When the worst day of your life means having to tell your son to leave the home because he wasn’t respecting any boundaries.
Every day I wake up and I am hopeful that this will be the day my son wants to get better.
Sadly, today is not the day. I have been involved with support groups and going to therapy most of my son’s life. Even though this illness can wreak havoc on your life having those things in place has helped to keep me grounded. Over the past few years, my son’s bipolar has progressed into chaos. I was finding myself struggling to know what the right thing to do was. How much can I support him when he is so angry toward me? How much time do I spend listening to him spew hateful, negative things? How much time do I dedicate to someone who is unwilling to help himself?
I found that it was easier when he was younger. I used to tell people I have to lose the battles to win the wars. Whether it was a fight over wanting a toy or him wanting me to take him to McDonald’s. In my world, those battles were better off being lost. I knew I would have to stand my ground on things such as going to school or taking responsibility for his actions. Those were things I was not willing to settle on. I knew it could potentially be a war in our home, but as a mother, I knew it was my job to instill the discipline in him because eventually he would grow up and have to function in society independently.
I thought back then I couldn’t be more exhausted. There were several times when things were flying around the house that I just up and left to escape. I literally ran away from home. I would drive around for hours or park in the local grocery store lot just to cry it out and regain my strength. All the while I would hope that he would calm down and we could have a discussion about it. I wouldn’t say it worked all of the time, but sometimes it did.
As he progressed into adulthood I couldn’t run away anymore. I had to face the fact that if he and I were going to co-exist I had to lay down some BOUNDARIES. Although I am educated and I know what the word means I wasn’t exactly sure how to apply it in our lives, but I knew I needed to start finding some peace or I was going to lose myself in this illness.
I had to face the fact that if he and I were going to co-exist I had to lay down some BOUNDARIES.
A few years ago I decided that it was time to take back some of my life. I had dedicated so much time to him that I had lost myself along the way. I went back to the gym, started spending more time with friends, started dating, and I was even able to take a few mini vacations. Although I was starting to enjoy this new found me, my son didn’t like it all. The more I tried to separate myself from him the more he tried to cling on tighter. It was like a tug of war. I started to set more boundaries regarding rules in the house, behaviors that were tolerable, the use of derogatory words toward me. It was my house and my rules and as an adult, he was free to leave anytime. I wasn’t trying to be mean; I was trying to teach him how to become an adult and independent.
Sadly, at the time, I didn’t realize he had quit taking medication and started experimenting with marijuana. I knew kids experimented with it, and I half expected him to try it, I just didn’t realize the awful effect it would have on him or how quickly he would spiral out of control. I had to set new boundaries. My boundaries were no longer about respectfulness in the home but about me trying to survive.
I had to tell my son to leave our home because he wasn’t respecting any boundaries. It was the worst day of my life. I wasn’t sure of what the outcome would be but I knew I couldn’t continue to live in a world that could potentially cost me my home, my job, and maybe my life. It was now up to him to make the right decisions or live with the consequences.
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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