Tough Love and Bipolar Disorder

Tough love isn’t always tough. It also isn’t always love. How do you decide to take a tough stance with a loved one who suffers from mental illness?

There is usually a history of dysfunction before a family member or loved one decides he needs to take a firm stance with another family member. Lapsing into a mood of despair and broken promises, a parent may have to confront a mentally ill adult child about his behavior before the household deteriorates into a pattern of chaos and disorder. How do families regain their composure in the face of a loved one who loses all sense of boundaries? What do you do when a household is impacted by irregular sleep hours, isolating behavior, staying behind closed doors for days at a time, or becoming belligerent when confronted? How do parents present a firm stand against losses of personal hygiene, or threats of violence that threaten the normal functioning of the family? It is at times like these, especially after reported incidents, that family members must consider the prospect of taking a stand. This is no easy decision.

So what is tough love and does it work? Tough love comes into play quite often after a family has repeatedly attempted to resort to a moderate approach of reasoning with their loved one, with poor or no results. The household is close to being held hostage to the erratic and/or aggressive pronouncements of a family member who is out of control, firmly in denial, and may have lost a grip on reality.

Tough love is a response to the non-response of a loved one to recognize the need for treatment and acceptance that they are ill, mentally ill. It is about forcing a loved one with little or no insight into facing their situation. Sometimes it means giving an ultimatum of going for treatment or leaving the family home. It is often a last desperate attempt to reaffirm family normalcy and to bring balance back into the household. It is anguish for the family member seeking to regain boundaries.

Does it work? The prospect of turning out a child from the home is a heartrending decision a family naturally shrinks away from. It is only a last resort after repeated steps to get the mentally ill member to seek treatment. Often, tough love begins by making it clear they must see a doctor, take medication, and go into counseling. There are consequences for non-compliance. This is a long way from the assumption the loved one can no longer live with family or have touch with loved ones. Tough love is saying, “We’re not going to pretend any longer that there is not a problem.” It is taking the tough stand that you won’t allow denial to go on, and that there has to be a resolution. You know they need treatment, and you must take the loving action of forcing them to get better. It’s not a cure-all; it’s a beginning

31 comments:

Kimbaaz@comcast.net said...

My husband and I just asked our son, 20, to leave. LEAVE, leave. He is bi-polar, and on and off his meds. He recently tried a new one, that was working so of course he stopped taking it regularly the way it had been prescribed. He is really scary, threatening (to me, mostly) and has stolen thousands of dollars worth of belongings from ourselves and our other children. Stealing and selling our other son's Christmas present then blaming/threatening me was the last straw. And even though this has been a horrible, horrible number of years, my heart is just killing me. He just came home and asked for pillows and a sleeping bag to sleep in his car. Is anyone else going through this?? I know it was the right thing but I feel like I'm breaking in two.

Donald Kern said...

Dear Kimbaaz,

In reference to your post on my blog, yes, 1000's of families go through the burden of having to remove a mentally ill loved one from the home every year. My heart goes out to you. It is an ache in any parent's heart that has ever held a baby that grows up to be scary and unmanageable to have at home.
It can be too, the impetus for taking action.Demand your son has to stay on his meds, be compliant with treatment or leave. These are the rules of the household. Even then, without meds compliance, it may still break your heart. As I said in the blog post you read, you have to be ready to take this step. It is not easy. And yet, you can be resolved in knowing you were given no alternative and have plenty of company.
If you havn't done so yet, join a support group if one is offered in your area. There are also ones on line.NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill has a peer run support groups for family members and parents of mentally ill children(adult children) where you can gain support, trade tips on how to handle a mentally ill child or partner, and decrease the sense of helplessness and stigma you may be experiencing. You might also be helped by engaging a mental health professional to help you through this episode in your life. Act now. Get the help you need.

DONALD KERN, MFT
AUTHOR, "MIND GONE AWRY"
www: kerntherapy.com
email:donaldkern@yahoo.com

blog:bipolarbychance.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Kimbaaz, I can relate to what you're saying. My son has a mental illness and he is in denial. He lived with me for 2 years without any treatment. He was incarcerated twice over those 2 years due to poor decisions (not stopping when asked by the police). He spent 6 months in jail and upon his release he moved out of state to live with his father. He has been there for almost 2 months and is now asking to come back to live with me. I too experienced him stealing and pawning my possessions. He was, and still is, very argumentative and verbally abusive. I had to put a lock on my bedroom door and I would sleep with mace under my pillow. He has never physically attacked me, but I was fearful that he might. I had to call the police on numerous occassions. I often felt like a prisoner in my own home. Anyway, I explained to him that if he decides to move back to this city, he would be homeless. It breaks my heart to think of him in this state, but I don't know what else to do. He continues to refuse treatment because he has no insight into his illness. I attend a monthly support group through NAMI and it does help. Please know that I am praying for you and other families in the same situation. You are not alone.

Anonymous said...

Our son has schizophrenia and has been living with us for 5 years. He is 35 and we are in our 60's. We have tried many ways to get him to accept his illness and treatment and he refuses. We are afraid of him and for him. We put him out for 4 months and then let him back in when he promised to go back to the doctor. He did not follow through. We have not had the courage to put him out again because now we know how hard it is. He will try to live in his car and keep calling us. We are at the end of our rope and don't know what else to do. I don't know if there is a similar website or blog for families of schizophrenics or does it make a difference? It is the same painful story no matter which diagnosis your child has.

Anonymous said...

My 21 year old son is dually diagnosed with bipolar disorder and drug addiction. We have tried everything we know to get him help. We have spent tons of money on rehabs. Nothing has helped. We put him out on the street for 4 days 3 nights, I thought I could not stand it so we allowed him to set up a tent in our backyard. He was very good at first, going to his doctor and taking his meds. Recently the old behaviors are starting again, drug use, mean talk. I fear we will have to make him leave again. I just worry that he might hurt himself or accidently someone else. I feel like it is our duty to keep him safe? After all he is sick. Our lives have been pretty miserable for the last 5 years since he got sick. Can people with mental illness understand consequences for their actions or are their brains so diseased that they just cannot reason?

Donald Kern,MFT said...

Dear Anonymous,
You, indeed, have a difficulty sorting out what to do for an adult child who remains without insight into his disability and dysfunctional behavior. While there are no easy answers, there is support both online and frequently in the community. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill(NAMI) provides education, support groups, and an online presence for families of those who have major mental illness regardless of whether it is Schizaphrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Major Depression, or a severe personality disorder. NAMI is made
up of family volunteers who run their support groups and educational programs. Being in touch with those who are familiar with mental illness can be uplifting, bringing hope. As debilitating as mental illness can be to a family, there are paralells that cross over the labels and can serve you well. Getting support is valuable and should not be underestimated. Mental Health America (MHA) is another support organization, which may prove helpful regardless of which mental illness your loved one has. I hope you find some peace of mind admidst the unhappiness you are experencing. Googling NAMI or MHA may give you their websites and email.
The NAMI resource and support line is (800)950-6264. The Mental Health America phoneline I have is in the Los Angeles area and is (213)413-1130. They can help you get directed to their office in your area.Specific diagnosis information might help as well. I hope this helps.
Donald Kern, MFT

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Anonymous said...

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kasha said...

- I am kasha i lives in uk and i was in a serious relationship with my ex guy for three good years.. One day we were in a dinner party, we had a little misunderstanding which lead to a Quarrel and he stood up and left me at the dinner party. i try to call him but he was not picking my calls so after than i contacted my brother and told him about it,my brother so much love me that he had to see him on my behalf,he told my brother that it is over between us.. Then i contacted a friend of mine that had this similar experience and she directed me to one of the spiritual diviner (maduraitemple@yahoo.com).at first i thought it was not going to be possible and i contacted him i was ask to come up with a little requirement,so i did what i was ask to do, after 3 days i was in my office when my ex guy called me and was asking me to forgive him and come back to him. i was very surprise it was like a dream to me,so ever since we have been happily married with one kid my lovely baby(Ceslav)...i wish you the best of luck...

Anonymous said...

We have an adult child that we had to fetch from school due to a psychotic break. He had previously (and rightly) been given the diagnosis of AS. We brought him home and encouraged him to continue therapy and medication of "some" sort. He agreed and did follow through for a short time, but rapidly digressed. Now a year later, he is right back (mentally) where he started and in denial. He has incurred debts that we are "assisting" him in paying off. I feel that we have done nothing short of enable him but my husband and he have the same name (Jr/Sr)and we bank at the same bank, so my husband feels that we must do this so our name is not marred. The adult child IS moving out (next month) with a roommate (unknown person to us)and our greatest fear is that this is going to be the swan dive of all swan dives. He refuses to seek professional help, refuses to consider that he needs stabilizing medication, refuses to listen to us...we are the enemy. He must be told to bath, he must be gotten up for work (he manages a part time shift job). He smokes like a chimney. His sleep pattern is completely without a schedule. He trusts those who we fear see him as a target and possible patsy due to the fact that we the parents are perceived as being wealthy. It is horrible sitting back watching this slow moving train wreck and knowing we are powerless short of having him committed (in our state it would only be a 48 hour stay)and then we would have to deal with the angry tirade afterwards. In any case it is great to have this forum to be able to share, vent, and see that there are others who have similar stories.

Anonymous said...

My son is 35 and bipolar.He makes everyone's life Hell. He perseverates on the smallest things until he works him self into a rage then attacks.He is awaiting trial right now for assaulting his brother.Lately he has ripped doors off of hinges,punched holes in the walls and pushed me.He has not worked in 4 years and lives off of me a 59 yr old young onset Parkinson's sufferer.I'm no longer Mom. I'm you f#ckn b#tch Cu#t. I no longer call authorities when he threatens suicide.A big part of me hopes he succeeds so me and the rest of the family can be free. I love him and I hate him. Ive considered letting the house go into foreclosure so I can just disappear and not tell him where Ive gone. I know the only peace my family will have is when he dies.

trevor johnson said...

Mentally ill or just a drug addict?? A drug addict because he's mentally ill or mentally ill because he's a drug addict? Or maybe the two have nothing to do with one another. This is what I am trying to get educated about. I know one thing, I am so tired of hearing about how my brother is "mentally ill," has a mental deficiency and as a result is on SS / Disability. To me it seems he has somehow manipulated and convinced everyone including the federal government, that yes he is Mentally Ill and therefore we should have to pay for his drug habit?? All I know is something is not quite right here. I am all ears.....

Jacque Garcia said...

This sounds just like my son only he is 18 and has no car. I don't know where he is tonight because I had to turn him out because of the stealing and rages. He won't get help.and is smoking synthetic pot, is addicted. I'm scared out of my mind. I'm dying inside. I have no support at home either. My husband is just glad he's gone...another story.

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toughlove said...

Does anyone have a good outcome from tough love? My son has been dealing with bipolar disorder. He takes his meds. Lives four hours away. He is trying but not hard enough. He has tried school with difficulty but wants to keep trying. We have been at this for twoyears . In some ways it is much better. The problem I have is he can't motivate himself to get out a seriously look for a job plus he is self medicating with pot. I've tried to get him to understand that is making it worse in the long run. I've stopped giving him money. I am paying his rent and electricity. I don't know how he is getting by unless its all coming from his girlfriend. Everyone keeps telling me to give him an ultimatum. I'm scared he will run. He is becoming more and more like his dad and grandmother which now I think must have had BP too. I'm just not ready but I feel like everyone else thinks I'm crazy. I just don't know if someone that's bipolar will be able to think on a logical level when pushed. I feel pulled in a hundreds different directions. I just want him to get a job and stop smoking because I believe it makes the swings more pronounced.

Anonymous said...

My daughter is bipolar refuses to take meds & is denial...she started getting very violent & verbally abusive...told her she had to leave, she lied, cheated and it is heartbreaking that she could be so cruel, it's the illness, but the hardest part is my husband doesn't see it & does whatever she asks of him, so I cant effectively parent without my husband...just besides myself with grief, can't get through to either one of them...she took off to CA & got married, her now husband doesn't know she's been lying to him about everything, so without meds it's a matter of time before things get bad, I don't know what we'll do if they ask for help, things will fall apart, I can't live with chaos like that, so I see everyone here has gone through it & it's a living nightmare

Donald Kern said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donald Kern said...

Dear Anonymous
There is only so much you can do when dealing with a loved one who has Bipolar disorder. I do not know if there is more you can do, other then to understand your daughter is beyond your ability to influence her behavior. All you can do is let her know you are open to her for help if she can accept her disability and she understands she needs help.
What is more to the point is your relationship with your husband on this issue. There needs to be mutual support for each other's view in terms of dealing with your daughter's Bipolar diagnosis. This is not always so easily gained. Much as you may be seriously stressed in your daughter's denial, your husband's way of coping has been to give way to her behavior. Since the two of you are not on the same page, I suggest you two need to thrash this out between yourselves to reach some kind of resolution. If you two cannot do this alone, you might need to seek some professional help. Your living nightmare might be helped be someone who can educate and facilitate understanding between you and your husband. What will happen to your daughter is up to her in the long run and what will be left is your marital bond and how you approach it's nurturance. No doubt about it, tough love is tough on all of the family, not just the ill one.

Donald Kern said...

Dear toughlove wondering if there is any good outcome from tough love,
Patience is probably the hardest lesson to learn in dealing with a mentally ill loved one, allowing the understanding there are limits to your influence and more importantly , there are limits to an ill loved one's ability to address their mental illness. Sometimes Recovery goes ahead in fits and starts. It is not a linear process which goes forward in a smooth and progressive, ongoing manner. This is not easy to wrap your head around. We want our loved ones well already and it frustrates when there is an apparent stalling of movement forward. As difficult as it is, try to take heart in a loved one's accomplishments and have detachment when viewing their shortcomings. Not that any of this is easy. I don't think there is anything as stark and stubborn as mental illness and the difficult road of Recovery. It is tiring at times and an ill one has to sit for awhile alongside the road of Recovery sometimes to get the strength and resolve renewed. I think we have to remember that as difficult as it is for us, it is also troubling and exhausting to the loved one to move forward. Not to say watching a loved one become mentally ill and hoping for their Recovery is easy or without its pitfalls for family and friends.

Anonymous said...

43 year old son, diagnosed bipolar at 28, but most likely manisfesting the disease at 22...lived in divorced home with father who worked, and left unsupervised from age 13. Now once married, and at 30, broke chair over pregnant wife, choked wife with baby in arms in front of grandfather, and stabbed wife with fork in restaurant in 2002. Now divorced. Voluntarily hospitalized in lock up ward for 10 nights, father presently dying of uncurable cancer, and patient now with no job, but good job prospects, unpaid child support for 13 year old, and engaged to an oxycontone, welfare mama who has mental issues. Household where only sibling is taking care of dying dad does not welcome him, nor me his mom. Only has an uncle left, no welcome there. right now fiancee has restraining order out against patient...so right now he will have to enter homeless shelter, has bankrupted father, trying to do so with mother, and all of us are afraid of his violent tendencies...ripped rear view mirror off of windshield when in argument with fiancee, prior to recent hospitalzation...that prompted her first restraining order.

Anonymous said...

My 26 yr old son bipolar not on medicine beat up my 30 yr. Old daughter. We had him arrested. When he gets out of jail I have decided not to let him live with me which means he will be homeless. He picked me up by the neck one day and put my head through a wall. He verbally abuses his sisters and I on a daily basis. He threatens me all of the time. Hasnt been on his medicine in 5 years and hec wasdiagnosed at the age of 10. Help

Anonymous said...

.....My Dear Son....who was tentatively diagnosed with Apsergers; or possibly early-onset schizophrenia....as a child, is now 30, and living in and out of our home. He has a severe alcohol problem in the extreme (same as his bio father)....and two years ago went out to the bar; evidently got into some sort of altercation, per usual...and was found around midnight on Thanksgiving Eve laying hunched over in the middle of a busy road: Someone has beat him senseless, almost to death, blunt force trauma etc...a passerby called 911, he was rushed to hospital where, unbeknownst to us, he was taken to surgery for a cracked skull and subdural hematoma.....he had 85 staples placed in his head. He didn't come home for days, typical of him...so we assumed he'd crashed at a friend's ....until that fateful call: Mr. O'Connor, this is Community Memorial Hospital, your son was finally able to give us your number...he's been here...he had brain surgery a coupla days ago....he was found in the middle of the road (YOUR BAAAAABY!!!!!!!!) Well folks, he came home a week and a half later, and while my husband and I were at pharmacy picking up his prescriptions, he snuck out and somehow stumbled down to the corner store with his head bandaged/stapled...and bought alcohol. And so the story goes. We put him out last summer after numerous incidences involving him coming home so drunk he could not see straight; covered in someone else's blood, and on and on ad nauseum (the skull beating was not even anywhere close to his "bottom") So after he'd been couch-surfing for a few weeks, he came by and asked to have a shower; I said, Sure....well, I heard a thud!!! Couldn't get the bathroom door opened as he had locked it; ran around to the bathroom window facing the outdoor patio, and lo and behold, there he was, my six foot baby, splayed out on the bathroom tile having a Grand Mal Seizure....and so it went... we got him out, phoned for an ambulance...he had dehydrated and malnourished his already very distraught body and brain...the blood tests showed no drugs or alcohol in his system...claimed he had been working construction all day....his body just cannot take the major abuse and insults any longer . Yep, and here we still are, many months later...and he comes in and out because we are now terrified of turning him back to the streets... He's been arrested twice recently for assault....stumbles home blind-drunk most nights, detailing horrific fights and things to his disgusted younger brother....threatens to break windows with his fists if we lock the front door late at night....I wake up out of a dead sleep when he comes home, my heart pounding and ripping out of my chest. I am a cancer survivor myself, and the stress this is causing me mentally and physically; well let's just say none of us will be shocked when the cancer "comes back" I almost feel as if it should'; I didn't raise him right, his bio father was around and he saw too much for someone with his emotional sensitivities...I was a very young naive stupid mother... so .... there you have it, plus lots more I dont have the breath to print. What to do here before he emotionally kills us all

Anonymous said...

My son is bipolar...wont have treatment..I have custody of kids...he trys bulling us all...he contrubutes nothing...its agreed that if I send him on his merry way..he will burn my house down..hes vengful..steals..does drugs ..ive seen the good side. But its gone..hes a user...I've hoped he would mess up on his own..I cant help him..he has mental issues..any ideas plez?

Donald Kern said...

Getting togeather as a family can sometimes help to come up with solutions and alternatives as well as create more unity for parents and siblings struggling with the fallout of irrational behavior of a mentally ill loved one. Creating a plan which can be used when there is a crisis is also helpful. Dealing with dysfunction &/or relapse by having a plan to follow, steps to take when crisis erupts and tests family members, can help sooth the anxious and fearful feelings when a sense of chaos is impacting you. Help can be found in creating a relapse plan by professionals in your area or by support organizations like NAMI or your local mental health dept. Creating a plan the whole family can participate in will reduce anxiety. Family meetings on a regular basis can help everyone cope better.

Donald Kern said...

To "my dear son" post of Jan 10th
A recurrent theme I hear in the blog posts responses is the out of control aspect of an adult child with a Bipolar diagnosis and how it impacts the family. What seems to be missing in all these reports is support for the family in crisis. This is a critical factor and can be remedied by joining a support group for family members of the mentally ill. Organizations such as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill(NAMI) or the Depression and Bipolar Alliance(DBSA) offer support groups as do many local agencies who help treat the mentally ill. These groups are helpful in several ways. For one, they provide a visible face of others who are in the same or similar circumstances as their loved ones. You don't feel so isolated or impotent or alone. As well, hearing others solutions to dealing with a difficult mentally ill loved one can give advice of someone who has been there and knows what you are going through. Mental Health America is another organization which can help offer support groups &/or has information regarding them. The national office phone numbers where you can find out about services and local chapters in your area are as follows;NAMI-800-950-6264, DBSA-800-826-3632.

Donald Kern said...

To "My 26 year old son" post of January 9th
Dealing with a loved one who is aggressive and perhaps violent is a frightening, often traumatic prospect. Family and friends are often caught unaware when a mentally ill individual threatens their safety and wellbeing. At those times a family may be paralyzed into inaction, fearful that if they take action against a loved one who is out of control, he or she will retaliate. Often, a family is concerned that if they take action, a consequence which can have legal ramifications for their loved one will occur. What needs to be part of the solution in responding to such situations is considering the safety of family members and the community. This view has to be the beginning, defining frame of mind of those dealing with threats of violence. If you have a a Psychiatric Emergency Team(PET) in your area, call them. Your local mental health department and police can also direct you. Legal steps must be at the forefront of your thoughts given the situation of threat. If psychiatric intervention isn't available or plausible, a restraining order, conservatorship, calling the police needs to be implemented. In this regard, keeping a record of threats to your safety needs to be established to show a pattern of potential threat so legal authorities and the court can act. While this may be distasteful to consider, calling for help in managing a household held hostage, may be your only recourse. If you have exhausted treatment alternatives and find yourself coming up short, legal means of intervention may be your only alternative.

Anonymous said...

As I sit here and read these entries, i relive the years of pain and disarray my 19 year old daughter has caused our family while throwimg the blame.back on us. She had some issues as a houng child and was diagnosed.at age 14.with adhd and bi bolar disorder. Tooks meds for.a short time then refused. She spiraled out of comtrol the past 2-3 years! Stealing , lying, defying, blaming and totally ripping our.family apart. I tried reasoning with her about treatment and she said it was me....i was a terrible mother. I finally several months ago after having to hit rock bottom mentally and physically....am doing the TOUGH !OVE thimg.
I worry and fear it will get worse but have realized, i cannot bear her antics.
I pray she will encounter something that will make her seek the help she desperately needs.

Anonymous said...

NOTE: I had to split this into two comments because my first attempt was too long.

I feel for every person who has commented. My youngest daughter was diagnosed with bipolar several years ago. It has been difficult and challenging to say the least but we have been fortunate in many ways.

The first is that our daughter was willing to accept the diagnosis. The second is that she's been willing to take the medications most of the time. The third is that our healthcare coverage and laws regarding treatment do allow for a more extensive hospital stay. Those three factors make a huge difference but even with that, it has been a painful journey.

Some of the things I/We have learned along the way are:

- When our child is well, they are a beautiful person: kind, considerate, empathic, thoughtful. When they are not well, they are a very different kind of person: rebellious, immature, cruel, selfish. They will lie and manipulate, they will steal and run away, they will take heart-pounding risks and betray. They end up hurting themselves with their actions and they hurt their family too.

Many times I've asked myself if I should walk away but I never did because I knew that the times they were at their worst, that was the illness, and because they were currently in an ill stage, they needed people around them who actually loved them enough to do everything they could to help them.

- When our daughter first began to show symptoms of mania, we didn't understand. We thought we were seeing a change in her character as opposed to a change in her mental health. For a period of time, her father didn't want to have any relationship with her at all and that made it more difficult for me because I didn't have his support to support her. One day, it finally sunk in that she was the way she was because she was ill -- not because she had become a bad person, not because we had somehow failed to raise her right. After that, he began to work with me.

We still have days where both of us need to rant and blow off steam during the times she's experiencing an active phase of the illness, but while one of us does that, the other one offers a hug and mans the fort. In some marriages, this kind of illness in a child can tear the marriage apart; in other cases, it can bring both people closer together. For us, it has brought us closer.

- Learn to identify the pattern of behaviour that unfolds during an episode so you can also learn to identify early signs that may indicate an episode is coming and take steps to contain the episode or minimize the damage.

- If possible, negotiate with your loved one when he/she is well so that it is understood if X happens, you will step in and take Y action. For example, if they begin spending erratically, you will take their cash and bank cards and put them away for safe-keeping.

- Try to educate your family and friends and her friends as much as you possibly can without invading your loved one's privacy and trust. These people can become part of your early warning system as they may see things you have not seen or may be someone your loved one will go to in the event of an episode.

Anonymous said...

(Second Part)

- If possible, negotiate with your loved one when he/she is well so that it is understood if X happens, you will step in and take Y action. For example, if they begin spending erratically, you will take their cash and bank cards and put them away for safe-keeping.

- Try to educate your family and friends and her friends as much as you possibly can without invading your loved one's privacy and trust.

- Develop a close relationship with your child's medical care providers. This includes psychiatrists, family doctors, caseworkers, social workers, and various therapists. This can be more challenging if your child is an adult but there is no reason you cannot talk to these professionals about your fears, concerns, and the symptoms and behaviours you have seen. Once your loved one is in better space, they may permit you to accompany them to these appointments.

- Learn to communicate better than you ever have before. It's easy, when your loved one is in the midst of a manic episode or has just made a suicide attempt to feel fear, anger, betrayal, etc. but the midst of the crisis is seldom the best time for you to address that with them. We have had to set our own needs aside and focus on getting them well. Then, we can address the other issues. Our family has found it helpful to make use of family therapy for this purpose and it has been quite helpful.

- Learn everything you can about the medications that are available as treatment. If your family member is reluctant to use them, try to find out why. Try to negotiate with them. For example, you could ask them to commit to a trial period of a few months; ask them to make use of one specific medication as opposed to another; respect their fears about medication and be willing to support them in their desire to reduce or withdraw if their level of functioning supports that.

- Be willing to look at other possible contributors such as nutrition. I am aware of some people who have improved after eliminating specific food products, or who have found improvement with specific supplements. This approach might be especially helpful for those who are not willing to make use of medications.

- If possible, try to have your loved one either living with you or near you. The fact of the matter is that no one else probably cares as much as you do if they live or die. If they will accept your support that can make a tremendous difference; if they won't accept it, your insight into their daily lives might still offer you the opportunity to give it or the opportunity to recognize when they will be open to accepting it. People do make it without family around them, but it's much, much harder for those people.

- Do try to set up and agree to necessary boundaries. This is another area where a third party such as a counselor or therapist may be helpful.

- Do be willing to learn from anyone who has experience with their illness -- other parents, people with the diagnosis, doctors, experts, laypersons. Everyone who has experience may also have a valuable experience to share that you or your child can benefit from.

- Don't expect perfection out of yourselves. It's stressful, and challenging, and painful at times. But with effective treatment of any kind, it can also become better, heart-warming, inspiring, and hopeful.

- Do learn what the laws are regarding Mental Health treatment in your area. They may vary from province to province or state to state.

- When you can, try to keep the love alive between you. If you feel that it's dying that may mean that you are just at your wit's end and you need to find some more support, some more hope, a reason to believe that things can get better.

As I said, I know that we have been fortunate in many ways but as I read through these accounts tonight, I also know that we have been in those places too. There are no easy answers with this and no one else can make them for you. I wish you all courage, strength, and much love.

Anonymous said...

As I read these posts I finally feel that I am not alone. I have a 32 year old daughter dealing with bi-polar but I should say we all are literally dealing with it too. From the time she was 2 I knew something was wrong but it didn't start to really come to the forefront until she was 8 or 9. Her father and I didn't know what we were dealing with she had many problems in school which we eventually had to take her for counseling which lead to her seeing a psychiatrist. She refused to take her meds and as she got old the problems go worse. The stealing and pawning of our items began, staying out all night getting into drugs. Now that she's older she no longer takes drugs or drinks but we have a grandson whose 8 yrs old and both live with us. I can use tough love but need to make sure I get custody of my grandson first.

Anonymous said...

I kicked my 22 yr old son out 3 weeks ago. He is dually diagnosed as bipolar and addicted to anything he can get his hands on. he has blown thru a 28,000 settlement in a very short time.refuses to work, go to school. the final straw was his escalating violence towards me. I cried for a week and now am relieved he is gone. he was told that the family loves him and will be there for him when he goes for treatment. it is non negotiable..
he has a court date in 2 weeks on drug charges and it is our hope he eiter goes to jail or treatment mandated by the court. Good luck to all of you. do not be held hostage by your childs disease

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