Prison visit with difficult child 1 didn't go well


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difficult child 1 has been transferred from state mental hospital to jail after being found fit to stand trial on a past assault charge. My husband and I had visited him at the mental hospital and found him a little stiff, but he told us he loved and and seemed to be really trying. He had not been on medications for that long (and he did not go on them willingly, they were mandated) so we had expected more improvement once he was on them longer. He had called from the jail a couple of times and sounded downright good. I put $50 in his account for extras without him asking. The second time he called he asked if I could put more in. Since we hadn't really had contact with him for over a year I had no problem with that. He's been without for a long time and by all appearances was getting better. Today we went to visit him. He was expecting us. He looked tired and drawn. Dark really, under the eyes and his pallor. I asked him how he was feeling and he said fine. He said he wanted to talk about his release and that he could get his charge reduced to a class 3 felony and then would be eligible for immediate release and a long probation because he's already served a year. He explained the 2nd option by saying if he didn't have help to get to his probation officer he would have to spend 6 months in a downstate prison. He asked if I could help him. I asked, what help do you need? When he had called from the jail he had said that he might need rides to meet with his probation officer. That was completely doable if public transportation wasn't available or we could underwrite the cost of transportation. What he said TODAY was that he needed a year's rent paid, a car, car insurance, clothes, computer....everything but the kitchen sink. Ludicrous. I said, aren't you going to be set up in a halfway house or shelter so you can use their job search help and have access to doctors and the medicine you need to keep an even keel? He said that he had it all set up and it was none of my business. He said if we weren't in a place emotionally or financially to do this he would understand. We told him we weren't in a place where we could do this but would lend him support via our love and presence as he made his way back to some semblance of a life. After that was settled, he told us that he liked and loved us "somewhat" and wanted to build a relationship. We said we were willing. He then admitted that he always was looking for a quick fix and a way to make it and that he had never really put his nose to the grindstone over a period of time to get anywhere. He expressed that he would like to have a home and family like us. His dad and I said that we worked very hard for what we had and that was the only way to do it. At that point he started to get nasty and said that he knew I had bipolar and Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy but that he wasn't going to mention it. (Cue Twilight Zone music) He then said we had no right to ask him anything personal. He added that his father had his castle and was the Emperor and I was the Empress and he'd just take his sleeping bag and work his connections and try to make it. We could go to hell. My husband told me to step back from the glass divider and said to him, if you are going to talk that way we are leaving. My son said go. We said ok. difficult child 1 said, is there anything else you'd like to say, I said I love you and my husband told him happy birthday as it is this week. (He was not being sarcastic, he is that sweet). Our son called him a disingenuous :censored2: and we left.

Damn, damn, damn. We had let that 4 letter "H" word (hope) creep into our consciousness and having seen him know that he is still truly very ill.
My anger flares and then is dampened by the realization of how he is suffering. But it is out of our control. The toll it takes on us mentally and physically is staggering when he is like this. We have been under this strain for four years (plus all the trauma difficult child 2 has inflicted which I will write about in another post). Out of that four years, for 6 months he took his medications, lived with us and we were happy. He was within months of getting his own place and we were going to help him. Now he wants to hold us to that offer of help without him having the job, the right attitude, the commitment to his mental and physical health all while he resents us for everything all the way back to his childhood.

When he is like this there is no reasoning with him. It's like arguing with a drunk. He feels wronged.

I have spent the last year visiting jails, regular hospitals, mental hospitals, talking to EMT's , reporting suicide threats, dealing with DCFS and crazed landlords plus an endless barrage of collection calls from the idiots that gave these goofs all the credit cards in the world. I used to handle this by myself, but now have enlisted husband to join the circus. I couldn't endure this alone anymore and I think he needed to see how bad it was. husband and I are spent for the rest of the day. So tired but can't sleep. We were up at 4:30 a.m. with excitement to see him. Damn.


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I'm so sorry! I know how hard you have worked and I know you had hoped things would be better. Damn I hate mental illness. Hugs

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Oh dear, I know I haven't been privy to your prior posts, but this one was so very sad. What a terrible thing to go through. I wish there were some words of wisdom or healing. You are in my prayers.


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Tish, I am so so sorry about this awful event. How terribly sad to see him so dysfunctional even after time on medications and institutionalized. There really is no way to bear this.

All I can do is say I hope you believe in a higher power, that some one walks with you, that you can find peace and comfort in yourself, with you husband. Your boy isn't going to help you with that anytime soon. You are on your own in that way.

I am glad you posted and shared your story. You painted it very vividly in your writing. Many many hugs to you and your husband in this week of your difficult child's birthday. I am so sorry.



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Do you know why he quit his medications? He seemed to be doing well when he was on them. But 60% of all bipolars quit their medications. I have no idea why.

Hugs and hugs for your hurting mommy heart.


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Know that I am reading along and feel your pain. My difficult child has been in jail and prison. Your visit with your difficult child sounds way too familiar.

Hugs. There is STILL hope.


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Do you know why he quit his medications? He seemed to be doing well when he was on them. But 60% of all bipolars quit their medications. I have no idea why.

Not to highjack this thread...

I have had two friends who were bipolar, one was my closest friend for 10 years, until she went off her medications, stole my identity, wracked up $7,000 on a credit card in my name and left the state with the car I had co-signed that I then had to pay off. She never even apologized. When she was on medications she was terrific. She baby-sat for me! She introduced me to my husband! But she hated her medications. She stayed on for her daughter's sake, until she was 18. She told me once that the suicidal depressions were worth it for the manic times...that the upswings were like a high and just felt SO good.

So perhaps that is it. Perhaps those highs are addictive?


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I am so so sorry Tish. I hear the devastation and I understand how you feel. We are often so powerless in the face of mental illness and there is no where for us to go for solace except within ourselves. I pray, as ECHO mentioned that you have a Higher Power you can offer this up to, so you can let go...........

For you and anyone who is interested, there is an excellent book by a women psychiatrist who also is bi-polar. Here is a link:

She talks a lot about why folks don't want medications and it is exactly what Lil has mentioned, the highs from the mania apparently are extraordinary. Many in my bio family are afflicted in some manner with some kind of mental illness. and not one of them would take medications. The toll that takes on the rest of the family is extraordinary as well, but in a completely different way. We ALL end up devastated.

Tish, I'm sorry. Many of us here know how you feel. I do. And, although there is nothing I can do, or we can do to make any of this work out differently, we can do what we do best, we can circle our wagons around you, hold you in our thoughts and prayers and offer our empathy, understanding and compassion. We get it. You're not alone. We're right here with you. Take a deep breath and feel us with you.........hang in there Tish..........


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Tish, first of all and most importantly, my heart goes out to you. I am so very sorry. I hope your son decides to comply with his medication and not take any other drugs because his life can be good!!! Bipolar is controllable. Never forget that.

RE and all, as one with a mood disorder, who was first diagnosed manic/depression (when it was called was many moons ago) I know there are many forms of bipolar. Not all bipolars get those high highs. I never did. Only with Bipolar I, the least common type, do you get those highs. Bipolar II is mostly depression with a few little bumps up. There is mild bipolar, which you go up and down a little bit and are often just plain irritable. There is one more, but I forgot what it

I was in a psychiatric hospital for ten weeks and saw many extreme bipoolar I's who had gone off their medications. They would share and often the stories were similar...even with the medication (and Lithium was the whole ballgame at the time) they would start to get a little high and then have the urge to party and drink and then get higher and higher until they were psychotic and ended up in the hospital. Some said they were there once a year when the BiPolar (BP) rolled out of control. Often it was perpetrated when the bipolar started drinking and THAT made them get high.

One night, when it was about 105 degrees on the closed ward, which had no air conditioning in most of the room but was in a great hospital (I picked it because of it's rep), some bipolar woman was brought in. She sat on the sofa in the community room where I was sitting with a few friends. She was practically catatonic. Couldn't even move. Then suddenly, with no warning, in the midst of the unbearable heat and patients splashing water on our faces, she started belting out one Christmas song after another in a loud, off-key voice and no expression. All we could do is look at one another and laugh. She had no idea we were even reacting.

There is no help to this story. No motto. Two days later, back on her lithium she was talking to us just like any normal person. Or maybe it was four days. Didn't take too long. Just wanted to share kind of an interesting bipolar story. But this was bipolar I and she came in psychotic.

I wish I could have felt cold enough to sing "White Christmas" on that steamy night!!!! Heck, all the patients had to sleep in the one air conditioned room which was the game room. We gladly slept on sleeping bags on the floor.

I learned a lot about serious mental illness during those ten weeks. I was in a teaching hospital before HIPPA and because I was not psychotic and interested and fairly bright the professionals would talk to me about the other patients and tell me what was wrong as well as lend me their psychiatry books. The people who came in manic seemed to be in better shape than us depressives, even if they were hallucinating. The mania seemed to go away much faster than depression once the patients were given their Lithium. I will never forget those ten weeks and what I saw and learned.

At the time, I was diagnosed as Bipolar II. This was just sort of a highjack and trivia post for those interested in bipolar I and how it may affect one who has it. Saw my share of schizophrenics as well. And people with schizoaffective (bipolar and schizoprenia).

Tish, here are hugs for your hurting mommy heart and hoping, hoping, hoping your son will go back on the medications that made him do so well. There are side effects, but the medications can be changed until something is found that does not give the person side effects. Unfortunately, it is not yet an exact science, but there are MANY medication options for your young man if he is willing.
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I'm so sorry you are having to deal with this, wish I could give you a big heartfelt hug and a listening ear, but you'll have to just settle for the ear, the sincere empathy and my understanding heart.

I was also diagnosed manic depressive in the 70's and can attest to those manic highs being a crazy natural high - no drugs or alcohol required. I drove way too fast, partied way too hard, slept around with too many strangers and it was an incredible "dangerous" rush. But then there were the lows where I would plan my suicide complete with concern for anyone who would find what might be left of my body. I had a plan B in case I wasn't successful the first time. People go off their medications (in my opinion) because even when medicated those lows can be haunting. Then you are left feeling that the lows are still there so why not hang on to the highs as well.

I'm still on medications and have no intention of ever going off. I did consider it not long ago while fighting with my dear hubby who said that I didn't know how to have fun anymore. Being off the medications turns me into an extroverted party girl who doesn't care about risk - but that doesn't mean I'm fun, it makes me an evil, spiteful, mean person. I'm so glad I chose to stay on medications and true to myself.

The only advice I can offer you is to let difficult child's unit officer or a supervisor at the jail know what happened. If they don't know about it they can't help him. I hope he's better soon.

Eve, the ex-exhibitionist-extrovert! ♡


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Tish, your post broke my heart. I am so sorry for the pain you are feeling. I believe it's a pain like no other, when you have to witness your child go through life with nothing but struggle and negativity (even if some of it IS created by them).


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I'm so sorry tish, to see someone you love suffering from illness and to know if they would just take their medications... but you can't force an adult. I've been there done that more times then I can count.

sending hugs and positive energy, also hopes for a better tomorrow


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There are 5 forms listed under the Manic Depressive label:

Bipolar 1
Bipolar 2
and last but not least pure Mania.

I have BiPolar (BP) 1 but I have only had a few episodes of extreme mania. I dont like mania. Hypomania isnt so awful bad but for me it is quite hard on me because I dont have the physical stamina to keep up with it. When I was truly manic it was awful. I did awful things. I never want to be in that place again.

Now one problem is that so many psychiatrists only want to use one protocol to treat everyone. We are all not the same person. We all dont react the same way to the same medicines.

I had that problem when I had to go to a county mental health agency when I lost insurance. The psychiatrist there only wanted to do either lithium or depakote, risperdal or zyprexa and nothing for sleep. If he felt you had anxiety he wanted you to use Visteral which is nothing more than very strong Benedryl.

I cant take lithium or depakote. Risperdal and Zyprexa are well known for putting weight on people. I was mad as all get out and insisted he get my chart from my psychiatrist who had been seeing me at that time for 5 years. He refused.

I tried his lithium and risperdal. At that time I had lost almost a hundred pounds and over the 6 months I let this idiotic psychiatrist experiment with me, I gained over 75 pounds. It was awful. I did threaten to go off medications at that point if he wouldnt at least put me back on my topamax and lamictal. Asking for my anxiety medications and sleep medications were pointless.


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Boy, Janet, good post and so true. I have had a few hypomanic episodes and I loved feeling so good. I did not get psychotic and they did not damage my life. In fact, if I could always be hypo manic, my life would be a lot better because I can focus off the little stuff and do what I'm suppposed to do and I am clearheaded. They tried me on Lithium and Tegretal and I felt so horrible that I wouldn't take it. I felt worse than when I was off of it. In my case, it accentuated the depression in my disorder. I also felt like a robot. But antidepressants REALLY help me. Since psychiatrists are taught that antidepressants can make a bipolar person manic, it is hard to get them to put you on just an antidepressant if you have the bipolar label, thus the change in my label to mood disorder not otherwise specified, which I think is more accurate.

When I was in the hospital for ten weeks, the patients who had full blown mania were so out of it, hyper, violent and babbling that they usually ended up in isolation for their own sake and others until the medication kicked in. I am not sure a lot of people understand full blown mania. Or bipolar for that matter. And that includes psychiatrists, sadly. And that doesn't help our grown kids who may or may not really have bipolar vs. a mood disorder which does not really swing into mania. Having many moods for shorter periods of time can also be borderline personality disorder, especially if the person is in trouble with the law. And often they can have both, as you and I both know, Janet.


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My dad was untreated bipolar, my sister and my daughter suffer from depression, and difficult child is schizoaffective. I've had couple of episodes of hypomania, and a couple of depression. Thank goodness the depression cycles ended at some point in my 30's or early 40's. I was terrified of their recurrence for years.

Regarding the hypomania, it feels frieking fantastic. I get very excited and excitable, make grand plans, spend too much money doing things like booking travel, buying clothes. I make bad choices about what to say and what to do. When it starts I can actually feel it spiralling up inside me. It feels wonderful, wild, and exciting.

I have never taken medications, although I frequently wondered if I should for the depressions. The hypomania I was slower to recognize as a problem. Now I don't use any drugs at all (and haven't in 2 decades or more), don't drink much, get a LOT of exercise and very regular sleep. That seems to be enough, although sometimes I spot check with the people around me to be sure they also think I'm ok.

A classic interaction with difficult child when he is off medications would be as follows

difficult child (earnestly): how do I seem? do I seem manic to you?
me (cautiously): well, honey, honestly you do seem a little manic.
difficult child (shouting" WELL I"M NOT!!!! I RESPECTFULLY DISAGREE!! I AM FINE!!!

and so it goes.



one day at a time
Tish, I am so sorry. Thank you for posting. You and husband sound like very healthy people, and people who get it, and who are still warm and hopeful and want to help, in the right way and at the right time. I am sure you have worked very very hard to get to where you are today.

There really is no way to bear this.

Having said the above, there is no way to ever be fully ready for what you experienced at the prison with difficult child. I don't care how well put together and recovered you are.

That is why we have to keep coming back. We never really "get there."

But I believe you and husband are well on the way to "there." Your post sounds solid and reasoned and intelligent and aware and also hopeful and kind and giving.

I just am so sorry. In a very controlled environment, like your difficult child is in today, the fact that he is cycling back and forth is shattering. I just reread your post and didn't know whether or not he is still on the medications in jail or not. Was he taking the medications when you had this visit?

It so horribly sad when THERE IS A SOLUTION----like medications----and difficult child won't do it. So deeply frustrating.

What can you do, Tish? Truly?

Just detach and love him from a distance, I believe. What else is there? Until he gets ready to do what the professionals say and what has already been proven to help himself, there is nothing else to be done.

I know you love him and you have hope, which is always a very human reaction and comes from the best place in all of us. That also makes us so vulnerable.

Just know that we are with you here. My heart goes out to you and husband and I have learned from you, so please keep posting.

We all need each other.

Scent of Cedar *

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It is never wrong to love them, never wrong to let them know we love them. But it is crucially important that we not lose perspective when interacting with our kids.

It is the situation that is wrong or bad. Not us, not our parenting, and not our troubled, confused, defensive, often self destructive kids.

I'm so sorry, Tish.

I think you handled it well.

I am so sorry for the pain of it.



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Wow. Your warm responses overwhelm me. Sharing your personal experiences is so helpful as bipolar is an animal I am struggling to understand. He is still on his medications and is this variable in mood. RE, I've read An Unquiet MInd. It's so good and I tried when to get difficult child 1 to read it when he was asymptomatic.
No go.

The only advice I can offer you is to let difficult child's unit officer or a supervisor at the jail know what happened. If they don't know about it they can't help him.
WDIGW, I did just what you suggest. I talked to a very compassionate social worker and she said they would check him, assess his medications and go over his options for aftercare/housing/placement with him. They will also not discuss my calling with him. It sounds like a lot is available as long as he is willing to accept it.

Because I never know how he interprets these things after this, husband and I wrote him this letter. I don't know if it was the right thing, but the visit ended so abruptly and we were so taken aback by the enormity of his demands we wanted him to know we were still there for him emotionally. Here it is:

Dear difficult child 1,
It went badly yesterday. That doesn't matter. You're still our son and we are willing to help. Use the resources from the jail. They offer them. Be open to them. Thresholds is an option. They are in Chicago and throughout the collar counties including McHenry county. They are a wonderful organization. They will set you up with housing, help you get a job and help set up your probation terms so you are able to get there. From there Dad and I will contribute. We will be fair. But we want to be treated with respect and any decisions and visits will involve both of us. This has been a hard time and we need each other for the support. We hope you understand.

All this is predicated on you maintaining your health by staying on medications. We cannot commit to long term financial obligations like a lease if you are unwell. If you don't want to stay on medications we still love you. You're our son and that will never change. Foremost, we acknowledge that the choice is yours alone to make.

Whatever your choice we want to maintain a relationship hope you feel the same. Our hearts will always be open to you. Don't ever hesitate to call.

Let me know where you land. I have your link card, your phone and clothes for you. I was waiting for you to get out so you could go with me to buy more. I also checked the social security website. As it stands now you have no pending claims for SSI. Perhaps someone at the jail or Thresholds can help you get started.
Love, Mom and Dad

I am leaving for a silent religious retreat tomorrow. It's on the coast of NC and the people are so kind. Last year when I went my husband put me in the limo to the airport and I was sobbing. He had to pack for me. I got there and had no nighties, no shampoo, no hairbrush, but he got me there. I read all sorts of books on how to not let your adult children ruin your life. This time I am fully packed and will be reading strengthening and spiritual works and trying to wring all I can from this precious week. I had intentionally picked this particular retreat because it fell over difficult child 1's birthday. I will need my higher power to get through it.

I will be off the internet during this time, but I will be holding all of you in my thoughts and prayers. The strength and knowledge I've derived from this site has been life changing. I'll check in again soon. Janet and MWM I have some questions for you regarding the bipolar experience, but it will have to wait until I get back as I have to be up at 2:30 a.m. to get to the airport on time.


Roll With It
Tish, I am really sorry for your ordeal during the prison visit. I don't know if it helps to remember that he is sick or if it is easier to just think he is an ungrateful difficult child who needs to grow up. Both are likely true, sadly.

As for bipolar, one major reason that MANY don't take medications is that the manic highs are actually addictive. Some books explain what happens in the brain during these episodes really well (including the second version of the Bipolar Child, though it is written about pediatrician bipolar). Not only does the brain change during mania, it actually produces the same changes that are seen in drug addicts. This means that quite literally the mania is addicting to the bipolar person, and in my opinion it seems like treatment really NEEDS to address this. Plus it needs to be addressed far earlier and not have patients waiting until adulthood for diagnosis because the more mania you experience, the more changes happen in your brain and the harder it will be for you to be on medications and not experiencing the manic highs. I know that the local NAMI bipolar/depression/mood disorder support group addresses this with both patients and families and explains that this is likely part of the reason for so much drug use among people with bipolar - t hey are looking for that manic high while not experiencing it and their brains are already in the grip of the addiction process. One therapist with the support group says that he hopes that soon addiction research will combine with bipolar research to see if maybe the combination can help unlock some of the mysteries of both issues.

I hope and pray that you can at some point have a good relationship with difficult child, but he has to be rational and his expectations just are not. Why should you provide all those things for him when he won't even attempt to help and support himself? The world simply does not work that way, and his world really NEEDS to not work that way. The sooner he can accept that he is going to have to really work, the sooner he can deal iwth his life, his problems, and work toward a better life. The more you give him, the longer it will take for him to grow up and 'get it'. Do to Get isn't just a philosophy, it is the way of the world. in my opinion if he won't Do for YOU, you should not give him anything but what he gives you.

Be nice to yourself and your husband, and do NOT give your difficult child anything that costs even a penny until he is behaving appropriately. It is good that you left the visit when he became inappropriate. If at all possible, look for books on Reality Therapy and Choice Therapy. My StepMIL teaches this in prisons worldwide - it is a way to help people like your son start to change how they think. I don't know if it is in the prison your son is in, but it not only is amazing, it really works. I believe there are books titled "Reality Therapy" and "Choice Therapy" by Dr. Wm Glasser, and they are truly helpful for parents of difficult children. Well worth the read, and available in bookstores and on amazon.