28 yo son with Bipolar


Well-Known Member
I'm new to the forum. I just want to say that I have been comforted to know that there are other parents out there struggling with mental health issues with their kids. I'll try to be brief.
We have a 28 yo son, adopted, bi-racial, whom we have loved since he was 4 mos old. As a boy, he was wonderful, and even as a teen, he was fine. He was "normal" although as a teen we did notice he seemed to be a little shy around girls. By the time he graduated from college, we realized that he was dealing with what we thought was just normal situational depression. In the past five years, he has lived with us three separate times, and each time, we just kept thinking that if we helped him get on his feet, he would be fine. In June 2016, he moved to Denver. Long story short--last summer he started having trouble with his car, became very frustrated and depressed, and we were trying to help him as best we could from out of state. In late October, he got into a fight with his roommate, was charged with simple assault, and ended up losing his car. At the same time, we found out from his birth mother that she is Bipolar herself. Since the assault charge, he has become hostile and belligerent toward us, texting us long "rants" about how we don't care for him, never did anything for him, how we're selfish, miserable people, etc. Now it's to the point that he says he wants nothing to do with us unless we're willing to help him get a "status" car instead of the car we gave him several months ago. When I text him, he will tell me to F*** off, etc. He has become a very hateful person, and it hurts so much when I remember what he was once like. He seems fixated on acquiring a status car.
I just happen to work for a psychiatrist, with whom we've spoken, and who also believes he is Bipolar. I guess my question is---how do we respond to him? We have helped with rent and grocery money, etc. but have stopped doing that because we see it does no good. He will not accept that he is ill and needs help. We are, however, still paying for his cellphone. When he becomes really nasty, I have reminded him that we can confiscate his car and remove his cellphone service if necessary, and he stops. My husband and I are grieving. It seems we have lost our son. We know we need to protect ourselves from his verbal abuse, but it's hard to let go, and I don't know whether to just step back entirely and make no contact with him or keep trying.
I guess I just needed to vent.


Well-Known Member
Hi. I am so sorry. The status car attempted blackmail is too insane to answer. I wouldn't even respond to it. I would ignore it. Also, you have the option of not reading or responding to abusive texts. Fighting per text never works. But if your son is disrespectful, you have a right to say, even over the phone, "Son, I love you and always will, but buying you anything doesn't show love or help you grow up. If you are not respectful, I will not continue any conversation until you talk respectfully. I need some space now. We can try again tomorrow. No more today." Disconnect. Don't answer for 24 hrs. I do three days.

You can shorten the speech. This worked magic with my son. He is not disrespectful now because he learned i wouldnt engage in abuse and will not respond for three days if he is not nice. And he likes to talk to me. It has really improved our relationship.

Do you know if your son is on drugs, pot included? Some move to pot friendly states for that reason. His sudden change could be drug use, even more than pot.

Is there some reason your son can't work and pay his own bills?

I have three beloved, cherish adopted kids...one is African American, one is bi racial one is Asian. We look like a silly poster for Brotherhood...lol. My one bio. son is my more difficult child. The other kids are angels.

Again, very sorry. Love and light!
Last edited:


Well-Known Member
Thank you for your response. As far as we know, he is not on drugs. Of course, living out of state, we have no idea if that's true or not. I understand that addictions are often part of Bipolar illness. He does work, although intermittently, and for temp agencies as a general laborer, mainly because he doesn't like to interact with people, doesn't like authority, and can't hold a permanent job. We have told him that we will no longer pay his rent, and since he has basically estranged himself from us this last month or so, we have stopped asking if he needs money for groceries. We have decided not to enable him. But my struggle is in the "letting go", the grieving of what was, what might have been, etc. I just keep falling into the trap of thinking that somewhere inside is that person he once was, instead of the hateful, disrespectful person he is now, and I can't stand the thought that maybe if I keep trying, something will click in his mind and he will ask for help. I'm wondering if we should detach completely, and if we do, we might miss the opportunity to see him one day get treatment and get healthier and be able to have a relationship with him.


Well-Known Member
You don't need to do anything g extreme, but I would stop hoping he needs help or giving g help. There are food pantries, food cards, social security if he applied for Disability ( he will need to provide proof of bipolar and evidence he can't work full time.


Well-Known Member
Thank you. How do you deal with the day-to-day knowledge that you may never see them again, with wondering if they are on the street homeless, dead, in jail, etc? The grief is so hard. My husband and I are hurting right now. It just seems like all the years of love we poured into him were a waste. He acts like he hates us and doesn't remember the affection we showered him with, the stable home we provided, the material things we provided, the many times we paid his rent and other living expenses over the last five years. Detaching from him feels like giving up.


Well-Known Member
I don't think he will disappear. But I had a similar experience and it broke my heart. You can text him that you love him and miss him even if he does not respond the way you like. My biggest help was therapy from a psychologist that only worked with adoption issues which helped a lot. For two years I cried with him as he helped me cope and explained things to me.

See, we adopted another child from another country at age 6. We loved him to the moon but he not only didn't really have the ability to attach but he mourned for his original culture although he had been in an orphanage. He married a girl from his culture and she gave me the creeps from Day One although we were all nice to her. She wanted him to herself and helped pull him away from us. I don't blame her. He was 28 and it was his choice. But nothing worked for us after he met her and he was cruel to his siblings too. So they got mad at him. He didn't care and it has now been a very long g time since I have seen him. Over a decade. Yes I went through every stage of grief. But I am okay now, however my other kids helped a lot. I do know that the child, now 40, is very wealthy and takes care of his family. So I don't have to worry about him. But it was very hard at first. To this day, I do t know why he did it. All our letters went unanswered.

So zi get your fear, BUT your son is not as eauipped as ours was to care for himself without loved ones around him. I strongly believe he will be back. Do you have any other family who can reach out to him?

Do get therapy. I don't know if I would have made it without. I also am very spiritual and my higher power helped me and still does...every day.

Stick around. Others have gone through this. You are not alone.


Well-Known Member
Thank you for sharing your experience. My faith in God is what gets me through from day to day, that and my husband. I would love to get therapy, but it's not in the budget. My husband is a pastor of a small, rural church, and I work full time in order to make ends meet. I have learned a lot from reading many of the posts on this site and am still learning. It helps to hear the experience of others and to know that we are not alone in this experience. We have another son, age 23 and biological child, who is doing great, so I try to hold onto that. I am trying to navigate this "grief thing" and learn HOW to think about all this without allowing my emotions to lead my responses.


Well-Known Member
Hi beta and welcome.

Our stories are almost identical except my son was 22 months when I met him and is now 29. We struggle too in how to support him.

This is how I understand my son's situation. We are the only parents he has but he feels (and) has been seriously damaged and abused and abandoned and betrayed by his birth parents. I catch a lot of animus that is not mine to own.

He wants our support but on his terms.

The good news is that in the past years his anger and hostility towards me has moderated. He can be loving again.

The bad news is that he is defined and constrained and even motivated by his mental illness. I cannot get him to buy in to really seek and accept treatment or live in a way that I believe will help him surmount his limitations and pain.

This is the crux of the matter. My own acceptance that I cannot do anything to change him or to help him, really. And the really hard thing: to decide on boundaries that let me stay in the game but stay intact.

I see this as the purpose of this site. To decide where we stand and to maintain this ground. It is not easy. And each of us decides differently; because we are different, with different kids and lives

I type on a cell. When I get internet set up I will try to respond at length, with more specifics. Take care.
Last edited:


Well-Known Member
Thank you Copabanana. I'll look forward to hearing more. In the case of our son, we've known that something was wrong the last five years, but it wasn't until he got into this fight and was arrested for assault and until his birth mother contacted me and told me about her Bipolar issues, that we put "two and two together." Wish we had realized this five years ago.


Well-Known Member
Beta. What could you have done five years ago? Mental illness often does not manifest until 17, 18, 22, 28 years. Or if it does it may be in the form of attentional deficits or hyperactivity or anxiety in the normal range like in our case.

How do you treat something that has not yet been revealed? And hormones too enter the mix. And their brains grow. They are able to understand and to make sense of their lives in a different way. This takes time to evolve, work out and hopefully resolve.

The points I make are: this may not have existed/manifested 5 years ago, as it is today.

This is theirs to own. Their life story to live, to own. To deal with. That is the hard part.

We may have no real role.

We feel obligation. We feel responsibility. We are bereft. Helpless. Desperate.

But do we have agency, in another adult's life?

We keep trying. We set conditions. We set limits. We have expectations. But he is the one with the will to want and do what he must do. Which is to say what he wants.
Last edited:


Well-Known Member
All true. The only benefit from knowing five years ago he is Bipolar is that we wouldn't have wasted a lot of money, time, and emotional energy trying to "fix" what was wrong. We just kept hoping that 'this time" would be the one that would finally change things. I guess maybe we might have been able to persuade him to get evaluated and treated, since our relationship was intact then. Now, he has told us that unless we are giving him money for a car, he doesn't want to hear from us. I just texted him and found out that there appears to have been a decision in his assault case--he is on house arrest--but he refused to tell me anything else unless I send money. Sometimes I can't believe this is happening. There is still a sense of shock.


Well-Known Member
That is really nasty of your son and I wouldn't even consider it, no matter how desperate you feel. He doesn't value your relationship if it all comes down to a car. I would not be that surprised if you find out later that he is using drugs, but either way....he is off the rails.

I am sure you both have your own resources, religious perhaps, since your husband is a pastor. And God bless your other, nicer child. Let the blessing of that child help you. That's what I did. You deserve to be treated with the love and kindness that you obviously gave to both of your children.

God bless you.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
Beta Welcome. I'm sorry you're struggling with your son's choices and behaviors, it's extremely difficult when our kids go off the rails, for whatever reason.

It appears as if you are emerging out of the FOG, fear, obligation and guilt.....a place most of us are very familiar with. As we emerge, clarity begins and we start the process of disengaging from our adult kid's behaviors, choices and lifestyle.

Even with mental illness, you do not have to put up with abuse and manipulation and outright nastiness. I think it's positive that you are pulling back.

If you haven't already, you might try contacting NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They have parent courses which offer information, guidance, support and resources.....I would encourage you to call them, the services are free. A general good resource book is Codependent no more by Melodie Beattie. At the bottom of my post here is an article on detachment you may find interesting and informative.

Your son's abusive reactions to you pulling back your financial support is not an uncommon reaction when we stop enabling our adult kids. They will try whatever it takes to get you back in the position of being responsible for their lives and their choices. Stay strong. Set strong boundaries around that behavior. Hang up each and every time he acts in any fashion other than respectful. Let him know, under NO circumstances will you allow that behavior. That is an impenetrable boundary as far as I'm concerned. He may be bi-polar but he knows right from wrong. How he is treating you is wrong. Period. My daughter used to treat me similarly, but once I found out about boundaries and found this forum and received professional support, I put a stop to that and as time went by, my daughter shifted in the exact proportion to what I permitted. She treats me very well now...... and her circumstances are still precarious.

I think before you make any definitive choice about no contact, you may want to get your boundaries down well. Figure out what you're willing to do and what you are not willing to do. Then communicate your boundaries to your son and enforce them. Hang up if he's nasty. Continue pulling out financially......many of us have paid for cell phones....... Start focusing on you, your husband and your other kids.....your son is making the choices he believes are right for him......there isn't anything you can do. That powerlessness and the fear are difficult......but with support and time, you will feel a lot better.

Hang in there Beta, this is not an easy path. You're not alone. We've been there, it's very helpful to write our stories and receive support and compassion and understanding, often this can be a very lonely road. I'm glad you're here.


Well-Known Member
I may be repeating what others have written, but we cannot and ought not buy their love or good treatment. That is either freely given, or not.

As far as car and phone, why would we want to subsidize them at the same time we expose ourselves to their abuse and extortion? Let alone the fact he is almost middle aged.

There was a time I would not speak to my son until he curbed behaviors I felt to be hurtful. He did.

Your son can and will say or do anything at all. There is not one thing you can do to stop him. This has not anything to do with you or your parenting. Past or present. No matter what he says. He will not cop to his part. He will not see it your way.

There is nothing to say to him (and yourself) except this: I will not ....I will no longer.....no more. And then, follow through.

The bit about the luxury car. Ludicrous. This has nothing to do with bipolar. This is being a jerk.

About what you did for 5 years. How did you know it would not work? It could of. You did not know what you were dealing with. Nor did I.
Last edited:


Well-Known Member
Wow. Thank you all for your wisdom and compassion. Much of what you have said I have come to believe, but sometimes you have to hear others who are going through it and have gone through it, say what you have begun to suspect in your heart. The acronym FOG really describes well what it's like as a parent. I will be re-reading these posts for many months to come because I know when the sorrow and sadness hit, I will need to have these words in my mind to strengthen my resolve. My husband is grieving as well but I think he is ahead of me in terms of detaching. In fact, he said to me recently, "We can't let him destroy our lives and our marriage. We have responsibilities to one another; we have jobs; we have another child and other family we are responsible to and to be healthy for." And he is right. Thank you so much for your support. I will continue to visit the forum and continue to read and learn.


Hey ,sorry I can't write and spell well
Short of my story. 16 pregnant to married 36yr. Most said to have abortion,
I said no way God must want me to have baby,labour went for 36hrs.

When my son was 3 I meet my husband (full Aussie Italian) life moved forward and the 2 of them bonded,he calls him Dad and takes his name. He Grew into a very respectful man,had hard times with school work,finished a boilermakers/metal work apprenticeship and bought an investment house at age 22.

I always thought he may dabble in party drugs,
I got that phone call 4yrs ago, our son was in hospital in a drug induced phycosis, We had know idea. This meant there was an underlying mental health issue. He had treatment but still refuses to acknowledge any form of mental health.
He dose whoever acknowledge that he can't do any form of drugs.

Finally diagnosed with depression at 28
Then Bipolar at 39
I do think I am Dyslexic but am finding it very hard to get help.

I do think like everyone so far. If your son is disrespecting you in anyway,
Walk away. I know you said times are tight,can you go away not to hide but for you to recharge your batteries.

Oh, Have you researched Borderline Personality Disorder???? For your son.
Hope this makes some sense,

Just keep swimming