Bipolar son about to turn 18

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Paris, Nov 29, 2007.

  1. Paris

    Paris New Member

    I have a bipolar son who is about to turn 18. He won't work or go to school. He just got an IEP and now is able to go to a school that can help him, but I have to bribe him to go. I have to bribe him to go to doctor appointments, psychiatric appointments, testing for the IEP, taking his medications, everything basically. The doctor says I have to find another way, but what????
  2. Big Bad Kitty

    Big Bad Kitty lolcat

    Hi Paris, welcome to the board.

    Wow, that is a rough situation. Unfortunately there is not a whole lot you can make a person do once they turn 18.

    Might I suggest that you repost this in the general forum? Chances are you will get a lot more feedback there.

    Sorry that I could not be of more help. Post this in the general forum, there is a lot more traffic there. Again welcome to the board. You have found a safe place to land.

  3. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    As brutal as it sounds, once he turns 18, you can give him a choice -- either follow the house rules, which includes taking your medications and seeing your therapists, or leave. Not a lot of fun, not the easiest thing to do but it frequently works. For some kids, they leave, discover how miserable life is with no one to foot their bill and come back and are much more compliant. That is what happened with my daughter.

    Something you could try now is rather than bribing, simply tell him if he doesn't do what is required, his world is not going to be very pleasant. If he drives, no use of a motor vehicle and no taking him places. No good "stuff." That is, clothes from Goodwill, electronic equipment removed from his room, food bland but nutritional (think prison food), etc. Again, this is not easy and not a lot of fun, but it may be a way to get his attention.

    Good luck! Older teens can be and are royal pains. They want all the privileges of adulthood but none of the responsibilities. It usually takes some nasty eye-opening to get them to see they can't have it both ways.
  4. Mikey

    Mikey Psycho Gorilla Dad

    Originally Posted By: meowbunny
    As brutal as it sounds, once he turns 18, you can give him a choice -- either follow the house rules, which includes taking your medications and seeing your therapists, or leave...

    ...rather than bribing, simply tell him if he doesn't do what is required, his world is not going to be very pleasant. If he drives, no use of a motor vehicle and no taking him places. No good "stuff." That is, clothes from Goodwill, electronic equipment removed from his room...

    ...They want all the privileges of adulthood but none of the responsibilities. It usually takes some nasty eye-opening to get them to see they can't have it both ways.

    Ditto what MB said. Once they're 18, your options become more limited. But then again, your legal (if not moral and/or ethical) responsibilities are reduced as well.

    My personal experience is that it takes the "real world" to open up the eyes of some older teens. For my son, it started with an ultimatum that he get help or leave in January, followed by successive "real world" health threats from his habits, culminating with the "real world" experience of being arrested on drug charges.

    It took the "real world" making a couple of hard swipes at his thick head with a bat, but he finally started paying attention (reminds me of the joke about the donkey, the old man, and the 2x4). Will it last? Who knows? But right now, he's paying attention, engaging in his own life again, and that's all I can hope for.

    The truth is that eventually, the real world will catch up with your son. The only question is when will it happen, and will he be in a position to deal with it when it DOES happen. Luckily for me, my son is still young enough (and capable of being scared enough) to finally recognize the need to change, even if he doesn't have the desire to change. Had the same things happened 5 years from now, would he respond the same way if faced with the same issues? Maybe, but it would have been MUCH harder for him.

    And that's the only guidance I feel qualified to share. If you can, precipitate his experience of "real world" choices and consequences as soon as you can. The sooner, the better. There's a better chance he'll turn to you for help and guidance when he hits bottom when he's younger and less sure of himself than when he's older.

    One other thought: you say he's bipolar. Is it possible to construe in some way that he's unable to care for himself as an adult, and you're unable to care for him as an adult? It seems to me that another "real world" situation would be one where you no longer have the parental nuclear option of "BECAUSE I SAID SO", and cannot "force" him to do what's necessary for his own health and well-being. Is it possible to get a PINS order and force him into some facility or treatment that will stabilize him enough for you to make him aware of what he's really facing if he continues to act this way?

    Just my two cents.

  5. Mikey

    Mikey Psycho Gorilla Dad

    Also, it's been my experience that bribes don't work. Just like in any other situation, the "bribe" becomes part of the normal environment; eventually, the expectation is that the "compensation" will continue, even if the expected behavior doesn't continue.

    However, a bribe by any other name......

    Many others here have pushed me hard on the "do to get" philosophy, and they're right. Simply put, it's a reverse bribe. With a bribe, the compensation comes first, with an expectation of acceptable behavior to follow. With "do to get", the behavior must come first, THEN the compensation follows.

    I also think that most folks here would say that with "do to get", the reward is normal compensation of family benefits, whereas bribes give compensation above normal family benefits. When I finally realized that, my whole perspective changed (but it took a long time).

    I, too, tried bribes, but after two years of that and other failed actions, I realized that when you resort to bribes there is no incentive for your child to meet normal and reasonable expectations for family life. Eventually, I took everything away from my son that wasn't explicitly his, and left him with a roof, some clothes, and a bed. I'd like to think that two months of that helped set the stage for his being open when the rest of the bricks came flying at his head.

    in my opinion, bribes may work to get one specific action one or two times, but they ultimately fail for encouraging long term behavior changes (unless you're dealing with Sicilians, in which case long term bribes may keep you very "healthy"...)


  6. Ephchap

    Ephchap Active Member

    Hi Paris and welcome. You're in a tough spot with an almost 18 year old. Many of us have been where you are, and it's not easy.

    I'm at work right now so will write more later, but thought I'd move this post over to our General Forum so that more members can welcome you and offer different ideas. You can look for replies over there.

    Again, welcome.

  7. Paris

    Paris New Member

    Thanks for all the advice, it's very helpful. The other day I kicked him out after a really bad fight even though he doesn't turn 18 until next week. My mother told me this is the wrong thing to do because he is not mentally well, but he ended up coming back at 8:30 at night, hungry, tired, and no where to go. Even though he claimed he would be fine and that he had plenty of resources! He seems so delusional sometimes and I know that that is a symptom of bipolar, but it's scares me. Whenever he's asked about his plans for the future it's always some grandiose plan with no real substance. For example, he loves the arts, film, music, etc.. and he does do these things in his room and only in his room. We have offered film school, music school, anything! He won't do any of it, but yet keeps saying he's going to produce music and be a film maker.

    Instead of taking actions towards these plan he smokes pot, watches TV, makes music on his computer, and commits petty theft to fund his pot smoking.

    He has great grandiose ideas, but never follows through with any of them. Has anyone ever experienced this????????

    He's on 5mg of Zyprexa and it has made some improvement, the problem is he keeps going off of it once he feels better.

    Aside from being grandiose, he seems angry, spiteful, reckless, lacks empathy, and feels entitled to anything he desires.

    I feel like I am always walking on eggshells.

    Thanks for all the help by the way! : )
  8. goldenguru

    goldenguru Active Member

    All can be symptomatic of the manic portion of the bipolar cycle.
  9. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member


    The Zyprexa works - but what is he like when he is taking that? Is he still smoking pot and stealing when medicated? Will he see a therapist?
    Does he have a plan? If not, you should get one. You will not be able to continue like this for long.

    What about legal troubles? Has he been caught stealing?
  10. Paris

    Paris New Member

    He's does get caught and has gone to court, but he always gets out of it.
    We live in a nice, clean cut, town in the Los Angeles area, so the judge always seems sympathetic towards him! I'm told I'm lucky because the JH's here are a nightmare and the kids come out worse than when they went in.

    The court is actually how he got his IEP in the first place.

    How do I know how ill he really is and how much of it is him taking advantage????

    Will he not work or go to school because he is not capable or because he knows he doesn't have to? He will be able to start his new school next month (I guess the IEP takes about that long to get everything in order). I told him he has to go or he has to move out.

    by the way, Depakote and Lamictal did not work at all. Zyprexa seems to work, but he smokes pot no matter what.

    Thanks for the replies : )
    Paris- single mom, 40, difficult child- About to turn 18 in 4 days!!
    easy child- 15 yr old girl
  11. Mikey

    Mikey Psycho Gorilla Dad

    Hi Paris. Boy, that sure sounds like my son when he was on a regular schedule of daily pot dosage. I'm not a doctor, so I won't go so far as to say it's the pot, but with my son it WAS the pot. Once he was arrested, and dried out, a lot of those negative aspects of his personality went back into whatever cesspool they came from.

    My son (to the best of my knowledge) isn't bipolar, though, so I don't know what effect pot has on BiPolar (BP) sufferers. It can't be good, though.

    It also sounds like you've found an "in" with him, in that he (like my son) recognizes he still needs the structure and support you offer, at least for now. Is it possible to "convince" him that he needs more intensive treatment (possibly Residential Treatment Center (RTC)?) to get stabilized before you'll let him come back home for good? Again, this is new ground for me, but if he needs medications but doesn't take them, if he's smoking pot and doesn't care, and if he's committing crimes to support his habit, then maybe an intervention (with consequences) is needed.

    Eventually, my son needed a swift kick in the backside (several kicks, actually) before he started paying attention. You have something that can get his attention - the only question now is what to do with it? You've obviously talked to docs about his BiPolar (BP), have you spoken with any drug counsellors about his pot use? Maybe they could help you figure out your next best options.

  12. Paris

    Paris New Member

    He's been in inpatient treatment and every time he gets out he goes back to pot.
    Tomorrow he turns 18! So I just told him to go to school (got him an IEP), and get a job or move out by morning.

    We have spent so much money on treatment for this kid and nothing works.

    We'll see if he moves out today! I'm so curious...

    Thanks!!! : )

  13. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    Don't bet on him moving willingly. Be prepared for whining, threatening, laying on of guilt trips and anything else he can think of to keep the status quo. He may even go back to school for a week or two, so let him know the second he does not go or does not get a passing grade due to lack of effort, he is out the door.

    If it were me, I'd add that there will be no illegal drugs in the house at any time.

    It usually takes a bit of effort to get them to understand you mean it. Before you call the police in help in having him removed, I suggest you call them and see exactly what they will do to assist you.

    Also let him know the door is open for him to come back if he is willing to follow all house rules, which would include work and paying rent or school, no drugs, maintaining a clean room, helping out with things in the home and yard, letting you know where he is and what time he plans to come home, if at all (curfews really are ridiculous for kids his age, so I wouldn't even bother). Of course, the same rules could apply if he decides to go to school and stay.

    Good luck. As hard as this is to do, it is probably the right thing.
  14. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    I sent my then 17 year old to her dad's after a particularly heated fight that turned physical. She had graduated HS and was nearing her 18th and feeling a little 'BIG". She turned 18 while there and was begging to come home. I made her agree to certain conditions in order to come home. So far, pretty good, but I am fairly certain that she will be asked to leave soon. She sticks to the rules for the most part but she's also taking advantage of some situations, I know she's been smoking pot and she recently lost her job. She needs to do her personal chores, stay clean and work in order to live here.

    My only advice is that when you tell him he either had to follow house rules or leave, do not do it during a fight or argument. Say it when you're both calm so he sees that you didn't say it or mean it in anger or out of frustration. And then give him some options he may have and then stick with it.

    Hugs, I know it's not easy and you're definitely not alone!
  15. Paris

    Paris New Member

    Argh!!! You all were right! He won't leave!! He did not go to school (his first day of the new program with the IEP) so I told him to move out. He would NOT leave. Last week I had to push him out and lock the doors, but he ended up coming back at night and like a wuss I let him back in.

    Besides being bipolar he was diagnosed with Aspergers, but I'm skeptical about that one. If he is so ill, then I don't know how he has friends??? They all party together and commit petty theft, but he is the only one that does not work or go to school. If he's healthy enough to score weed, steal, and party, then isn't he healthy enough to try and get an education or work?

    He got a drivers license, although it took him 7 tries (for the written part), he finally passed. Doesn't that mean he is somewhat capable?

    I'm so confused. I sent him to his dad's too, but he ended up coming back that time too.

    I agree with making him follow the rules or leave, but is this the right thing if he is not mentally well? And how do I know how much of it is the illness and how much is the pot? I know he is bipolar for sure, but does this disorder make you incapable of living life?

    Paris- 40, single mom
    difficult child- 18 tomorrow! Bipolar on 5mg of Zyprexa when he will take it.
    easy child- 15, girl, no problems : )
  16. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    Basic rule, if you don't mean it or don't think you can follow through, don't say it.

    It depends on the severity of the BiPolar (BP) as whether or not he can function. If medications work for him, then the answer is pretty simple -- he can function but chooses not to since he will only take his medications when convenient to him. Self-medicating is not the answer.

    It is hard to kick your child to the curb. My daughter was given choices -- either do X or leave. Each time, she opted to leave. Twice I let her back in because she was on the verge of being homeless. The third time, I let her become homeless. I did in fact go get her when I felt she had hit her absolute bottom. Since then, she hasn't been perfect but things have been so much better!

    You do have to stay strong and be brave. Don't let past mistakes by you and your guilt or his choices in how he treats his illness be the deciding factors. The goal is to get him to understand that he can't abuse your love and his home. If he truly wants to live there, he will have to follow the rules. If he chooses not to, he will have to leave. If he refuses to leave, find a way to get him out. Change the locks if necessary.

    Once you get him out the door, don't let him back in because you feel sorry for him or because the guilt is overwhelming. On my daughter's third trip out the door, I actually had notes all over the house: do what is right for her, not what you want! I wanted to let her come home. I wanted to be her mommy. She needed me to be strong enough to force her to grow up. For some of our kids, the only way they will grow up is to hit bottom.

    I'm sorry. I know how hard this is.
  17. Paris

    Paris New Member

    That is hard... really hard. I will try it though and pray that he has enough self preservation in him that he will save himself.

    Thanks! I really hope this works! ugh... so scared : (

  18. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    Having bipolar disorder does not excuse you from the responsibilities of life or adulthood. I've read that bipolar is one of the hardest mental disorders to treat, that it can take years and years to get the right medication combination and that self-medicating (drugs and/or alcohol) is very high in that population. However, it can be treated. We have parents on this board who are bipolar and are some of the strongest, most amazing people I've ever come across.

    It seems pretty obvious that the zyprexa isn't enough. If he is bipolar, he needs a mood stabilizer. I understand that depakote and lamictal didn't work, but there are other mood stabilizers. And, often, it's the combination of medications that work.

    MB is right. If you're going to lay down the ultimatum you have to mean it. Otherwise, he's never going to believe anything you say and he'll just walk all over you.

    At some point he has to want to help himself. No amount of you wanting him to get treatment and get well is going to make it happen. He has to want it for himself. He can only use his bipolar diagnosis as an excuse for so long. It's not an excuse if he refuses to do anything about it. After a while, it just becomes a crutch. As long as he has a roof over his head and food in his belly, it doesn't seem like he has much motivation to do anything different. I would stop bribing him to get him to his psychiatrist and therapist appts and taking his medications. It's his life. He knows what he needs to do in order to get well. It almost seems like he's using it as a means to get what he wants by requiring bribes.

    If you just cannot bring yourself to throw him out, at the very least do not make his home life cushy. His room should consist of his mattress, bedding and clothes. Anything else you have purchased is taken away. The only additional things he brings in, he has purchased himself with his own money. He purchases and prepares his own meals. He has chores and responsibilities.

    It's tough. Detaching is hard. This is your child and you are going to second guess everything - especially because of his diagnosis. Unless he is in a full blown delusional, manic state he knows right from wrong. He knows what needs to be done to treat it. He's choosing not to. His choice. Not yours.

  19. Paris

    Paris New Member

    Great advice!! : )

    Thank you!

  20. goldenguru

    goldenguru Active Member

    First of all - his medication confuses me. Zyprexa is an antipsychotic medication - which I have never heard of being used solo to treat BiPolar (BP). My husband was diagnosis BiPolar (BP) about 13 years ago and is on 2 MOOD STABALIZERS (most commonly used for adults with-BiPolar (BP)). He also has Zyprexa which he can take PRN for 'emotional emergencies'. Zyprexa usually acts as a tranquilizer. You may want to reevaluate his medication regime.

    Also - if he is in full blown mania - you may want to alter you plan to just throw him out to his own devices. I agree that smoking pot is exacerbating his problems - but it is also possible that he is self medicating to deal with his emotions. For people with mental illness, saying their problems are just the result of illicit drug use is way over simplistic. People with mental illness most often have co-morbid issues.

    Could you find a rooming house - where you could offer rent for a few months, fill his fridge with basic groceries, a few clothes for a dresser, a blanket and pillow, a bicycle and tell him he has a certain number of months to find employment and begin to make his own way?

    Tossing him out and then allowing him back home with in hours is not sending the right message. However - I'm just not an advocate of throwing them out with no resources for survival. Especially given the BiPolar (BP) issues. I'm not an advocate of allowing them to live in your home and sit home all day and play video games either. I think the trick is finding a middle ground that you can all live with.

    The other thing I would suggest is some family therapy to hammer all this stuff out. It can be really helpful.