What should we do when a mentally ill loved one is in denial about their illness?

When someone we love is unwilling to accept their diagnosis, it causes a heartbreaking chain of events. As we watch them spiral downward, we feel frightened and worried. It appears that nothing we say or do for will change their mindset. For those who walk alongside the individual who is ill, it is a horribly helpless situation.

When my daughter graduated from high school, she had been on medication for bipolar disorder for less than a year. Her moods were finally stabilized after a 17-year roller coaster. Now that she felt better, she began to think she could survive without the medications. She took them on a hit or miss basis. If she felt good one day, she did not take them. However, usually “feeling good” meant she was on the road to mania. On the days she was depressed, she took them. Eventually, she just did not take any medications.

At first, she went into a manic state. She partied all night and slept all day. She disregarded all house rules and argued for her independence. After repeated warnings, my husband and I reached the point of ENOUGH ALREADY! One night we dead bolted the house and put a sign on the door saying she should come back for her personal belonging that afternoon.

The next morning at 4:00, we heard a loud banging and yelling in our garage. My husband went to the door and explained to our daughter that she would have to find another place to live. We had a right to tranquility in our own home and her behavior was causing us to be sleep deprived, worried, and upset most of the time. She was homeless for a few hours, but she quickly figured out how to find another place to live.

The bigger issue was that she was very mentally ill and was in denial about it. Nothing we said convinced her she needed to be medication compliant. Drawing boundary lines for her was a scary stance for us to take, knowing that she could go off the deep end at any moment. However, we could not help her unless she accepted her illness and advocated for herself.

She wandered through the next year, working temporary jobs and living with friends, but she refused to take her medications. We kept in touch and prayed for her but did not offer her refuge in our home. One day she had a breakdown and ended up in the hospital. From then on, she gradually learned to accept her illness. Unfortunately, this scenario is more prevalent than you might think.

Doing what we did is not always the best solution. Each case has to be evaluated individually. Caring for someone who has a mental illness requires much grace, forbearance, tolerance, charity, endurance and self-restraint. Nevertheless, there is a fine line between giving them what they want and enabling them and giving them what they need, causing them to accept responsibility for their illness.

Dorothy Ruppert, author of “God Placed Her in My Path – Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder.”

About dorothyruppert

Author of two books - God Placed Her in My Path - Lessons Learned From the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder -Sixty Days of Grace - God's Sufficiency for the Journey
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1 Response to Denial

  1. More of us should realize that people are there for us if we just allow them to be there and do what we should. WRITE ON!

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