Do You Have a Parent with Mental Illness?

Updated on December 01, 2016
O.L. asks from Long Beach, CA
8 answers

I do. I visit with her 3x per year. It's tough. Really tough. I'm reminded when I see her just how bad the issues are.

For those of you who have parents with mental illness, how do you handle the visits? The behavioral issues? How do you protect yourself while visiting with them, especially when the behaviors are so challenging.

I'm in therapy already. I'm just curious how others are impacted? Please share if you are ok doing so. When you aren't raised by a normal parent, it impacts everything.

I'd love to see myself get to a place of total acceptance, but it's hard. Acceptance when they aren't around you seems much easier than when they are with you.

Thanks for your support! No need to respond if you can't relate to this experience. I'm looking to hear from people in a similar situation.

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answers from Wausau on

My mother in law is bipolar and has some other health issues which can do a number on her stability. We have no legal authority to force her to get treatment or be compliant, but her behavior recently is such that I'm going to contact the social services in her area this coming week.

Dealing with her takes a lot out off my husband, so I've taken on the role of the non-emotional logical person. He follows my lead and it makes him feel better.

If you're thinking "acceptance" means reaching a point where you're okay with everything, I suggest you set a more realistic personal goal.

We accept that she has problems. Although the problems might be part of the reasons that things happen, it is important to remember that reasons are not excuses. She does not get a free pass for poor behavior. When you start giving passes, they start using their condition as an excuse.

MIL is doing that right now with one of her friends and we've tried telling him that he's enabling her manipulation. She knows better than to try it with us any more, because we're totally fine with not seeing her at all.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

I have a mother who is so profoundly mentally ill that we don't have contact. That said, there is another key parent person in my life who also has some mental illness and we do see them from time to time.

I do things which help me to feel good while being around them. Like making sure I get enough sleep and feel good before going to visit them. This person has gone off their meds before our visits, so I figure that I don't have the luxury of messing with my own body chemistry. (I have medication to treat anxiety). One of us has to stay sane. ;)

I also sort of 'front load' myself with safe topics to discuss. I don't talk politics with this person, and they aren't a discreet person, so I know that anything I tell them can be repeated to the entire family with their own additional commentary and opinion. So, I don't share anything very personal regarding myself, my husband or Kiddo. I do stick to benign things: that person's other interests, the weather, favorite movies or tv shows, places we have gone to... safe memories.

I love this person very much and they were truly a lifeline in a time of need a long time ago. I've gotten better, more mature as this person has declined, both in mental health and memory issues. I have a lot of compassion for them, because I know they mean well and are just stuck in their thinking, which is unproductive. I also keep visits very short, otherwise I get to feeling angry at their constant need for validation. It's a drain. So, we stay at a hotel instead of their home if in town. I have noticed that this person has a compulsive need to pick at me at times and confront me on things which most people would not even care about. They need constant agreement of their opinion. So, again, I gently try to steer the conversation to things which they are 'okay' with other people having different opinions about. (again, books and movies, steering away from religion, politics, family business, etc). I stay in relationship because A. I genuinely care about this person, B. they are *trying* and do want relationship and will sometimes admit their mistakes in a moment of clarity and C. I was extremely deliberate in choosing to make a big boundary with my mom, for health and safety reasons, and while this person does annoying things, it's not to the same detrimental level.

Complex but I've worked on this for a long, long time and feel good about the choices we are making. That person also feels loved by us, which is important. I want to give back to them the love that they gave me when I needed it most.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

My mother has depression that she treats sometimes and not others..I think the hardest part for me was that we don't have traditions any more..holidays would set her off and send her to bed for a week. I am also starting to see myself develop get seem of those behaviors...not making the effort to send birthday Cards to my teen age nephews...then I over compensate and it's just a mess.
Here is a cyber hug. Take care of you and be gentle to yourself for a while


4 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

My brother and I always had mom and dad over to our houses, we took turns. We made sure there was plenty to drink, smiled a bit when she left. She passed 6 years ago, our relationship has never been better.

A lot of that is tongue and cheek but the heart of it is not. Mental illness cannot be changed, it is what it is, you can find therapies and medication but in then end that is who they are. All you can do it accept this fact and figure out how to make it through without damaging yourself. I love my dad, he is as much a victim as we were. So we did it for dad. Now our family gatherings are fun

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

My mom is bi-polar and maybe some other things. She is on medication so it's gotten better. But before that, not so much. Trust me when I tell you we all know when she hasn't taken her "happy pills".

I'm an only child and she never married so it's just her and I which makes it difficult. She is only 18 minutes from me so she's local too.

We used to see each other all the time when I was married to my ex and the kids were younger. She doesn't really like my current husband, the kids are now teens and she works full time. All these things seem to make her crankier. So we learned to just limit our time with her. Instead of hanging out for a bday all day, we would invite her over at 4pm, eat at 5pm then she'd be headed home shortly after that. That was the only way it was manageable.

Both of us had been harboring ill feelings towards each other for practically my whole life (49 years). We had a 'somewhat' honest conversation a couple months ago and got maybe 5 of the 50 issues out in the open but things have been better since.

So you didn't say what kind of mental issues but I would say to just limit your time. Keep the conversation simple. We did that too. I couldn't tell my mom too many details of our life because she would hold them against us and cause problems. So we talked about the weather and dumb "safe" issues. So just keep everything short and simple. Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Davenport on

My mother has a mental illness that first manifested when I was in grade school so I've lived with it for about 30 years. There have been times where we have had very little contact other than the occasional phone calls and then times where she has lived with my family. To maintain balance she must be on her medication and she has finally come to terms with that and accepted it. A number of years ago I had to be very blunt and tell her that if she would not stay on her medication then she could not have a relationship with her grandchildren. Sure she still has off D. & still needs adjustment with her medications but she's trying hard to keep a handle on it and seek the help she needs and for us, that is what determines the kind of relationship we can have.
Everyone is different in terms of what they are able & willing to handle. You have to find what works best for you and your family.


answers from New York on

I do. And she's passed some of her crazy onto myself, fact is it just runs in our family a bit. BiPolar Disorder is tricky and erratic and caused me what my therapists have dubbed PTSD. In layman terms, my childhood left me with my flight or fight kicked on high & somewhat stuck. I have extreme anxiety basically and can be moody and manic or depressed and back and forth it goes. I don't have as much aggressive anger issues as my mother but her life has been markedly different than mine.

In all honesty, I love my mother from a distance. I try to call her weekly for a check in to keep connected but actual physical get togethers are very trying and taxing for me and I do it as little as possible. It's just exhausting being in her orbit still.

My hopes and goals are to not be emotionally taxing to my children.



answers from Chicago on

my mom was schizophrenic, she died about 10 yrs ago now.
I lived in the same area as her and was in charge of taking her to the grocery store, clothes shopping, etc. once a month - my brothers took the other weeks. I had to bring my daughters with up until the last 5 yrs of her life when she went into a nursing home and then I just had to visit her every month or so
I didn't have a lot of issues mentally with it cause I had dealt with all that in my late teen years. It just was how it was. She had always been crazy and it just was what we had to deal with, so we did. After I passed 32 yrs old and knew I wasn't going to go crazy it became so much less of a stress on me honestly. That had been my biggest issue, that I would end up like her. When I was about 22 I had this terrible nightmare where it was like I was schizophrenic and that was so upsetting. I still cry at any movie or play that deals with that issue but I'm naturally a cryer anyway. My girls didn't know anything different for that grandma so it was not a big deal with them. It just was how it was. They were also too young to really remember it.

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