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On behalf of my dad... fathers feel free to comment

Hi everyone,

My dad is 56 years old and undergone about seven major spine surgeries including fusions and laminectomies. I doubt another surgeon will ever touch him again. He has permanent nerve damage from all of the compression... both calves have no muscle in them anymore, he can't stand on his toes, walks slowly with a limp, and lots of body parts are numb/on fire all the time. He has perforated his colon because of all the medications, tried this, tried that, he's even looked into getting his limbs removed to stop the pain, but the nerves are going to fire forever because of the damage. (Who's the genius that designed nerves to control the pain/sensory aspect AND the motor?) I

He's a very stoic, non complaining man and because of that he was refused disability even when one of the most famous neurosurgeons in the country gave his word that my dad was genuinely hurting. It seems like nothing has gone his way in life and growing up with him not understanding his chronic pain was a nightmare. He was always so cold, directing his pain in the wrong places and lacking sympathy for any one else's pain. He's very intelligent and was a successful worker... eventually work took too much of a toll on him and his medication loads were getting ridiculous, causing him to slur in his speech. This was extremely embarrassing for him since he's so well respected. Because he was turned down for disability, he retired sooner than he wanted to to put himself out of misery. He used to be active and a great athlete, which makes his story even more tragic... so having athletic children has been a blessing for him to relive his past in a way but also a reminder that he can never do it again. I feel like he resents his family but at the same time we're the only reason he still gets up in the morning.

Maybe someone else can relate to this, either as my father crippling his relationship with the people close to him because of pain, or as me, the daughter trying to connect with him. For those of you with chronic, debilitating pain, what would you wish of your children to improve your quality of life? I would ask my dad directly what I can do, but we've never been close and I've accepted that we probably never will be. He's too far gone and I think ashamed of his past behaviours where he clearly lashed out for the wrong reasons. He used to threaten suicide in front of us when we were little, just fed up with it all. My mother is kind and supports him after his retirement but she isn't very attentive or supportive. He's not the type to wallow and would avoid support forums or any support for that matter like the plague, so that is off the table.

When someone is in chronic pain it affects the whole family. He's tried everything and does anything he can not to interfere or put his problems on us... I just wish sometimes he would. I would rather hear him complain than see him retreat in a depression and lock himself away. Since retiring his mood has been better, but I just want to try and help him get the most of out of this life that he struggles so hard to endure every day. If it's this bad now I don't even want to think about him at 70 if he even makes it that long. "Life sucks and then you die" is sort of the motto one requires being raised with someone like that. After getting out on my own I'm much more understanding of him and would like to give any joy I can but have no idea how to connect with someone so distant. He is so lonely and won't let anyone in. My best bet at communication with him is a letter, he freezes up and gets defensive in face to face conversations... he's that hardened.

Can any chronic pain dads pipe in?


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 04/10/2014 - 7:38 PM

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • But I know what it's like to be the child of a parent with chronic pain. I did a post called "What it's like for a child growing up with a parent with chronic pain". I don't know if you will find it useful, but if you read it you will know your not alone.

    Based on what you posted it sounds like your dad is pretty depressed. By chance is he on any anti depressants? Based on what you've described I'm guessing no. Any chance one of his dr could convince him to give it a try? There are some that can help with chronic pain as well as depression.

    You are a wonderful daughter to seek us out, & ask for ways that you can help him. But, you can only help him if he's willing to be helped. I so don't mean to sound harsh, but at some point he has to stop playing the victim & decide he is going to make the best of his situation, & get on with his life. He may not complain outright, but he is still playing the victim role. My mom did the same thing, so I know how it feels.

    At some point, you have to realize that you are not responsible for your dad's happiness. You can extend your hand, but it's up to him to take it. If he won't go to counseling, you might want to consider it.

    One of my biggest epiphanies in life was when I realized my mom was not capable of being the mom I needed her to be. It had nothing to do with love, she loved all her children deeply. She was just so caught up on her own issues, she just couldn't be the type of mom I needed her to be. Realizing this helped me let go of a lot of anger; not all but a lot, & our relationship improved.

    Sorry I'm not the dad you requested answering your post, but I can relate to what a lot of what you talked about. I wish you the best of luck with your dad.
    We can't always control the cards we are dealt in life, but we can control how we play the hand
  • paranoidpparanoid Posts: 4
    edited 04/11/2014 - 3:42 AM
    No need to apologise, I am thrilled to get advice from you. You're right, I'm not responsible for his happiness... I have been to counseling myself and I finally feel mentally healthy enough to not let his pain get to me so much every day. Because of that I feel the need to avoid him less. As a child you just stay out of the line of fire the best you can. I just feel like he's never had any coaxing to talk about his problems because he was so explosive and didn't know how. I think I'm struggling with extending the hand now, as you say, so I'm not sure if he would take it or refuse it at this point. Our communication together is just strained and distant so I guess I'm looking for a starting point.

    He was on anti-depressants for the purpose of relieving pain a few years ago. His mood was noticeably improved to everyone to everyone around him but he claimed he didn't feel any different, haha.

    We seem to have similar experiences with our mothers as well. ;d Thanks so much for the thoughtful response, I will definitely check out that thread.
  • My kids have been wonderful throughout my pain journey. They know I have limitations and what they can to help me when I need it. There have been times where they've wanted me to do something with them that I just can't take a chance doing (snow skiing, white water rafting, ziplining, etc). I've done some things with them that I probably shouldn't have, but I don't want to stop being a dad.
    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
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