Help! Dealing with BPD parent while
April 16, 2012 7:53 PM   Subscribe

Help! My BPD father is unhappy that my chronically ill sister and I are recuperating back at the family home, so he acts out and does crazy stuff like taking apart our bed and packing it away while I'm at the doctor's office. He claims it's for our own good. How to deal with this crazy situation?

My sister and I are both exceptionally weak and have lost a lot of weight unintentionally (BMI 17.8 and 17.3, our doctors suspect Celiac or Chron's respectively) We both are visibly emaciated and malnourished. We moved back home since I became unable to work, but our father considers us a burden, says we're "not getting better fast enough" (it's been 4 months) and wants us and our stuff out. Our mother feels the opposite which is why we are still home. Complication- there aren't any other friends or relatives who could take us in, nor are we healthy enough yet to move out, since we struggle to take care of ourselves.

I'm sorry if there's too much detail, processing how messed up this situation is hard. Additionally, he refuses to treat us respectfully, tells us we have "lost our rights as adults" by moving back home even with the obvious circumstances. We are both 26, will be 27 next month, so being treated like teenagers is additionally a problem.

As to our likely BPD father, our childhood was pretty much exactly like the book Walking on Eggshells -- always being prey to his random and savage turns of mood, in addition to always carrying the strange burden of having to make life comfortable for him even as we struggled in school and life. He is concerned solely about how things affect him. His demands always center around how "inconsiderate" and "rude" we are of his needs, like when we leave a few dishes in the sink. (We already cook and shop for our own restricted diets and usually clean up after ourselves too - no easy feat when sick) When I was at the ER, being prodded and poked with all sorts of tests, all he could say was how inconvenient and tiring it was for him and my mom. He really poured on the charm and acted caring in front of the nurses, but it naturally vanished shortly after I got home. I get the feeling that he doesn't really care about us in general.

The current and latest argument centers around how "disorganized" we are. I was getting ready for my doctor's appointment early morning today when I found out my health insurance card was missing. It turns out my mom had last used it to pick up my prescription, and accidentally threw it away. We didn't know, and woke up my mom to ask her where she had put my card, which woke up my dad too.

He was so upset at how "disorganized" we must be to wake him up so early, that he disassembled our heavy futon bed and placed all the pieces in the garage while I was at the doctor's office and unable to protest or stop him. He claims this will "give us more room to be organized" and that we shouldn't be sharing a room anyway. He claims that we're "dragging each other's health down" and we "need to be separated" which makes no sense since my slightly healthier sister has been taking care of me, and that it's an especially soft and supporting bed for her back pain and is easy on my aching body. We can't put it back together ourselves. (And he would probably take it apart at our next appointments anyway, so there's no point in trying.) The real reason is probably more that he tries to control everyone around him, to suit himself.

How do you talk to someone like this? When I point out how sick we are, he claims to be just as ill and that he manages fine (not true, he's in good health) When we point out our symptoms he tells us that we deserve to be sick because we clearly "don't want to be well enough". Or he just outright dismisses that we even have any sort of illness. When we ask if he cares about us, he claims he is doing these things for our own good(!) Questioning these things falls on deaf ears. Nothing seems to get through to him. Often he likes to say that we are both just lazy, lying in bed all day and that we should "push ourselves harder", like he does. Even when that is the opposite of what our doctors have advised.

I tried to use the advice on talking to BPD persons in another thread- trying not to get upset at all the deliberate insults and talk about it in a calm manner, but then he just yells over me to drown out anything I say -- pushing his delusional version of reality, where he is actually doing us a huge favor and helping us "get on with our lives" by taking apart our bed!

My mother took pity on us and dug some older beds out of storage for us, but they are very uncomfortable for us and we can't really sleep on them. I tried to convince her how this was clearly not helping us like my dad claims, but she just got upset and is unwilling to take sides and says she will buy us new mattresses.

This is one of a continuing string of "helpful" things my father has done to us, whenever he gets some idea into his head, he does it without even telling us first. Obviously this goes way beyond mattresses, but I thought I'd focus on a specific incident. I know this is hardly the last of it. Writing it down, it just seem so... bizarre. But I'm at a loss about what we can do when we have our hands full just taking care of ourselves.
posted by tachikoma_robot to Human Relations (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Talk to your doctors about your situation. See if you can access social services through your medical providers so that you and your sister can get into a better living situation. Your father is jeopardizing your already precarious health, and that you are both quite weak is MORE reason to get yourselves out of his home, not less.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:58 PM on April 16, 2012 [21 favorites]

Also, if you are willing to share where you are (state or province, at least, if not city), people might be able to give you better answers about local resources.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:59 PM on April 16, 2012

I'm in Maryland, US if that helps. thanks.
posted by tachikoma_robot at 8:07 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you considered going on disability? Might be worth exploring if you qualify. This is not legal advice as I have no idea if you would, but worth exploring.
posted by whoaali at 8:36 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

You are living with a mentally ill person and asking how you can reason with them. You cannot. You just plain can't. I understand that makes your living situation incredibly difficult, but I don't think you have any choices in between putting up with the crazy and finding somewhere else to live. Frankly, even if you're sick, I'd look for somewhere else to live. You can get a furnished room in a shared house that would have laundry and WiFi etc already sorted out, and you'd have to hire someone to move you.

Those choices probably suck but there is no way for you to make your crazy dad well.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:49 PM on April 16, 2012 [10 favorites]

Can you sit down with your mother and let her know that, as much as you appreciate and need her support, that your father is adding a significant amount of stress to your lives that is counterproductive for your healing progress, and is there any way she can talk to your father about the two of them financing a small place for you two to stay, so that you're free of him and he's free of you?
posted by davejay at 11:14 PM on April 16, 2012

It's unusual for two young women to be sick at the same time with separate not-fully-diagnosed illnesses that cause both happen to cause loss of independence and dramatic weight loss. It's very unusual for two grown women to be comfortable sleeping in the same bed -- most people want their own space. And parents typically seem to get freaked out by sleeping in the daytime, though I have never quite understood why. So I think your dad's behavior might stem from worry and feelings of helplessness about you and your sister.

It sounds like you are getting lots of medical attention for this issue, which is great, because hopefully your doctors will be able to get to the bottom of it and help you solve it. Parents often have trouble understanding and accepting when their children are ill, especially if there is a psychological or difficult-to-diagnose aspect to the condition.

You're essentially semi-uninvited guests in his home, since you're both adults, so in some ways you don't have a lot of power in this situation. It would probably help to try to stay away from him a bit and avoid interrupting his routines. As much as you can try to appear "normal," healthy and functioning, it will probably put his mind at ease and it might help your health, too. And anything you can do to show gratitude for him giving you a place to stay during a difficult time will no doubt help smooth things over.

I'm sorry you had to deal with having the bed you were sleeping in suddenly taken away and other upsetting and unskillful behavior from your dad. This kind of thing is really not helpful when you're already dealing with being sick.
posted by gentian at 11:24 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ditto speaking with your doctors about options and exploring disability. You mention you're unable to work directly as a result of your health issues, so I imagine it could be a possibility. Not legal advice either – I do have an acquaintance with debilitating Crohn's who has been able to get some help, though (in a different state).

I grew up with a BPD mother and had an undiagnosed gluten intolerance that was probably one of the causes of my severe childhood anemia (I missed several months of school at one point), plus endometriosis that nearly killed me (endometriotic ovarian cyst that did a torsion and then burst, yikes, thankfully I was NOT at home when it happened), and dealt with the familiar "you're making it all up to get attention!!" and "I'm just as sick as you are, and it isn't THAT bad, so suck it up!!" stuff, so I can relate.

It got a lot better once I was out of the poisonous family dynamic. Dealing with someone who sabotages your recovery and constantly questions your reality is exhausting. Sure, you're in his house – but if he really wanted you out fast, he would assist your recovery rather than tell you to do the opposite of what your doctors advise. The sooner you're back on your feet, the better for everyone, right? (He won't understand this since he's focused on power and control, I'm saying it for you.)

How do you talk to someone like this?
Everything you've said points to someone who never listens, doesn't want to listen, and entertains their own reality to the detriment of others. You can say whatever you want to him, but he'll always be the one making his decisions, and consistent past behavior is a good predictor of what that will mean. I know how harsh it is to realize that you are your best support system and a parent is the opposite. Take care; do what you can to put yourself in a healthier environment.
posted by fraula at 11:52 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I see no reason for us to assume that you have psychological issues causing your physical problems. I do think it might be time for you both to live separately from your parents, for your own well-being, but I also think that they have an obligation to treat you with kindness and not disassemble your bed, even if it's their house. Everyone is entitled to love, care, and kindness.

Good luck. This sounds really hard.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:09 AM on April 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'm sorry, it doesn't sound like you have the parents you need. You can't change either of them to be good parents. Disability takes a while to come through, can you and your sister go on welfare to get a bedsit to share. When you moved in it probably seemed like this was solving major problems but it seems to be making things worse. Do you have extended family/friends you can rely on? Now is the time to ask for help from everyone you know so you can focus on your health instead of your parent's distinction.
posted by saucysault at 3:13 AM on April 17, 2012

Perhaps if your friends and relatives can't take you in they could chip in to help get you out of there, instead?
posted by bleep at 5:02 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have chronic pain that leaves me screaming, and my probably BPD mother has carefully explained how difficult it is around to be somebody in pain. There's a lot more shit to describe, but yeah.

Your father is a mentally ill abusive man. Talking to your doctors is right on. If for some reason the whole bed insanity doesn't get their attention (and it should, but there are clueless doctors, just as there are clueless askme answers) think over other incidents. How else has this mentally ill abusive person shown himself to be that way?
posted by angrycat at 5:54 AM on April 17, 2012

[Folks maybe a little less armchair psychologizing and a little more answering the question? Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:56 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with trying to get on Social Security disability as soon as possible. If you have official status as disabled this will make getting services easier.

Here is a link to domestic violence services available in Maryland (since your situation is family abuse, they may be able to help).

Link to Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence

Link to Maryland Department of Disabilities

Food Stamps in Maryland (this website is also for public assistance applications)

Welfare in Maryland (community and other resources)

Social Security Disability

Also, if your doctor/hospital is like mine, there are signs that say if someone is abusing you, here's a phone number to call. Doctors are also mandated to report abuse and it might be worth it to confide in your doctor, who may be able to offer help. Good luck!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:38 AM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

OK I can't offer serious psychological help for your father but I can offer a technique that worked with me and my father who while not suffering from any mental problems had a tendancy to not see outside his world and routines and would do things very similar to your what your father did to get his own way.

I acted like nothing had happened. I would be extra super cheerful and act like I had completely not seen sneaking manipulative move he had pulled to try and get what he wanted. Unlike your case he was the sick one and he was staying in my house so I was in no position to leave and as much as I wanted to couldn't kick him out. Blithe cheerful ignorance was the only way I could cope, I just refused to react like he wanted me to.

Using your example of the bed situation what I would have done giving him a kiss on the cheek and saying thanks for bringing up the other beds what a great idea they look ideal, though the futon was so soft and comfortable, but hey I'll give these beds a try. Then paying the neighbour $20bucks to help me move the furniture back in when he was out and acting like nothing happened. If he says anything, oh the other beds didn't work out as comfortable so we went back to the futon, thanks though it was a great idea. When he does it again, pay someone to put it back together for you and go thanks Dad but we're sticking with the futon honestly those other beds are not as good.

If he makes passive aggressive comments about your being their, act like you've missed the anger in them completely and smile and say it's so nice of you to let us stay. The comments about the card and being disorganised, laugh and go "Oh yes since I've gotten sick I'd loose my head if it wasn't screwed on, can't wait until the doctors figure out what's wrong and I feel better again."

My Dad while he was staying with me would randomly start DIY jobs I didn't want done then stop halfway through and if I tried to tidy up would freak out and not go back to them for 6 months. Sold my lounge suite so he could put in 2 recliners in the lounge (there where 3 of us in the house but he didn't want me watching tv in the main room as I picked shows he didn't like). Refused to go to his 60th birthday party my mother spent ages organising (so we partied in the next room without him while he sat sulking in his bedroom).

It is hard and tiring to live with and my Dad did it to some extent all his life, he would also sulk for months on end to try and control people. The last 2 years were the worst as he was dying of cancer and got more controlling the more out of control he felt about events around him. The only way my mother and I could get through it was to basically ignore him when he got like that and act like he'd said and done things normal people would do in those circumstances. While it didn't stop him from trying it did decrease the frequency of control attempts and strangely it made it so the weird shit he did didn't hurt so much as acting like we didn't care did eventually make it so we didn't care so much when he did it. .
posted by wwax at 8:05 AM on April 17, 2012 [10 favorites]

Try to get yourself out of there, or at least avoid him like the plague. I've also got my fair share of illnesses and ridiculously restricted diet with significant weight loss, and being in a stressful environment only makes it worse.

Please check your memail. Thanks
posted by Neekee at 8:08 AM on April 17, 2012

I would make contact with the social worker or psychologist in the hospital wherever your (or your sister's) most recent stay was. They should be able to help you directly or refer you to appropriate resources. Otherwise, you can start with you doctor; many clinics have on call social work support and can help you navigate the local support networks.

Are there any relatives or friends who would be able to share their home with you and your sister for a week or more so you can focus on your needs in a safe environment?

Good luck!
posted by retrofitted at 8:27 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's a link to a program in Maryland for renters who need housing.

You and your sister would probably do better if you had somewhere else to live. It's wonderful that you are so supportive of each other.

I agree with retrofitted above that you two need a social worker who can help you figure out a better solution.

I hope you both feel better soon.
posted by mareli at 10:24 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have Celiac Disease and a crazy mom. Memail me if you want to chat.

wwax's idea sounds right on to me. I also completely agree that you need to talk to your doctors. Keep telling people until you can find somebody to help.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:06 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

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