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Mental illness in the fam (...semi WR)

Bear with me for this will be long winded...

I have an older half brother - we'll call him Lee - who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia (with coexisting addiction issues). He was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 19-years-old and has spent the past 24 years at various levels of stability (best - a two year stretch in his own apartment with zero hospitalizations; worst - 16 hospitalizations in one year). For the past 10 or so months, he's been in a state mental hospital (court ordered). He's not developmentally disabled, rather he has a very high IQ; he's got a great support system in that our family is very much involved in his life, and he's got a decent treatment team ~ doesn't sound like much, I realize, but it's more than a lot of the mentally ill population has. That said, he is non-compliant more often than not (e.g. doesn't regularly stay on medication, sporadic group participation, very little interest in self care, etc.), and odds are he'll ever reach an independent, healthy and stable life again. It's a shitty existence, and my heart breaks for him and the hand he's been dealt. I can't imagine what it's like to have your brain...your sanity...be your greatest enemy.  

So here I am, newly engaged, over the moon happy, planning a family wedding...and I can't stop thinking about Le. My mom wants him at the wedding (clinging to the dream that he'll suddenly stabilize in the next 6 months), FI has never met him and is terrified he'll show up and all will go to hell in a hand basket (based limited experience he's had with the mentally ill), and I just feel torn and sad. I adore Lee, and would LOVE for him to be part of our celebration of marriage...but the reality is he won't. And if, by some act of God he did suddenly stabilized enough in 6 months to take a long ass trip to northwest Montana...the reality is that it would be awkward at best and far from enjoyable for most of us who are charged with his safety and well being. 

Ugh. I'm just venting I suppose. I don't expect anyone to give advice or even really understand this rambling, though I know others who have mental illness in their family may appreciate such dichotomy of emotions. Thanks for letting me spew a whole lot of nothin'...I think it's time to call this day a wrap, go have a drink, and get back to thinking about all the good stuff that's happening in the world.

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Re: Mental illness in the fam (...semi WR)

  • I'm so sorry to hear about your brother.  It sounds like you are right and attending the wedding is just not something he will be healthy enough to do.

    How would he respond to having an invitation or announcement sent to him after the fact?  Would he appreciate photos or video?  Can you visit him with your new H shortly after getting married?

    My best friend suffers from bipolar disorder and recently was also diagnosed with schizophrenic tendencies (I think not actually full-blown schizophrenia.  She was having hallucinations but was able to realize they were hallucinations, never actually thought they were real).  She's been extremely stable with no hospitalizations for the past two years and I am hopeful the worst is behind her.  So not to the same extent, but I understand what you mean about how a person can be so special to you but their mind is just not really their own.  It totally sucks.
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  • I have no advice, but can offer my sympathy.  A very good friend of mine has a brother in a similar situation.  He's 10 years older than we are, and was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teen.  He's very high intellect, but his meds make him slow and socially very awkward.  Of course, feeling disconnected and slow makes him hate his meds.  He's had periods where he had violent episodes and spent the majority of the time in care facilities, and has had long periods where he was able to live on his own "out in the world" without incident.  

    It breaks my heart that my friend spent so much of her childhood shadowed by her brother's and parents' attempts to work through his diagnosis and care.  It wasn't his or their fault, but my friend had some pretty shitty childhood experiences.  It doesn't seem like much, but it really sucks that her parents could never commit to coming to our volleyball games in high school or that she never felt comfortable having friends over.  

    As I said, I have no advice, but know that you are not alone.  
  • I also don't have useful advice, but I have sympathy. DH's mother has diagnosed, but untreated, mental illness (exacerbated by serious alcohol and drug abuse) and she's a wild card -- his childhood was terrible because of her, and as an adult, he wants nothing to do with her.

    She and DH's father, who are still married, came to our wedding (without an invitation, but it was in a church), and DH's fear was that she would, in some way, act out or be disruptive. They were told, in no uncertain terms, that their attendance at the ceremony was not something we could prevent, but their attendance at the reception was a non-negotiable 'no way, absolutely not.'

    I do understand the mixed bag of emotions -- DH spent a lot of time wondering why his mother didn't love him and why his father didn't protect him from her abuse and why his mother was the way she is. As an adult, he has a lot of anger and resentment towards her. His father is forever trying to force a relationship -- on the grounds that 'she's your mother afterall' -- and DH is having no part of that.

    It's hard, and speaking as the person in the relationship whose family this is not, it's hard to know how to be supportive. Every story I've ever heard about DH's mother at a family event involves her getting pissed off and throwing stuff at people -- so of course I didn't want her at our wedding at all, and not because I'm unsympathetic to people with mental illness, but because I wanted to protect my other friends and family members from a potentially violent person.

    As I say to DH often, 'You have some, few and far between, good memories of your mother. I have nothing but horror stories. It's hard for me to be in a position where I want to have her around me when all I hear is how violent she is.' I'm not saying this is true for you, but it might help explain where your FI is coming from.

    Best of luck, and feel free to vent here anytime!
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  • SmileDamnitSmileDamnit member
    First Anniversary First Comment 5 Love Its Name Dropper
    edited January 2014
    How would he respond to having an invitation or announcement sent to him after the fact?  Would he appreciate photos or video?  Can you visit him with your new H shortly after getting married?
    I think he'd really appreciate the photos. My mom told him about the engagement last week when she visited him and she said he lit up and was very happy. I'm going to try to call him this weekend and while I won't give any details about the actual wedding, I think he'll be happy to hear about the new from me. And I'm sorry to hear that your friend has to bear the burden of bipolar disorder. It's a rough diagnosis, but it sounds like she's got a good grasp on things and I'll keep my fingers crossed for her health.
    I have no advice, but can offer my sympathy.  A very good friend of mine has a brother in a similar situation.  He's 10 years older than we are, and was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teen.  He's very high intellect, but his meds make him slow and socially very awkward.  Of course, feeling disconnected and slow makes him hate his meds.  He's had periods where he had violent episodes and spent the majority of the time in care facilities, and has had long periods where he was able to live on his own "out in the world" without incident.  
    Quite similar actually! My brother is 7 years older, and definitely has the same catch-22 with meds. I wouldn't want to take anything that made me catatonic or drool excessively or have seizures. But I wouldn't want voices in my head to tell me to jump out of a 3 story building because someone in the closet was trying to kill me either. Kind of a no win in my opinion. Hugs to your friend…I hope she's been able to find some peace with it all in adulthood.
    I also don't have useful advice, but I have sympathy. DH's mother has diagnosed, but untreated, mental illness (exacerbated by serious alcohol and drug abuse) and she's a wild card -- his childhood was terrible because of her, and as an adult, he wants nothing to do with her.

    She and DH's father, who are still married, came to our wedding (without an invitation, but it was in a church), and DH's fear was that she would, in some way, act out or be disruptive. They were told, in no uncertain terms, that their attendance at the ceremony was not something we could prevent, but their attendance at the reception was a non-negotiable 'no way, absolutely not.'

    I do understand the mixed bag of emotions -- DH spent a lot of time wondering why his mother didn't love him and why his father didn't protect him from her abuse and why his mother was the way she is. As an adult, he has a lot of anger and resentment towards her. His father is forever trying to force a relationship -- on the grounds that 'she's your mother afterall' -- and DH is having no part of that.

    It's hard, and speaking as the person in the relationship whose family this is not, it's hard to know how to be supportive. Every story I've ever heard about DH's mother at a family event involves her getting pissed off and throwing stuff at people -- so of course I didn't want her at our wedding at all, and not because I'm unsympathetic to people with mental illness, but because I wanted to protect my other friends and family members from a potentially violent person.

    As I say to DH often, 'You have some, few and far between, good memories of your mother. I have nothing but horror stories. It's hard for me to be in a position where I want to have her around me when all I hear is how violent she is.' I'm not saying this is true for you, but it might help explain where your FI is coming from.

    Best of luck, and feel free to vent here anytime!
    I can't even begin to imagine how hard it must be to have a parent with mental disorder, and I don't blame him in the least for wanting no relationship as an adult. Mother or not, he's got his safety and sanity to watch out for…and yours as his DW. Good for you for supporting him, even if you don't always know the "right" way (and there's not really a right way, if you ask me). I know it's all cliched, but I'm firm believer in 'tough love'. I'll support & love my brother until the day he dies, but I have very defined boundaries and refuse to enable his bad choices or behaviors. 

    The FI very much wants to meet Lee, but it will not be at our wedding. He's got a right to develop (or not) the type of relationship with him that he's comfortable with, and I would never try to force anything more or less. That's just insane (…pun intended ;) . We use a lot of humor in our family, cuz sometimes there's nothing to do but laugh!).

    *edited b/c I can't proof read before coffee*
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