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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Collateral Damage: Living with the Seriously Mentally Ill

My daughter, like her biological mother before her, has bipolar disorder. She was first diagnosed at age twelve, not long after I started dating my current wife, Erin. Why Erin didn't run when all of this happened I will never know. Those early days, and right on through the teen years, were not easy. In fact, they were hard as hell. Granted there were good days as well as bad, but the bad days that resulted from a serious mental illness combined with the raging hormones of adolescence are more or less equivalent to storing nitroglycerin next to the campfire. If you're lucky, everything will work out fine, but somehow you can't help but feel with each passing day that you are pressing your luck to the breaking point.

After a series of events over the past two months I finally had to call the police Tuesday night to take my now adult daughter to the hospital. Some will think it's terrible that I am writing about this, but since the police were involved there will be a story in the police blotter about the call. That makes it public record. So, if it bothers you that I am writing about it I must kindly tell you that is your problem and encourage you to deal with it on your own because the truth is I just don't care. I don't care because I am tired, and worn down, and battered - and sick and tired of people telling me that I cannot publicly express my feelings about what has happened out of concern for the "sick person" as the "sick person" moves about inflicting collateral damage on everyone in the household with no sense of remorse or regret whatsoever. My frustration with this is compounded by the fact that bipolar folks are notoriously non-compliant with treatment, meaning that they could function at a much higher level but simply chose not to do so.

The problem with living with someone who has an illness that distorts their perception of reality is that it takes a toll on everyone. All the senseless circular arguments, all of the accusations regarding things that never happened, all of the insistence that their distorted perceptions are in fact accurate and the accurate perceptions of family members are not, and all of their endless sense of entitlement wears those of us who live with and care for the chronically mentally ill down until we seriously question our ability to carry on. Then there are the endless hours they spend on the telephone and on social media telling friends and family how terrible it is to be living where they are living, surrounded by the insensitive louts who are actually caring for and to a large extent financially supporting them! The truth is that if it weren't for our grandchildren I would have long ago asked our daughter to leave, but they deserve better than to be raised by a single parent subjecting them to this kind of chaos and crazy making behavior. Her behavior in front of them tonight before I called the police was just terrible, and reflected the probable existence of a personality disorder on top of everything else. It was as if I could see their future therapy bills piling up with every word that came out of her mouth.

And I am not supposed to speak or write about it.

Well, I am not buying it. I am not buying it because I know there are thousands of other people like me who are trying their best to do the right thing for a sick family member and receiving much more grief than reward for their efforts. I want to say that those of us in this position need to have a place where we can talk about our struggles. I am going to look into a way to make that happen. Watch for details, and until then know that you aren't alone!


  1. Living with someone diagnosed bi-polar is a nightmare that few people can understand unless they experience. From the non-compliance with treatment to the crazy-making accusations, daily life is tip-toeing around traps you know are there but can't see.

    I applaud you for your transparency and your courage. It is time that communities practice compassion toward care-givers and realize that they endure a silent abuse that few dare to reveal.

  2. I feel it took incredible strength for you to do what you did. Anyone that has ever encountered a loved one with bipolar knows that it is a nightmare. Not for the faint of heart. Never knowing what to expect other than that whatever it is will probably be worse than the last thing you went through. I sincerely hope a lot more research is done regarding bipolar disorder because it is vital that it be managed which is almost impossible at present.