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Parents of Mentally Ill Children Have a Long and Difficult Journey

I’ve long been a fan of the Rudyard Kipling poem, “If.”

If you can keep your head when all about you
are losing theirs and blaming it on you…

I can relate to this verse. I’m sure all parents of mentally ill children can. Often the greatest challenge we face is not going stark raving mad ourselves.
Being the parent of a bipolar child is painfully tough. There's coming to terms with your child's mental illness, the expenses, and facing the stigma. More on my parenting blog.If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you…
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting…
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating…

Being the parent of a bipolar child has not made me popular. My child has been passed over for parties and had his own invitations declined. Other parents who only know my child by the stories they hear from their own kids are quick to label him as a bad seed. And if he’s a bad seed, surely he must come from bad parents.

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…

We all have high hopes for our kids. When your child is diagnosed with a mental illness, it’s hard to come to terms with the impact of the diagnosis on those hopes. Should you continue to worry about paying for college, or just focus on getting him through high school?

If you can …watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools…

Undoubtedly, the hardest part of parenting any child is the hurt we suffer when they suffer. Our children tend to suffer more, and there are few (if any) rewards to soothe their suffering.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss…

I try not to think of all the prescriptions I’ve filled in the past five years. Particularly the ones I refill—at full market price—only to have the psychiatrist a day later agree they are not working and here, try this instead, and no, it’s not available as a generic. And it may not work either. But let’s hope for the best.

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you…

People fear what they don’t understand. Many people don’t understand mental illness. Some of them are closer than you think—friends and family members you never expected to do or say hurtful things.

Kipling’s words paint a disheartening portrait of the world—not unlike the world we face daily as parents. But at the end, he offers this as inspiration—if you can survive all this adversity,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it

helpingWhich perfectly describes those moments when we are proud of our kids…when we feel like we’re doing right by them…when we haven’t lost our temper or cried in front of them…you know, the good days.

I wish all of us more of those.

This entry was posted in Bipolar Child, Parenting Child with Mental Illness, Psychiatric Medication, Stigma Mental Illness and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

122 Responses to Parents of Mentally Ill Children Have a Long and Difficult Journey

  1. Maureen says:

    My 24 year old daughter has been experiencing mental health issues since age 11. Many hospitalizations, suicide attempts, all the things that mentally unwell persons experience. Last night, she left home once again in a manic state, and proceeded to spend last night and today, in and out of a delusional state. She was released from the hospital on Monday, and it is Wednesday and here we are again. I love my daughter still, I dread what might happen to her. Keeping my own sanity through all of this has been the greatest challenge I face. There is no “normacy” to any day. I am tired emotionally, physically, and mentally, and so isn’t my family. She has no idea what she is doing. I have decided that the only thing I can do is pray and continue to hope that the answers and guidance will come.

  2. Janina Moe says:

    My daughter is only abusive and bipolar with me, therefore nobody else believes me she is mentally ill and think I’m lying. She has used me, lied about me, claims credit for me buying her a car, taking her to dinner,etc. She only comes around to ask for money and is very abusive and disrespectful at all other times. I’m at my wits end. She has a one year old son. His father is a deadbeat loser. I’m really on the end of my rope with her. I cannot take the abuse anymore.

  3. Jill says:

    It is heart-breaking to ‘lose’ a child to serious mental illness, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by it in one way or another. To be at the receiving end of a child’s hurt, anger and above all, confusion, can feel like abuse, but I’m not sure there is real intent to be abusive. The only support I might offer is to tell yourself that the essence of your child is still within, and that however s/he might rage against you and /or the world, your only response is to continue to offer your unconditional love (and of course to keep yourself and your child as safe as you can). Hope is all any of us in situations such as these have in this life. I wish you all the very best. There are many of us who bear this silent burden day by day, and I hope it helps you to know that you’re not alone in your struggle.

  4. Lisa Furr says:

    God this year has been so hard I have and still am fighting breast cancer and before that already had health issues. My 33 year old daugher is bipolar and has never moved out. She had a normal 14 year old daughter and a 9 year old bipolar son. Her and her son have other mental health issues. She has always been mentally abusive but this last year has turned physically abusive to since she knows I cant fight back. Her son has always been violent. Now I have to leave and she will say Im abandoning her. I left before I had surgery but she lost her home within a month had to go to a motel to live and talked me into coming back. She since has started drawing SSI. But with me sick she has made many mistakes. Now we r hungry living in a condemned house where she has moved an abusive boyfriend in. She blames me for all her problems has taken all my freedom. I can stand to have her around me now. And what Im saying isn’t d half of it. Im scared she will hurt me bad before I can get out. And Im worried about my grand children. She can fool people into thinking Im the problem. Now I believe I’ve wasted my life on her. So fed up.

  5. MaryAnn says:

    Why do we have to suffer in silence. I to have a mentally ill child with a veriody of problems and can explode over the littlest thing. It’s very hard to find him the right help or even convincing him he needs it. There should be a place for those who live with the mentally ill can go to find confert, support or just a place to cry amoung those who get their pain.I feel for all those whos replys I’ve read because I’ve lived it too.I wish I could hug you. If only it can make things ok for a bit.

  6. s says:

    I’ve decided to post a comment just to let other parents know that you are not alone and really to not feel so alone myself. I am currently sitting in the er with my 16 yr old son. He is bipolar along with a handful of other mental health ailments. He assaulted a classmate a teacher and a police officer. We are waiting for him to get admitted into an inpatient mental health hospital. I am worn down and can’t wait for him to be 18. I’ve already decided that I will not let him stay with me past his 18th birthday. I need to preserve my own mental health. Whoever you are out there, please hang in there. We can do this. I’ve got to believe there is a light at the end of this tunnel…maybe we can meet there.

  7. Thank you for your comment. I am so inspired by your ability to be appropriately selfish by setting boundaries for your self and knowing your limits. That is so hard to do as a mother of a child with mental illness. But it must be done.

  8. Susy says:

    Dear s, I’m so sorry you have to go trough this. Know that you are not alone, I wish I could be there to help and support you but from the distance and with all my heart I send you a great big hug. You are a great woman and an amazing mom! Sending lots of love your way.

  9. Cece says:

    Hi S and everyone else. I am writing because I don’t have a support group or no one that understand what I go through. I have a bipolar daughter that just turned 18 august 20. I thought I would feel better when my daughter turned 18 but I still have panic attacks. She’s been running away and prostituting since she was 15. She will take a greyhound to another city, get caught and go to juvie. I’ve set her up to be caught numerous of times. She’s been hospitalized, took her to rehabilitation centers across the country because they don’t have locked facilities where I live, she can just walk right out. These centers are not cheap, 3,500 per week. I thank God my insurance paid for her. Basically all this was buying me time until she reached18. I cry because I see a lot of my friends kids doing so well, graduating from high school, going to college. It got sooo bad, when she turned 16 1/2 I called the cops because she was a threat to herself and my family. They spoke to my son and he told then he was scared she was going to kill me. They removed her from my home for abuse and haven’t lived with me since. She didn’t care, she don’t like rules she says she would rather live in a homeless shelter so she can do what she wants. She likes living on the streets and prostituting herself. I have been through it all, from nervous breakdowns to contemplating suicide just to get away from her. She has used me until she can’t anymore. All I can do is pray for her, I have to take care of myself some how. She don’t like to work for NOTHING, no high school diploma, nothing. I have to live for me, my son and my fiancé. I can’t force her to take her meds. I have life insurance on her so if something happens I won’t be burden. She is on the path of self destruction. I feel like watching a an action/drama/thriller and horror movie all at once. She’s constantly on these water coaster rides, there’s no need for amusement parks I have one in my own backyard!

  10. Jean says:

    Cece, I’m sorry you have to go trough this, it is very difficult. My heart goes out to you for the emotional and physical pain this has caused you. Know that you are not alone, don’t feel alone, we are here and understand. Keep praying for your daughter and don’t give up the hope that she will in time do better for herself. Take care of your son and yourself, you can do it!!!

  11. betty donnell says:

    hello im betty my husband and I are going thru things we don’t understand our 12 year old daughter is mentally ill she beats up on me just this Thursday was arrested we took her to the hospital sometimes u fell like u cant take any more but find streangth to keep on going god really helps us .

  12. Steve says:

    Hi, my partner of 4 years has a 19 year old son, he was diagnosed with aspergers at the age of 9, he is also gay, we live in private rented accommodation, everything in life he has, phone, internet, food, nice house and including myself, lovely caring people to confide in, he was recently diagnosed with a mental illness, I am now watching his mother slowly deteriorate, pain in her eyes, crying, pain, hurt … You name it, she is feeling it, I’m helpless because I’m not his dad, he is extremely violent, abusive and hurtful. Just the simplest task of taking a cup or plate to the kitchen sparks off a massive war, after his mum cleaned his room, we actually found mouldy food, piles of filthy washing and a bottle which he had urinted in because he couldn’t be bothered to go to the toilet, he is on prescribed drugs from the doctor, but nothing he is taking is helping at all ?? I suppose I am just waiting for the inevitable to happen, then I will call the police, must his mother really have to put up with this ? His father isn’t cared and his mother only has me as a shoulder to cry on.
    Am finding this hard
    Please offer some advice

    Steve.

  13. kita says:

    My 13 year old daughter has just been diagnosed with bipolar and o.d.d this has been the worst couple of years she was able to convince most of my family that it was my fault that she had been acting out some have started to see that it is her she has been hospitalized 3 times already and now she is dating a 19 year old I’m putting her in therapeutic foster care because I feel I can not keep her safe at home right now. Has anyone else gone through this.

  14. Jackie says:

    we too have a 26 year old son who has a serious mental health problem, looking back, for all his life but became more obvious as he got older. He has been in trouble with police, had to live in hostels as he was a threat to the rest of the family. Nothing we have done in the past or try to do now for him helps, we try to keep some normality but its impossible. He hears voices, cries, paranoid, OCD etc etc, because of his age the medics will not talk to us but we are supposed to support him with no knowledge of how to do that. It is tearing us apart, and really making us ill, I feel I need to preserve my own sanity now for the sake of our other 3 children and each other. He sees psychiatrists, psychologists, GPs, hospital, but we are never allowed to be involved, but we are the ones calling ambulances when he is suicidal, where is the help for all the thousands of families going through this, who in the end back off completely to preserve their own sanity which leaves the person alone, how does the help? give us some help then maybe we would not have to give up! thinking of all you out there going through the same thing xx

  15. Carol price says:

    I have a 33 year old bipolar son that lives with me. I am single 54 years old. He controls me isolates me verbally cusses me spits on me. Physically abuses me. He alienates everyone that trys to come near me. He uses emotional Black mail to keep me under his control. He doesn’t have a car he doesn’t date are have are doesn’t want a girlfriend. He never leaves the house. He got me evicted from my last home. Cussed out my co-worker of 13years I had a breakdown because I was fixing to be homeless. I put myself in the hospital for 2 weeks. While I was in the hospital he went to a Rehab. My Sister helped me find this nice condo, I even found a nice Salon to work at. But he started calling there continuously that I lost my Job there. He dresses like batman reads comic books all the time. He is smoking Cannabis-weed again that makes him so paranoid. He doesn’t take his morning meds until 1 in the p.m. and his night meds at 1 in the a.m. stays up until 4a.m slamming cabinets eating all night. I am his prisoner. If I tell him he needs to go get help are find a place to live besides here he threatens me with lies that he will tell to try to get me in trouble are evicted. God someone out there help me. I have lost so many good potential relationships because of him he jumps on my date are runs them away. Please God someone out there help me?

  16. Tatiana says:

    My seven year old has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He was in a pediatric hospital for several weeks then released to partial hospitalization. This has been the worst months of our family’s life. I am losing hope. He threatened to kill himself, his father, and his younger brother which led to the initial hospitalization. I feel like we have lost our son and any normalcy in our lives. He has been on so many drugs with little improvement. Today was particularly bad in that he raged in the car and said that when he got home he was going to stab himself. I feel so hopeless and cry all the time. I want my living little boy back. I know he is in there and we see glimpses between the different mood states. The pain he goes through makes my heart shatter. Any words of encouragement out there would be so appreciated. Thank you for listening.

  17. Esther says:

    I’m not sure how to get this to Steve who commented on Set. 21, but I will try.
    After 11 years of marriage and watching me try countless times to get help for my mentally ill son my husband left our family.
    What I have learned: my son will abuse me, it is part of his illness, I can take it and deal with it calmly when my son is okay again. I can never deal with his abuse when he is in the middle of a breakdown. My marriage might have been saved if my husband had learned to back off. I often felt as though I was being crushed between two walls – do you remember scenes from old Batman episodes where the walls are pushing in on them? I would have my son being verbally abusive to me on one side, and my husband yelling at him to stop on the other side. There is an extreme lack of effective help for mental illness but there is also lots of good information. In my most humble opinion, learn to back off, learn to support your wife by being a shoulder to cry on, not by telling her that she should not have to take that abuse. Do not offer parenting advice unless she asks for it. Find a support group and read what you can. Life is hard for us parents but I have learned that it is even harder for my son. Be there for your wife, be curious (not a know it all) and try not to make demands. When my husband left he said “I will no longer tolerate any emotional dysfunction.” That is no more an option when your child has a mental illness than if your child had diabetes and you said “I will no longer tolerate any more blood sugar levels dysfunction.” Do no harm.

  18. Micky says:

    Tatiana, my heart aches for you! And for all that have to endure this pain. I wish I had an answer for you and a solution for all this pain. If you can look for a support group. There you will be able to share your feelings, fears and maybe there will be an answer or a way to cope. Even though we feel alone there are others out there that are going through this same pain. I pray for you and a cure for all mental illnesses. As for your little boy the doctors will find the correct dosage and combination of medications and he will be able to live a healthy productive life.

  19. M says:

    I thought I was the only one that had a daughter that behaved as mine does. But reading what these other mothers are experiencing I realize that my daughter is truly ill and needs help. I thought she was just spoiled and manipulative. So many of these experiences have been mine for so long.

  20. Tina says:

    It’s 3:17 am and I have to get up at 6am but I can’t sleep. My 19 year old son needs help and I don’t know how to go about getting it. It would take forever to tell you everything he’s done but I will list a few. This year, for the first time in his life, he called me bad names. It really hurt the first time but now I am numb to his name calling. He is restless and slams his door all throughout the day and night. He talks to himself. He exhibits very strange behavior like when he fixes a sandwich , he tosses the bread over and over and over; it takes him about 15 mins to complete the task. He throws rocks at the neighbor’s house at night and walks through the woods and will not get in the car with me when I go after him. One night he ran back and forth from my house to the neighbor’s house over and over for no reason. He will never stay home the whole night…he leaves EVERY night. You cannot have an intelligent conversation with him. When you ask him to do something simple like clean his room, he says “it is clean” when in fact it looks like a hurricane went through it. He leaves food in the room for days and wears the same clothes for days. He is VERY disrespectful and combative. I don’t know if he used drugs and his mind was affected or if he just has a mental issue period. My other two kids are afraid of him. I am a single Mom and I am VERY tired. This is not the straight A , athletic, mannerly child I raised. One more thing, he acts as if he just hates me, but acts “almost” normal when relatives stop by. They probably wouldn’t believe the stories I could tell, but out of embarrassment and fear f being judged, I keep it to myself. SOMEBODY, SOMEWHERE HAS TO HELP ME.

  21. Tina,
    You are not alone. You are describing the same behavioral symptoms most of us parents of children with mental illness have seen. The key is what you mention…it is out of character for your child. No one knows your child like you do. Trust your gut. The first step to getting him help is to do your homework. Educate yourself on mental illness and then try to get your son evaluated by a doctor. This site is a good place to start.

  22. Beverly Dulaney says:

    My mentally disabled son hates me and his sister and brothers. We have done nothing to him, we try to understand him he like other people more than he do us.b I pray to God that one day he realize that we love him, and care what happens to him. When I give him money he is okay, he has a disliking towards his stepfather that has done nothing to him.

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