This room is dedicated to those who are facing the challenge of raising children without the support of a spouse. This is a place to share ideas and lend mutual support.
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Big big hugs. It totally bites. I was seventeen when my father decided to leave the home and I was the oldest of five. I loved my dad, but he was completely self-absorbed, self-centered and selfish. He didn't show up for my graduation and only reluctantly paid for my graduation announcements as a loan until I got paid, and boy was he calling on my payday. I went to work full time my senior year (the year he left), in order to help my mom take care of my younger siblings. My dad struggled with an alcohol problem off and on throughout the years and became so involved in AA that we effectively didn't matter, only his sobriety and that of the people he helped. He also decided to live an alternative lifestyle. . .as in gay. I was so busy with school and working full time that I missed much of the encounters my younger siblings had with dad as a "gay" man. I wrote my father a letter one day telling him that I thought he was not gay but opportunistic and it just suited his wants at the time. He called me and said, I was right and we'd talk about it. We never did. We had little extended family, so losing that didn't play a significant role. I can remember after I married and stared having kiddos, he would occasionally pop by and I would be so very excited, I'd make coffee for him and hope he would stay and talk, because growing up we had done lots of talking. I'd no sooner set the coffee in front of him and he was up and out the door. My husband could barely tolerate him. And, I know it was because he knew it hurt me.
The last time I spoke with my father was when he was in the hospital at Christmas. My mother always kept the door open for him to come to family gatherings etc and he did several times, never staying long, but he would show occasionally. So, this Christmas we hoped we might see him, instead we got a phone call from one of his room mates saying he was in the hospital but didn't want us to know. Ironically, I was the executrix of his will, although he had nothing by then and was the contact for the medical board, as my dad had set up to donate his body to science. he changed the disposal of his remains from being returned to the family to being interred within the communal plot after cremation without telling us.
Anyway as the males were headed to the hospital and I was making phone calls, my dad calls, and tries to give me this song and dance of how he had tried to make relationships with us, but it just didn't work, etc. It was the first time in my life that I snapped back at my dad, I was 25, and I told him, the lack of relationship was on him not us and I would not carry that for him. It was the last time I ever spoke to my father, he died the following August. But, I had reclaimed something for myself. At that moment, I refused to allow his behavior to continue to influence me, I refused to allow him to define me and accepted the fact that he was too sick to be able to truly love anyone else. It of course makes me sad, but it is exceptionally liberating as well. Of course some things continue to haunt, but I can actively refuse to accept them.
It breaks my heart anytime children have to go through such losses, and the confusion associated with a parent who all of a sudden rejects them. I know you are doing everything in your power to help your children through this, and that it breaks your heart as well. Try if you can to empower them to speak their mind to their father, it may be like hitting a brick wall, but say it anyway. And, then let them reclaim their power in the situation. It won't completely erase the hurts believe me, but it can give them strength and allow them to measure their worth not by his rejection but by their own accomplishments. Your children are beautiful, beautiful gifts and it is his loss not to be in relationships with them, but he is so tangled he does not know this, nor can he appreciate this. I wish there was an easy answer to this, but there isn't. I will keep the situation in prayer. Big Big hugs!!
Thank you for sharing your experience. I have encouraged my kids to speak up when their father is around and both of my sons have said, 'I can't so "no" to Dad because he will get angry". Though they are both bigger and stronger than their father they are still afraid of him; he is extremely volatile. Hopefully one day they will have to courage to stand up to him and not let him manipulate them.
Blessings to you,
If he was required to pay you child support and other financial help (i.e. medical bills) as outlined in your divorce decree, and he hasn't, you would have a case to pursue back support. This money could then help alleviate college funds.
In Illinois, child support extends past 18 and the noncustodial parent has to contribute to college. I don't think AZ has that law. But if you divorced in another state, you could look up that state.
Much if not all of his behavior is likely connected to his Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar is particularly insidious because the afflicted may pass through periods of apparent normalcy. But what defines them is the extreme moods, the cognitive distortions, and the inappropriate coping behaviors that they bury themselves in. When properly medicated, they may achieve a more-or-less functional work life for awhile. But healthy relationships are extremely rare.
Your kids are now young adults. You need to start the process of helping them understand SOME of the grittier details of what is going on with their father.
What the experts say:
"Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness."http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/bipolardisorder.html
"The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown." http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bipolar-disorder/DS00356/DSECTION=causes
"There is no cure for bipolar disorder."http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/complete-index.shtml
"Choice of medication can be difficult because all (bipolar) drugs have significant adverse effects, drug interactions are common, and no drug is universally effective."http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric_disorders/mood_disorders/bipolar_disorders.html
"83% of cases of Bipolar Disorder are classified as severe."http://bipolarsky.blogspot.com/p/bipolar-stats-resources.html
"The course of severe unipolar and bipolar disorder seems to be progressive in nature irrespective of gender, age and type of disorder."http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9534828
The chance for relapse is 73-87% within 5-years, "even with continual/aggressive medication".http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7485627http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3107596/
You don't mention the elapsed time between onset and his diagnosis. For BD, it averages 7-10 years. That's bad. But even worse, the professionals say that characterological damage sets in after only 5 years of untreated symptoms.
"There is a high risk of suicide with bipolar disorder". (over 50% attempt; 20-30% succeed, mostly men)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001924/http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16420084http://brfa.avenue.org/BADFactSheet.pdf
Furthermore, Bipolar Disorder rarely exists alone. There are many other psych disorders (Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depression, PTSD, OCD, psychosis, etc.) and problematic behaviors (alcoholism, suicide, coping lies, impulsive gambling/shopping/eating, etc.) that are typically comorbid.
The cognitive distortions that are a part of the disorder usually result in a view of the world that is inherently disordered. Black becomes white. Reality is redefined so that they are "sane". Others are often blamed for everything that goes wrong. They often self-diagnose themselves as "all better" and stop their meds and therapy.
Frankly, IT IS A BLESSING that they are not exposed to his condition or to his dysfunctional family. Bipolar Disorder has both a genetic component and a nurture component. Your children need to understand the disorder so that they are prepared for whatever the future may hold for them. They each have at least a 30% chance of developing the disorder themselves.http://genetics.thetech.org/ask/ask266
Perhaps something along these lines:"Your father has a very serious mental illness. When he was well, he loved you dearly. When he became ill, his old self that we loved and depended upon was lost to us. Remember the good man that he was. Pray that he cooperates with God's plan for him. But always remember that his present condition is NOT YOUR FAULT. Nor can you fix him or help him. That is not your job. He is in the hands of medical and psychiatric professionals. They are doing their best. Pray for them too."
Under the assumption that there were significant home life problems before and after he left, you may want to consider individual and family (group) therapy for yourself and your kids. Catholic Charities often offers such services, but you may have to ask around to find an insightful therapist with experience in the particulars of Bipolar.
One of the key points is that those with BP exhibit characteristics of the disorder for 5 to 10 years before diagnosis. He was diagnosed with BD (bipolar disorder) when he was 48 and BPD (borderline) when he was 50. He had been exhibiting these behaviors since he turned 40. They tell me it is called "adult onset bipolar", as opposed to the more common "adolescent" onset. From what I understand, whenever the body goes through a hormonal change (adolescence or midlife are the two most significant), the chemicals in the body interrupt the mind, thus causing the BP during those times.
The response you gave me was very similar to what I told my daughter, "to think of the happier times with your Dad". He was a wonderful husband and father up until he turned 40, at which point the kids were ages 6,8,10, and 12. The first two years he knew something wasn't right and sought medical attention but didn't like the medication so he stopped taking it. By the time he was 45 I had had enough (several job losses and affairs) and told him to get help or get out. He once again returned to treatment for 2 years but then stopped and this time I said get out and don't come back. He tried to come back multiple times but remained untreated, and I would have let him, if it had not been for the kids, who were now all teenagers. I filed for legal separation (he was spending money), a year later he filed for divorce. I did not contest the divorce but told him I did not believe in divorce. Shortly after the divorce he filed for annulment on the grounds that "he never wanted children". I have a letter he wrote me before we were engaged that stated he wanted children, so this was not true, HOWEVER Jack you make an excellent point about BP in that their reality is severely distorted. When he told the tribunal he never wanted children he knew he needed to say that to get the annulment (very manipulative side of BP) HOWEVER I believe that he has convinced himself of this and therefore is choosing to "disown" his children. He has to carry on as though what he told the tribunal was true though I don't believe it to be so because he certainly did not act that way before we were married or even until he was 40.
Another issue is the genetics of bipolar disorder, which the 25 year old daughter is very aware of and concerned for herself in this area. She is very much like her father in a lot of ways but adult onset bipolar is not nearly as genetic as adolescent onset. If it is to happen, it will happen. I do believe that my former mother-in-law has adult onset bipolar so it is likely one of my kids will get it as well. As you stated the disease progresses, with a great deal of co-morbidity, even with treatment.
Again, thank you for the information. You have provided a great number of informative websites.
Yes, the kids are all adults so they need to process how having a mentally ill father effects them now and in the future.
BLessings to you.
Fortunately for your kids, their mom knows all this.
I asked him to visit her and he (who makes a 6 figure salary, with a car/house provided by his father) replies, "I have no money to visit kids".
He has the most generous father I have ever met. His father gives EVERYTHING and does EVERYTHING for my exhusband, (on a military retirees income). My exhusband makes a 6 figure income but can't even acknowledge his kids graduation/birthday with a gift or card. When I ask him "why" he says because he never wanted kids and lied to me before we were married so that I would marry him (grounds for annulment, according to him).
So what does a mother do or say to their kids when they are expressing a desire to see their father? BTW, their father was very active in their lives up until he turned 40 (and diagnosed bipolar). I remind them of his mental illness but they don't get it and frankly neither do I.
I know a guy who calls his daughter a slut all the time. She isn't. She is an attractive, intelligent women and still a virgin in her early 20's. He steals from his sons; one son to the tune of over $21,000 the other less than $5,000 buit only because that son caught him before he could run up any more charges on his credit card. Treats his wife like dirt.
Oh yes! He paid his youngest son the grand sum of $20 to sit out in the sun watching his precious sign all day; 10 full hours. Kid just turned 16 and got his driver's license. Dad informed him he had to repay daddy for the added cost to the family's auto insurance.
He does nothing but yell and scream at his children and his wife, insulting them with vile names and still has the nerve to demand they respect him because he is their Dad and husband and entitled to respect.
They would all be better off if he just ignored them.
I understand that a mother's heart may find it almost impossible not to "rescue" her children when they are hurting, but if they are adults it is up to them to learn to deal with the situation. A mom is there to listen, to comfort. A mom is a soft spot, one that cares but does not mess in her adult children's business.