Parents of Mentally Ill Children Have a Long and Difficult Journey

August 19, 2010 Angela McClanahan


Being the parent of a mentally ill child is painfully tough. Can you ever come to terms with your child's mental illness, the expenses, and facing the stigma?

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.
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.

helpingKipling’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

Which 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.

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2010, August 19). Parents of Mentally Ill Children Have a Long and Difficult Journey, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

Josephine North
December, 23 2012 at 12:07 pm

I have a friend who is in a similar situation. Her daughter is about forty and has been dianosed as schizophrenic years ago.
She was stopped by the police recently and they said she had been drinking. She is in a regular jail and assaulted a guard so her sentence has been upped from 6 months to 9 months.
My friend has spent a fortune on her giving her about a $1000 a month and buying her cars etc.
She has also spent a lot on attorneys. Even if she gets out of jail what will happen then? My friend is paying her rent whilst she is inside the jail. I'd have thought there would be special facilities available where people with this illness can live and be treated. And be happy as their medications would be dispensed and therefore thay can keep the person biochemically in an acceptable state so the people suffering from this can lead a fairly normal life with supervision. Does anyone know anything about this type of place please? This has taken a huge toll on my friends life and she is struggling financially too. She doesn't know what to do.

December, 24 2012 at 4:40 am

I have come to hate my adult bipolar daughter. She is making stupid choices. In October, she was arrested by police after a dispute. She blames the arresting officers for not getting her help. She is now looking at a felony.
I paid 3000 I did not have. Her father would not help. Yet she still calls the asshole everyday despite him being nasty to her on the phone.
Now she and her girlfriend have gotten a dog from Petco for 150 yet they had no crate.

December, 12 2012 at 12:23 am

Thank you for sharing the poem and your story.
I adopted my daughter at 4 1/2 years of age. I didn't quite grasp what I was getting into then. We have spent the last 11 years in therapy,doctor's office...I've lost jobs because of the amount of work I've missed due to all of this. Recently - we just completed the Nerophysological exam. Going into the meeting I thought - here we go again - spending all this time and getting no answers. I couldn't of been farther from the truth. Finally a test/doctor who got it right - and the answer was scarier than I could of ever imagined. Phsziofrenia/Borderline personality disorder/bi-polar and FASD. The doctor opened the appt. with "You have a very sick child here". I've been saying that for years - why did it take 11 of them to finally get some answers? And over the last year my daughter is getting worse every single day is a roller coaster ride. After our appt. I was in shock...and now like Kate -I'm in grief...the reality that we're more than likely not going to be able to help this child breaks my heart--all that time and money - and had the doctor's just listened to me - we could of identified this sooner. They now say she's to far gone. I'm not giving up - but I also know I'm at a point now where I personally can't help this child anymore. What is also so frustrating is that you know you only have short windows of opportunity to get them help...and it takes MONTHS to get anything accomplished...When time is so critical...why is there no way to speed up the processes? I'ts all enough to make you as mentally ill as your child is.
Peace - peace /pēs/Noun
Freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.
May you all find it someday....

December, 2 2012 at 7:10 pm

I am just joining this journey -- my lovely, wonderful, scarily brilliant son started showing signs of depression when he hit adolescence, and he has spiraled down into severe depression, a few suicide attempts, and he no longer goes to school, leaves his room. I grieve the child who was a mountain biking fiend, great musician... who now does nothing at all, and no medication works, and all I see is an angry, sad child who no longer makes sense or thinks straight, and he grows worse every week. Like many here, I have spent years with doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, and watched my bank account disappear. My question is, how do we deal with the grief? How do we turn from terror to acceptance? I feel I cannot help him anymore, as my grief overwhelms me. Do we all look at those happy families with happy kids and say, but.... that's what I want?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 1 2013 at 5:55 pm

Hi Kate,
This is a tough journey and I can't imagine what it has been like for you to see your child go from the boy you knew to the young man suffering with depression. Looking at other families may help in the moment, but remember no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. It sounds like you've been pouring everything you have into helping your son recover, but my question is what have you done for yourself? Dealing with grief or turning terror into acceptance are two things you can work on in your own therapy. Even a support group with other parents of mentally ill children might be helpful to you. As a practicing clinician, I know that it is important for me first to practice good self-care. But, I feel even more strongly that parents need self-care, too. How are you taking care of you? You deserve that care just as much as your son does. I'm sorry to hear that your son is suffering so much. But, you're suffering too. So much that I can feel it in your words. Please take care of you and get the support you need to overcome your grief. I lean on supportive friends and family as well as attend my own therapy. (As an aside, I'm going to therapy for my own wellness and not because of my son.) It doesn't need to be long-term, but just long enough to help you work through your grief. Because at the end of the day, standing up for myself helps me be a support to my son. I hope this helps and please feel free to visit anytime.

December, 20 2012 at 4:26 am

I read this after searching very long, trying to find help for a very close friend. She is a single mom, with a son, 10yo, who has serious mentally ill issues. He has been tested for bipolar, neg. ADHD...pos, but really, the child is completely unconttrollable. He is combatitive, has attacked his mother physically numerous times, police called multiple times. Has been placed in two different schools to help deal with him..programs designed to deal with kids with emo problems. Nothing changes. Twice he has been 5150, locked up for weeks at a time...they change the meds, send him home...behavior returns within weeks. She has studied on diet, supplements, taking parenting classes, they have no less than three counselors they see. She attends a local church...anything, to try to get this child help. At this point, I feel the child, is mentally ill, and is not controlable for her, esp by herself. It is a horrible accident just waiting to happen. She lives in CA, and frankly, there isnt much help for her. At this point she is considering surrendering the child to the state, however, knows that this isnt getting the child help...but, at the same time, she is breaking down mentally, as this has been going on since he was five. ANY suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 1 2013 at 6:06 pm

Hi Darrell,
Thanks for stopping by the blog. First I must say, you're a very good friend. It is good to hear that she has a support in you. It sounds like she has been having a very tough journey for several years and it sounds like she's reached her limits based on what you've shared. My suggestion for your friend is that she find a therapist for herself as you wrote that she is breaking down mentally. I'm currently based in NYC so I really can't offer insight into what she could do in California as I'm not familiar with the laws there. Especially since it's not clear what his diagnosis is or what he's seeing the three therapists for. Surrendering him to the state is an option, but she needs to explore what the process is about. She could start by speaking with each counselor to see what they suggest and she can do her own research with the school social worker to see what other options are available to her. I wish her the best and hope that you continue to be a great support for her. I hope this helps.

December, 23 2012 at 12:40 pm

My daughter was 18 when our hell began and she is 24 now. We have had her institutionalized several times. First they told us she was bipolar, then just angry, now she has been diagnosed as schizophrenic. She had a child that we ended up adopting because she was showing signs of muchausins by proxy (harming the baby to get attention for herself). She was very sexually active and got two sexually transmitted diseases. She married a guy she met in AA after 9 days and then got pregnant again, this time the baby died at 5 months. She has stolen money from us and other family members, she is also a drug addict and alcoholic. We love her but we have literally had enough. When is it ok to allow yourself to just let them go? Everyone keeps saying get her help. We have tried, she won't take the meds she says other drugs (pot, cocaine etc) and the alcohol make her feel better than the prescription drugs. We have had her in therapy and we are tired. When is it ok to focus on us and the child we are raising and to just let whatever happens to her happen? I am so fed up with all of it. I know mental illness is bad but what about the people who are left having to pick up all the peices? I keep reading things that make me feel guilty for wanting to just have no contact with her at all but I am afraid for my family and our safety more than I am afraid of her being homeless. We have been dealing with this for 7 years now and we don't want to deal with it anymore. Does that make me a horrible mom? Someone please respond.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 1 2013 at 6:21 pm

Hi Morgan,
After reading your story, I just want to wrap you up in a warm hug. This does NOT make you a horrible mother. It makes you a human being. You are a human being with needs, wants, frustrations and difficulties of your own. It sounds like your daughter is not ready to care for herself in healthy way. And as an adult, she legally can't be made to do anything she does not want to do. It sounds like you've gone above and beyond for her even adopting your grandchild! You're an amazing person, Morgan please remind yourself of that everyday. If your family is in immediate danger because of your daughter, then you need to do what's best for your family. Please know that you're in my thoughts.

December, 20 2012 at 4:39 am

Hi My Step Daughter is bipolar type 2. That I can handle its the extreme depression, sleeping all the time, not wanting to be social, being a prisoner in my home for I have to babysit her all day, she will drink anything and I mean anything if she thinks there is alcohol in it. She has drank rubbing alcohol, hair spray, nail polish remover. I ask her why she wants to be drunk, she cuts too. She is on meds and getting help. I need help, I need support. I wonder if I should put her in the hospital again. Giving her everything she wants besides alcohol doesn't help her depression any. She is very rebellious and I think didn't grow up with any rules and i'm left to deal with it. I'm afraid to make too many rules I don't' want her to try to kill herself again. I do not know how to handle all this any info or support would be greatly appreciated.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 1 2013 at 6:16 pm

Hi Laurieann. Thank you for reading the blog. It sounds like you're dealing with so much from your stepdaughter. If we could put our kids in a bubble to protect them, I'm sure many parents would do it. I know I would. Keep everything unsafe out. But, that's not reality. It sounds like you are your stepdaughter's bubble. One question I have is where are her parents? Parenting is hard, but even harder without support. I wonder where is your support system. Who else is helping you with your stepdaughter? It sounds like she needs a higher level of care than what she is receiving now. The reasons you list - sleeping all the time, isolating herself, drinking anything with alcohol on it, cutting herself, trying to kill herself - are serious. It sounds like the medication and help (you didn't specify what treatment she is getting) are not working well for her or for you. It seems like you really love this child as your own. But, you need to share the burden with her parents. A lack of support is tough on anyone, especially on the parents of mentally ill children. Find support for you either through groups or individual therapy. And have a discussion with her parents about her treatment. I wish you the best and hope this helps.

Michelle Rovira
December, 24 2012 at 4:38 am

I have a son that is now 21 yrs old. He was diagnosed with bipolar at the age of 13. It was not easy being his parent but I continued to seek help and love him unconditionally. As the years went by, he became more violent and scary to live with. I had to call the police out many times. Being a minor, there was nothing they could do. He has been in different rehab homes but eventually would get kicked out for his violent behavior. He has multiple personalities. I never know what he is going to do next. He switches personalities on me in a blink of an eye. He is now homeless, and my heart is so broken when I see him. He lives outside of reality and I am so afraid to let him come home. Do you have any advice for me?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 1 2013 at 6:28 pm

Hi Michelle. My heart goes out to you. Your heart is broken because your son is still your baby. And he always will be. But, loving a child does not mean that you should live in fear of that child. My advice to you is to find support. I advocate support for parents because it really does take a village. Support can be in the form of friends, family, teachers, counselors - anyone who can uplift you when you're feeling down. Support can also mean seeing a therapist to help you work through this. I can't speak to working with adults because I treat children. Unfortunately, it is much harder to treat adults because anyone age 18 and older (at least here in NYC) can refuse treatment. I wish I could do more. Please visit again soon.

Rita Sarkhel
May, 7 2012 at 9:20 am

Ultimately love wins all. Love them no matter what and they will come around or do better. My own personal experience.

December, 26 2011 at 3:37 pm

My mother had bipolar disorder and was abusive and never medicated. When my son began to have tantrums at age 4 that lasted for over an hour, I did not understand what this would ultimately mean for both of us. At 14 he began to use drugs and alcohol and I replaced many broken windows. His anger outbursts reminded me of my mother's outbursts. Sadly, because of my past, I could not always respond to his behavior with calmness. He will be relased from prison in a year, 23 years old now and having spent much of his time since age 16 in facilities, lockdown, jail and prison. He says he is intstitutionalized. I know that he wants to do well. I have experienced many losses as a single parent and professional in a small town with a mentally ill child. It has been quite lonely. I have pretty much come to terms that I can love, guide and hope for him, but ultimately he makes his own choices. Thank you for the poem, it gives me hope.

November, 19 2011 at 5:18 pm

My step daughter has become a danger to herself and others. In the last two years she has tried to kill a family pet, subjected herself to a great deal of self harm (cutting, etc.), threatened to hurt us with a knife, and staged a suicide attempt. (We had her taken to the hospital via ambulance because we believed her. All tox-screens came back negative.) Previous to this she bullied children at school, resulting in our feeling the need to home school her, and she stole large sums of money from other family members. In the last 4 months, she has been hospitalized for severe mental illness 3 times. (It should be noted she was abused in a number of ways in her biological Mother's home, resulting in my husband and I gaining full custody of her and her older sister.) The psychiatrists at the hospital are concerned by her continuing out of control behavior, because the events she is staging are getting grossly out of control.
Here's the problem: We are scared for our lives. This last time she went to the hospital, she had become angry with me for blowing drying my hair. She then faked a suicide attempt. Then, because she didn't feel she got enough attention for this issue, she made up new issues (with her health) which we had to pay for because no one ever consults the parents when a child complains. Then, when the hospital staff finally figured out what they were dealing with, she changed her method of attention seeking to making wild allegations toward us and various other family members, resulting in investigations from child services. (The investigator chose to end the investigation after the interviews, realizing how sick our daughter is.) When the hospital deems her "okay" to come home again, we are afraid of what she will do next! Is there anything we can do to protect ourselves, while still caring for her? This has been 10 years of absolute hell and we really need help badly.

November, 7 2011 at 6:11 am

I found this website while googling about children attacking adults. It made me cry remembering all the years of worry, pain, blame and stress I thought things had finally calmed down with one of my children, but I have twin daughters, one demonstrating schizophrenia in the teen years (involving drugs and losing her to the street for over a year) and NOW the other one (37 years old) is becoming obsessive and aggressive blaming ME for numerous problems over the years. She is reporting me to anyone and everyone for things that I had nothing to do with. She won't allow me to see my grandson and so he has no way to know the truth. I wish I had to money to take her to court for my grandparents rights...anyone done that? THANKS EVERYONE FOR TAKING THE TIME TO SHARE...If you haven't been thru this kind of can't even imagine how hard it is....

November, 3 2011 at 6:16 pm

Reading the mesages here has been a trip down memory lane-a very bumpy road for anyone who is raising a child with a mental illness or severe learning disability. I have two adopted children who suffered significant trauma before I adopted them. Despite having professional degrees and lots of experience in the field of childrens mental health, I was not prepared for the emotional toll that parenting these children would take on me. Fifteen years later, I am still amazed at how hard it was, and still is at times.
When our children are young, we have to learn the systems for putting support in place for them while experiencing their symptoms and trying to create as normal a life for everyone that we can. In my case, I was doing this with both children and maintaining my job(s) so that we could keep our house. I bought a home in a town that had the reputation for having a good school system because I knew that my children would probably need special education services and I wanted to make sure that they received the best. If it weren't for my professional knowledge of the mental health and special education systems, I would have lost my mind. These things along with a strong support system was essential.
Everyone of us needs someone to talk to who has been through this kind of experience. No two are exactly the same but many of the features are identical. There are some tips that I would give parents who are struggling. These may sound impossible to you now but they may not sound so in a week or a month or a year.
First-the "system" - whether it is a hospital, outpatient clinic, school, residential program - will always have the goal of releasing the client to the family if the family is willing to do the work. They are over-burdened and, when you make yourself available, they will take you up on it.
Focus on safety. Not your level of exhaustion or your inability to "make" your child do what you think they should. Emphasize the inability of the family to keep the child safe as well as the rest of the family. If you fear that your child will do harm to themselves in your care, let them know that you do not feel capable of keeping your child safe.
Second-get an educational advocate to help you work with the school to get your child's needs met. Keep in mind that the school's responsibility is to educate your child. If his/her mental health needs are keeping him/her from learning, it is your job to get your child outside services and it is their job to tailor his/her educational program so that it works. You can ask to have homework modified if homework is becoming a constant battle at home. You can request daily reports about how your child did in school and what the issues are. It is always most advisable to maintain a positive relationship with the school. I understand that this is hard because public school teachers can seem like the most critical and judgemental people you ever deal with. Trust me, a little appreciation of efforts that people are making goes a long way with this crowd. They are used to everyone blaming them for everything.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF-As harsh as this sounds, keep in mind that it is your responsibility to usher your child to adulthood. In some cultures, that is 12 or 14, in ours it is officially 18. After the age of 16, very little is in place to support you in controlling the conduct of an out of control child. For those parents with a troubled 17 year old, you understand that this is the hardest year of all. They can move out, have sex, drop out of school, etc. and there are no significant consequences. But, if you kick them out because they are tormenting the whole family, you are in trouble.
So-take care of yourself. Eat, sleep, talk to people. TALK TO PEOPLE. Let them know the kind of stress that you are experiencing. Get help from family. If they can't extend themselves to your child as many family members cannot, ask for help for you. Laugh, go to the movies, try not to fall into the trap of thinking you must always be home in case your child does something. They ARE going to do something. Can you really stop it? Take all of the precautions that you can and then LET GO.
This is so hard. I feel jealous of parents with typical children and I hate myself for that. I resent my children for the blame they try to place on me and I hate myself for that. I feel ashamed at times and go through the things that I did as a parent trying to find where I went wrong.....this is all stuff you already know. We all do it. It is the luck of the draw.
You are in my prayers, all of you. Nina

September, 14 2011 at 11:48 am

This blog is breaking my heart. My son grew up with some issues in ADD and depression. He made it through OK and was a wonderful young man, responsible caring social and hardworking. At 22 he had a car accident with a head injury. He recovered fairly well but was changing. He refused all help saying he was strong enough to get well on his own. My exhusbands family had a history of mental illness with one brother a severe schizophrenic. After three suicide attempts and a very short stay in the psych unit he was deemed competnet inspite of voices telling him to do things, dellusions and paranoia. He came home but was increasingly agressive, angry and felt he was going to change the world because we are all idiots. He changed his name, disowned me as a mother and left. We found him once in the following year but he wanted no part of anything. On Dec. 26 2009 he killed himself. I feel that the whole system ignored his illness and did not give us any help, guidance resources or anything. He had his rights and apparently parents have none. I am in my masters program in nursing and am looking at how the mental health system works or doesn't. I have read story after story where parents are left in the dark and literally to fend for themselves. We weren't given any info as to how we might become conservators or how we could help we were told we can't that my son had the right to refuse help no one could force him. How can this be changed? I don't want people to suffer and be powerless when it is obvious that their children need help. My heart goes out to all of you.

August, 5 2011 at 7:41 am

Everyday we try to be strong not just for ourselves but for our daughter too. It breaks my heart that there is nothing I can do to help her. We take it day by day and always try to keep a positive outlook. But when all these places don't help your child and insurances say they cant pay for services no longer what are you to do?? Maybe there is someone out there that can help us I'm just not sure?????

August, 5 2011 at 7:34 am

I just cam across this page and I was shocked to see how many people deal with the same situation i have . I have a 16 year old step-daughter and for the last four years she has been in and out of facilitys. She doesnt have much time left at the one she is in. There has been no progress she has actually gotten worse. She is a danger to herself, her family and others. I am afrais when she comes home she is going to do something bad her father and I have done best we can but we fustrated scared worried. We want to do what is best for her but she will not try. The self harming scares me and her father to death and we have been working with her and her therapist. But it seems like know one cares and they want her gone. She is in trouble with law just got arrested while in facility and her behavior is increasing. What is a parent to do when you afraid of your child? We've always done the best we can we particapte we try so hard but we get know where. Even the groups homes as a step down program wonnt expect her because of her behavior. Does anyone have an Idea to help us we live in florida and have exhausted all avenues? What is a paren't to do when you love you child so much and you can't help them?

July, 31 2011 at 7:56 am

Thank you to everyone who reached inside themselves to post here. I feel I shouldn't complain. 35 years ago, I was in the thick of it with a socially disfunctional young-adult son. Bi-polar, narcissistic, schizo, who knows what is truly his disagnosis is or was. Yes, he's been in and out of our home, in and out with the police, drugs, everything. He's nearly 50 now. I'm 72, and I've been his whipping boy for so many years, I can't remember. It's the screaming and cursing and anger, year in and year out. I can't advise, but if you can put some kind of barrier around your life so that they can't get that far through to you, it would be a blessing. There is no way out sometimes. And you get so very, very tired. How many tears can you cry in a lifetime? Truly, more than you know.

May, 22 2011 at 7:32 pm

Angela and Stillinshock, Thank you so much for your supportive words and prayers. It means more than you know.

May, 18 2011 at 6:27 am

Mo - I pray intensly for you. Your endurance and determination to be there for your daughter are truly phenomenal.

May, 16 2011 at 10:13 pm

My daughter was first diagnosed with a "mood disorder" at age 16, but well before that we knew something was wrong. As a toddler she'd throw tantrums over the littlest frustrations. As a preschooler she would take things from other people's houses and lie (not very well at that time) about how she'd gotten them. When she was school-age she had trouble maintaining friendships, was prone to angry outbursts, continued to steal things and eventually became quite isolated. As a pre-teen she was so awkward socially that she was the target of ridicule and cruel "jokes." Around that time her behavior was becoming more and more volatile. Her outbursts more frequent and violent. She attacked everyone both verbally and physically, but was always deeply sorry afterwards. She hated her behavior and hated herself, too. Her sister found her one day with a belt pulled tightly around her throat. That was her first "recorded" episode of self harm. Her father and I divorced around that time, and she was diagnosed with depression.
As her teen years progressed she gravitated toward the "bad kids" who were committing petty crimes and cutting school. One night she won the game of chicken the kids were playing by allowing a lit cigarette laid upon her forearm to burn a 2 inch rut into her skin (permanent scar). There were addictions and abusive boys. There were short term stays in mental health wards. She's described her first experience with intercourse as what can only be called rape. She was surrounding herself with "friends" who cared so little about her that they put her in her car one night when she was so drunk she couldn't even open the door to the car, herself, let alone drive (eye witness account). She almost died that wintery night of hypothermia when her car went off a rural road, hitting a fire hydrant, before coming to rest in a famers field. She was there for hours as the car filled with water; and was only found because area residents began calling in to report a severe drop in their water pressure. She earned a 30 Day In-Patient Program out of that episode.
By the time she was a junior in high school she was in serious trouble with the law. She committed a felony with a group of kids which landed her in juvenile detention, then house arrest and later probation. Her counselor of the moment tried to talk my ex-husband and myself into giving up our parental rights so she could be placed in foster care before she reached the age of majority and reap all the benefits of the system without "ruining our lives." Of course, we refused. She went on to drop out of high school, but earned her GED with "honors." All the while raging and lashing out at the world. Her laundry list of psychiatric diagnoses was growing by the day.
Soon she began hanging out with older people. People who were dealing drugs. People willing to exchange sexual favors for drugs. People who took her into the kinds of neighborhoods most of us only hear about on the evening news; and one night, she returned to one such neighborhood, alone, to score the drugs she'd been pawning all of the things of value in her father's house to obtain. She had her car taken from her and spent the night being raped by several men who fed her drugs in between episodes. In the morning her car was returned, but it had been stripped of anything that had been in it. As horrifying as her night had been, one can imagine what other horrors may have happened in that car.
After that, her behavior became more and more bizarre. She was paranoid and delusional. She got in several car accidents and claimed they were "set ups." She locked herself in her room. She hung blankets over all the windows in her father's house (she was coming and going between our homes but spent more time there because he gave her a lot more money than I could and was seldom ever home), and painted his sliding glass door over with red paint. She insisted the clouds were somehow too low in the sky, and therefore, the government was controlling the weather. She thought most of our food was contaminated. She became a germ-a-phobe. She washed her hands until they were raw. She was at the doctor's office every other day complaining of vague symptoms and never ending pain. She was convinced she was dying. She accused me of reading her mind (and meant it). She thought we were being monitored through our computers and unplugged everything in both her father's and my home. In the fall of 2009, her sister took her to a psychiatric hospital to be evaluated for suicide ideation. They kept her 3 days. Shortly after that, her father announced he was marrying a women neither of the girls had ever met, and intended to sell their house. He told the girls they were no longer to "stay" there because it needed to stay clean for showings (the house is still on the market . . . karma?)
About a month after her father's marriage, our daughter disappeared; and I filed my first missing person report. Later we would learn that she'd gotten into the junker car her father had gotten for her to get to appointments and the community college classes she was flunking out of; and simply started driving west. The car broke down in Colorado, and after floating around a truck stop for several days a man invited her to come home with him. She went with him to his secluded mountain home where he was living with his wife, children and various animals. Nothing terrible happened to her there, but the phone calls she began making to her father, and then me, made it quite clear she was in trouble. She was "sick" almost every day. She stayed in bed all the time. She wanted her dad to wire her money so she could get her car fixed and continue on her journey to the ocean. He refused. She shaved her head; and
On Valentine's Day, 2010, leaving all her possessions and IDs behind, she walked out of the mountain home, and into the wilderness. The family called me 3 days later because they couldn't find her, and because the area was so remote, they presumed she was dead. They told me they'd called the sheriff and would call me when he arrived so that I could answer questions they might not be able to answer. I was beyond devastated; but when the sheriff ran her name through the system, he found she'd been picked up by state police along a highway about 50 miles from where she'd disappeared. Further, the state police had driven her to a city where there was a huge homeless enclave and lot of shelters and soup kitchens; and her strange behavior had gotten her noticed by city police at least the two times they entered her in their system.
She wasn't dead, she was in Colorado Springs! We spent the next month tracking her through local police, eyewitnesses, and later, my daughter, herself.
After she'd spent a few days knocking around Colorado Springs. She spent a night in a shelter, and was so out of touch with time that she missed curfew the next night and had to sleep on the street. The following day an older man picked her up hitch-hiking. She asked him to drive her back to get her things from the mountain home where'd she'd been staying, and he complied. The mountain people wrote down his license plate and called to give it to me with a description of the man and his truck. I called Colorado Springs with the info. They told me that because she was older than 18 they couldn't do anything about it; but they did . . . they tracked him down and "unofficially" questioned him. He lied and told them he'd driven her to another town 50 miles away. She was actually in his house at the time. I think she stayed with him for 3 or 4 days before she became mistrustful, and slipped away while he was at the store. She'd given him her real name and he was able to use that (she has an unusual last name) to track down her dad and tell him about the time they'd spent together. We'd find out later that he wasn't completely truthful about what had happened between them, but it was obvious he didn't want any real harm to come to her. Whatever. He was a liar.
Shortly after that my daughter contacted her father to, again, ask if he'd give her money to get her car fixed. He relented, and they tracked down the car to where it had been towed, and he spoke to the mechanic who agreed to fix it for $50.00 (waving the tow and storage fee after hearing all the drama). Then he wired her just enough cash to get home. Well, she didn't come home. She started driving to Mexico. For some reason she got spooked at the border and turned around. Ending up in San Antonio, TX, where she realized she was running out of gas, had no money for food, and because she wasn't sleeping-- losing her mind. She called me a few times during those last few days in Texas, and I knew she'd finally broken. She was absolutely psychotic. I was terrified.
I wasn't the only one she was calling. She was calling her dad, and her uncle and her cousin and her aunt . . . apparently she called the old man in Colorado Springs, too. Anyway we were able to use the opportunity to send one of my nieces down there to capture her. One of my sisters convinced her to let her rent a room for her in a motel so she could get clean, eat something, and get a good night's sleep. Meanwhile, my niece was boarding an plane which would get her there in the morning before check out. It was all very dramatic. There was a brief, high speed race between my daughter in her clunker and my niece in her rental car. There was a moment when all hope was lost. Then there was a miracle. My daughter gave up and allowed herself to be reeled back in.
We convinced her to ditch her car, and fly back home. She agreed to stay with my sister while we figured out how to get the health insurance she'd lost by not returning to college in January, reinstated (that was quite a feat, by the way . . . You should all look into "Michelle's Law"). Fortunately, Illinois had just passed the Adult Dependant Health Insurance Act and I was able to obtain insurance through my employer (never had to do that before because her dad always carried the girls). Her behavior was totally bizarre. Among other things, she was doing weird stuff with food, putting milk in my sister's plants, and they'd often find her frozen as if in midstride in the middle of a room. I started making appointments. I spent all my free time trying to distract her from her paranoid delusions. She accused me of setting her up in order to get some kind of sick pleasure out of seeing her suffer.
It took forever to get her in to see a GP then a Gyn then a Psychologist. . . It didn't matter that she was completely psychotic. We even discovered in the doctor's offices that she'd been burning herself with cigarettes. This was going to be a long drawn out process. Meanwhile she started disappearing from my sister's house for days at a time (more missing person reports). She said she'd start walking and simply couldn't turn back around. Luckily she eventually allowed someone to come get her wherever she'd walked to.
Then one day she took it upon herself to walk the 40 miles between my sister's house and mine. She walked without stopping and by the time she got here she was exhausted and out of her mind. The police found her ranting and raving in the streets so they picked her up and had her committed through a local hospital's emergency room. Thus began a yearlong confinement in hospitals and other mental health facilities for which I had to fight tooth and nail to keep her in because the insurance companies don't like people receiving all of the overpriced health care to which they are entitled.
During that time I obtained guardianship, applied for Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI), and gave the doctors, the facilities and the insurance companies hell. I also wore myself out. I've ended up on anti-depressants, anti anxieties, and sleep aides. I almost lost my job. I've alienated my partner who'll undoubtedly leave me soon (just as the two before him did). I've lost touch with my other daughter who despite all the madness finished college with a bachelor degree in Art History, and a master degree in early childhood education. She stays as far away from me and her sister (and her dad) as she can.
Last week my daughter managed to get herself kicked out of the latest residential treatment facility, and they tricked me into picking her up. I know that sounds silly but that's what they did. They "inferred" and I stupidly believed (I'm so exhausted) that they'd arranged for intensive outpatient treatment. They hadn't. Hopefully, I can make that happen. We'll see . . .
Everything hangs on the SSI. Once you've got that all kinds of doors open. There's subsidized housing and community services and Medicaid and a chance to let go because there's finally a safety net (besides you) in place to catch your loved one should they fall. Of course, you still have to keep an eye on things because if you don't, Medicaid, just like all other insurance companies will try to deny deny deny benefits to which you're entitled.
SSI is incredibly hard to get. My daughter has been denied, twice. Apparently, they believe she is disabled but because she won't stop doing drugs and alcohol (she's been confined and away from such things for a year!) they are prevented from giving her the aid to which she's entitled. I've finally contacted a lawyer. Who's assured me that her diagnoses which include bipolar disorder with psychotic features, post traumatic stress, self harm, over compulsive disorder and all the other satellite diagnoses floating about her record will win the day. Unfortunately, that day won't come for another year or so.
So I'm stuck. My daughter whose behavior is so out of control that she honestly requires 24/7 supervision to keep her safe has landed back in my unqualified lap where I can't possibly provide the care she needs. She's been back just a week and she's completely out of control. She won't stay home. I've had to leave work because she's gone missing. We've had the police here to prevent her from packing all her stuff and going to live with the nice 50 year old motor cycle driving ex-marine she just met two days ago at a Dollar General.
She's going to get away from me, and she's going to get hurt, and the system doesn't give a shit that it not only destroys the lives of the people it pretends to serve, but their entire families too.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Angela McClanahan
May, 17 2011 at 3:36 am

@Mo--my heart goes out to you. Truly.
You're right, "the system" doesn't care--they tell us when our kids are adults, we're supposed to turn away from them if they "refuse to help themselves." What if they're not capable of doing so?

May, 13 2011 at 8:10 am

Thanks everyone for sharing. Six weeks ago our daughter ran away but turned herself in overnight so we went to pick her up from the cops at 4:30 am, about 30 miles away. She is 16. The cops just said, " Bah, teenagers!" so we brought her home and everything seemed normal.
Then about three weeks later she ran away while watching a neighbor who had just had surgery (our home was alarmed so she couldn't run from here). Ended up in Miami for a week of prostitution and by a miracle we located her after driving down there.
She was Bakeracted immediately and spent three weeks at a behavioral health facility where I worried she picked up more amunition for her deviant behaviour. Even after being diagnosed with bi-polar mood/disassociative disorder we were actually blamed for her behaviour by church leaders! "Kids don't do those kinds of things if they are raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord!" SO HURTFUL!
She was discharged last Friday and last night (less than a week later - after everything seemed to be going great with meds etc.) we were woken by cops and firefighters at the front door. She had called 911 because she had been cutting herself. That was an understatement. Practically her whole body was bloody. She was again Bakeracted after I spent all night in the emergency room with several nurses cleaning the wounds, and hearing the doctor say, "Bummer. She'll have scars all over for the rest of her life. Tell everyone she had a wild cat attack when she is older!)
My husband and I are in the dark as to what to do next. I am afraid this child will be our financial demise. I love her but what can we do? Do people really let these kids out into the world on their own when they turn 18?

Sonya M
April, 3 2011 at 7:37 am

I am a mother of 3 children. My oldest son is 14 & has Bi-Polar, ADHD,CAPD,Aspergers & learning delays. My second son is 13 with past of severe depression, cutting, anxiety, CAPD & learning delays & Speech Apraxia.
My oldest has similar medical experiences. This last time he was put in a short term facility after attacking me & wanting to kill me with a butter knife & fork. I had several scratch marks, bruises & he tried to bite. We were fighting over the phone so I could dial 911. This was the first time I had ever called 911 for an attack.
The thing with my son is he usually wants to go to the facilities cause he doesn't want to hurt anyone & functions better & he wants to be there. But we know how that works.
After this time, I was afraid to let him come home around the other children. (My 2nd son is & has been stable for some time.) I found it hard, but let him go into a treatment foster home. We had visited & had good visits. His foster mom didn't expect him to be released before the summer after this one. Well, that isn't going to be the case. He will be released within the next 3 mo. His brother asked, "What are we going to do now?"
We had a visit with him at our home this past week. He got angry with his brother, kicked him & hurt him quite badly. We were at Oliver Lee st park.
The next meeting with FYI I was told that I should have had him sit & wait for his f.parents to come get him with no interaction with the family. We weren't even home. He had calmed & we talked. So, FYI decided to make me feel horrible like I had messed up.
I tried telling them we were concerned with him coming home. As we all know they say he has been making progress & can be talked to & told things & learn. I would have to watch him all the time. I pointed out I couldn't do that with two other kids in the house. She pointed out there are other single parent's with larger families that can do it. Gee, thanks for making me feel good. She pointed out that I was not participating enough in his recovery. They want me to drive there several times a month.
I am a disabled vet with some medical issues & am sometimes unwell as it is. I told them I didn't feel I could have him in our home as we are afraid. She acted like I was abandoning him & how concerned she was that she felt he felt I did not want him. Bull! That has never been the case. I told her he would always be loved & wanted, but that didn't mean I was going to put my other children at risk! I ended up crying & I am not a teary person, but I felt so put down by this woman.
If they are so concerned with my son, why not leave him in the good f.parent home he is in. He is doing well in school & happy. HAPPY! I don't get it. He is doing well in the school there which is more than I can say here. I assured her that when they release him we will, like always, follow the after care plan. Here it is 2wks later & I still feel like a bad mother thanks to her, as if I needed her help!
I just want my children to grow up healthy, happy, & not a danger. I so fear what will happen. You can't help but wonder. So, hand in there everyone, I am hanging with you! :)

April, 2 2011 at 12:32 am

My oldest adopted daughter turned 10 in an aute hospitial, and 11 in a psychiatric residental facility. She has been there for 6 months now. They have tried so many meds, I can't remember them all. Nothing works, not even for a day or two. They have not even agreed on a diagnosis. One minute she has bipolar, conduct disorder, ADHD, reactive attachment disorder, or even precursers to Borderline Personality disorder (she is 7 years away from being able to be offically diagnosed with that one). They have added and taken away diagnosis like meds. She just this week jumped the fence, pulled fire alarms, attacked peers and staff. The social worker calls and has no suggestion for how to get her under control. But we only have 3 more months until she is out. I am scared of her coming home. She turns all of our lives upside down. God help me, but I am releived that she is someone else's responsibility right now. I don't know if I can make it when she returns. But there is nothing I can do, except risk going to jail for abandoning her.

rita lutzer
April, 1 2011 at 4:34 pm

Hello everyone, my heart goes out to all of you....I too have been in hell, my son did manage to graduate college....a major miracle....but Schizophrenia was stalking him and he started to sink further and further into his own private hell.....and so did we having to watch him.....he hit bottom when he tried to stab his father in the head and wound up in jail and now for the last 3 years in a hospital....but I do have one knows the future...just as no one knows the anguish we feel as parents....always wondering ...was this my fault ....was I a bad parent....why couldnt i have seen the signs and been more patient when he was a little boy....his two sisters are normal and successful....why oh why did this happen to him.....but there are no answers except the possibility that a medication will some day help him...

Gail Faulkner
April, 1 2011 at 9:47 am

Well, I have a daughter with schizophrenia, she has recently come home from being hospitalized and in a treatment center, 2 months in each place.
When her illness surfaced last fall and became worse and worse, And then she was hospitalized, I was so very distraught and upset, although i knew that this was the best thing for her and she would be safe. I felt that perhaps God was playing some kind of joke on me, and to make matters worse, she would not talk to me or allow any medical staff or counselors to discuss any of her diagnosis or progress with me, it was "hell" for me. I thought i had lost her forever, I actually grieved. I went on the NAMI website and the posting and receiveing of posts back from other parents at different stages of their children's and young adult childrens' illnesses and recoveries if you will was inspirational and helped me very much. Thank God my daughter accepts that she has an illness and is willing to take her medication and counseling. she is my sweet, loving daughter once again(for now) wellness is not guaranteed forever, but so far, so good for us. I hope things do improve for you. My son has severe depression and anxiety and will not take meds or get counseling and he is a loving but miserable and grouchy young man, i DO get this, just try to do as some parent on NAMI site told me to try; "Wait for the miracle>" I never believed there would be a miracle and one day...out of the blue, my daughter called me from the treatment center, and i was so very thrilled and happy and thankful to God for answering my prayers. I wish you well, and will keep you in my prayers.

April, 1 2011 at 3:24 am

I am at my wits end trying to find the best way to educate my bipolar and OCD son, I only want to help him get stable and to help him have a little happiness in his life so that he has a reason to want to live. It's really all I want. Our family has without hesitation given up so much and we don't regret it, but it's seems that it hasn't made much of a difference. I have given up the hope for now of having the kind of life I envisioned before I had children. I can understand how someone resents the behaviors they deal with 24/7 over years and years. It's easy to make the mistake of blaming their children instead of blaming the behavior. I don't know what the answer is. I only know that I am terrified about my son's future and my ability to help him.
For those who condemn parents who are resentful, tell me please what you have done to help make the health care system more responsive to the needs of menatlly ill children? What have you done to help any parent like those who posted the messages above? Educate yourself about the issues and behaviors we face and your words will have more credibility. If you have a child with mentall illness and have been able to navigate the system and help your child to longterm wellness, then share your experience and your ideas - don't chatise. It lowers you to the level that you think the others parents live on.

April, 1 2011 at 3:09 am

I hope to find someone in a situation similar to mine. I have bipoar disorder. It has been difficult to control at times. I have a 7 year old child
with a wicked case of adhd. She has been medicated since the age of 5. While the meds make a huge difference the illness is far from controlled. That having been said, I need help. In the last 3 days I have considered a brass letter open thru the back of my hand and beating myself in the face with a skillet to rid myself of my anger. (I am well medicated including Klonipin.) I am a bad stage right now and have left the house only for medical appointments for the last 4 weeks. My husband works and takes
care of me and what I can't do. God bless him! Therefor most activities are currently out of the picture, pretty much including anything inside too.
I feel terrrible inside and out. Is there anyone who has been thru this?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Angela McClanahan
April, 1 2011 at 3:22 am

@Dallas - please, PLEASE don't hurt yourself (or anyone else). I can only suggest you contact your psych ASAP and tell them what's going on. And if you have anyone at all you can rely on for help other than your husband, please reach out to them, too. Even if it's just a neighbor you rarely speak to. Hopefully someone else here can offer other suggestions.

Zippedie Doodah
March, 31 2011 at 5:05 pm

I cannot imagine what hell it must be to be your children. Can't you just drop them off at a shelter like people do unwanted pets? It would be more humane than these poor kids living with parents that resent them so much...because it has inconvenienced you.
I'm not trying to make light of your difficult circumstances with troubled children. But it's about more than you. You all chose to bring these kids into the world, and whether it's this kind of difficulty, or ending up with a kid who is in a wheelchair, you're all a bunch of whiners.
Your poor kids.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Angela McClanahan
April, 1 2011 at 3:02 am

A "bunch of whiners"? Wow. Actually, yes, we can just drop them off at a shelter, as you suggest--I saw it happen quite often during Bob's last inpatient stay (parents dropping their "problem" kids off for a weekend and picking them up Sunday night). And yes, you are correct--we DID bring these children into the world, because America loves babies (of course, all these pro-family supporters tend to scatter like cockroaches when said children actually need services of some kind or the parents need some form of support). However, you are making some pretty broad and, dare I say, unfair judgments. It IS hell to be our kids, but not necessarily because they have US as parents. And if our kids were in wheelchairs, we'd have the support and the backup of a multitude of private and public services at our disposal. People would feel sorry for our kids rather than demonize them as "bad seeds." Schools would be mandated (and willing) to make special accommodations for our kids, and no other parents would criticize them for it, claiming our kids should be locked up somewhere else where their wheelchairs wouldn't possibly hurt their own precious offspring. Parents of children who have "legitimate" illnesses are applauded for their bravery and their efforts. They're told they have a right to be sad, to be angry, to mourn the loss of the child they thought they would have. But because our children aren't approved by society, we get called whiners and bad parents. THAT's the bigger injustice here. I appreciate your reading this blog, but I would appreciate more if you would kindly respect the people who come here so they can scream, yell, throw things and generally have a pity party for ourselves without (1) being condemned for it and (2) taking it out on our kids, spouses, dogs, co-workers, etc.
And for the record, I've never dropped off a pet at a shelter, either.

March, 30 2011 at 6:58 pm

I can relate to all the posts here. I hate to admit it, but I honestly regret having brought my 18 year old daughter into the world. She is verbally and physically abusive to family members. She is a holy terror and has made my life a living hell. Although we live in the same house, we haven't spoken or even made eye contact in 7 months. She has ruined our once happy home. I refused to by her even one Christmas present this year - her father felt bad and got some anyway.
More than once I have considered leaving this house and getting my ownapt, but in doing so would bankrupt my husband as he can not make the mortgage payment on his salary alone. What galls me to no end is that other people think that her behavior is a result of bad parenting. Well I know it's not. This kid has been given every advantage and opportunity. She was parented the exact same way as her older sibling who is perfectly normal and doing well in every way.
We can't have guests over to the house because of her outbursts. My son can't have friends over because of her outbursts. Neighbors look at her like she's some alien freak and bring their small children into the house or walk the other way if they see her coming.
I find myself having to constantly lie and cover her tracks to protect myself from the inevitable onslaught of critical people who mean well and start every sentence with, "you should.....(fill in the blank)". "How's your daughter doing in schools. What colleges is she looking at". "Oh fine, I say.(sarcastically) ..she's looking at Duke, Harvard and Yale" I lie. If I told the truth, it would be more accurate to say she skips class, is failing everything, trolls around hotel rooms with lesbians she meets in internet chat rooms, smokes dope, steals my jewelry in order to pawn it for money, ..and that just invites the criticism of our parenting skills.
My husband refuses to kick her out. He's afraid of what might happen to her if she's left on her own. She's too emotionally unstable to be out on her own
Yes, I do hate this child and yes, I'm ANGRY. She is the spawn of Satan and she's ruined my life, my marriage, my health and everything that was ever once good in my life. Do I resent her? You bet. One of these days she is going to overdose or meet the wrong person from an internet chat room and my troubles will be over and peace will return to my life. Until then, she holds the entire family hostage.

March, 24 2011 at 11:56 pm

I thank all the parents who have shared their experiences, love and loss. Acceptance is a fleeting emotion for me. It is like the waves that move across the shore. At times I believe that I accept the estrangement from my beautiful daughter, fair haired, sparkling child. Then other times to accept the diminished relationship is intolerable. I resist reality. Sometimes the warmth and closeness of the past is the life raft of my life.

March, 16 2011 at 8:03 pm

After reading all the posts, I felt comforted to know that I am not alone. I married young (19) and my husband and I had 3 beautiful children together, we were married 4 years and went through a divorce, he was bi-polar and I had no idea what that was, he found it difficult to stay involved in his children's lives. When our second oldest attempted suicide for the first time at the age of 12, I was in shock. Their father passed away 5 years ago, it was ruled accidental, but I have my doubts. Our second oldest is 21 now, and is getting to be released from a group home and for the last 6 months, the rest of the family has had some down time, and have been able to regroup somewhat, it doesn't mean that we aren't still apprehensive about her return home, but because of a break from the emotional rollercoaster, I think we are now better equipped to handle some of the challenges we will face when she returns home. Our health care system is completely inadequate, and our knowledge of these illnesses is still so limited as a society. It isn't the therapists,docs,nurses fault, they are understaffed, underpaid, and not really given the tools they need to make much progress. She has been on several medications throughout the years, and been in several institutions. Hindsight is 20/20, so anyone who has a child in their teens, seek help, try and stay with one facility and one doctor. She had the same doctor and facility for about a year and a half. Focus on siblings, and reassure them that they are okay, and that some of the most troubling emotions they have are a normal response to the situations they experience. We should all encourage change, either on a small or grand scale in health insurance.
Fact is, and once I accepted this dealing with my daughter became less of a challenge, you know how confused you are , magnify it by 10, this is how they are feeling, after a year and a half, I can express love and admiration for her which she accepts wholeheartedly without tirades or denial. It has been a long haul, so far, but her smile and the family tranquility is returning, slowly but surely. My prayers are with all of you, and I hope all of you find some help in my blog.

March, 1 2011 at 8:56 pm

"Hasn't hurt anyone" -- When will the doctors ever know as much about this as we do? My mom went through the same thing with my brother 30 years ago - and it was one of the best lessons she ever taught me --- After letting "them" keep my brother in a mental hospital for 2 weeks, she told them all to go to hell and brought him home. My mother taught me then, when I was 11 years old, to stand up for what I know in my gut is right.
Progress, after 100 years? After Jared Loughner? Nah -- ignore it... it will go away. Jan Brewer, governor of AZ, has a son who is schizophrenic (sp?) and she was just forced to cut funding to mental health care. I can't imagine the heartbreak she feels.

March, 1 2011 at 8:24 pm

I want the rollercoaster to stop.

February, 27 2011 at 6:50 am

Are there any other men on the site? I haven't seen any. We have two adult sons with severe mental illness, and have been through many of the things described in these posts. I finally made a decision after enduring many years of violent and destructive behavior that I had to save my own life first. I think moms have more trouble than dads coming to that conclusion. I evicted my older son first, as he was the more destructive at the time and would not leave on his own. After a brief time in jail, and a year of living in transient hotels and flophouses and being constantly in trouble, my wife convinced me that we should buy him a house to live in, which we did. He now has occasional conflict with neighbors and does not work, but other than the financial strain, our lives are much better. We have continued to support him financially and pay for his psychiatric visits and medications, which have had little effect. He has been variously diagnosed with ADHD and schizoaffective disorder, but he acts bipolar to me, with some OCD symptoms. Mostly he is manic.
Our younger son developed constant hallucinations and was hospitalized for three weeks. He had also been living with us and was threatening and destructive. The hospital discharged him after three weeks even though he was still hallucinating. We tried to get him involuntarily confined, but the magistrate denied our request. We refused to allow him back home, and the "wonderful" mental health agency gave him directions to a homeless shelter. He was arrested on the way to the shelter and after he finally got there he was thrown out for threatening other residents. After living in his car for a while, he went to jail for over two months, and was kept segregated from the other inmates because of his threats and bizarre behavior. We tried to get mental health medical attention for him while he was in jail, but failed. Instead, the prison physician treated him with an inappropriate medication to no effect, and he was finally paroled on the condition that he submit to treatment. He was treated for a while after being released and improved greatly, but he quit seeing his doctor and relapsed. We rented an apartment for him, then bought him a house, too, after he threatened the neighbors repeatedly and was threatened with eviction. We tried to get him into treatment again, and he was "pink slipped" by the mental health agency, but the police department refused to transport him to the hospital and neither we nor the social worker could get him to go. Currently he is trouble again for threats to neighbors, and is on probation with a treatment condition. It's too early to say how that is going to go.
The bottom line is that the health care and legal systems provide no help whatsoever for either the sick person or his victims until a serious injury or death occurs. We have dealt with the situation by physically separating ourselves from our children to save our own lives, and trying to help them however we can within reason. We are able to afford to provide housing and food for them, but just can't seem to get them to stick with a treatment program. If one of them commits a heinous crime, I'm sure we will be the subject of media ridicule for not having "done something" to prevent it.
My advice is to do first what you need to do to prevent your own life from being destroyed by your mentally ill child. Probably that will involve removing them from your home. If you are a mess, you cannot be of any help whatsoever. It's not easy, and it took me too many years to take that step. My wife did not agree, and we separated for a time and nearly divorced over the disagreement, but I just could not and would not continue to live as a prisoner in my own home. Every day there was some new outrage. A small example: One day I came home from work to find all the power off and my wife sitting in the dark because our son had shut off the electricity and was busy cutting all the wires in the house because "stuff was coming out of them and making him hot."
Treatment seems to be hit and miss. Though we have heard stories of effective therapy, we have not seen it ourselves, so I suppose we are resigned to this odd kind of life, and while I want my sons to be well and happy, I have made my main concern my wife's and my life. If we did not have the financial means to do what we have done, I do not know what the alternative would be; however, I had rather live in much reduced circumstances than go back to sleeping in a locked room with a pistol under my pillow. This all began around 15 years ago. It is a long voyage and not yet complete.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Angela McClanahan
February, 28 2011 at 2:20 pm

Buddy, thank you for visiting and offering your perspective. I agree there doesn't seem to be much "dad" feedback out there, and I don't know why that is, unless the old stereotype of men keeping it all to themselves is true. At any rate, what you said about how the mental health and legal communities won't do anything until someone gets seriously hurt (and then they'll all stand around and ask why YOU didn't "do something" to prevent it) totally rang true to me--that's probably the most frustrating part of all this. My great-grandfather was apparently refused commitment to the psych hospital because he "hadn't hurt anyone yet"--one would think we'd have made SOME progress in the nearly 100 years since then, but apparently, we haven't. Your sons are at least lucky you are able to support them financially--who knows where they would be otherwise? I wish you, your wife and your sons the best.

January, 27 2011 at 12:01 pm

Like Carol, I found this site by using various search terms, looking for others who have children suffering from mental illness. I'm about to lose my own mind.....I don't have much to complain about after reading many of your stories, it breaks my heart :(
But at least I don't feel alone, I have a 17 year old daughter who has suffered headaches and stomach pain since she was a small child, always worrying and nervous. About 7 months ago she developed severe panic attacks and it's only getting worse. Her regular doctor seemed to dismiss it all to being a teenager. It's more than that, I'm scared to death that she is developing a serious mental illness. We are going to the Bastyr Natural clinic in Seattle and couldn't be happier with the care there, but there is no progress in her headaches or panic attacks. She describes her life as being in a fog and sometimes looking in a mirror and not recognizing herself! She's afraid of losing control and doing things she wouldn't normally do. The worst part is I get frustrated to the point sometimes I lose my temper with her, she is very defiant sometimes and her short term memory is almost non existent. Enough rambling though, I'm grateful to have found this blog and my heart goes out to all of you. It is nice to get some of this out, now I'm ready to cry....

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Angela McClanahan
January, 29 2011 at 5:06 am

Bonnie, welcome and thanks for your comment. Some of us have more difficult issues to deal with, but that doesn't mean any of us have it easy. I understand your frustration and occasional losing your temper--I do the same--and I always feel guilty afterwards. Then I try to remind myself, I'm not perfect, I'm just another parent like anyone else, and I would lose my temper occasionally regardless of his illness. It is what it is. Hang in there, and I hope you'll come back to visit.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 7 2018 at 10:23 am

I also found this by looking for support groups.... Hang in there. I have a daughter now 37 & a mom herself. Both she & her son live with us..... seeing behavior signs in our precious 4 yr old grandson. Having his 1st IEP & breaking my heart that he inherited this gene?. I noticed that my daughter was "different" when she was 10. When she got diagnosed with ADHD & then MOOD Disorder with bipolar swings but NOT bipolar. Figure that one out. I joined our local tough love support group. We battled over schools (wouldn't go) single working mom. IEP is a RIGHT of each student & cannot be DENIED! You are your child's BEST advocate. It took 4 schools to find one that fit my daughters needs. 1/2 day (can't deal with stress), computers & NO homework. She went from an E student to A was able to go back to her home highschool for the other 1/2 day last part of her Sr yr to graduate with het friends while still attending special school. She has had everything in her room taken out incld her door. She had to EARN everything back. Slashed enough to heal the pain with paper clips but not do damage. I threatened to cut ALL the sleeves off her blouses. She got into drinking & marijuana (which on the upside cured her glaucoma). Went from one abusive relationship to another. Moved out & thought I could finally breathe. In the words of my father..... The problems never go away just get bigger as they grow older.... How right he was. She has admitted herself countless times, but now that she's a mom can't. Never kept up with STATE spots "I'm NOT like them" & has burned her bridges. Says it's all she can do to get up...feels in fog....has NO short term memory....picks instead of slashes when nervous. As an adult she loves to read so I try to provide books to help her cope. Latest is BATTELFIELDs OF THE MIND. She really liked that book & it helps her a lot. We talk more especially on good days. Try to be POSITIVE. Not MY fault she's going thru this & listen to her more. I've learned to walk away & NOT be drawn into the battle for my sanity. NOW our grandson 4 yrs old lives with us is going for his IEP on his behavior. Locks us out & have put door knobs on without locks. Doesn't like that so sits against the door so we can't come in. Pretty soon he's going to loose his door & have it put in his mom's storage. The doors are starting to slam all over again..... We find that when we tell him to sit on his bed & think or calm down.....he comes with a new perspective....just needs some me time. School has been teaching wonderful Breathing techniques, books "Hands are NOT for hitting". When asked what are hands for he'll tell you NOT for hitting. Hopefully we can get a jump on his behavior. NOTHING phased my daughter growing up....She was the detention queen & I spent lots of nights crying for her, with her, because of her. How do you not like a 4yr old whose smarter than the average bear? I take comfort in knowing God gives special children to special people & they didn't ask for this. It is lonely because unless you know someone going thru this...THEY don't get it. It's lonely for the child & the parent. FIND a GOOD SUPPORT SYSTEM & DO something for YOURSELF! YOU MATTER TOO! As for our legislators they'd rather just keep cutting funds, closing facilities,etc. They blame the families.... We have reached a critical point in our society & you're telling OUR children that if they're different in any way they don't matter. Kids only coping tools are violence. We need to put money into our kids especially the special needs. If you have a disability you can see & understand all I'd good....If you have an unseen disability that you're struggling with you might as well be wearing a scarlet letter. SHAME on THEM! Too many of our kids 18 plus are homeless do to lack of support. Our kids matter! Some of the mist brilliant minds (A Beautiful Mind true story movie) suffer from some kind of mental illnesses. I had a former boss from the Health Dept that said it best... Everyone has some form of mental illness. Some last longer than others. As Parents we need to FIGHT FOR our kids instead of with them....remember little things... do they matter? Is it your hang up, there's & worth the fight? TAKE TIME for YOURSELF. EDUCATE yourselves, your children & SOCIETY! It's an illness THEY didn't ask for. LOVE ❤ NOT HATE. I know this may be easier said than done but I cherish the memories BEFORE my daughter got sick. That's what keeps me SANE & LOVING her. My entire family struggles with mental illnesses , my ex husband, daughter...and hopefully NOT my grandson but it's genetic so.... Me? I always kid someone had to stay sane to help the others & fight for them. Guess that's my purpose in life.... THE ADVOCATE! Hope some of what I've been thru helps. You are in our Prayers. Stay STRONG!

January, 12 2011 at 6:19 am

I read all the post here and yet wanted to address the people now who wonder why the man who shot the congresswoman and killed those people in Arizona had slipped between the cracks. Please read this.. I do not know how to change the system as it is, But would join anyone who would try. In the USA we want things better, or so that is the prevelant thought of many, so when the public had an ourageous cry about people, the mentally ill institutionalized in inhuman ways, years ago, they went about changing it. Somewhere in the lack of understanding of what needed to be done, it was decided to take them out of institutions and allow them to live normal lives. Instead of putting money into training people to care better for people that are mentally ill, we made it worse. Now people abuse them on the streets instead of intitutions. They struggle daily with living, well many of them do. As usual our government goes too far one way or the other. We do not look for the good overall, nor the reality of the situation. When this is done, there is no "normal life" for them or anyone else involved with them. So we have all of these people with rights our there living among us. Those who are not well enough to manage their minds, and building in their frustrations of no one to help. If they are the lucky ones and get assigned to an out patient counselor, they may have someone to talk to for a half hour a week. Yet if showing signs of more severe illness they will not get help, but another series of hit and misses until they too are more frustrated and trying to live with the rest of the population. However for most mentally ill the resist the help this way when given.
Now we have laws where someone who was taken to a hospital for acting out in extremely mentally ill ways, can sign themselves out if the say they will not harm themselves or others. The laws changed a long time ago, with the idea that we were giving equal rights to the mentally ill. In that we took away the safety they and others needed. There is no place for the mentally ill like this young man to be placed for very long, until they do a crime so severe that they go to jail. That is not a solution then may just be sent to get help for the mentally ill for a few months and back out again. Yes our streets are full of these sad and desperate people. The statistics are that a few are extremely dangerous. Yet that is enough to damage many. We need desperately a system in this country where we can provide care with bringing safety for these people and others.
We have an adopted daughter and years ago she cut herself trying to kill herself. From that time on, she tried to kill herself or harm others. She would have good seasons and be released and sent home and back and forth until she is now 17. What happens in a residential treatment program for mentally ill youth, is they have a few weeks on meds and appear safe and they go home. They may be in a RTC for a few months, but the first three weeks of appearing better, the whole goal is release them. Last year she came home, with absolutely no where else to go. No group homes, no one would take her with her history. She was home 30 days and hits my husband, her adopted father so bad in the head he blacks out and goes into seizures. A year later he is on heavy doses of seizure meds to keep him from having more. She was upset over feeling left out when with family that day she said and she could not find her shower shoes and so went off. She was taken that night to a faucility in Texas (where our oldest daughter lives and we were visiting) for mentally ill by ambulance, and they immediately told us she did not meet criteria and we must move her. It took a few weeks to have her moved back home with all the red tape in insurance and between states, and yet the insurance company kept in contact with this hospital in Texas the whole time, We explained that we could not transport her back in our car. The insurance continue to pay them in Texas and told them she did meet criteria. This hospital in Texas reported us to the child welfare in our state saying we refuse to get our daughter from there. We were charge with child abandoment. This is absolutely true. Even though she was so dangerous they had to transport her back her eventually by private plane. My husband is a licensed marriage and family counselor, we know the system and understand the injustice of these things more than most. She was finally flown back to a hospital near us, at RTC and she lived there going from place to place until the insurance company decided she was well. She was placed in a group home two months ago and ran away. She was placed with us at home when found. My husband through his job was sitting in a meeting with child welfare people in our state of New Mexico when a speaker stated that they were passing a law that parents of adopted kids will be prosecuted for abandoment if the do not pick up their kids who are in RTC when they are released . The entire huge group of people began to clap. It was as if there is no reality to what happens with some of these kids. No one sees beyond their own agenda's No one has enough wisdom to know there is so much more involved, and that families are at risk as a whole. Again the govenments inability to see the whole picture and all involved when trying to right. What a sick feeling we have had. We took our children in, four of them adopted them, hard to place kids 10 years ago and we love them and then the horrible pain of one being so mentally ill, is beyond devastating. We have to put alarms on our doors at night. We have to hide the knifes and things that she can harm with. We are never relaxed. Nor are the other kids. Well she is home after a battle with a RTC and us pleading with them saying she is not well and then with the insurance and state people saying she is. Literally after many therapist and placements to help her, this last therapist said she had severe PMS and that was all that was wrong with her. WE pleaded that there was more, and they totally ignored us. We have three other kids younger. She has great days and we love her dearly, but there are times where we live in fear. She remains on medications that seem to stablize her. Yet for no reason she can go off. Honestly our hope is God healing her, there is no hope for help out there. I imagine the parents of this man who did these horrible crimes, understand this. They probably do not have a clue and are ashamed and fearful. Or perhaps they are mentally ill too. Whatever what matters is that we do not take care of the mentally ill in our country and no matter what someone tells different it is not true. So they are on the streets getting sicker. To say he slipped between the cracks would be an injustice to anyone who tries to get help, there is no help. There are no cracks, there are missing planks that these people fall through, huge gaps of nothingness to help us or them.

January, 6 2011 at 3:58 pm

Mary, if it's that bad call an ambulance not the police and have him hospitalized. It's not pleasant, but it will probably open new doors. When he is released back to you, get him into a good outpatient program that is easily accessible to him. When that is over after a month he will be on medication. This will make the situation more manageable. The social workers at the outpatient clinic can help you decide on the right follow up after that. My family just went through this situation this past summer. Things are not perfect, but it's better than taking any action.

December, 29 2010 at 11:53 am

I'm going nuts, I don't know what to do for my son or where to turn. He is 17. I feel completely lost in this nightmare. If he is sick how can I turn my back on him, yet I'm in danger if I don't.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Angela McClanahan
January, 6 2011 at 1:43 pm

Mary, please try to get in touch with a local mental health resource--either through your county, a for-profit hospital, etc. I hope you can find some assistance. Take care of yourself.

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