Recently, I spoke with a mom that has a son with a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder. Her son would be admitted to a hospital on a 5150 and, despite a history of multiple admissions, according to the mom he “knew what to say” to get out. As a result, he was never there long enough to be put on a t-Con or eventually be conserved. He more or less fell victim to the rotating door of inpatient psych wards. Once he was discharged he would couch surf until he would eventually have a falling out with his friends and was left to fend for himself on the street. Every now and then he would call his mother and yell at her, or have some outlandish story wouldn’t make any sense to his mother and she would have to hear him decompensating so all she could do was wait for him to be re-admitted to another psych ward where eventually the vicious cycle continued.
Then she started decompensating. She had trouble eating, or getting out of bed. She was sick with the uncertainty of his whereabouts for he was more or less homeless with no help and refused any outpatient treatment. It got to the point where his mother didn’t know what to do. She felt utterly helpless. Should she answer his irate calls? He was extremely mobile so she couldn’t ever track him down. The stress of the situation was beginning to take a physical and emotional toll on her life, and she found herself at a cross roads. All of her friends and family said she needed to take a step back to get better. That she couldn’t help him if she couldn’t take care of herself, but the guilt and shame she endured with the idea of taking a break kept her sucked in.
What are you supposed to do when a loved one falls victim to the system, doesn’t get proper long term treatment, or is savvy enough to play by the rules, be med compliant, and then get discharged till the next breakdown at which point the cycle continues. He ends up skipping from one hospital to another, with the hope that he will stay long enough to get better. No mother wants to desert their child, especially when they are mentally ill, but anything she did to try and help was getting her nowhere. And knowing that she was alone in her continual efforts to help him, while everyone around her encouraged her to let go and take a break from the mayhem, only made matters worse.
I know there are families out there with loved ones that have not hit rock bottom, that are out in the world surviving on their own with no intention to get better, or receive help from their loved ones. So what do you do? Is she going to answer his next call in the middle of the night to hear some wild story riddled with erratic behavior? If she doesn’t answer his call then what happens? Does she just have to wait for him to be put on another 5150 and hope the social worker at whatever hospital will contact her to inform her of his whereabouts and current condition?
She knew something had to change, and that change weighed heave on her shoulders. Even her husband said to let it go and take some time to take care of herself, and every day she would get closer to listening to all the people around her that mutually agreed self care had to be her top priority. I can’t imagine being stuck in such a predicament, and my heart goes out to any family or friends that face such a dilemma.
Having said that, I do not think there is a definitive answer on what to do in such circumstances cause every case is different and people need to do what they think is best for themselves, and their loved one. Should you have any advice, or similar experiences to share, please feel free to comment.