made me feel, and that my father was surrounded by a team of medical professionals and that my presence was only going to add to his theatrics. He told me that I didn’t care about my father and some things that were untrue and hurtful to me. I hung up and started sobbing hard. In total, my Dad’s partner had called me 14 times in one day. I called my friend who told me I did the exact right thing by protecting myself from the toxicity. Is this true?

    I’m not sure how to cope. I am moving in four days and starting a new job next week so it’s like the stress is drowning me. I’m so anxious I’m sick to my stomach. I feel angry with my dad’s partner and annoyed with my father. And I feel guilty. Please advise. Thank you so much!


    Dear Sylvia:

    I didn’t understand what your friend said to you, that you “did the exact right thing by protecting yourself from toxicity. Do you mean that your friend said that you did the right thing by not spending the night in the hospital with your father? If that is what your friend said, then I agree.

    Your story reminds me of the story of my mother. I think I was five when I first heard her announce that she was going to die (by committing suicide). Half a century later, she is still alive. And yet, I have suffered that long from anxiety every single day of my life.

    Eventually, I ended all contact with my mother and am still in the process of healing from her emotional threats over the years to end her life.

    I think that it will be the right thing for you not only to not spend the night with your father, but also to have no contact with him. If ending contact with him is the thing that will allow you to live a life where you are no longer stressed or drowning in stress because of your father, if it will allow you to move and start a new job, make your life a better life, do whatever it takes.


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