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Forums / Supporting family and friends with a mental health condition (carers) / How to support married son with severe depression when his wife seems to make situation worse

Topic: How to support married son with severe depression when his wife seems to make situation worse

17 posts, 0 answered
  1. Elizabeth CP
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    9 March 2018

    MY DIL rang today to report that my son has left work due to MI. She is going away for 12 days & needs us to watch out for my son & to step in to prevent DHS removing their children if he gets worse. My son has a history of depression. I spent a lot of time supporting him when he was single & eventually got him back on track. Not working has made his MI worse. Working really helps him manage his depression. My DIL has no financial sense & this has led to them getting into debt, being forced to move house & being unable to afford essentials such as rent. Financial stress has had a bad impact on my son's MI. They need to move in a couple of weeks & I believe they are currently in severe financial difficulties.

    His wife refuses to listen to advice & likes to control everything. She is constantly bossing my son around & puts him down continually. Because of his MI he doesn't have the strength to stand up to her & gives in to her demands

    She is leaving for a 12 day cruise even though they can't afford it. My son is expected to be available to look after their children so is unable to work.

    I'm unsure how to support him at this time. Im worried about tipping myself over the edge trying to cope. I also care for my husband who is blind & has a degenerative condition.

  2. Croix
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    11 March 2018 in reply to Elizabeth CP

    Dear Elizabeth~

    I'm very sorry to hear of this new development and quite frankly am horrified that your DIL is going off on a cruise leaving an ill husband and kids behind. She is not even to hand to see to the forthcoming move.

    Trying to look at the overall picture is pretty overwhelming as from what you say there is no straightforward solution. I realize your husband had physical problems, however does he have thoughts about the situation? If so at least you are not on your own. Also what does your son say?

    I guess it is one of those situations where one realy does have to take things one day at a time and deal with each thing as it arises.

    Is there anyone else in the family to help?

    Croix

  3. geoff
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    11 March 2018 in reply to Elizabeth CP
    Hello Elizabeth, I'm so sorry to hear of this.

    If they are in financial debt and need to move house, then where is the money coming from to pay for the cruise.

    Moving house means bond money, a months rent in advance and money to transport them from one place to another, so it's quite a bit of money needed.

    By her doing this is going to put a lot of pressure on your son as well as you being in the background and stopping the DHS from removing the children.

    If you have to care for your husband and edge your way into your son's life that's going to be difficult for you, because what you can do while his wife is away would only be temporary, as she will change it all once she returns.

    If they have to keep moving for not paying the rent, then word will spread around so they won't be able to get any house for rent.

    Hope to hear back from you as there is more to talk about. Geoff.
  4. Elizabeth CP
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    11 March 2018 in reply to geoff

    Thank you Geoff & Croix,

    I have tried in the past to provide advice only to be told that she NEEDs to go on the cruise She never has a break & it is fair because my son can go camping with the kids at Easter. That is his version of a holiday!!!! Any attempts to discuss the finances just leads to her getting angry because I am blaming her for their problems. She reassures me everything is fine but inevitably a week or two later I find out their is a problem eg calls asking for loans to pay essential bills. Any money they have is spent on expensive haircuts, presents, holidays & outing for her. She insisted that my son not work while she is on the cruise & for several weeks after while they move which makes it impossible for him. I believe the stress of it all has sent him back into a severely depressed state. Each time they move she expects everyone else to help & she does nothing.

    I find it hard to talk to him because she always listens in on his phone conversations so it is very hard to speak to him on his own. I will try to ring him tonight & arrange to spend some time with him while she is away but I find it difficult spending too much time if he is really bad. It is hard to arrange things with him when he is unwell because he sleeps all the time. They have 2 preschool kids.

  5. Croix
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    11 March 2018 in reply to Elizabeth CP

    Dear Elizabeth~

    Perhaps I'm misunderstanding or missing the point but from what you say it sounds like you are a sort of backstop or safety net, supplying cash and picking up the pieces as required.

    This is obviously a pretty comfortable state of affairs for your DIL and I guess to a lesser extent your son. Comfortable arrangements can of course continue indefinitely, something which I would think is neither desirable or practical in this instance.

    So what happens if you no longer in effect finance her extravagances? I can understand that it might be the norm for requests for help to be always put on an emergency basis, making it harder to refuse, however the question holds true.

    Croix

  6. Elizabeth CP
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    12 March 2018 in reply to Croix

    I have tried to restrict the financial support to absolute emergencies & put very tight conditions including timelines as I don't believe it helps them if they think they can just rely on others. Unfortunately I can't control what others do.

    I try to limit contact with my DIL because it is uncomfortable but I can't cut her off completely.

    I want to get back to the purpose of this thread which is to get ideas of what I should or should not be doing to help my son with his mental illness. I had my son around today with the grandkids so he is not home alone with them too much while the DIL is away. I will see him again on Thursday. I'm unsure what else I should be doing without putting too much pressure on us. I also want it to feel like I'm spending time with him by choice rather than just managing his illness which I think might just feed into his depression.

    Any ideas welcome.

  7. Elizabeth CP
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    20 March 2018 in reply to Elizabeth CP
    I have spent time with my son & grandkids while his wife is away. He has been coping OK but I'm worried about once my DIL returns. She is so domineering & puts my son down. They need to move in the next few weeks but have nowhere to moveto. My son has given up work because of his depression & he couldn't cope with working & looking after the kids on his own & then moving. These are stresses likely to lead to a relapse. Has anyone got iseas of how I can support him without getting too involved with my DIL
  8. Elizabeth CP
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    13 April 2018 in reply to Elizabeth CP

    The situation has escalated & I feel that whatever I do is wrong. I really need some advice.

    My son was admitted to a psych ward on Wed night after becoming suicidal. He rang me when I was on my way to visit my husband who is in hospital. I am already really stressed & worried about my husband's situation made worse by the fact they don't know what caused it so treatment is just managing symptoms. I suggested my son rang the CAT team but they insisted he went to emergency. I felt unable to drive over the babysit his children so didn't go. My DIL found someone closer to look after them instead.

    They are in the process of packing up their house as they have to move by next Friday. I think the stress of trying to pack & move has triggered this latest problem. In the past my DIL has left all the packing & moving to everyone else & I believe this is happening again. I feel unable to help because I am at risk of injuring my back trying to move things & will become too stressed trying to help while worrying about my husband. My psych has advised me to avoid getting involved with my son & DIL because of the risk to my own MH.

    I feel guilty not helping but I can't cope spending time with my DIL & seeing her yelling at my grandkids & husband & seeing her just doing as she pleases but expecting everyone else to do everything she wants . My son was well the whole time she was away & functioned well including looking after his children & the house

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  9. Birdy77
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    14 April 2018 in reply to Elizabeth CP

    Hello Elizabeth,

    You must feel beside yourself ... there is too much goong on.

    Will your son be kept in hospital? If so, it seems that it's being taken care of in that your son is safe, away from his wife and her abuse, and it is clear that you have more than enough on your plate with your husband's serious health concerns ... it's simply time for your DIL to step up to the plate. You need to focus on your wellbeing first and foremost, so that you continue to be there for your husband and your son. Your DIL will just have to do it. I realise you feel guilty, but I think it's necessary.

    I've read through this thread a couple of times to try to come up with something, but that's all I can think of. Your DIL needs to grow up and step up to her responsibilities as a parent and an adult. Enabling her selfishness is not going to help in the long run.

    Sorry I couldn't be of more help to you.

    I am really sorry for everything you are going through, I really am.

    Many caring thoughts to you Elizabeth. You are a strong woman and admirable.

    🌻birdy

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  10. Elizabeth CP
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    14 April 2018 in reply to Birdy77

    Thank you Birdy, I know no one can really help me at this time but I wrote this thread to hopefully get some ideas if anyone has been in this situation but more importantly to feel like someone has listened & cares & validates how I'm feeling. Your answer has helped me feel a bit less guilty & useless.

    I worry that my son may think I don't care about him & that could make him worse but I do care but I don't know what I can do to make a difference in my current circumstances. I also am wary of doing anything which perpetuates my DILs belief that she is entitled to unlimited help financially & practically to deal with her own poor choices.

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  11. Croix
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    14 April 2018 in reply to Elizabeth CP

    Dear Elizabeth~

    Like Birdy and all the others it would be great if there was some concrete advice to offer. I guess if there was a clear course of action you would have thought of it yourself a long time ago, you are very capable and realistic.

    I would be absolutely certain your son knows of your love for him, how could he not. You try time after time. It is so sad that he is the only one with the ability to reduce his stress. You are on the sidelines powerless and hurting.

    At least he is away in hospital, something I have found to have been a very great help when thinking of killing myself, or just when stress has overwhelmed. I've found one thing I can do is leave a message of love with the ward staff, that way I do not get enmeshed when I can't afford it.

    I think the fact your DIL was able to conjure up babysitters when you were not available is significant and may well show she is quite capable when she has to be.

    Maybe the fact that not only your psych but also others here have said distance from your son's predicament is needed will help to stop you feeling so guilty (well, I hope it does). You are not a bottomless well of support, you are a human being and have the limitations that goes with it. After yourself I guess what's left is needed by your husband.

    Croix

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  12. Just Sara
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    15 April 2018 in reply to Elizabeth CP

    Hi Elizabeth;

    Birdy and Croix have provided really helpful, compassionate and insightful posts. I do want you to know I care and want what's best for you at this obviously scary and problematic time.

    I began to comprehend my existence in other people's lives better, when I accepted that each one is an individual in their own right just as I am.

    We all cope as best as we can and try to help others along the way. Some suffer with guilt etc, but some don't. I'm one of those people now; I never used to be, but learning how debilitating it is to never quite feel I've helped 'enough' forced me to change my attitude.

    The other thing is 'enabling'. There are people that suck the life out of us using 'feel sorry for me' excuses and con's because it's just so bloody hard! Most times I think because it's habitual.

    When we bend over backwards for these people, we're promoting their addiction to outside support instead of their own sense of survival, growth and accomplishment.

    Do you understand what I'm getting at? Sometimes 'we're' the problem. We can be just as addicted to supporting people as they can be using us. Actually, it can be a match made in heaven for some.

    I had to step back from my son to allow him space to learn from adversity. He's a better man for it and has thanked me.

    I'm not saying this applies to your son at this time as it's a scary situation. But your DIL needs to fall a couple of times to learn how to get up. That's how we did it yes?

    Why then do we expect more from ourselves than 'them'? We're all equally accountable for our lives, so why do you suffer guilt when loved one's 'fall'? It's a very important facet of life and learning.

    I'm going to leave things there ok. I look forward to hearing your views on these issues. I'm sorry too if I've phrased things a bit iffy; I've been awake all night and it's after 5am; the brain's only working on one cylinder.

    Go gently with kindness towards yourself ok...

    Sez

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  13. Elizabeth CP
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    15 April 2018 in reply to Just Sara

    Thank you Croix & Sez,

    I appreciate you taking the time to reply & give me some encouragement. At the moment my husband is my primary concern. I need to do all in my power to stop a relapse which remains a high risk so I can't help my son or his family until my husband is much better.

    The problem is that I will still have to face the issue with my son & DIL at some point. I feel very conflicted in what I should do.

    Even as a young child I wanted to help. I liked feeling useful & family has always been very important to me. These are positive traits. Unfortunately some traumatic experiences as a child left me feeling guilty & not good enough which has meant I've developed a tendency to push myself too far so I can feel useful or accepted. I am worried that if my son killed himself or suffered irreversible harm I would feel guilty for not doing more to help.

    The other side of the coin is that I don't want to enable my son & DIL to continue in their current lifestyle with constant need to rely on outside supports & inability to learn from mistakes.

    When my son first became MI I was his main support. I worked with him & the health professionals to find ways to enable him to recover. It took time but we succeeded & he was able to work & enjoy a normal life. Now this hs all been lost & I see decisions being made which are unhelpful to him but because only the DIL speaks to the mental health team the health professionals know nothing about his past history & what works. I feel powerless to help.

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  14. Just Sara
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    16 April 2018 in reply to Elizabeth CP

    And it's that powerlessness that requires attention Elizabeth;

    You said it yourself; there's nothing you can do when your son goes home. The only option is to live your life and deal with hubby. Is this so bad?

    Living in your head among the what-if's can really hurt. I know it well and had to stop, otherwise I would've ended up back in hospital.

    What if he doesn't need you anymore?

    Isn't this what you're getting at Elizabeth? If we're not needed and useful, we're not loved right? I felt this every time my son hit another milestone. Pulling away as I eventually did, tore at my heart. It's a mother's burden to carry.

    How terribly sad that this boy who once loved you unconditionally and relied on you every moment of the day, is now in the hands of another woman. Sigh..I know this feeling so well.

    Dysfunctional childhood beliefs represent wounds and their scars; some still open and painful. I understand where you're coming from there ok.

    Again, I've given you things to chew on for a while. Take care...

    Sez x

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  15. Elizabeth CP
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    16 April 2018 in reply to Just Sara

    Thanks Sara,

    You asked What if he didn't need me any more? If that was the case it would be OK.

    I have 5 children 4 of whom are married. Two live overseas. I was brought up believing family was really important. Migrating to Australia when 5 meant leaving extended family behind & really missing them. Something I didn't want my children to experience. The rest of my family are very close. Even the ones overseas speak regularly on skype to us & their siblings. We help each other when needed & when able & often there are offers of help before people are asked. For example one sone lives nearby & I often get asked to babysit when needed but other times he will ring & offer to help in my garden.

    It is different with my son who is unwell. His wife takes everyone for granted & expects me to fit in with her wishes but there is no reciprocal support. I am concerned about being left to deal with the aftermath if things get much worse because there would be nobody left to help my son.

    The reason I started this thread was in the hope maybe someone had been through a simailar experience. Maybe there is someone out there who has struggled with depression perhaps been hospitalised & could say X did this for me & it really helped or Y did something but I found it unhelpful or I wish someone had done..... when I was in that position.

    or carers /family members who can say ......... really helped in my situation.

    Obviously my situation might be different but having some ideas may help prompt me to think of something. which helps

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  16. therising
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    9 May 2018 in reply to Elizabeth CP

    Hi Elizabeth CP

    You sound like a beautiful caring person. We need more people like you in this world. Its been a little while since your last post so things may have changed a bit for you and your son, hopefully for the better.

    From one mother to another, it may be tempting to save our children yet our true role is to guide them best we can. Seeing mothers do tend to have a bit of a guilt thing going at times, when it comes to their kids, let me elaborate on the guilt aspect. Guilt is not designed to have us beat ourselves up, it is designed to have us ask 'Who do I want to be?' Don't feel bad about not helping at times, just decide who you wish to be in the moment. Eg: I want to be someone who guides others through advice. I want to be someone who does not enable others when it comes to offensive behaviour. I want to be someone who gives priority to those who need the most care at the time. Guilt isn't a bad thing, its our compass of consciousness (giving us direction).

    I'd spent 15 years of my life in depression (coming out of it more than a decade ago thank goodness). The thing that changed my life was group therapy. Meeting like minded people in counseling sessions was my key out of that psychological prison. Not sure whether your son would consider the benefits of group therapy/support. Such a setting would give him time out from his wife, time he gives to himself in recovery. Its a chance to meet other 'warriors at war' with depression. It's a chance to feel 'normal' for a while each week. With your son having previous experience with the mental health system, I imagine he would not completely dismiss the idea of further psychological help of some kind.

    Your DIL sounds a bit like an energy vampire (sucking the life out of the people around her). Your son definitely sounds like he needs breaks from her. Gone are the days where most blokes met down the pub, between work and home, to unwind and release tension. I feel a little sorry for men these days; how things have changed as the pressures of life mount up.

    We all need the right motive to change. Speak to your son about pinpointing his motivation for change. My motivation was my children - becoming well for them. He can also be an example for his children. As I say to my kids, 'There is always someone to speak to, even if its in the form of a good mental health professional'. My kids understand that asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.

    All the best and remember to take care of yourself!

  17. Elizabeth CP
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    9 May 2018 in reply to therising

    Thank you for your very thoughtful reply. Your advice seems very relevent to me. I am currently under a lot of pressure due to my husband so have been forced to put my son's issues aside while I deal with the current crisis. I will reread what you wrote as soon as i have time & then ponder on what I can do to improve the situation.

    I will get back to you. Thank you It helps to have people who seem to understand

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