Child's Mental Illness Can Make Your Marriage Sick, Too

July 22, 2011 Angela McClanahan

My child's mental illness stresses my marriage too. My son's step-father didn't used to feel like a step-dad. The tension is unbearable. Did this happen to you?

I've receive innumerable comments from readers about how their child's psychiatric illness has taken a toll on their marriages. I'd be lying if I said my husband and I are the exception. The tension in our house has been thick enough to spread on a bagel, and over the course of this year, it's gotten progressively worse.

Plus, I've noticed a definite tone to my posts lately. No longer optimistic, rarely showcasing the dry humor I'm infamous for, and mostly just a big written invitation to my Pity Party. When I started this blog, I'd hoped to make it a mix between informative, generalized posts and the more personal, happened-to-me stories. Lately, however, the personal, happening-to-me (us) are weighing on my mind, heavily enough to render me interested in little else.

Mental Illness Has Taken Toll on My Marriage

When my husband and I met, Bob was 3 1/2. The problems had already started, but hadn't progressed yet (or I hadn't pulled my head out of the sand enough to see them yet) to the point of professional intervention. I knew Bob was "difficult" and a "handful" but I also attributed those qualities to his high intellect, my ongoing tumultuous relationship with his father, and the adjustment of shifting between biological parent homes. I had no idea what we were all in for down the road.

My husband and Bob got on splendidly from the start. He treated Bob not like a stepchild, but like a child. When Bob's problems necessitated meetings with preschool personnel and mental health providers, my husband was there, and felt the burden as heavily as I did.

I worried about how having a second child--a child that biologically belongs to me and my husband--would affect the dynamics in our household. I worried that having a biological child would distance my husband from Bob. I worried about how I would handle giving Bob the attention he demands and give a newborn, baby, toddler and young child the attention they needed.

My Worst Fears Have Come to Life

It's hard to admit any of this--to myself, and definitely to the blogosphere. It's harder still to admit I don't have the first clue what to do about any of it.

In essence, all of my worst fears have been recognized. There is such an obvious void between Bob and my husband that I feel helpless to bridge. I empathize with both of them--a lot of the time, I don't want to deal with Bob, either, because he is exhausting. But at the same time, he is my son, and I love him, and I want him to be happy and feel loved.

I feel pulled between opposing forces in my own home, 24/7. And worse, I feel responsible for everyone's unhappiness--I put Bob in an environment where he is the elephant in the room; I brought my other son into a home divided; and I ruined my husband's life by pulling him into my misery.

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2011, July 22). Child's Mental Illness Can Make Your Marriage Sick, Too, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 15 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

Randye Kaye
July, 22 2011 at 2:54 am

Hi Angela - oh, this sounds all too familiar - though my kids are in their 20's now, the mental illness of my son Ben can still cause strain. My husband Geoff - a gem who, early in our relationship, even signed up to take a NAMI Family-to-Family class I was teaching - is stepfather to Ben and his sister Ali, and while he is wonderful, it's still hard when he loses sight of the "realistic expectations" we learned about, and I see his frustration in his dealings with Ben. I guess I wish he loved him more - but, though Ben is so lovable when his illness is balanced by meds, he is not so easy to take when things are out of balance.
This can definitely cause a marriage rift, especially when family members are in different stages of acceptance. Yes, it's hard. Stepparenting alone is hard, especially after cuddly kids turn into surly pre-teens and teens - heck, parenting is hard then! Having a bipolar child - well, you know.
So yep you are normal. It helps me, at these times to remember what NAMI says in the F2F class about "self-care", and remember to take care of myself - and my marriage - when I can. And to stop feeling guilty about it.
Love your blog, by the way.
You will find your sense of humor again. We all need a little "pity party" for ourselves now again. I'm a firm believer!
Randye, "Mental Illness in the Family" blog

KJ Powell
July, 22 2011 at 7:22 am

I am a parent of of 4 adult children, wife of over 34 years and have recently found out that my youngest 20 year old son has a brain disorder. The hopes and dreams of the future for my husband and I and of our son is gone. But, I have to say that no matter how horrible things are right now I will always remember this, The best gift I can give my children is to love and support their father. Even through my son's "madness" he still needs to know this. It's not easy. We blame ourselves, we think we can fix it, we just want at times for our son to go back to the way he was, but he can't and our marriage and relationship can't. That doesn't have to be a bad thing, just a different way of living, loving and excepting what life has for us.
My best to you and your family.

August, 5 2011 at 6:24 am

My fiance Blake and I met when my daughter had just turned 5 years old. We fell head over heals in love. He knew Breanna was a handful, but he was willing to take a chance because he loved me and was starting to love her to. She has ADHD and gave us a run for our money. She was so bad in school that her teacher actually put her desk in the hallway so she could not disturb the other children. I did not want to put her on medication because I had heard all the stories and thought I was a bad mom for medicating her. Well things kept getting worse and worse until I finally gave in. I was shocked at the change in her at first. Her grades come up, and she was able to sit in the class without being disruptive. Now she was still having outburst that were so bad I would sit and cry. I felt like such a failure. I thought it was all my fault she was this way. It got to the point where I was put in the middle of 2 people I loved more than anything in this world. I started to leave several times because I felt like I took his life away from him and he did not deserve to live in my hell. Blake would actually say to me that Adhd is just a crutch it is not a real disease. She was spoiled and used to getting her way, that is why she acted up so bad. He would crush me every time he would make that comment. Now our relationship was wonderful, we never argued except about Breanna.
As Breanna has gotten older (13 now) she has really done a lot of changing. Her grades are good, (we push her hard), she is maturing, The outburst now only happen maybe once a week where it used to be several times a day, and she is such a daddy's girl. She and Blake have such a wonderful relationship now, and she and I do to. I am not saying life is perfect, but it has gotten so much better.
Blake and I are getting married (finally) In October, we have included her in the wedding as a Jr bridesmaid as well as with the unity candle. Blake and I light one uniting us, then the other candle that is called a family candle, all 3 of us light it uniting us as a family.
I guess what I am trying to say is for those that think your hell will never get better, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I never thought there would be, but thank god in my case it is getting better.
God bless all of you and you family. I pray for each of you to have a peaceful day.

Elizabeth Hinkle
August, 5 2011 at 6:41 am

Coming from the perspective of a marriage and family therapist who has worked with children, teens and families dealing with multiple mental health issues, you are definitely not alone. It's impossible to not let family members' problems, feelings and behaviors affect us.
The good news is that we can affect each other in a positive way, too. You've already started by acknowledging some of the problems. Next, if you haven't already, access support, accept help and work on changing how you think about things.
Start small and take one day at a time.
Best wishes.

mirtha gonzalez
August, 5 2011 at 7:39 am

Dear freinds:
What about my 43 years old. Leponex has put him as big as he can get,
not able to find a couple, and frustrated all the time blaming parents.
I feel more thann sick. I am 63 years old, suffering his illnes 43 years now.
Cannot afford it any more.

Annie Packingham
August, 5 2011 at 6:37 pm

I sob as i read the words that i live with. The guilt, oh how i am so imersed in guilt. The love, truck loads of love for all the members in our little family. Recognition that our unity, our just being a faimly inflicts a type of suffering on every member. I can't change the past because it has gone before me and I do not know the future so I can only live the present as well as is possible. What has guided each of our family members into thier position in life becomes less important than how we unify to find the strenght to cement our selves into a sense of peace, of
acceptance and hope. Hope is the key that unlocks our premision to still live as a family, to love what is always there under the tatters and tears.
I always have pain, i always have some guilt, i have frustration, I have enough hope to demand we function as a family enough of the time that it is who we are. We are Timmy's family. We are John's Family we are Mom and Dad's family. We know no matter what happens there will be our family tattered, torn but still whole.
love and hope

Angie Mireles
August, 6 2011 at 9:07 am

Sometimes it is just comforting to be able to relate to someone, your blog is very helpful/ daughters bipolar has put a huge strain on our marriage( truthfully on everything-from family to finances). My daughter is adopted, 11yr-and her sister is 4month younger than she. Long story, birth mom changed mind ect Family telling you 'it's just you letting her get away with stuff' (although we've been in counseling since shses was 3yr , best pssychiatrists, 2 hospitals stays-one not coverd under insurance$17,000 -argg! ) My daughter who has bp is one of the most loving children on earth, gifted, couldn't live without her! Meds stop working, dr not following through w/ appointments-it's a lot for anyone to take! Tattered & Torn but we keep on moms deserve more credit for keeping our families together, standing up to others stupid prejudices against mental illness, demanding prayers go out to all the moms all there fighting this HUGE battle -day after day! God Bless you

August, 6 2011 at 5:00 pm

I don't have children because I had three miscarriages and I lost our daughter at 20 weeks gestation. I miss them more than I can say. I just wanted to let all the moms here that are struggling with your children having a mental illness to know that I sympathize with you. (((((((((hugs)))))))) My nephew has ADHD and I practically raised him until he was 2 1/2 tears old. He is 20 now and is doing very well. My sister finally got him on meds when he was little and that calmed him down. I just wanted to share this to give you some hope. Take care of yourselves, and please don't blame yourselves because it's not your fault. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of you. God bless.

December, 28 2012 at 6:48 pm

My son is 22, and has schizophrenia. His psychotic break was 3 1/2 years ago. It has been hard on my marriage, and to my younger daughter. I struggle to holdit together, as I deal with my own anxiety and depression. I also have children who had ADD, and know the struggles of putting young children on medication. My son has excellent doctors and therapists, as do I and my children. Taking time for myself is difficult, but I do it. I hope and pray one day there will be a breakthrough in medication, for those suffering with this illness.

March, 15 2013 at 7:40 am

Nobody has said they have a probably like mine.I remarried when my daughter was five. She always has been jealous of my relationship with her stepdad. Anyway we we both abused by her Bio dad. She accused hum of molesting her the charges were unfounded.she has been in psych facilities an DC with bipolar schizophrenia and the whole shabang. She's older now and home.husband doesn't feel comfortable and wants her fine. She still feels as if I should leave him. I am at a lost as of what to do.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 19 2013 at 3:24 pm

Hi Leslie,
I'm really glad that you shared today. And I'm so sorry for the pain and suffering you've been through. It takes a very strong person to walk away from an abusive relationship. As a single mom, I knew that introducing a new person to Bob would be a challenge. So, I prepared him beforehand. Bob was very upset about it because he still wanted his father and I together. Which is something many children want, but aren't able to articulate. Bob did though. I explained to Bob how unhappy I was as a child with my parents arguing and how happy I was when they broke up. And I told Bob that I didn't want him to go through years of arguing parents when he didn't have to. It took him a couple of years to accept that his father and I wouldn't be together. Bob is now looking forward to a future stepfather and siblings. It's all about how you present it while also giving your child time to let go of the fantasy. I'd recommend family therapy so that you can allow your daughter to process her feelings about your new relationship. Because our children do affect relationships regardless of whether or not they are related to the person (bio parents) or not (stepparents). Also, the family therapy should include your husband so that he can talk about his feelings as well. Everyone needs to be heard and validated before healing can begin. I believe with my whole heart that you can have a happy family life if you put the time and effort into it. Good luck and please visit again soon.

Cynthia F
June, 26 2019 at 6:07 pm

Hi its me again, Leslie. We have managed to get along for all these years. So now my hubby had to have surgery. He has to be non weight bearing and we have animals. We take care of tgem and him and it is taking a toll. I havent really been happy in a while . im sick and tired of being sick and tired and now she says he is depressing her. Im depressed too. I cant leave now. What would you do?

June, 4 2013 at 12:41 pm

Over the past few years I have watched my youngest son change. He is now 13. I have taken him to our family doctor multiple times knowing something was wrong. I was told its just him becoming a teenager. My husband is in the Navy and was deployed last year. My husband had been gone for a year now. This past year my son has turned violent towards me and his older brother by one year. I couldn't take it anymore and we started seeing a counselor in December. Things did not get better. He started failing school and becoming aggressive towards his teachers. I felt helpless. The counselor referred us to a psychiatrist for medication, but my husband was completely against it. My husband felt I was being too hard on our son, he didn't want to believe what was happening to our son. One of my son's episodes was so bad I had to call the police. I couldn't even talk when I called 911. My other son had to take the phone and tell the police his brother was trying to hurt us. I took my son to the psychiatrist and he started medication. Things seemed to get better, but then got worse very fast. My son was Baker-Acted from school and stayed in at the mental hospital for 6 days. When I went to visit him I was disgusted by the facility. I wanted him out of there. My son is now on new medication and I am sad to say it's not working. We go back soon to discuss changing the medication. Not only have I and his brother had to deal with my son's mental illness, but my husband who is still deployed blames me. I don't know if our marriage will survive. I feel betrayed because I have been trying to do whatever I can to help our son, and my husband blames me for his behavior.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 5 2013 at 5:01 pm

Hi Marie,
Thank you for sharing your story. You've been through so much - not only as the mother of a child with mental illness, but also the wife of a serviceman. That being said, it must be so hard to have someone blaming you for something he hasn't experienced. Especially if this person is your partner. It sounds as if things have been happening for a long time. You did not mention how long your husband has been in the Navy or how many times he has been deployed. So many factors are involved when mental illness hits - genetics, environment, life events, etc. All of those have a part to play. As for the medication, it takes a month or two before they start working. You're doing everything you need to do by keeping connected with the team. Keep the psychiatrist updated regularly about any changes (or non-changes) with the medication. And consider individual and/or family therapy to help you all cope together. One big challenge about mental illness in children that no one really talks about is how it affects the parents especially when they disagree about treatment. Hang in there and please come visit again soon.

September, 3 2013 at 6:46 am

Ever since I married (2nd time), my husband's son has been in all kinds of trouble. He's no 30 years old, hasn't gotten help and keeps costing time and money. The latest is an eye infection that can result in vision lost because he falls asleep (sometimes drunk) with his contacts on. My husband does not set boundaries with him and a family counselor has just told me to keep out of it. My feelings don't matter and I do feel that this kid sometimes manipulates and wants to cause problems in my marriage.
My husband is clueless and keeps denying there's a serious problem and expects his son to work a normal job. The kid keeps blowing jobs because he threatens people or just doesn't show up at work.
I'm asking myself if it's time for me to leave. I wonder if the marriage is worth it. My husband will be drained financially (we can't create a financial future together) and is often to preoccupied with the problems to be present in the marriage.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 4 2013 at 6:07 pm

Hi Holli,
Thank you for sharing your story. From what you've described, it sounds as if your husband's son has had issues for a long time that have gone on without being resolved or worse, undiagnosed. I feel for you. From your words, I can tell that you see your husband's son as a child (due to your calling him a 'kid' several times). It takes two people to make a relationship work and many to make a family work. In my experience, people do not change unless they are ready to change and not a second before. Unfortunately, it sounds as if your husband is allowing his son to manipulate him by being in denial of his son's issues. If this is affecting your marriage, then it is up to you to talk to him. To say that your concerned about his financial situation, that you cannot make a financial future with him (without mentioning his son at all) and that he is not present in the marriage due to other preoccupations. I'd have to agree with the family counselor. Your husband has to make the tough choices when he is ready. If you push him too much, you'll only push him to keep trying harder with his son because it is clear from your description that he doesn't want to lose his son. It isn't about giving him an ultimatum so much as letting him know how his actions (your husband's) are affecting you. I'd consult the family counselor on how to have the conversation to help you practice before you actually sit your husband down. A 30 year old is an adult and it sounds as if your husband's heavy enabling is helping his son keep this negative cycle going. I'm thinking good thoughts for you and hope that you visit again soon.

November, 12 2013 at 1:27 pm

My 8yr old daughter has been diagnosed with several mental illnesses, from Aspergers to bipolar. She sees a therapist and a psychiatrist. No doctor has found a medicine to help her. The school cannot deal with her even though she's in 504 program. She is now in a mental facility. This is her third time being there. I don't know what to do. I have thought about residential treatment but everyone looks at me like a bad mother when I even mention it. The doctor seems to believe he can fix her with another trial and error of medications. I hope he will help her.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 2 2013 at 4:37 pm

Hi Stephanie,
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. It seems that even though things are difficult right now, you still have hope. I don't know what state you live in, but you can look on your state's website for information on mental health services. I hope this helps and my thoughts are with you. Take care.

April, 8 2014 at 2:16 pm

I came across your blog when searching for.....I don't even know what for. My husband (of 3 years) and I are dealing with what feels like soul crushing weight. My stepdaughter is in month 4 of a first psychotic episode, and it is taking a huge toll. I don't even have the energy to write our entire story. Suffice to say that even reading that there are others dealing with this same thing makes me feel less alone. Even though I don't know any of you, thank you for sharing and for providing some feeling of connection over the internet waves.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 22 2014 at 12:46 am

Hi Kristin,
Thanks for visiting and commenting. And you're welcome. Sometimes, it's really hard for me to connect with another parent going through what I'm going through in person. I've got great friends who do their best to understand and support me. But, there's nothing like having a connection with other parents who know exactly what I've been dealing with. I'm glad to do this. Take care and please visit again soon.

September, 11 2017 at 9:44 am

Thrilled I am not alone

May, 21 2014 at 8:07 pm

Glad to find this. Stepmom to a 29 year old mentally Ill, drug addict son. Huge strain. So angry. So tired of it. Tenth hospitalzation in 4 1/2 years. Calls his father non stop. I have younger children I try to protect from this. Last year I put a stop to him living with us. It's never going to end and we have a few months of calm, then pow. His parents go into crisis mode and I want the phone calls to stop, the constant talking about it. sucks the air out of the room. Even when he is not in an episode he is so self absorbed. I don't like him anymore. I feel bad for my husband. He is trapped and tired. But how do I hVe some boundaries? I don't think he needs to pick up the phone 30 times and talk to The delusional personalities.

May, 23 2014 at 10:03 am

I've been in a long distance relationship for two years. We are supposed to marry next month. I have quit my job and am packing and making all arrangements to move out of state to be with my new husband. Problem is I have a mentally ill adult son that I am the primary care giver over. Over the past year I have worked hard to prepare him for my relocation. He will not be going with me. My fiance was accepting of the hardships in my life but now all of a sudden he wants to cancel the marriage cause he says he's concerned about how being a long distance care giver for my son will effect our marriage. I'm devastated. Any advice?

Matt Wittenberg
November, 30 2014 at 6:26 am

I have a 31 year old son who is bipolar living with us. I want him to leave as my marriage is at a cross roads ( 32 years ). My wife won't stop treating him as a child. He manipulates both of us to where we are fighting each other.Every time we show progress she pulls us backwards. We are in counseling and the doctor tells her to stop it already but she won't. I am at the end of my patience and want a divorce is what my son want's.
I am fit to be tied.

December, 5 2014 at 6:01 am

Stuck in the middle...
I have been with my partner for over 10 years. Unfortunately his daughter Mary, now 27 years old, has many issues. Since I have known her she has seen numerous counsellors and members of the medical profession resulting in diagnoses of adhd, bi polar, aspergers, anorexia, bullimia, substance abuse including ketamine addiction with the latest one being alcoholism. Clearly a troubled young woman.
Her mum, like any good mum, is a big part of her life and provides an unbelievable amount of support. She regularly travels 500 miles to visit Mary to do general housekeeping, washing, food shopping etc. Financially she is in the enviable position to have been able to buy her daughter a flat, pay for all her living costs and send her on a 3 month all expenses paid holiday recently. My partner of course happily contributes an agreed and substantial amount each month towards his daughter’s welfare but I am sure it is a lot less than 50% due to the additional funds mum pays out when asked to do so. Also in trying to keep the peace between Mary and her Dad she is economic with the truth about issues she has had to deal with. It has come to light that Mary has attempted a drug overdose, on a couple of occasions over the last 4 years, and as a result her father is racked with guilt and so Mary has been living with us recently.
We live in a small apartment and I am not sure how long I can continue in this situation. It is a feeling of guilt and self-loathing that I am unable to cope with someone in need, anger and frustration that I see manipulation in so many situations…the damocles sword of suicide hanging over simple requests like not to stay up every night until 4am, to tidy up etc etc. The pat reply is ‘that is the way I am, I can always go back to my own apartment if it is causing a problem’. Of course her father doesn’t want this to happen so it is put up and shut up time. I am powerless in my own home with a deep feeling of being controlled.
Like Matt I am at my wits end and my relationship with my husband is strained, no matter how hard we both put on a brave face and act as if everything is ok….for Mary’s sake!
Bitterness and resentment now setting in 

November, 25 2015 at 5:02 pm

My son is 19 and was diagnosed with bipolar 1 just three months past his 18th birthday during his first year of college. He was unable to complete the semester and has been at home for the past 5 months. My husband (his stepfather) has decided that he is only allowed to stay with us for one week at a time and needs to be with his dad for the alternating weeks.... this would work fine, except that his dad doesn't want him there (dad's girlfriend doesn't want my son there-refuses to believe that he has bipolar...thinks he's just lazy) and he does not want to be there. It's causing so much stress in our marriage. My son is on meds now and has made much improvement but still has not found a job. This is part of what's upsetting my husband so much. I am SO stuck in the middle. I want my husband to be happy, but with a 19 year old out of work grown (almost) man living in the house, this will not happen and he has told me that he is seriously worried about our marriage because this just isn't working. I want to do the right thing in order to support my son, but my husband is insisting that he needs a break from my son and that his father should shoulder 50% of the burden. I cannot get my son's father to understand that he needs to step up and insist to his girlfriend that his son should be able to stay with him some too. I agree that my son needs a job, and I agree that his dad should step up here but I do not want to "ban" my son from my own home for a week at the time every other week! I have so much guilt on my shoulders... I've ruined my son's life by not providing him with a consistent stable environment, I've ruined my husband's life by bring this baggage into the marriage with me even though I had no idea that my son would end up with this diagnosis. I just feel like running away from everything. It's awful, and sad, and horrible. I don't enjoy anything anymore.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 16 2022 at 5:48 pm

I'm going through something very similar with my daughter. She's Schizophrenic. Recently she tried suicide and was rescued from the river. My husband her stepdad isn't supportive. He calls her names and says her illness is fake. I'm dealing with trying to help her and considering leaving my marriage to a cold hearted man, when it comes to my daughter. I think I will join a support group to see if I can get some peace of mind. Try to surround yourself with some good friends. It's nice to get away and have lunch, treat yourself occasionally.

November, 29 2015 at 9:55 pm

I am so torn between my 42 yr old son and my husband (stepfather). My son has had several diagnosis over the years and medications. We have supported him financially on many occasions and "cost us thousands" as my husband states . I have always worked until 5 months ago. The latest episode his Dr took him off all his meds in an attempt to change them and he became suicidal and homicidal so brought him home from interstate for treatment and he is currently having ETC as an inpatient. The problem is my husband hates him immensely and does not believe in mental illness. He is a "pull yourself together and get on with life person". I cannot walk away from my son but do not want to lose my husband. I dread when my son will be discharged as my husband does not want him in the house but he cannot go home as has to complete his treatment as an outpatient. I have been referred to counseling myself as I am a mess and torn.

January, 19 2016 at 5:17 pm

I recently got married to a woman with a 8 at the time now 9 year old son that has ADD, ADHD, SPD, emotional issues, and slight autism. At first I was able to deal with things and my marriage was great but now he has gotten older he has gotten worse. He cries because when he doesn't want to do certain things and blames it on his issues. He constantly is calling himself stupid and saying things that a child his age shouldn't say. Everything is a struggle from getting him up in the morning to doing his homework to going to bed. He doesn't listen at all and I'm fusrated and I'm loosing hope. My wife and I are always arguing because of him. I know there are some things he can't control but in my opinion he is somewhat lazy and acting like a spoiled brat. I need some advice before I loose my mind.

February, 2 2016 at 4:45 pm

I was blamed for all the problems. So, if both boys have ADHD and dad was never informed or involved.  It would be true of thier version being a strict parent. Again the person who knew and did is getting away with being accountable. You don't let a child go through middle school like K nothing...especially when mom knew K brother had ADHD. I am totally devastated but not suprised. Mom has never been honest do to her mental illness. Older brother never treated.
 As a parent we are to to alert our child’s pediatrician to all personal history of ADHD. The sooner we are aware of potential signs of ADHD in your child, the sooner we and child’s doctor can respond. We can begin treatment and therapy early, which may help  child learn to cope with the symptoms of ADHD better? 2011
K will need a formal evaluation to see if he has ADHD. This involves a health professional doing a clinical interviews and using rating scales and other important information. (Father) This is especially true if K had a sibling, parent or other close blood relative who has ADHD/mental illness. Why now? When she knew a long time ago and all problems 6, 7, and 8 grades?
Regardless of whether K is diagnosed with ADHD, there are many ways to help him at home and in school. PAST 5 years mom has NOT helped K made everything worse for him the entire family. Known major depression and anxiety...unk ocd..
My days were hard enough in army...always felt there was something wrong with my family. After I retired...I felt and witnessed even more. I cried more, went to work all stressed out.  They burned me out from not knowing the truth and not being involved with the mental health behavior issues. I lived like I did not exist to them. Very much the past 12 is ATM to mom and boys

Barbara Gentry
February, 10 2016 at 3:38 pm

My son, not long ago came out of the air force diagnosed with affective disorder and pipolar 1 - He recently had an episode, and refused to take his medication. He started taking his medication, and now he's doing much better. It's been three months. My husband, the stepdad want him out of the house. He's my son I want to be there for him. Get him established, on a routine. Help him get in depended. I feel if he can't take his medication on his own something bad could happen. I don't want him to end up in jail or something.
I do love my husband and want to be alone with him, yet I feel my son needs me now
Can anyone help me?
Thank you

May, 20 2016 at 11:39 pm

To Barbara & all brave ppl who said something. It's so shameful or just not talked about because most the most, better yet the most important are in denial. I met my awesome hubby when his daughter was 15 his son 3. At first to me the differences were clear but... I didn't want to be dick and point it out.
So what do we do? Bottle up. So time passes, & 1 day his father says, " I used to pinch my brother just to make him cry. " I said ,"0h." (that's not nice) OK. Ring ring. Baby mind #1 calling.. :: umm John you need to now take her I cannot anymore. John & I had MY at the time 5 yr old his son was 6. Now the reason why mom could was apparently daughter pulled the steering wheel while mom was driving to cause an accident. Now just recently my fb was hacked by daughter & she decided to wrote herself a mean note. Not only that. Oh no. She took it to grandma with tears.
Now I hadn't seen this because I never wrote it. Immediately within the hour I drive myself to grandma's where the tears were. I needed to see what I supposedly written. So daughter hands me the phone. ( my presence did not seem to help) hand me the phone.
1st clue @ the time this was sent I posted one of the last videos or pics of MY daughter at boxing cobra kai then my phone died. Not only that my husband was right next to me. & I bi*ched about it dying because I couldn't record anytime. So how was I able to send this message like 30-? Min after my phone was already dead?.... Hmmm so I further investigate I find out how to check if anyone has attempted to try and log in to fb... & SUUUURE enough a different phone attempted and succeeded to log in..I send this to grandma like loook ! AH HA! GRANDMA SAYS: sometimes when were mad we say things but that's in the past... Um no.
So present time: son now 11 soon. Since the we met you can clearly see the jealousy. Even the pictures say it. I've noticed it and tried to gracefully give space respect and patience. Time different options therapy meds more therapy with pastors we respect. & they all agree to separate so we have a system. ( FYI My husband is also bipolar II gone through hell 1/2 but I admire and love 39 years old I'm 30 I've given him 8 years of dedication & MY LIFE BUT HIM & MY DAUGHTER "OUR." HAVE AN AWESOME BOND. 3 years on meds and stable now. ) HE EARNED THE NAME DADDY WHEN SHE WAS 1 1/2. NOW this is where it starts.. When they were like 4-5 son says.., " can we just throw (_____) in front of a car so she can die?" Husband and I look at each other. Husband says,"no that's my princess."we address it and state its not ok to say such things. Because their mean or not nice. Ect
#2 I was watching both soon and my daughter at the park. For some reason there were red long squared bricks by a tree. My daughter wasn't looking and I caught him landing one at her with all his strength. Luckily he missed. When my husband came home I addressed it & I believe I told his mom. But both felt like I was just being asssh*le really. So time goes their playing.. & son says I want to kill (____) I want to say he even told her at one point he was going to. So I said.. For her safety were good. Let's listen to the professionals & u guys have guy time well have girl time. But oh the desire to co-exist as 1. Darn it. We try it a while ago. And it starts with the boo ing of her during her baseball games & cheering for the other team loudly enough to you hear he clearly is NOT cheering for you.. I mean do you laugh it off and just say oh brothers. Go freaking figure.. Or correct it? In this cases the arguments would start. Yes very stressful on marriges. Now I said OK I'll desire when I want too co mingle and if it gets intentionally maliscious then I'm out. Like I'll see you tomorrow ( we also have shortage sleeping arrangements. ) the pastor and therapists said you and daughter go somewhere safe. I said than you for dating this out loud now I know I'm not an assho*e and there issssss something different here.
Call me anything you'd like if you must but if great grandma RIP committed suicide she was bipolar her uncle also suicide & bipolar his daughter just diagnosed & refuses meds according to grandma. ADHD and meds have been administered at least 3 different attempts that I know of. I strongly feel it's bipolar as well.. I mean it's not ridiculous to think. But because grandma and baby ma #2 don't think so it's NOT.
Well today May 21 @2:13 am let me say today was stressful.
I spent since yesterday trying to connect and be cool with his son be there how I can and have him have a blast while he's here. My daughter loves him doesn't remember the bad or awkward. So he says things to her when he's over it. When he's done with our company. He will be a sweetheart at the beginning enjoyable loving caring funny. I love it. But then he's quiet then energetic life a fire cracker then says things that are hurtful towards my daughter like. Your not my sister your just my stepsister I have a real sister & i love her more. While we listen in awkwardness like wtf why do you feel the need to randomly say that? We all wonder in our heads & look at each other like who's going to say something me expecting dad to step in. & he does we speak again and state being mean is not necessary. That legitimetly hurt her feelings @ some point soon would argue that my daughter did not have my husbands last name. Again to hurt her feelings. And today while my husband wasn't with us for a moment he asks me and Daughter, "where's your real dad." a valid question. I respond with, "to your sister in her heart your dad is her dad. "he quickly changes the conversation loudly disregarding the emotion of it all. Then about 1 hr later soon says," where did your team last name come from.? " assuming the one that is not the one she's claimed since she was 3 ish. I wosa.. But the hubby catches it. Son is clearly saying this to be hurtful or attention? For what ever reason. Dad addressed it we state & talk about it. We state that we all know he knows he knows this to be mean on purpose & it's not OK. We go our separate ways for the day..
-Yeah it's hard meds help A TON!!!
-SEEING A DR. every 2-4 weeks
-ZZZZZzzzz. It's hard but for me is worth it. As long as my daughter is safe & LOVED. SORRY FOR ALL OR ANY MISSPELLED STUFF IT'S NOW 2:39 AM

Alan Heim
May, 24 2016 at 3:07 pm

Wow, I have to say that my heart goes out to everyone. Believe me, I know how difficult life can be parenting a mentally ill child from an early age. I have to say however, and many may not agree but I believe, particularly if you are the step parent (as I am the step father to my wife's daughter) there comes a time when you say enough is enough, you have given as much as you possibly can, financially and emotionally and it's time to move on. I am on the brink of doing just that. I have just retired from a career of 40 years, worked hard, have very successful children, have no drama in my life whatsoever except my step daughter who suffers primarily from schizophrenia and will take everything from you until you have nothing left and then she will look for others to take from (emotionally and financially). It's such a long story, that I don't want to bore you with the details but I have been as many step parents supportive and involved since she was about 10 years old (now 26). She has an able bodied (and not emotionally ill to a serious degree (my lay opinion of course) long time boyfriend who won't work, abuses her both emotionally and physically (as she does him), they have an eight and four year old who they are rotten parents for (just one more phone call away and CPS will intervene), I could go on. In the last three years we have spent at least $20,000 to try and help them but now they are penniless, homeless, and can't get a house or an apartment due to their criminal, legal, financial issues so what now? My wife understands that I do not deserve this, that I have hung in their over the years more than most would and understands if I have no choice to leave but she cannot totally abandon her daughter even knowing that she will always be handcuffed in life by her actions. I have hung in as long as I can because I love my wife but at 63 and after a long career, I deserve happiness too and it is upsetting beyond words that I may have to leave to have it. But that is the way it is. I do believe that at some point if you are someone like me, despite the love you have for your spouse, you must engage the brain instead of the heart or you will die with many regrets. Its time to move on. It did help me to read what others are experience and see that so many people are dealing with this heartache. Of course I also have a couple of friends who deal with this too but have also moved on for their own sake and to be able to enjoy life the best they can with the years they have left. Thanks

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 27 2017 at 7:08 pm

Wow just like me. Not many words and I have no other but to leave to be at peace. My step son brakes window out. I am PTSD and have my mental ills also. I think in time it some one will get hurt me or him. Thanks for you writing what you did. My wife i love very much, but I need a life. I have tried to help all I can.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 8 2018 at 1:11 am

I am almost there. I love my husband so much and wonder is it fare to ask him to give up his schizophrenic son for me. The son is hopeless wont try to get better. I'm 64 retired two weeks ago, my husband is retiring in a year. We saved for this time in our life, we cant support him, and I cant live with the sick son, btw he's 32. I think my husband needs the therapy and thoughts. Do parents owe their children support forever

September, 8 2018 at 3:37 pm

This can be so hard! There are places parents can find support for their children with mental illness. Start with NAMI ( They have organizations in every state, and they tend to know where you can find resources. It may help to find support groups, or to find folks who know what might be out there for your husband's son. Maybe there are housing and in-home supports he can use to take some of the work off you two. There may be an adult mental health services department in your county and state, too. I hope you can find the support you need!

September, 3 2016 at 3:03 pm

My husband and I married when my son was 11, he is now 19. He has been struggling with depression, anxiety for a few years now and just recently getting angry very easily. He will not see a counselor and will not take pharmaceutical drugs because of all of the side effects that come with them and because he saw his sister react badly to them. one of the reasons he doesn't want to see a therapist is because he doesn't want a mental illness associated with his name because he still doesn't know what to do career wise. The other reason is because he doesn't believe that they really care and says "they are just selfish judgemental people". His anger was really getting to him and felt like it was effecting his friendships so he told me he needed help, but again doesn't want to see a therapist so I called a crisis line and they recommended I take him to a Naturopath. He saw one a week ago from yesterday and the Dr. gave him some herbal drops called rescue remedy and amazingly enough they really helped him for a few days, because he was feeling better (probably from the high if finally getting help) he was sticking to the diet, exercise and supplements the Dr. recommended then day four hit and all of a sudden the drops weren't helping and he got really frustrated and suddenly started and anger outburst. I just couldn't take it anymore and went in his room and yelled at him telling him to stop it (I deal with depression and anxiety issues also, amongst other health issues). I know I shouldn't have yelled at him, but the passive approach just hadn't been working and I felt like I shouldn't have to listen to that, because it gets my anxiety going. Anyway my husband (his step dad) came upstairs and put him up against the wall and told him, he better never yell at me again and started telling him that he is lazy and that enough is enough etc. my son fell to his knees so distraught we ended up taking him to the emergency room for a psych evaluation. The Mental Health counselor waivered back and forth whether to have him hospitalized or not but in the end decided since he was willing to keep seeing the Naturopath and following his treatment plan that she would let him go home. That was the time that I found out how terrible Mental Health care help is in Washington state. Apparently they only hold them for 48 to 72 hours. What freaking good is that going to do? He would need to be hospitalized for at least one month, giving time for any medications to begin to work and to make sure that he was safe from suicide while adjusting to the medication. if I or she would have had him involuntarily admit him he said that would have taken away any little bit of self respect he had left and he would have committed suicide when he came out. GOOD LORD. Then yesterday my son came home telling us that he asked his boss to start gradually removing him from the work schedule. He told us that he just didn't feel comfortable going to work every day (as a Chinese restaurant delivery driver) not knowing what mood he was going to be in and didn't want to end up getting fired. It's really sad because he has been at his job for 2 years come October. Then he started talking about how he feels etc and somehow my husband ended up telling him he's lazy again, amongst other things that were not helpful at all and I just kept motioning for my husband to stop saying things that were only making him feel worse and finally my husband said he's sick of this crap and my son got upset and started went upstairs which pissed me off and my husband said "this is going to be our first fight and it's going to be a bad one". Which of course upset my son and said "please stop fighting over me, it's okay I don't want you guys fighting because of me I'll just leave". He did, he packed his suitcase and went and slept in his car, luckily his sister who lives with my son and her dad (who my son hates and won't talk to) talked to him for a long time last night and today brought him some food and his helping him as best as she can (she's got mental illness issues too). It's so hard because now he doesn't want to come here because he said he doesn't want to be a burden on us and he doesn't want to cause problems in our marriage). I love my husband and don't want to lose him, but knowing that my son could be suicidal I don't want to lose him either. I just wish my husband wouldn't say some of the things he says, just to listen to him without commenting would be much more productive but he just doesn't understand mental illness and how it works. I just don't know what to do! May God bless all of us!

Rhonda D Carter
September, 16 2017 at 11:51 pm

I am at these crossroads also especially about choosing child over marriage. I admitted that my child is destroying it but I am made to feel its him or my husband. I choose one or the other I will never be happy again. I truly believe they both have the best of me but I have constant heart ache from both. I'm put in middle. My family says out my son away and my Christian upbringing says no. I can't have both and feel I should let my husband out of the mkisery. I'm just so lost as a Godly person about what I should do

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 18 2017 at 11:36 am

My heart goes out to you Rhonda. I have been in several support groups for moms of kids with mental illness and your dilemma is common. I know many moms who believe that God chose them to raise this difficult, fragile child and they are unwilling to "give up" on that child. Yet, many of the fathers in this situation feel overwhelmed when they can't "fix" things and then just want to make it go away. My husband and I were once at odds about how to handle our children with mental illness. Before you give up on your husband or your child, look for help. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has free family support groups; has a resource page of hotlines and links at…; and individual and/or family therapy can help you find the support you need. In our case, therapy and education have allowed my husband and I to get on the same page, create a plan to deal with our child's behavior, and find a way to reconnect with one another in a meaningful way. We're now a team. I urge you to find professional help so that you do not have to sacrifice your marriage or your child, and don't have to shoulder the burden all by yourself. Even if your husband will not seek therapy, you go. It will give you the tools you need to start working with the situation, and as you progress maybe he will feel inclined to join in. Good luck.

September, 23 2017 at 2:45 am

Hi Susan, You are correct I am very involved. I have never missed a therapy, a show or an IEP meeting. I have not gotten support for myself. My boyfriend tells me to do so as venting to him is not productive. He looks at it as it is putting him on defense rather than we are a team in this together and arguments are the result. Their therapist tells me to get out of my head as it is not personal. When negative hurtful behavior is directed to me more than anyone, it sure feels that way. Peace to you all.

September, 21 2017 at 5:13 am

Hi all, I love this post. It is so well-written. My situation is my boyfriend's children are Bob in this post. They have PTSD from exposure to things with their bi-polar mother. They have the genetics of a father with depression, ADHD, and anxiety and a bi-polar mother. The combination of everything has been, as you said, exhausting. His daughter has PTSD, anxiety, depression, mood disorder and reactive detachment disorder (my personal favorite, said no one ever). She steals from me, hides my things, destroys and breaks things, just took a stick to my brand new car and scratched it up, lies, is angry, manipulative, you name it. His son has ADHD and PTSD. You can ask him to please not do something over and over and over again and it still happens. I want answers. I ask why and they say they don't know or they just do it. My live-in boyfriend is in your situation knowing they do wrong but it is still his children. He feels badly for her illness and what she is dealing with. I feel guilty that I feel angry and resentful that I am so good to all of them and the kids, lie, steal, do things like dump out all of my soap, answer back, hide things, and break things almost daily. Then I feel guilty for feeling that way as they were dealt a rough hand with their genetics and what their bio mom exposed them to. I thought I had all the answers. My bio children are high honor students, excel in all their extra curriculars, are altar servers, etc. What I need to realize is each person and each situation is different. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, how many therapy, psychiatry, IEP meetings you have, you just have to realize you are doing your best and the rest is out of your control. It is very difficult and I see no end in site. It makes for a difficult family dynamic. It spills over into my relationship; our sex life, our communication (I communicate, he hides), my relationship with my children (they are exhausted also with their behavior and hearing constant turmoil) and I am forever frustrated or upset and have no one to talk to about it. It is like the saying goes, you never know what goes on in other people's lives. I just want happiness. Unfortunately, all is see is things falling apart around me and everything we try is not working.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 22 2017 at 8:51 am

Hi Mel, I'm glad that you found Angela's article helpful and sorry that you are going through so much. Unfortunately, parenting children with mental illness can be very hard on all our relationships. It sounds like you are really stepping up to provide the support and resources your boyfriend's kids need, but what are you doing to take care of yourself? I'll tell you, I'd never make it without the help of my support group and my own therapist. I have three kids with mental illness and my daughter's boyfriend with bipolar also lives with us. Like you, I'm getting them all layers of support, but still, some days are impossibly hard. I belong to a support group for parents of kids with bipolar and have seen a therapist for a decade. They provide several benefits to me. As we share our "horror" stories together, those other parents remind me that I'm a good mom and let me know that I'm not alone. They can also offer tips or advice stemming from their experience. My therapist reminds me of how far we've come, lets me vent, and helps me focus my thoughts about how to keep moving ahead. I'm not sure I'd have made it without those supports. Please don't suffer through this alone--support can ease the burden. HealthyPlace provides a good resource page to let you find help.… Clearly, you are an involved, supportive and caring mom to these kids--now go find a place to get the support and caring you deserve.

September, 26 2017 at 5:18 am

You are correct. I have not taken care of myself and I am very involved. It has been extremely difficult. There always seems to be something new that pops up. I am frustrated. I am frustrated the school is not assisting enough with his son's scolastics. It is an endless paper trail. By the time the 45 days are up and if they decide they may or may not help and have a meeting half the year is over. I just feel like a dog endlessly chasing its tail sometimes. The thought of hormones coming into the mix with them in a few years is an ugly one. Lol.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 26 2018 at 12:03 am

Mel I feel like we’re living the same life. However my husband refuses to see his daughters problems (regardless of inpatient admission and weekly psych visits). He dumps her on me at every opportunity and has no interaction with her at all. I feel awful for her problems but her rage is totally focused on me. She’s made false claims of abuse and made up stories to his family to the point we have no relationship. I’m ready to leave the relationship (I have two other kids to worry about) but was in the process of going to nursing school full time. I have to abandon that dream and go back to my prior career and look for a place. I’m so tired. Thanks for listening

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 10 2021 at 11:28 am

This is Mel. Years later, I am revisitng this post. Still living the dream said no one ever. My boyfriend is the same way. For example, one of the kids just poked my cellphone camera with something sharp. I still owe 260 and then need to buy another one. It was working noon the day before, the next morning, puncture in it. I have an otter box. The camera is recessed, I did not drop it. He feels bad for the kids because what if they are falsly accused? Seriously, they dented my stainless fridge, scratched my minivan paint, stole at home, defaced the school bus seat, been in therapy and on meds since 5 but it must be me. It is so frustrating. Are you still a family unit? I am feeling like this will not sustain longer.

November, 11 2017 at 10:11 am

There is no solution when your child is mentally ill and refuses medication because it has not worked and due to zombie like side effects. My son had a full psychotic break after being sent home at the end of boot camp because of a sleep disorder. He got his EMT certification the same day he was involuntarily committed after he voluntarily admitted himself and his paranoia resulted in him severely assaulting a guard. He has a black belt. Now he cannot function in school or work, laughs and mumbles to himself and is a shadow of the handsome athlete that was on the honor roll every year. He no longer seeks help ortakes medication because none worked. I just going multiple holes in the walls in his room. He has destoyed multiple phones and computers because he thought he was being tracked, tried to get a plane ticket to fight Isis and so much more. My older son tells me to kick him out. When you are a mother, the loss of a son by mental illness or death is crushing. Just because they are kicked out of a home does not allow a mother to forget. It is like missing an arm...a part of yourself is hurt and you are never ok unless your child is ok. So kicking him out, even if it staying would result in my own death is not an option. I am not ever going to be free or ok until my son with mental illness is ok or until I am dead. I no longer run from or fear death as it may be the only time I am free.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 30 2018 at 11:58 am

I feel for you. This is Mel from the post before. It is mentally and physically exhausting having mental illness in the family. Everything with my boyfriend's children is exhausting. They play mind games, ruin my things, hide my things, act out, are moody and will act clueless when I try to help them with homework. They act years more immature than the average children. They crush my toilet paper, waste soap, just do annoying stuff. No medication seems to work. Is it depression, ADHD, bipolar, reactive attachment disorder and the list goes on and on. I cannot fathom how they will ever be able to live independently. They are 9, however, it just feels hopeless.

March, 1 2018 at 5:18 am

I met my husband when my son was a teenager – my sons 26 now
Over the years it’s been a ROLLER COASTER there have been short periods of stability where son will have a job, home, seem happy, then there will be a sudden unforeseen crisis, self harming, lost job, homelessness, self sabotaging behaviour
I am literally shaking with anxiety right now as son has ignored my calls for two weeks, I don’t know if he is OK or not
I am financially shafted too, as I often end up paying sons living costs which mount up to hundreds per month, his rent and food to save him from being homeless again. Husband wont contribute at all, its all me ££ as husband thinks son is lazy, he doesn’t think depression is a thing and must thing that self harm is a hobby. I hate my thick husband for this view, as no one in his own family as mental illness he often compares this which I find infuriating
My husband is quite rightly fed up with all this, we thought that our life would be so different at this point but we daren’t even go on holiday for fear of what crisis may happen whilst we are not there. I would not blame husband if he left as his life is restricted by my son and a situation he does not seem to understand at all
My son does suffer depression and does get help, he was involved with the crisis team recently visiting him at his home
Since all this started, and the fact that the crisis always happen without warning or build up, it has left me with severe anxiety I probably contact my son too much to check he is Ok that day, as things change so quickly he may not be OK tomorrow .
Unfortunately son only wants to speak when it suits him, and ignores the phone a lot - especially when he is down, which adds to my anxiety and all this is literally making me feel like life is not worth living as I cannot concentrate on anything else and husband admittedly, always comes second
Honestly I hate my life

May, 26 2018 at 10:13 am

Today I attended the Hospital after getting a call my son was pulled off the roof of a multi storey car park by police. He has suffered with mental health for the last couple of years and has recently been put on medication and today have managed to get him admitted for treatment. He wears a great mask to me that everything is ok to me and tells professionals he just wants me to be happy . His step father now has no association with him and I feel I am carrying it all on my shoulders and everyday fighting to keep my son alive as well as trying for a miracle to save my relationship. Mental health is so hard to understand and j really feel out my depth and am really unsure how long I can be the strength. It's so much of a relief to read stories the same and know I'm not the only one in this position

September, 18 2018 at 2:34 pm

is it wrong to let them be homeless. no amount of money is going to help them. no amount of help is really going to help, but clearly its destroying you. i hate thinking i dont care anymore.

Leave a reply