I think the hardest part of having a profoundly mentally ill relative is how much their random and incomprehensible moods affect you. One day everything is fine, and the next day they’re raging at the world about cellphones and how people should live in caves, and bragging about how they tell pretty much every person you meet what an awful person you are.
How do you react to that? How can you react to that? You get angry. You want to scream at them, but you hold your tongue because they’re a loved one and you just don’t take out your verbal aggression on loved ones, even if they’re acting vicious. Then they go all pathetic and frightened, and you get sucked in. You feel sorry for them. You offer them aid and comfort. You help out, because you love them. You assume, because they tell you how much they love you while you’re taking care of them that they’ll remember it this time.
But no: one day everything is fine, and the next they come over to your house and subject you to seven solid hours of verbal abuse. It’s so bad it embarases the guys installing the carpet and they go outside to wait for it to blow over. It never does. Said relative goes outside to yell at them to get back to work, which they do, then comes back to yelling at me about keeping a messy house. Just vicious “you are useless and weak and everyone I’ve ever met agrees with me” stuff, directed not just at me, but at my wife, and (To a lesser extent) my kid. Said relative is LOUD. When yelling at the carpet guys, said individual was 100 feet away, with a concrete wall between us, facing away from my house, and I could still hear every word plainly.
It was a domestic dispute in every way except the violence. After three hours or so, I got to praying that one of the neighbors would phone it in as such. I hoped the cops would come, and my relative would say something insane to them, or maybe take a swing at one of them, and get Baker Acted. That’s four days of mandatory psychiatric observation in a hospital. Honestly, I think that would be best for everyone.
My relative – I reiterate, I love this person – was profoundly mentally ill to begin with, and I think some form of dementia has been added on top of that. They need help, but there’s nothing I can do. He (Or she. I’m being deliberately vague) knows who he/she is, where he/she is, what he/she’s doing, and can take care of basic tasks like paying bills and buying groceries and cleaning house. Oh, God, cleaning house. About which more later. Anyway, this person needs help, and there’s nothing I can do.
I need help, too. I’m not so tightly wrapped that I can handle so much abuse on a daily basis. My poor kid comes home from school and immediately goes up to his room, locks the door, and crams in earplugs. I think – no joke – that he’s getting PTSD from my relative. My wife – thank God – works late enough that she misses this. I’m pretty sanguine most of the time, but it’s hard not to….well, it’s hard not to be filled with rage and/or self-loathing, both at the same time often. It’s rough.
Because, you see, the crazy person calls the shots. They have the power in the relationship. They act, and you can do nothing but react. They throw a punch, and you take the hit. They throw an insult, and you try to ignore it, but it stabs right through you. They tell you you’re worthless, and you believe it because this person who allegedly loves you never remembers any of the good stuff you’ve done, and only ever tells you what a pile of shit you are. They’ve known me a long time, so it must be true, right? Hence I’m continually meeting other relatives who look at me like something they dug out of their ear. My relative’s friends look at me the same way.
So it’s hard. And it never ends. It never goddamn ends. This person has been here every day for a week? Two weeks? The nightmare blurs together. Way too much time, though. I can take a day or two, provided I’ve got time to recover, but this is unrelenting. Not only that, but it’s taking up so much of my time and energy that I don’t have the ability to use my normal coping methods: blogging, writing, making music, shooting video stuff.
So I apologize. If anyone has wondered why I haven’t updated my site in a long time, it’s because bad shit has been going down, and this is the first minute I’ve had to myself in, I dunno, it feels like months.