I don't know how to support my mentally ill mother.
July 26, 2010 7:43 AM Subscribe
How can I best support my family in a situation involving domestic turmoil and mental illness? This is an abnormally long question but I tried to include everything.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a disabled adult living in a house with my parents. My mother is disabled and has bipolar disorder. Over the last four months she has been in a manic state getting steadily worse. She had been under the care of a psychiatrist and therapist but her insurance changed and they weren't covered anymore. She was looking for new doctors, but in the meantime her mental health started to slip more and more. I don't think we noticed at first. She has been spending large amounts of money and her attitude has been rather self-righteous and mean-spirited if she didn't get her way. Her bank account was overdrawn by nearly a thousand dollars (I used my student loan to pay it back). She would stay up all night "cleaning" and everything would be worse than it was before. Then she would be tired and this even caused a car accident (the car has been in the shop going on 7 weeks now). She also decided to act on some big ideas, including promoting jewelry parties so she could have more money.
The business became the focal point for a lot of family arguments. My father and I finally realized she was in a manic state, but my mom did not really agree. She just wanted to make more money so all of her spending wouldn't cause a hardship. We wanted her to stop spending money and to go to a doctor ASAP, and starting the business interfered with all of that. Things came to a head about a month ago. My brother had offered to pay so she could go back to her doctor, but the appointment wouldn't be until August and this was June. My mom thought she was well enough and could wait. No amount of pressure from me or anyone changed her mind. My father didn't want to give her more money to invest in the business. She went off on what had become a typical rant, about how when she made money it would be all hers and she would never help my father with anything. She started tearing him down more and more and finally he pushed her hard into a closet door and she fell. She snapped, went to the top floor and tore everything apart. My father calmed down and was apologetic but she was in a full-on manic rage. We called friends and relatives but she physically attacked them, as well as attacking me. After 6 hrs she agreed to go to the mental hospital.
She came home after a few days, and believing herself to be the victim of domestic violence. A small argument ended up in another rage during which she attacked me, my father, and my brother (who doesn't live at home but was there to try to help the situation but made it worse by physically restraining her). We had her involuntarily committed. It wasn't like it was an easy process, it was very hard to have done and I've never done anything like that before. Once she was in the hospital they kept her for two weeks because the doctors thought she was paranoid, manic, irrational, and because for a long time she refused to agree to any aftercare. The rest of us started attending support group meetings for family members of the mentally ill and we started learning about not pushing her buttons by arguing and whatnot.
Once she "stabilized" she came back home. That was last Tuesday. Every single time she talks to either of us it is filled with hate. She says she hates me because I let her abused and am not taking her side and helping her get away from my father. Even though she agreed to stay home and go to aftercare as conditions of discharge, on Friday she stole the rental car and went to a luxury hotel. She overdrew her bank account by 700 dollars that night. We could have tried to have her re-committed but we let it ride and she came home. The money is one thing. But the hatred and nastiness is something else altogether. My mother has never ever treated me this way. I've never seen the likes of this (usually she has depressive episodes, not so many manic). My mother was repeatedly raped and may have post traumatic stress. When my father put his hands on her that might have been what sent her over the edge. If so, then she might not come "out of this" just because she's back on her psych meds (and she hasn't been completely compliant anyway).
I don't know how to support her when she wants me to take her side. She's still not acting right, but she says it is because she feels so hurt and betrayed that she is going to hurt and betray us every chance she gets. If I help to put her back in the hospital for her noncompliance I don't know if that will make it worse by making her more resentful. We thought being in the hospital would help before but it just seems to have solidified her hate. Now all the apologies in the world don't matter. To me this is a mental health crisis, but not to her, so she isn't really being all that determined about getting care.
I don't know how to communicate with her anymore. I hide in my room as much as possible. Last night I cried for an hour after she stood in my doorway and tore me down. I do feel like I have failed to help take care of her. I feel like I am failing every time I don't do something, and then when I do act (having her committed) I feel like I made things worse. As for my father, his blood pressure is through the roof, he's losing massive amounts of weight, and my mother treats him like dirt and calls him the devil and me the child of the devil. I KNOW a lot of it is mental illness, but now I feel like at least some of it is legitimate feeling of betrayal because we utterly failed to care for her and instead were angry with her spending money, nagging, being mean. We reacted with exasperation and anger when we should have deescalated and been caring. And now it feels like it is too late. I mean, my father was wrong to put his hands on her (something I have never seen before but she says also happened before they were married), I understand her being angry about that. But I can't support her wanting to leave in this state. Am I mistreating the victim of abuse? That's what haunts me. I have no idea at all what to do and reaching out to AskMe is really a last resort. Sorry it was so long.