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2 Bumps

Can I get a few thoughts on a tough situation with my DD?

She's been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and is on additional meds since 3 weeks ago. She is out of her deep depression and cutting has mostly stopped. She is somewhat less verbally abusive and a little easier to get along with, if she isn't asked to do much here at home. Spends most of the day watching tv and sleeping. Still, even with this diagnosis, we feel manipulated to a degree, and that has been a factor in the past as well.

She is using a car that is in my name, and was for her to commute to school and work, but is now being used to go on dates and out with friends. In light of the new situation with her mental health, it is supposed to be for her to go to Dr.'s and to therapy. She is supposed to contribute to the insurance bill and pay for gas-but that has slid due to our feeling of importance that she get back on her feet so she can get a job, and/or take a class or 2.

Trouble is, she ditched her therapy appointment (took too much sleep med the night before, knowing it would knock her out all morning and she would miss it), claims she is too anxious to work, or even to make phone calls, and yet later that seemed quite capable of driving an hour to date, blow out a tire, and have it fixed before coming home (late).

I confronted her about getting herself to therapy as her first priority, before dating, socializing (spending $ she doesn't have), and if she doesn't she will not have use of the car. (our therapist rec'd this) She screamed at me that she doesn't want to think about it (illness) and she is such a screwup and a failure and everything makes her anxious. (except, apparently, the above social-type outings).

Said she was sorry about the tire and being late. My response was, need to get to therapy and work on those issues, and learn to manage the bipolar and anxiety. Running away from it will not help in the long run. I purchased 2 books on amazon about bp, and will give them to her when they arrive.

At 19, she has completed one semester of college, but doesn't want to go back...not sure when she will or where. Her loans will come due in 6 months, maybe less. All her friends are back at college.

We cannot afford to pay the loans for her, nor can we continue to float her forever. For instance, yesterday she was badgering me to get her a smart phone (we have basic texting phones) so she can check facebook on the run and I said that if anyone gets a smart phone it would be me so that I can utilize email for jobs, sports schedules, gps to get to games etc. I told her she is 19 and can get her own contract and phone and pay for it if she wants one so badly. We pay for the family plan now for all 4 of us.

My DH and I feel that she can function at a higher level than she is claiming, albeit not at a "normal" level. Thoughts on kid gloves vs. a little "tough love"? Some days we feel like we're being softies, and some days, hard asses.

Answer Question

Asked by Anonymous at 7:27 PM on Aug. 18, 2013 in Adult Children (18+)

Answers (15)
  • You're in a tough spot. I'm wondering, could you make a calendar of everywhere she's supposed to be, both doctor and therapy appointments and also fun outings. Then every time she marks off a place that she's gone when she should have, she gets a fun outing. If she misses a mandatory appointment, she misses a date or social trip. Also, maybe have her make five phone calls a day for jobs, and if she doesn't, she can't use the car that day. I don't know, since I haven't personally dealt with this, but maybe more structure would start to get your daughter moving in the right direction and make you feel less used.

    Answer by Ballad at 7:48 PM on Aug. 18, 2013

  • Your therapist recommends to enforce that she doesn't use the car if she doesn't go to therapy. Do what your therapist says. You need to keep the keys and she needs to get them from you. Heck, get one of those steering wheel lock things that you need to put on and take off to ensure she doesn't get a spare set of keys made.


    Answer by ChasingBridges at 8:15 PM on Aug. 18, 2013

  • Just because she has a mental issue. Does nt give her a free pass on being an adult. The responsability of adult hood. That's how I see it anyways. Take the car keys away. Or tell her to go get a job. Stop treating her like a child. She is an adult.

    Answer by louise2 at 9:07 PM on Aug. 18, 2013

  • Coming from someone who was diagnosed with BP at 19 and a slew of other mental illnesses, she is using you. She IS capable of living on her own if she is managing all that you said she is. And if she isn't able to then she shouldn't be driving a car, especially one under another's name(if she injures someone or causes damage you would be responsible).


    Answer by tntmom1027 at 9:40 PM on Aug. 18, 2013

  • Thank you for the comments. I am keeping the keys and if she sleeps through her appointments, the sleep meds as well. She'll need to come to me to get them. Also wondering about other things, like staying in bed all day, internet use, constant texting, not helping around the house. I am a teacher and will be back to school soon and leaving her home alone is not sitting well with my DH and I.

    Comment by Anonymous (original poster) at 7:46 AM on Aug. 19, 2013

  • This is a hard road. I would focus on setting reasonable limits I can live with around things that are my responsibility, (some of the things you mentioned), and making space for the feelings that come up for her around those limits. "Success" is not when she has a positive/desired response to the limits. And an angry or blaming, complaining response is not "failure."
    Make space even for her being immature or childish in terms of having a fit when she hears something she doesn't like. Focus on the limit, which you hold, and allowing the feelings around it. Don't try to "answer" them by defending the limit, or pointing out issues with her complaints. Focus instead on YOUR emotional regulation at these times. It will help in many ways, primarily taking the pressure of her to adapt herself (this is the benefit of "making space" for people's feelings.) This helps her not get stuck there, because you're not resisting it.

    Answer by girlwithC at 10:09 AM on Aug. 19, 2013

  • It's like a two-step dance. 1)Hold the limit & 2)let the feelings be what they are. When she screams that she doesn't want to think about her diagnosis (and manages avoiding it by sleeping through therapy appointments) and that she's a screw-up & failure who lets people down, she is expressing a lot of what being anxious & avoidant (caught in shame) is like. It intensifies with the prospect of things that directly address her issues, or seeing/talking to people who trigger shame & remorse (thus driving the impulse to AVOID!), and it fades/recedes with less threatening situations. She will seek out those people & situations. It's part of self-soothing.
    When you limit her access to the car & thus limit her options, you are taking responsibility for stuff you do "own." (Resources you provide) Her reaction reflects her dislike for how it impacts her, and her distress. The form it takes just shows she has emotional maturing to do.

    Answer by girlwithC at 10:11 AM on Aug. 19, 2013

  • Good thoughts, girlwithc. Are you a therapist?

    Comment by Anonymous (original poster) at 10:20 AM on Aug. 19, 2013

  • Holding a limit that is yours to have (i.e., it's about your decision to allow something of yours to be used or not) and allowing the feelings that she has in response is the precise combination that will support her in that process of emotional maturing. Emotional maturing/developing self-regulation really is about building tolerance for your own emotions.
    When YOU focus on your own internal regulation (staying regulated, yourself, when she behaves in a way that is upsetting to you), you are developing the same capacity in yourself. It's an internal thermostat, and the ability to stay in the "comfort zone" internally regardless of the external conditions. When we are under-developed in this area, we respond to our own discomfort by putting pressure on people to adapt themselves (their behavior or words) so that we can stay regulated. This is not SELF-regulation!

    So that's the long-term goal & your therapist's rec. was good!

    Answer by girlwithC at 10:20 AM on Aug. 19, 2013

  • No I'm not a therapist but I have benefited from therapy & have gained insight into the emotional process, and into what was not helpful to me as a child, and the ways this makes optimally parenting my OWN children challenging, despite my best intentions. My primary personal (internal) work in the day to day is all around issues of self-regulation, taking responsibility for my own feelings. It's about recognizing (whenever I get triggered or whenever someone "pushes my buttons") how I am having difficulty tolerating my own feelings, and thus don't make space for the feelings of those around me (getting reactive & resistant, instead.) And my goal in recognizing this is to shift! lol So it unfolds differently.

    I think you & your daughter are in a great place (though painful) for healing & growth! Emotional maturity can happen at any age/stage. It's an emergent process--natural for all of us, given the conditions to support it.

    Answer by girlwithC at 10:29 AM on Aug. 19, 2013

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