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AIBU?

To expect my DPs to acknowledge my mental illness?

27 replies

DollyPartonsBeard · 27/06/2017 16:37

I live with bipolar disorder. I'm in my mid forties, only child. I was previously 'well-managed' on medication for most of rhe ten or so years since diagnosis. I have a great psychiatrist and GP who are very supportive. I live with my partner a few hours away from DPs.

I have been very ill for over a year, and have had to leave my job in a demanding profession that I will not return to. My AIBU is that my DPs will not acknowledge that I live with serious mental illness. My DM will ask a perfunctory 'how are you?' during phonecalls but does not comment or even make 'listening noises' in response to my answers. I try not to get bogged down in clinical minutae, and try to be positive, so I might say 'I've been a bit flat but the new meds seem to be working' or something similar. I try to make her feel included - but not overwhelmed with the sheer horror of living with a severe depressive/ mixed episode for over a year. She will usually respond 'Oh,' at some point and that's the cue to move onto the Pie of the Week deal in M&S and never mentioned it again.

My dad has never acknowledged my illness. He occasionally sends me Facebook quizzes (Only a Genius Will Get 10/10 - that kind of thing) but glazes over if I ever answer anything other than 'fine' if he enquires how I am.

The whole situation leaves me feeling very emotionally isolated and ignored. Historically in our family there is a 'less said about that, the better' attitude, and any attempts to bring things into the open will be met by horror, silencing or accusations of me always being difficult and ungrateful and spoiling things. I had severe depression as a teenager while living at home and it was roundly ignored, with mental health issues seen (I think) as evidence of weak character and low moral fibre.

I don't really know what to do. I manage my expectations of their responses now to avoid hurt and disappointment, but it's just WEIRD that it can't be discussed. I've tried to gently let them know it's not a taboo subject and while my DM happily likes and shares mental health anti-stigma stuff on FB, it's something that clearly only happens to Other People. AIBU and WWYD?

OP posts:
DollyPartonsBeard · 27/06/2017 16:44

Sorry for the essay, didn't want to drip feed.

OP posts:
NooNooHead · 27/06/2017 17:14

Hi Dolly

So sorry you have to feel ignored and not have your mental health issues acknowledged. It is very isolating, I agree but I wonder if it is a generation thing? My mum is the same about me - I had a head injury, post concussion syndrome and then had a stupid drug induced movement disorder tardive dyskinesia caused by my ignorant but well meaning GP giving me an antipsychotic for a week for severe anxiety. Yes, I was THAT unlucky and my symptoms still haven't gone away, 18 months later. My odd facial expressions, grimacing, lip smacking etc are all very socially isolating but I can control them in front of friends etc, probably a bit like someone with Tourette's would control tics.

My mum hardly ever mentions my TD and I think is probably in denial about the fact her daughter has ended up with such a shitty illness. I know and appreciate there are people out there with much worse conditions, but I do find myself feeling very lonely and isolated as no one understands nor knows how I must feel.

I completely empathise with you about the lack of discussion and acknowledgement - it is so isolating. Perhaps you could ask your parents directly what they feel about your bipolar? Or would that make things a whole lot worse?

I know that I never bring up my TD now and if my mum asks me she usually only says things like, 'You don't do that funny face as much' or something. It isn't very helpful to dwell on a condition but having no acknowledgement too is equally horrid too.

Please know you aren't alone. Feel free to message me if you want to chat SmileFlowersCake

SuperRainbows · 27/06/2017 17:34

I really feel for you in this situation.

It's good you have support from professionals, but so sad you have to face this brick wall from your family.

So no you are definitely not being unreasonable. Families should support each other.

This doesn't mean they can or are prepared to change though and for me that would be the hard part to acrept.

DollyPartonsBeard · 27/06/2017 17:58

Thanks for your responses, Noonoo and SuperRainbows. I wondered if I was being awkward but my judgement has been so skewed while I've been ill that I couldn't quite tell.

I suspect it is a generational thing, and my DPs are quite 'naice' so lots of things don't get named or discussed properly, or are mentioned with knowing looks and stage whispers. It's just a bit odd, I suppose, when I hear about friends' and family's physical ailments in detail!

I think if I tried to initiate an 'adult' conversation it would be treated as evidence that I'd clearly lost my mind for flouting convention, or worse, ignored. Despite me being a grown woman and a parent myself it's very hard to be taken seriously by them (and my unemployment and knock-on effects of chronic illness, like living in rented housing seem to be proof to them of my non-adulting)

Thanks again, you've reassured me and helped me feel less alone.

OP posts:
Writerwannabe83 · 27/06/2017 18:04

You have my sympathies OP, I have a similar issue with my mother.

I started having seizures when I was 16 and was then diagnosed with epilepsy and my mother cannot handle it at all. When it first started happening she wouldn't come to hospital appointments with me and physically couldn't talk about it. I've had it for about 18 years now and she still can't have a conversation with me about it, I can't even mention the word 'epilepsy' without her glazing over. If I mention my Epilepsy in any way she will ignore it and change the subject.

It's very bizarre but it's like she cannot cope with me having it. In some ways it bothers me but at the same time I just know it's her.

Some adults are just very strange people Grin Flowers

DailyMailReadersAreThick · 27/06/2017 18:11

I'm in the same situation but with different mental illnesses that are becoming much more accepted (anxiety and depression).

What do I do? Nothing. It makes my mum uncomfortable, not because she doesn't care about me but because she doesn't know what to do or say and she grew up when mental health issues were much more taboo. I talk to my friends about it, because I know they're comfortable.

So I don't think you're being unreasonable but I also don't know what's to gain by forcing this issue.

Lottapianos · 27/06/2017 18:17

I have suffered from severe depression and my parents reacted in a similar way. It was either take-your-pills-like-a-good-girl kind of attitude or nothing. No one is allowed to have feelings in my family except for my mother. Ignoring, minimising, denying - all par for the course. I discovered all of this in therapy!

Loneliness and isolation are huge parts of depression and to be met with this behaviour from your own parents hurts so badly. You are not being unreasonable in the slightest OP. I would say that my parents denial of my feelings and my reality contributed hugely to the root cause of my depression. Do you feel that any of that applies to your situation?

Lottapianos · 27/06/2017 18:20

Oh and I don't think it's generational - I have a friend who is nearly 70 who is a very good listener and very empathetic. She has suffered from depression herself in the past and coped well with discussing difficult feelings

DeleteOrDecay · 27/06/2017 18:27

YABU, this is one of the reasons my family don't know about my illness and that I take medication for it, I don't want it to become the 'elephant in the room' so to speak.

I have other people I can talk to so I don't mind. Maybe I'll tell them one day but it won't be because I expect some sort of support from them.

DailyMailReadersAreThick · 27/06/2017 18:40

Oh and I don't think it's generational

Mental health awareness is absolutely generational. Mental illness has always been around, of course, but it's only this generation that is so open about it. And even now, some mental illnesses are more "acceptable" than others.

Lottapianos · 27/06/2017 18:52

But the ability to listen to your adult child, to acknowledge their feelings and give them the chance to talk? I don't think that's generational, I think that's down to individual levels of empathy. Some young people are equally rubbish at listening and empathising

DefinitelyOdd · 27/06/2017 19:13

I had a mental breakdown at the ages of 16, 19 and 22. At no point did my parents recognise my illness or offer any support. Even now when they talk about me at those ages, which is rare in itself, I am just told that I always was a weird one and things like that.

My parents are in their late 50s. It could be generational but I find it incredibly hard to forgive them.

Rossigigi · 27/06/2017 19:34

Just want to say I hear what you are saying. I too am in the same position- bipolar- dad-ex teacher etc x

Lottapianos · 27/06/2017 19:39

Definitely, im not surprised that you're struggling to forgive. It sounds like your parents let you down very badly at a time when you were extremely vulnerable

LovelyBath77 · 27/06/2017 19:44

I get this too. I have recurrent psychotic depression, and it really seems to have scared my DH's parents (possibly uderstandablly) I find it easier to refer to it as anxiety. They couldn't cope with it at all, she wouldn't see me and left food parcels for DH in the hall, and suggested i try folding up the DCs clothes to help, and indicated i wasn' trying. Maybe some people don;t get Mh or it scares them. I do find it is older people, well they are older anyway. My own parents also don't talk about it either. I wonder if they also feel it might be embarrassing for them to bring up or something or make us uncomfortable. I know they might find it scary, but it;s far scarier having it.

HildaOg · 27/06/2017 19:46

They have no idea how to communicate with you about it, most likely because talking about these things was such a taboo until recently. For them, it's just as uncomfortable as if you started talking to them about your sex life. So they change the subject.

Why persist talking to them about it? Share it with people who listen and talk to them about the light stuff.

Resurgam2016 · 27/06/2017 19:56

I'm bipolar. It's well managed and those close to me know the signs. I freely talk about being a loony in my DP's presence and we generally smile and comment with each other how well (or not) things are going.

My In Laws know about my condition but they never talk about it with me. For them it is shameful and embarrassing.

OP I am very sorry that your DP are like this but it's likely they won't change. I would encourage you to build other support networks (bipolaruk organise local support groups) amongst those of your close friends and family who do understand. Your DP are missing out on a chance to love and support you. It is wholly their loss. Don't let it upset you. Life is short.

DollyPartonsBeard · 28/06/2017 09:59

WriterWannabee That sounds so tough. I know what you mean, it's her way but it must be quite disconcerting to have such a massive part of your life just, well, whitewashed.

DailyMailReaders I'm not really planning on forcing the issue. As you say, there's nothing to be gained from it. I suppose there's a wistful part of me that wishes they could see me as 'Dolly who copes pretty well considering' rather than 'Dolly who's a slightly embarrassing fuck-up because of unmentionable things'

OP posts:
DollyPartonsBeard · 28/06/2017 10:09

Lottapianos do we share parents, lol? Yes, I do think their attitudes and behaviours have been a factor (obviously mental illness is many faceted, so I'm not blaming them) in that I never had help when I was a teenager, and things like opinions and feelings and options that differed from theirs were shut down pronto. It had a massive effect on my decision-making skills and self-esteem and confidence. I have had therapy etc on occasions over the years but any changes I made in my own behaviour were met with 'psychologists filling my head with rubbish' attitudes. I don't see them often so damage limitation is managed, I suppose.

DefinitelyOdd yes, forgiveness is something I think I've managed, and then more anger bubbles up and floors me.

OP posts:
Madbum · 28/06/2017 10:09

It's awful isn't it? It's confusing and hurtful when you can't rely on the people who raised you for emotions support now and then.

My family are the same, they don't want to know about anything that's negative or makes them feel uncomfortable (embarrassed) I'm not allowed to show any emotion other than happiness infront of them or they get very uncomfortable and make excuses to leave the room or even my house.
I surpress so much when I'm in their presence because it's better than feeling the shame, guilt and embarrassment that creeps up on me if I slip up.
I've learned to expect nothing from them which was hard for a long time but now I think I've accepted it.
I'm sorry you're dealing with this too Flowers

DollyPartonsBeard · 28/06/2017 10:13

Just wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone who's responded, it's made me feel less of a freak. It feels a bit bratty almost to be wishing one's parents could just be a little kinder, but there you go. They aren't bad people but for whatever reason this isn't going to ever be within their comfort zone, and they show no inclination to educate themselves (I've tried, as gently as possible, to no avail). I have a partner and a few good friends and an adult son who are all open and supportive about my mental health, and currently waiting for a CPN to be allocated to me. Thanks again, everyone.

OP posts:
mikeyssister · 28/06/2017 10:35

I'm mid 50s and DS is nearly 20 and suffers from psychosis. He lives with us and dealing with his condition over the last few years has been very difficult, for him, for us and for his siblings.

Sometimes I just want to forget all about his MH problems and just be a "normal" family, but I can't and I don't. If you lived at home OP I would understand your parents. I too would love to have the "fine" conversations with DS. But you don't live at home so there's no excuse for them.

PIL live 5 mins away from us, and they're both in their late 70s. They always ask DS how he is, is there anything he needs, is there anything they can do for him. They are really interested in his life and sing out his achievements to the world. Whilst the rest of their extremely extended families may not know the extent of of DS problems it is not a secret.

So, and apologies for the long post, it's not generational, it's not normal and it's not acceptable.

AlmostAJillSandwich · 28/06/2017 10:50

I've suffered severe OCD since i was 5 and depression since my young teens. My mum was never good at dealing with it (she passed away in 2010) but my dad is a saint, he gave up work when i was 16 and became suicidal and has been my full time carer for 11 going on 12 years now.
Sadly the rest of my family have not been kind. My grandmother (dads side) told my parents they should have beat it out of me as a child. His youngest sister asked him if he won the lottery would he put me in a home so they could deal eith me and he could have a free life, My mums side of the family, after my mums passing, would tell my dad i needed to give him space to go live his own life, he should just go out, turn his phone off and leave me to fend for myself. I went None contact with them all back in November, after 6 1/2 year of being treated like i didnt exist/matter. My gran had just been diagnosed with depression, they couldn't do enough to help her, and were preaching to me how bad it was for her, how low she felt, whilst completely ignoring the fact i was just as ill as she was, if not worse, and had been for well over a decade. Their ignorance was insulting. And when i told them i was cutting off all contact because of the disgusting way they'd all treated me since my mums death and i couldn't take it any more being ignored and let down, i got swearing abusive voicemails and texts and had to change my number. I told them my mum would have been disgusted with how they treated me, and she damn well would have been. They're still in contact with my sister, last i heard my grans just started having scans looking for dementia, but they burned the bridges not me. i'm not going to hold out any olive branches when they've been so selfish and ignorant and they would never feel they did anything wrong with ow they treated me let alone apologise for it.
Mental health discrimination isn't an age thing in my experience, its a "I've never experienced it so because i can see a physical cause, it can't be that bad".

aweewhilelonger · 28/06/2017 11:17

I've watched my mother dealing with my sister, who had situational anxiety / depression a few years ago. In many ways she clearly wanted to help... But so much of her energy seemed to be tied up in protecting herself - protecting her self-image of being a good mother, being desperate not being 'blamed' (by herself or others) because my sister wasn't coping, of wanting to not be part of the problem.

She loves my sister, that's clear, but it's very hard for her to get over her own low self-esteem and really put my sister first when this happened. She did make it all about her at times - 'oh I'm clearly such a terrible mother that she ended up like this!' etc etc. For many reasons, both selfish and otherwise, she could not get enough distance from the situation to actually be helpful to my sister.

I think a lot of parents live their lives through their DC to some extent: when something goes wrong, their first instinct is to protect themselves, even if it means denying / ignoring etc what is going on.

OP I don't think you'll change them. But YADNBU to want them to acknowledge your situation, and to be able to accept it rather than denying / ignoring it.

Lottapianos · 28/06/2017 11:38

'But so much of her energy seemed to be tied up in protecting herself'

I absolutely relate to this and have seen it so many times. I'm afraid every time I hear that 'parents will do ANYTHING for their children' and 'all parents just want the best for their children', I want to scream. Some parents absolutely can and do put their children first, but some never can and never will. Some parents will do anything for an easy life, or to maintain their own denial of reality. Some just want their children (even as adults) to be quiet and behave and not rock the boat. I know that for some, that's all their capable of but my word, it hurts like hell to not be nurtured or supported or even acknowledged when you're so vulnerable

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