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Q:  Dear Mr. Schafer,
My son is almost 8. He was discharged last Wed, with stable medication, under the assumption that I will use line of sight until he starts his day hospital on monday. His behaviors on friday were scarey. he was talking like a demon, he bite me and spit in my face, and then within a few minutes he was laughing and singing and dancing to the tv. His caseworker is saying he needs to be at Hoffman Homes("because, we are out of options"), which is a residential treatment facility for kids ages 6-17. Usually kids stay there for 8-10 months. I know this is probably best for my son. Because I know I am not helping him, i can't. He needs professional help. With that being said, I am still feeling terrible and crying a lot. This issue has also put a terrible strain on my marriage we are about to divorce, my husband just can't take it anymore, but terrible timing. I know I have bipolar 1 and a situation like this is sad, but i feel like if my son is to move away, i am a failure of a mother. Sometimes, I am doing what ever and then i start crying, i  don t know what to do.

Dear J,

     I certainly have a better picture of what your dealing with behaviorally now with your son.  You and your husband have had to deal with much more than two people are capable of dealing with.  Given the behaviors you describe that your son is exhibiting he no doubt requires 24 hour professional supervision in a psychiatric setting for an extended period of time.  In your hear of hearts, I believe you also know this.  Your family does not likely have the capability, manpower and certainly not the expertise to deal with your  son in his present state right now.

     I understand your guilt about your son.  I too am bipolar and have helped my son through a difficult course of ADD which my wife and I innocently ignored and denied for quite some time.  I know about the guilt.  You can no more feel guilty about handing down mental illness than you can about diabetes.  Your job now is to do the best you can to help your child get well and get on track so he can have some stability in his life and get back to as close to normal as he possibly can.....even if doing your best means placing him in the hands of professionals in a residential treatment center for a period of time.  Make sure you remain an active part of his treatment team and continue to monitor his progress and stay involved so you are prepared  for the next transition.

     In your situation, it takes strength and courage to make the choices you are about to make.  If you are truly uncertain about your son's residential treatment center placement, a second opinion wouldn't hurt.  Life is precious and it sounds to me as though you are certainly treating your son's as such.  The only failure in life is to fail yourself by doing absolutely nothing when there are critical decisions to be made.  You are NOT a failure because your son moves to a place in which he can receive the care he may need to recover to begin to lead a normal life.  Please give yourself some credit for your courage.  You may want to talk to an adult you trust such as a family member, friend, religious leader, community leader, professional counselor, etc. who can lend an ear and let you express your feelings aloud about this.  Do not feel guilty or ashamed about the very difficult position you are in.

David Schafer, M.Ed.
Staff Psychologist

Published April, 2006

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