The grey area: keeping difficult child safe vs. enabling (update & need advice)

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by bertie, Jul 19, 2008.

  1. bertie

    bertie Been there too many times

    I'm sitting here in tears because my difficult child's girlfriend said today that she's done with him - she has finally had it.

    These are very nice people but they don't have the knowledge or tools to deal with a bipolar who is not on medications and crashing, and I don't expect them to be able to deal with him, and I just feel really, really bad about everything that's happening right now.

    difficult child has been taking a downward spiral over the past two months since his girlfriend's baby was born (not his baby). It's been very hard to determine where to draw the line because of the money he has, which is under my control (about $7K left). I told him the last time I was there that I was no longer going to give him money for expenses, and I have stuck to that (I'm a Taurus and once I've made up my mind, I've made it up). He went thru a few good days where he had a job interview and did follow-up with them by calling several times, but we don't know yet if he got the job.

    He absolutely needs to be on medications because his behavior is deteriorating badly. He has an appointment (which he made) with a clinic in four days where he will see a counselor, then he will be referred to a psychiatrist for medications. He has realized (in his sane days) that he has a problem and needs to get help.

    My problem is the helping vs. enabling part - it's such a gray line to me and I need some guidance. I have been reading the other strings in this forum regarding this issue. He was arrested a few weeks ago for domestic violence (according to her, he "nudged" her to one side when he was trying to get into their apartment and she wouldn't let him in) and for driving on a suspended license. He was arraigned and is going back to court next week.

    I'm so stressed I'm having physical problems. Not only does he call me, his girlfriend also calls and sends me text messages, and I've become real friends with the girlfriend's mother, so at times I'm being bombarded with his problems all day every day. I have started turning off my cell phone when I get home from work, just to get some peace and quiet.

    Today he became belligerent with the mother, who then demanded his key to the apartment he shares with his girlfriend. She threatened to call the police and he gave her the key and drove off. His girlfriend then called me to say it was over with him. I am so sad about the way things are going because these are the most supportive he's ever had where he's living in Washington state (I'm in CA). He is very co-dependent on his girlfriend and this is his first real relationship, and I'm very worried about what his reaction will be when he realizes that it's really over. He's very attached to her children, and I'm afraid he may do something drastic.

    difficult child mentally is about 16, physically he's 19. Some friends who have bipolar children tell me that I should help him because "He has no one else, especially where he's living" - which is true.

    Please give me some guidance - please tell me what you think I should do..... :(
  2. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I don't have answers, other than to suggest you get to a therapist for YOU. Or maybe to families anonymous or to a support group for loved ones of someone coping with bipolar or depression. Or talk to your minister/priest/pastor?

    Sending hugs.
  3. bertie

    bertie Been there too many times

    Thanks Susie, I appreciate it.

    It's so difficult to find a good therapist! Mine left my HMO about a year ago and I haven't been able to get a good one're right, although I did tend to use this group as my support in the old days.

    I live alone so it's difficult to get my mind off of things sometimes.

    I just hope things come to a head without my son hurting himself or others. That's what I'm really afraid of, but I'm sure all of us go thru that.

    I do have one question: has anyone had a difficult child in jail for a year or more, then realized that after the stint in jail their difficult child has "become" like the others he was with? My difficult child is very gullible and actually quite sweet, and I hate to think of what may happen to him if he's sent to jail for an extended period.
  4. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    With difficult child so far from you, it makes it difficult to help him. And believe me when I say I sooooo understand you needing a break from difficult child drama.

    With difficult child realizing that he needs help I think it puts a different spin on the whole thing. It's not anyone's fault he has to wait his turn to get into a doctor to get medications.

    If it were my child, and I thought they were seriously spiraling out of control .... (sounds like what's happening) I'd have a serious talk about getting them admitted somewhere. This can be done via the ER. (danger to self and or others) And during that admit they would give him medications, plus prescriptions to hold him until he can see that psychiatrist.

    I know it sounds like a drastic move, but if it's a county mental health clinic that wait for a psychiatrist can be 6 months. A hospital admit would provide him with medications, plus bump him up high on the list and he'd get in to see the doctor right away. (hospital calls the clinic and sets it up before discharge)

    I had to do it with Nichole once.

    As long as he's seeking help, I'd help out when possible. Not with money necessarily, but in other ways.

    It's so hard watching them on a downward spiral.

  5. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    bertie...I can so much relate to your post. Our daughter has Bipolar I illness and it can get very complicated. It is difficult to fully explain the situation to outsiders. We have been able to make some progress by asking her to hold herself accountable for most things and we do this in increasing increments. When she gets herself in a jam...we almost always tell her to get herself out of it. If she starts to excerbate the situation, we might ask her to do what she can and we will help her with the rest. In other words, to meet us half way. There are times, if we feel that she is in danger, that we would help. I do believe that I would always be inclinced to provide for medical care and encourage difficult child to get extra help (medication/therapy) especially when she is going through times of great stress. I think this is one area where our adult child is particularly vulnerable and that is the inability to self soothe when things go wrong. So, she would really benefit if she could learn immediately seek medical treatment for these situations and that it can be remedied and move forward. If your son could also learn that, it would make it easier for him. I also agree with the other poster, if you haven't done so already, do consider seeing a therapist for yourself to help you learn how to best cope with the up and down disappointments and heartaches. In my mind, we can empathize with our adult children...not sympathize with them. We can't get so invested in their situations. We might help a little more with someone with a diagnosis, but this can only go so far. I do think we have to detach and make difficult and complicated decisions and often do all this while the world is upside down. Is it reasonable to expect to do this without assistance? Wishing you well.
  6. bertie

    bertie Been there too many times

    Nomad, thanks so much for the response. is your difficult child on medication?
  7. bertie

    bertie Been there too many times

    You're right, it can get very complicated....most of the charges the first time around for him - this is the second - were brought by my daughter (his half sister), who also lives in that area. She has jealousy issues and will do anything to get him into trouble, and she really did it to him that time. Domestic violence, harassment, threats were claimed by her and they were trumped-up charges. Poor difficult child never saw it coming. He's very gullible and young for his age.

    I was actually wondering this morning if I should bring him back to CA. At least that way I can get him onto the services he needs (right now he's on his girlfriend's DSHS, which needs to change) and I still have all of his medications down here, of which I have a big supply.

    Also if he's here (Silicon Valley), there is better public transportation and many, many more jobs than in his present country/rural area. Unfort he'd have to live with me at first which would be rough, but I would have strict rules and boundaries. I realize I could be going from the frying pan into the fire with this one.

    He does have charges pending in WA and he needs to be in court this Friday, then will be sentenced probably next month. Not sure how much time he will do; his attorney seems pretty confident that he can get him off most of the charges because his Miranda Rights weren't done by the book. I would fly him back for that, with his trust money and if he has to do jail time, he'd do it up there, then probably come back here - if I go with this scenario. Any thoughts?
  8. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Bertie..Yes, our difficult child takes her medication regularly. This part of the equation makes us feel that she is showing an effort towards self care.

    With reference to whether or not you should bring your son is hard to say. You have had serious health problems in the past and you might want to take that into consideration. How would life be with him home? What would be different? Frequent stress could be a health concern for you.

    I would ask him to meet you "half way" on some things. For might find him some phone numbers and addresses to check out support services in his local area and then ask him to do that for himself. I would not get overly concerned about whether he does these things or not...but might help him find avenues to help himself.

    Could you use trust fund money to fly yourself to see your son when it is absolutely necessary? You could also fly him in to see you when he is overly anxious for long weekends. I would look at a variety of creative different solutions before making a final decision.

    I just re-read one of your posts and would like to encourage you to check for a new therapist as soon as possible. This is a big burden and you shouldn't shoulder it alone.
  9. bertie

    bertie Been there too many times

    Thanks very much Nomad.

    I do use my difficult child's trust money to fly him anywhere, however I use my own to fly there to see him - mainly because for me it's mainly vacation time. I can afford it and I hate spending any of his money unless really necessary.

    difficult child called this morning and sounded like he was having a good day so I took the opportunity to talk to him about some things. I asked him if he wanted to come back to CA, but it turns out he spent the night with his girlfriend and wants to stay there as long as they have a chance - I can certainly understand that :) I did ask him if he'd like me to send him his medications, but he said he needed to think about it. At least he was honest with me.

    I talked to a crisis line in WA and I spoke to someone who had some good suggestions. He suggested that I use some of difficult child's money to pay for a visit to a psychiatrist, so at least we can get him started on medications. (Although i still have difficult child's medications here, it's been a year since he was on them and he does need to be re-evaluated). He also suggested that difficult child go to an ER, but I don't think that difficult child would go for that, plus it would be more expensive than seeing a psychiatrist. difficult child has an appointment this week to see a counselor; I hope he follows thru on it.

    It's hard to tell sometimes just what he's doing because he's so far away, so in some situations it's difficult to tell if he really is telling me the truth - but that's excellent advice about meeting me halfway, thank you! :)
  10. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    I see lots of positives here...esp. that there is an apt. in place for difficult child to see a counselor. I sense that you are feeling a little better about the situation and wish you well.
  11. bertie

    bertie Been there too many times

    Thanks so much Nomad, I really appreciate it. :)
  12. jisduit

    jisduit New Member

    Just wanted to send some prayers your way and hugs too
  13. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I feel for you, I really do. I think the suggestion of using some of his money to get him into a psychiatrist more quickly is a good one. As far as finding a good therapist for yourself, try your local chapter of NAMI .. or see if your local mental health agency has a support group for families of mentally ill people. Members of those types of support groups are great resources for therapists.

    It is a fine line between enabling and helping. It's good that your difficult child is taking steps to get help. For me keeping therapy appts and taking medications is key for giving oldest any help at all.

    Hugs to you.
  14. bertie

    bertie Been there too many times

    Thanks so much! You all are SUCH great support! I just sent this email to difficult child's girlfriend, because she told me this morning she's feeling very guilty in regards to him (I don't know why) - and he tends to use the phone to harass people - wondering what you think of it?
    Dear _____,

    difficult child is definitely anxious today and I know it's about court tomorrow. He called me today to ask for money for food. I told him no, he needs to find a part-time job. I also told him that he needs to go to DSHS today and get food stamps.

    He started to argue with me on the phone because he wanted money - I said, "I love you, but I'm not talking about this anymore. I'm hanging up now" and I hung up.

    He sent me texts and called me several times, but I didn't answer. The third time he sent me a text, I sent him this text message: "Stop this or I will block your number". He stopped. He is very impulsive when he's anxious. A few minutes ago I sent him a text: "I love u but u HAVE to become more self-sufficient."

    This is not easy. I haven't had to do this for a long time with him and it is just as hard as it was a few years ago - you tend get more used to it after a while, but it's been a long time for me, so my guilt is kicking in.

    Guilt is a very powerful emotion and we ladies have a very strong Guilt Gene. My best friend and I joke about it, how women are so good at feeling guilty ; )
    Also, your mind and your heart are very separate - it's frustrating because in your head you KNOW something is right or wrong, yet you can't control how you feel about it.

    Hang in there dear, he may try your patience today - just don't engage with him and remember, it's the chemicals talking, not him. If he starts arguing, just say "It sounds like you're having a difficult day, maybe it's better if we talk at another time". He will argue, then you can say "I love you but let's talk about this later" and hang up. If he keeps calling you, turn off your phone or turn the ringer off. He will get the message that you're sticking to your boundaries and he will eventually stop using the phone to control you.

    And try not to feel guilty because YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEEL GUILTY ABOUT.

    Love, _______

  15. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I think it's well written, and good advice. I think you're in a tough spot, though... by getting in the middle of your difficult child and his girlfriend, it really does increase your own anxiety.. so please be aware of this. I've been there done that .. .and at some point, you have to step back and say, this is between the two of you ... the more you are drawn into it, the more YOU are going to suffer. You aren't responsible for his girlfriend's feelings or problems, any more than you are responsible for his. If she and her mom are calling you constantly about his actions? How can you possible take care of yourself and do what YOU need to do?

    Just food for thought.
  16. bertie

    bertie Been there too many times

    Very good're right. What complicates things is that I have become friends with her mom, so it's hard to ignore it when one of them calls - I never know if they're calling for a social reason, or to complain about something. :(