Has a family members mental illness induced a form of PTSD for you?

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Mattsmom277, Aug 16, 2009.

  1. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    I've spoken through the years about my mother. She is bipolar. I spent my childhood in and out (mostly IN) of foster care. Ran the gauntlet of over 20 homes. Umpteen schools, social workers, family court judges, therapists (who tried to help me cope with her illness rather than helping her cope with her illness to function more normally). As a adult I've become the go to person when she needs hospitalization. Begging police, hospital etc to place her for her safety. My family has been done with her for many many years. No contact. My brother and I are it for her. My children haven't seen her in years, we can drive to her house in 10 minutes or walk in an hour. I've seen her 2 years in a row for a thanksgiving dinner at my brothers house. I can't visit my brother (a grown difficult child himself) as he lives 8 doors away from my mother and I don't want to run into her. I have become the person my mother can abuse and torment and drive absolutly insane, and it is just a continuation of my childhood where she did the same. It doesn't end.
    No clue what my difficult child (easy child now perhaps?? at least he's a typical teen now) might have/had wrong with him. He's functioning well now, maturity helped him it seems. But for years he had major bipolar type behaviours and was much like my mother in terms of how he treated me (and the world).
    My brother is a nearing 40 year old difficult child. He can be truly hideous most times. His saving grace is that at times he can truly be stellar, and just when I've lost ability to put up with him, he sort of pulls his act together with me and we salvage some type of relationship. Mind you, we see each other a few times a year in spite of living so near to each other. We live seperate lives.
    With the drama with psycho neighbour who attacked my S/O, i found myself embroiled under the umbrella of yet another persons mental illness taking a serious toll on my world. I spent years distancing from my mother and brother, a not so easy task. I did so for my own sanity, I couldnt' take it anymore, the way they behaved, their impact on others with no regard etc.
    I realized this past month since psycho neighbours attack, that I'm very much going to have to get a grip on coping with the fact that mentally ill people may/will cross my path again, wether family or otherwise. I have always prided myself on my ability to empathize and understand how hard it must be for a mentally ill person to live with their actions and behavious, consequences of them such as loss of quality of life, jobs, spouses, family, friends, what we call "normal" living. BUT .... I find no longer do I have that empathy. I just want people who are ill to stay the heck off my radar. Period. I literally have broken into hives at one point recently. After years of no anxiety attacks, they are back. Thankfully nothing like the period in my life where they were horrid, but enough that they are affecting my day and worse, my sleep.
    I am just no longer dealing with stressful things period. I know that being impacted by so many unstable people is the root cause, however I'm losing ability to cope calmly or want to deal at all, with stressful situations. Where before I'd just vent it out, move on and cope with a situation, now I go through the same motions but find myself anxiety ridden and trying to hide it. I was feeling like I had no personal strength anymore, and then I realized I have just overflowed my cup. Life has overflowed my cup. I truly feel we have a finite amount of crappola that we can properly cope with in our lives and for us who have had a life chalk full from so early an age, by this stage in our lives, our cup be full!
    Does anyone know what I mean? I just literally want to live a quiet existance. No drama. No crappola. Not from those I love. Not in a job. Not with neighbours. Not even reading about certain things in the news.
    I want to have my few select healthy and good for me friends and family members. My kidlets. My S/O. Our pets. Bills paid. Some luxeries. A house somewhere somewhat secluded. Make calls to people I want to speak to and ignore the rest. I dread even the phone ringing. Usually its my mother or brother or S/O's wingnutty sister with drama drama drama that we don't want in our lives, and I simply can't tolerate or handle anymore.
    I guess I"m becoming a hermit. Not a shut in. We go out and enjoy our private lives, see people (those we want to see) etc. But I really just want the uglies of the world to back the heck off and stay gone from my life seeing as I can't handle them, even to a small degree anymore.
    Hope that all makes sense!
  2. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I don't think you're becoming a hermit, I think you're asserting yourself. Maybe it's because I have PTSD, too, and have found it easier to measure the value of my relationships with people against the grief and drama that they cause me. I just can't have the stress in my life anymore.

    It is difficult to keep the homefires burning, especially when it is only a glowing ember rather than a raging inferno. It's easier to put the fire out. I don't know about your set-up, but my phone has a selection of ringtones on it that I use for various family members. That way when I hear it I can know who it is without even having to look at the caller ID. It gives me that immediate knowledge of who is trying to reach me, and maybe I just plain don't answer. Maybe I call them back later.

    I know you feel like a shut-in right now because of your neighbor. But once that period in your life is over with, you don't have to feel shut in if you don't want to be around the fruitcakes of the world. You do not owe the fruitcakes of the world anything. They're all looking after themselves and trying to s-uc-k the life out of your when they come to you for your advice and fixing up. I don't think that there's any shame in saying "I'm looking after me and mine now, and I will choose the people I want to be around based upon their stability and ability to contribute to the relationship". That doesn't mean that sometimes your friends don't need help, they do. And you help them on your terms. It means that you don't have to grind your teeth and stay awake all night or drug yourself to sleep because you dread contact with them.

  3. DazedandConfused

    DazedandConfused Active Member

    I know precisely what you mean. My life's course has been directly impacted by the difficult children in my life. It started with my difficult child Dad and influenced by an assortment of difficult child extended family members. Then, I had two difficult child siblings (who have since shed the difficult child in their 30s) and now two difficult children of my own.

    I've also had difficult child neighbors, but not on the scale of your experience. Mainly they keep me up at night, bully my kids, and try to borrow money. Right now, I have no difficult child neighbors and I LOVE IT!

    At the core of all my hopes and desires, is simply to live in peace. It always has been since I was a child.

    I have caller ID (as a lot of people) and when I don't know a name or number, I don't answer. I don't care who it is. Leave a voice mail and if I feel like it, I return your call. If not, I won't. I stay out of drama at work and everywhere else unless I get poked first.

    I've paid enough for other people's mental disorders and illnesses.
  4. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    I really understand what you are writing.
    I have PTSD and BiPolar (BP). My Mom had BiPolar (BP) but committed suicide. Everyone in my life while I was growing up had Mental Illness.

    My Father has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and he is considered Psychotic. He has held guns to me, threatened to kill me, filled me with drugs....
    My Brother is as well. My half Brother has Mental Illness also... the list goes on.

    Now Both of my Daughter's are heading that way, with one already diagnosis'd.

    I have come terms with my PTSD and try so hard not to impose my issues on others, I so get the pain that Mental Illness can impart on everyone in it's path. I never want to cause PTSD to another.

    I also get the wanting to be alone. I no longer talk to most of my family. E-mails once in awhile.
    I will no longer allow another to hurt me because of their issues, I may try to help them but I have this wall up that will not let them into my heart. Whether this is good or bad, I don't know.

    As far as my girls... they deserve a chance still. I need to be here to help them still. So I have to be open to them. This road is still being mapped.

    I will always help the Mentally Ill, but I will not let their issues destroy me anymore.

    As far as my family, they are done in my mind, for some this an easy choice for some it is harder, my Brother and Father could care less...

    I hope you continue to remain strong. I know it is so hard. Therapy helped me, now I go to family Therapy, which actually I like better.
    If it was up to me I would live out in the middle of no where also! Neighbors have freaked me out at times as well... not like you though.

    Keep remembering- This to shall pass.
  5. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    Sorry to hear I'm not alone ... yet good to know I'm not alone. Know what I mean????

    I am pretty selective with my telephone. I screen all calls. I don't answer if I don't know the number. When I know the number, I choose to answer or let the machine take it. If I know the messages left are ones from those I'm ignoring, I've been known to go a week or two before even listening to them to delete them. I tend to answer my mother or brothers calls very randomly. Sometimes once every day for a few days. Then I can easily ignore calls for a week or two from them.

    We tend to be doing alot as a family (meaning myself, S/O, easy child and difficult child). We go to the beach, but a more private one than the busy one where we'd likely see alot of people we know. We go see movies, go for little hikes or bike rides. We spend every Saturday walking about with easy child, checking out garage sales, observing peoples flower gardens for ideas for ours. We do most meals over summer months outside on the bbq and we often sit out star gazing on our outdoor swings. We do keep busy and part of "the world" but we tend to stick together. Of course difficult child does his own teen thing with friends. easy child is pretty stuck to us for family time but hopefully it doesn't affect her as she is active in hockey, in theater (drama) camps, hockey skills training etc. So between school friends, team mates, friends birthday parties etc, she is pretty social.

    Other than that though, we are homebodies at this stage. Even the local mall seems hectic and we tend to run into all those people asking "how's your mom anyhow?" etc. I hate those questions. I want to say "Call HER and ask HER. She's likely to think you're Lucifer and are out to steal her soul, but hey! Better you than me!" (sarc)

    We have decided that when S/O gets his posting to relocate for the air force, we are not renting, we will be buying. We plan to buy close to whatever town we are sent to, but on the outskirts. Not far to drive into town, but rural so we have lots of privacy and we don't want direct-next-door neighbours. So having a decent size plot of land is on the mandatory list when house hunting.

    Thank you all for answering. I was wondering if it was just a "me" thing, if I was odd. Or even just a "getting older" thing. But in my gut, I think it's just a WANT SOME PEACE thing!
  6. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    I understand too. Personally, I get tired of those in my life with mental illness using it as an excuse to be horrible. They don't even try, it's all up to me. My husband says I'm like Marilyn in the Munsters.
  7. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Welcome...and hugs right off the bat!!!!

    With reference to the title of your post...the answer is YES!

    One thought that came to me from the onset of your post, is your therapist's job or "contract" if you will was to work with you. So he (or she) had an obligation to help you face your burdens and figure out coping mechnisms so that you can react in an appropriate manner. In a manner, that would not be destructive or lead to depression. Your therapist can not change the difficulties you faced (or face). True, your burdens are enormous. This fact can not change. He can not change your mother. He can only help you not be ruled by your emotions...not be ruled by the difficulties that you face.

    My heart really goes out to you...no doubt life with a mother with this illness...especially one that was not able to parent you appropriately which resulted in you having to stay in foster care, must have been tremendous.

    Personally, I think you have every right to want a healthy, satisfying and happy life. This is a great thing!

    It is entirely possible that you might have to put some distance or limits between yourself and members of your extended family who suffer with mental illness...especially those who are unmedicated or who are dispresctful to you or your famly.

    Sometimes this requires some thought and some creativity...but it can be done.

    One thng that is a little tricky is learning to detach emotionally from it all.

    Understand that even those with mental illness, especially when they become adults, can chose to take their medication and go to therapy and have healthy relationships. Sure, perhaps it is more of a struggle for this population, but it is not an impossible task, just a harder one. You do not have to wait around forever and be damaged in the process.

    Are you going to therapy yourself currently? No need to be a hermit. Perhaps you just have the type of personality that leans in this direction?????

    If it is something you are doing on purpose...it might be something to talk with- a therapist about. Trust your instincts. If you meet people who seem happy and healthy to you, it might be appropriate to let them in just a tad into your life.

    Good for you that you want to be close to your immediate family...keep your relationship healthy. Do fun things. And have no shame in limiting relationships with your Family of Origin...esp. if they are in an unhealthy place. You might provide some assistance here and there or some contact here and there, but you are under no obligation to make it a regular "thing." For ex: have caller ID on the phone and don't always answer. If it is convenient for you to answer...if not DON'T. If they have been acting inappropriately recently...don't answer. You make the decision if you are going to get involved at that point in time.

    I totally agree, push the drama in the far background. Enjoy life...keep your household healthy and happy.
  8. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    I was in therapy for a long time, several different times actually.

    It was as a child in care that I was treated in therapy to cope with my mother being actively ill rather than helping in maybe more constructive ways. As an adult, when I've see a therapist, they've been very helpful and assisted me in a level of detachment that I felt was healthy while also helping me learn it was okay for me to say no, to walk away, to see that as you said, adults make choices. Many choose to try to live the best they can, others turn their backs and do nothing to be proactive with their own mental health. I surely can't change my mother or anyone, but I've worked hard to change myself and my reactions to them. I really feel I've done all I can do via therapy. Its in my head, what is healthy for me, what I can and/or should take, what I can't and/or shouldn't take from people, etc. I don't rule out therapy again if I felt it would help me, as it stands, I really at this point feel its just a matter of me finding my own happy medium and ending the irrational guilt about living life my own way and leaving others to their own devices, even if they choose self destruction and a really rotten miserable quality of life.

    I've always been a person who found solace in being a bit of a home body, but I do know that I've grown more introverted and less likely to try to make long term or really close friends. I do know I have learned to wish that telephones didn't exist. I truly am looking forward to S/O posting out, just so we can all start new someplace. The family that are toxic to me ALL live here. I'll miss the family and friends that enhance my life once we are moved, but I will definitly enjoy being away from toxicity. I guess I'll learn when we move and get settled if this is a permanent thing. I'm hoping I can relax with others, new people, more once I'm living somewhere away from all of this. A bonus is my mother has no long distance on her phone, nor does my brother. (bad credit, both of them) so calls will come from me to them at my decision and the phone won't make me cringe each time it rings.
  9. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Sounds like a good thing that your mom and brother wont be able to make long distance calls to you! You might want to read literature on "boundaries." It's always been so helpful to me, and I think many others here. Wishing you well!
  10. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Hello all--

    I do this myself--hide in my house....keep to myself....try to avoid the drama.

    HOWEVER--I actually question whether this avoidance behavior is really "healthy"....understandable, yes....but "healthy"? I'm not so sure. It's definitely easier....and it helps to avoid pain....and stave off the panic attacks.

    But in the long run--I think we are doing ourselves a poor service by shielding ourselves from the world.

    And after all--we obviously desire social connection (look at how much we share on this forum!!)...but we are letting fear and anxiety decide the terms on which we make those connections all too often. (And yes, I am definitely speaking for myself!)

    My personal goal is to be more open and social and take more risks. It's not the most comfortable goal....but I think it's probably the "healthy" one.


  11. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Yes, my sister T who lives locally. She's all over the map emotionally and mentally and I can never tell how she will be in any given situation. I have even cancelled plans to attend family functions because I just wasn't up to dealing with her and her moods. She's sweet as pie one moment and then a vicious viper the next.

    We once had almost a 8 month period where we didn't speak to one another and while the rest of my family was heartsick over our falling out, I was thrilled! It was the most peaceful time of my life living up here near her. I even went to a counselor for a while to help me learn how to detach from her in a loving way; it was helpful. By the time she approached me asking for forgiveness I was ready to forgive but not forget.

    I personally believe that if we allow ourselves to forget what we're forgiving it opens the door to be stomped on again. Therefore, I choose to remember so that I won't allow myself to be trampled on again, Know what I mean?? I have another sister who said to me, "Can't you just ignore her and get over it?" Easy for her to say - she lives 800 miles away!

    Self preservation~that is the ticket to your sanity when dealing with a mentally unstable person!
  12. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    I agree with not letting ourselves becoming too isolated if this isn't our personality.

    I have found that it has to be the right situation for me now.

    I am becoming more social in the girls School, because I feel safe here. They are open and make me feel welcome.

    I am actually meeting people.
    I would have never volunteered before, I am actually doing things like this.
    So I think it does depend on the people and the situation.
    For a lot of us, we have to feel safe.
    We have to feel like we are not wasting our emotional time.
    Our hearts minds and souls have been through way too much.
    At least this has been what i have figured out about myself.
  13. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    I've been thinking about this thread ever since you posted it. While I don't experience quite what you described, I do have what I guess is PTSD but in regards to alchol. My mother on the other hand, I think has PTSD from putting up with one of her sisters her entire life. She will not go to things if she knows her sister will be there because you never know what kind of mood my aunt will be in. If my aunt calls my mom, a lot of times Mom just lets the machine get the call. There have just been too many times over many years when my aunt has, either in person or over the phone, been a raving, spitting, screaming mess and Mom is understandably tired of dealing with it. As she gets older, she increasingly hates being around people, she doesn't do much although a lot of that is also due to health issues. But for the most part, she's more than content to stay home and visit over the phone.

    As for me, I grew up in an alcoholic household that also had cycles of violence. When my step-dad drank, he got mean. Sometimes he was ok and sometimes even when he was mean, things wouldn't get violent. But when it did, it was ugly. Yelling, screaming, him chasing mom through the house.....the whole bit. There was even one night where it escalated to the point that there was a pile of belongings of mine and mom's were in a huge pile in the front yard because step-dad had grabbed what he could find and chucked it out the front door. Mom hid me under laundry behind the washer because step-dad also had a gun, had shot mom's face out of pictures in the house and wouldn't put the gun down. After he disappeared outside (we lived in the country) mom called the sheriff's department who eventually took us to one of Mom's friend's house. We found out later that step-dad had passed out in the corn field around our house. That was one of two times that mom and step-dad split up. I must mention though....they are still together and are doing great. Step-dad quit drinking within a few years of me leaving the house at 18 and as his dark side only showed up with the alcohol, he and mom have a very close relationship now. I joke sometimes that he quit drinking and totally messed up my attitude. We make fun of him at times too. One of his friends showed up once with a bottle of peach wine. SD drank some (maybe half a bottle) and woke up the next day with such a terrible hangover that he said he didn't know how the blank he used to do that like he did.

    To this day though, even in an alcohol free environment or setting, one small noise can bring it all back. A heavy footstep on a floor that squeaks like ours did, a tone of voice, a smell...at times, it doesn't take much. In situations like that where there's no alcohol and nothing "risky" is going on, I'm fine and it's just a memory trigger. But there have been times where I instantly go back to that mindset, usually at a party or somewhere there are a lot of people and alcohol. I'll find myself feeling increasingly nervous and will do what I did as a child. I'll sit/stand as still as I can possibly get and will myself to blend into the back ground. If no one notices me, then I won't get yelled at or drawn into anything. But if I'm in that kind of a situation, I leave. There's no point in putting myself through that just to watch people drink and make idiots of themselves.

    For me and my particular triggers, I can usually very easily avoid them. husband and I have friends who have varying degrees of alcohol consumption. Some either don't drink or drink in moderation and/or only socially. Others drink heavily and still others are somewhere in the middle. I know how they get when drinking or when drinking in certain situations. As a result, I have a pretty easy time of picking and choosing who I go to parties/events with or under what situations I will socially see certain people.

    We can all do what we can to reasonably avoid our triggers but sometimes it just doesn't work. I used to have a neighbor who was a severe and at times, violent alcoholic. We didn't associate with him so it should have been easy to avoid him. But, I can think of a couple of times where he was stumbling down the street, falling down drunk at 10 in the morning. For others, if mental illness is their trigger the same applies. You can choose your social events carefully, choose to live in a secluded or quiet area, avoid certain things/people but it isn't always a sure thing.

    I think though, that the best things people can do for themselves in these situations are these:

    If the PTSD/worry/stress affects normal, everyday living, get a therapist or counselor and learn how to handle things in a healthier way, face your fears and/or deal with the cause of it if that's applicable.

    Find a good compromise between avoidance and living your life in the way you want to. As I said, in my case I can usually determine situations or events that would upset me and avoid them. (even though I once waitressed in a bar....go figure) I also realize and accept though, that I may not always be right. Things happen and anywhere I go there could be some drunk person with a chip on his/her shoulder, just as there could be an unstable person in the toilet paper aisle at the grocery store.

    The key is to not let the fear get the better of us. Live where you prefer, limit your activities if you want but don't quit living. Know what I mean?? It's kind of like people who refuse to leave their houses for fear that something terrible will happen. Granted, in cases like that, the person needs therapy but at the same time.....freak things happen. But if we spent all of our time worrying about the what if's, we miss the times when the what if's never happened.

    I guess to answer your question...yes, there are others out there like you. We may have different causes/triggers, but we are there. We just can't let our past get in the way of our present and future.
  14. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    This is an interesting thread. I struggle with severe PTSD - and the cumulative affect it starts having on one's psyche is substantial. Today was one of the worst attacks I have had in 6 months - and it is because of a combination of things - one of which me putting myself out there for a potential relationship with a guy.

    When I lived in Dallas I had become so isolative that I never went out beyond the bare necessities and work. Moving into a more closed community, and a town of nothing, has forced me to come out of my reclusiveness. Literally neighbors knock on my door at all hours.

    In one way, it drives me nuts. I like to hole up like a hermit, and pretend the world does not exist. It makes me feel safe, secure, like nothing can harm me when I isolate. People demanding my attention by knocking on my door, completely invades my sense of protection. In fact it renders my whole concept of feeling safe by isolation null and void.

    I am still not sure if this social invasiveness is a good thing.........but I do know that people demanding my time socially has made me realize how retreated I had become into my own inner shell. I also realize how fragile I still am - and why I retreated in the beginning. Matt being home this week, and my parents visiting last week reminds me exactly of why I run............. and why I still want to run and hide. Forever.