Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I hate you! Now we're getting somewhere.

Bipolar Chris faded away briefly after the reintroduction of the needed supplements. Then it all changed, again. He seemed determined to throw us off guard, to keep our lives in perpetual turmoil. I realized he was harboring deep anger with Ian and me because he was no longer trying to hide it.

I took his words and actions at face value. I did not pretend to excuse it as simply the ramblings of someone mentally ill. One night Ian and I came home to find the bathroom wall fan dismantled because Chris took it upon himself to fix the noise problem, knowing full well that we were planning to have a licensed electrician look at it. He gave away non-trivial sums of pocket money to street people and he wanted to let us know he had done this. He continued to drop hints that he was falling behind in his course work, hoping no doubt to provoke our very real fears about his not keeping up with assignments.

Ian and I finally refused to take the bait. I wanted off this damn roller coaster ride. I was becoming extremely angry and depressed myself. I hated to be home alone with Chris. He was making no useful contribution to our household and was now depressed and angry in a passive aggressive way. This is the point where I suspect a lot of people with schizophrenia get kicked out of the family house and told to fend for themselves.

Ian and I had a few frank talks with Chris. He told us he hated us, as if this was some really awful thing. “We can live with this”, we chorused, “but YOU are having trouble living with deep seated anger and it is getting in the way of your moving on. You are only harming yourself. You don't want to move on at this point, do you, because you are scared of growing up and taking responsibility for your life. You'd prefer to stick it to us.”

Criticizing the mentally ill family member is not recommended in the mental health literature. The family is supposed to understand and endlessly empathize and not see intent in their madness. Mindful of this, Ian's and my only recourse was to stay out of the apartment as much as possible, to stop micromanaging Chris's life and to try to ignore his many peculiarities when we were home. He would have no audience in us. We stopped inviting company over because we didn't want them to be exposed to the dreariness and weirdness of Chris and the pall that was cast over the household.

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