Hello, This is my intro and I need help. I'm sorry this is a long post. I feel you need the background to understand where I am now. Many thanks in advance if you have the time to read and give me input.
I'm 40, female, and have my own special set of flaws and gifts, a great husband and a great 14-year-old son. Mom is 60 and Dad is 66. One brother, 37. Mom was just diagnosed with Bipolar II with Dysphoric Mania (the kind that makes a person irritable, angry, frustrated, anxious, erratic), not the Euphoric type.
In retrospect I realize that Mom's untreated disorder was likely the cause of her treatment for Alchoholism at 30, treatment for addiction to Morphine at 34 (resulting in the temporary loss of her nursing license), several car accidents in her 40s that resulted in Mom having neck and back surgeries and becoming legally disabled and a gambling addiction that bankrupted my parents. (The car accidents, I believe, being due to her driving when she was in a haze from gambling and/or drinking.)
Also in retrospect I realize that my Dad has never been the one to pick up on problems or to intervene and get Mom help when needed. (Nor has my brother.) The first intervention was done by my Aunt (Mom's only sibling, now 54) and Mom's friends. When I was 14, I was suspecting there were problems again. I don't really remember the specifics but I decided to call my Aunt and Mom's friend rather than Dad (at work) when Mom crashed the car into the porch. This resulted in the second treatment. Let's fast forward through years of gambling and car crashes and surgeries.
Until last month Mom had been on a combination of meds including Methadone (for pain), Lithium (for Manic Depression), Zoloft, Trazidone and muscle relaxers and more for 10 years. All the while behaving in bizarre, animated, and upsetting ways that everyone she encountered in public noticed and was concerned about. At home Mom would fall asleep standing up with lit cigarettes and/or coffee mugs in her hand. She would fall over and hit her head while feeding the cat. She would chant and hum and march in place. She would spend 45 minutes trying to make toast. I could describe 100s of odd things but won't for brevity's sake. There were times she was more "herself" but they became less and less frequent. During those times she was never happy and tried to control every situation she was involved in.
Over the last 10 years my Aunt and I have told Mom and Dad our concerns about Mom getting worse rather than better and being in danger. ("Mom, I've seen you fall asleep at the top of the stairs.") Mom and Dad became increasingly defensive. We were the bad guys who didn't understand how horrible it was for Mom to have to live this way plus endure our meaness on top of it. We should really be more understanding. It was even terrible of me to beg Mom to go to Mayo clinic (we live in Minnesota and I had a high paying job) to figure out how she could be more well. Meanwhile, people were asking us what was wrong with my Mom and why we weren't doing anything to help her. If Mom's friends (who all dropped out of her life over time) said anything, Mom and Dad complained about how mean they were.
Defeated, exhausted, heartbroken, both my Aunt and I recognized we were powerless to help and distanced ourselves from my parents. I still had them over for all the holidays and would chit chat if they called but we didn't have a real relationship anymore. I still had to interact with them but I just tried to keep them at arm's length and avoided being sucked into drama.
Two years ago my brother was around them more and witnessed enough of the crazy to also become concerned enough to do something. He and I sat down with Mom and Dad and shared our concerns. The four of us agreed that the best thing to do was to follow the advise I'd been given by Mom's doctor's office (and had already passed on to Mom and Dad long ago): Bring her to the ER when she is having an episode so that she can be observed. I was leaving the next day for a week's vacation. All four of us agreed that Dad and Bro would take Mom to the ER during her next episode which would likely be while I was gone. When I returned from vacation I learned that Mom and Dad had decided it was better to make an appointment with one of Mom's doctors who gave her a new magic pill that made her completely well again. Three months later we were back to the crazy.
Meanwhile, my grandmothers and a great-aunt (Dad's aunt) were aging and needed more help (they all lived in the same building). I've visited my grandmothers and great-aunt regularly for the past five years and take them on errands and grocery shopping and help to resolve any real problems that arise. All the while dealing with Mom trying to control how every errand is done, dramatizing minor issues, and trying to prevent the resolution of any actual problem. Mom, being a retired nurse, was in charge of all their medical issues and told me at least once a month that one of my grandmothers was probably going to die soon. (Grandmothers only saw Mom when she was in a "good" state but they were becoming increasingly concerned about her, too, and told my Dad.)
Early this year Dad's aunt started displaying signs of dimentia and increasingly became a danger to herself. Grandmothers and I reported to Mom and Dad facts about Great-Aunt's decline and concerns. When Dad's Mom (94 and quite a firecracker), with whom I'm particularly close, confided to me that Dad was asking her to try to figure out a solution to help Great-Aunt I talked with Dad. He admitted that Mom was particularily unwell and he couldn't handle Great-Aunt's needs. He'd decided he needed to start going to Mom's doctor's appointments with her because she might not be accurately describing her problems. (Ya think?) I was really glad to hear this and decided to remain detached and let him handle it.
Over the next six weeks I ended up becoming Great-Aunt's legal guardian and worked with myriad agencies to figure out how to help her. Social workers in Elder Care worked with social workers in ER and we had her adimitted for observation so we could move her to new home that was appropriate for her. I stopped by my parents house with some legal papers requiring Dad's attention.
I found Mom hallucinating and acting different than and much worse than I'd ever seen her before. Dad wasn't home but Mom said he was under the bed. Dad was not answering his cell phone. I called my Brother and he was on his way over when Dad pulled up. He'd gone to the cabin for a few hours because Mom was sleeping. He told us that Mom had been like this for 7-10 days - worse than ever. She'd thought there were rats in the house and refused to go into the bedroom. He'd been with her to an appointment that morning with the doctor but she was fine then. Dad admitted he was at the end of his rope and thought something needed to be done.
We took Mom to ER and she was in Psych for a week and now we know she has Bipolar II with Dysphoric Mania. The meds she had been taking actually made the Bipolar II worse. She off all the previous meds and on one that is appropriate for B. II. Dad and I listened and learned and agreed that the diabetes analogy makes a lot of sense. She'll need to manage this disorder for the rest of her life. She's going to see a councelor weekly and Dad and I were going to do everything we could to support her. She was crabby about all this at first but then seemed to come alive and told me about her books, her sessions, her opportunities for outpatient care if/when needed. Dad was thrilled to have Mom back.
This week on the phone Mom started ranting to me about her sister and was all over the place. She worked up into a rage and said she doesn't ever want to see her again. I said "Mom, I don't think you mean that. I think you really love her and the kids" and she settled down a little and said "I don't think I'm in a good place right now" and we peacefully ended the call. I was so encouraged.
Then I got an email from Dad scolding me for hurting Mom's feelings. I explained to him what had happened and what I'd said. I noted that Mom seemed to have had a Dysphoric episode while we were on the phone, and that I thought it might have been triggered by some negative feelings about herself and her sister. It sounded to me like Mom knew she needed to work through those issues and I was encouraged. I thought she was doing really well.
Nope. I'm a know-it-all badmouther who is cruel to her mother. "But Dad, aren't we on the same team, doesn't this help you when you visit the councelor with Mom?" Nope. More old tapes of Dad parroting Mom ranting about me being a bad guy. (Dad is never disagreeable or mean unless he's defending Mom. He's very kind and generous and people love him.)
I am so tired of this pain. What is wrong with my Dad? How do I support these two in a healthy manner? Do I go back to detach mode? How am I supposed to interact with Mom if/when she freaks out? Should I move to New Zealand?