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Parent of bipolar adult child conflicted about what constitutes "help."


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My husband and I currently live with our bipolar 26-year old son. His wife of 4 years had an affair with a friend and kicked him out of their home 11 months ago; he's been living with us since. His 2 children are with her and the new boyfriend. He was suicidal and ended up being emotionally unable to handle responding to divorces papers (she lives in another state.) She got everything they had, and he is starting over. He is not in treatment and will not take medication. He self medicates by smoking weed and sometimes by drinking. He works, but is not making very much money. He is financially irresponsible, and does not contribute financially to our household. My husband feels we're enabling our son, and wants to kick him out of our home. I know that he's sick and that on most days he is doing the best he can do. Help!!!

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Understanding how best to help a seriously mentally ill son who won't accept treatment is a very tough problem. On the one hand, he is disabled to some degree, and if you kick him out in a show of tough love, he very well might not be able to make it on his own (only you know how disabled he really is). On the other hand, if you don't set limits on him in some fashion, he is likely to remain paralyzed at your expense. There ought to be some sort of compromise position in terms of setting limits on your son that stops short of throwing him out, but helps you feel less helpless than you do at present. Maybe having a few family therapy sessions with a therapist experienced with treating bipolar disorder would be in order (if for no other reason than to help you figure out what that compromise position ought to be and how to implement it).

Take a look at this thread - which is by herzjm. it deals with a different sort of family crisis, but one I think you will appreciate.


You should talk with herzjm and with other family members of seriously mentally ill people, such as gather through groups like NAMI. This sort of stuff you are dealing with is far more common than you might think it is.

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Hi. I just read your post and want to let you know that I can understand the frustration you are feeling. I think it is very difficult especially for fathers to understand and empathize with what is happening to their sons who are bipolar. We have experienced this in my family also. My father loves my brother very much but is torn between pushing him to grow up, take responsibility, work, and be a "man" (whatever that really means) and realizing that he has an illness that will never go away and that is really very serious and life-threatening. Like I mentioned on my post...if this was a physical illness it would be treated sooo differently; but to anyone that looks at my brother he looks like a healthy 22 year old who just doesn't have his life together. It is very frustrating to say the least.

I think it is important for you both to understand that your son needs all the support and love he can get from you. This is an illness that will never go away. I don't know much about dealing with it...we are taking one day at a time....but I do know that it is important to be there for the one's you love and to never give up on them. I think in the end, when you look back at this time, you just want to be able to say that you did all that you could have done.

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  • 2 months later...

Hmm... Hope this has been sorted somehow..

If the situation is still unresolved, could you maybe work out an agreement, so that eg he pays at least some money (even if it's small, $50 or $100) for the first 3 months or so, & meanwhile goes to see a counsellor/psychologist/support group or such (you could even give him a discounted 'rent' if he agrees to seeing a counsellor or something)...

There are books for parents of kids who move back in.. you could look them up on amazon..

Weed & alcohol may make things worse.. Healthy food & lifestyle would be important..

Anyway, hope things improve... :(

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  • 1 month later...

Hi, I'm new to this online community and am trying to learn as much as possible about bipolar disorder. My sister who is diagnosed with it has been challenging to deal with. She's up, she's down. She's going to therapy and on meds. I'm hoping she'll join a support group because that tends to help share w/alike people.

HERE'S MY QUESTION: How do I offer support w/out being a doormat? I feel like I don't want to enable bad behavior but if I don't then I'm too blame for her spiral, in which she tells me so. I feel like every time I say "no" to her for even the smallest thing or things in which I'm not comfortable with, then she starts in on one of her episodes and doesn't feel better until I say "yes"...How do I deal w/this correctly?

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