I think my cleaner is unstable

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Marguerite, Feb 6, 2008.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I'm posting this here because technically it's not about a difficult child of mine. Nevertheless, I do think it's definitely difficult child material.

    I'll try to be brief - I get home help through an agency which supplies home help support to families affected by disability. I get it mostly for my own problems. I'm supposed to get help with housework, with some cooking tasks, hanging out the washing - that sort of thing. I usually potter along beside the person because that way we get a lot more work done - I do what I can do, they fill in the extra bits. The agency is currently struggling to find people to meet the demand.

    My current home help is a bloke I've known for years. Small village - you get to know people well. He goes to the new fundamentalist independent church in the village, so does his wife. He is a bit of a hippy; she is a real tubthumper. Together they've done some good things for other people, primarily in terms of raising awareness for environmental issues and Third World problems. She's the organiser, he is the dreamer, who dreams of a better world.

    However, he is also unstable. There have been times he's been giving me a hard time because I don't always agree with his fundamentalist views (he's not supposed to evangelise on the job; doesn't stop him) and has called me a heretic a few times. I've mentioned elsewhere about people concerned about easy child 2/difficult child 2's reputation as a dabbler in witchcraft (she isn't, but allowed the rumour to circulate because it kept the nuisance boys away from her). He is one of them - when easy child 2/difficult child 2 was watching "Charmed" DVDs (from the TV series) I thought he was going to refuse to work for me while the DVD was on, he was in such a state over me letting her watch it. As I told him at the time - she is an adult, it's a TV show, if I tell her to stop, she will only go and watch it in secrecy which will remove my chance to discuss it with her and demystify it all.
    I get the feeling that he 'gets off' on having a crisis, something to be upset about. The pastor of his church DEFINITELY does this - she's what I call a spiritual junkie, in the same way that people who over-exercise are endorphin junkies. It's as if she has to create a spiritual crisis in order to feel as if she has some purpose, and I feel my friend is vulnerable to this, it does him harm.

    I suspect he's bipolar. In fact, I'm sure of it. But I think there is more.

    Lately he's changed. Just before Christmas difficult child 1 saw him in the city being escorted by police. My friend had told me that he was going into the city that day, to attend a conference for counsellors (yes, he does volunteer work as a counsellor). Next day was my cleaning day and difficult child 1 answered the door for him, asking him about the incident with the police.
    He immediately told us he'd been arrested for what amounts to indecent exposure [caught on CCTV, I suspect]. He gave us the details, matter-of-fact. I had the impression he was expecting, almost wanting, a shock-horror reaction from us, so I carefully didn't react. Instead, we just got on with the chores together. Apart from me saying, "Well that was a silly thing to do," I didn't want to go there. But he has been very depressed - "I'm going to lose my job, my marriage is over, my life is a mess, I don't know what I believe any more, I've really made a mess of things."
    OK, I could imagine his wife's reaction - it wouldn't be pretty.

    Since then he's been alternating between self-flagellation "I'm a worthless person, I'm so miserable," and seeming quite cheerful. I've not heard even a whisper about any of this in local gossip, so it seems neither he nor his wife have said anything to anyone (except maybe their pastor).

    Today was downright weird. He arrived, immediately said something like, "I'm coming round to your way of thinking, but I have to disagree with you about alcohol, caffeine and drugs. I think you're far too rigid on those topics." That was the first thing he said after "good morning."
    I reminded him - "abstaining from alcohol, caffeine and drugs - that's MY choice, for health reasons that apply to me. I'm not telling other people what to do." And he has often got the wrong idea about what I've said in other ways too, as if he only hears what he wants to.

    We chatted about things in general, I tried to keep the conversation totally away from personal issues. A couple of times he said something like, "I think all life's problems can be solved with a flagon of wine and a few puffs of pot." I ignored it.
    He seemed to be happy, and agreeing with me, adding in his own comments, then he suddenly said, "I feel awful, I feel really ill now. I don't think I can work - I'm so miserable." Then he burst out with, "I don't want you to die, simply because you have wrong beliefs."
    He was in tears, apparently struggling to control his emotions.
    Then his mood seemed to change again, he seemed happy again, and set off on the next chore. he did say, "I'd better keep moving along with work, I don't want you ringing the agency and telling them I was talking weird stuff."

    I've been feeling increasingly nervous around him since the revelation over the obscene behaviour charges. I haven't dared ask him how that's going, I don't want to 'feed' what I feel is a very unhealthy obsession with himself and with shaming himself. But I'm concerned about his stability (or increasing apparent lack of it).

    If I called the agency, I don't know what would happen. They ARE short-handed, if the agency drops him then a lot of people simply won't get service (including mother in law). And if the charges go ahead he will get dropped anyway, since I don't think he can escape a guilty verdict and this will get him listed on the sex offenders register and instantly ineligible for the job he's currently doing.

    He isn't the greatest at the job, but he IS better than nothing. Just.

    What makes me most uncomfortable, is that I usually don't let people I know locally get this close to me and part of what has happened is he knows far more about my health issues and other things than I feel safe with. My medications, for example, are something I don't talk about even with close friends. But as part of helping me, he has HAD to know more about me and my personal issues. He is bound by rules of confidentiality, but he's clearly not too closely bound by rules, given his recent behaviour. I have never told him what medications I take, but he has access to everything, including the medicine cabinet. In the interests of confessing his soul (which I think he really gets off on) I worry about what he might divulge.

    I feel vulnerable, in other words. And after today I'm increasingly nervous about innocently saying the wrong thing to him - it seemed something I said today (and I wish I knew what) has triggered this weird change in him, and yet he was at least aware that he was reacting inappropriately.

    Does this ring alarm bells with anybody else? Or am I just being paranoid? Is he just being a drama queen, or should I be really concerned?

  2. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    Well, with the comment about pot and wine, are you sure he isn't doing some sort of drugs? A lot of people feel that pot and wine are more socially acceptable, and might say they do those when in fact they are doing much more.

    I don't know what I would do in your situation. Clearly, if you are uncomfortable, you will have to find a way to put your mind at ease. Is there a county courthouse or some way of looking up public records that would show what part of the legal process this man is in? It may be that he will have a hearing soon that will eliminate the need for you to say anything to anyone. And hopefully his employer is already aware of some of his problems and is looking for a replacement.

    What would happen if you talked to the pastor in confidence and asked him to not say anything to anyone that would upset this man towards you? Maybe he knows that this guy's hearing is next week and you have nothing to worry about. Or, maybe he can intervene in a way that keeps you out of it. After all, hopefully he takes his confidentiality vow a little more seriously than this guy.
  3. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member

    Ugh. This guy doesnt sound too stable to me. In fact sounds extremely unstable. I can see where you feel like you are caught between a rock and a hard place. Its so hard to find any help...even mediocre. I too would be worried about any information he may have on you that he could pass around. You may not even realize what he knows as far as your medications...that could be dangerous in the wrong hands.

    Do you have any way to get the info about his case or charges through back channels? Maybe know someone who works with the courts that could get the info for you on the sly? I dont know...I think I would have to be asking the agency to be on the lookout for a new helper...maybe just say something about how you feel he isnt working out too well or something. Make up an excuse.
  4. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I could ask my best friend about the court stuff, but she also lives in the same town, we all know everybody and I'm reluctant to stick my neck out that far.

    As regards the pastor, we're talking abut someone perhaps only marginally more stable - the 'spiritual junkie'. The pastor IS a friend of mine, but not someone I would choose to confide in. Made that mistake once before...

    As to whether my cleaner is doing drugs - I wouldn't be surprised, but I don't think that's where the problems lie. I'm thinking that with all the stress (admittedly self-induced) he's just plain losing it.

    This guy is friendly towards me, but what he is saying and what he is thinking clearly seem to be diverging. And I think this is perhaps unhinging him even further. From what I know, his marriage was heading for the rocks even before this 'incident' - and I find it very hard to reconcile what he has admitted to doing in public, with the deeply religious man he otherwise portrays. I CAN'T risk talking to anyone about it, in case he HASN'T told, say, the pastor for example. It would make me look like the worst kind of gossip if I mentioned it. And even though I'm also on good terms with his wife - again, I'm reluctant to say anything to anybody.

    This guy has big problems. But another pattern I've been seeing as increasingly obvious - he seems to be wanting to abase himself, to degrade himself in various ways. Self-destructive, and then talks about how he's a bad person etc, almost like a kid who deliberately does dangerous things and then tries to win sympathy for his grazed knees. It's a vibe I've been getting - the "mea culpa" followed by people surrounding him with, "Never mind, life will get better, think positively, etc". Also an aspect of "just how naughty do I need to be, to shock this person?"

    Part of it - maybe he's testing people around him to see just how much crud they'll put up with - but I think it goes beyond that. At some level I think he's burning bridges. It's as if he's thinking, if he can't sustain his marriage, then why try to hold things together on other levels?
    He told the most reactionary of the church elders that he has decided not to be a Christian. Frankly, from what I know of him, this is akin to Mother Theresa switching to atheism. It was a statement borne partly out of confusion, and partly out of a desire to get a shock reaction. He told me that he is now looking around and asking people their views on life, so he can find something to believe in.
    This to me sounds not only bizarre, it's almost childish - "tell me what to think."
    Like a lot of what he says, I threw it back at him and said that he already has faith; he just has to work out for himself what it is faith IN. And it's not my job in any way to tell him what to believe - not ANYBODY'S job. That was a fortnight ago.

    As I said, some of this seems calculated, but what I saw today - a lot of it was NOT calculated (I don't think).

    I can tell him to get counselling but he will only go to the pastor, and I doubt very much that will help - probably only make things worse. I did say something today about the benefits of secular counselling - now I think back, I'm wondering if that was what triggered his outburst. He had brought up the topic of counselling, as he often brings up various topics.

    He really doesn't seem to know his own mind from minute to minute. I'm thinking as I type this - what was running through my head today was "rapid cycling" - I'm not experienced with this, but whenever I've paid attention to people here when they talk about rapid cycling, what I saw today seems to mesh with what I think it is. Up, down, up, down - within minutes, or less. Big problems - then laughing at a joke (or cracking a joke). Seeming to seek sympathy - and yet at times I feel there is something contrived.

    I haven't had a chance to discuss this with husband yet. And there is no way I can talk to mother in law about it - she already can't stand this bloke, confiding in her would be a huge mistake.

    Whatever is going on - it does seem to me that it's only a matter of time (not much time at that) before the midden hits the windmill.

    Thanks for the input so far. All contributions welcome.

  5. Coookie

    Coookie Active Member


    This sends up many red flags to me. Having had my experiences with the fundamentalist world sometimes the legalism introduced is detrimental to mental health...but I will not go into that here...

    My concern is you. I know you need the help but this type of person is very scary too me and to have him in my home, knowing intimate details about me would be far beyond what I would want.

    He definitely needs help but it is help that you cannot give him.. your options are limited because of your curcumstances with the people involved and the town you live in.

    You have a big heart and a caring soul but you need to take care of you in this situation. I would tell him and then call the agency and tell them he is not working out... I don't know that you would have to go into detail but I would request someone else if possible.

    He is definitely fighting an inner battle and it is one I don't think I would want to be involved in. :(

    Sorry if that makes me seem cold hearted, I'm not but this seems very serious too me. :(

    Hugs to you my friend.
  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Robby, I hear you. I'm seriously considering it.

    He's been a friend of mine since long before he became my cleaner, but he's been my cleaner now for a few years, I'd have a hard time explaining why he's not working out, so suddenly. They have in the past known me to be very flexible where his rostered days are concerned.

    I would also have to give an explanation to him, AND his wife. I'm not sure what I could say. I've put up with so much inadequacy from him over the years (and they know it) - what could he be doing wrong, that has made me want to ask for someone else?

    It would also leave me totally out in the cold as regards a cleaner. It's a government agency, we're not allowed to be fussy. If he is all we have, then if he goes we get nothing.

    mother in law (and a few other people I know) also have him as their cleaner. She would ask awkward questions which I couldn't truthfully answer.

    I talked to husband - he asked me outright, "Is he a danger to mother in law?"
    At this stage I don't think so. He's generally a very peaceful man, over-the-top with it. Not quite talking to the daisies.
    But the trouble is, whatever is wrong with him is so outside my experience that I just don't know.

    husband & I tried to track his court case, but with absolutely no luck. I'm not sure how to discreetly find out. I've asked my paralegal friend (via email) but I can't give her his name, I need her to tell me how to find the info for myself. The court details are not able to be Googled. I'm not even certain which court. The fact that it was indecent exposure plus indecent act (he clearly didn't realise the train had CCTV when he decided to pleasure himself - and that to me seems thoroughly out of character too) could mean it's in a different court.

    I can't even ring our national telephone counselling line for advice - they would know him there, he works for them as a volunteer.

    As I type this I'm thinking it through. I can see several options:

    1) When I talk to my specialist tomorrow, he might happen to want to see me on a day which coincides with my housework day. If not, I can 'engineer' it. But not for too many weeks, I need the help.

    2) At some stage soon, the case will be heard and it's almost certain he will lose his job.

    3) Alternatively, he will crack before then, and hopefully crack harmlessly.

    4) I could ring the agency and talk about my concerns, but they will tell him what I said, and that wouldn't be good.

    5) I could ring the agency and say I need a different day for service, and pick the day I know he is unavailable, and hope I can get a replacement person. I can find good reasons for doing this. It still leaves mother in law and others getting his services though.

    6) If I cancel the service entirely, I will find it extremely difficult to get back on the roster. Even a lousy service now, is still better than no service, ever. This service is subsidised - going private would cost a great deal more. But I am considering it.

    As far as his mental health is concerned - I agree, definitely not my job. Never has been. He has talked to me as a friend, he doesn't do this with most other clients, but if I've been out of my depth I've quickly said so and told him to see a professional. (that's when he went to the pastor for marriage counselling - not exactly the best authority in this case).

    For future weeks when I can't cancel - I'm going to minimise opportunity for him to talk to me. It cuts the efficiency of the service but at least I will feel less stressed by having to interact with him.

    Tomorrow will give me some answers. The doctor; my friend hopefully showing me how to find court records; and I might call another friend, also a client of his, and ask her how he was at her house today. Or maybe I'll drop in on her, she IS the local Avon lady!

    "Tomorrow is another day".

  7. Coookie

    Coookie Active Member

    5) I could ring the agency and say I need a different day for service, and pick the day I know he is unavailable, and hope I can get a replacement person. I can find good reasons for doing this. It still leaves mother in law and others getting his services though.


    With all you have said I think this is your best option. :) Please forgive me if I sounded cold hearted but your well being is most important to me. He just seems to be swinging in too many directions and his behavior (that he got arrested for) is so far out there it scares the begeebers out of me. :sad-very:

    If he has not gone to court yet I don't know if you will be able to find any info out unless you can search in your county for arrest records? When I was doing background checks for Homeland Security I would go to the county court house, where the offense occurred, and search and if it was still pending it would show me what the arrest was for and that it hadn't been adjudicated yet.

    You are between a rock and a hard place with this and my thoughts and prayers will be with you.

  8. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Marg, I was sure I was going to open this thread and read about unstable chemicals in your household cleaners. And here it was just another difficult child....:tongue:
  9. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Marg, I'm in agreement that this person sounds extremely unstable and I wouldn't be comfortable with him being around you or mother in law or any other person without a third person there with you. I don't know how to help you get someone to replace him but this sounds liike it could be a bad situation waiting to happen. It's not just that he was arrestsed for something wierd, but it sounds like he has lost touch with reality.
  10. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    OK, I'm getting the consensus. I did manage to talk to another friend of mine today, a health professional who knows the village but doesn't know this man. She agrees - I need to extricate myself from this mess. She felt I need to let the agency know, but I'm not sure about this.

    I still haven't got my biopsy appointment, I'll have to wait until Monday now. But I'm seriously thinking of finding an excuse to cancel - we're going away next morning, maybe I can officially leave a day earlier.

    I tried to drop in on the Avon lady (the client he has right after me - I'm not supposed to know this, but it IS a small town) but she was out. Interestingly, as I was getting back into my car I saw one of my FORMER cleaners - yes, she is still working for the agency. She was never that great, but definitely better than he is. I gathered she is very happy with her work, might welcome a bit more? The problem I had with her before - she was working three jobs, sometimes it meant she didn't sleep and would turn up to my place looking more in need of help than me. Now she seems much more rested, so chances are she'd be good.

    I have one more thing I can try - another person to discreetly talk to, about the inner workings of the agency. She no longer works for them, but is one of the few people I could trust. I'm going to try to talk to her over the weekend (she dumps on me a lot, over her easy child-turned-difficult child daughter).

    And I'm hoping my other friend comes through, the one who might be able to help me track court records online.

    To that end - weather permitting, I'm going to try to do my village shopping early tomorrow morning. Saturday morning in the village is like a family gathering. That way I can chat to locals, I can drop in and visit the Avon lady, drop in and visit my paralegal friend and maybe even meet my cleaner (or his wife) socially so I can ask casually how things are going. In a street setting, with other people within coo-ee. I've had a standing invitation to have coffee with the new church people (which includes cleaner's wife, and the pastor). I might go for coffee and keep my mouth shut and ears open.

    I hate having to use subterfuge, but I feel I've been so isolated lately, I need to get back in touch with my friends and neighbours. It could make it easier for me to ask the agency on Monday for a change of cleaners, without it seeming too obvious. I don't want to get this guy angry with me, or feeling any more paranoid than he already is.

    softly, softly, at this stage.

    I'll keep you all updated.