family and your mental illness

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I like the thread Dating With Mental Illness for talking about firsthand experiences w/mental illness but it's a narrow topic so here's another one w/a different theme

I watched Devil & Daniel Johnston years ago and was struck by how his family were the only ones there for him in the end. And so it is in the US, if you burn through all your friends, and there's scantly any support from the state (and you can still burn through that), what do you do?
Is your family helpful, or not, or in between?

social justice warriors... come out to play (Abbott), Saturday, 28 November 2015 17:51 (five years ago) link

For me, there are a lot of strings attached. I grew up LDS and it took years to convince my family I wasn't part of it. I had to work very hard to convince them to stop telling me to read the Book of Mormon or pray or go to church again.

However, aside from that, they understand me and care about me very much. They're a major support system for me. I can call them up when I am feeling edgy or harmful and they'll listen. They're pretty accepting about it. They all live far away in other states or I think they'd do more like cook for me. I don't want to get too close though.

Two years ago I had a mental breakdown and almost quit my job. I was crying all day every day. I would call my parents up and just cry, was my side of the conversation. They'd say, "What's wrong? can I do anything?" and I couldn't even make words. It had to be very frustrating for them.

One day my dad pulled the desperation move of saying, you can move back in with us. We'll take care of you. I was seriously considering it because it was weeks of this struggle and tough to see a way out. Then he told me I could get baptized again, go back to church...I hung up on him.

social justice warriors... come out to play (Abbott), Saturday, 28 November 2015 17:52 (five years ago) link

everybody in my family including me is in various levels of bad shape, but I'm the only one who's attempted to do anything about it, so I have to avoid them as best I can. when they go off the rails they are genuinely paranoid and disconnected from reality, which is increasingly the norm. it's really painful, because I would like to be close with them, I love them, but they've reached a level of real toxicity and I have to take care of myself - there's some old AA/NA chestnut about how you don't have to accept an invitation to a nervous breakdown (I'm struggling to call the exact wording to mind), but that's where I'm at with this stuff. I try to respond from a healthy place, which invariably looks really arrogant to them: they're trying to argue, but I won't do it.

intensely stressful. the more distance I put between myself and them, the better I feel. much love to you A.

tremendous crime wave and killing wave (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Saturday, 28 November 2015 18:07 (five years ago) link

i'm super blessed in that my parents (still together) have been behind me 100% and we see pretty much eye to eye on most things. it's not all gravy, though, they have their own issues with depression/anger/control.. in fact a big part of my "growth" has been learning not to take on all of their emotions/problems myself.

brimstead, Saturday, 28 November 2015 18:45 (five years ago) link

See I was never close to my parents, like I don't think I've ever hugged my mother, and my father lives in... Korea I think? At least the last time I spoke to him. Anyway, these days I live in the same town as my mother and she comes round to visit me every few days for what I consider spurious reasons, but it occurred to me recently that maybe she's just checking on me? No conversation about such matters but I kinda appreciate her, which is kinda a weird feeling to me. I grew up in an abusive household (for the brief periods when my father was about) and my mother has that misplaced middle class sense of shame where we DON'T TALK ABOUT OUR FEELINGS, but I did ask her once if she'd take care of my cat if I stopped existing, she said "yes", end of conversation, but I am thankful for that.
My siblings and their partners (at least the ones who are still alive and I'm still in contact with) are friendly with me in a kind of polite way, like was there a family letter to treat me with kid gloves? But I'd approach certain other friends in a crisis ahead of any of them. My I suppose I should really call them drinking buddies, I don't discuss shit with them, but they mop me up when I'm bleeding and talk me down when I'm frantic and yeah they hug me.
I am on better terms with everyone related to me than I've ever been, but I can't forget lying in bed and hearing through the floor my father shout at my mother about how I wasn't "right", and hearing my brother crying in his bed across from me every night when my father used to climb into my bed (something we've never spoke about, but hangs in the air between us on the rare occasions we speak), but that's probably for a different thread, fucksake I'll shut up now sorry for oversharing. Love you all.

Jonathan Hellion Mumble, Saturday, 28 November 2015 19:17 (five years ago) link

I'm really the only one in my family WILLING to say like, "I've got a mental illness," which means lots of calls over the years from siblings and cousins (who I fucking hate but will still help out on this level), like, 'so...I heard you take pills for stuff, what's it like, what's worked, ps don't tell anyone I called.'

The only extended family of mine who are super functional and no problems have been adopted. In my family it seems like it hit every other sibling, which is pretty weird. Also I & my two siblings who have left the church are coincidentally the ones who have struggles. It's hard not to feel like everyone else perceives it as a punishment from God for being unfaithful.

social justice warriors... come out to play (Abbott), Saturday, 28 November 2015 20:06 (five years ago) link

My family's so private. They just don't talk about anything! Like last time I saw my uncle, he picked up my little brother's accordion and played a couple polkas very beautifully! No one knew he could play the accordion. Not even his wife. That's a hard instrument to play! That's how discussions work in my family; they only happen if there's an accordion sitting out on the counter. Metaphorically.

social justice warriors... come out to play (Abbott), Saturday, 28 November 2015 20:10 (five years ago) link

It's so hard to talk about. But in a family like mine, it's so hard not to talk about.

On one level, for my whole life, my Mum has been my most useful ally and most dedicated advocate - sometimes literally when I was embroiled in the legal system and sectioned. Like, if my Mum had not been fighting for me, it's entirely possible I would have ended up rotting in an institution. But at the same time, there's this weird denial that my problems have been as bad as they've been. (Which is insulting, because, I understand her need for denial, but at the same time, what's the alternative, that I'm just wilfully acting this way, or making it all up?) But I do hugely admire the way that she has gone to bat for her children when needed, that she supported both my brother and myself through inpatient admissions - I know for a fact my brother would not be alive without her efforts. Not that he ever acknowledges any of the things that she did for him when he was hospitalised.

I mean, my mother has trouble admitting that some of the stuff has been as bad as it has been. But nothing on the absolute blanket denial coming out of my brother. Which often really scares me. And I think is actively harmful. I mean his daughter...

After I got re-diagnosed with Asperger's, I was constantly surprised by which parts of the family reacted how. My Mum, who had been so supportive over my previous mental health battles, just did not want to accept it. It took weeks for her to come round, and I still don't think she's entirely there yet. (Part of this, I think, is over-identification with me. She always sees me as a miniature version of herself, and though she has suffered from serious mood disorders and PTSD, she has no autism at all, and just does not - and maybe cannot - see those parts of me or understand that I am Not Like Her in those ways.) My brother - blank wall denial. In fact, worse than denial. It's like he wants to actively disprove it. My Dad (who was just kind of ... not really there through my hospitalisation years. Physically not really there, as in, ran away to California rather than deal with it) just went out and took some tests and came back "Oh, hey, it seems like I also test very high for this, and it seems extremely likely that I'm on this spectrum, too." He has no problem accepting it at all; he's spent half his life in Silicon Valley, it's just totally a non-issue to him.

But my niece is the one I'm scared / hopeful / I don't know what for. My Mum told me to get in touch with my ex sister in law (we hadn't really talked since I cut off contact with my brother) because Something is up with my niece. I was aware that she had been expelled from several schools for behavioural problems and "emotional disturbance" and she's only 8. So I emailed my ex-SiL, which I never do because she never seems like she wants to keep in contact with me (fair enough, my brother was a cockfarmer to her during their divorce) and said, oh hey, I've recently been diagnosed with this, and there's a strong genetic component, so if my niece is behaving like (X, Y and Z; really problem ways that I behaved when I was that age) you might want to get her tested. And I got back this long and detailed letter about my niece and what was up with her, (all incredibly familiar problems) where she said that she was just so grateful for me TALKING ABOUT IT, because she had been struggling to understand my niece's problems, and struggling to get a diagnosis, or help, or anything, and said that she had tried to get my brother to go to a specialist about his own issues, but he was just a blank wall of denial.

But I don't know what to do, because my SiL said, please keep in touch, your niece is going to need you. And then disappeared again. But my niece is 8, I can't really keep in touch with her except through her mother. And her mother, despite asking me to keep in touch, and me trying - she just stops answering her emails. I honestly don't know how to respond when there is such a disparity between words and actions. I always tend to go with actions. If someone says "oh yeah, I want to be friends with you" but never answers the communications I send them, I am incapable of reading this as anything other than "Oh, it really looks like this person is lying for whatever reason, they say they want to be friends, but their actions are clear: they do not actually want to be friends." (Why are people so weird like this? It's perplexing and infuriating!)

And it's like I want to be there, I want to be available to my niece as she grows up. But I just think, if we don't develop a relationship while she is a child, I'm going to be a stranger to her by the age that I can actually give her relevant help. But if my SiL won't communicate with me (I don't even have a postal address for them!) then how on earth am I supposed to build that relationship of trust that she may well need?

Families; argh, they are complicated.

La Düsseldork (Branwell with an N), Saturday, 28 November 2015 20:48 (five years ago) link

My sister's partner is a DRONE PILOT and I never really wanted to talk to him (becos, yknow, FUCKEN DRONE PILOT) but now he's had some sort of breakdown (QUITE FUCKEN RIGHT) and is paid off from his job and on all sorts of meds (like, the same ones as me but half the dosage) and now I kinda relate to him somewhat more, like we don't discuss FEELINGS, but we'll recommend Manga and games and crappy 80s action films to each other, it occurs to me that I don't really talk to anyone, I just make up for it with bad sex and substance abuse. I GET BY.

Jonathan Hellion Mumble, Sunday, 29 November 2015 01:43 (five years ago) link

i started sharing a lot less with my mom (who is bipolar) as a teenager after i overheard her casually talking to her friend about it on the phone. that was an enlightening moment. then again i just disclosed her bipolar status on a message board.

qualx, Sunday, 29 November 2015 05:34 (five years ago) link

i was already extremely awkward around extended family it's so much worse when you don't know how much they know about your craziness

qualx, Sunday, 29 November 2015 05:36 (five years ago) link

I cut all communication off from every blood relation two years ago and it's been quite good for me, in the way that cutting off a poisoned water supply is good for a pond. things are a little on the dry side but some meager grass starts growing again. i'm aware of how lucky i am to be able to do this and have some basic support. the lds church was also in the mix in my situation. ultimately i can't see how anyone who is an active part of that organization and claims to care for me is not full of shit and undeserving of a relationship with me plain and simple. it's made things easier, on balance, to follow that truth. even if i feel somewhat brittle, alien and cast off. better than feeling constantly wounded. also i may not exactly be dealing with crippling mental illness though things have always felt a little off in that department, maybe borderline, not sure, enough for therapy to be benerally a good idea.

mattresslessness, Sunday, 29 November 2015 06:34 (five years ago) link


mattresslessness, Sunday, 29 November 2015 06:37 (five years ago) link

My family is great. OK, wait, my mom's side of the family is great. My dad's side of the family, by which I mean "my dad" because everyone else is dead, is terrifying because he's miserable and broken and has wanted to be dead for probably decades now, and there's nothing I can do to help because he doesn't answer the phone, and I'm terrified that I'll wind up like him. For decades I felt guilty for not talking to him and it was only recently that I realized that he's been avoiding me way more than I've been avoiding him. But my mom is fabulous. She's always been there for me and while she knows better than to put up with my bullshit she is infinitely patient (or at least patient in a manner which asymptotically approaches infinity) and has never tried to make me not weird.

Family care systems are a crapshoot. A lot of people just wind up with codependency and I have friends whose problems are just being made so much worse because the relatives who are supposedly "caring for them" are broken in non-complementary ways. Unfortunately I feel like this is a problem with every care system I've seen.

rushomancy, Sunday, 29 November 2015 16:03 (five years ago) link

My mother is great because she likely is who I got it from. She has the same paranoia and OCD-symptoms I have, the same tendency to freak out and follow "slippery slopes". She doesn't have the benefit of being medicated and seeing a therapist like me, but she has always been there for me about it. My brother doesn't talk to me about it, but he's been supportive, and even asked me what it was like before.

My dad, well....he's never been unsupportive about it, but he's not exactly a sympathetic figure. He'll yell at my mother when she's in the midst of a freakout and make it worse. Which makes me wonder how he would have treated me if mine was as bad as it is now when I still lived with him. I still remember finding an extremely stressed-out mother sobbing on the bathroom rug as my grandma had just spilled shit all over it and tried to hide it. My mom is a neat freak to almost unhealthy levels (OCD likely) but it wasn't about that - she was just really stressed out and it was the straw that broke the camels back.

I comforted her, and in a move I still regret, got dad to come do the same. He hugged her, and then immediately started SCREAMING at her "Will you SETTLE DOWN?", like that was going to help. I was pleading with him to stop and he wouldn't and she was crying even harder. Then he tore off into his room and left her there while I tried to comfort her again.

I confronted my dad, sobbing myself, saying I just wanted to keep us united, and he was dismissive, saying "I don't know how much longer I can take *this*" meaning my mother.

Pretty much since then (that was 11 years ago), I realized he was NOT the guy to talk to about these things. It actually makes me sad to consider the damage my dad has done to his relationship with me and my brother. We both love him, but have grown tired of his manipulative ways, his short temper, and his petty childishness.

This year has been horrible for me anxiety wise, but I took my therapist's advice and confronted my parents on their fiscal irresponsibility and how they've been leeching off of me for 15 years and I've enabled them by not saying "no". This followed a period where they asked me for more money, even after I'd pleaded with them not to move back to Florida unless they could afford it. They did absolutely no research on moving costs and assumed mom would get a job immediately after the move (despite it taking two months the prior time they moved out of state). So I finally stood up and said they were killing me, that I couldn't bear the burden anymore of feeling responsible for their well-being, that it was causing me to drink more and sleep less, and that stress was eating me alive.

My mother completely understood and we had a tearful heart to heart in which she acknowledged fault and apologized for it, and said it would not continue. My dad? A terse message about "I never meant to make you feel put out". I realized talking about it further with him would be pointless.

So when he did something else stupid a few weeks ago and begged for $500 during a particularly stressful week, I erupted at him twice. About how I couldn't believe he was asking for more money when he just borrowed some the month prior and still owed me so much from earlier int he year. He didn't care what it was doing to me, or that it was triggering my panic attacks to come back again. All he could say to me is "I've had a bad week too! How do you think I feel?". Meanwhile mom called me sobbing, afraid I'd never talk to them again.

so in a way my folks are partially responsible for my mental health issues, however mom has done her best to be sympathetic and understand what it's like, whereas Dad could give a shit (or at least, that's how it feels). I hate what he's done to our relationship. On my 32nd birthday, he called me that morning not to say happy birthday, but to ask me if I'd gotten his text asking for $100. That sums up our relationship now.

Hammer Smashed Bagels, Sunday, 29 November 2015 16:21 (five years ago) link

I think a number of people in my extended family suffer from varying degrees and types of mental illness, but no one acknowledges or discusses any of it (except in hushed, conspiratorial tones about so and so having "the depression" as if it's something completely foreign to the speaker). So I naturally never developed much of an ability to discuss it openly (in general but most pronouncedly among them). When I fell completely to pieces and wound up living with my mom for the better part of two years, there was never any real conversation about my mental state at the time. With respect to my immediate family, I think the avoidance stems largely from tiptoeing around my dad and my dad's undiagnosed BPD (just my own armchair analysis, there). I'm getting better at talking about this stuff with my gf, with the aid of therapy, but discussing any of it with my family feels like it's a million light years away from ever happening.

The Squirrel Who Punched His Dad In The Neck (Old Lunch), Sunday, 29 November 2015 16:51 (five years ago) link

Branwell -- the part of your post about how your mother's response/feelings about your mental illness and viewing you as a "miniature version of herself" I think is a really important thing to realize/bring up, because I feel that is very common as well as potentially very difficult to deal with. I think it took my mom the better half of a decade to realize that my emotional distress would not be salved with "homemade toast with nice homemade jam and a cup of tea," the way hers were. Once she realized that I was not like her in that way, things have been a lot better. While my mother is a sympathetic person, she is very focused on helping in practical ways: food, money, money for expensive food ... at one point about 6 years ago, when things were really bad, she drove up and cleaned my kitchen, which in retrospect, did make me feel a lot better.

sarahell, Sunday, 29 November 2015 17:23 (five years ago) link

My mom is too out of it and consumed by her own shit at this point to really offer support. My dad tries on occasion (he was pretty great when I had a panic attack at their house) but the first time he ever found out my mom was on meds he flushed them and said no wife of his would see a shrink. sigh. Basically we just don't really talk about it unless required like the aforementioned panic attack. He is a lot better about my mom's MH now but that's only because it became impossible to ignore.

Benson and the Jets (ENBB), Sunday, 29 November 2015 23:07 (five years ago) link

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