Tag Archives: Adult children of the mentally ill

Video — Living with a bi-polar parent or partner

Several people discuss the massive centre of gravity of having a bi-polar person their lives.

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The impact of caregiving on your career

The nice people at Linked In had a piece about what caregiving can do to your job and job prospects.

This piece is about elder care primarily, but the bottom end of the piece has ten points of advice that are worth considering. The very first is to tell your employer what’s happening. I’d qualify this because you really should always treat HR like the enemy but generally that’s good advice. Let them have some idea of what the floor and ceiling are so that colleagues can forecast how much to put on your plate and at what rate.


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Radio: Balancing life as a family caregiver

One of the hardest jobs many of us will take on in our lifetimes is caring for loved ones as they live longer. The impact upon our careers will be increasingly significant. Balancing work, with your own health and busy lives can be a real challenge. CBC Radio One has a program in British Columbia called Radio West. You can listen to the April 23, 2012 edition as host Rebecca Zandbergen interviwed columnist Star Weiss to discuss the issue. The interview is very short but one point is hammered home:  financial planning for elder care when your parents have complex co-morbidities will make your life as a family caregiver easier.

CBC Radio West

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Video: Caring for mentally ill family members

The health show Tonic recently broadcast a segment on the difficulties of caring for relations with mental illness. Tonic is shown on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation network and covers health issues generally.


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The Barometer

I started this web diary because I had no-one with whom to talk about being a bi-polar caregiver. I seriously have no idea how others cope but I have noticed one thing: when I start posting more, it’s because things are getting harder.

What’s your barometer?

Things are going easy now but my bi-polar parent was in the hospital recently in account of pneumonia; but even that was comparatively simple since it merely involved my stopping by after work daily and so in addition to being busy, there was little impact on me since I wasn’t having to anticipate things six moves in advance. I have noticed that things get hard when she is ‘control’ or at least has veto over something. The sale of her house was a colossal effort because every single thing that needed to get done was the end of the world. She’d periodically call people involved to cancel instructions or give strings of contradictory requests and orders clearly counter to her own interests. (Like remove the fireplace, thus devaluing the house. Great job, Mum.)

Things like managing her mother’s bank account are a source of conflict. She has power over her mother’s finances and every once in a while we need to do things like order cheques or move money about. Driving my mother to the bank results in a predictable drama. She gets out of the vehicle and then starts making demands, holding the process hostage for some out of proportion ‘reward’ like a vacation in some warm country or the like. She’s accomplished nothing with her life, so any power she does have, she swings like a claymore.

As that her house has been sold and her money locked away in investments where it’ll be hard for her to do anything foolish, I guess the next major point of conflict will be her will and mandate — again.  She had a will but when I criticized her treatment of me, she wrote a libellous letter, full of invented incidents and half-truths and so it’ll probably not stand a legal challenge if my sister, the drugs-addicted stripper, decides to contest.

I’ve told my mother to shove her will up her arse; I shan’t be blackmailed because at 11 p.m., she’s decided I must drive across town to bring her an orange. Having been through the will process, and the mandate process, I fail to see why I need to take more days off work to certify paperwork that she’ll rescind the next time she gets in ill humour.

Another issue that has come up is tax time is when she is suddenly throwing her not inconsiderable girth about. She is suddenly in charge and demonstrates it though tantrums and nonsensical demands.

Back in the day when she was living at home, and her husband was alive, every family event was a fireball with plenty of secondary spot fires. Lots of engineered dramatics, basically I’d come stay in the kitchen, eat in silence, wash up and leave. Now that house finally sold, and she’s in a retirement home, her finances are regularized, perhaps a regularity will develop.

Still, if I am writing here a lot. It probably means I am on a short fuse.

Identify your barometer. For my father, it was alcohol, incidentally.

The Typewriter

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New Yorker

This one is disturbingly true. It reminds me of my own bi-polar mother’s trophy collection. Of course, this cartoon is a bit of an inkblot test as we look at it with horror reminding of ourselves of the time they painted the kitchen orange, decided to clean the house which meant unrecoverable losses, or the time it was decided to start a puppet theatre. They however, would look upon this cartoon, laugh, and talk about ‘all the fun we had.’

New Yorker Cartoonist Tom Cheney

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Audio: Difficult Mothers

I remember being nine or ten, seated at the dinner table, and looking at my mater matris thinking ‘When I’m a grown up I will not be like you.’

Writer and psychologist Terri Apter talks about her new book ‘Difficult Mothers’ on the BBC Radio 4 programme Women’s Hour. On this June 6, 2012 broadcast,host Jenni Murray begins by speaking to a woman identified as Jane about her relationship with her crack-pot mother.  Listen to the broadcast.

Terri Apter Difficult Mothers

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Crossing a line

My birthday was Thursday.

Earlier this year, my bi-polar mother withdrew the power of attorney from me two weeks after I took two days off work to help her with it, and her will. Why? Because she was furious with me for daring to be incredulous when she said she was going to cancel her will and let it sit for several years until she was ready to do it. Of course, I found out that I had no power of attorney when I was doing her real estate transaction for her, with her consent and the buyer was there with the cheque. I didn’t get arrested for real estate fraud but as you can imagine, a two page defamatory letter coming from the fax machine claiming that I was a violent, and financially coercive criminal did very little for my mood.

You see, she’s accomplished nothing with her life so any power she has — be it a bank or tax form signature — she uses to deny.

She’s been driven to the bank to sign a paper for her mother and then begun throwing tantrums in other to make us play fetch for some unrelated matter ‘just because.’ According to the people at SHAEF, a submarine is essentially a weapon of denial. It denies you access to the ocean and fast transit. I think of her that way: the power to deny is her only power so she uses it wildly and inappropriately. My mother is a fantasist. If you relate a story, she will then begin telling the story as though a) she already knows about it and b) was there. I’m serious. Overhearing a story about my workplace manages to get told as though she was there and somehow involved. Pressing her on the point invokes her one of her limited arsenal of typical behaviours.

After her house was sold and her money was deposited in her account, I told her she was on her last bit of credit with me. I’m the last family member who has anything to do with her and she cannot expect that after four decades years, my patience is inexhaustible. Well, a few weeks ago she did something else and I nearly blew my stack. The best thing to do is separate and so I told her I’d see her after Labour Day but that’s difficult since she actually needs things like pin money and toiletries.

I told her I wanted no birthday present from her, not even a card so don’t waste the postage. She sent one anyway and I returned it to her when picking up this month’s bills. Needless to say, she had a meltdown because she wants to be good, blah, blah, blah. So I opened the envelope and fussed over the card, pretending to like it but refused the gift. I don’t know why it matters, but I really feel as though accepting that cheque —  not a huge amount by any real standards — seems so symbolic at this of all stages.

I shall fulfill my duties. She’ll be well-cared for, her finances well managed for her exclusive interest, et cetera but that’s all.

Her cheque is in front of me I write. And now I’ve torn it.

…and go far away

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Video: Siblings and Adult Children of the Mentally Ill

Here’s a discussion about the siblings and adult children of the mentally ill with Mary Crocker Cook and Laura King. It’s a general introduction to the subject, and the adult children of the mentally ill parent can skip to the latter half of part two.

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Article: To enliven her was my living

‘To enliven her was my living’: thoughts on compliance and sacrifice as consequences of malignant identification with a narcissistic parent’


This paper  explores the dynamics involved for children growing up with a narcissistic parent. It suggests that as a consequence of a malignant identification children resort to compliance and sacrifice in varying degrees. Compliance, as part of the sacrificial dynamic, also serves as a means for identification, which in the absence of other emotional nurturance the infant and later the child is reluctant to relinquish. Drawing on the personal and professional experiences of both D.W. Winnicott and H.J.S. Guntrip the paper discusses the underlying conflict between absorption into and abandonment from the narcissistic parent. The psychotherapeutic relationship offers a space to acknowledge the systematic interconnectedness that is at the heart of the malignant identification and the terrible dependency involved. Through a good personal relationship a benign identification with the therapist can begin to replace what was previously so strongly held onto. Brief extracts from two incomplete psychotherapies with young men are used to illustrate certain aspects of the therapeutic work involved.


Fiona Gardner, British Journal of Psychotherapy,  Volume 21, Issue 1, Article first published online: 17 NOV 2006, 

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