Dealing With Multiple Family Members With Mental Illnesses
Wow, this is such an overwhelming subject, I haven't sat down to write it until now, and I'm in my forties. It took me years to figure myself out, and it's taken me years to figure out others as well.
I have done research reading books such as: "Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds and Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem" by Kimberlee Roth and Freda B. Friedman, PH.D., LCSW, and the pamphlet: "NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) Basic: A brief overview of identifying, diagnosing, and treating Narcissistic Personality Disorder" by Elsa Ronningstam, Ph.D.
From what I've read I've figured out my mom has undiagnosed Borderline personality disorder; I've noticed my youngest brother has NPD- he says really cruel things; My deceased brother had schizophrenia (diagnosed) and was frightening at times but he was nice sometimes; I have one very good brother, I have another helpful brother, and one other brother who is nice but keeps to himself usually. For sisters I have one that has bipolar like me (but treated and diagnosed) that I'm close with, I talk to my other sisters: one shows signs of mild bipolar, one is a lot of fun but lives far, and the other is very quiet and lives far as well.
So, there you have it. Many of us have some kind of illness. I would like to discuss what it's like to have siblings with mental illnesses (and parents.) My father seemed to be Aspergers as well. He had an explosive temper. Factor in ten children, stress, and you could understand someone blowing up a lot.
When I was little my dad would come home from work, and pick me up and I would kiss his cheek. When I was ten we watched musicals together on TV. I liked my dad. He used to sing to me too. It was not until I was 16 and I got bipolar he and I had issues and did not get along. Then I got on medication and we got along later. But his yelling was always upsetting to me and scared me when I was little.
He didn't make eye contact with me (and most likely my other siblings although I don't know) usually. I think that was the Aspergers.
My mother sheltered me and my closest sister.
She took us to Mass a lot and we prayed together a lot.
I liked my mother. I preferred her to my dad, she didn't yell except rarely. But later in life I saw the damage she did in some ways by causing codependency in me and it took me years to get over that. I'm not going to share every detail about my parents, but my mom shows signs of paranoia as well as borderline personality disorder which is difficult even more so to deal with as an adult, because my dad passed, and mom wants a lot of attention but she always seems to be miserable even when you spend time with her; she's very moody/mood swings. She ruminates on things that made her angry and I look at her face while in the car and she looks angry, and I feel her anger and poor moods, It's very difficult to be happy around her, and especially in public. At her home, she's not so angry, I think she is concentrating on eating, or painting, or whatever she's doing with her paperwork: she gets 40 pieces of mail a day, and she's a pack rat! Ha!
My older siblings, many of them moved out when I was young. My oldest brother moved out and never moved back. I used to visit him in his house. He was pleasant and provided food and drinks.
My second oldest brother with schizophrenia: there's a lot to say but I won't go into much right now.
My middle brother has always been the most kind and understanding. He treats me very well. He is never mean. We see each other and meet at my Mom's.
My second to youngest brother has been very nice as well.
My youngest brother (4yrs older) is the meanest and the most difficult now that my brother with schizophrenia passed. He has NPD and says really mean things. He's like a time bomb, a mine field, he finds fault with the stupidest minor things. But you never know when he will explode. NPD is very painful to deal with. Sometimes he's nice though.
I have four sisters. My oldest sister was always nice and still is, she is quiet and I don't see her much, she lives far.
My second oldest sister is nice too; but she lives far too. She's really FUN but when she's around my siblings she can be rude /or ignore me.
My middle sister shows signs of bipolar. She's terrible with money. She gets moody and has acted bizarrely on different occasions.
My closest sister in age has bipolar (but treated) like me. She and I understand each other and we would not ignore each other in a family setting. She has two special needs kids and does very well with them.
Group dynamics vs. One on one time
With my Mom, we seem to do better talking if it's one on one. She can give me/others her full attention.
My dad was good at keeping the family together. He taught us to help each other and people in general and how to haggle.
In groups like holidays, It's very difficult at times for me to be at Easter or Thanksgiving. But Christmas is okay. Christmas there's more activity- swapping gifts, having fun, talking, it just seems more enjoyable.
But on the other holidays, people just eat and talk. I get left out/ignored a lot. The older siblings seem to enjoy talking to each other more than me. And some of them are rude to me, or have little patience. Factor in the one with NPD and the moody sister, and the others seem to not realize and follow their lead.
For example, the food is no good anymore since my dad passed because he was a good cook. I get picked on for ridiculous things like being in someone's way, serving myself some food, it's complicated.
Most often, people will talk about things I'm not interested in. And they don't want to hear ANYTHING I have to say. I eventually feel ignored and get upset and leave. And then after I feel like crap. It's really hard to explain. But I enjoy Christmas. I seem to be able to talk to people easier there. We talk one one one while swapping gifts and chat a little. That's the difference.
There's four years between me and my youngest brother (who's 4yrs older) and everyone else has only one year between them. They all seem to want to talk to each other as the older ones were close with the other older ones growing up.
My closest sister always talks to me but doesn't stay long because she has the special needs kids. I try to talk to whomever I can and get along as best I can, and I always enjoy seeing the kids, especially the babies. I have some great nieces/nephews now!
When I was little vs. Now
Many of my siblings used me as a therapist since I was young, even my dad asked me for advice when I was 10, and told me I was insightful. I think maybe some of them didn't get the attention they wanted from my mom, so they wanted it from me, or/and they found me insightful also.
On an empath level, (I found out I am a full blown empath a couple years ago and a HSP Highly sensitive person) I've been very helpful and good listener over the years. One of my sisters lost her house in a fire and lived in a hotel for a year. Every night she called me 3 am to talk/read bible for 1 hour and I did it for her. I was not working at the time. I have been very empathetic to my Mom as well and other siblings, my other sisters and brothers....On occasion my brother with schizophrenia, John, and I had a couple beers together and he was pleasant and opened up to me, he had a heart, when we saw a bad car accident one time he wanted to leave immediately and was upset whereas my other brother who was there didn't seem to be upset at all. John was very sensitive also.
I was accepted and loved by my family the most when I was young. When I got the bipolar one of them said to me, "You're not the Rosemary I knew, the one I liked" (my NPD brother). He didn't like the change in me, or the fact that I began to stand up for myself and not take his crap/bossing me around. I was 16.
As I got older, I put on weight from medications, (and my sister with bipolar as well) and they made fun of her (but I never did) she went up to about 400 lbs but has lost it thank God, for her health. I have been picked on for being over weight for years by different family members including my own mother. I've had comments, different comments, accusing me of eating too much and things when it was the medication that messed with my metabolism and increased appetite greatly. I try so hard to lose weight and always got criticism. Recently though the book "Eat to Live" given by my oldest brother has been helpful in me losing 15 lbs. Before that I thought it impossible to lose as I had tried everything else. The medication I take makes it extremely difficult. My niece says our family has a very slow metabolism as well and that it was hard for her at times, but she is in great shape, had twins and lost the baby weight easily, from carrying them around, lol.
As an adult, some of my siblings have been supportive, well all on occasion actually which is good. But I have to watch out for the one with NPD most of all and my sister with the untreated moodiness who has some other faults I won't mention. I want to spend more time with the siblings I like, but unfortunately some of them are very busy, or they liked/like me better thin! And I don't know why but my FUN sister seems busy all the time, but I have nice talks occasionally with two oldest sisters on the phone and I talk to my closest sister most often, she finally started calling me recently, after many years of personal difficulties things are better and she's reaching out to help me.
My kindest brother told me he missed me on Easter which was really nice. I went to drop off my mom, but my brother with NPD who was hosting saw I didn't park close in the driveway, because I didn't want to get "boxed in" in case I needed to leave quickly- never knowing what/how things will/would go. I said "I'm not staying long", and he said "Why don't you just leave now". He was very angry and I felt his energy like a time bomb. It was really upsetting. But I figured It saved me a day of being ignored by the group, like last year and years before where I would stay a couple hours and leave, and cry the whole way home after.
At least this year, I made the most of the day and visited friends, a bunch of them! And won a few buck too, and walked around and had a pretty good day after all. My friends are my chosen family and they treat me much better usually than my family does. They understand me better.
Finally, I don't have to see any of my siblings/ but some I miss and I also miss many of my nieces/nephews.
But my mom is the most complex/difficult to deal with. Although she is also very sweet, helpful, and understanding as well. But sometimes you never know what you're going to get. One the phone one day: very sweet sincere and understanding. Another day, mocking laugh, needy, throwing a fit like a two year old because I couldn't visit because I was exhausted from the grief of losing a friend to death, and accusing me of liking my friends more than her/spending time with friends here instead of her. She can be like a child. She can be the kindest person I know. She can be the most loving, gentle sweet person I know, and I know she loves me and misses me and cares about me and she shows it too. It's a struggle but I love her too.
I hear stress can cause mental illness as well. I don't know if my bipolar was caused by stress or not, It's very likely genetic.
But, if this was exhausting to read or you're sighing now at the end, you can imagine what it's like to live with! LOL. My sister calls me the 'mental health expert' because she says I know how to handle my Mom the best, but I don't know, lol. I just have been in therapy of many kinds for 27 years and I read a lot and research a lot.
I care about people, and I do the best I can to stay healthy. I would like a stress free life- don't we all?
Thanks for reading and I appreciate any insights/comments.