Illness and the so-called loving parents and the ways they love to control

I am leaving shortly for therapy but just thought I’d throw this stuff out there.  I feel really lousy today.

Anyway, it occurs to me that when a kid gets “sick,” many parents, while appearing distraught, are actually delighted that their kid is sick.  They relish in it.  Their kid has failed at school or college and has come home to Mama.  Their kid is needy once more.  Their kid tried and failed to be independent.  Their kid cannot be on his or her own.  Their kid needs Mama.  Come to Mama.  And even if the kid doesn’t in fact physically come back, if the kid is in, say, another state, the parent feels terrific knowing that the kid has failed and is in a state of neediness.  This kid has been reduced to near-infancy once more, to helplessness.  The kid cries out.

Now, the parents have this golden opportunity.  Finally, they can take over like never before.  They, with the help of the hospital, can control everything.  The hospital gives them information about all kinds of things that they have never been privy to before.  Vital signs, weight, what the kid thinks and feels, what the kid eats, and what the plans for the future are. All these the parent has a say in and has control over.  This has never been the case before.

Whether you are 16 or 25 or 60, think about your parents’ status right now.  How much control do they have over you?  Has this control changed since you became ill?  Do you feel that you are being treated like the responsible person that you indeed are, or are you being reduced to an infant because of your illness?  Do people trust you enough?  Are you being respected as a decent human being, or are you being treated as less than human because of your illness?  Are people listening to you?  Do you feel controlled by anyone right now?

Hold onto that thought and I’ll be back with more.  I’m going to spend time lying down before therapy.  I feel really rotten.

2 thoughts on “Illness and the so-called loving parents and the ways they love to control”

  1. I think it can go another direction as well. My dad definitely relished in me being sick because it allowed him to push any blame off himself. The fact that I was so screwed up wasn’t because of bad parenting: it was because I was depressed or because I had an eating disorder or because of something just inherently wrong with me. I was very surprised and angry when my father found out about my eating disorder because he went around and told quite a lot of people. And I didn’t want that. It was private. But the reason he did that was because he wanted to prove to everyone that me having issues wasn’t his fault, but that I was the problem and that there was just something -wrong- with me. I realized this when we attempted to do a family therapy session and he would take absolutely no part of the blame for me developing an eating disorder. He immediately pushed it all off and said that it was my problem, I brought it into his life, and he wanted no part of my recovery because I was biologically screwed up in the head and he obviously nothing he did could have ever contributed to something like that.

    1. Hi Rebecca,

      Ah, family therapy….As a writer, I found that re-telling and re-creating these sessions in dialogue form was pure joy for me. I found it difficult to resist turning my parents into caricatures, especially my mother, who exaggerates every gesture she does, and speaks in exaggerated tones to begin with. I used these short chapters almost word for word for my first stand-up comedy acts, and the more I quoted my mother literally, and used her gestures as she did them, flinging my arms dramatically, flashing smile about the room, hands on hips periodically, and of course my father’s end-of-paragraph word, “shiksa!” …I guess something gelled. Family therapy was a huge joke.

      (*A shiksa is a non-Jewish woman. Both brothers married non-Jews.)

      Take care of yourself,


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