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TOPIC TITLE: parent w/ mental health issues
Created On 1/5/05 10:37 AM
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behappy
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1/5/05 10:37 AM
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does anyone out there have parents with mental health issus...depression...narcissism...how do you deal...
 
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Batsheva
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1/6/05 8:27 AM
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You're asking a very broad question ......and not giving much details.
Are you including all types of mental disorders and or emotional disorders?

I can relate to the second half, I have a parent with an emotional disorder and I can truly say that its been the biggest challenge and the biggest growth in my life. I do not mind going more into it but I am not sure if this is what you want.

Batsheva
 
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notgivingupyet
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1/26/05 12:51 AM
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I'm assuming that you are an adult, or almost an adult, and that there are no young children in the home not getting proper care.

It seems that in the frum community, mental health issues are not given much attention for purposes of shidduch, shame, etc. This leads to children with "excellent coping skills." Much of the time, a parent's (usually undiagnosed, never mind treated) mental illness is kept secret, sometimes even within the nuclear family.

An important thing to do is to separate yourself from your parent's illness (not neccessarily your parent). It is not your fault, nor is it your responsibility. Sometimes, a person is very good at masking their illness outside the immediate family, which creates a sense of responsibility and stress on the spouse and children of the sufferer. A child is never responsible for his or her parents' illness-no matter what they tell you. Try to avoid enabling the ill behavior, and create a sense of distance. Read up on assertiveness training. (It's a respectful way to distance, if neccessary)

Improving yourself through education, work, friends, hobbies, values, even recommitting to religion or learning is helpful. Tiny steps will allow you to separate a bit and start creating room for your life to grow. This will help put your parent's illness in perspective. If this illness is one you suffer from as well, or worry about it, use your awareness to fight it. Learn about the illness, eat well, exercise, sleep, nd seek help if neccessary). Building a healthy life for yourself is what your parent would want for you if he/she was healthy.

Suggest help for your ill parent, if appropriate. If there is a trustworthy person within the family or your parent's close circle who can be sensitive, let them know in confidence. It may be helpful to talk to a trusted "insider" to allow you an outlet for your own mental health, even if the ill parent can not or will not get help. You may need to talk or to crash somewhere. If you have siblings on your wavelength, talk to them (away from the home). Airing out feelings may be helpful, especially where action is not possible.

Since you can't speak to them, write out your feelings about your parent. Find a sympathetic individual, not a relative to talk with. You might have a friend dealing with something similar in their home. Read between the lines to find this person. There are a lot of families with similar situations, and it takes one to know one. The same way you feel alone, each one of those other people in similar, silent suffering, feels the same. If not, find a trustworthy Rabbi or Rebbetzin.

The hardest thing about having a parent with mental health issues is that the child really misses out on having a parent. In some ways, you can be an orphan while your parent is still alive. Expectations of what we want our parents to be cause pain, even if our minds know they can never be met. Mourning this loss, even if it's only the loss of your "imaginary perfect mom/ dad" will help.

You are not alone. You can and will be a healthy person.

 
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behappy
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1/26/05 2:29 PM
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Thank you for your wise words. You really summed up the situation, do you also have a parent with mental illness?

what books do you reccomend on assertiveness training?




 
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notgivingupyet
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1/26/05 9:33 PM
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Yes, as I'm sure you can tell from my post, I have a lifetime of experience with a parent with (undiagnosed) mental health issues- I'm not a mental health professional. As an adult with a family of my own, I have been able to separate more from my parent's illness than I could while I was living at home. I also have a number of cousins and close friends who struggle with similar issues, some of whom I have been able to speak openly with about it. I wrote back to your post for you and for them. I hope they read this too.

There's a wonderful book you might want to look at that is not psychobabble-ish, yet is used and referred to by many mental health professionals. It has helped me deal with a lot of the fallout of having "excellent coping skills." It's called "Feeling Good" by David Burns. Get the bare bones, original printing: you can pick it up on amazon for surprisingly little money, or take it out of the library. It's filled with exercises geared to create self awareness, and deals with depression, etc. There's a chapter that deals with assertiveness training. There are lots of other books that talk about it as well, but Burns' approach is short, to the point, and relevant. Do an amazon search if you're looking for others.

Good luck.


Edited: 1/26/05 at 10:01 PM by notgivingupyet
 
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motcha
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1/26/05 9:57 PM
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I read Burn's book, both editions, when I was first diagnosed. I agree. Good books! But not a replacement for therapy and or meds. And Burns is big cognitive guy but I don't fully agree. How do you feel?
 
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Batsheva
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2/1/05 9:37 PM
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I am impressed with notgivingupyet's post. It basically mirrored everything I would have liked to say and its so true when you said,
that is takes one to know one. For years as a teenager I thought I was the only one in the world like that especially when I saw families that seemed to be so normal compared to mine. Now as an adult and a mother with my own separate identity I know different. I have one close friend that I discuss the issue with but Baruch H' I have come a long way and do not need to discuss it as often as I used to.

Once I was able to heal myself and move on, I was able to regulate the relationship within specific boundaries. Of course everytime a new situation comes up, things will change. For example when I became a mother certain expectations came up that haven't before. And sometimes when its not a new situation you will find that little ghosties of the past come to haunt you.

Another thing the interent helped me was in giving a diagnosis to my parent's condition. Although it wouldn't help my parent, it helped me put alot of the behaviours and attitudes into a context that was rational opposed to emotional. I bought books on the condition and it helped me alot and is now used as a reference book if I need it.

One website I visited actually had a message board for the Unchosens - meaning the relatives that were born into the situation like children/sisters or parents of a person with this condition. Although it was a non jewish message board with hair raising tales posted, it still was a tremendously validating experience to visit it when I needed it.

Many mental health conditions are part of one disorder - depression/narcission can be varying behaviours but part of the one disorder. It is worthwhile for you to check out mental health sites and see if the behaviour of your parent matches any of the disorders listed.

I hope this helps,
Batsheva


 
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behappy
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2/1/05 10:09 PM
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It is so nice to hear that there are others out there who have similar expriences and can relate to my experiences on a profound level. Thanks for your words.

I was wondering what you meant by being healed from your situation and then moving on.

what do you mean by being healed?

 
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behappy
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2/1/05 10:17 PM
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How do you regulate the relationship within specific boundaries? I know when I became a mother it was a whole new set of issues, my parent wanted to be so involved, but was so stuck in their needs of wanting to feel needed couldnt really see past that, a very long story, but it distanced us further, oh its so complicated, I could write a book. I'd rather not get into detail because i dont really feel the need to, but maybe you could give me ideas of how you have your parent involved in your life, without going nuts or bursting to tears wishing you had a "normal" (i.e. healthy) parent, and not offending them too much or at all if possible.
 
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Batsheva
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2/2/05 8:21 PM
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In my case healing meant a number of things sort of in the following order

1. Not believing everything my parent said as toras emes.
2. Separating myself from the emotional manipulation and guilt and or triangulation with siblings - setting boundaries
3. Working to create new thought patterns to replace old way of thinking.
4. Thinking rationally opposed to emotionally - books/therapy helped
5. Mourning the lack of a normal childhood/ accepting my parent (s) as they are and working on not to expect.
6. Strengthening my faith that H' has reasons (seeing my siblings still suffering is hard to bear)
and most importanly Believing in myself - and not needing a parents approval for my own validity and abilities. Working on being balanced emotionally and understanding myself.

these were the main foundations of healing . I will stress that this did not take place overnight. With a very supportive husband (we lived in the same city as my parents so we had to deal with it all the time) and initially with the short term help of a therapist, I began to heal.
In the beginning 2 years of my marriage we probably discussed my family sitution 90% of the time. Later on, less, now in our 9th year we joke about it since the main issues we've gone over and worked out our responses . Its become a habit so to speak, the emotional overtones have been removed. We basically know what to expect.

Like I said when new situations crop up, like having a child I had to work things out. My child is not yet 2 and I realise that I am still struggling with certain issues within but since I am sensitive to my inner thoughts, I realise that its something I have to work on and one of the main things I realise is that it doesn't happen quickly , but I delve upon it and daven for S"D in dealing with it. That and time can help alot. Its not easy but its my nisayon in life and I try accept that and not be bitter.
The upside is that I am probably much more emotionally balanced /mature earlier than most in life since alot of people don't bother to analyze work on themselves to that extent until they have challenges later in life ie, parenting teenagers etc . I was forced to deal with it at a young age

Regarding regulating the relationship within specific boundaries - I remember when we went to the therapist initially and he said to us that dealing with my parent is like going into a boxing ring (emotional) . Our job is to stay out of the boxing ring. I thought then, yeah right, easy for you to say.
Then he went on and said, You have to realise when you are setting the boundaries ie getting off the phone when your parent begins to rant and rave and you tell them nicely that its not acceptable and hang up, is not going to be pleasant. No one is going to be clapping their hands - the only approval you will get is from yourself.
At that point it was a revelation. He's right, no one is going to applauding their hands so you have to accept that.... but you have to be sure in what you're doing. Emotionally it was very tough because I had to face my parent in that situation and be strong even when I didn't feel like it. However keeping the therapists words in mind meant that I knew that only I (and my husband) could understand what we were doing. Its like a language, we were teaching my parent a language and always spoken in a nice tone. Once my parent saw that the varying weapons of manipulation/emotional blackmail/guilt were not going to work they had to listen. And we tried our utmost to be entirely consistent so that eventually they also knew what to expect. In the beginning they used to not talk to us for months after this type of conversation but in the end they realised that was the only way we would communicate.


We still live in the same city as my parents. I know the parent with the disorder still will gripe from time to time about how they're not happy with the relationship but I think the parent still feels it is better than with my other sibling who has nothing to do with them. I still have unmarried siblings one of which is the classic "good child" I know my parents feel that they have made mistakes with my sibling and I and maybe this has caused the rift. (the error was on our side of course) Therefore they are putting alot of hope into the next siblings who will give them the nachas they so desire.
I do not envy this good child. She has alot of pressure to live up to and having heard about her older siblings deeds all these years will make her doubly careful. I fear for her marriage when she does get engaged. It will be a big nisayon for her.

Batsheva


 
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notgivingupyet
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2/9/05 3:06 PM
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Batsheva,

Thanks for your compliment, and I return it- your post truly hits home. I must say though, sometimes, I still wish someone would clap at the successful conclusion to a difficult conversation/ confrontation. Just once.







Edited: 2/9/05 at 3:17 PM by notgivingupyet
 
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Batsheva
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2/9/05 8:58 PM
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Oh, I will be happy to do the clapping for you - post here and I'll hunt around for a clapping icon!!

At least I will know what it takes and so it will be genuine.

Btw, I can't really tell from your post, are you female/male? I just like to know what gender I am posting to.

You don't have to answer if you really prefer not.


Batsheva
 
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Dr. Lynn, Psy.D.
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3/6/05 12:24 AM
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Batsheva,
I am so moved by your articulate, thoughtful and sensitive posts. Thank you.
 
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raizy
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4/12/05 1:18 AM
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you look like the kind of people who may have some good advice for me.

I am married and have a small family Boruch Hashem. Whenever Yom Tov comes along it gets kind of stressful for me. My parents want me to come and visit. One of my parents has some kind of mood disorder, they call it depression and are on medication. My therapist says they display lots of narcissistic behavior. Whatever the labels dont really mean much for me. It is difficult/emotionally draining/"always have to be on our toes saying all the right stuff to make them feel good" to spend time with this parent. SO for Pesach we decided to spend Yom Tov with my husbands family and chol hamoed with my family, this way it does not put a damper on yom tov, additionally many of my husbands siblings will be coming in from abroad, many of whom we have not seen in a very long time.

Another tense point is that my parents are no longer married, so if i go to my other parent a few more minutes than the said parent, the said parent will take offense (i may be exxagerating about the minutes but that is what it feels like).

When I spoke to the parent who is not yet healthy, they told me that they are not sure if they want us to come visit at all. They took offense that as it is we do not visit that often, and besides, they mentioned, it is not so convenient for them cooking wise, and other reasons.

This parent has exhibited such behavior with my siblings, threatning that if my siblings do not visit them on their terms (spend an x amount of nights by them etc when they are in town) then they do not want to see them at all.

Should I be going for Yom Tov? Am I just being manipulated? Should I just detach and say OK if that is how you feel, and continue on with things call in a few days and if they dont want to speak say OK if that is how you feel etc etc?

A tiny bit of me is feeling guilty. BUt only a tiny bit.

I start to feel a little bad. It is my parent after all.

Maybe I should just extend myself? Go even if it is uncomfortable and I dont want to. Rise above my base (or so i am calling them) feelings.

BUt then another part of me says NO WAY! DON"T FALL FOR THIS JUNK! You cant be riding life on this parents emotional ups and downs etc etc.

If anyone has any imput I would really appreciate it .
Thanks!
 
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Dr. Lynn, Psy.D.
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4/12/05 11:48 PM
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First of all, I want you to know that this is a very common dilemma, and that there are halachic as well as psychological issues involved which are difficult to navigate. I cannot comment on the halachic ones, but as far as promoting psychological health, I am not a fan of one-sided relationships, even when even when the other person is one's parent.
A Lynn
 
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raizy
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4/13/05 7:43 AM
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can you explain further what you mean by "i am not a fan of one sided relationships..."
and what can I do to improve the situation?
 
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Dr. Lynn, Psy.D.
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4/18/05 1:15 AM
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Raizy,
When it comes to situations like the one you present (which, you should know, is very common), it is an area where halacha and psychological health interface. How to treat YOUR parents is a complex shayla in the realm of kibud av v'eim and should be addressed to a qualified rav. On the other hand, I often tell my patients that the three "pillars" of any healthy relationship (romantic or otherwise) are: MUTUAL respect, concern and appreciation. Whenever, one party severely violates one or more of the "pillars", it becomes a "one sided relationship", which often means one party tries to dominate the other, which hardly ever leads to productive, healthy relationships among adults. Hope this helps.
A Lynn
 
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