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doingmybest
08-31-2013, 01:08 PM
Hi Everyone:

I really trust and respect everyone's judgement on this forum and would very much appreciate your feedback on how to deal with a mentally ill family member.

I have a cousin, who is a woman in her early 60s. She has extreme social anxiety disorder, is OCD, germophobic and paranoid. She has never held a job or been in any intimate relationship. She has no hobbies, no friends and no pets. She won't go anywhere or do anything without me and she is wearing me out. She also refuses to get any type of counseling, take medication or do a single thing to help herself.

To add to this problem, she is running out of money. She has lived off of her parents her entire life. After they passed away, she burned through all of the money she inherited. One of the reasons she ran out of money is because of her spending habits. She has a tiny condo, but refuses to clean it, so she hired housekeepers. She refuses to drive so she hires people to drive her. She refuses to cook, so she buys all of her meals in restaurants.

Now she is looking to my DH and me to take care of her. She hints about moving in with us or getting money from us. We can't and won't do it. We don't have the room or the money to take care of her.

She has a brother with a family who live in another country and they don't want to help her. They are hoping we will take on this responsibility.

I feel terrible about this situation all of the time. I am scared that the stress will cause her to have a nervous breakdown. I told her to get a job with benefits, move to a cheaper area, get a roommate to save money, but she refuses to do anything to improve her situation.

What would you do in this situation?


bargoo
08-31-2013, 01:18 PM
What would I do ? Cruel as it may sound....I would do nothing. Do not enable her in her sickness.

doingmybest
08-31-2013, 01:23 PM
My instincts tell me the same thing. She has managed to make this work for her for 6 decades. Maybe when she is forced to take care of herself, she will find a way to do it.

By the way, she is smart. She has two bachelors degrees, a paralegal certificate and a real estate license, but never used any of it.

Thanks for your input, Bargoo!


lanabug
08-31-2013, 01:27 PM
I'm sorry you have to deal with this situation, it sounds really tough. :(
Like bargoo said though, if you can't shake the guilt and end up having her living off of you, that's only going to enable her behavior and she'll be with you as long as she lives. It might seem really harsh to make her take care of herself, but unfortunately that's reality, illness or not. I have family members with mental disorders, and I do all I can to make life easier for them, but that's only because they're seeking professional help/are on the medications that they need to be on. If they refused help, I'm not sure I'd feel the same way, because I have a hard time tolerating people who have a fixable issue but refuse to put forth the effort to fix it (sounds hypocritical considering my weight problem, but that's actually probably why I have such an issue with seeing it in others!). It's pretty inevitable that you're going to feel bad about it, but better to feel bad & help her help herself than to try and cope with the stress of supporting her and then inevitably sending her off on her own anyway in the end.

Edit cause I just saw your post - if she has all of that college under her belt, then she has even less of an excuse to support herself! She definitely has options. It's not like you're sending out a poor old helpless woman to fend for herself, it sounds like she's perfectly capable to garner an income if she wanted to. Now I feel even more sure it's not the right choice to let her mooch.

kaplods
08-31-2013, 01:28 PM
I would contact the local social services or the mental health department to set up an appointment to apply for services. Ideally with your family member's cooperation, but it can be done without it. Explain that you're overwhelmed and cannot provide the care she needs.

They'll help her and you.

belovedspirit
08-31-2013, 01:53 PM
^ This. If she needs money, perhaps there is social service funding that can be offered to her. Although (from what I've heard) these amounts are often very, very low, living off of them is still possible.

I feel bad for your family member, and certainly for you and your family; it sounds like a tough situation all-around. However, people with mental illnesses are accountable for themselves like the rest of us. And while I don't know whether her actions have been irresponsible or are strategies she's been employing to manage her anxiety (ordering groceries so she doesn't have to leave the house, hiring cleaners so she doesn't have to come in contact with germs, etc.), you and your husband also have a right to act in ways (establish boundaries) that support your well-being and make sense for you. My suggestion would be to act ethically with compassion, but also with reason and care for yourselves. Good luck!

MarjorieMargarine
08-31-2013, 02:16 PM
Well goodness...I hate to say this but I wonder how bad her OCD/ germophobia actually is if she's willing to let other people clean her house/prepare her food/etc- though I know people's symptoms of those diseases vary.

I mean...I'd love to have a housekeeper and never have to cook again. I'm sure you would, too- and we actually work for our money. I wonder how she got so spoiled and entitled?

That's a tough situation because I can't imagine that, in her early 60's, even with an education, with no job experience it's going to be a nightmare getting hired anywhere.

I think you need to sit down with her and talk to her very realistically. Tell her straight up that you and your husband love her, you have spent a lot of time and money helping her, but that you can't afford to support her. Tell her you're worried that she is going to find herself evicted and out of money soon if she doesn't start thinking and planning for her future. I think a social worker is a great idea, and maybe also have her talk to a financial planner.

She's too young to be so dependent on you. If you let her move in with you, she could live off of you another 30 years. You need to only help her with things that will get her back on track. Easier said than done, I know, but she is taking advantage of you.

PatLib
08-31-2013, 02:22 PM
The problem with social services is that they really can't force someone to get help if they need help. I mean Amanda Bynes had to start a fire before anyone could step in.

But calling them for advice may be a good idea. Also, I think you are going to have to be forceful with her. Tell her she has to enroll in some sort of program to get help or you can no longer be a part of her life. The problem is, you have to follow through or she'll know you are bluffing. But you also have to be prepared that doing this may not have the results you want. She could downward spiral and hurt herself which would not be your fault but that doesn't mean you won't feel that way.

But it seems like you have tried for a long time and ultimately this is not your burden.

Arctic Mama
08-31-2013, 02:27 PM
What would I do ? Cruel as it may sound....I would do nothing. Do not enable her in her sickness.

Ditto, except I don't think it is cruel. She needs to not be enabled in her diseases and confronting that, even if it requires a breakdown, must happen sooner or later. That she made it this many years is staggering. Don't take that on yourself, but maybe do some research into counselors or clinics that specialize in her specific OCD issues so that when things do get back, you have a resource to offer her. I would do no more than that and prayer.

Teeni
08-31-2013, 02:44 PM
Honestly, sometimes the best thing you can do is nothing. I suffer from social anxiety disorder and have suffered from a range of fears that have kept me from living a normal life. I could never stand letting someone in my house to clean it, just because I am terrified of physically being around other people. Heck, I am afraid to call the utility companies because I may have to talk to a person *gasp* The one thing that has helped me with my problems is family refusing to let me use it as a crutch. I was always pushed from a young age to overcome my fears, because in the end I have to make sure I am taken care of. In fact it took a desperate situation to force me out of my comfort zone (my mothers basement). Here it is 7 years later, I am now married with a child, and have a bachelors degree. I am now much more capable of talking to people when necessary. I have also come over some other fears like crossing the street (yes I was afraid to cross the street). Now I am in a situation where I need to get over my fear of driving. If I don't learn then Ill spend the rest of my life walking because my family isn't going to play chauffeur for me. Who wants to walk with a one year old? Tell her you understand but she will feel so much happier knowing she can take care of herself, for all she knows you may not be around forever, then where will she be? Homeless and destitute?

ReNew Me
08-31-2013, 03:37 PM
R-U-N.

Seriously. Tell her you can't help her in any way anymore, period. Tell her to contact Social Security and take care of her own problems, she's certainly smart enough to navigate the system and sounds old enough and/or impaired enough to qualify for at least basic services, and CUT HER OFF COMPLETELY. Do not accept her calls (you think you got guilt NOW?), do not drive her anywhere, refuse her letters (or if she has a computer, delete her emails without reading and tag her as spam). She has problems but she clearly has no problem manipulating and using people as it suits her needs, either.

She has problems, but they aren't so terrible that she tries to fix them, does she? If she did, she'd be on medication and seeing a therapist. Her problems give her a wonderful excuse for letting someone else deal with her life, why should she fix them?

She's spent her whole life letting other people take the responsibility because they are kind and feel sorry for her. What she's done is used them, abdicating any responsibility for her life (handy, if she doesn't like things then she can blame everyone else except herself for her problems). This woman is not your problem. You have no legal responsibility to her nor a moral one. She is not your parent or sibling (BTW, it says something that her own sibling wants nothing to do with her).

She will happily suck the life and resources away from your family and continue to whine about how terrible her life is. She will never contribute anything but stress and guilt and financial drain. Cut her off and don't give her a single thought. You know how a drowning person will pull you under if you try to rescue them? Same thing. And if she has a nervous breakdown, oh well. If she ends up homeless there are even more social programs available to her.

Seriously, two BAs and she couldn't manage an inheritance? OCD and social anxiety but she ate out? Germaphobic, paranoia and social anxiety but she has STRANGERS come and clean her home? Darned convenient mental illness if you ask me.

You can't save someone who doesn't want to save themselves.

Trudiha
08-31-2013, 05:47 PM
From what you say, this woman is mentally ill, not bad, evil or out to take advantage of you. Some folks can be seriously mentally ill while still being intelligent and academically able. She can't help her condition anymore than someone can help being physically unwell. Presumably, you're not a doctor so you're not in a position to fix her, however, she needs help, so point her in the right direction while making your own boundaries clear.

doingmybest
08-31-2013, 06:09 PM
Wow - thank you so much everyone for all of your wisdom.

You have confirmed everything that I have been thinking and feeling.

As hard as it is to watch someone make one bad choice after another, my husband and I are done being used and manipulated.

We have suggested so many options to her, including social services, therapy, career counseling (even though it's too late for her), getting a financial planner etc. and she always refuses.

We are done. She will have to take care of herself. We didn't work for 30+ years to support her.

ReNew Me and Marjorie: You are so right - very convenient mental illness.

ReNew Me
09-02-2013, 03:41 PM
Doingmybest, good girl. Cut yourself free of her and don't you dare feel a moments guilt. While I have compassion for someone who has mental health problems, there are limits. I have been in a very similar position to you (it was my MIL). The woman literally sucked me dry and took advantage of my good nature (oh the wailing, the crying, the beating of her breast, nobody understood her, nobody had compassion for her but ME, for a darned good reason. Says something when all FIVE of your kids have cut you off). Took me upwards of $4,000 before I realized how I was being used. Just because someone is mentally ill does not mean they are permitted to screw over those closest to them. People like this will use you, suck you dry, and move on to the next teat when you have nothing left to give and not give the destruction they've wreaked in your life a second thought.

She's ill but not stupid, she can navigate social services. She just doesn't want to do it because it's WAAAAAAYYYY easier to get someone else to fix problems. Stop giving her fish and make her figure out how to fish.

butterflygirljb
09-02-2013, 05:25 PM
I don't mean to sound mean. But your family member is selfish, manipulative and entitled. She doesn't want to help herself. Why would she. People have taken care of her her entire life. I have an aunt who is the same way. She has always had help and is manipulative and uses everyone. She is now ridden with Alzheimers and can't take care of herself and. None of the family will even come see her. She burnt every bridge. My point is if you help her she will take over your lives and everything she can get out of you. It will only make you resent her and maybe even hate her.

LovesToTravel
09-02-2013, 07:50 PM
doingmybest, you guys are in a really tough spot! I can sympathize, my husband has a couple of older relatives who are single, no kids to help them (one is childless & the other is estranged from their kids), no job, no benefits, and really aren't able to take care of themselves very well. Also alcoholism and other mental/physical health issues that make things all the more complicated.

We do what we can, but we refuse to become their caregivers because there are a number of services available if they ever chose to use them- and they won't, much like your cousin. If your cousin ever changes her mind and wants help, you might direct her to your local Area Agency on Aging. They'll be able to connect her with social services and a wide range of support networks. Otherwise...well, sad as it is to say, it may take a serious issue that forces her to get help. You could always call Adult Protective Services too if you think she is in a dangerous situation, they can send someone out to evaluate her and her living condition.

Wishing you much strength for a difficult situation!

doingmybest
09-02-2013, 08:03 PM
Thanks again, Renew Me, LovesToTravel and Butterflygirl. Your comments and all of the other posts have really given me a lot of support.

I find it so interesting that as "mentally ill" as my cousin is, she sure doesn't mind inconveniencing me or taking from me. While she claims to feel badly that she always comes to us for help, she gets really angry when we tell her no. When she completely runs out of money, I am anticipating some kind of "breakdown" or suicide threat ( she has done this before). If she pulls this crap again, I am going to tell her that I am calling 911 to have her put in a hospital. I am certain that will pull her out of her tantrum! If she is in a real crisis or emergency, we will call Adult Protective Services or some other agency.

I used to feel much more compassion for her, but she has pulled so many stunts that we are worn out. She talks and talks about taking steps to help herself and nothing ever happens.

I think she isn't that crazy after all, just an expert at manipulation. To use Renew Me's example, she can go and get her own damn fish!

LovesToTravel
09-02-2013, 10:45 PM
I find it so interesting that as "mentally ill" as my cousin is, she sure doesn't mind inconveniencing me or taking from me. While she claims to feel badly that she always comes to us for help, she gets really angry when we tell her no.

It's definitely interesting how manipulative folks like this can be to get what they want. It sounds like your cousin is a lot like my husband's aunt in some ways- the family sheltered her when she was young and she's never had to do anything for herself, so she tends to throw tantrums and get manipulative when you push her to do things for herself. She's also blown through nearly all of her money on stupid stuff and doesn't seem to "get it" when we explain that she'll have nowhere to live if she keeps it up. With my husband's aunt, I think part of that behavior is the mental health issues (low IQ and severe anxiety for sure and probably some developmental delays that were never addressed) and part of that was learned over the years because that behavior always got her what she wanted! Mentally, it's like trying to reason with an obstinate child. Incredibly frustrating to deal with.

I think you've got it right with your cousin- firm boundaries, let her deal with the consequences of her own actions, and don't allow her to become your responsibility. And if she threatens suicide- heck yeah call 911! Totally agree, let her see that actions have consequences if she's being manipulative and you're also ensuring she's safe if it truly is a cry for help. I'll bet your cousin doesn't know any other way of dealing with things, which is sad for her too. Not a nice way to live your life.

I know you're at the end of your rope with your cousin, doingmybest, but it sounds like you honestly care for her. You're good people. :)

doingmybest
09-02-2013, 11:52 PM
LovesToTravel: thank you so much for your post, especially the last part.

It does feel very much like dealing with a difficult child and I know this is the way she manipulates to get her way. It is a shame that this is how she has learned to function in the world.

There are times when I don't feel like a good person when it comes to her but there is nothing more that I can do. I do care very much for her and although I have set boundaries, there is a part of me that will always feel sad for her.

shcirerf
09-03-2013, 12:21 AM
You can't fix her.

She will suck you dry!

I have BIL, very similar situation.

The best thing I did, was put my foot down and say, DONE!

He stole my husbands identity, cost us all kinds of money and time, on an out of state DUI!

Stole his Dad's SS# and racked up all kinds of bills.

The list of crap he did is to long to list.

Suffice it to say, one night, I'd had enough, he had a habit of bullying his brothers wives, when the men were not home, until he met me.

We are on ok terms now, he knows, I will not put up with his BS.

Thankfully, the rest of the family, finally realized what I'd been telling them, and most of them, his Mom, excluded, are done with his BS.

I do get that some folks, with mental issues, really do need help, however, for most of us what they need, if it's bad enough, is beyond what we can do, and they need professional help.

However, this sounds like a case of whining, and moaning and groaning, and Oh poor me, and it would most likely be in your best interest to walk away!:hug:

patns
09-03-2013, 12:43 AM
I would contact the local social services or the mental health department to set up an appointment to apply for services. Ideally with your family member's cooperation, but it can be done without it. Explain that you're overwhelmed and cannot provide the care she needs.

They'll help her and you.

Good advice.She needs outside help. If she has never held a job it is very unlikely anyone would hire her in her 60s.

sburleson89
09-03-2013, 01:11 AM
I'm sorry to hear about your situation and I hope things get better for both of you. You are a good person and friend to your cousin for sticking around. It is hard since you are the only person your cousin can truly turn to. As a person with anxiety, you must be stern and blunt with your cousin even if it means getting her upset and angry with you. She won't understand at first and think you are being mean but in reality you are only trying to help her. For myself, if someone isnt stern with me, I will beat around the bush and avoid what needs to be done, hoping that it will "go away." I recently got a new job and the thought of an interview terrifies me. I would not go to interviews in the past because I was so scared I was going to make myself look stupid or say the wrong thing. I was running out of money myself and told myself "okay, enough already! Stop being like this!" You really have to face your fears, as much as everyone says it, it really is the truth. Your cousin needs to face her fears before she misses out on anything else in life. It's all about getting out of your comfort zone, which can be the hardest thing to overcome.

doingmybest
09-03-2013, 01:30 AM
Thanks again, everyone! It is hard to hear about what other people have gone through but the lessons learned are extremely valuable.

kaplods
09-03-2013, 01:43 AM
I have a master's degree in psychology and worked in social service for nearly fifteen years, and without a whole lot more information, I cannot tell you how much of your cousin's behavior is within her control, or how receptive she might be to services.

I would urge you not to cut off all ties and emotional support without guidance. Not just for her sake, but for yours as well. I've seen cases like this end in suicide and homelessness and the trauma for those who cut all ties is as great as for the mentally ill person.

Most mentally ill people are accused at one time or another of being selfish, manipulative and of having a "convenient disease." I've faced that myself with my fibromyalgia, a neurological disease rather than a mental illness, but nonetheless when my disease is inconvenient for friends and family, they'll often assume that it is convenient for me.

I'm NOT saying become this woman's caretaker and financial support. I'm saying seek help for her AND yourself.

Cutting off ties is one option, and a legitimate one, but should only be considered if you can do it without guilt or regret should she suicide or become homeless.

It is true that many mentally ill will not seek treatment or face their fears unless forced to do so. This is why mental illness is often seen as selfish and "convenient," but it's much more complicated than that.

Sometimes selfishness, manipulativeness, exaggerated dependence, learned helplessness and "convenient" symptoms are part of the disease. There's a common attitude, sometimes even in the professional community that only the cooperative and "nice" mentally ill deserve compassion and help.

I'm not saying you need to do anything, but don't assume she is doing any of this to spite anyone or because she can helpnit. Maybe she can, maybe she can't, so don't make any choice based on whether she can or can't change without intervention. You can't make that determination. Even a psychiatrist cannot determine what she is and is not capable of, or howcmentally ill or disabled she is without a battery of tests and months of intervention.

I'm not saying you have to do anything or have any contact with her at all, but if you're wanting to base your decision on how much control she has or how severe her disability is, realize that even trained medical professionals can't easily make that decision.

I would agree that if you want to have any contact with her at all, you need to set strict limits and boundaries, but I can't tell you what those are. Maybe cutting all ties is what you have to do, but maybe it's not. Maybe it's what you want to do, maybe it's not.

I would urge you to seek out mental health resources to help YOU make that decision, and to help you determine what role if any you want to play in this woman's life. You do have some powerful leverage if you're currently her only source of emotional support. You may be able to persuade her to seek and comply with treatment, using (limited) contact with you as a reward for her compliance with treatment.

You will need a good counselor yourself, to help you decide what choices are in your best interest - and your cousin's (if you decide to have contact with her).

I agree that allowing her to move in with you, or running her errands, or supporting her financially in any way, is not going to be in anyone's best interest, but I cannot tell you that cutting off all contact is best for her or for you. Those questions can't be answered quite so easily, which is why I'd recommend that you seek help in making that determination.

It's quite possible that she could become self-sufficient if she were in treatment and had emotional, but not material support. Medication, therapy, and vocational training could work wonders.

You can't force her to go, but you do have a very big "carrot" to dangle, if you are the only person (or one of very few people) willing to spend a little time with her.


You're not obligated to do any of this, whether or not your cousin can control her issues without help. You do not have to be the one to push her towards treatment, but if you seek counseling for yourself, you'll very likely feel less conflicted about whatever choices you do make. It's a lot harder to turn your back on family without guilt, even when you have good reasons for doing so, even if the person is the biggest SOB on the planet.

Wannabeskinny
09-03-2013, 06:47 PM
I'm sorry that you have to go through this. But I'm rather hesitant to think poorly of your cousin. After all, she is alone, has no family other than you, is financial insecure and facing old age. Whether her "illness" is real or not, or whether she has been coddled and raised to be a spoiled manipulative brat doesn't change the fact that she is facing some real handicaps and has removed herself from her own responsibilities. Real or made up, it's a sad situation.

In your initial post I can see that you are a caring cousin to her and I can see the frustration of trying to help her. I know she hasn't been cooperative, but don't let her poor decisions make you a bad person. Do you know what I mean? I'm pretty certain that cutting her off completely might not make you feel as good as you wish it would.

Focus on your relationship with her and ask yourself some hard questions about what you are willing to do and what you are not willing or capable of doing. Make a list and then share those things with her. You might be willing to call her on a weekly basis, or to drive her home from her therapy, or to help her search the internet for a financial advisor. All these things ARE helpful to someone if she would accept it.

Be clear of the things you will not do. You will not let her move in with you. You will not give her money. You will not spend every saturday with her. You will not take her shopping with you. You will not invite her over the next holiday.

These are your terms, the things you are offering and the things you are not offering. Herr problem seems that she is non-negotiable and I can understand that's frustrating. Continue to visit her and spend time with her, but make sure you enjoy it. YOU have to get something out of this relationship and you have to make sure she knows that. It's really no fun hanging out with someone who only takes takes takes and she needs to know when she's close to making her final withdraw. At some point you'll have done all you can.

You can't force her to get help. I cannot force my toddler to not want a cookie. But I can stand by my decision not to give him one when he's had too many. I don't mind the tantrum and the tears. Eventually I hope he'll grow out of the "I want I want" stage, but I'm pretty sure he'll never grow out of it if I cave in every time. Tantrums are meaningless once you start ignoring them.

novangel
09-03-2013, 07:00 PM
I have a master's degree in psychology and worked in social service for nearly fifteen years, and without a whole lot more information, I cannot tell you how much of your cousin's behavior is within her control, or how receptive she might be to services.

I would urge you not to cut off all ties and emotional support without guidance. Not just for her sake, but for yours as well. I've seen cases like this end in suicide and homelessness and the trauma for those who cut all ties is as great as for the mentally ill person.

I'm not saying you need to do anything, but don't assume she is doing any of this to spite anyone or because she can help it. Maybe she can, maybe she can't, so don't make any choice based on whether she can or can't change without intervention. You can't make that determination. Even a psychiatrist cannot determine what she is and is not capable of, or how mentally ill or disabled she is without a battery of tests and months of intervention.

I agree that allowing her to move in with you, or running her errands, or supporting her financially in any way, is not going to be in anyone's best interest, but I cannot tell you that cutting off all contact is best for her or for you. Those questions can't be answered quite so easily, which is why I'd recommend that you seek help in making that determination.

Thank you.

kaplods
09-03-2013, 07:46 PM
I also wanted to point out that the behavior op describes is more consistent with severe social anxiety disorder (or Aspberger's syndrome) than a fictitious illness of convenience.

If she were faking or exaggerating her illness and were merely, selfish, manipulative, lonely and lazy, she would have friends, hobbies, a pet... someone or something she cared about.

Even her degrees, eating out, and having housecleaners is very consistent with social anxiety disorder. Her ocd and germ phobias may be mild, or a function of the social anxiety disorder.

Social anxiety is often quite situation specific. A person can be extremely functional in one area of social functioning and very impaired in others.

I suspect your cousin is extremely fearful of situations in which she is not in control, cannot predict or might be judged or perhaps might be depended upon. That she would feel comfortable or reasonably so) in her own home dealing with someone she hired, in a restaurant dealing with staff and in an academic setting and yet not be functional in other aspects of self-care and yet refuse treatment is EXTREMELY consistent with disabling social anxiety disorder.

It only looks inconsistent or "convenient" to those who aren't familiar with this "breed" of social anxiety disorder.

That she has been enabled so long has added the elements of learned helpfulness and terror at the thought of self-reliance.

It's too bad that her parents did not insist she participate and cooperate with in cognitive-behavioral herapy including lifeskills and vocational rehab as conditions for their providing housing and support. Likewise, her inheritance should have been set up as a trust, and a guardian appointed to manage the trust to pay her bills and oversee her expenses.

Unfortunately, none of that happened, and the rug has been pulled out from her. If her fear of being judged is great enough, she may choose homelessness or even suicide over seeking help.

With social anxiety disorder, the pattern of fears often are quite logical within the scope of the illness. I suspect she feels fairly comfortable in her home with cleaning people and in restaurants because she is in nearly 100% in control of the situation. She may be confident in her academic performance.

I wouldn't even be surprised if she were to test on the autistic spectrum as this type of social anxiety disorder is extremely common in people with Asperger's syndrome (which until fairly recently would have been diagnosed as social anxiety disorder, ocd, and dissociative disorders such as paranoia or even antisocial personality disorder (which is characterized by selfish, manipulative behavior).

If she does have Aspberger's she may seem selfish, when she really is self-centered and self-involved - not because she doesn't care how others feel, but because she doesn't have any understanding or ability for empathy.

If she does have Aspberger's, she is going to be very difficult to work with, because no amount of therapy or training will change the way her brain is wired. She can learn to be more functional, but it will take a professional mental health team working with her.

I feel terribly sad that her disability was not addressed in her younger years.

LovesToTravel
09-03-2013, 07:48 PM
Most mentally ill people are accused at one time or another of being selfish, manipulative and of having a "convenient disease." I've faced that myself with my fibromyalgia, a neurological disease rather than a mental illness, but nonetheless when my disease is inconvenient for friends and family, they'll often assume that it is convenient for me.

I apologize for my offensive, broad-brush comments in this thread and I'm sorry that you have been faced with that attitude, kaplods. You're right, it's impossible to determine someone's limitations without professional assessment and to suggest otherwise is ignorant. *shuts big mouth*

kaplods
09-03-2013, 08:13 PM
I apologize for my offensive, broad-brush comments in this thread and I'm sorry that you have been faced with that attitude, kaplods. You're right, it's impossible to determine someone's limitations without professional assessment and to suggest otherwise is ignorant. *shuts big mouth*


It's a very normal and understandable assumption. Even my own graduate and undergraduate education couldn't entirely prevent me from making the same types of judgments.

Only after years working with people of all impairments and functioning levels AND finding myself on the wrong side of the disability fence did I truly "get it."

I now understand why people with disabling conditions often avoid medical and mental health treatment. My short-term memory is often extremely impaired when my fibro is flaring (I used to have a nearly photographic memory - I still do for most things that make it into long-term memory, though retrieval can sometimes be difficult or wire-crossed - hubby says our life when I'm flaring, is a bit like the movie, 50 First Dates). It was very difficult for me to seek and pursue the right kinds of help. I was secretly afraid I had Alzheimer's (especially when I saw "mild dementia" as a diagnosis on my neurologist's testing orders).

But that's why it's so important to seek professional help - because brain, mind and personality disorders otherwise end up being judged as character disorders. They're extremely difficult to treat or address without experienced professional intervention.

Long-term frustration frequently becomes anger and blame, because if you can blame a person, you can walk away with peace of mind knowing that you did what you could trying to help and the person obviously doesn't want help.

It's harder to walk away or even make hard choices or set personal boundaries if you believe a person isn't in control of their behavior or isn't trying to make your life difficult.

The trick is learning to be compassionate without becoming an enabling, co-dependent doormat.

EagleRiverDee
09-03-2013, 09:27 PM
Are you sure she's mentally ill and not just a user?

The reason I ask- you describe her as being OCD, germaphobic, paranoid and with social anxiety...and then you say she hired a housekeeper and eats all her meals out. An OCD, germaphobic, paranoid individual with social anxiety is unlikely to do either of those things. A sociopath, on the other hand, would be likely to claim a mental illness if it allowed them to get what they wanted.

Regardless, I would choose not to enable her whether she's just a user or genuinely ill. I would offer to help her to help herself, but not to do everything for her. For example, some if/then sequences. "If you will go to counseling, I will drive you." If she refuses to try to help herself, it's not your job to take care of her.

doingmybest
09-03-2013, 11:13 PM
Hi kaplods and everyone who posted: thank you again for all of your wisdom.
This discussion is really helpful. Kaplods, all of the social anxiety disorder information you shared fits my cousin completely.

I will never abandon her. She is one of the only family members that I feel any connection to and to cut all ties to her would be damaging to both she and I. We have also been through a lot together with our family. Having said that, I have developed strategies to establish boundaries with her, while still maintaining a friendship.

It is too bad that she wasn't helped when she was younger, but when we were growing up, our family did't talk about these issues. Since I am not trained in psychology and she won't seek help, I am going to talk to a counselor to get some support and to learn about local resources that are available.

Thank you all. I can't tell you how much this helps.

nerdywords
09-04-2013, 12:01 AM
I would call social services for advice, if you haven't already (I see it's been mentioned.)

I was in a similar situation. My boyfriend's mother went through some terrible things as a child. As an adult, she was (is) hoarding, she never showered due to extreme fear (she never went into detail with me, but I highly suspect her abuse happened in a shower/tub/bathroom), etc.

While it was gross, I let it go for the longest time. But, then she started to smell like infection. After some prodding (figuratively), I found out that she had symptoms of MRSA. Now, I almost lost my own mother to MRSA a few years ago and I was/am NOT willing to go through that again.

I called a family meeting with my boyfriend and his sisters, but nobody wanted to do anything. His sisters were sick of the arguments when trying to get her help and my boyfriend is a bit of a mama's boy and didn't want to upset her.

I stepped in and called social services. They suggested calling the local sheriff if I felt she was a threat to others. I called the sheriff and he sent out an ambulance. He told her that she could either agree to be looked at or he would arrest her for putting her grandson (age 1) in danger. I don't know if he actually COULD have arrested her, but that was enough to get her in gear.

She let the paramedics look at her, she's showering again, she's going to doctors, etc.

I guess what I'm saying is I kind of understand what you're going through. It's hard to just "do nothing" when it's someone you care about, but you can't enable her either. I would contact social services and push for a psychiatric evaluation.

*hugs* I hope you get it figured out.

doingmybest
09-04-2013, 02:13 AM
Thank you, nerdywords. It sounds like you went through a really hard experience. You deserve a lot of credit for what you did.

kaplods
09-04-2013, 02:41 AM
Are you sure she's mentally ill and not just a user?

The reason I ask- you describe her as being OCD, germaphobic, paranoid and with social anxiety...and then you say she hired a housekeeper and eats all her meals out. An OCD, germaphobic, paranoid individual with social anxiety is unlikely to do either of those things. A sociopath, on the other hand, would be likely to claim a mental illness if it allowed them to get what they wanted.



A sociopath would be manipulating a lot more people, and doing a better job of it. They also tend to be charming, and would be working the system rather than avoiding it.

And the behavior described while not consistent with ocd and germ phobia, is quite consistent with social anxiety disorder and the paranoia that can come with it.

Social anxiety disorder can take many forms, and doesn't always (or even usually) mean the person is afraid or avoidant of all social situations. It wouldn't be at all be unusual for a person with SAD to feel comfortable in the situations described and yet be socially paralized in others.

Also, the ocd and germophobia may either be mild or secondary to the SAD and Asperger's is still a strong possibility. OCD (including the germ obsessions) are often coping mechanisms that are employed when under stress, and so the ocd symptoms would be very severe at times, but mild or nonexistent at others. Also most germaphobes aren't afraid of all germs, and some are even afraid of only their own germs, so would feel safer eating out or having others prepare their food, because they're convinced that they (not everyone else) is filthy or contaminated.