Trying to find your happiness when you have an adult child with bipolar who is refusing treatment and you feel powerless and weak.
My life has been in a frenzy lately. I lost my cousin and best friend to cancer. I sold my house after living there for 17 years and moved into a one-bedroom basement apartment, and my son was homeless in Florida.
I have always been a fighter. When I left my son’s dad many years ago I knew being a single mom wasn’t going to be easy but I was committed to providing my son the best life possible. I didn’t know that I was going to be a single mom raising a child with bipolar.
Throughout his life nothing was easy. I seem to have this black cloud that hangs over my head. I keep asking God or any higher power, when do I finally get a break? When is it my time to have happiness? I honestly try to be a good person; don’t I deserve something good in my life? I am so sick of challenges.
It is hard to find your happiness when you know you have a chronically ill adult child who is refusing treatment and you feel powerless and weak. Week after week my homeless son was ending up in the emergency room with something broken from another accident or becoming sick from not taking care of himself. He was starting to have run-ins with the police and hanging out with less than questionable people. No, I didn’t sleep much. I was in a constant state of worry.
What is a parent to do? I couldn’t sit back and wait for him to die. It’s not in my DNA not to try to save him from himself.
I knew an inpatient stay at a hospital was not going to fix this. He needed something long term. He needed time to get stabilized and work on developing life skills again. I turned to Google and starting looking for long- term treatment centers.
I came across an interventionist. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work but I had to give it a try. I truly believe people come into your life for a reason. When I saw his number I immediately recognized it as being from Chicago. What are the odds? I picked up the phone and we had a long conversation about my son. He believed he could help. I was hesitant because I knew how defiant my son was lately but I was willing to try anything. Maybe my son knew he needed help, or maybe he was exhausted from living on the streets but he agreed to meet with him.
Within 24 hours my son was on a plane to a treatment center in California. I can’t even explain to you how fast my heart was racing. I thought it was going to fall out of my chest.
My son arrived at the treatment center and was put through detox and started on medications. I felt like everyone from the center called me to ensure he was in safe hands. I spoke with his counselor and it turned out he was also from Chicago. Talk about weird coincidences. I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. It was nice to be able to rest my head on my pillow and have a good night’s sleep for once.
About five days later his counselor called to tell me that the treatment center wasn’t a good fit for him. He needed more mental health help than they could provide. Panic mode set in. I have been to California a couple of times but I know nothing about their mental health care. You entrust that the professionals will know how to best treat your child and yet a lot of them don’t, so you just have to hope for the best.
My son was on his way to a new treatment facility. Would this be the right answer? Would this be a better fit? The only thing I was confident in was his counselor and he promised he would do whatever it takes to find him a good place.
Ironically, he was also from Chicago. I don’t know if that is strange karma or good luck and only time will tell. I will never give up.
Julie Joyce is a Chicago Police Officer and the mother of an adult son who suffers from bipolar disorder and ADHD. Over the years Julie has been a strong advocate and volunteer with National Alliance for Mental Illness, The Balanced Mind Foundation, and has assisted with the creation and implementation of the Advanced Juvenile Crisis Intervention training (CIT) for Chicago Police officers. She is certified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Hostage Negotiation Team as a Crisis Negotiator, has conducted presentations on mental illness for Attorney General Lisa Madigan's Office and has had the opportunity to speak to legislatures on the need for special education funding. Julie has also conducted educational presentations for DCFS on interventions for kids with mental illness. Along with her son, she was interviewed on NPR, WBEZ, for the “Out of the Shadows” series which focused on juveniles and mental illness. Currently, Julie spends her time raising awareness and advocating for people living with mental illness.
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