Evidently, my father-in-law is refusing treatment for whatever mental illness he has.
I guess I should go back and explain.
A couple weeks ago, my in-laws spent a highly stressful 24 hours at our house. I won’t go into the details, so let’s just say my father-in-law’s manic/compulsive behavior was at an all-time high. There’s no reasoning with him or even talking to him. He literally doesn’t hear what anyone has to say when he has a bad spell like this one. The tension was so strong, even the baby could sense it. Thankfully, it was destined to be a short visit, as he can’t stand to be away from home for too long.
The very next day, my birthday, my he sent me a Happy Birthday text in the morning. That evening, at 10:30 pm, while M slept and I nursed my daughter, he sent another text, this one vicious. His exact words: “You atheists can go to hell, but you’re not taking C with you. Imagine the humiliation she will have to endure because you are too lazy.” At first I didn’t know what he was talking about, but the out of the blue nature of the message and the hurtful words, combined with the residual stress of the weekend, made me cry ugly tears. It woke up M, who came to investigate. I showed him the message, which he had also received. I immediately blocked my father-in-law from sending me any more, but M continued to receive increasingly mean and offensive messages about how we are awful people.
I should back track again.
During the stressful weekend, my mother-in-law and I looked through M’s baby book. I noted that he had two sets of godparents listed, something not very common here. She explained that the two family members they wanted to be the godparents couldn’t technically serve as they were not religious. So, they had to pick two church-goers to be the official godparents. Naturally, she asked if we were going to have C baptized. I said, “We’re not religious, so, no. But if C wants to be baptized when she’s older, we would support that.” That was it. No protest, no pressure, no mention of it again.
Except she mentioned it to my father-in-law on the drive home (which is fine; it wasn’t a secret). I can only speculate, but I imagine he stewed on the information for a good while. After all, that first text message didn’t arrive until about 34 hours after they left our home. The thing that really gets to me is that he didn’t ask us about it. He didn’t say, “You know, it’s important to me that C be baptized. Would you consider it, as a favor to me?” That I could respect. I would still say no, but I could respect that response. Instead, he sent a chain of vile, pseudo-religious messages, in an effort to shame and extort us into compliance. Ultimately, he disowned us. Yep. He told us we’re out of the family.
The whole time he was sending those messages to M, M attempted to recruit his mother and brother for some kind of mental health intervention, as he recognized this as the same behavior exhibited just before his dad’s last mental break. That’s right – this has happened before. Seven years ago he snapped and ended up spending several days in a hospital psychiatric ward. Upon discharge, he refused to continue treatment, other than medication prescribed by his family doctor, taken sporadically and sometimes abused.
All of this happened over the course of just 24 hours. My mother-in-law (who was out of town away from her husband through all this) apologized profusely and tried to mitigate the damage. She hasn’t said it, but I can tell she’s hoping this will all blow over and we’ll eventually forget and get along again. Wrong. There’s no way I can be in the same room as this man and pretend none of it happened. The only way we can begin to repair the relationship is if he commits himself to psychiatric treatment.
Needless to say, this complicates the holidays. I hate to be part of why it’s complicated, but I refuse to subject my family to his untreated mental illness. I’m certainly not going to play Midwest Nice and shove it all under the rug.