14 years stable but still estranged
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14 years stable but still estranged

Q: I am 57 and have been quite stable for 14 years. Due to my past behavior I am estranged from my children ages 32 and 35. My ex-husband has been instrumental in alienating them from me and will not forgive me and interceed. My family is not willing to help me because they are angry that my kids won't contact them. They don't seem to be able to put their own anger aside and support me in this. It has been 4 years and I am finally feeling that I am through the bereavement stages of this separation. I contacted a search company to find out where they live and sometimes I drive by to see if their cars are there or maybe to see them. I wouldn't confront them because I am afraid of rejection. They do not know my car. I am so sad and it permiates my day to day confidence in myself even though I am successful. I hold a license as a Psychiatric Technician and a Social Services Designee in California. Have you ever dealt with such a family situation? Do you have any suggestions for me? Thank you.

Dear Stable --
You must have so much company out there, you wouldn't believe it.  Many, many people have been through this.  So first, I'd recommend listening in on, then participating in, several bipolar support groups online.  There are people there who know from experience how to -- and how not to -- handle this situation.

Meanwhile, I'd strongly recommend that you stop driving by.  Sooner or later you'd get discovered, and that could easily make things worse.  However, you could try initiating the tiniest communication you can arrange, emphasizing your 14 years of stability, your job, and your willingness to go along with their timetable as far as working toward some kind of increased communication.  The biggest risk in such an effort would be to you, as you could easily find yourself pushed away again, even pushed hard.  That would be even worse than your situation now, I would fear.

Perhaps there is a way to demonstrate your stability, in a very low key way?  That stability is, from what can see, the biggest issue that lingers for SO's of bipolar folks.  Ask around the bipolar support groups (here on Bipolar World; at BPSO.org, the support group for spouses/family; and there's a good group at about.com's bipolar site) for ideas, and to cross-check any plans before you act on them.  Good luck!

Dr. Phelps

Published November, 2000

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