Monday, 22 February 2016

Mental illness is an affliction that affects the whole family

Let me be straight: I love my daughter. I don't know why she has a mental health problem but she does. When she was nine years old I had to leave home and come back to Australia, and that might be the root of the problem. But then again it might not. She might have been always going to get sick. The fact is that there is no way of knowing. And there's no point in trying to apportion blame. All we can do is try to make things better.

In 2014 I went to Japan to be with my family when they had a crisis due to Adelaide's illness. She had been mandatorially admitted to hospital because she had cut herself, and I went there to try to help sort things out. It was too much to just rely on my ex-wife, who had remained in Japan all those years ago, to try and raise the family alone. At that time I talked with my mother and we agreed to help Adelaide financially. I would send a quantity of money occasionally for the purpose of her travel to hospital, for her treatment, and for an allowance.

Since then she has been going to hospital regularly using the money I send, and I am grateful for that. But sometimes things get to be too much for her. She calls me and cries and says that there is not enough money. She cannot afford to get a haircut, and getting a job - her doctor had agreed that she could get a job for one day a week - without a haircut in Japan is very difficult. She wants to go out with friends. Her mother was not giving her enough money. She wanted me to send the money to her directly, rather than to her through her mother. She was not getting along with her mother. Her mother was shouting at her.

It's a terribly complicated situation and with this amount of information alone it's hard to know what to do. My thinking is that she has to get along with her mother. If she cannot do that, then it means she is unwell. But it's hard to say that to someone who is ill, who cannot discern the reality from the fantasy. So I got in touch with her mother, who told me that Adelaide has been spending too much money and had just run out of her allowance. It was the normal time of year for Adelaide to attack her, my ex-wife, she said, but she was used to it. She was used to Adelaide looking to form alliances with people outside of the core pair for the purpose of getting advantage. But she - my ex-wife - has feelings also. She is unsure of what to do. She says she doesn't want to handle the money. Adelaide is liable to go to her purse and take money out of it when her own money runs out.

It is difficult to know what to do but what is certain is that living so far away it is almost impossible to become involved in the detail of the contretemps. So I give preference to my ex-wife's ideas about what to do. I cannot allow Adelaide to get her way and spend money designed to go to her treatment, on other things. I am in a bind. I don't really know what to do so I defer to the status quo. Adelaide's mother must control the money. Adelaide must get used to living together with her mother.

Mental illness is so hard. There are no absolute rules, and the desires of the person living with the disease may actually be grounded in unreliable imaginings. You sometimes need to get reliable information from people who know what is actually happening on the ground, in reality. I find it hard to know what to do but I have no other choice but to depend on Adelaide's mother in the matter of apportioning money. Anything else is too shaky, too fragile. I have to go with the best advice available and unfortunately it is hard to depend on Adelaide herself to give that to me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems that people with emotional illnesses are difficult for their families regardless of nationality. I wish we could control symptoms better with medication that does not have dreadful side effects. Intelligent, controlled people can manage their illness without drugs, but not everyone has the sort of personality and upbringing to make that work.My Facebook friend who suffers bipolar (mainly mania) is a constant source of worry and I am not related to him at all. His family was very dysfunctional partly due to regional politics and his father probably had the same problem but drowned it in alcohol. He gets out of control with money, spending it on frivolous and unwise things but there is no system to keep a hold on his finances for him. I guess Japan has no system of community mental health guardians? A few people act for others under the Guardianship Board in South Australia and it seems a reasonable setup although never very happy for the client. Ask your ex-wife if there is a similar system in Japan. As soon as there is an emotional bond involved with handling money, no one is happy.