I want the old Dad back

Since my dad was diagnosed with MS, our relationship hasn’t been the same.

Take a deep breath, says our elder, and resist the temptation to argue with him. There are people out there who can help.

Dear EWC

My dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2011. Ever since then, our relationship has shifted. We used to have a lot of fun together and we bonded over lots of activities. After being diagnosed with MS, his leg strength has gotten weaker and other symptoms have affected him. I understand how hard it is for him, but he asks a lot of me now by having me make trips for him and do other stuff. I am more than willing to put in the effort, but he never says please or thank you and constantly lets his rage get the best of him. I would say that we fight at least three times a week and he gets pissed at me when I am busy and cannot help him that moment. Now I am 18 and our relationship is worse than ever. I feel like every time we talk he’ll find a way to get mad at me. My mom says that his anger is a mechanism he uses to let out the frustrations about his disease. Either way, I never want to spend time with him anymore.

I miss my old, lighthearted dad who cared about me. I see little to none of that in this man anymore. After months of asking, I finally convinced him to do a therapy session with me and my mom. The therapy will start a week from Monday, but I fear it is too late. I keep on having these thoughts of wanting to get far away from him when I go off to college and limiting our relationship to pleasantries for the next four years. I dream of eventually not talking to him any longer, but I know that that is not a positive thought. I wish there was a way to mend our very broken relationship, but I’m unsure if it is too late.

Lawry replies

I would be happy to answer your letter. I am so sorry that your dad developed MS and that it is affecting your family dynamics.
I first want to applaud you for convincing your father that a therapy session might help. That is the first thing I would have suggested to you. It is never too late for therapy intervention. Some years ago, I was struggling with a few big issues in my life and I finally decided to seek out the help of a therapist. It was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.

It will probably take more than one therapy session to address the issues you are all experiencing, but it is well worth the effort.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is also a wonderful resource. They can help in many ways and there are even some support groups in various part of the country, too, although I don’t know if there is one close to you. But I would feel free to reach out to them for support. They may have other ideas as well.

When your dad gets upset, you just need to take a deep breath and tell him you hear him and will get to him as soon as you can. I know that isn’t easy, but if you give in and argue with him, things only escalate. You can also acknowledge that it must be frustrating for him to have MS and that you sorry that he is having to deal with it. It probably wouldn’t hurt to tell him that it’s hard on you, too, and that you miss your “old, lighthearted dad who cared” about you. Try to be as caring and understanding as you can. You may find that you want some therapy sessions just for yourself if the group sessions don’t help you. There are even some online free counseling websites you could investigate.
When it comes to your negative feelings, I want to share with you a tool that I have used in the last year when I have been dealing with a seriously ill spouse and that is to keep a gratitude journal. Every night before I go to sleep, I write down three things that I am grateful for that day. It can be a nice meal, someone holding open a door for you, talking to an old friend… It is a wonderful way to go to sleep with positive thoughts in your head and it forces you to find the good in your life, no matter how simple t may be. I often find myself smiling when I put down my pen.

I hope that this has been helpful to you, and I wish you a great deal of luck as you work on helping your dad and dealing with your own frustrations. I wish you much happiness as you move forward with your life. Think positive. I am a great believer in that.
I would love to hear how things work out for you. I’ll be thinking of you.

Letter #: 433623
Category: Family

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