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Extended family involvement


#1

Newbie here on this site and also with mental illness in general…
I am the father of a 26 yr. old who is suffering from extreme social anxiety resulting from his major psychotic depression. He is not able to attend any family functions so the “slighted” family members are wondering what is REALLY going on. (Afterall, he can only be “sick” or busy with work only so often…).

How have you all involved your extended family members into your loved one’s situation WITHOUT compromising the latter’s privacy and dignity? Do you only divulge what is absolutely necessary in order to deal with their concerns and desires to help? I wish they could ALL be trusted to not share outside the family but…


#2

I’m sorry that this has happened to your son. I invite my family here and whoever wants to come here for celebrations. My son used to love our family gatherings but the anxiety often will make him stay home now. He missed the family reunion this year. He missed Thanksgiving but made it for Christmas.
I didn’t try to hide his illness from my family. There was odd behavior before and when he was diagnosed at least things began to make sense.
I don’t share every detail with my family as it really doesn’t serve any purpose. My sisters know it is tough but when I have been vulnerable with my oldest sister, she just didn’t know what to say. This forum and knowing people understand what we go through has been my outlet of support.


#3

Hello,

It sounds like you are a pretty private person. I told the small number of people closest to me when my family member became ill. I don’t think there is a lack of dignity in being ill, so that did not occur to me. I do not disclose diagnosis because that is my family member’s information to share. Two of my close people responded in consistent and helpful ways, which doubled the core team. AND the rest of the family is very supportive in their own ways.

I’ve drifted away from friends throughout this process and lots of people have talked about us. Mental illness is medical illness. I feel the same as if my family member were diagnosed with any serious illness, though the challenges are much different. You are right, people do respond differently to mental illness than to somatic illness. That’s not a problem I can solve so I act as if the progress against stigma has been made. Then I just cry or get angry when we face stigma, but that’s not too frequently.

NAMI has a class called Family to Family for general education about mental illness and many chapters have support groups for family and friends of people with mental illness. There might be people nearby to meet with and we are here on the internet to support you.

I hope the best for your family. Does your son go to counseling or accept medical treatment? If so, some depression, anxiety, and psychosis can become less burdensome for him. People can recover quite a bit.


#4

I never fully disclosed my husband’s illness, and I regret it. He had paranoid sz, and often begged off family gatherings with various excuses. We are big Italian family, and got together often. So it created some bad feelings.
I wanted to protect his privacy, too. It’s a difficult balance, but if I told them all once, it probably would have smoothed things over.
They knew he had some issues, but to what extent I don’t know. When he did show up, he would sometimes exhibit strange behavior, such as falling asleep at the table and nearly upsetting his plate. And another regrettable time, when he loudly exclaimed that it was TIME TO GO, just as Grandma was opening her birthday gifts.:open_mouth:


#5

Thank you, Mom2! We are half way through the Family to Family program as of one hour ago! So far we haven’t discussed this matter but I intend to inquire when appropriate.

My wife and I differ on what to share with the family, actually. I am feeling more proactive generally speaking and would share more details-use certain taboo words even!-than would she. So out of compromise with her AND in honor of our son’s desire for privacy I keep the reasons to as vague as possible I suppose.


#6

Thanks for sharing Jan. I suppose my main argument FOR being open is that in doing so it allows us to provide FACTS instead of the misconceptions they will ultimately succumb to if left to do so. Bottom line: they are not stupid and can see that something is wrong.


#7

We are half way through the Family to Family program. Good stuff and lots of info.!!

Very fortunately, he is very good with his (four) meds and attending his appointments. Will start counseling as soon as he stabilizes medically. Currently in the doldrums of a regiment change😞

Thanks for sharing!


#8

Hi, my 22 year old sz son doesn’t go to many of our extended family parties either. A few months ago we went to his older brothers house and he was doing fine and suddenly as we were ready to eat, he said we had to go, I could see he was extremely uncomfortable and we literally wrapped up our plates and drove home. He was having extreme anxiety on the way home and was laying in the back seat for the 30 min drive. All of my siblings know of his illness, but I really don t think they know the severity of it. They don t seem to understand why he can t go to a lot of their functions. Whenever he agrees to go, I always tell him we will leave if he has to and we just go if he gets uncomfortable. I figure it is better he stays even for a short while than not at all. I am already thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas, pray he can go and have a good time, but not getting my hopes up.


#9

Hi Irene,
know all about the partial social attendance as he could only stay for the actual ceremony of his own sister’s wedding! Ducked out IMMEDIATELY after the ceremony (although he did hug his sister goodbye!) and before anyone could engage him before the reception.


#10

I think it depends on how close of a relationship your 26 year old son had with his extended family before his psychotic break. If he was very close to them, they may be able to help him just by hanging out and talking to him, so he doesn’t completely withdraw from all social contact.

I grew up with my cousins, so I was already very close to them, and they provided me with continued socializing even when I did not feel like it and even when at times I became either very annoyed with them or very fearful of them. They knew me so well, they could see the changes in me quickly and adapted their approach to me. Eventually, with their help, and with my parents’ help, I rejoined all the extended family social gatherings, and it kept me from slipping even further down.

Don’t let privacy and potential embarrassment stand in the way of socializing with relatives, it could really help him.

Good luck!


#11

Oh Wes, you give me hope. Hope school went well.


#12

I have a 23 year old son and we are constantly trying to navigate family.

Our family is very different - my side is warm and welcoming and close knit. I am sure that the holidays will be a bit overwhelming but I am optimistic he will attend.

My husbands side couldn’t be more different. We were invited my husband’s only sisters daughter’s wedding In conversation with my husband it was implied that we all did not have to come. We asked if our son could bring his girlfriend and were told maybe we should not ‘test him’ if he needed a date - his sister however was allowed to bring a date. At the end after being told they hoped we would do the “right thing” we were all uninvited via a text message. Our son is aware we were all uninvited - but to tell the truth this side of the family has been very unkind to him since he became sick.

My husband now believes he over shared with his sister but never expected this - the wedding is same sex, the bride is a social worker who has health issues. His sister has never been nice - but this surprising even for her. I am not sure if I will ever be able to understand such stigma from family.

My son is on meds - we are still trying to find the right mix for his anxiety which he has had for a while. He sees a therapist weekly and we see a family therapist.


#13

So unbelievably rude of her to disinvite you all, via text on top of it!

You know, my sz husband originally declined the invite to my sister’s wedding. At the last minute, he changed his mind and decided he wanted to go. My sister accommodated him, even though it messed up the catering count. We went together and had a wonderful time.

I don’t know if your sister-in-law is afraid your son will make a scene. That’s highly unlikely, right? I don’t think your husband overshared. The shame is hers. I would not even send a gift.


#14

He would not make a scene never has even when psychotic (which he is not now). My family has always welcomed everyone which makes it harder. I come from an Italian family where there was always room for one more even at the last minute! I can remember holidays where one of may dad’s co workers who could not go home joined us. My grandmother used to say she set an extra place at the table for the uninvited guest. It is hard for my husband and daughter but not sure about my son - he holds it all in. Thanks for helping validate - I never post on this site but it helps to read what others are going through.


#15

Hi. I dont often post on this site either. I just want to say be thankful for the family that do stick with you and your ill loved ones through this difficult journey. Sadly nobody has stayed in my sons life and i have become estranged from my family. He only has me. I grieve for him being so isolated.


#16

I know this is not unusual and i dont dismiss how hard it is to cope with the rejection from family. Just saying its great when people with sz have people who care for them.


#17

Thanks!

I almost withdrew from class, too much inappropriate laughter during class. I started using my earbuds again (hidden by my long hair so the instructor doesn’t see me wearing them) and the mp3 player on my phone to distract me enough to keep from disturbing the class anymore. If I feel it getting out of control I get up and leave the room and don’t come back till the next class. I sit right next to the door. I’m not sure I will pass this class, but this is good practice for me. It is incredibly difficult for me to quietly sit still for an hour and a half. This is a learning experience for me. I’ve had mixed reactions from the other students in the class. Some sit far away from me, but two of them seem to like me already, and when they see me walking back home after class they stop and give me a ride.


#18

Lol-about the extra plate setting for an unexpected guest. At my Italian grandma’s, we would always leave the last piece of cheese or salami from the antipasto for an unexpected guest!


#19

That is so rude and I’m sorry. That would really hurt.


#20

I know it is sad - and i know are you not dismissing. It stinks all around - and I am thankful for the family I have. I am sorry about the isolation - it should not be this way for anyone.