New to forum; Mom has Bipolar II; Dad not helpful; How involved should I be?

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Aiming for Serenity
Regular Member


Date Joined Feb 2009
Total Posts : 32
   Posted 7/16/2009 10:56 AM (GMT -7)   
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?

sukay
Veteran Member


Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 1432
   Posted 7/16/2009 5:33 PM (GMT -7)   

Hi Aiming for Serenity,

Welcome to Healingwell. I hope we can be a source of support for you here.

Wow!!! Your screen name really says it all! I'm so sorry to hear about everything that you are going through with your folks and other members of your family. sad

They are so lucky to have such a caring and supporting daughter!

I know your post was long and I want you to know that I have read it all, but my advise is short...go back to your detach mode.

You've really done all that you could possibly do for them without ending up in the looney bin yourself! You certainly have great strength!

You've constantly been going on the same coarse with them for an awful long time with no success.

I would let both of them know that you have tried over and over again to help them but that now you only have one piece of advise to offer them....if you need help, go to the emergency room where they can help you.

Let it be known to them that they are not to contact you regarding any of their health issues. I know that must be hard, but they really need to hear that and know that they can't keep putting you in the middle of things.

I think once they hear that from you, it may put some distance between all of you for a while. I believe later they will eventually come around and understand where you are coming from and know that they need to either get serious, serious about the issues at hand or not call you for help!

I hope this helps you some. It is only my opinion. I really hope that you will find some serenity in all of this!

Sincerely, ~sukay~


~sukay~
 Bipolar - 2004
     Crohns disease - 1995 
Arthritis & Fibromyalgia 
 
Leo Buscaglia


serafena
Veteran Member


Date Joined May 2007
Total Posts : 3715
   Posted 7/18/2009 9:24 PM (GMT -7)   
Hi Aiming for Serenity,

I know it's been a few days before I could get to you, and I'm sorry about that. I have to agree with sukay on this issue. You want to do right by your mother and you believe family is important and you take care of your own. That is good and what's right. I agree with you 100%. But you also must protect yourself from the decades of abuse that have been ingrained with the strange behaviors your mother has been exhibiting and using. It is going to take your father some major therapy to realize that your mother's behavior isn't acceptable, and not only is it unacceptable, it's the bipolar talking. You can't expect him to go from supporting her oddness one day to being able to differentiating it the next. He has a lot to learn about bipolar illness, how your mother's version of the illness manifests itself, what he should day and do around her, what is or isn't acceptable for her to do in front of her children. Right now, your mother's behavior is all he knows. You know there's something wrong, but he doesn't. So take a step back and give them both some room to grow, and toughen up your skin.

In the meantime, get them soome books to read (there's a list on the sticky list at the top of the bipolar forum listing called "Bipolar Resources",) maybe help them find a bipolar support group and try and help them see what this diagnosis means for them.

Good luck,
serafena
Serafena
Co-Moderator, Bipolar Forum
Bipolar II


Aiming for Serenity
Regular Member


Date Joined Feb 2009
Total Posts : 32
   Posted 7/20/2009 11:50 AM (GMT -7)   
Sukay and Serafena,

Thanks so much to both of you for taking the time to read my huge post, wrapping your heads around where I was at, and responding. Your input helps me recognize I was on the right track, and that it's the "right" thing for me to do to stay on that track.

Believe it or not, within minutes of me putting up my big post, Mom called to tell me that Dad had to have emergancy major coronary bypass surgery. This came out of left field for all of us. Dad was really lucky that his doc saw some big red flags during a regular checkup, admitted him to the hospital, and he had the surgery the next day.

Mom has been handling this really well without any odd behavior or over dramafication. Happily, she is even going to her regularly scheduled therapist appt. today. (Because she has quit therapy so often in the past I was a little worried she'd use this as a reason to do so now.) I am soooo thankful that Mom has been able to be her best self through this. I'm trying to be supportive of her, and am visiting Dad at the hospital, and will help them get settled at home. But I am going to work hard to NOT become entangled.
I have Depression and Fibromyalgia 
My Mom has Bipolar II
My Niece has Bipolar I


sukay
Veteran Member


Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 1432
   Posted 7/20/2009 11:50 PM (GMT -7)   

Hi Aiming for S,

I'm really sorry to hear about your father.  What a shocker.

I'm glad that your mom is going to her therapy appts.  She is really in need of them right now and I think she knows that deep down inside.

Maybe this is what it took for both of them to start to take things more seriously for themselves.  There issues that they have to stay committed to for themselves, right.

It's nice that you are trying to get them settled until they get home and then you know your place after that to back off and keep your distance.  They have their own things to take care of now and may be apt to stay on coarse and support each other.

Maybe this would be a good time for your brother to step up to the plate and give you a break.  Let him know that it is physically draining you and what decision you have made.  He needs to make his own decision as well, whether or not he wants to continue on this Merry Go Round.

They will both be fine as long as they keep their follow up appointments, but remember...that is something that is THEIR responsiblity.

Best wishes.

Thanks for the update. blush


~sukay~
 Bipolar - 2004
     Crohns disease - 1995 
Arthritis & Fibromyalgia 
 
Leo Buscaglia


serafena
Veteran Member


Date Joined May 2007
Total Posts : 3715
   Posted 7/21/2009 10:15 AM (GMT -7)   
AIS,

What a big shocker. Your mom may be handling it well now, but once your dad is at home, she may need extra help. Be prepared for her to get stressed out easily. Try and give her breaks.

I'm so sorry to hear about your Dad. I'm glad the docs caught it in time. I hope he's well. Good luck.

serafena
Serafena
Co-Moderator, Bipolar Forum
Bipolar II

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