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 24 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

July, 15 2021 at 10:14 am

I know this is an old post, but I can’t find any help for my almost 15 year old daughter. She has been diagnosed with dmdd at age 9, but also has other issues. I don’t want to go into details too much, but with the school closure, she has gotten worse. She hasn’t done any online school, stopped taking care of herself, doesn’t see anybody. She has no friends or siblings. The school doesn’t want to help and say it’s a home problem and she needs counseling. She doesn’t want to go for counseling and because she’s 14 no doctor will see ne alone regarding her issues. No one will come to our home to help us. I need to send her to live elsewhere but even a lawyer can’t help me with that. I can’t afford a therapeutic boarding school and school doesn’t want to send her. My life is very difficult. My daughter doesn’t think there is anything wrong with her, never wanted to take meds. We tried countless supplements that we sneaked into food. I just need someone to come and help me. My daughter hates me and yet she is super attached to me and dependent upon me. She is very smart in. A Way, and in other ways she’s like. 2 year old and won’t do anything for herself. She screams snd cries, won’t let me comfort her, is stuck on ideas, very rude, destructive, manipulative, sad, depressed, etc.

September, 7 2021 at 7:44 pm

Did you get help for your daughter?? I’m in the same situation with my 12 year old daughter.. it’s very sad and difficult..

September, 8 2019 at 12:10 pm

I was looking at these post and they are from years ago. I am a single parent and my kid is an only child . It’s 2019 and I’ve been dealing with my now 21 yr old for years with her being defiant, rude, disrespectful, and down right distructive. I’m at my end and can’t deal with her anymore. I have been looking for health for years and always told that it’s her choice to get help. She has been inhaling cans for years, one minute she’s “normal” then the next she’s back on pills , marijuana.she doesn’t want medication and so I’ve tried over the counter natural things and she still refuses to take it. We’ve gone to counseling, therapist, at least 3 times in a mental ward with police contact and here we are still doing the same thing. I reach out for help and they say , she has to want to get help and of course she doesn’t think there’s a problem. I can’t take it!!!!! I can’t continue to live my life this way. I have asked her to leave several times and sometimes she says fine and she leaves for a few hours and then she comes back . I don’t like to not her back in because I don’t want her to cause a scene in front of neighbors. I have thought about going back to couseling alone because I don’t know what to do other than put her out, get a restraining order and just wash my hands of her.

May, 14 2021 at 8:42 am

Don't know if you are still reading this in 2021, but can totally relate as have a similar scenario going on, with a slightly older adult child. Hope you have found some help or solutions. There do not seem to be any from where I am currently standing. My own health & wellbeing are going downhill & I have to care for several dependents with an adult dependent child making life a misery for the family. I try to help & would spend every penny if something could help her. But she refuses & calling services escalates things to worse. Everyone blames parents, upbringing , trauma etc but there seems no reason in some cases, maybe a biochemical imbalance or something. I cannot bring myself to put her out of the home as she is not streetwise and would not last long - I would not put out my child with a physical illness so mental illness I treat the same. It is not the same though, is it? Thoughts & prayers to all in this type of situation.

May, 31 2021 at 10:56 am

Single parent of only child with chronic emo/physical issues since toddler. She's 23 now and very very stuck in every way. Feeling hopeless, l have my own emo/physical issues for a long time and exhausted. Helps a bit to know l am not alone and posting for others to know the same. Sending love to anyone who reads this. ❤️🙏

G Battle
July, 6 2021 at 8:17 pm

I am a single parent of one child with mental health issues. We have been to therapy and he has been in therapy since 2017. He has gotten better but still has anger issues. When he is calm we have great talks but when he gets angry I can't calm him down so I end up feeling like a child being scorned because I just don't say anything back. He was doing really well then he stopped taking the meds because he said they didn't help but they did help. His anger was under control but now it is on 1,000. He is 17 and is really bombarded with being an adult but I tell him not to focus on that so much but try to focus on one thing at a time like learning how to drive. Sometimes he is motivated but most of the time he isn't. His dad works all day and hardly spends anytime with him and I feel as if he is taking all of what he is feeling about his father out on me. I am at a lost on what I should do. He has many marks on his arm from cutting himself and now it has gotten to the point that he threatens to harm himself when he gets angry as a way of controlling the conversation. I am so lost and just want to give up. I've put my life on hold just so I can be emotionally available for him but I have no one whom I can vent to.

The Truth
August, 27 2018 at 8:33 am

They sure do unfortunately.

Debra Crotsley
May, 16 2018 at 1:57 pm

Here, here Angela!

January, 16 2018 at 4:37 am

I want to share my experience with DMDD and how after almost 8 years, we found help. (He was also adopted from birth)
Our lives, and the life of my daugher, centered around my son's explosions, which began in infancy. He often had several a day, and there was never a day without at least one. We didn't go places or do things that other families did, because normal activities were simply impossible. After almost 8 years of this, I hardly felt human.
We had tried every method we could find. We tried therapists and a well known children's center and got a diagnosis of ODD, but the diagnosis didn't help. We were getting frightened that his behavior would be even more difficult to manage as he got older and stronger, and had no idea what to do.
When our son was almost 8, we became worried about his progress as school. It was becoming clear that he was not able to focus or express himself as well as his peers. This lead to a neuropsych evaluation, and we finally had a useful diagnosis: DMDD, ADHD, and some processing disorders. Stumbling onto these diagnoses seemed miraculous. It gave us names for his issues, and a clear path to follow.
1: We started seeing a psychiatrist. She prescribed Guanfacine, a blood pressure medication, instead of going directly to ADHD meds. Just 1.5 mgs was enough to keep him from bouncing off the walls without making him a zombie. He still had plenty of energy, but his mood was awful, and nights were spend raging and smashing things while we held his door shut. We added a tiny bit of Prozac (just 4mg), and after a week, we had an entire day without an explosion. Then we had another, and another.
2: We also worked with a behaviorist and learned methods for dealing with this kind of extreme behavior. The methods we had tried before may work well for children with ordinary tantrums, but for someone with a mood disorder, they had no effect.
It's been a month now, and he's a different kid. He's had a few tantrums, but we know how to manage them and they are rare and for reasons we can understand. They are very different from explosions. He's clearly relieved that his life is happier, and we still can't believe the change.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 1 2018 at 4:32 pm

I feel your frustration and your joy. It’s so heart breaking to watch your child rage for no reason and then come back to you in the blink of an eye. Just know that your not alone as much as it feels that way at times. Stay the course and keep trying new things as things change.

June, 20 2017 at 3:46 am

My son is adopted right at birth. I saw him born; I held bio mom's hand when she had him, and I cut his cord. He is my baby. 10 years old now. Beautiful , smart, funny, and mentally ill. ADHD(minor diagnosis), conduct disorder, and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. Dr says criminal mastermind in there. I too pray 100 times a day for sure.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Susan M
July, 4 2017 at 2:52 pm

I understand. My 15 year old son has bipolar and marijuana addiction. I am his adoptive mother. Most days are very very difficult. My son threatens suicide, and abuses and threatens me. My husband wasn't supportive and we ended up divorced. Now I'm a single mother in this situation.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Marie Thompson
August, 10 2017 at 12:06 pm

My grandson we have raised since he was 16 months is also bipolar and has marijuana addiction as well although he will not admit it. He has been in jsil and rehab. He has drained our bank account asking for money daily and tgreater ing us. He recently stole our laptop. For a week he has been saying it's not gone but won't produce it. We are at our wits end. Our bills are not getting paid, behind on house mortgage. We can't take much more, I love him but hate who he is. Argue daily. He is going back to counseling, but if he goes and isn't honest it won't help. I know what you are going thru. It ruins your life.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Jo Jo
September, 1 2017 at 5:29 pm

My son is 4 and he has just been diagnosed with Adhd, DMDD, bipolar and high chance of schizophrenia. It has gotten so hard and doesn't help the fact that I also have my own mental illness. No one seems to understand what I am going through and think my son is just a bad kid. He is the sweetest boy every he just can't control his feelings sometimes and outburst.

Wondwossen N. Mekasha
May, 4 2017 at 6:58 am

Thanks for sharing ur expirience let me tell u mine a book can be written about my life i fall and rise three times i was mentally ill when i was 18 just weeks before entering a prestigous university in the country addis ababa university in electrical engineering i joined weeks after dropped out i start medication it was painful it was difficult to accept i couldn't beleive it was real i stayed home for five years without work or education full of painful moments all friends left me my father and mother are not able to educate me in a private college i come from a poor family i waited until my elder brother graduated and get a good job then i started education and managed to graduate with good GPA it's not easy to graduate strugling with pain i felt it was a sucess quickly i started work but the work was not situable for me it was stressful i quit then i told my self what is my future if i am not able to work i gave up then i decided to commit suicide just seconds before i prayed to God then i survived again i stayed home for two years i'm an orthodox christian i usually go to church and pray one day God helped me made the impossible possible i got a work which is not stressful and co-workers who understand my situation i 'm still working

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 16 2017 at 6:21 pm

Please look up iboga treatment. It's an amazing life changing, natural approach that is as close to a cure as there will ever be. My best to you.

September, 30 2016 at 3:43 am

Hi all. Thank you all for sharing your real thoughts and stories. I have a 12 year old with GAD, learning issues, possibly ADHD (finding out today), sensory issues, etc. My 17 year old struggles with depression and anxiety as well. I have been on anxiety meds for about 10 years now as well. I blame myself that the girls got this from me. I am also sad and discouraged that this will continue with my youngest especially for a long time, possibly her lifetime. I too have felt I wish it was all over..exhausted. Both girls are on medication and see therapists. 12 year old is started to "embellish or lie"..had DCF called this weekend saying we hit her (which is a lie). So hard because we love them so much. They get so much love and attention from us. I know a counselor will help me too. It's just so heavy sometimes. Thank you that I'm not alone. God has a reason for all this.

September, 13 2016 at 5:50 pm

this is a reply to Anne in the very first comment. I can't thank you enough for your honesty. You are a titan. Never forget that. I love you and pray for you. My son is 27, in a very bad place right now. We could likely be tomorrow's Google News, my worst nightmare. He's been hospitalized 9 times, committed for 30 days 3 times this year. They always send him home after about a week, fully psychotic. It's up to me to keep him from utter mayhem. My husband flies the coop as a coping mechanism. I'm active in NAMI but even that has no real answers. The system is rigged so that families have no real help, but when the worst happens, we are left accountable. My son never asked for this illness, but there are many times I wish he was simply GONE. I was an older mom, 34 with my son, and I completely reveled in motherhood. Such a happy time for me, and an idyllic childhood for him -- extended family, tremendous nurturing, home-cooked meals, etc. That made no difference. Schizophrenia got him. My daughter, only 18 months younger, is A-OK, or neurologically healthy, which has been a great reassurance that I didn't cause this. But maybe I did! Who knows, maybe I had a viral infection? He was born in February, and winter births have a prevalence of mental illness. Whatever. At this point, ten years into it, I'm losing my own mind. Drinking too much wine, falling apart, isolating... it's a shameful and lonely path to tread. I'm grateful and humbled by the other posts here, and despite my drinking too much wine, I'm a believer and have hope through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Thanks for listening! And God bless all of you out there who feel there's no answer. Someday we will see why it all happened.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 30 2017 at 12:33 pm

"Feb. births have a prevalance of mental illness"? Really? Where did you get this inaccurate info from? And 34 is not an "older mom". I had mine at 40 and 42. Just saying.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 1 2017 at 11:12 pm

Look it up on psych central, or just google it. I learned this in NAMI's Family to Family course. And by "older mother", I just mean that I wasn't in my 20s as many women are with their first child. I'm sorry if I offended you, I was just pouring out my woes in one of my worst years with my son's illness. I regret saying so much and wish everyone on this site the very best. My heart goes out to all of you.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 8 2017 at 11:07 am

Carol, you shouldn't regret coming to a place to vent and hopefully get some support and encouragemeny. I am praying for your son and you and your family. Behavioral health is tricky, but with determination, faith and time progress can be made.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kelli Nidey
January, 19 2018 at 3:42 pm

Decades ago Kaiser-Permanente tracked health data on people they insured, and a long-term follow up study on those people found that mothers who had the flu when pregnant, based on documentation at the time of pregnancy, were 4 times more likely to have a child who developed bipolar disorder, 10 times more likely to have a child with pediatric bipolar. So the idea of certain times of year or viruses impacting the risk is not off the wall. Lots of physical factors affect the risk. We need more research to get to the bottom of those risks. And age of father increases risk too, with risk starting to increase in the late twenties.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 30 2017 at 1:54 pm

HOW did you get into my head and steal MY thoughts?!?! ? I just read your comment and am shocked that how we think and cope ? Is EXACTLY THE SAME!! Such a shame that I can only find a mother who truly gets the level of hell I feel! Unfortunately, I have to scour the internet to find information AND people who have lived experience with SMI children.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Stacey PK
December, 11 2017 at 2:32 pm

Hi Carol, My heart hurts for you. My daughter is 16 (had her when I was 37) and struggles with psychotic depression/anxiety/likely bipolar and none of the therapy/medications are working well right now. She had (I tried) the same idyllic childhood your son did. I spent a lot of time wondering if I caused this by not paying enough attention to her, not noticing her symptoms earlier, not getting along better with her dad,etc. The truth is we mom's don't cause the mental illness in our children - it really is all biochemical and just a bad throw of the genetic dice. It would be easier in a way, if it was my fault. Then I could just be like 'aha'! there is the reason. You are being a wonderful mom to your son now, and I know it takes a lot of strength. Try to lose the guilt - it will only cripple you and not help anyone else. This is not your fault. I appreciate wine too, but I also try to do things that I can focus on to distract me (a garden, crafts). It helps to have something to point to, like the perfect tomato, to be happy about. Be well - I'm working on it!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 20 2019 at 10:13 pm

Thank you for your post!!! I relate! Sorry to have your company in this challenge. Never give up hope! Feels better to hear from someone with same life challenges and heartbreak! Stay strong! We loving, caring parents do the best we know how despite judgement felt from others that don't know what it is like to be in our world. We feel judged by parents that don't understand our challenge because they have a much different experience caring for their children. It is out of our control. It is in God's plan and or up to the child to comply with treatment plan to help themselves. You so badly want to fix it for them, but you can't. It is not like an ear infection that gets better with bubble gum medicine in a day like you wish! All you can do is try your best with resources available and love them. If parents are tired of dealing with their issues then the children must feel more tired😪 Recovery is possible! I have seen it. It is not a straight road. It has curves, bumps and uturns. My son is 28 and doing fairly well now and very helpful to me. He is my best friend. I have another child that has also struggled in a different way. It can skip a generation. Going to have another glass of wine now. Best wishes to all that struggle. Praying for all that struggle every night!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 8 2020 at 8:55 am

my son had a brain tumor when he was five months old after the operation he was left with mild epilpsy learning difficulties then when he was about sixteen he had Schizophrenia
he has been in mental hospital and had been abused in there he is now damaged from all this hes angry about it we are to blame Mum Dad for putting him there he is now 38 and its been hard i have done alot of crying but we are still there for him when he needs us hes our Son and we love him i keep praying so bless you all

September, 13 2016 at 8:29 am

I started going to Al-Anon last week and have made a commitment to go every week for at least 6 weeks. I want to have a better life and take care of myself and set clear boundaries with my children. I cannot do that alone. Love to all and thank you for sharing your heart-wrenching but not hopeless stories. There is always hope. We did not cause the problem, we cannot cure it, and we cannot control the outcomes. But we can learn how to take care of ourselves. I believe that, absolutely.

September, 9 2016 at 5:17 pm

I have a 27 year old son who's never been properly diagnosed in the 9 years since his first psychotic break at 19. To the best of my knowledge, he has schizoaffective disorder, both a thought disorder (thinks the government is spying on him, thinks our cat is human and can read his mind, etc.) and a mood disorder, ranging from mania which he LOVES to extreme, suicidal depression. He's addicted to pot and Adderall and has threatened suicide if he doesn't get Adderall, so my husband and I foolishly allowed him to find a doctor that prescribes it. Actually, he's on his third doctor who prescribes it, having the ability to appear normal and fool these docs that he has ADHD. We shut down the two previous docs, but now he's found another. Both my husband and I enable our son to get Adderall because we are desperate for peace, and our son says that Adderall is the only thing that makes him feel "normal" and allows him to interact socially. I relate to so many of the comments here, about wanting your child to have SOME happiness in their lives, when so much of their existence is sheer hell. But after 9 hospitalizations, terribly bizarre and destructive behavior (he's smashed windows, threw cinderblocks through our car windshield & window, burned himself with cigarettes, does backflips off our air conditioner unit in an effort to "prove" his courage, threatened to kill his dad, disappeared for days at a time, etc.) and after a metric ton of meds, outpatient programs, hospitalizations, therapists, constant supervision, help from extended family, prayer -- literally constant prayer -- I'm at a loss. I got involved with NAMI early on, and jumped in to volunteer too early on. I became a trained NAMI facilitator, and have helped lead six "Family to Family" classes, have done some public speaking, have been a "Family Presenter" for the Sheriff's Academy Crisis Intervention Training course, have been on Jail Diversion Committees, a local advocacy committee, have read endless online articles, researched nutritional supplements and tried to use them (he eventually refused even vitamins, and has consistently refused prescribed meds), participated & raised money in the NAMI Walk, know a lot of other families, etc. -- the bottom line is, I'm basically out of ideas and the system's response is, well, you're shit out of luck. I WAS able to get SSI for him, and then Medicaid, but it's still not enough. Most people don't get SSI on the first try, but I did, and I consider it an answer to prayer. I'm from a very prayerful family, but most family members have dropped out of sight -- not for me, but for my son. No one talks to him, because he's so impossible to know or spend time with. I don't fault my son's cousins, with whom he was very close, because they don't know what to say or do. It's a very lonely experience to have an adult child with severe mental illness. At this point in time, I lead a very "split" life -- on the one hand, I'm a capable, caring Family to Family instructor, sending loads of helpful emails to all the families I've come into contact with. But in my real life, I sit in my garage, praying that my son won't wake up, or if he's gone, that he won't get arrested, and I drink, chain smoke, and do crossword puzzles to escape the reality of this hell. My neighbors for the most part are wonderful -- we've been neighbors for decades, and they have their own pain which makes them sympathetic and empathetic. Two of my immediate neighbors have lost adult sons to suicide, and a younger family across the street has a daughter (and wife) with bipolar disorder. But we also have newer neighbors with young children who are afraid of us. My son, in the eerie way that mental illness ALWAYS finds your most vulnerable area to attack, has developed an obsession for the young mother next door. She recently called the police on my son, which was probably the apex of my humiliation and defeat. I think the next step is a restraining order... my son put a note in her mailbox, which definitely spooked her. I'm 61, and was raised a Lutheran (all that sternness!) and my mother (who herself dealt with depression and an abusive childhood) made "appearances" the absolute #1 priority -- NEVER do anything that would cause scandal or negative attention! She used to gossip about the neighbors on our street growing up -- thinking back, there was a lot of mental illness right on our street, a very upper-middle-class neighborhood in Northern Virginia, back in the 70s... we had neighbors with psychotic kids, suicides, a pedophile next door... but all was kept "under wraps." Yet when anything would happen with these troubled families, my mom, who was the absolute pillar of her church and a model Christian, would talk and talk. Consequently, I am so mortified by the fact that my own neighbor now has called the police about MY SON. I realize this is NOT the issue... my son lives in utter hell, and yet the shame I feel over his behavior has made me lash out at him in terrible ways. My husband's coping mechanism is to run away. He's a very successful guy, who made a lot of money by working hard, and now he flees to his boat and leaves for weeks at a time. I don't blame him, but it leaves me holding the bag. My three wonderful sisters have been so supportive, but after nine years of constant, almost Jerry Springer-like crisis in my life, have lost the zeal to support me. Again, I don't blame them. I sometimes think that if a terrible regime were in place, like Hitler's Germany, my son would be killed. I almost get jealous of all the people (and there have been six families I've known in the past two years) who's adult children with mental illness have killed themselves. Then, at least, the crisis would be over. My daughter, only 18 months younger than my son, is terrific -- a teacher, a great girl, beautiful, funny, sane, calm, and kind -- so I know that my flawed parenting isn't completely responsible for my son's problems. I'm grateful to have my daughter, because if it weren't for her, I know I would entirely blame myself for my son. When my kids were little, I had a lot of fights with my husband, who also has a mood disorder and a narcissistic personality. I used to thank God that my kids were okay, because I knew that if anything went wrong with them, my husband would blame me. I often think of those words from Job, "the thing I have feared has come upon me." I sometimes worried that if anything went wrong with my kids, my whole world would collapse. Well, my son is severely mentally ill and my world is reduced to a very weird existence. I love to entertain and frankly, being a "do-gooder' is hard-wired in me and two of my three sisters. This was how my mother coped with all her past horrors, and it was ingrained upon us girls to always help others. I don't want to sound like a jackass, but I will say this: mental illness strips away your ability to do nice things for other people, because you're so consumed with your own freaking mess that you can't even remember birthdays. I've now become quite the drinker, and I look like a hag most days. I'm so fortunate that I don't work... I read these blogs and can't imagine having to go to work after being up all night, with all the drama that goes on. I DO pray like a nun, constantly... it's almost a form of mental illness, the way I pray. Constantly. And I sometimes think, well, maybe if I became someone who's a complete ZEALOT for the Lord, my son would be healed! But my logical brain says that's only magical thinking. I often long for my son to be dead, which would free him from his misery and allow me to live the rest of my life in some form of peace. Of course the guilt would kill me. The system is designed to fuck us all over... if you're lucky enough that your relative takes their meds, sees their therapist, and hasn't been too brain-damaged by inept doctors and hospitalizations (they've done more harm than good), get on your knees and thank God! Anyways, I love this post and will send it to my various groups. Nobody's pain is worse than anyone else's -- pain is pain -- but I must say, I'm humbled by so many of the posts here, and what people have endured. The same is true for the families I've met in my NAMI classes and support groups. Go to a NAMI support group, if you can. Sometimes, you just feel too numb to even talk to anyone. I love all of you and I can only pray that someday the truth of all this suffering will be revealed. Thanks for letting me rant in this post with no paragraph breaks! Sorry about that. Love to all.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 13 2017 at 6:47 pm

you are so right it is a living hell hell on earth. try going to work and coming home dealing with the hell. i just cant do it anymore. pain is pain. i pray for you as well. Not sure why God has put me and my son thru this hell. My son can not turn his brain off. why cant things be different? I dont know what to do anymore. I cant help him and he wont/cant help himself. SMI is horrible i dont wish it upon anyone and their families. the system is designed to screw the mentally ill over. this day and age you would think there would be more resources for the poor family going thru with this.

September, 5 2016 at 7:48 am

Hi everyone, fellow mom here with two teens who have suffered from anxiety disorder (panic, GAD, social anxiety) since they were very little and it escalated to depression in adolescence. I am a professional who has studied and researched adolescent anxiety and depression and have a very good understanding about the best treatment for the best outcomes. What I have never read about in any of the literature is how to deal with noncompliance. For example, you know what your child needs but your child is unwilling to: take their medication even when it actually helps; actively participate in their treatment plan (whether inpatient or outpatient); accept that they have a problem at all; follow rules at home; and on and ON. I don't know what is more heartbreaking - the child who has everything available to him or her and refuses the help or the child who is willing but help is unavailable due to funding issues, long wait lists, and sometimes parents who disagree about what the problem is. Personally, I think the latter is more heartbreaking. The former is infuriating!!!! It is my reality. I am powerless. I cannot change my daughter. I cannot make her want help. I cannot motivate her. SHe has everything at her fingertips as far as getting help goes and she does not want it. Well, in truth, she is afraid - and such is life with anxiety disorders.
The only thing I can do is learn how to not enable her. It is my most important work. She is almost 20 now and my husband and I have given her until November 1st to find another place to live. I have cried and cried and been sick to my stomach about this. But I have to look back at this lifetime of trying to get help for my daughter. I, like so many - ALL- of us, have worked very, very hard to help this suffering child who was suicidal for years, hated herself, been paralyzed with fear and stuck in her head due to her mental illness. It is heartbreaking. I cannot make her take responsibility for her health. I cannot. Until now, she really has not had to take responsibility for it because I have been here every step of the way pleading with her, nudging her, pushing her, educating her, turning the wifi off and on depending on whether or not she does what she is meant to do..... I could go on and on and on. So, my hardest work yet is to get out of the way.
Every single child and every single family is unique.
We all share a love of our children, deep concern for our children, mental exhaustion, sleep deprivation and therefore physical exhaustion, and a need to connect with other parents who have empathy because we understand the struggles, despite the differences in the details.
Manipulation is a part of the acting out behaviour. Behaviour serves a purpose. Our daughter absolutely freaks out and it works. We back off and do not insist that she ..... fill in the blank (go to school, get a job, get help for getting a job, get help with school, continue with her counsellor, stop self-medicating with alcohol and codependency and the internet........). This does not mean the child is bad and deserves to be punished. It means the child needs help. Whether she takes it or not is up to her and some power that is greater than me.
We are all in this together. We all have done a lot of things right. I know I have done a lot of things that have enabled my children in order to make things easier for myself. I think I am done with completely beating the crap out of myself for that. I was in survival mode for many years.
hugs and best wishes and I hope we can find the support we need to put the oxygen masks on ourselves first.

August, 31 2016 at 8:42 am

I am going through this with my 14-year old step-daughter. Hannah has been in an in-patient facility 8 times in the last year. She has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. She is very manipulative and continues to cut herself and threaten suicide. Our entire family is exhausted. We have the maximum out patient services in place, which includes seeing a Psychiatrist, Therapist, Group therapy, Home based services with another Social Worker and Community Resource Specialist. We are on the waiting list for long-term residential treatment. I hope the time comes soon because our family is burned out with the behaviors. We get calls every day from the school because she has one reason or another to not go to class. When she makes a threat to hurt herself we take it very serious. Currently she is doing an in-patient stay and when she returns home, she has is to be supervised at all times. That is hard for my husband and I, because our jobs do not allow us home until about 6pm in the evening. We are having a family member move in with us for the next month, so she will be supervised while we are at work...and after school. She has to be escorted to every class and even to the bathroom, by a peer or student aid at school. It is almost as if she likes this 'special treatment'. It is so weird to us. She has made allegations of sexual abuse, changes her stories. We do believe she was sexually abused, however do not believe all of the stories. Because I am her step-mother, alot of her anger has been directed towards me. Her mother is currently serving time in jail, and at one time she was a Goddess. But in fact, her mother has been a big part of this problem. Turning Hannah towards her father and me, lying to her and being the good guy and not discipline her. My husband and I do whatever we can do to make sure she is taken care of properly and even have the things that she wants. We have 3 other boys, and they do not want anything to do with her. I honestly want her to go somewhere else to live, because of the stress she has caused our home. We simply have a broken mental health system. There is not enough resources for suicidal teens in the state of Indiana. The waiting lists are long...and some have strict criteria. Because she has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, she will need treatment for several years. I just don't have it in me to keep doing for her. I am completely exhausted.

August, 29 2016 at 9:40 am

I have been searching the internet for comfort I guess. My 30 year old psychotic son had a crisis episode August 5 2016 in Florida and was shot twice in the chest until dead by an unqualified deputy detention officer, I guess trying to be a hero. I see that I am not alone in this horrible nightmare that is called living. My heart goes out to all parents that live in a country that does not have the knowledge or the help that is so needed for our children at any age.

July, 30 2016 at 10:12 am

Reading through these comments makes me feel 1) not alone and 2) completely hopeless for my 12 YO diagnosed with BP (diagnosed at age 8) and 3) completely hopeless for the "lives", such as they are now, of my husband and I. We're in another cycle of trying new RX doses due to growth/hormone changes, and I see no end in sight of this constant cycling/readjustments for him, for us. And the many comments in this thread convince me that indeed, there will be no end to this absolute horror that is our reality. Misery with company is still misery. If I had known about the mental illness was in the family I would never had had children.

July, 25 2016 at 5:01 pm

Listening to everyone's comments gives me so much hope. I have a 26 year old son diagnosed with bipolar and schizophrenia. While in high school he voted most handsome class favorite and an awesome athlete toward the end of his senior year I started noticing changes in his personality and moods he started to become more angry and withdrawn and a year after graduation he was diagnosed with these 2 mental illness and our lives has been a living hell for our family to this day. He refuses to cooperate with anything refuses meds takes a bath with his clothes on at least 3 times a day takes all sheets off the beds urinates in public very vulgar and says rude and obscenities when he doesn't get his way refuses to get a haircut and keep up his hygeine and is addicted to the drink Red Bull. I love my son but he needs to live in a group home for therapy and daily life skills but because of his age I have no say so and he thinks he's normal and the community/county I live in has little resources and care to offer. Does anyone have any suggestions ? Depressed mother.

July, 6 2016 at 7:08 am

Wow! So many suffering. My heart goes out to all of you. My bright beautiful daughter has High Functioning Autism, mood disorder, ADHD and ODD. While most of the world sees a "normal", quirky beautiful, friendly girl, we tip toe around an unmotivated, irritable, anxious frustrated unmanageable grizzly bear. And that's on a good day. On a bad day she is physically and verbally aggressive. We have holes in every wall and every door. Her room looks like a pen at the zoo. Every knob on our dashboards in our cars are busted. Flower bushes are pulled up and thrown around the yard. I've been spit on, bitten, hit, punched, kicked and pushed. She's even blown snot on me. If I engage she's mad, if I don't engage she's mad. She's always looking for an excuse to blow. If she loses something she'll blame me and act out. If her clothes aren't dry in the dryer, she'll blame me and act out. If I fix the wrong thing for dinner--LOOK OUT! We make tentative plans only and worry when we have an event, like another child's wedding or graduation, that we can't cancel. She is frequently hospitalized and has completed 4 day treatment programs as well as DBT classes and counseling and whatever else we could throw at the wall. We work with a wonderful counselor and psychiatrist who specialize in her issues, but NOTHING works for long. My husband and I are exhausted and our other children are neglected. I feel constant guilt. We homeschool so we can keep her safe. Everyday I wake up with a rock in my gut wondering what daughter I will have when I wake her. She manages to blame every single mistake, bad choice, consequence on us and logic is not a part of her thinking at all. We managed well until she was about 14 and then a flip switched and it's been a frightening roller coaster ride that we can't exit ever since. My poor daughter does not want to be this way, or feel these things or act like this. I see so much greatness in her, but no amount of love, or support or prodding or pulling can keep her on track for more than a minute. But when I'm in the middle of throwing a wild pity party, or feeling like I'm too exhausted and worn out and beat down to go on, I hear about someone else's heartaches and hardships and it reminds me that God must really have faith in all of us. He entrusted his precious, struggling children to us. Thank you all for sharing. You've reminded me that we can do this! Love and understanding to you all!

June, 21 2016 at 4:03 pm

I have a 30 year old bipolar son. We've been dealing with this mental health issue for almost 28 years. I often found it hard to describe what it feels like to be the mother of a bipolar child. Several years ago I found a blog by the mother of an adult bp child. It was titled "Why I hate my bipolar child." It gave an analogy, of what having a bp child was like, using a puppy. It so perfectly described how I felt. I have lost my copy and have been unable to find it on the Internet. Has anyone else ever read this?

June, 17 2016 at 10:03 pm

Wow. Reading all of your posts is just heartbreaking. I found this by accident, and it's put some things into perspective for me. My almost 12 year old son has been at an inpatient hospital program in Utah (we live in Missouri) for 5 and a 1/2 weeks now, and it's basically been concluded that he needs to continue on to a long term residential therapeutic program/boarding school. It's a devastating decision to me. He's got ADHD, depression andanxiety plus everything that goes along with all of that. You all know what that is. I had to hospitalize him because of his increasingly violent behavior towards me and towards himself as well as property destruction in our home. There's plenty of other stuff too, but right now it seems minor compared to all you all have gone through. Through family therapy at the hospital, he's admitted that he's done all that he's done to get revenge on me and make me suffer for his "horrible life". The reality is that he's got a wonderful life. Yes, his father and I are divorced, and he's abandoned him, but he has so much more than that in his life that is wonderful. As hard as this is for me, I'll get through this, especially knowing how much worse it could be. Sending you all so much love.

May, 26 2016 at 7:04 pm

My family has been dealing with my son's mental illness since about age 16. He is a sweet and creative young man who's now 36.but diagnosed as schizoaffective or bipolar which may be complicated by a brain injury caused by radiation for a sarcoma under his right eyebrow. He has major impulse problems and has done jail time recently. We are trying to figure out a place for him to live. He's In mental health court which is helpful but has many rules. Our younger daughters are ok but the concern as we age and struggle and feel stuck is ever present. My husband and I argue as the stress of the odd and disruptive behavior is major. We retired after many strenuous years of owning our own business but are having a hard time even leaving for the weekend. My heart goes out to all of you with these problems and even worse. I prevail as falling into a major PTSD depression left me unable to move off the couch in the past. Have to keep moving and trying.

May, 24 2016 at 8:02 pm

My family is falling apart because of mental illness!
It is 1:40AM and I've been crying privately for the lost of my family for the last few hours. Today was a typical day! Today everything was fine until something very minor set my middle daughter off. My 16 year old daughter poured 5 boxes of cereal all over the house, threw all of her medicines around and took all of the sheets off of all of the beds in the house.
I have three daughter. My 16 year old (middle) daughter started to show signs of mental illness 2 years ago. What I'm most fearful about is that the metal illness "roller coaster ride" will never end. Yes, we will have good periods but they are only temporary - the illness will always be there. I'm crying tonight because I just realized that the roller coaster is going to be our normal for now on! My old life is gone. Now my life will be defined by my daughters mental illness! From the outside we look like a perfectly normal family but in our house things are so unhealthy!
Mental illness effects everybody in the family I feel so bad that my youngest daughter (13 year old)r does not want friends to come over because you "never know" how things will be at the house. She deserves a better childhood then this! I try to remind her that the first 11 years of her life were wonderful but I don't think she will remember in a few years. To top it off my marriage is going to hell too! My husband and I just co-exist in the same house. I can be right next to him but still feel alone. He is a good person we just handle the problems so differently.
I'll keep everybody in my prayers and will come back to the site to get strength from all of you! We can do this! We can get through the night and wake up tomorrow and be a mom, and wife to those we love and go to work iand nobody will know what a tough night we had!

May, 18 2016 at 6:07 am

Hi to all. We all have such stories to tell. My child is currently in a board and care and in a Step-Down Program. After this last hospitalization in 2015 we decided we weren't going to accept her home any longer, so we refused her discharge to home. We realized that bringing her home after a hospitalization (there have been many throughout the years), she would gradually go back to her usual life, not sleeping, not eating properly, not taking pills when asked to, being disrespectful and vulgar and violent, not progressing, etc., and based on the doctor's recommendation at the hospital, she was conserved. She is 29 years old and has schizoaffective disorder. We have had problems with her since she was 12 years old. It started with an oppositional disorder diagnosis to bipolar and when she was about 17, then went to schizoaffective and has been consistently diagnosed as schizoaffective by many many doctors in different places, so I guess that is a pretty good confirmation. We had sent her to a residential treatment facility when she was 15 for a year. It was a school and treatment facility in Utah (we are in California). Basically kept her safe for a year. We learned that she functions better in an organized/restrictive environment. The school district did pick up the cost at the time. Basically for the past 17 years or so since, we have been dealing with a difficult child/adult. There were some clues even before then, but mostly behavior broke out at about 12 and then worsened at 17 with psychosis which led to the current diagnosis of schizoaffective. With this roller coaster ride going up and down and up and down, you can predict the path and realize it isn't going to change. So we had to deny her to come home this time because it wasn't in her best interest and was getting very dangerous for us too. It's a terrible thing to have to call the police on your child. I've had to a few times. Not fun trying to protect your baby from hurting someone or herself, especially when you think of all the times when she can be so sweet. Being vulgar to us verbally is bad enough, but she has in the past and currently more presently was becoming more physical with us when she didn't get what she wanted. We realized that help is what she needed, if at all possible, so therefore by us not taking her back, forced the system to deal with her, by conserving her and placing her in a program. Will this help? I don't know. But it gives us hope that she will learn some life/living skills so she can be as good as she can and if that means living a board and care, then so be it. We are not going to be around forever and her brother and sister have their lives and no one cares as you do about your kid, as we all know. It gives us hope and comfort at this moment that for now she is fairly safe and getting some kind of help, and we are getting a well-needed break.

May, 12 2016 at 2:49 am

Its sad to say its a little comforting to know I am not alone. My son is 25, 6 foot and over 300 pounds and I am just terrified of him. I am in Florida and have been searing and searching for help for years to no avail. I don't know what to do anymore. We walk on egg shells, I have to lock my door when I sleep at night. For the least few weeks he has refused to take his medicine and his behavior has been even worst. I can't buy groceries because he gets up in the middle of the night and eats everything. I am lucky if I get to eat once a day... We are about to lose everything and I just don't know what to do anymore.

May, 5 2016 at 4:49 pm

I came upon this thread while searching for a support group. My daughter, who is 11, is having some severe problems, including violence (beating me and my fiance up, putting holes in walls, throwing things, bashing her head into the wall, hitting herself) any time she gets upset. She's always thrown temper tantrums, but I thought they would stop. As she got older, it became apparent that this was a legitimate problem and not just a drawn out terrible two's phase. I started trying to get her mental health care when she was 7. It took until she was 8 to actually get an appointment and talk to someone. First, they diagnosed her as bipolar and started her on Abilify. She was seeing a therapist regularly. This seemed to help a little bit for a little while, but that was short-lived. Right around that time, we had to move- I was accepted to grad school in another state. When we moved down, we found a new doctor and therapist. They objected to her previous diagnosis of bipolar disorder stating that they don't usually diagnose children with bipolar disorder. The person prescribing the medicine (a nurse-practitioner- not even a doctor!) said that she thought it's just anxiety and started weening my daughter off of the Abilify and started her on BuSpar. Things went downhill fast, but because there were changes in medication going on, we tried to stick it out to let things even out. Unfortunately, we ended up having to have her admitted to the hospital because she was talking about hurting herself and wishing she was dead after one of her tantrums (that seems to be a pattern- she gets mad and hurts everyone else, then feels bad and hates herself). She was at the hospital for about 24 hours- the doctor there diagnosed her with Disruptive Mood Disregulation Disorder and continued her on Abilify. She came back home, and things were still kind of rough. I talked to her therapist because when my daughter's not upset, she's the sweetest, kindest, most helpful angel in the world. That's the side of her they usually see, and I think it makes it hard for them to grasp what it's like at home when she's upset. It got to the point that any time she heard no or something didn't go the way she wanted, she'd lose her mind and attack everyone. She's been back to the hospital 2 more times, the cops have been to our house 5 times because of her assaulting us and herself. We are about to start a program in which a therapy team will come to our house a couple times a week to try and figure out what's going on and what we can do to fix it. I hope it works- I really feel like this is the last option before a residential treatment center (or juvenile hall if she keeps assaulting people). I don't want her to go to either of those places, but I feel like I've tried everything and nothing's helping. I feel resentment and frustration towards her because I sacrifice so much and work so hard to make her life better, but yet I can't do anything without her beating me up (today I was simply trying to take the family out to our favorite restaurant for dinner, and I ended up being assaulted for 2 hours). Then the resentment and frustration makes me feel like a terrible mother. I love her, but when she's beat me up for the 4th time this week, I find it hard to like her. Her illness is making my house a miserable place to live. I have also had the urge to drive my car off the road, and sometimes dread coming home because I know it's only a matter of time before the storm starts again. And I can't even get into the fear and helplessness I feel when thinking about the future. She's already participating in risky behavior (she stole the password for the computer's parental controls, made a Facebook profile, and was talking to middle aged men that she didn't know), and I worry that it's going to worsen. I hope that everyone who has found this site starts to get some answers and things start to get better, both for you and for your kids.

Jean Moyer
February, 24 2016 at 8:26 pm

I have two mentally ill grandchildren who put their mother in prison for four years with their lies when she tried to get them help. The courts gave her son to his father who had not seen him for 13 years. He has destryed his father's life now. He burnt down his bedroom and cost his father his job and home. Now he he is 16 his father wants to give him back to my daughter who just got out of prison because they are afraid of him. He beat me and my elderly mother uo beforr he was placed with his father. We too live in Florida. No help here. He knows how to manipulate the system. He is going to kill someone. He hasn't showered in a month. Sleeps on a cot in the dining room with monitors at his father's and on strong sleeping pill to keep them safe at night. My daughter is not going back to prison again because of him.

Maggie Burnett
February, 14 2016 at 10:14 pm

Hello broken parents,
I adopted two sisters almost 17 years ago. No one knew at the time that both girls would turn out to be severely mentally ill. They were both raped by their bio father as infants. This gave them both PTSD along with their congenital mental health issues. My girls have had every diagnosis from soup to nuts with therapy and medication being the "cure". Nothing has worked. My family is upside down. My marriage is holding on by a thread. My kids hate each other. When the alloted 15 weeks of therapy is up my girls are cured. Until.....I get beat up again. Then the insurance offers another 15 weeks. Therapists all think they have things under control and refuse to listen to me that my girls lie to them and are playing them for fools. As their primary caregiver I know the truth and live the nightmare. The question is always out there - are they able to stop this or is it just manipulation. The answer is difficult to swallow. No they can't stop this. Their minds are not normal. They are the best manipulators in the world but their reality is one of their own twisted reality. I understand your anguish. I have lost all of my friends and most of my family due to the hellish things that go on at my house. I have begged for help at mental health. I have gone to court and had one of my girls locked up for a short time for her safety. My daughter turned 18 recently and now HIPPA stands in the way of my assisting in her care. She ran away and is now living with a man 35. She is mentally/emotionally about 12 to14 and I can do nothing about this pervert. I have no where to turn and no one to talk to. I've run out of tears and have an overabundance of anger. I fight the bad mommy guilt everyday. I know I am one hell of a good parent. I get up everyday and try again. I've even looked into exorcizm as I've run out of options. My hat goes off to all of you living in this nightmare. As we all spend sleepless nights looking for that magic pill that will help us wake up from this hellish situation I am glad that we can find solice in each other. We will figure this out! I am not a quitter and I am on a mission to save my girls from their devastating illness. Mental illness affects so many more persons than just the sufferer. I wish you all the best!

February, 13 2016 at 5:54 pm

came across this post mainly by accident. I too, have a mentally ill 15 year old daughter that suffers from major depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. She has been in and out of hospitals over the past two years. She is finally stabilized enough to participate in daily life such as school and social programs. She is learning to stand up for herself. I am afraid that her father will cause her to relapse. He will not change his ways and talk to her calmly without demanding affection from her. When she tries to talk he shuts her up by yelling at her. Her therapist believes that this treatment will do her more harm than good. I am thinking about a divorce just to keep my daughter safe.

February, 6 2016 at 7:15 pm

I just came across these post. It is so hard some days to just deal. My daughter is 8 and was diagnosed when she was 3 with sever bi polar, ocd,panic disorder, adhd and started having ptsd after her older brother was kills. She has her good days and her bad. I guess I feel lucky that I have a very strong circle of people that work with my daughter. Dont get me wrong it was a up hill battle and I have fought for everything she has. She dies play and art therapy, horseback riding therapy, has the best physiatrist and a great pediatrician who all help and answer questions for me. I maimed streamed my daughter in school and I had to fight to get her IEP done right so she wont slip though the system. Just breath...things get better...I always tell my daughter she is special and even though she has rough patches it makes me really appreciate the good days even of they only once in awhile. I too diagnosed when I was a child with most of what my child has. As parents we just have to stay strong and never settle until they help you and your child.

January, 13 2016 at 2:54 pm

I have spent another evening crying and being mad at the world. Found out my son will be going to Ohio's state mental hospital for the third time.this time for a year. He broke into a church, than called the police on himself and told them a man held him at gunpoint and made him do it. He is 23 and has schizo effective disorder. I had delusions myself this time of being super mom and getting him the help he needs. I grieve for my son, I grieve for that adorable baby he once was, for that class clown he once was,for that handsome teen who never lacked friends or girls chasing him. I grieve for who he could of been had this horrible desesase had not gripped his being.I called NAMI today and decided to get into a support group instead of turning to drugs to ease the pain as I have done in the past. But I know a drug addict mother will surely never help him. We have to accept life as it is and not how we think it should be.I know what feeling hopeless and helpless feels like.I know how unfair it seems. I will continue to visit him and show my love and support. I will continue to be his advocate. There is only so much we can do. But if we all started writing our senater, govner,Congress men about the mental health system maybe they would start hearing our crys.20% of the prison population has mental illness. My son was in prison for a year, and he came out five times worse than he was before he went in. Good luck to you all, and remember prayer works!

December, 21 2015 at 1:31 am

What exactly is going on with your son? What symptoms is he having ?

December, 21 2015 at 1:28 am

What is going on exactly with your son ? What are his symptoms ?

December, 20 2015 at 6:06 am

I've been sitting here all morning thinking I am alone. Thank God I found this site. I too live in Florida. My adopted 11 yrs old son seems to be getting worse. Nothing seems to work. Because of his insurance we are down to every other week for counseling. I fear for his future.

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