Another Rift in Relationship with Son


#1

My (mentally disabled) son came over for Christmas day. He was way too early and I wasn’t even dressed yet. Okay, so we got over that. Then he didn’t lift a finger to help me with anything, didn’t even bring a card or flower. He’s generally difficult to take. Not only does he have mental illness, but people, including myself, are ‘put off’ by him. He is somewhat belligerent. I lost my patience and before you know it, Christmas day was spoiled. :frowning: He started talking about the CT tragedy, the devil’s influence, etc. He left early and cashed his Christmas check the next day instead of waiting like he usually does.
He did this because he knew I might put a stop on the check when I found out today (New Year’s Day) that he is now refusing to speak to me. (after I apologized and after he said he wasn’t angry with me). He’s done this before to ‘teach me a lesson’.
Only this time I find myself thinking it would be nice not to have to give him money every month and looking for places to live near my sister who is 3000 miles away.
If anyone has any similar experience or advice, it would be much appreciated.


#2

“Then he didn’t lift a finger to help me with anything, didn’t even bring a card or flower.”

Did you ask him to do specific things or did you expect him just to know what you wanted without you telling him? Even with mentally sound husbands and wives, that’s a classic problem.

“Only this time I find myself thinking it would be nice not to have to give him money every month and looking for places to live near my sister who is 3000 miles away.”

You don’t have to give money to somebody who isn’t speaking to you.

The relationship sounds really sad and difficult. I hope you’re able to find equilibrium.


#3

I have no idea what the situation is and I only know what you have said but in a nutshell I gather a mom is upset at an adult son who showed up to Christmas early, didn’t help, and is opinionated… Welcome to the club.
If you wish to point out his mental illness without saying what it is then why do you hold him to a regular standard?

Again, you could be completely justified or wrong yourself.:shrug: Who knows. But I think it is important to step back and look at a bigger picture.

Personally if my mom expected me to get her house ready for Christmas, was mad because I was early, was upset that I had an opinion, and kept tabs on my check cashing, while constantly pointing out I was mentally disabled, I would probably not speak to her for a while either.


#4

Generally speaking, we get angry when we have expectations that are violated. When you don’t expect someone to show good will towards you by acting in a certain way, then it doesn’t anger you when they fail to act that way. The questions for yourself are along these lines, then:

  1. What are my expectations for my son?
  2. Knowing what I know about him, are these expectations reasonable?
  3. Are these expectations so important that I cannot enjoy Christmas with my son if he fails to meet these expectations?
  4. Why or why not?
  5. Does he fully understand my expectations and why these things are important?
  6. If not, why not?

My suggestion is that you pare your expectations down to the true essentials…the things that would really stand in the way of enjoying time with your son. For instance, if one of you had a month to live, which of those things would be important in that case?

It isn’t unreasonable to expect that your son will do at least some things that are in his capability in order to show his affection and good will for you. He may not be able to accomplish these reliably without any reminder from you, but he ought to at least want to. You, likewise, ought to be willing to remind him if remembering on his own is not something that he can accomplish alone with reliability. You don’t want to set him up to fail. The idea is that meeting your expectations ought to be possible every time, while exceeding your expectations ought to be possible on a more or less frequent basis. If your expectations are such that he is often going to fail and essentially never going to have a chance to exceed what you expect, he’s doomed from the start.

I don’t know what his capacity is, but people do not need a lot of capacity to conclude–fairly or not–that they are doomed from the start when they sense that an “exceeded expectations” grade isn’t even a possibility. When that happens, the temptation is to take a “I may as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb” attitude. It is usually unconscious, but it becomes a way of becoming the person who has the expectation instead of the one who is the violator of expectations: “See, I told you if I did such-and-so, she would do so-and-so instead of being nice and doing this other thing instead.” The “violator” figures that he’s sunk no matter what, and that there is no shame in losing a game that was rigged against him from the start. Rather, he becomes the “winner” by figuring out the racket and refusing to be fooled.

It may be that your son is the one with unrealistic expectations–“She ought to be thrilled to see me, even if she told me she likes to get ready without the pressure of having me there already”–or you may both have them. The truth is that in most families with conflict, there are plenty of unrealistic expectations to go around. People don’t set out to play these little mind games, but they fall into them all of the time. When that happens, it is a great barrier to giving and receiving love–love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious or pompous, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, is not quick-tempered, does not brood over injury…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things–which is after all the main thing. The way to address it is communication, during which expectations are (we hope) explained patiently and worked out to mutual understanding of what can and can’t be reasonably expected.


#5

I think you need to decide if this is a formal relationship or a family one. I would not think anything of going over early to my mom’s house and I wouldn’t plan to bring a hostess gift (card or flower). On the other hand, I would certainly pitch in to help, but I am a woman (ie, the cook and hostess in my own home), not mentally disabled, and my mother would let me know what needed to be done yet.

If I was visiting a non-family friend for dinner, I would not arrive too early and I would bring a hostess gift, but I would not think of helping to get dinner ready unless I was specifically asked to do something, and if it was a major part of getting the meal/party ready I would be a bit suprised.

I have also received checks as gifts and have cashed them whenever it was convenient for me - sometimes right away, sometimes not for a few days or even weeks! If the check was not a Christmas gift, but his monthly stipend, than you should not be suprised if he cashes it right away. I cash my paycheck (direct deposit) right away.

If you don’t want to continue supporting him, then don’t. But let him know in advance when your support will end so that he can make other arrangments. If he has a social worker, lives in a group home, etc., let them know as well.

It sounds like you are angry at him for being disabled and difficult. His disabilities are not his fault though. If you find that you can’t control your reactions to him, than perhaps it is best for him if you can help him arrange for his support (financial and emotional) to come from other places.


#6

The only reason I was concerned about the check was he told me he doesn’t cash the checks I give him for a week or so. I sensed he did it right away because he was planning to distance himself, which he’s done before, and he was afraid I’d put a stop on it once I found out he wouldn’t speak to me.


#7

He has support from other places. He lives in a residential facility with care givers. He has regular doctor, psychiatric and social worker visits. He is on SSI but receives a small portion of it for an allowance. The rest goes for his board and food at the residence. What I give him is extra cash he uses mostly to get the food he prefers (outside of what they cook at the residence). In short, I don’t support him. As for the check, he told me he waits to deposit it when he receives his other money.
Now I’m thinking it would be best if we simply don’t visit as often. It is usually quite depressing to see him as he is. He used to be so bright and happy before his psychotic break. There is hope for progress, but it is so very slow.


#8

It would be extending a fig leaf to simply give him cash, a cash card, or some other kind of “unstoppable” gift card next time you decide to give him a gift of his own choosing.

Unless he told you he cashed the check right away so he could distance himself, he might have actually cashed the check right away because a) he wanted to spend it right away this time or b) because he’d forgotten to do it in the past and caused you a headache with balancing your checkbook. He may be “distancing himself” because he is angry and is afraid he’ll say something he can’t take back. As the Catechism teaches, it is the best to at least expect that someone else may have a positive motive for what they do, rather than to conclude the worst. It is OK, then, to hope that your fears are empty!

***2478 **To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. and if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved. (St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 22)*


#9

I have a brother who is mentally ill. He is on disability. Over the years, I have gone through all of the kind of things you are going though. My experience with the mentally ill people I know is that they tend to be very self-centered and vindictive. Sometimes with good therapy, they learn to do better with others and a least act unselfish at times.

Another mentally ill person I know, always expects handouts from friends and family after she mismanages her disability money, and pouts or gets angry when people don’t help her. She can be very nasty when she doesn’t get her way. She claims that everyone is rich and that she is poor, when actually she is taking disability money as a single parent when she is common- law married and living in a 2 income household.

I can’t say that all mentally ill are self-centered but I have read up on family issues with mentally ill and self-centeredness is often a problem.

If you can console yourself with the possibility that he really can’t help his behavior, then you may be able to tolerate it better.


#10

This is wonderful advice. I fear because he ‘disowned’ me for over a year before his psychotic break. I literally reached out to him when he stopped on his scooter on the street. He was found in a diabetic coma in his hotel room and hospitalized where he then manifested signs of his psychosis. I guided him into his present care situation and have stood by as best I can through the years. Maybe I’m just getting worn out. But I did write him a very sincere apology note and sent it today. Perhaps I should let time take its course now. As for a gift card, or pre-paid credit card allowance, I offered and he refused. He wanted a check he could deposit and cash.


#11

“I sensed he did it right away because he was planning to distance himself, which he’s done before, and he was afraid I’d put a stop on it once I found out he wouldn’t speak to me.”

You may be 100% right as to his motivation for cashing the check right away, but unless he actually told you that straight out, give him the benefit of the doubt. Mind-reading and imputing evil intentions is a major impediment to having good relationships–don’t do it!

I know a woman with a schizophrenic adult son that has been practically homeless. It caused her a lot of anxiety, and I am afraid that her son’s situation was probably a major reason for her quitting her job.

Are you getting enough help and support for you? Would it help if you had somebody else present on major holidays who had agreed in advance to give you emotional support and coach you through the event and maybe be a buffer between you and your son?


#12

Thank you so much. I think it’s easier to take once you can recognize it for what it is. It doesn’t hurt as much this time and I’ve done everything I can to rectify the situation. It’s now a matter of when his anger subsides, or if he’s going to disown me again.


#13

Yes I have to stop with the second-guessing. My help and support have been my faith and my work. As for someone else being present, there is no one I can think of who would be available as a buffer. He has appeared to be satisfied with where he lives except for a room mate who irritates him from time to time.


#14

I have family who are bipolar (one diagnosed, one not but we suspect). It can be VERY difficult to deal with. However, the best coping technique is what EasterJoy outlined - setting expectations that can be met so that we don’t get so frustrated. I no longer get mad when going over to this relative’s house for dinner and finding that if we are to eat anything, I need to cook it. Now, I plan for that and so we are all very happy to discover that dinner has been made when we arrive. :smiley:

It sounds like your son is in a good situation. Perhaps time your visits for days, times, and places that will be less stressful for you both. A lunch out every so often may be easier - especially if he likes the place and you can time your visit for a quiet part of the day. Christmas and other major holidays often come with their own stress and tension. Maybe have him over for dinner a few days before or after Christmas next year instead right on the day, etc.

Praying for you both.


#15

Thank you, Mrs Sally. We do sometimes go out for a lunch visit and that usually works out well. It’s when he comes over to where I live and spends 5-6 hours that things tend to ‘go south’. And yes, on Christmas day I was tired after singing in choir at midnight mass and stressed at not being able to make it back for Christmas day and then have the visit with my son. It was a complete train wreck.:eek: I think it’s a great suggestion to have him over during the ‘season’ and not directly on ‘the day’…except this time he was calling it ‘the big day’. Too much was riding on it, true.


#16

Read through a few of your other responses and I want to comment on two things:

First if he is also diabetic, that can make controling his other issues harder, even if he is on his mads and compliant in his care. The metabolic problems of diabetes will affect how his body absorbs and uses the other medicines. You probably know this already, but reminding yourself every so often may help you cope with the slowness of his recovery.

Second, you cannot compare your son to your sister’s family. Even if this illness had not happened, then two men (cousins) would still be different. Comparing and envying her family will not help you feel better about the situation your son is in, and may tend to make your more impatient with him.

I encourage you to find the support you need for yourself. Speak to your priest, perhaps see a therapist or join a support group - speak to your son’s caseworker or check at the hospital. If nothing else, perhaps joining a book club or taking a class that will give you something fun to focus on and look forward to.

Of course, there is nothing like a regular time in Adoration. Throw yourself on God’s mercy and let him take these burdens from you.


#17

You arent a horrible mom :slight_smile: and your son isnt a horrible son. I just feel lack fo communication lead to this. My mom is sort of like this with my younger brother who has a mental disorder as well. I feel that my mom is too quick to lose her temper with him. Because of his mental illness he cant express how he feel. And i guess yiu can figure out my brother has autism. He is really shy when he is around pretty much everyone except me, my mom, and his friend. My brothers loves video games and my mom thinks he plays too much. Rather than the two of them talking it out and meeting in the middle she takes his stuff and hides it and says she gave it away. He really gets angry even more cuz she is too proud to apologize to him. She asked him to get a second free sample from costco and he didnt want to so he acted like he couldnt hear. Someone tak es the last one and she gets mad calls him the R word and he starts to cry. When she makes us cry she never feels bad. I think a good mother is supposed care about her kids. You and you son need to communicate more talk about how you feel. Things might seem hard but repairing a relationship does take time


#18

If you expect that an occasional “trip south” is par for the course, then it will be easier to remain calm and figure that it is not a catastrophe, even though as a human you’re unlikely to always escape some strong emotions in the heat of the moment yourself. (You have to be realistic about what you expect of you, too, after all!) If your son is there to make your Christmas more “interesting” than you would like, it means that he must not be out who-knows-where and doing-who-knows-what and maybe not coming home again.

Your willingness to meet these trials with love and to pass over miscues will not go without its reward. “The measure you measure with will be measured out to you” and “love covers a multitude of sins”. The more you overlook your son’s mistakes, the more your mistakes will burn up like so much chaff and your love shine as the gold it is in the end!

Hang in there! :thumbsup:


#19

Oh, heavens, no. Mental illness is very difficult for everyone, and family life between adults can be difficult even when there is not that to deal with. No, she sounds like a very good mom!


#20

Yes, he has a ‘double whammy’, being diabetic along with the mental illness. His life was in danger on a few occasions when he completely rejected the idea of being diabetic. He was okay for a while but then didn’t keep disciplined eating habits, and so got to the point where he needed insulin. He refused to take it and was on 24 hour watch in case they had to hospitalize him. His doctor, social worker and I all “worked” on him to get him to take insulin. I offered him money as a “bribe” and that worked. He uses ‘the pen’ , which is the least invasive way to administer insulin and has been watching his readings for a good while now. He is being careful.
I do have work that is quite involving and I pretty much forget about everything else when I am doing it. I enjoy being in my parish choir and I do have a regular confessor who I can ask for some guidance. And yes, finally and most importantly, I shall throw myself on God’s mercy. Thank you so very much.


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