Posted by: Jack Hope | Monday June 25, 2012

Sometimes I Just Can’t Keep It Together

Dear Terry,

I don’t know how I’m going to survive this sometimes. The emotional toll that all of this is taking on me, on the people around me, is starting to add up and I don’t know how much more I can take. Even when things seem to be taking a turn for the better, it’s like a river trickling down to a creek: the lake is still filling up, just more slowly than before.

Sooner or later, that dam is going to burst. It’s just inevitable, it can only hold back so much.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, things just come apart. It’s no one’s fault really, just the inevitable result of pressure and time. And such is what happened last night.

My parents have always been the kind to bicker and argue. They don’t do it nearly as much as they used to but they still have their little skirmishes. As they like to tell themselves (and those who happen to overhear them, such as neighbours, or the Church ten kilometres down the road) they’re just loud people. Basically, it’s a lot of thunder over nothing.

It’s always bothered me though, largely because it’s an example of some of the worst sort of hypocrisy, a type of childish behaviour that they would both be quick to berate me for should the opportunity arise.

This time though, it was something worse. Like a lot of people with a Depressive Disorder, I also struggle with a lot of anxiety and occasional panic attacks, generally only while I’m in the midst of a pretty major episode. So fortunately, full-fledged ones seem to be few and far between.

Needless to say, managing and avoiding stress triggers is very important to ensure that I don’t have panic attacks. So naturally, when I’m feeling a bit frayed, avoiding loud noises and conflict can give me the space to maintain some equilibrium.

So when my parents decide to have one of their customary spats last night, I have started to feel anxious and that growing tightness in my chest. So while they went through their routine I decided to take some space and try to avoid a full-blown panic attack.

Unfortunately, that’s not how my parents interpreted things when I told them that I wasn’t coming up for dinner.  The entire situation rapidly disintegrated into a fight, which naturally brought on the panic attack I had been desperately trying to avoid.  The reason why this precipitated a fight that involved me: they thought that I was trying to tell them what to they could do in their own house.

Just so I’m making this clear: my parents had a childish fight with each other and I become the bad guy because I don’t want to be around for that?  Especially when I’m feeling anxious to begin with?

I think I finally managed to explain it and make it clear.  I don’t care what they do as far as they go.  They can yell at each other from now until the year 3000 for all I care. But by that same token, I have every right to avoid it, especially if it has nothing to do with me and especially if I’m already feeling anxious.

At one point during the argument my father said something to the effect that this was their house and they would do whatever they liked. Except if they’re doing things that are impinging on my mental health. Otherwise that pretty much negates the entire purpose of me being here.

I suppose it’s over though and that I got my message across, that they will be more respectful if I need some emotional space.  We may be family and yes, that does mean it is okay to express our emotions in front of each other, but sometimes that’s not the best thing to do either.  At one point, I was very upset and my hands were even shaking.  I was left feeling pathetic. Like what little dignity have left has been completely shredded. I can’t even cope with the stress of living with my parents, how can I cope with life?

I’m trying not to let it get me down, that it’s just one incident and that in a day or two I will have moved on and be back on track (even if it is on a slow order) and to just move on. At the same time though, there is a real cloud hanging over me from this whole episode. Do they really get it? Will they be able to respect the fact that sometimes I need them to back off in order to be able to cope? Do they really understand that a couple of incidents like this in close succession could become a major setback?

I’m not asking for much, but I’ve certainly been made to feel that this was major slight and insult. Along with all the other doubts and problems I’ve had, this entire family support thing seems to be shaping up to be at bet a wash, perhaps not doing any worse but definitely not doing any better than I was before in terms of getting better.

I still genuinely do feel that there are signs of progress, possibilities on the horizon for things to get genuinely better.  None of this has really changed the reasons for optimism.

But the road from here to there seems to have suddenly gotten a lot bumpier.

I miss you very much right now. I wish I could talk to you in person more than ever, especially right now. You always had the right advice for me when dealing with these sort of things. I hope you’re doing well.

All my love,




  1. I know exactly how you feel. People without depressive disorders do not understand how their actions effect the depressives that care about them. My parents fought all the time as well all my life and it always made me wonder why they were together. I would eventually try to make them see how silly they were being and get stuck in the middle of the fight. Very stressful indeed. I believe that to a point our depression is a byproduct of the environment we grew up in. I always try not to argue with my partner in front of my daughter, but sometimes it is unavoidable. We really don’t fight much, we are both pretty mellow.
    Bottom line, don’t let them get to you. Keep doing whatever it is that you need to for you. Shit, wear earphones when they fight so you don’t have to hear it. 🙂
    Ps- you make me talk too much.

  2. Hi Jack, I too find that people in conflict around me also stresses me out and damages my state of mind. I don’t know if you’re already doing this, or even if it would help, but I’ve found for myself that when I have something to say to someone that they probably don’t want to hear that it’s best to try to talk about it when I’m not upset; sometimes people hear better if you’re not angry/upset when you talk to them. Of course, that is not always possible.

  3. you said, “I can’t even cope with the stress of living with my parents, how can I cope with life?” OMG! Are you fricking kidding me? Living with parents IS one of the most stressful things in life especially for an adult! I can’t even be around mine for that long without becoming anxious.

    I used to sit there in panic mode when my dad started belittling my mom in front of the whole family. Then one day I decided I had enough and gathered myself and my kids and left the family function that was at their house. My dad later apologize for upsetting me but said, “that’s just how we have always been. it’s the way my dad talked to my mom, etc.”

    I said, “I understand, but that doesn’t make it right, and I am not asking you to change but I am no longer sticking around to witness it.” It was an unspoken message of “if you want me to come around then stop verbally abusing mom in front of us.”

    He has stopped (at least in front of me – what goes on behind their closed doors is none of my business.)

    I think it is awesome that you called them out on it. We have to set boundaries – it is called taking care of ourselves. Yeah for us! 🙂

    • You make a good point and there’s been more fall out from this episode, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be writing more on this topic in the not too distant future.

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