Drug Use vs Mental Illness

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by TearyEyed, Jan 22, 2014.

  1. TearyEyed

    TearyEyed Member


    I have only posted here a couple of times a few months ago. My 18 year old son's most recent diagnosis is Bipolar Disorder. I know he has not been doing drugs or drinking because they did a full blood workup (tested for all drugs and alchohol) when he was admitted to the hospital in early January for cutting himself (intentional self harm). He is currently living in a sober house, bouncing from job to job, unstable, the usual. Also, he continually loses things (bus passes, clothes, shoes, phones). He has started new medications for bipolar so hopefully that will help. But now my question is.......do I handle things differently if the issue is mental illness and not drug use? I am hurting so much and the fear, worry, anxiety is overwhelming. I am confused as to whether or not detachment is still the loving thing to do in the case of mental health issues. Looking for advice!
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi, there.

    In my opinion, mental illness without drug abuse is a different animal from drug abuse or mental illness with drug abuse. I have had mental illness all my life and I never abused drugs; never even been drunk. I think I would have fared better early on if my family had been loving and supportive because I desperately wanted help and would have complied with medications and therapy. But I was treated as "bad" and that just made it take longer for me to improve, however I did so because I wanted to live a good life.

    The key to a mentally ill loved one, in my opinion, would be that the conditions of living at home would be that the person go see the psychiatrist, take the medication, and go for therapy. Even mentally ill people have to take responsibility...in this case they either follow instructions and work very hard (it is not easy to get better when you are differently wired)...or if they refuse to work hard, they will likely just get sicker. Bipolar episodes get worse and worse if the cycles are not stopped or at least slowed down. Each cycle affects the brain.

    If the mentally ill adult child is dangerous, I would help him find a place to live that may be able to help him. Is he on disability? Ok, so if you find him a place to stay and he won't follow the rules or continue in treatment, you have done all you can and it's now up to him. If he tries hard and can be safe and non-abusive, I would probably allow him to live at home, but he'd have to keep trying to get better. If he is dangerous, well, nobody can risk living with somebody who gets violent.

    There are lots of people with bipolar and even schizophrenia working and married and living good lives. They may have periodic illness, but they can get back on track.

    The bottom line is that I feel mental illness is way different from drug abuse. But it all boils down to one core issue...the only way either person will get better is because he or she wants to.

    Hugs and I'm so sorry you are hurting.
  3. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    I have been told by multiple mental health professionals that people with mental illness are still responsible for their actions or lack of action.

    That was a question that always stopped me in my tracks too.

    It helped me to think about a physical illness as a comparison. For example if a person has heart disease it is up to him or her to seek medical care, comply with medical advice, eat healthier, exercise, etc. Without taking responsibility for the disease, the effects will worsen and disability and even death are a possibility.

    With mental illness, often, behavior is the side effect(s).

    Are we supposed to sit and accept the behavior because the person has a mental illness? No.

    People---all people---have to work to overcome problems in their lives. We all have problems.

    The question is: what do we do about them?

    Sent from my iPhone using ConductDisorders
  4. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    My difficult child's main issue is mental illness..drugs, I believe (maybe I am dumb momma here) are just a side effect, a little self treatment, a little self-glorification (way cooler to be a heroin addict than "retarded", eh?). Plus all the excitment of overdoses, drug houses, friends trying to go straight and relapsing...
    So although we withdraw all support when he is using, still...he is never normal. Never has been. The core is mental illness/pervasive developmental delay.
    But in the end....he won't take his medications regularly. The habit of illness has become an excuse. He incites drama...won't take medications, needs help to get medications, medications were stolen, overdoses on medications...
    In the end...he needs to see a shrink and stick to it. Take his medications and stick to it. Not take poisons that his brain can't handle, because it is already more susceptible than others. Those are his responsibilities.
    You can and should expect that of him. You can't take responsibility for him choosing those things...only he can. That is where detachment comes in.
    Good luck. KEep posting. It helps to sort things out, and to read everyone else's stories, so very like your own.
  5. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I agree with what others have said. I think the bottom line is you have to set boundaries around bad behavior regardless of where the behavior stems from. Even with mental illness, folks are responsible for their behavior and those around them do them no favor by allowing bad behavior.

    If your son is taking his medications and trying to find ways to make his life as healthy as he can, that is a different story. However, if he is not medication compliant and often bi-polar folks refuse to take medications, then you have no choice but to protect yourself and set those strict boundaries and learn detachment.

    I have bi-polar folks all over my family and each responded differently. My own daughter refuses to acknowledge any of her issues and I have virtually no relationship with her, nor does anyone else in the family. My sister got her Masters degree and is a thriving artist and she is bi-polar too.............my Dad, I believe was bi-polar, not diagnosed and spent much of his life raging, often acting unpredictable and did damage to his family................different choices.

    It's very important to take care of YOU. Check into NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, it's very helpful. They have great courses for parents. Read the article on detachment at the bottom of my post. Get yourself some counseling or professional help if that feels right to you. Keep posting. Sending you caring hugs........
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  6. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    I understand the way a diagnosis of mental illness pulls the rug out from under a parent. husband and I had a moderate handle on detachment skills until those diagnoses came through. How do we hold her responsible, if she is mentally ill? So, we had to look at what would most help the person suffering the illness. And in the long run, unless the person literally cannot care for himself, that would be autonomy. Our mentally ill children are still people. They have an illness they will have to learn to cope with.

    I don't know how to do this, either. It will be helpful for you to post about the feelings, and to post to others about the things you have learned about how to survive it all. I am glad you found us. Everyone here has been so helpful to me, so open about what this feels like and how to make it through.

    It is hard to celebrate the bright spots in these kinds of situations, but if there is one, it is that this site exists, and we are not alone with it.

    That would be so much worse.