The beginning: At age 22 my daughter had her first episode of manic behavior. When her work supervisor discovered she was out in the middle of a busy urban street, he called the police who took her to the hospital. I was shocked and confused, since at the time she had successfully completed 4 years of college and was living independently. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder; the following years were filled with frequent hospitalizations, starting medications, missing medications, and getting kicked out of apartments. She lost belongings, driver’s licenses, and cell phones. She has lived with bipolar disorder for over 20 years.
Birth of a grandson: In 2005, she disappeared for six months and I had no idea where she was. When she turned up at Thanksgiving with her boyfriend, I realized she was pregnant. My grandson arrived in March, 2006. For the next two years, my daughter sustained stability without medications until she stopped breastfeeding. Then her hospitalizations continued on an average of once or twice a year. My daughter and grandson came to live with us when my grandson was age four. When my daughter decided to move out when he started kindergarten, I told her she could not take my grandson with her.
More manic episodes: More troubling manic episodes ensued. Often, the police brought her to the hospital due to reports of her bizarre and vulnerable behavior. One time her incessant walking outside resulted in frostbite and hospitalization. She continued the cycle of hospitalizations, restarting medication, and stopping the medication, which led to the recurrence of manic symptoms. She often received supportive services following hospitalization, including short-term crisis housing and twice resided in an Intensive Regional Treatment Services (IRTS) facility.
Recovery: After a series of repeated hospitalizations during 2017, the hospital social worker referred her to an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team. The team provides close oversight of her medications and connects her with services needed to support independent living in the community. With the help of these additional services, my daughter has maintained stability, with only one short-term hospitalization. Social Security Disability, a housing subsidy, and participation in a mental health clubhouse all contribute to helping my daughter live well within the limitations of a mental illness.