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Saturday, June 28, 2008 maria Virgillio, Community Member, asks

Q: how do you get a bipolar person to get help

There is a term I cant remember when a person won't acknowledge or seek treatment for bipolar.  I have a son who is 23 and I have advocated for him and his mental health since he was 7 years old.  When he was diagnosed at 15 he went on Lamictal and Seroquol. This mix worked with minor ups and downs here and there.  He did feel lethargic from the Seroquol and after a couple of years of minor issues, he stopped taking his medicine regularly.  I would dispense his med in a bin for the week, and I would find them in his drawer.  His behavior changed and when I would address the issue, he said that I was intrusive and he blamed his behavior and depression and agitation on situational things.  His coping skills were much improved when on meds, but I could not convince him.  He went away to college in NYC and came back home and he said that he stopped the Lamictal all together and took his Seroquol to sleep.  He didnt even understand that the Seroqual does more than promote sleep.  He had been told and knows that it helps control mania and the agitation he feels.  I am at a point now that I am so frustrated in trying to get him to comply with my suggstions when they have helped him in the past.  I have a daughter who is also bipolar and is so gracious to comply saying that she know without the support of her parents she couldnt do it.  She wants us to help in any way.  She is stable and takes her medicine everyday.  Please give advise.  Being the parent of an adult bipolar person is helpless when the person only deals with issues when there is a crisis.  I keep trying to instill to my son that it is preventative measures that keep someone stable.  He only wants to discuss his mental health when it gets to a point of severe depression of severe anxiety and he is unwilling to deal with his issues to prevent the extremes.  Thanks...A loving mom in la la land...

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Answers (1)
Dysmystic, Community Member
8/ 4/09 5:40am

Hi Maria,

My name's Madeleine and I have bipolar and have written books about it. I have a 22 year old son (happily well, as it happens). The old adage 'things only change when the pain of changing becomes less than the pain of staying the same' applies to you and your son. As a young adult he needs to do his maturing in a self-directed manner. You can either support that by taking a back seat (wait for him to ring you) or stymie it by micromanaging his life. The only way people learn is by experimenting for themselves. One day no doubt he will concur with almost everything you have said to him. But he has to discover that way himself. As to the change that this requires of you, once again, is the pain of changing your mind now less than the pain of trying to manage his life?

I guess my best suggestion would be for you to take some deliberate time in a good space and contemplate your relationship with your son, his with you, and what bipolar is doing to wreck this.

Go well


laguybrent, Community Member
10/ 1/09 1:31am

Hi Maria and Madeleine,


My mom, sister and I are actually dealing with a similar situation with my 25 year old brother.  Granted, everyone's situation is different, but what are you to do when you have taken a back seat to a person to the person who needs to mature, but you fear that person will hurt themselves, or others, before they seek help...


I am starting to look for professional interventinists, any thoughts on that?

Dysmystic, Community Member
10/ 1/09 4:09am

First, does your brother also have an intellectual disability? If no, there is nothing to stop him living independently, whether or not under the same roof as you. He is a 25 year old adult.

Second, does your brother live with you under the same roof? If yes, you have the right to make firm boundaries about the type of behaviour he exhbits - just like any other housemate. Bipolar is irrelevant for this question.

Second, does he take his prescribed medicines? If not, and his behaviour is impossible to live with, you should excercise your rights and move out.

Third, is he psychotic all the time? If no, then he is responsible for his behaviour, even including harming himself or others.

Fourth, does he have a doctor? If no, how do you know he has bipolar disorder?If he does have a doctor, why are you thinking about professional intervention?


I can't see very much independence right now for this young man, and what I fear (compared to your fear) is that you are strangling the life out of him. If you don't like his behaviour, move out or stay away. Let him bloody well live his own live, sister.


kscjags13, Community Member
10/12/09 1:04pm

Not sure I'm going to be able to stick this out... my boyfriends 21 year old son recently found out he is bipolar.  Over the course of the past year he's been arrested 6 times and has several felony and misdemeanor charges pending.  His mother is also bipolar and has drug/alcohol problems.  As much as his father and I have supported him, he's starting to take things out on me.  He is very irresponsible.  We have a chiminea in the front yard that I've asked him not to use.  His dad actually doesn't see a problem with him using it, even after he's left the kitchen stove on (overnight) several times, the last time set on 500 degrees!  The fire department was called to the house this past weekend as someone called 9-1-1 because the fire in the front yard did not appear to be tended to.  As it turns out, the fire dept got there and the fire had been extinguished.  I obtained the information that (we were the house the call was made about) because I went the fire house and inquired about the call.


We live in a house that has 2 apartments, his dad and I live up stairs and the kids basically have the rest of the house.  Last night, he once again barged into our place and took all the groceries he wanted and was beligerant when I asked why he was taking everything.  He responded inappropriately and I made the mistake of mentioning the 9-1-1 call, even after his dad has asked that I not discuss anything with him.  He (the son) proceeded to yell at me that he didn't do anything wrong.  As he was leaving, I closed the door behind him and locked it, because I did that, he punched a hole in the door.  His father, who was in the shower, came out and saw the commotion and blames me!!!  I can't take this much more and need help...

Dysmystic, Community Member
10/26/09 10:00am

What a nightmare! To be of help to this young man, the adults around him need to agree on a strategy to hold up in front of his eyes what behaviour is acceptable and what is not. By doing this, and following through, you are sending the message that he is in danger of losing family contact because of his behaviour. Even if it means calling police or the mental health crisis service if there is one. A strong message that the behaviour is not okay needs to be sent or else you will end up a doormat full of stinking mud! Bipolar can be a red herring sometimes, although no doubt the bipolar is contributing to the behaviour. You also have a responsibility to your boyfriend and the other kid/s to have a safe house to live in.  Go well, with a steel fist inside a velvet glove.

CohenA, Community Member
1/ 6/10 3:33pm

We're running into a very difficult situation with my sister-in-law.  She is currently undergoing a full-blown manic episode, but refuses to accept treatment or help.  She acknowledges that something is wrong but is adamant that it's nothing a few good nights' sleep couldn't fix.  It's been weeks now and nothing is better.


Here's the rub - she has three young children.  The kids were taken from her by CPS and put in our care until she is deemed fit to take them back - during her episode she was found to be completely neglecting and endangering them for several days as the house went straight to hell.  Luckily, only the two youngest were around at the time and they are not old enough to be cognizant of the situation.


So that's where we're at.  Everyone around her has had their lives flipped completely upside-down by the added responsibility of taking care of her kids as well as her (who is acting more like a kid than the kids) and we are running absolutely ragged.  The only thing that would get us through this is the hope that she is working toward recovery, but she simply refuses to do so.


She argues constantly, won't stop to rest for anything, claims the meds she was put on earlier were no good, so she stopped them and is only relying of sleeping pills that don't do squat.  She doesn't have very good insurance, so we can't find any doctors willing to help her.  She was hospitalized for a short while, but then just released herself.


If this was just her, then we could leave it be and let her find her own pace in the matter.  But it's not just her - it's her children as well.  They are scared, confused, and want their mom.  We are exhausted, breaking down, and want her back to normal.  It seems like the only person that doesn't want her better... is her.


Is there anything we can do??

dysmystic, Community Member
1/ 6/10 4:21pm

A difficult situation. The manic episode will eventually run its course and things will settle down. I don't think you'll have to look after her children forever. When she is well enough, point out seriously and straight all the problems that have been caused by her not being treated and encourage her to investigate treatment.


You are not the only child-minder available should she get sick again - though you're probably the best as Aunt - so point out that you are unwilling to take the kids again unless she is being treated.


I trust you can rustle up the patience and determination to do this.

Go well, and focus on your own life.

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By maria Virgillio, Community Member— Last Modified: 06/14/12, First Published: 06/28/08