Dear Abby: I’m a 40-year-old woman, diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder after two suicide attempts. I have tried to get my parents and siblings to attend a session with me so they would understand my diagnosis, but all I hear is, “You don’t need all those drugs. You’re FINE – just a little different than the rest of us,” and, “You have always been ‘odd’ and we like you that way.”
I have given up trying to get their support, but my gifted 14-year-old nephew has been asking questions about my diagnosis. I’m not sure how much to tell him, especially about the suicide attempts, one of which landed me in the hospital. Any advice about what I should tell him and how to get family support?
– Hearing Voices in Illinois
Dear Hearing Voices: Tell your nephew the truth. If he is as intellectually gifted as you say, he will go online and start researching. Explain that your condition can be overwhelming at times, which caused you at one point to try to harm yourself, but that it is kept in check with medication.
Your relatives may be reluctant to admit that there is a mental illness in the family, which is why they refuse to allow your psychiatrist to confirm it. However, you may be able to find support from NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. With 1,200 affiliates, NAMI provides grassroots, self-help groups for people with mental illness and family members who are affected by it. The website is www.nami.org and I hope you will check it out. The organization was established in 1979, and it may be able to help you get through to your family that your problems are not imaginary.
Neighbor goes too far
Dear Abby: My young married daughter, “Megan,” has a problem with a neighbor. This woman has a family of her own, but is in Megan’s business so much she is now actually taking my grandbaby out to eat at restaurants and seems to want people to think the baby is hers. I have spoken to Megan about this. She doesn’t like what is going on, but feels powerless to stop it. This neighbor does a lot for my daughter, and Megan doesn’t want to hurt her feelings. What can she say that will put this woman in her place and make her realize that my daughter’s family is not up for grabs?
– Ohio Mom
Dear Mom: Megan is NOT “powerless.” As the mother of that child, all she has to do is start saying no. If the neighbor asks for an explanation, she should reply that what’s going on is making her uncomfortable. Period. There is no need to be unkind about it, just firm.
Dear Abby is written by Jeanne Phillips and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.