Take Meds, Feel Better. Feel Better, Quit Meds: My Daughter’s Favorite Game

Last night, my wife and son and I went to a 4th of July celebration at some friends’ house.  I took my Seroquel to stay chill.  I was having a wonderful time eating bratwursts, sipping root beer, and watching the fireworks when my 18-year-old bipolar daughter called in a terrible state.  The following conversation occurred.

Her: Dad, I’m at home and I’ve been cutting myself really bad and Amanda had to come over to stop me.  I just think I need to go to the hospital again.

Me:  Have you taken your meds?

Her:  I don’t think you understand, this is like the worst I’ve ever felt!

Me:  I’m sorry you feel bad, but did you take your meds?

Her:  I took them last night.

Me:  And how many times have you taken in the last 7 days?

Her:  Once.

Me:  Ok, there is nothing wrong with your life.  What you are experiencing is 100% chemical from you not taking your meds.  You will feel better after 3 days of taking them. You would literally be costing us thousands of dollars to pay someone to make you take your meds.  It is absolutely free for you to take them yourself.  Is Amanda going to let you hurt yourself.

Her:  No.  Do you even care that this is happening to me?  I need compassionate

Me:   Listen, this is not happening to you.  This is something that you are doing to yourself. I hate to see you suffer, but it’s hard for me to have compassion when you choose not to do what the doctor orders you to do.  If you go to the hospital, I’ll text you the insurance.  You are an adult now, and need to start taking responsibility for yourself.

Her:  Fine, whatever, I can tell that you don’t care about me…I’ll figure it out (click).

This kind of thing hasn’t happened since she turned 18.  I cannot make her take her meds now…legally.  I cannot make her go to the hospital.  We are in a transition period with this, and I’m not sure how to handle it.   In the past I would have jumped into the car in a panic and rushed her to the hospital, but I’m tired of this shit.  I don’t know why bipolars do this to themselves.  I never have.  And so, I don’t know how to have compassion for it.  It’s completely stupid and selfish to stopping taking meds.  It’s hurting yourself and the people around you.

I asked her “What do you think would happen to me if I quit taking my meds?  Is that a grownup way to live?  Think what that would do to the people who love and depend on me.  You think your mom would feel sorry for me and see me through it?  Her ass would be out the door.”

I’m torn.  I don’t want her to cut.  I don’t want her to commit suicide, but I can’t keep doing this with her.  She is pissed off, but she is alive and taking her meds now.  I don’t know why she does this; if she wants attention, needs a little drama once and awhile, or is truly unable to control the situation.  I know that so many bipolar folks repeat this pattern over and over again their entire life, and I can’t understand why they think it’s worth it.  Everything in my life depends on my taking my meds and staying well.  I will never do anything to jeopardize that.

I don’t know if I did the right think or not.  I just know that I cannot live the way I’ve been living with her.

EDIT:  The end of this story is that she grabbed my card, drove herself to the pharmacy, refilled her Lithium, took her meds, and the next time I saw her she was well again.  If I had left the party and drove her to the hospital, I would have robbed her of the opportunity to take control over her life.



7 thoughts on “Take Meds, Feel Better. Feel Better, Quit Meds: My Daughter’s Favorite Game

  1. I’m sure it’s hard for “normal” people to understand, but it is probably 100% out of her control. It is probably chemically driven. Bipolar people don’t want to be dramatic, it’s quite the opposite. I take my medicine, but I sometimes say things like “let me go ahead and take my anti-psychotic meds real quick, that way I’m more normal.” It sucks, knowing I have to take medication just to function like an “adult” and I’m 38! And sometimes even with the medication, functioning is a challenge. Every day is a struggle for us. It’s exhausting for us too, to constantly battle your own brain and not to trust your own thoughts. I’m sure it’s hard on our loved ones too, but we’re living it. I can’t trust anything I feel, if I happen to be feeling anything at all, because in don’t know if it’s genuine or the medication. What I’d give to be able just to feel anything at all some days. I get why she doesn’t want to take it, but she still does. What she needs is compassion, perisistence, and understanding. I don’t think scolding her is helpful, at all. Trust me, we bipolars (as you stated) already feel guilty enough and know we are a burden to our family members. If you really want to know how to help her, read my blog or others in the bipolar community, it might provide some insight to know your daughters behavior is pretty “normal” for us bipolars.

    • I am bipolar, and so I understand the importance of taking ownership over my illness. It’s not anyone’s job to save me. In fact, if I don’t stay on the straight-and-narrow, my wife will divorce me. That is a promise she has made. It’s motivation. I do feel compassion for my daughter. I know what it’s like, but I also know what’s like to be well. And so I stick with my decision not to lead with compassion this time. She chose not to take them knowing full well what the results might be. The result of my response was that she grabbed my credit card, drove to the drug store, refilled her Lithium, and gave me her card back. The next time I sorry her, she was well again. She didn’t need to go to the hospital. That was a panicked reaction. She had created a scenario where she became out of control and needed someone to take control. I gave her the opportunity to take control herself. I hated doing it. I’m a rescuer, but I think I did the right thing.

  2. I’m newly diagnosed and a few years older than your daughter. I lasted a week out of hospital before I stopped taking my meds, relapsed, and ended up in hospital again. It wasn’t for attention or a bit of drama. When I was in hospital the nurses were very mindful that receiving a bipolar diagnosis in early adulthood is really, really difficult. Being told you’ll be on heavy drugs for life, being warned about having to be careful with alcohol and late nights and travelling and all things fun that could send you off balance is scary when you’re young and those are the things your peers are doing. So there’s that. Having to accept a bipolar diagnosis and what it means can be really scary for us young people- so that might be part of it! Another thing I learned, is that lack of insight is a genuine thing caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain, and THAT’S why so many bipolar stop taking our meds (something like 40% of bipolars are affected by this, which might explain why she struggles with taking her meds and you don’t!) We literally CAN’T believe that we are unwell or that we need them. When I stopped taking them, it was because my mood still wasn’t level from the previous episode. I was a little hypomanic, which made me think I didn’t really need them, and when something happened that ‘proved’ I was ‘magic’, all insight went out the window and I got swept up with the delusion and the meds were forgotten about. Currently, I’m stable and while *rationally* I know I need to take my meds/know the consequences of not taking them, my stability is making me doubt my diagnosis at all. I’m calm, not manic, so why am I taking them? They probably made a mistake or overreacted and I’m not really bipolar at all! And it’s like, if I’m logical about it, I know the meds are WHY I’m stable, but that’s the thing with this illness- for lots of us, the most difficult part about staying stable is accepting that this is a lifelong thing that won’t just go away if we take the lithium for a while. I don’t think it’s worth it, and I’m guessing your daughter doesn’t think it is either. It actually does my head in that I struggle with med compliance. But I think for a lot of people it really ISN’T controllable. Plus, once you stop the meds, the episode escalates, insight declines and it becomes even harder to get back on them. I think you handled the situation perfectly by the way- I’m just offering an explanation as to why your daughter might be struggling to take the stuff. Hope you’re well and I’m glad to hear your daughter has settled after restarting them!

    • Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience and insight. And thank you for your vote of confidence in my decision. That means so much to me, and maybe says something about your maturity to understand what i did. This is such a flippin tricky illness as you are learning. It sets the stage for saying, doing, and believing things that we would never do otherwise. My daughter as been at this for 3 years and I’ve been with it for a decade. And it seems to be different for everybody in some way, so it’s hard for me to parent her sometimes because I think I know bipolar, but I really only know MY bipolar. But what I do know is that I cant help her the way I do forever. I could die tomorrow, and she would have to figure out how to live without my protective tendencies. That night may have been as hard for me as it was for her, but we survived. I had to let go of her a little bit, and that may be something only a parent can understand, especially a daddy with an 18 year old daughter.

    • Oh. And this new life you’re embarking on…it takes courage…do much courage. To face illness, to own illness, to be well, to stay well, to be honest, to be open, and most importantly to be yourself. That’s a hard one. What’s me? What’s my illness? Takes time. You won’t always doubt your illness. You’ll prove it to yourself enough times that you’ll eventually accept it. Reaching out like you are doing now will help. It took me several years to accept it 95%, and this spring when I had a 3 month hypo manic to manic episode I went to 100%. And then I’ll be well for another year or so and maybe go back down to 98%. Lol, but seriously. Aren’t I just seeking attention? Making material to blog about? Wanting to be special? Tricky business, bipolar. I wish you well.

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