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Old 01-24-2016, 12:57 PM
1,781 posts, read 6,833,435 times
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My wife has bipolar and can be difficult to live with sometimes. She views everything cynically, and views herself as a victim in almost every negative situation.

We have four kids ages 2,4,12,14. She developed the problem when the two older kids were quite little. She successfully treated it for a number of years, so we had two more. Then last year, she had a major relapse and ended up in the hospital for a month. She's been home for six months and has not been doing as well as her previous stable period.

There are definite and noticeable up and down periods within any given week. The two younger kids are too young to really comprehend the mood swings. The two older kids do now understand more. Our 12-year-old boy has a personality where he just wants people to get along and he rolls with it somewhat.

But our 14-year-old daughter is really struggling. Before my wife went to the hospital last month, she seemed to focus on her for some reason. She said some quite mean things about her physical appearance (which isn't bad ... she has several boys interested). It was almost like she was jealous. And I have to admit my wife's current state is almost like she's emotionally stunted to around that age, with her maturity and perspective on how to handle problems not up to par for an adult.

My wife is constantly on her case, and so our daughter rebels against it. I keep telling my wife not to nitpick every little thing, but she does, and not in a nice manner. She criticizes our daughter's clothes, phone usage, how she spends her time, that she is in her room instead of down on the main level with the rest of the family and so on.

For our daughter's part, she has developed an attitude that needs to improve. She has used some choice words against her mom, which are inappropriate and disrespectful. But she isn't a terrible kid. She gets straight A's, takes music lessons, and does assigned chores when asked. But it's like every incident she has with her mother creates another layer on a shell she is building up.

I'm sort of caught in the middle. I believe parents should back each other up when disciplining kids. But I believe she is being overbearing. Yesterday our daughter said she just wanted her mother to get off her back.

I experience it too. Sometimes I just want a break from the negativity and fault finding. My wife has a very hard time accepting that sometimes in life, people don't always act they way she wants them to. So I understand the frustration.

I have always said if her bi-polar ended up being damaging to the kids that would be a criteria for not staying. However, I don't think it meets that level for 3 of the 4 kids, and would be more harmful to have the family break up than to deal with the difficulties.

My wife does get treatment. She takes her meds, sees a psychiatrist and did go to counseling until last month when she felt like it wasn't being productive. Ironically she has set up an appointment for my daughter with the same counselor. My wife is approaching it as a way to get an attitude adjustment from our daughter, but I'm hoping to make it a more holistic family session. I'm not sure how productive it will be.

How can I handle this situation? I don't want to end up with a rebellious daughter, but the more my wife pushes over things that don't matter so much in the long run, the more my daughter pulls away. At the same time, I don't want to be that parent who undermines the other when there are legitimate issues.
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Old 01-24-2016, 01:20 PM
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I am glad your daughter will be seeing a counselor - she must be very frustrated and suffering a great deal, particularly during a time in her life when she needs reassurance and acceptance from both parents. You mentioned that boys are starting to take an interest in her - does your wife realize that her treatment of your daughter is almost guaranteed to push her towards those boys, and perhaps into premature sexual involvement?

Also, while normally it is fine for both parents to be united when it comes to discipline, when one parent is mentally ill it is absolutely essential for the other parent to speak up, make sure the children know that they are loved unconditionally and are supported. Do not hesitate to intervene when your wife is clearly wronging your daughter, or your daughter is going to feel abandoned and unjustly criticized by both parents.

It's okay to tell your daughter that her mother does love her and sometimes says things she doesn't actually mean, but when you witness such conflict, stop your wife. It's surprising how often people like her will back down when another adult close to the situation just says, "Honey, that's enough. I know you are upset, but lay off daughter-dear. She's a good kid, she didn't mean to upset you and she will be just fine."

If there are other adult women in your family - aunts, grandmothers, cousins - see if your daughter can spend some time with them, if they are stable and loving. Also, if your daughter can get involved in after-school and weekend activities such as sports, scouts, music, drama, etc., depending on her interests, that would remove her from her mother's orbit for a few more hours and also perhaps bolster her sense of self in positive ways. If there is a mothers' group in your area, perhaps your wife would profit by joining it. Also, your public library has books about parenting adolescents. Suggest that your wife read these books.

I think individual and family counseling would be a very good thing for your family, with individual counseling for you, your wife, and your two oldest children. I expect your son, who "rolls with the punches" , is suffering, too. Is the children's school aware of their mother's mental illness?

You might also check for a local chapter of NAMI, for yourself and your two oldest children. They need support, and so do you.

Best wishes to all concerned.

Edited to add: I am confused about your description of the timeframe of your wife's last hospitalization: Was it six months ago, or last month? How long was she hospitalized? If she just got out recently, why is she refusing to see her doctor? Have her meds been changed, or is she not taking them as prescribed? She sounds like a very sick woman, and as if her underlying illness and resulting lack of emotional maturity/development is largely responsible for her treatment of her daughter.

Last edited by CraigCreek; 01-24-2016 at 02:03 PM..
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Old 01-24-2016, 01:59 PM
1,781 posts, read 6,833,435 times
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Originally Posted by CraigCreek View Post
Edited to add: I am confused about your description of the timeframe of your wife's last hospitalization: Was it six months ago, or last month? How long was she hospitalized? If she just got out recently, why is she refusing to see her doctor? Have her meds been changed, or is she not taking them as prescribed? She sounds like a very sick woman, and as if her underlying illness and resulting lack of emotional maturity/development is largely responsible for her treatment of her daughter.
Thanks for the response. Those are all good points that I will work with. To clarify, she was in the hospital for a month, but got out 6 months ago.

Last edited by coolcats; 01-24-2016 at 02:33 PM..
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Old 01-24-2016, 05:09 PM
Location: Raleigh NC
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I don't know where to begin. I'm so sorry you are going through this.

My grandmother was bipolar. My mom was one of 3 kids. My mom and uncles spend a LOT of time being farmed out to relatives because of it. My mom was badly abused by her mother, emotionally and physically. One uncle was bipolar and committed suicide in his 50s while on the waiting list for a heart transplant. The other uncle was an alcoholic and committed suicide in his 70s. My mom is not bi-polar but grew up in a dysfunctional household and learned many many negative patterns of behavior from her mother. She acts bipolar much of the time. Mom has been in psychiatric care and on meds for the past 35 years. She is 80 now. I dislike her, and avoid spending time with her as much as possible.

What you describe is very similar to what I went through with my mom. Mom was extremely negative. Unpredictable. Paranoid. She criticized me, acted jealous, kept me from my friends. I was a good kid. When I was 8 I was afraid of my own mother. When I was 11 I started counting down the days I had until I was 18. I resented my father for not protecting me from my mother. (Over time I have grown to forgive him because he was a victim also). It was an unhappy childhood and I struggled for years to deal with the thought that my own mother HATED me. I was something to be controlled, not a person to be nurtured. My diary from those years would break your heart. I've had years of therapy and have been on anti-anxiety meds and anti depressants for 18 years. I have no plan to ever stop taking them. I struggled with 'normal' for a long time and married someone who was almost as narcissistic and temperamental as my mom. Both my brothers struggle, one with depression, the other with alcoholism and depression. My father was chronically depressed and experienced anxiety and ocd as a result of her abuse. None of us are bipolar, but to say that we were not affected would be ridiculous.

Your daughter is NOT being rebellious. She is struggling to be normal in a relationship that is not normal. The environment sets her up for failure because she is supposed to 'be respectful' of someone who is not rational. This is too much to ask of her. I appreciate that you are trying to back your wife up. But this is not a discipline problem. Even you agree that her expectations are not normal, so how can you expect a 14 year old to make the right choices under those circumstances? Your daughter needs help, and you are the only person in a position to give it to her.

Your wife is not healthy enough to parent. She stopped going to counseling because it wasn't helping? Major warning sign. And she is taking your daughter. This is not irony at all. This is your wife attempting to present exhibit A as to what the problem is because in her twisted mind, the fault is with your daughter, not herself. Voila! See? I'm not crazy, my daughter is just a horrible person. I hope this counselor understands the situation and can protect your daughter from your wife. (Know what happened when my mom dragged us to family counseling when I was 13 or so? The counselor sided with us, my mom had a nervous breakdown. To this very day, she blames that counselor for her mental illness.)

Your situation has me feeling physically ill right now. Your 3 out of 4 rationalization is not working for me. It's like sacrificing one child for the good of the other 3. Please hear me. Your son is not okay. Your two younger children are not okay. Do you want them to see your wife treat your daughter this way? What kind of example is that? If you take steps to protect your daughter, your wife will zero in on one of the younger ones next. IMHO this is only going to get worse. Please don't let your family end up like mine.

If I had a magic wand, I'm not sure where I would start. But I can say without hesitation that my mother should NEVER have had children.

I don't know that you have to break up your marriage literally. But I think you need to seriously consider your living arrangements. Your wife should not be living with your children. Just not. How about moving your wife to an apartment where she can have the space she needs to take care of herself? Four kids is a lot for anyone. Maybe having less responsibility would help her manage better. You could come up with visitation/custody that works for everyone. You don't really need a divorce to do that. You don't say how you really feel about your wife. Do you actually love her? She needs help and compassion, but not at the cost of your children's well being.

To be totally honest? I know several people who are bi-polar and have heard countless anecdotes. I can't think of any bipolar person who is capable of a successful relationship with a spouse or with children. Not one. It's just one long saga of pain and loss. I think you need to get off this train as fast as you can.

I hope my perspective is helpful to you.
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Old 01-24-2016, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Stagemomma View Post
I don't know where to begin. I'm so sorry you are going through this...
I hope my perspective is helpful to you.
I do too Stagemomma. What an incredibly honest and eye-opening story you have shared. Thank you.
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Old 01-24-2016, 05:53 PM
Location: South Carolina
13,135 posts, read 17,686,977 times
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I think maybe your wife needs to go back to the hospital and let the dr tell her when she is well enough to leave the hospital did the dr tell you she was well enough in their opinion to leave the hospital ? if they did not then I would be very concerned while leaving my children in her care she sounds as though she could be dangerous to your children and she is very negative and that is not a good situation for any child to live in and frankly I'm surprised at you wanting your children around her . As an adult who lived with a mother who was constantly negative of me I would advise you to watch her very closely . Is there any way you could have help come in and watch the children around the mother and help with the housework and your oldest daughter ? I fear for your kids with a mom like that because you never know what kind of mood she will be in ? and I do think it is time you talked to her dr about what is going on and if she might need to go back into the hospital again ?
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Old 01-24-2016, 06:05 PM
Location: Oklahoma USA
1,196 posts, read 784,379 times
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Your wife has decided that she is right, squared away and reasonable, whereas daughter is screwed up and needs fixed.

Daughter definitely needs a wise, stable female role model now. Does she have an aunt or grandmother to spend time and bond with? As in 'a whole, whole lot' of time -- consistent weekend overnights at minimum.

Mom is not mothering. Mom is competing for household teenage drama queen role. Get this: Mom has abdicated, abandoned her role as an adult. Daughter needs a mother, or at least a maternal figure, preferably a blood relative.

And don't think your other three kids aren't being damaged. They are. They are learning how a wife and mother are "supposed" to act by Mom's attitudes.

You're engaging in a slippery slope of "well 3 out of 4 ain't bad" justification for inaction.

All of the kids need a strong advocate. And a stable maternal figure from whom to learn how to model adult family dynamics.

You take the bull by the horns, Dad, and look out for your kids. Lead the way in getting the kids together with you into family therapy as a unit. Mom can be in her own world. You lead the family. If therapy shows progress for the kids, not just daughter but the other kids as well, can latch onto a mature, stable auntie or grandma for "mothering", then you can be a family of Dad + Kids, and Mom has abdicated her role as an adult and is just kinda in her own spacey world. If that doesn't show immediate and profound relief: Yep, trot yourself down to a divorce attorney.

That's not sexist. I'd write the same thing if a woman wrote about a dysfunctional man.
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Old 01-24-2016, 06:21 PM
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All good thoughts. I'll answer a few of the questions I saw. The hospital did agree she should come home. She was in there longer than she wanted. But one of the travesties of our system today was the insurance company put a lot of pressure on the hospital to let her out and put her in therapy / outpatient services instead. There is really nothing I can do about that.

There aren't a lot of good female role models close by. My wife's mom lives pretty close, but she's not the most stable person in the world either. I can think of my mom or sister, but they both live far away.

Having my wife live somewhere else, even temporarily, is something I've considered. She couldn't live on her own because she would probably become suicidal. She hates being alone and is unrealistically "clingy", which is one of the symptoms she has right now. Living with her parents would mean living with her mom, who as noted, has issues. Her brother has schizophrenia and lives there too (lots of issues in the whole family). I just don't think it would lead to any improvement.

I don't think her behavior is at the level of what Stagemomma had to endure. But she does need to get better and start acting like a fully functioning adult quickly. Family counseling I guess is where we start.
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Old 01-24-2016, 06:59 PM
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You can't do this by yourself and no one here can really help in the "reality" sense of the word. Can your wife's doctors recommend some family counselors? Your wife needs to get a grip. If she's on medication then the bi-polar is a non-issue. She's just a witch. HOWEVER your daughter is either (1) just like her mom or (2) being a typical rebellious 14yr old. Either way she deserves as much attention as possible. And don't forget the others. They are affected, don't think they're not.
Start now. Talk to someone. Then get the kids in. or your wife. Start with one or the other. The counselor can set the rules and then there will be no excuse. Everyone can follow the rules. (hopefully it works out that easily)
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Old 01-24-2016, 07:18 PM
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There isn't much you can do with regards to your wife. If she is manic she is going to ignore what you say, if she is depressed it could spark a major episode.

What you can do is get your daughter a counselor with HER best interests at heart. You owe it to both your daughter and your wife to make decisions for your daughter that your wife would WANT you to make if she was feeling like herself. When she comes back around the other side of this, she will thank you for taking the reins. Keep that in mind when things get unpleasant in the here and now.

There are also online support groups for people dealing with those who suffer with bipolar, like DBSA. All of you should join a support group.
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