When is enough - enough??
Our 23 year old daughter suffers from bipolar/anxiety disorder, Hashimoto's and borderline personality disorder. She enjoys (so she says) living in a dive, surrounding herself with users and abusers, has enormous debt (doesn't seem to bother her) and takes out all her anger and frustration on me. She will leave home for months at the time and then return begging for help and wanting me to help her start all over. She promises this time is for good. Each time I go out on an emotional, physical and financial limb for her only to find myself screwed again. I know she is sick and can't control herself when she become manic but when and how do I set borders to protect myself and can she be taught a lesson about taking advantage of people? Sometimes it seems as though she has no conscience. Thanks.
It's understandable that as a mother, you feel compassion for your daughter and don't want to turn your back on her. But you will also do no service by allowing her to take advantage of you. At the age of 23, bipolar and borderline or not, she needs to grow up and take a little responsibility for herself. You can't save her from her self-destructive behaviors by bailing her out every time she gets desperate. You would be better off giving her an ultimatum. Do some research, find some services - like half-way houses or women's shelters that help with job training or some type of counseling. Present some conditions for your continued support, and don't give more than you can. If she doesn't get some measure of outside help on a consistent basis, then you are simply wasting your time, building resentment in yourself, and fostering guilt, shame and dependence in your daughter. If you continually get sucked in by her repeated crises, then you are reinforcing the idea that she is sick, and that there is nothing else there, no strengths, no potential, no goodness. She may feel that about herself, but you don't have to go along with that. She may get angry at you for not sympathizing with how impaired she is, but she needs some balance. Nobody should define themselves by their illness. In our effort to be supportive and compassionate, sometimes we do more harm than good.
It's possible to be consistent, have solid, clear boundaries, and still be a loving parent. Don't let your own guilt get in the way or neither one of you will ever be free.
Ben Schwarcz, MFT