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TSIAS Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:23 PM
Original message
Advice on dealing with disturbed parent?
Lately, Ive been having more and more trouble dealing with my mentally ill father. Im 19 and have had sporadic contact with my Dad for the better part of 10 years. Ever since my parents divorce, hes been unable to move on. Essentially, hes been in and out of mental health facilities for years. He was able to get some sort of disability from the government for depression, so hes always had some sort of cash flow.

Without going on in endless detail, I have no clue how to handle a mentally ill individual. Years of psychiatric work have not yielded much success. Hes alienated literally every family member except myself. Unfortunately, that means Im stuck trying to deal with him and be his sole companion. I try to be as hospitable as possible, but I feel Im at the end of my rope. Every time I see him, I listen to the same exact tales. He thinks that everyone, and I mean everyone, has screwed him over. Hell never stop talking about these alleged wrongdoings. He says that if it werent for me, hed jump off the local bridge. Now hes found religion and claims that the rest of my family has corrupted me. He considers it his duty to save me from the sinners. Typically, hes not a conservative guy. Nevertheless, he appears to have gone off the deep end with this latest excursion. Its very uncomfortable to have someone continually play people against one another, as hes doing in this case. Usually I end up listening, as Im more of a quiet person. He can talk for hours and hours, and I dont think he really cares what anyone else says. He just wants someone to listen to the sad tales over and over.

I guess this leads me to my question. What obligation do we have to our parents, especially if they are creating a very difficult situation? Ive tried to handle things the best I know how. I figured a few hours a week, along with an occasional phone call, was sufficient. However, he pressures me to do more. Being a full time student and part time employee, theres not enough time to be his sole caretaker and companion. I felt I was doing good to give him the couple hours a week.

Finally, I dont know whether to be mad or feel sorry. Perhaps its a little of both. He had a wife and kids before and a similar result happened. Once his ex-wife remarried, he refused to speak with his kids again. For about ten years, he never once contacted them. He felt that he had been replaced, and refused to be part of their life again. Similar thing happened here. When I was about 12, he said that if my Mom ever had another boyfriend, that he would never speak to me again. And for about 7 years, he did exactly that.

Maybe somebody here has advice about how to handle this type of situation. I never wanted to completely break from the relationship, but Im beginning to wonder how much distress its worth. And can I be content with myself if he does indeed kill himself over a disagreement?

-Taylor
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Don_G Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:36 PM
Response to Original message
1. Your Obligation
As a son...is to make arrangements so that the professionals in the health care industry will care of him.

He has distanced himself from you and several families during the course of his life by his own decision. Just feel proud that you didn't turn your back on a prick nor guilty becuse you didn't.

And you have a heart where he dosen't.
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TSIAS Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:51 PM
Response to Reply #1
9. I think he does have a heart
He wants nothing more than to have his family back. Years after the divorce, he can't come to grips that my Mom is not his wife anymore. He's flown off the handle lately because, after many years, she doesn't really want to talk to him anymore.

I think much of his anger stems from the fact that things aren't the way they once were.
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madmax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:37 PM
Response to Original message
2. I don't know what to tell you
Taylor. Maybe you should call your Mental Health Center where you live and get some advice.

As a daughter and now as a parent I don't believe 'you owe' your family more than you can give. You are doing the best you can, that's all anyone can expect.

Try to get some professional advice :hug:
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TSIAS Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:55 PM
Response to Reply #2
12. I might end up having to do that
I wish I knew exactly what his diagnosis was. Sometimes I wonder how he's different from the individual homeless on the street. His girlfriend at the time worked for the Mental Health system and was able to get him disability benefits. I have suspicions that it was all a sham. He was never able to hold down a job, even when he was in decent shape. He wouldn't accept any sort of menial job. Everything was below him. It was more important for him to have some sort of flashy title, rather than make real money.

I guess I would be depressed too if I alienated two families and am sitting alone 24/7.
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Feanorcurufinwe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:40 PM
Response to Original message
3. Do you know what his diagnosis is?
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TSIAS Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:45 PM
Response to Reply #3
6. Not 100 % sure
I believe Depression is what he receives disability for.

Addiction was another problem. He's an alcoholic and was a compulsive gambler until he went broke.
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Feanorcurufinwe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:54 PM
Response to Reply #6
11. I think it would help for you to know what you are actually dealing with
Depression and alcoholism are probably symptoms of an underlying problem.

crunchyfrog in post 7 also gives good advice...



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TSIAS Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 11:04 PM
Response to Reply #11
16. I'm taking action to find those answers
He had a friend who was working on his lawsuit against the Mental Health Services. I have no clue how legit that suit was. Probably bogus ramblings, like much of what he says.

That friend probably had access to his records. The guy is no longer his friend, since my Dad claimed he had stolen from him. Still, I Have his email and home address. Maybe he can tell me if there are problems I'm not aware of.
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aquart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:42 PM
Response to Original message
4. Get the hell out of Dodge.
I don't care how nutty he is. He said YOU are the reason he doesn't commit suicide? Therefore you must be ever so careful not to upset him because it ALL on YOU?????

Being mentally ill is one thing. Being a selfish son of a bitch is another.

HIS LIFE IS NOT ON YOU!!!!

It might possibly be on our crappy mental health care system, but no way is it on you.

You have some siblings out there. Are you in contact with them? How are you with your Mom?

Are you clinging to Dad because YOU feel disconnected from the others?

There are a lot of things you should be doing at 19. Carrying Daddy is not one of them.

Save your life.
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TSIAS Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:49 PM
Response to Reply #4
8. Thanks
I have two half-brothers (from his previous marriage), but they moved to Utah. I'm very fine with my Mother. It took some time, but she finally got out of that dysfunctional relationship.

I cling to the relationship because I fear the repercussions of avoding him. The last time I didn't call, he had the police come to our house. He threatens to come over and sit in the driveway until I appease him. I still live at home and I don't want to burden anyone else with this problem. That is why I have tried to appease him as much as possible.

I'm not really afraid of him harming me or my family. I do have a hard time with confrontation and generally avoid it at all costs. I do realize that sometimes confrontation is necessary and now might be the time.
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welshTerrier2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:45 PM
Response to Original message
5. No easy answers
sounds like a pretty tough situation to deal with and sounds like you've been giving it a lot of thought ...

i don't have any great insights to help but i do have a few ideas ...

first, where your father has other kids and family, i think THEY have some responsibility here ... i don't think a mentally ill father should be the responsibility of only one kid ... the fact that your father won't talk to them may complicate the situation but you should be able to discuss the problems he's having with them ... you shouldn't have to bear the entire burden by yourself ...

secondly, it might help YOU to get some counseling to deal with this ... sometimes psychologists or social workers can provide guidance to you on how to best deal with your father ... they might also be able to refer you to people who deal with the types of problems your father is having and perhaps those people can provide some support both to you and to him ...

finally, i appreciate the efforts you've made to lookout for your father ... sometimes we have to look beyond our own comforts to care for others ... having said that, however, you cannot allow your father to exploit you beyond some reasonable point ... only you can decide what you're willing to put up with ... you may be responsible for your father but you're also responsible for yourself ... and at 19, i'm sure you have plenty to deal with ...

i hope this helps at least a little and i hope you're able to find some additional players to help you out ...
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Crunchy Frog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:46 PM
Response to Original message
7. First of all, I think it's really good of you
to continue being in your father's life, despite the pain it's causing. I think that once your father is gone, you will be glad that you maintained a relationship with him.

One suggestion of mine would be to go on listening him, but to detach yourself emotionally from what he's saying. I don't know how difficult that would be for you, but allowing yourself to get emotionally entangled in his issues is obviously causing you problems.

You say that he has had extensive psychiatric work. Is he still seeing somebody? If he is, I would strongly advise you to meet with that person, and discuss ways for you to handle your father more effectively and cope with the situation yourself.

If he is not still seeing someone, you would probably still be well advised to see someone yourself, to help you deal with your feelings and be more effective with your dad.

It would probably also help if you modulate your contact with him, so you don't overwhealm yourself.

My own dad was a very difficult person to deal with, and he spent the last years of his life going further and further into an alchoholic tailspin, which eventually killed him. I had to eventually learn to accept the fact that he was the person he was, and I was not going to be able to change him. I also had to learn to accept that I couldn't help him with his alchoholism if he wasn't willing to help himself, or even acknowledge that he had a problem.

I think if you can just learn to accept him for what he is, and not allow yourself to get caught up emotionally in his issues, you can find some aspects of the relationship that you can truly value.

I do think that it's important that you talk to a mental health professional about this situation.

Best of luck.
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welshTerrier2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:54 PM
Response to Reply #7
10. Wisdom and Sensitivity
very nicely said, crunchyfrog ...
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TSIAS Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 11:00 PM
Response to Reply #7
14. Well said
I have a selfish reason for maintaining the relationship. If he were to die, and I suspect he won't be around much longer, I want to say that I gave the relationship a good faith effort.

He's not seeing anyone currently. He claims that the mental health services did him wrong. He's working on a lawsuit to reclaim money allegedly stolen from him.

I started seeing a counselor today about my feelings. It was a positive experience and I plan to go back next week.

Thanks for the advice. I know it's very difficult to give advice to an anonymous member of a message board. It's such a complex issue. It would take pages to accurately explain the whole situation. You're right in that I should continue to see expert professionals to help me.

:hug:
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Crunchy Frog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 11:22 PM
Response to Reply #14
17. Thanks for
the appreciation for the advice. I'm glad to hear that you're seeing somebody, and getting some help with this.

I really hope you will be able to work things out in that relationship so that both you and your father are getting something positive out of it, and it isn't costing you your own sanity.

Good luck. :hug:
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TrogL Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:58 PM
Response to Original message
13. Walk away
He's gone mad and will drive you insane if you try and deal with it.
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TSIAS Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 11:26 PM
Response to Reply #13
18. Easier said than done
I have to decide how much stress I'm willing to endure. Right now, I can still manage things relatively well. Sooner or later, I do predict that will be what ends up transpiring.

Today, I'm more angry than anything. He called up and talked to my mother today. He talked about how he learned how to strangle men in Vietnam. It was a veiled insinuation that he'd inflict death upon my step-father. That definitely left me with an uneasy feeling.
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neebob Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 11:55 PM
Response to Reply #18
21. I'm afraid it's worse than mental illness
Edited on Wed May-26-04 12:12 AM by neebob
Read up on personality disorders - Cluster B in particular, and specifically Antisocial and Narcissistic - and see if you don't recognize your dad. In that case, walking away is your best option. Don't spend another 19 years figuring this out.

I've blown off members of my family for a lot less, yet I let a sociopath put me through two years of hell from which I'm still recovering, four years later. I didn't realize until after the fact that he was TRYING to destroy me. He had me convinced he'd end up homeless, and I felt all sorry and responsible for him. When I finally threw him out, he had more money than I did. And you know what? He took care of himself pretty well! Two years this loser couldn't get a job to save his life, but as soon as I threw him out on his fat fanny with no wheels and a few hundred bucks - what'd he do? Ran right out and got a job. Miraculous! He then financed and insured a better truck than the one the one I'd bought for him but he'd wrecked in his last desperate attempt to remain under my roof, using my address and phone number. I have no doubt if I'd let him stay, he'd have wrecked my car, burned my house down, and killed my kid eventually. Believe me when I say life's too short.

So what if he's your dad. What has he done for you, besides cause a lot of stress and pain? Does he ever do anything differently, or does he just do the same outrageous, destructive things over and over and over again?
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LincolnMcGrath Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 11:01 PM
Response to Original message
15. Thank You Taylor
for having the courage to ask what I did not.
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The empressof all Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 11:35 PM
Response to Original message
19. Contact NAMI
National Assoc. Mentally Ill. Google NAMI it will give you the link for National Office. Then you can find your local affiliate. NAMI can help you find a family support group which most children of Mentally Ill parents find very helpful. They are usually free. This is not something that you need to go through alone. There are many in your situation who struggle with similar experiences and emotions. It is so very hard to have to contend with this- Support helps- There are people out there who can help---Good Luck
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sundog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 11:47 PM
Response to Original message
20. stay loyal, stay true....
i think you'll feel better when it's over & you look back... if you know yourself & stay strong, whatever storms are inside him won't shatter your universe...

personally, i hate the thought of handing loved ones over to "mental health experts" -- ultimately it's about unconditional love -- there's a lot of pressure if you're his only companion, that's an intense trip -- & i have a clue where you're coming from...

in life you can't avoid mistakes or regret, but at the end of the day, you always have to look yourself in the mirror & know you did your best under the circumstances

all i can say is follow your heart (though it may be cliche) -- it never seems to steer me wrong...
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