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Could Use Some Advice on Family Problems

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RockRiverTiff

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I am in the middle of a silent family crisis right now. A certain key figure in the family is having what appears to be a personality disorder. We know that it runs in the family, and she has been showing symptoms for quite a while, but recently it has gotten worse than ever. This person used to be very generous, loving, and compassionate, but now they are prone to very cruel outbursts of criticism and general negativity. Anyone that tries to tell her she needs help is shut out of her life, so everyone else remains quiet. In fact, most of the family does not even communicate with her anymore, which only exacerbates the problem by making her lonely and thus depressed. She has become suspicious of everyone and is withdrawing more and more.

I can't bring myself to cut ties like everyone else, but I don't know how to help her either. Because I'm the only person that's around anymore, I absorb all of her bitterness. Sometimes it starts as soon as I walk in the door and continues until I leave. I feel like every time I'm with her there is less and less of the person I know and love and more of the new person she's becoming. Friends have suggested I speak to her doctor, but she sees as little of him as possible, and I know since she is his patient and I'm not they have a confidentiality agreement and are not obligated to listen to me. Furthermore, I worry if I do try to help that she will shut me out too, and I can't stand to think of what would happen if she was totally alone.

I feel like I'm stuck and would really appreciate advise from anyone else that's dealt with something similar.
 

strass

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I didn’t realize that we were related.

Now, this approach doesn’t work for everyone. It’s a balancing act that requires the right personality and a good understanding of your relationship with her.

I have a very strait forward, (yet smart A’d) personality and I specialize in cantankerous old hags. (Yes, I do…Love ‘em to death. Seriously.) You have to build up enough trust with her and spend enough time with her that she knows you are intelligent, honest, and genuinely concerned. If she suspects that you are just being a whiney baby, she’ll respond in a manner befitting what she sees as a lesser being.

Anyway, have you just told her that she’s starting to act like a shrew and people are afraid of her? (Don't say it, but make it obvious that you are NOT afraid of her.) Aggressive people tend to appreciate someone who can be honest and still has a spine. Approaching too gently can be seen as a sign of weakness.

At the same time, this is best done in a somewhat cynical/half joking manner so that you don't make and old cougar feel like she's cornered. She WILL defend herself if cornered.

Sometimes, people just put up with so much crap in their lifetimes that they get a bit grumpy later on and prefer to be left alone more. I don’t necessarily think that’s wrong. Let her know, but don’t push it after that. Nagging her will only make you seem annoying.

On the other hand: If this “personality disorder” involves a chemical addiction: Life just got a lot trickier.
 

RockRiverTiff

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Your post actually made me laugh. We MUST be related!

On a serious note, I do feel that she trusts and respects me, if anything because we butt heads so often (and on rare occasions because I have been able to provide solid proof that I am right). I neither take nor ask anything from her and try very hard to prove to her that the only reason I am there is because I care. Our ability to debate civilly (if not a little sarcastically) is one of the things I miss most now. Anymore, she only remains respectful toward me when I agree with her. And she's not merely cranky anymore--she is outright hostile. She will rant, rave, and curse (the cursing part at least is very out of character for her) about anything that comes to mind, and it's not just her feeling her oats--many of the things she says are totally illogical, and she is a very smart woman.

Telling her that she is putting other people off only makes it worse; she will attack anyone with a differing opinion in any way she can even if it means bringing up very old issues (this also means that most of the family refrains from telling her anything about their lives so that all she has to talk about is old issues). Any efforts I've made to broach the subject with her usually result in my being shunned for a week or so, and then she calls, and I know it's ok to come back again. Thankfully no chemical addiction is involved.
 

Sun Runner Stables

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Hey-

I got a crazy in my family too- even a bonifide one- ;) My mum's been in and out of mental wards, and has had a difficult time of it to say the least.

My mother is Bi-polar and schizaphrenic (can't spell that for the life of me) and has made any constant interaction with her very hard. Since I've been about 11, she's had constant episodes cycling in and out of truly outrageous behavior. (Really.)

I love her, I am utterly devoted to her and her health, and to trying to keep her on her meds, (very very very hard, she is suspicious and of course, Every Dr. Must be crazy, not her,
)

Feel free to e-mail or call me-

I know how hard it is, but the important thing to remember is that it's Not them, it's the disease making them into people we can barely call our own.

Strass has the right of it- and I don't mean to come off so light. I just try as hard as I can to be positive about my mother and her rather dibilitating condition- that's the thing about family, you can't pick them-

So the best thing in my book is to cope and move on as best as possible. My mother is now stable enough to interact with most of 'my' clients on our farm. She does at times fly off the handle, and does require some careful management, but it's all part of our lives.

She has lost everyone else asides myself and her parents, which is so sad- but we are working on making new friends!
 

Marty

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Sounds like depression.

Did it ever occur to any of your family that she might just have something to say and is trying to get someone to listen to her? On her own terms?

Did it ever occur to flat out ask her what is wrong, and what is going on?

When she is ready to talk, just be there. You all might just have to back off until she is.
 

Brandi*

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I am in a similar situation. Except she doesn't start screaming out of nowhere. She is pushing everyone away by thinking she is always right no matter what. If you don't go along with her opinion then you don't love her. She has always told me I love my Dad more and I'm getting to a point in my life where I feel I would benefit from counseling. I have such anger towards her for the things she has said and done. She is always fighting with someone in the family and is Always suspicious and thinks everyone is against her


I am sorry but I haven't quite figured out the secret to dealing with family members who aren't behaving nicely.

In my situation I just got so fed up with being mistreated and disrespected that I started speaking out how I felt. It caused her to lash out even more. Then she didn't talk to me for weeks, then she called and now we are almost back to the way it was. Except now she seems to be watching what she says and I think she is actually trying to get along. The women in my family just seem to be EXTRA bossy :DOH!

I could go on and on about my situation but maybe I should start my own thread for that lol
 

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