dealing with mentally ill parents

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by IfbReformer, Mar 21, 2005.

  1. IfbReformer

    IfbReformer
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    Hi all,

    You probably have seen me posting several times on various doctrinal issues but now I have a personal issue to ask your advice on.

    I want this advice from Conservative Fundamental Baptists and thats why I place it here - hopefully the moderators will let it stand.

    My mother is mentally ill - she is manic-depressive I think its called. She has way ups and way downs. Now she is going through the change of life and things have only gone from bad to worse.

    I am married(almost 11 years) I have 4 children and one more on the way due in July. We moved away from Michigan(my home state where my Mom lives) and now live in Virginia where I finally found work after the last recession.

    I can't tell you how peaceful in many ways it has been.

    Now my Mom was going through a major mental breakdown and decided she wanted to get away from Michigan and was thinking of coming and staying with us. I did not flat out tell her she could'nt, but I told her that closer to the time of the Baby coming it would not be a good idea as it is a very stressful time and we need our bonding time with the new baby.

    By the way, my Mom does have my Dad and my sister and her husband who live with them(my sister and her husband are also mentally ill).

    I must be honest, whether it is right or wrong I must sort out with the Lord, I have wanted to shield my children from all this mental illness for years but could never figure out how and then I lost my job and God moved us here to Virginia.

    While my wife's Mom is not mentally ill, I would say she is very 'needy' as well. She calls my wife all the time to emotionally unload on my wife. My mom will call me to do likewise. Is there bearing one another's burdens? Is this healthy? Is this how life should be lived?

    I would appreaciate any Godly advice.

    Thanks

    IFBReformer
     
  2. I Am Blessed 24

    I Am Blessed 24
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    I'm not exactly sure what you are asking, but I think it is our job to take care of our parents.

    It sounds like you are happy with your wife and children (as it should be) but that you don't want anyone else to be around. This is NOT how it should be...

    A new baby should be a time of joy, not division. A parent does not avoid her other siblings when a new baby comes along. Why would you avoid your mother for the same reason?

    Parents take care of, and love, their children from the day they are born until the day they die.

    They take care of all our needs growing up.

    Now they need help and we turn our backs on them?

    I don't think so...

    Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
    Exodus 20:12

    I'm sure your mother would not think twice about taking care of you if you were mentally ill. You owe her the same respect and love.

    It's obvious that she is already taking care of your mentally ill sister. Sounds like she has her hands full. She can't help it that she is ill.

    JMHO,
    §ue
     
  3. Ben W

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    This is certainley a hard case because there are reasons on both sides, honouring your mother and father certainley would be one in favour.

    Yet is it a good thing to have someone who is really struggling with a mental breakdown around young children? Not for any bad reason, just that it may not be the most appropriate thing.

    Maybe this is possible, maybe it isnt. You are obviously a part of a conservative Baptist group, does that group have any campsites - retreats where people can go and have a little time out? Maybe what your mum could really do with is some time at a Baptist rehabitiation place with other people that are going through those same types of problems. In Australia Teen Challenge have a system like that where they have farms that are retreats where they help all manner of people get over all manner of things with a Christian focus.
     
  4. IfbReformer

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    I appreciate your admonitions. The Bible is very clear that we are Christians are to care for our parents and this is part of what it means to honor our father and mother:

    As to your assertion that we do not want anyone else around that is not true. We have invited family(including my mom) to visit in the past since we have been here.

    We would have no problem with them coming earlier, such as my sister-in-law did earlier. I must admit it is difficult having company stay overnight for several days, as we live in an apartment and already have 4 children.

    But I despite those difficulties I agree wholeheartedly with you that we ought to be hospitipal.

    You see I always envisioned taking care of my parents in their old age(whether through a nursing home in my area or directly in my home thats another debate) but I did not envision taking care of my parent at the same time as starting my family.

    I have 4 children ages 7, 5, 3, 1 and another on the way in July. I have always believed my first obligation was to them and then where I can assist my parents after meeting my first obligation to my wife and children I would.

    I am not saying it is not possible to do both, but I wonder if it is always possible to do both at the same time.

    And really, this could spawn into the whole topic of mental illness verses physical illness.

    Is it exactly the same when a Christian suffers a mental breakdown as when a Christian has a heart attack? Some Pastors I have spoken to say yes and others no.

    Since mental illness surrounds behavior(whether one can help this behavior or not is another matter of debate) - is it in a whole other category?

    As far as my parents taking care of me if I were mentally ill, I will have you know that my parents have committed both my sisters on several occasations when their behavior was out of control. Now what is out of control? Thats another debate.

    So if my Mom calls me saying and doing wrong things in a mentally deficient state, should I comfort her in the state and tell her she can do anything she wants? Sure come out to my house in this state with my children, it will be good for you and good for them - will it be?

    What if she goes into a sucidal state with my pregant wife(5 months) and my wife has all these small children at home?

    Then we come down to another Biblical question?

    Yes we are to care for are Parents, but we must ask two questions, are they really in need(as Paul asks us to ask about the widows) and what do they need?

    IFBReformer
     
  5. menageriekeeper

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    Ibf, you've raised an interesting question. I can only give my opinion. My opinion comes from the years I spent and am still spending dealing with my own mother's mental illness along with the abuse that came with it.

    First off it sounds like you are suffering from a bad case of "afterburnout" caregiver syndrome. This is my description of the peace and freedom and guilt you feel after years of dealing with the chaos of mental illness. Peace, because you are not in the thick of it, freedom, because you don't have to be constantly on your gaurd that your mother will do/say something that will end up taking your time or hurting your own marriage/children because of their problems and finally guilt because the relief is so great and you wish your parents/sister could experience it but there is no way you can even describe your feelings to them.

    I've felt it all.

    In Genisis 2:24, the Bible says, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh."

    It says this, give us this precedence for marriage before sin ever entered the world, before the Ten Commandments. This is the precedent I believe that we have to follow in our marriage. As for the "children honour your mother and father" part, I'm no longer a child. I am a daughter, but not a child. It doesn't say sons and daughters honour your parents, and it doesn't say it for a reason. Reason being, because that would have given parents a right to control the adult children lives/marriages.

    I've more to say aobut your situation, but, I'll have to come back to it. This will get you started.
     
  6. menageriekeeper

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    One more thought, your mother is not a widow.
     
  7. IfbReformer

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    menageriekeeper,

    I appreciate your response and you have described accurately many of the feelings I am having.

    I don't mean to nit-pick, but I do believe I have a responsiblity to honor my parents, even as an adult.

    Christ was speaking of an adult man who trys to give all he has to the temple without regard to caring for his loved ones including his Parents. In this case, Christ using the command to Honor your father and mother in regard to caring for Parents.

    But caring for them and obeying them are two different things. As a Child, I must honor AND OBEY my parents. As and adult I am responsible now for myself before God and my parents are no longer responsible for me, but I still must honor(respect) them.

    But the real question is, as Paul points out, are they all alone, and really in need? Does the need of my mother supersede the needs of my wife and children?

    You see just as my wife and then my children are my first priority, so for my father his wife(my mother) is his first priority. He should be asking her why she seeking help from other people than him. Why is she going to others than her husband for consoling in her time of mental anguish? Is she really in need of my assistance?

    Then comes the second question, if I were to grant her request and cause strife and problems in my own home in the process would this be right?

    IFBReformer
     
  8. IfbReformer

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    menageriekeeper,

    I thought of something along the same lines as what you said, the marriage relationship was created before the Parent child relationship, it supercedes it.

    More strife has been introduced into Christian homes and others when this critical point is lost, whether a married couple allows there own children to manipulate them or their parents it is equally wrong.

    I was speaking with another Pastor today who pointed out to me that if you really look at the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, for most of their lives until their final years the Parents were always looking out for and caring for their children. As Paul said "Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children." 2 Corinthians 12:14

    It is not just a matter of Parents taking care of their kids for the first 18 years and then its the child's responsiblity to take care of their parents for the next 50. This is not the Biblical pattern we see.

    It was the parents caring for there children, supporting them in whatever they way they could long into adulthood, setting up estates and helping them to succeed in business and life - parents were a great source of advice and encouragement. This was the optimal way the scriptures see this.

    Then at the end of life, this is where the children turn and care for their parents in their last years.

    When they are truly in need, as Paul tells us to make sure. Just like there are some children who will leach off their parents, there are parents who will leach off their children - it may not always be with money either, many times parent leach emotionally as many can attest to.

    IFBReformer
     
  9. menageriekeeper

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    IFB, I'm trying to get back to this, but I've been interupted by a phone call. It is stormy here so it may take me a bit to get back.
     
  10. menageriekeeper

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    Okay, now that we have established(IMHO) that your marriage should come before your responsibility to your parents and that your mother isn't a widow in financial need I'll give you my thoughts on how to handle this request. Now don't get me wrong, we do have a certain responsibility to our parents and their care when they can't care for themselve. What I am saying is that the needs of our parents shouldn't come above the needs of our spouse and our children.

    Let me start by saying that a lot of emotional and verbal abuse went on in my growing up years(some physical abuse also but not like the other). This left a certain bitterness in me that can be forgiven but not forgotten. It has taken God a number of years to get me to a point to where I can deal with my parents without the past constantly getting in the way. Understand, my parents HAVEN'T changed. Nor do they recognize their own actions(it's hard to forgive someone who doesn't recognize thier need for forgivness). Also recognize that my brother has had to cut off all contact with my parents because of the actions of my mother that my father refuses to even attempt to control. Most of the time he refuses to recognize there is a problem or justifies her actions. It is always something my brother or I have done, that is the problem, not Mother.

    The fact that your mother suffers from a mental illness as opposed to something more of a physical nature only makes it more difficult to deal with. There have been a lot of threads here discussing whether or not mental illness is a spiritual issue or a physical one. Let me state clearly that I believe mental illness most of the time is a PHYSICAL illness. As such it should be treated just as though it were heart disease or diabetes. But because mental illness is based in the brain(our spiritual base) there should in a well rounded treatment be some spiritual counseling to go along with whatever treatment course the docs prescribe. This is lacking in my mother's case, I believe to her detriment.

    Now, ask yourself a question. If your mother had suffered a heart attack instead of a brain attack(NOT being flippant), would you bring her into your house to care for or would you expect your perfectly capable father to care for her, perhaps while you made a trip to visit or just sent financial aid? Would you expect your preganant wife to be able to take on her care along with the care of your FOUR children? I'm expecting that you would be gone to work during the day and unable to help out a great deal of the time.

    Now, if your wife agreed to it, than she is a much better woman/wife than I am. I love my MIL absolutely to death and would do just about anything for her, but caring for her needs while being preganant and caring for my young children would be way more than I could handle and then my husband would have to deal with MY breakdown. And I only have 3 children.

    You must consider your wife's ability to cope with what is on her plate now, before you go adding to her burden. And this only considers the physical aspects of your mother's condition not the mental and therefore outward manifestations of her illness. Will you wife be able to handle the verbal off the wall remarks your mother is liable to say? How will she answer the kids questions about why Granny would say such a thing. What if Granny were to have a full blown attack and become completely incoherent while she was with you? How are you going to explain that to your very young children so they aren't scared to death the next time Granny comes to visit?

    Does your mother even like your wife? My mother hates T. She pretty much keeps it to herself, but there is no love lost. For years, until I put an absolute end to it, she would make little disparaging remarks about him. She's done worse to my brother's wife. You may not even be aware that she is doing such things to your wife. Little secret here, wives do not always tell their husband about things that happen if they think it will hurt the husband. We prefer to hold in the hurt instead. You are really going to have to dig deep with your wife on this one to get her true feelings. She may just go along with your wishes, without considering her own feelings to spare you the hurt of knowing that your mother doesn't love her as much as you do.

    Now this is how I had to finally handle things with my parents. This I did with T's only reluctant approval. He would have prefered to cut contact much in the same way that my brother has. T realized however, that that course would leave my parents without anyone who truely cared, as mother has pretty much alienated all of my aunts and uncles on both sides.

    With T's input, I sat down strict rules:

    1. My parents do not have unsupervised visits with my children. My mother couldn't be trusted with her own kids, much less ours. Neither T nor I wanted our kids to be exposed to her off the wall ideas and we can't trust Dad to be sure she doesn't come up with one. (She told my neice one time that she wasn't really her grandmother.)

    2. T and I decide when it is convienent for them to visit.

    3. Though we live in the same community, so this isn't a problem, there are no overnight visits in either direction. Mother is in the early stages of alzhiemer's, so there will come a day when she can't stay by herself, so this rule was set up so the two of them could consider this issue ahead of time and decide how to handle it. There has been a repair of relationship between mother and one of her sisters because of this rule.

    4. There are certain attitudes that I will not permit in front of my children. An example: My mother is not allow to undermine my authority with my children. She is not allowed to say to them or me that the kids can come live with her, with the attitude that my raising is somehow lacking. I heard enough of that when I was growing up.

    5. There will be no reconsideration of these rules. My parents are stubborn and have always had the idea that if they think something is purple then it is purple even if in reality it is green. They have had to come to terms with the idea that they won't always get things their way. My mother especially had a hard time with this one mostly because Dad always let her do things her way even down to accepting her lies about us kids when the evidence of the truth was presented to him. To say mother was a controlling person is an vast understatement.

    In return for them following the rules, I didn't cut contact with them. My children, only now realize that something odd is going on with their grandmother. My parents get to visit their grandchildren both in thier home and in ours. In the end when they need me to care for their needs, I will be there, albeit that care will not be in my house.

    Just because I don't acquiese to some request that they make, does not mean that I am not accepting my responsibility toward them. Instead I am balancing my responsibility to them with my greater responsibility to my own family.

    Remember Genisis 2:24, your FIRST responsibilty is to your wife. Then comes your children, then your parents. That God comes before all I assume you agree.
     
  11. menageriekeeper

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    One more rule that I forgot: Mother must stay on her medication if she wants to see the children! I can't believe I forgot the most important rule!

    We had to set up this rule long, long ago. My mother gets better and then gets the idea that she can quit taking the meds that controll her illness. It's a comman enough problem for people with this type of thing. Of course when she does this, she begins to spiral down into the abyss of her illness. Since I've dealt with her for years when my father mostly ignored the problem, I can pick up the signals that this is happening before it gets to the point of no return. Dad often just doesn't recognize(or want to recognize) that something is not right. This is my way of assuring myself that he won't let her spiral down again into another breakdown.

    I did this not only to protect my children but also to protect my father. The last time she got really bad she threatened him with a loaded gun. Whether or not she would have used it if he hadn't left is not something I want to have to consider. One of mother's brothers died in jail after having a break with reality and shooting his wife and one of his sons. Mental illness has affected a good many of my mother's siblings.
     
  12. exscentric

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    Personal opinion, you need to get assistance with this if you possibly can. I would agree with your concern with having your mother around the kids if she is having real problems - are they real or feared or imagined in your mind?? just wandering, we tend to make things worse than they are when under pressure with problems.

    Someone mentioned CBA - they have in our area a large family counseling center. They or others might have something that could help your folks.

    I would encourage you to contact the social agencies in your area as well as your folks area and see if there isn't some assist to the problem. There are a lot of agencies that have a lot of help available.

    You might try the yellow pages and look for Christian psycologists, they might have ideas in your parents area as well.

    Your family doctor and/or pastor may have some ideas if you feel comfortable talking to them about the problems.
     
  13. IfbReformer

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    Just found out it my Dad commited my my to the hospital(mental area). She will be there for a while until they figure out how they are going to help her.

    He agreed with me that she is wrong for coming to her children with things she should be coming to him as her husband with - but she has done that there whole married life.

    The problems - however, are not imagined, they are very real.

    Thanks to those who have given input here.

    I also spoke with my Pastor about this and he had some good advice as well, appreciate the input.

    IFBReformer
     
  14. menageriekeeper

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    You should congratulate your father on his willingness to see to it that she gets care and for his willingness to talk you "kids" about it.

    I'll keep you and your family in my prayers.

    Enjoy the new baby!
     

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