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Choices Part 2

21 Sep

I-have-great-expectations-for-the-future,-because-the-past-was-highly-overrated.Before Auntie came, my missing income already had my husband and me on edge.  After she arrived, I was in a constant state of overwhelm from the added stress she was creating in my home. Finally, in February, I landed a new job and was set to start the first week of March. I was extremely relieved at the prospect of having a decent income again, and to be honest, I was thrilled to be getting out of the house!  I figured with me gone Monday through Friday, my Aunt and I would get along better.  I thought maybe things were getting tense because we were spending too much time together.  That might have been true for me, but not so much for Auntie.  After I went back to work, her behavior became increasingly more erratic and irrational. I’d only been back to work a week when there was a major blowout.  It soon was crystal clear to me that because she wasn’t getting the attention she was used to, she wasn’t above doing anything she could to get it back.

My two oldest kids were home each day with her after school until my husband and youngest daughter got home around 6 pm.  Most days, I would get there about an hour after that.  Those few hours my Aunt spent  alone with the kids proved to be just enough time to stir up even more drama. Since she was helping out, my Aunt felt justified speaking her mind about everything from where I put my coffee cups to how I disciplined my kids.  I would politely listen to what she had to say out of respect for her, but most times I didn’t agree with her point of view; especially when it came to my kids.  When she took it upon herself to arrange my kitchen cupboards the way she thought they should be, I was irritated, but I let it go.  I had learned by then that it was prudent to pick my battles.  When she started giving my kids her own consequences after my husband and I had already handled things the way we thought appropriate, I wasn’t so willing to let it go.  Now she was overstepping her boundaries and I was getting fed up.

Initially, when my Aunt told me things the kids did while she was watching them, I trusted her and took her at her word, and they were given consequences accordingly.  They’d protest and argue, but I didn’t pay it much attention.  I told them that my Aunt was an adult, and their dad and I entrusted them to her care when we were at work, which meant they were to respect her and do as they were told.  It wasn’t until my 9-year-old son approached me and said, “Mom, Auntie is lying!” that I started to wonder what was going on.  I thought at first it was normal kid stuff; testing boundaries, etc.  Before she came to live with us, they had only met Auntie once.  My son was too young then to remember her.  I chalked it up to my kids resenting this person they barely knew telling them what to do; especially my oldest daughter, who was 16 and fought authority no matter where it came from!  I attributed the difference in stories partly to my kids wanting to get out of consequences for their behavior and partly and to my Aunt’s poor short-term memory and hearing. I myself had experienced issues with my Aunt due to her not hearing half of what I said.  She would interpret the missing parts herself instead of asking me to clarify, and she was always way off base. The short-term memory issue stemmed from the only medication she would take for her symptoms–Xanax.  It is not normally prescribed for long-term treatment of Bipolar Disorder, and is known to cause people to be forgetful. I tried to tell her about it, I tried showing her research I found about it, but discussing her meds with her wasn’t worth the frustration.  She had her view and no one was going to convince her otherwise. She was right; everyone else was wrong and didn’t know what they were talking about.  No one was immune to her stubbornness or know-it-all attitude, not even her doctor.

My Aunt had that same hard-headed, stubborn attitude about pretty much everything. It was getting hard for me to be understanding, and even harder to bite my tongue.  She’d lived with us for almost three months, and nothing was getting better. In fact, it was about to get much worse.

…next…tough love…

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Choices

13 Sep

depression-1A person with Bipolar Disorder experiences moments of Mania, where they are euphoric, have tremendous energy, and sometimes even feel invincible.  There is also a crash downward into Depression after the Manic episode occurs. Some people experience these shifts a few times a year, others can have symptoms  with shifts as often as several times a day.  It really depends on the person and their chemistry.  Those who experience contrasting moods to the extent that they happen several times a day tend to be very restless and irritable.  Auntie was one of them.  One minute she would be goofing around, having fun playing with the kids, and I’d see a glimpse of the woman I remembered. The next she was annoyed, treating the kids harshly, and stomping off in a snit, leaving my husband and I looking at each other in confusion over what had just happened.  Worse, the kids would be bewildered and ask, “What’d I do?”  The only person in the house who was “safe” from Auntie’s moods; at least directly, was my husband.  Auntie had been through several abusive relationships, and I think she had a fear of men; though she’d never admitted it.  I believe that was probably the only thing that kept my husband out of the line of fire.  She would come to me to complain about him instead.

Over time, I found myself dreading being home with Auntie and would find any excuse to get out by myself for a while. I didn’t recognize this woman, and I grew weary of pointless discussions that went on and on, in circles for hours, with no resolution.  There was a lot of finger-pointing and blaming going on and she took absolutely no responsibility for any part in anything that happened.  In her eyes she was never wrong and to hear her tell it, my husband, kids, and I were mean, horrible people who did things purposely to hurt her!  I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that this woman who had known me my entire life was accusing me of acting in ways I just wasn’t capable of.  The things she accused my husband and kids of doing were even worse.  She acted as if she thought everyone had some hidden agenda or ulterior motive.  I was constantly having to defend myself as well as my husband and kids to her and it was getting to be so surreal!  I wondered when she had gotten so bitter and cynical.  After all, Auntie had raised two children.  Surely, she had to have experienced these kinds of things before.  Why was she getting so bent out of shape over “kid stuff”??

I started going to Starbucks every morning after dropping my youngest off at preschool.  I’d get my favorite coffee, pull into the parking lot across the street and sit in the car.  I’d park in front of a small pond at the far end of the parking lot, the furthest away from the all stores and activity, and watch the mama ducks and their ducklings play follow the leader, while enjoying the solitude and my coffee.  It was during these moments that I would try to make sense out of the things that were going on.

After a while of taking time to myself each morning, I decided to have a talk with Auntie.  I couldn’t understand where her behavior was coming from and I wanted to see what we could work out to try to lessen the tension in the house.  The conversation wasn’t going as I’d hoped; we were getting nowhere, and I had decided to drop the subject for the day when Auntie confided in me about her Bipolar Disorder.  In the next breath she told me she didn’t need to be treated for it and she could handle it just fine on her own. She said she had been prescribed medication for her symptoms but was not taking it.  When I asked her why she stopped taking the medication if the doctor felt she needed it, she said she didn’t like how it made her feel.  She said she had only tried the one medication and had never gone for her follow up visit to let the doctor know how it affected her…

…next…choices part 2