My Angry, Bipolar Daughter is Out of Control But Blames Me

Reader’s Question

I raised my children as a single mom. I did the best I could, but I’m sure I made a lot of mistakes. I feel I have made up for those mistakes in the past several years. I am always there for my children.

My daughter is now 30 years old with two kids. She is separated and living on her own. She is hateful, stressed, depressed, angry. She yells at her small children constantly. She blames me for all that went wrong in her life and treats me terribly. I have been dealing with this for years, but it is getting worse.

My daughter has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. They put her on Wellbutrin several weeks ago. I am worried because she is drinking while taking this medication. She gets out of control with her anger. I don’t know what to do. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Psychologist’s Reply

Children need to feel safe and loved. So, to the best of your ability, the more support you can offer them, the better.

Your daughter might blame you for her problems, but she is an adult with the responsibilities of a mother. It’s not all about her, or even you at this point. It’s about her putting her life together and being a good mother to her children. You have a good deal of experience and support to offer here, but you cannot control your daughter’s life. Nor should you “enable” her to evade her responsibilities by over-investing in her welfare. Guilt for past mistakes might prompt you to do this, but you must avoid it if your daughter is to stop blaming everyone else, admit her own shortcomings, and invest herself in making meaningful changes in her life.

All children, your daughter included, need to know that they are loved unconditionally. So, show your affection liberally and without “strings.” But approval for behavior must always be conditional. So, while you can make it clear that you love your daughter, you must also be willing to confront her about her dysfunctional behavior and to avoid “enabling” it to the best of your ability. Let her know how much support you’re willing to give any effort on her part to comply with her therapy and to behave responsibly. Medicine is not a cure for the problems you describe. While it might be an essential part of helping stabilize her mood, more comprehensive therapy is usually required, including various types of psychotherapy. So support her efforts to truly invest herself in appropriate therapy. That’s the limit of what you can do. The rest, of course, is up to her.

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