Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

What am I Looking at?

October 28, 2009

There are endless things to look at every day.  Its always my choice where to place my focus.  I can choose to look at the sky or at the ground.  I can choose to look at the good in people or at the faults in the same people.  I can look at the good and beautiful things God has made and be thankful for them.  I can look at the sin and evil in men and be sad, angry and discouraged.  The bible teaches us where to put our focus.  I call this verse “the mental health verse”.  “Brothers and Sisters, think about the things that are good and worthy of praise.  Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.  Philippians 4:8  New Century Version.

On the Border

July 27, 2008

I have written previously about my daughter-in-law Marie and her troubles with her son Brad and his wife, Sarah (my grandson and grand daughter-in-law).  After trying to plan a spontaneous family reunion when three of her four children would be in the same town on the same weekend, Marie’s daughter-in-law Sarah refused to be part of it.  She went on a rampage against Marie saying that Marie always made a villain out of her.  Then Brad became involved and it really got nasty.

Years ago, when Brad was dating Sarah, Marie observed the amount of anger Sarah displayed toward both Brad and the entire family.  Marie was very troubled about the impending marriage, sure it would be an unhappy one for her son.  She saw a family counselor for awhile, who agreed Sarah had problems and possibly a personality disorder.  The counselor thought Brad would benefit from some information on how to cope with emotional abuse.  Marie decided to share her concerns and information with Brad in confidence.  It didn’t go well.  In fact Brad has, over time, divulged to Sarah all that he and his mom had talked about prior to the marriage.  Obviously that sent the hostility level towards Marie through the roof.  For six years Marie tried to win over Sarah, by materially and verbally expressing support for the marriage and for Sarah.  Recently there seemed to be some minor breakthroughs, then hostility broke through again with the family reunion plans.

Brad wrote his mother several very angry letters, essentially demanding Marie “take back her accusations” about Sarah which she made years ago.  Trouble is, Marie doesn’t see herself as having made accusations.  She pointed out behavior which both she and Brad had witnessed and expressed her concerns about the impending marriage.  Once it was determined the marriage would go on, Marie shut up and got behind the plans.  However, Brad’s divulging of Marie’s concerns to Sarah put Marie in a terrible spot.  Brad has now issued an ultimatum to Marie–either she state she misjudged Sarah all those years ago, or they no longer have a relationship.  The problem is: Marie doesn’t feel she can truthfully do that.  The reason is that Sarah still displays public anger and public insults toward Brad, and to other members of the family.  Marie has never again said a word to Brad about Sarah’s behavior and can’t understand what is going on now.

I’ll admit this presents a quandary.  What can Marie say?  She can continue to be supportive toward Sarah,  she can say she is sorry Sarah was hurt all those years ago, but she can’t deny the truth of what she said then, because it is still evident today.  (I’ll attest to that).  It seems like Marie has been set up in a “no win” situation.   During Sarah’s first ever meeting with Marie she had said “How do you feel about losing your son?  He’s mine now and you won’t have a realtionship with him anymore.”  Marie feels this has finally happened, and she has been set up to where its her fault it happened.

By the way, Marie is also being denied any access to the grandchildren.  Sarah said she doesn’t want Marie to “be a bad influence on them.”  For once this old Nonni is out of ideas

Secondary Gains

April 15, 2008

Back in the dark ages when I worked in mental health, we didn’t have all the pharmaceuticals we have today, and relied a lot more on inpatient hospitalization and psychotherapy of various kinds.  One of the rather interesting concepts was the concept of “secondary gain”.  Some people, unconsciously, or perhaps consciously had something to gain by being “a mental patient”.  Sometimes the psychiatrists could weed out people who were “playing crazy”.  What were the secondary gains?  Oftentimes it was a release from some intolerable living situation.  It might be huge expectations on a person they felt they could never meet.  It might be a career they had spent many years preparing for and then found they hated.  It might be a wildly dysfunctional family.  It might just be that the expectations for the person’s success in life, (their own or their family’s) was more than they ever felt they could live up to.  It might be the marriage from hell.  In all these cases, being “mentally ill” released the person from the burden of the expectations.  They couldn’t be expected to continue what they were doing, and it wasn’t their fault—they were ill.  I think its still a useful concept in some situations.  When somebody you love is doing something “crazy” or dysfunctional, something that makes no sense, or seems to be self defeating, ask yourself whether there is a secondary gain.  It may help you understand the person better, and perhaps eventually help them find a more rewarding way to deal with life.