I have no idea if I'm appealing to the correct board. If this is reserved for another use, please forgive me. It's just that I'm desperate and don't know where to start... please please help me.
My 27yr old son, William, has the most profound and radical case of bipolar disorder I've seen--I've been in treatment for major depressive disorder for some 20 years and have known many with the condition through numerous therapy groups and several hospitalizations. Will is what they are calling "treatment resistant", currently in the throes of a severe, and now also rapid-cycling "episode(s?)"... and my family is coming apart trying to get through this!!!
William is now living with his stepfather and I after being thrown out of his wife's home due to extreme substance abuse and legal troubles because of it, and is now also in the midst of a horribly tragic divorce with only occasional, supervised visitation with his beloved 2yr old son, my grandbaby. Will's grief is so profound it terrifies me and he seems completely incapable of maintaining even an appearance of socially "acceptable" behavior; he is struggling to keep (or lose, depending on the day and his mood) a brand new part-time job (he's lost approx. 5 jobs in the last year and a half, one a highly successful, high paying career job he worked for many years toward in the years preceding this worsening of his condition); he cannot pay his still growing mountain of bills--consisting mainly of damages caused by the alcoholism (wrecked three cars-one a rollover-in three weeks; has had several trips to emergency in the last 6 months under "Legal 2000" law--leaving him with enormous medical debt; has legal fines and penalties in the thousands, and much more $$$$$ due to the divorce)... and this is all just the tip of the proverbial "iceberg" of wreckage in his life since his illness took hold.
Now, because he cannot get any sort of foot-hold toward recovery, my husband and I are FAST going broke, are at each other's throats (we do have a solid, loving marriage), the rest of my family tries their best to avoid us for fear of getting "sucked down" and personally, I am completely exhausted, feeling hopeless, helpless, and... anguish--despair--sorrow... I don't know how much longer I can handle this without falling apart myself.
Worst of ALL, my son suffers SOOOOO horribly and there doesn't seem to be a damn thing I can do to help him or to get him help that will make a difference. I can hardly bear seeing all of this happen to him, my heart is broken into a thousand pieces. My husband is beginning to have some serious health problems due to the incredible pressures (emotionally, financially, physically). Oh my God, how, why,... what can we do???
William IS at least keeping up okay (sort of) with an every-6-week appt with his Psychiatrist, and I believe he is taking his meds more regularly now. I can only hold my breath that he will continue. Unfortunately because of his severe
anxiety, one of those meds is Xanax, and of course with his history of substance abuse, this is a pretty big problem...
Anyone??? Can anyone help me with information or advice. I've read all I can find, but I cannot find much hopeful information. Even if all you can do is relate, please let me know there are others out there trying to help someone with bipolar disorder and whether there are any things that really, TRULY helped you or your loved one.
Thank you SO much, Vicki/ChinaCat
First off, let me say you have my sympathy for all the suffering you, your husband, and, well, I guess everyone else in your son's orbit have had to endure. To let you know where I'm coming from, I, too, am a rapid-cycling Bipolar type II. I believe your son is one, as well, if he has never been delusional, or has hallucinated (except drug-related episodes) and has experienced long periods of severe depression. I, myself, have been hospitalized five times over the years. I'm "high functioning" right now due to a myriad of different medications I take in amounts which are always changing. Also, I have therapy regularly. I always take my meds and always attend regular therapy. I have known many people exactly like your son and many families in your same situation.
This may be difficult to hear, but, you are hurting, not helping your son. You must let him hit the ground, i.e., rock bottom, if he is ever to stand on his own two feet. You and your husband should have drawn personal boundaries long ago and not let him cross them. Don't give him money. Don't try to solve his problems. And, don't give in. That's what they'll tell you at the hospital. Pay for the therapy he regularly attends, sure. (Pay the therapist, yourself.) Pay for the medications that he takes regularly, fine. (Pay the pharmacist, yourself.) If he won't attend therapy regularly and/or won't take his meds, religiously, or, at worst, won't even seek medical intervention, tell him he's on his on his own.
Will he wind up on the streets? I doubt it. He's a very smart guy. He's figured how to avoid that all his life. He can get five jobs in a year? It takes some people months to find one. Quit preventing him from having no choice but to learn to help, himself. If you believe he is a danger to himself, or, others, call the police. He must be taken off the streets, and have a medical evaluation taken. The doctors will decide what should be done. If the police won't bring him in, then, ultimately, your son may cause it to happen, later.
When you confront him and tell him he's on his own, now, at first, he probably won't believe you. When he does, he'll likely become angry and lash out. That will be followed by the emotional blackmail that has always worked in the past. When you hold your ground, he will then, likely, threaten suicide. You then call 911 and say that my son has just said he's going to kill himself. If you're lucky, they'll come get him, right then. If not, he will probably make a suicidal gesture, later. That is a failed attempt at suicide. Then, at long last, he will begin to get the help he needs--when they take him to the hospital and medicate him. Will he stop taking his meds when he gets out? My guess is yes. He'll probably land back in the hospital a few times before he straightens out--as long as you and your husband don't start enabling him, again.
If you are saying to yourself, I could never do that; know that he will always get worse. ("Switching" between mood states is the worst thing that can happen to bipolars. The more it happens, the less likely we are to get better, later. Never delay intervention, is what the doctors say.)
In a hypomanic state, which your son seems to be in a lot, a bipolar has two emotions: anger when he's not getting his way, and a kind of euphoria, when he is. Generally, if youíre hypomanic, you feel good no matter what is happening.
The sad irony is that your son, a drama queen like many of us bipolars who are self-obsessed and enjoy reveling in our problems, is, probably, enjoying life more than you are. Your husband, and yourself, could be suffering from situational depression by now. You both ought to see a psychiatrist, together, to get some therapy and perhaps get some anti-depressants, or, anti-anxiety medications. Actually, you need to go. The M.D. will tell you in a more effective way than I can, basically, what I've just told you, now. So, don't take my word for it, by any means. Go to a doctor and do what he/she says. Go now.
Thank you for your honesty. I guess it just hasn't come clear to me, that the whole "tough-love" approach is appropriate here. I mean I was thinking, "if he had some other debilitating illness, like MS or Alzheimer's, I wouldn't refuse any sort of help, would I?..." obviously, not the correct model for comparison from what you've shared.
I HAVE exercised tough love in the past with his substance abuse problems. I've been so extremely proud for him over the years, that he has overcome so much. I suppose this situation took me wholly by surprise because, naturally, it was SOOO unexpected. He was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder as a teenager and managed to pull his life together and was doing so well... up until a couple of years ago.
I read every current thing I can get my hands on about the illness. But what I've been getting, reading from the clinical perspective at least, is that having the illness isn't his fault, the depression and mania being a vicious cycle he suffers through no intentional or unintentional actions of his own. Thus, my heart has taken me in this current direction, believing he needed, and deserved help, notsomuch firmness. But I think I see and understand what you are telling me.
Also, myself being a successful survivor of Major Depressive Disorder, I can tell you that none of my own success came free... or easy. I worked HARD for it, for years, and to this very day, live my life with conscious commitment to properly caring for my condition, giving vigilant attention to my thoughts and behaviors, and prepared to do whatever I must to maintain this health, no matter how difficult it may seem.
I have so wished and prayed for my son to have some understanding of his illness, then to come to acceptance of it, believing he might then begin to recognize what is happening and perhaps also be able to fight.
I openly admit, if his illness were alcoholism alone, instead of being accompanied by Bipolar Disorder, your words would be no surprise to me at all, and yes absolutely, my response to him would have been entirely different from the very beginning. I've just been so fearful that he might be incapable of pursuing proper medical attention. Alas, a mother's blindness.
Thank you for your kindness. We are heading for the counselling office NOW!!!