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Understanding family member with mental illness

Discussion in 'disABILITIES Community Board' started by Tinker'n'Fun, Mar 12, 2011.

  1. Tinker'n'Fun

    Tinker'n'Fun <font color=purple>"apple", peaches, "pumpkin pie"

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    I have a family member with depression and manic depressive disorder.

    They are having a really hard time right now. I found out they haven't had meds in 5 months because the stopped their counselor visits. I have been on the phone with them for the last 3 nights trying to help. I have no clue if what I am saying if good/bad.

    The problem is a "friend" of hers who also has problems was arrested and left a kitten she helped him buy in his house while he has been in jail the last 5 days. That persons counselor was told and the kitten was suppose to be removed or fed but should be okay as of today. My family member is so obsessed with the kitten not being okay that she is totally losing it. She keeps crying and crying. I offered to go to her house and have her come to mine. She wants to be alone, promised to try to rest and has done this for the last 3 nights. Tonight was the worst. She has a counselor meeting on Monday.

    Is there a way to know if she is okay until then. Any certain questions I should ask? She was out of the house and visiting other family members today, but spent the time crying. She is eating. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I have my phone on, told her she could call anytime, and if she needed to do anything I would do it and change my schedule.

    I guess I am just worried that I don't know signs of a "real" problem. She has admitted herself when she was really bad so I have that to keep hope that if she is really bad she will do that again.

    Thanks, it has been a long few days and someone who knows more would be really helpful.


    Sorry, I posted in the wrong area, thank you for moving it. Here's hoping it gets seen.
     
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  3. Maggie'sMom

    Maggie'sMom DIS Veteran

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    My DD has bipolar disorder, which is the current name used for manic depression. The simple fact that your family member has not been taking her meds for 5 months is a sign of a real problem. That combined with the obsessive thoughts regarding the cat and the constant crying are extremely worrisome signs. She needs to get meds as soon as possible. Do you think she would agree to go to the ER with you? Has she admitted to any suicidal thoughts, either before or now? If you feel she might be a danger to herself, I would contact the police. I really don't think waiting until a counselor appointment on Monday is a wise idea.
     
  4. Tinker'n'Fun

    Tinker'n'Fun <font color=purple>"apple", peaches, "pumpkin pie"

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    First, thanks for the bipolar disorder. I couldn't think of the proper word and it was on the tip of my tongue.

    She has been off her meds but has been functioning pretty normal up to this last week.

    I would be more than willing to take her to the ER the only problem is after she called I took my meds and can't drive until the morning. Do you think it would be wrong to wait until around 8:30am tomorrow. I know it sounds horrible, but I really shouldn't drive.

    I don't think she is at the stage where she is a danger to herself. I would put it more at the stage where she would sit outside of the house to make sure the kitten was okay? Does that make sense?

    She has been suicidal twice that I know of but neither times was she making plans, just felt suicidal and she knew it and admitted herself.

    I am so torn now. She said she would call me in the morning. My phone is on and while I don't drive on my meds I would wake up if the phone rang.

    Please be honest, she wasn't talking suicidal, more like obsessed. Can I wait and offer the ER in the morning.

    I really hope you are still here.
     
  5. Tinker'n'Fun

    Tinker'n'Fun <font color=purple>"apple", peaches, "pumpkin pie"

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    Okay, I am going to have to have some faith that everything will be ok over the night. My meds are working and I have to sleep. I am going to leave DH a note to check this thread when he wakes. He is an early riser, so he can get any responses for me.
     
  6. Maggie'sMom

    Maggie'sMom DIS Veteran

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    Since she has checked herself in for treatment when she was feeling suicidal before makes me more comfortable that she wouldn't do something to herself. I think you are fine waiting until morning. But I would call her in the morning and ask if she will go to the ER with you.

    Here is a link to a mental health services locator: http://store.samhsa.gov/mhlocator

    I don't know where you live to look up alternatives to an ER for you, but you might be able to find a clinic that could help rather than make a trip to the ER. Or if you call the office of your family member's doctor, the answering machine/service might be able to provide you with a number of who to call in an emergency. I know my DD's psychiatrist has a mental health clinic number on their message, or they say to call 911 in an emergency, but from what you've written, you aren't at the "call 911 emergency" level right now.

    My main concern is I know how quickly a mood can change from "not too bad" to "really awful" in a person with bipolar disorder. This disorder is so unpredictable. My DD's depressive episodes haven't been too horrible (knock on wood), but her manic episodes have been such that she will do things that put herself in danger because she just isn't thinking clearly. In a state of mania, she knows no fear.

    Good luck to you and your family member. I'm headed to bed now. Please check in tomorrow and let us know how things are.
     
  7. WheeledTraveler

    WheeledTraveler DIS Veteran

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    Unfortunately, unless she's actively suicidal, my experience has been that the ER won't do much. Same with most hotlines. (I once spent 4 hours in an ER borderline suicidal and they still sent me home telling me I wasn't bad enough because the psychiatrist left me in a room alone for 5 minutes and I wasn't trying to kill myself when he got back. I honestly was in worse shape mentally after the ER trip than before. I know they might be a little better because she has a mental health diagnosis already, but I've had friends who are bipolar have similar experiences.) That said, the counselor's office probably has someone on call and they might be able to help.

    It's worth asking her how she feels about going to the ER or if she feels like she wants to kill herself. She's sounding obsessive and overly upset, but she's eating and going out, which to me is a sign that she's not ER bad. If she's got a counseling appointment on Monday then it sounds like she's aware of what's going on and is taking steps. I don't even see the going off meds 5 months ago as necessarily an issue because some of the people I know who are bipolar can generally cope without meds, but will go on them when they need to and unless she's struggled the whole 5 months, she may honestly mostly be okay without. It'd probably be better if she saw a counselor even when she's not on meds, but there's no rule saying she has to.

    It's wonderful that she has someone as supportive as you around (and I hope she has others as well). Don't forget, however, to take care of yourself too! Supporting anyone is tough work.

    Good luck!
     
  8. Tinker'n'Fun

    Tinker'n'Fun <font color=purple>"apple", peaches, "pumpkin pie"

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    I really wanted to update. I spoke with my sister today. We had a long conversation re: her obsessing over the cat. I have to admit, she was just as bad today.

    I am positive she is not suicidal. We talked about ER, she said to not worry, she had no thoughts like that. We also spoke about her negativity and inability to see anything good.

    The cat was removed and brought to a shelter where it is being cared for. She was pissed because she couldn't find out which one. I did my best to work with her and while she won't let me go Monday to her appt, she said we can work towards me going. I expressed to her that I wanted to go for me so I could understand and be a better sister. I was honest, told her it is also hard for me to understand. The crying was a bit "less" today.

    She called after dinner to tell me she was going out to a friends to watch hockey tonight. I believe her. I also think she will be driving shelter to shelter tomorrow.

    DH and I are trying to work out a way to make sure she doesn't skip her counselor meeting because of the cat watch.

    So thank you for the responses. I am learning more each day and am really hoping to get to know my sister again. I hope she wants to get back to her old self also.

    I am much calmer tonight, but I do have my phone next to me. I guess I will for the rest of my life. She's my sister and I can sleep anytime. If she needs me, I want to be there.:grouphug:
     
  9. bookwormde

    bookwormde <font color=darkorchid>Heading out now, another ad

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    If you can focus on the underlying cause of the anxiety (the kitten) that will likely "solve" the current crisis so you can then work on the ongoing issues. The connnection between some neurologies and amimals is much closer than for the average person.

    If it helps to understand her situation pretend that this is a baby who she is concerned about a proceed from that perspective.

    I suspect that the underlying cuase of her "differences" has been missed and just the manefestation are being delt with clinically, and in this case if is very common for individuals to reject much of the clinical treatment eventually. If you look back to her characteritics from a very young age (and even look at any differences in her genetic family) you may be able to get some clues.

    bookwormde
     
  10. Maggie'sMom

    Maggie'sMom DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for the update. It's a very positive sign that she was willing to go out with friends to watch hockey last night.

    It's very common for people with bipolar disorder to stop taking their meds. They start feeling okay while they are on the meds and decide that they don't need them any longer. Once they are off, they may remain stable for a period of time, further convincing them they can go without meds. The period of stability can last anywhere from a few days to months, but eventually they will become unstable again. They might experience hypomania which is a low level manic state where they have tons of energy and a feeling of euphoria. It's a very pleasurable feeling. They begin to think that they are better off without the meds. The problem is they won't stay in the hypomanic state. They usually progress to a full manic state where they won't sleep for days, and finally they will crash into a depressive phase which can last for weeks or longer. The manic phases tend to be shorter than the depressive phases, usually a week or less.

    In a manic state, they can be in danger because of the grandiosity and invincibility that they feel. My DD has, among other things, climbed to the top of playground equipment and jumped off like she could fly and attempted to get out of a moving car. I've found the child safety locks on car doors to be God-sends. Then in the depressive state, you have to worry about suicidal behaviors.

    You might find it helpful to search out a bipolar disorder support group for family members, either in your community or online.

    :hug:
     
  11. brat

    brat DIS Veteran

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    Remember part of being a good sister to her is also taking good care of yourself.

    A friend of mine also melted down because of skipping treatment. I hunted her down a therapist that does animal therapy to get her to want to go to therapy.It has helped motavate her to go.

    She is working toward the goal of getting a mental health service dog.
     
  12. mommy-on-the-move

    mommy-on-the-move DIS Veteran

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    I'm glad you were able to sort something out- really hope she goes to that appointment today.

    I have bipolar disorder (BP I) and on medication I cope perfectly well as a mom of five (which shocks most people) I have a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist and a big part of my coping is accepting/being willing to go see them unscheduled if/when DH or my mother (or even my oldest daughter) flags up the fact I am showing signs of hypomania, mania or a depressive patch.

    What I did want to do is offer some imput from a BP-suffers viewpoint, when you mention trying to get her to let you go to her counselling with her. I think you might have more success if you ask her if you could arrange a seperate session for the family/you to help understand because you want to. I say this because when I go to my sessions they are (and need to be) all about me- I don't want nor need to be thinking about my husband, my parents or anyone during those, I need to be able to speak freely knowing the only person who's going to hear those things is either my psychotherapist or my psychiatrist- if I had another person there with me (even my husband I've been with him since I was 17, the man's seen my give birth five times- we have very few taboos lol ) I'd be really limited or hold back on what I said- it's not easy to admit you're mentally ill even when people know you are it's hard to voice the things you go through out in public, I'm usually willing to offer a watered down version but the full version is for the professionals and me.

    My family do need to know how to help me and they do need to be kept informed but I need the security of my private sessions with therapists to know I can be me and not a censored version which might be how your sister is feeling- maybe ask her if they do a family support group or similar you could attend rather than asking to attend her counselling?

    I hope that helps a bit with understanding her resistance to you going to her appt- it's probably not that she doesn't want to share with you but that the counselling is her private lifeline.
     
  13. brat

    brat DIS Veteran

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    Your ability to manage Motherhood does not shock me since you take care of yourself.I worked as a disability aide years ago and learned many more than most people think with mental illness fit the well adjusted fuctions with very little assistance.

    With my friend she has said the same as Mommy-on that she needs to not include family with when she has an appointment.She is just needs to be able to say anything without worrying that family will take it the wrong way.She has the added issue of some of her siblings also with mental illness or shadows of it.

    :hug:Tink
    Hope everything is going better for you and your sister.
     
  14. Tinker'n'Fun

    Tinker'n'Fun <font color=purple>"apple", peaches, "pumpkin pie"

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    Mommy and Brat your words are just what I needed tonight. I chose not to call my sister tonight because if she didn't go to her appt., I didn't want to be the one to rock the boat. We are planning a trip together and I am going to call her tomorrow with some new plans and hopefully she will bring it up. Wish me luck that she opens up.
     
  15. brat

    brat DIS Veteran

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    May today go better.

    Happy trip planning.:)
     
  16. Tinker'n'Fun

    Tinker'n'Fun <font color=purple>"apple", peaches, "pumpkin pie"

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    Well I am back to being totally hurt and devastated.

    I spent those hours with her and while I knew she was obsessing, I thought I was getting through. Good news: She is going to her counseling meetings. Bad news: she enlisted my mother to enable her and my mother adopted the cat and gave it to her. So now we have to worry about the boyfriend breaking doors, trespassing in her apt. etc. WE all talked about this and that the cat needed to be adopted out to a good family, but no one we knew. My mom knew this, my sister knew this.

    They called today with victory in their voices on getting the cat. I know I was wrong but I stated my disappointment, and then my husband shut the phones off. I called my dr. who is referring me to a counselor so that I can talk with them re: what is my business and what is not.

    Brat I believe you and someone else (Mabye Maggie - sorry I really upset) that I have to take care of myself, so that is what I am going to do.

    The down-side is that I have to cut off ties with both of them until I speak with the counselor. I really don't know up from down, right from wrong.

    I just pray that while I heal myself this man doesn't go to my Mom's house (the adoption is in her name and she is all alone) or to my sister's.

    Thanks to everyone for reading, advise is always appreciated, my appt. isn't until April 11th. so it will be a long few weeks for me.

    Already tonight my stomach is aching and my nerves are set off. Thanks God I have the greatest understanding husband and kids. They totally understand and are on phone watch for me for now. :guilty::sad2:
     
  17. Maggie'sMom

    Maggie'sMom DIS Veteran

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    :hug: I'm so sorry you are going through this, but you are doing the right thing. You have to take care of yourself.

    Does your employer offer an Employee Assistance Program? My employer has one. I've only used it once and it was a while ago, but they had counselors available to talk over the phone. I was going through a rough patch myself and used it to get me through to my appointment with my counselor.

    Hang in there. Things will get better.
     
  18. mommy-on-the-move

    mommy-on-the-move DIS Veteran

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    :hug: How frustrating that your mother chose to do that! :hug: Please don't for one second feel bad about voicing your disapproval at them going directly against what you'd all discussed was right. Your mom may think she is doing what is "right" for your sister but enabling irrational and unwise plans/ideas may seem like it's solved things and made it all better but it's a "quick fix" which is really not in your sisters best interests in the long run. So please don't feel like you shouldn't have voiced that opinion- when I am in good phases and medicated I really do appreciate the family who are brave/resiliant enough to say things and do things I might not like at the time but are in my best interests (no matter how much I think they are whilst in a manic state)

    Your husband is right- you need to think of you as well, one of the things I hate most about having BP is the strain I know it puts on my family when I'm unable to moderate my behaviour (which is what keeps me on my meds and attending my sessions- the fact they all do their part so it's only fair I do mine) You need to take care of yourself and I think counselling for you will really help.

    I think your mom would really benefit from something similiar too as enabling your sister is really not going to help with her condition.

    Om a sidenote would a way of alleviating the immediate stress for you over the fear of the friend going to your mothers to be to contact the shelter, make them aware of the situation and have them put a note on the file that they should not release any personal information about the adoptee? I am fairly sure that information should be kept confidential anyway but would it help with your fears to actually hear them say they can do that?
     
  19. brat

    brat DIS Veteran

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    Glad your DH and Kids are there to wrap you in their love.

    One of the challanges of mental illness that is not treated is that it can set not just the person who lives with it into a life spining up ended but also those around them.

    Praying your pet shelter seals its adoption records( Your DH can call and ask them to Please not give out your Moms name and address).Of course we will also pray for your extended families safety.

    I do not know where you are so I do not know what services are close to you.There is a national org for the mentally ill and they offer help to family and friends.They would be able to tell you about services in your area and they would have information to help you understand more.

    :hug:Tink
     
  20. brat

    brat DIS Veteran

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    :hug:Mommy-on
     

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