Son with Bipolar I and psychotic break

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Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2007
Total Posts : 39
   Posted 10/8/2017 11:19 AM (GMT -6)   

My son is 20 years old and is a college student. I was notified on 10/4 that he was acting strange and had been self cutting. I drove to his campus and he was acutely psychotic. He was medically cleared in the ED; however, no psych hospital beds were available. He refused psych hospitalization in our hometown--2 hours away. I was in contact with his psychiatrist and took him to the hotel where I made sure that he took his meds and added Seroquel 400 mg nightly. Additionally, Abilify 15 mg and Zoloft 100 mg daily. He was diagnosed with Bipolar July 28th after a psychotic break.

I withdrew him from the university, got him out of the dorm, and now he is safe at home (we got home yesterday 10/7). His last 400 mg seroquel is tonight (10/8). I have been in phone contact with his psychiatrist daily. Then his meds will be: Abilify 15 mg, Zoloft 100 mg daily and trazodone 150 mg at bedtime. He is taking his meds. HIs foloowup with teh psychiatrist is 10/26.

He is much less agitated. Still grandiose (IMO) wanting to start a website fashion company and still fixated on numbers and their special/spiritual significance.

Will you please advise me on what I can do to help my son? I knew that he would not be able to handled the load at the Uni this semester, but he wanted to try and his dad thought that he could. (Now I believe that they both know that the brain needs time to heal). I told my son it is like his brain got hit by a semi truck and needs time to heal.

Other than making sure that he takes his meds. As he stabilizes, I will let him fill his pill box and take them on his own; taking him to the psychiatrist (as he stabilizes, he can go on his own); getting him to the psychologist (as he stabilizes, he can go on his own);providing shelter, food, and love--what can I do and expect?

How long after 2 psychotic breaks basically 6 weeks apart does it take to stabilize. I am thinking a year?

Any suggestions will be helpful. I would like for him to get some type job when he stabilizes so that he will feel productive and be around people. He is a smart kid--had a 4.0 last year, but was failing all of his classes this year due to the BPD and not taking the meds.

Thanks for reading this.


Tim Tam
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Date Joined May 2016
Total Posts : 1024
   Posted 10/8/2017 1:34 PM (GMT -6)   
You said after this happened, “I was in contact with his psychiatrist and took him to the hotel where I made sure that he took his meds and added Seroquel 400 mg nightly. Additionally, Abilify 15 mg and Zoloft 100 mg daily. He was diagnosed with Bipolar July 28th after a psychotic break.”

You added, “His last 400 mg seroquel is tonight (10/8). I have been in phone contact with his psychiatrist daily.

Then you said his meds will be Abilify (net says anti-psychotic also used for bipolar) 15 mg, and Zoloft (net says for depression and panic attacks) 100 mg daily and trazodone (net says for depression, anxiety and insomnia) 150 mg at bedtime.

"He is taking his meds. HIs foloowup with teh psychiatrist is 10/26."

As a bipolar, myself, I’ve been treated outpatient after a nervous breakdown many years ago, and, in a manner of speaking, I didn’t have any trouble with it. The medicine I got was an anti-psycohtic, stelezine (sp?), and it drove me up the wall. This was many years ago, and I hope they’ve improved some of those.

It kept me from being really angry, which is what I was for about 3 week prior to the nervous breakdown, which was a big improvement. It calmed me so that I didn’t have another nervous breakdown, which was great, but the side effects were atrocious.

I kept wanting to move all the time, I had no anger, but I had on good emotions, either.

But in looking up Seroquel, it said “anti-psychotic” and I’ve taken Seroquel (I thought it wasn an anti-depressant) and it did not have that above negative effect on me, but it speeded m up to too so I had to get off of that. m. So it sounds like those have improved.

You say, “He is much less agitated. Still grandiose (IMO) wanting to start a website fashion company and still fixated on numbers and their special/spiritual significance.”

You said, “Will you please advise me on what I can do to help my son?” It sounds like you’re already doing very well, and he is too, thanks to the good help.

You say, “He was (first) diagnosed with Bipolar July 28th after a psychotic break” then he went back to Uni with a full load and then on Oct. 4, 6 weeks after his first break, he has another one.

And you add, “I knew that he would not be able to handled the load at the Uni this semester, but he wanted to try and his dad thought that he could. (Now I believe that they both know that the brain needs time to heal). I told my son it is like his brain got hit by a semi truck and needs time to heal.”

I once talked to a guy who had some success, but not in the same area where he started and initially suffered a very harsh defeat.

Looking back on it all, he said, “Fate has a way of putting a person where he was supposed to be in the first place.”

So fate may be pushing your son around, and saying, you don’t need to be taking a full load at Uni, you don’t need to be in some high stress situations, but there are many other areas where you can do well in.

Oh, I got my bipolar from my mother’s mother. It skipped a gen., because my mother didn't have that, so it might be hard to figure out where mine came from, and it was.

So, I’m asking, in an effort to better understand this, are there any emotional problems in the family, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles?

As for what to do, I’m not sure, but can he get into any kind of talk therapy? With his next apt. Sept. 26, it seems like that might help. And he already has his meds.

Since you are in contact with this doctor, and his next appt. is weeks away, I guess you can monitor his behavior and talk with his psychiatrist should there be a need for that.

I think he had some bad luck, with all the trouble, and I think he had some good luck, also, and it was you.

Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2007
Total Posts : 39
   Posted 10/8/2017 4:24 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Tim Tam, thank you for your kind reply.

RE: Fam history~~~ It is believed that the maternal greatgrandfather had bipolar disorder. This was pieced together from family stories. Both sides of the family have alcoholism, anxiety, and (IMO) hyperreligiousness. His half sister (same father) has a diagnosis of mood disorder; however, she had had severe adverse reactions to meds used to treat it.

I believe that my son (let's call him Adam) has PTSD. His brother (my other son, age 23, let's call him Joseph) was born with congenital hydrocephalous with resultant intractable epilepsy, cognitive impairmnent (IQ of 50), and psychosis secondary to the hydrocephalous. While I tried to shield Adam from the horrors of observing Joseph's seizures, he was still affected (as was my husband and myself). I believe that we all have some component of PTSD.

Luckily, Adam says that he will talk to a therapist here in our home town. Adam says that he will meet with the psychiatrist in his college town, which is 2 hours away. I am happy to transport Adam. Joseph had to go to the same town as that was where the child neurologist is. Adam is happy to take the meds. I believe that he was not able to do this on his own and deal with the stresses of uni. I am pleased and so happy that Adam has decided to withdraw form Uni and focus on his health.

Tim Tam, how long does it take for the brain to get back to baseline after a psychotic break? It is important to me that Adam maintain his autonomy. I see my job as supporting him until he can maintain on his own. I realize that this will take time and that is OK with me. I am hoping that he will help me in a Winter garden (nature is healing) and perhaps look into some type of physical activity that he likes.

He is telling the family that he has withdrawn from Uni--which is fine with me. It is nothing to be ashamed of. I am proud of him for being able to share this and to feel no shame. I have not told anyone about his illness as I believe that is his business.

I agree that he has had some bad luck. We are here to help him. What suggestions do you have for me. Is there something that I have missed?

Tim Tam
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Date Joined May 2016
Total Posts : 1024
   Posted 10/9/2017 11:21 AM (GMT -6)   
Thank you for your nice reply.

Sounds like things are going a lot better than they were a week or so ago, so that is a very good sign. He got good family and professional support, plus was very cooperative himself, so that all played a part.

Of course, sometimes it takes a break such as this before help is gladly sought out and agreed to. So in a way, a break is not necessarily an all bad thing, it can have its benefits by getting our attention.

For me, it took a nervous breakdown. We really do need to be thankful for our support people and the professionals who are willing to put up with us during this crisis, for without those people we could be much worse.

Friends can also be helpful in lieu of no or little family help, but in my experience many of them bail as it starts getting really tough, as perhaps can be understood. We ourselves have probably bailed when someone we know has reached out for help.

It’s good that your son will talk to a therapist in your home town. I think with talk therapy and the right meds, and a good steady home life, he will improve and get better with time. I’ve heard that nature has a way of curing itself.

After my nervous breakdown at about 28, I got treated by a psychiatrist, but I know I was on the wrong medicine. Probably after a few days or a week at my mom’s house, walking around the block was therapeutic before walking was in vogue.

I returned to my apt. 225 miles away. The med I was on, Stelazine (sp?) (an anti-psychotic), was torture, as a matter of fact, I heard it was used for torture in communist Russia. I believe it.

I could never sit still. I didn’t know if it was the medicine or if I was still in a nervous breakdown. I never could figure that out. It was the medicine. So my girlfriend was about a block away, so I got some good help there.

I don’t know how long I was in this suspended state, for an hour seemed like 3 weeks, I had no emotions, I started having panic attacks from the nervous breakdown.

My psychiatrist was 225 miles away in my mom’s hometown, and he worked with my mom, and it was my mom who I had just figured out was out to destroy me, only that wasn’t a delusion it was the truth, except that I was manic and depressed for 3 weeks.

(What was true was that she also had problems and had raised us children incorrectly, but it turned out, I had problems of my own, bipolar, and I couldn't separate those 2.)

I never thought I would get any better because it was the medicine I was taking that was making me feel so bad and emotionless.
I guess I was in that state for around 3 weeks.

Then I answered the phone one day and it’s a guy I used to work with who wants me to apply for a job. A job was the last thing I was thinking about, my mind was such.

He was a good friend, and it turned out, he really needed someone to fill in for him for 6 months at this job, and then he was going to take over. I didn’t know any of that.

So he was saying, here’s the boss’s name, and phone number, give her a call. So the next day I call her, and she’s saying, when can you come up for an interview? I was saying, “Well, uh, how about tomorrow” or something like that.

She said, great, I’ll see you tomorrow. She was in on it, also, knowing I would only be on the job for 6 months until my friend, her boyfriend as it turned out, would be taking over my job.

So, here I am trying to get myself into shape, first I had to practice crossing this long, high bridge, for I had to go over it the next day and I had been afraid for several months I was going to fly off the side of it if I had a panic attack. So I crossed that bridge.

Then I got myself up there 175 miles away the next day, did the interview, got hired, started the upcoming Monday in a few days. Still on stelazine, still having no emotions. I kept begging my psychiatrist 225 miles away if I could get off of it, and he wouldn’t.

Anyway, let’s say I worked for 4 or 5 weeks. My psychiatrist finally let me off of the med.

It was the medicine that was making me feel emotionless. I started coming back to myself. Oh happy day. I worked there 5 more months. Most enjoyable job I ever had. Then I got fired. It was preordained.

However, it was that job that saved me.

So, what am I saying? I’m saying that, once he gets tired of walking around the block at his mom’s house, like I did, he’ll strive for more, as his brain gets stronger. Maybe he’ll want to do some volunteer work, like walking a dog at a kennel, or volunteering at a senior citizens home.

Then maybe he’ll see a job opening in the want ads, and try for that. Or take a course. Maybe get his own place. His home base is where he wants to be now, which is good that he has one, but he’ll long to get out of the nest again.

One thing that helped me, years later, I was depressed, and my mother suggested I go to a mental health shop (Easter Seals), in which part of their program was putting people with problems, to work in a low level way, such as putting stickers on soap boxes.

It puts you around people and gets you undepressed, plus you get to talk to these people, one of whom told me about a job opportunity, which I applied to and held for 5 years.

So getting busy in some way is what helped me. Getting around people, working, maybe a course or two.

So it really doesn’t take long. I went from nervous breakdown to working in about 6 weeks, from fully depressed to functioning in about an hour after I arrived at that therapy workshop and got around people and was doing a job.

I’m on an anti-depressant now, so I don’t get depressed, I’m on Lithium stabilizer, so I don’t get manic or have panic attacks.

How is his half sister doing, with having a hard time taking meds? How is his brother doing?

You asked, “Is there something that I have missed?” I’m a fine one to be asked that, for it is because I couldn’t solve many of my problems that I got on this website. I realized, I need to be in contact with people, get second opinions. As a bipolar living my myself and getting up in years and much isolated, there was no assistance.

I thought, I need to reach out for help solving some of these problems, and what happened was, I saw other people on this site who were also having problems, and mine diminished. My psychic energy reversed from thinking about my problems, to thinking about others problems, and again, my difficulties lessened.

Another thing I learned along the way was a column on being positive. I didn’t know it, but I had been negative, it was probably my bipolar and upbringing combined, talk about family history.

But the column told me to have a positive frame of mind that I could solve this current problem, even before I started trying to solve it. What a novel idea.

It really helped me.

Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2007
Total Posts : 39
   Posted 10/10/2017 1:43 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks for sharing your experience, strength, and hope, Tim Tam.

Adam's half-sister had to take a leave from work (~2 months) last year. She is back to working full time as a drug abuse counselor, getting her PhD, and attending to her husband and 4 children. WHEW! I hope that she is able to take some time for herself for her own self-care.

Adam continues to take his meds. He continues to not be agitated. He is sleeping better and was able to handle getting some jeans today without too much anxiety. He is still having thinking that is "distorted", IMO.

He now says that he does not want to see a therapist, but is willing to take his meds. I told him that I understood as sometimes therapy can be scary and that he may change his mind about therapy in the future. We talked about him getting some sort of job when he feels better. He is wanting to hang out with friends and is reaching out to his grandparents. He told his grandparents of his visual and auditory hallucinations (seeing numbers and hearing God). He is still talking about creating an online fashion store and making a million bucks by Feb 2018.

All in all, I think that things are going pretty good. I have no past experience to base this on. Time will tell. For now, I wait, I watch, I see.

Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2007
Total Posts : 39
   Posted 10/10/2017 2:02 PM (GMT -6)   
Tim Tam, I found this wonderful TED talk about BiPolar Disorder. It is about 10 1/2 minutes long. Thoughts?

Tim Tam
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Date Joined May 2016
Total Posts : 1024
   Posted 10/10/2017 7:59 PM (GMT -6)   
OK, as I understand it, I’m being asked by someone whose daughter is getting their Phd, and whose son had a 4.0 grade point ratio, meaning A+, in college, what I think of a 10 minute video from a woman who is discussing her take on her own Bipolar.

Well, OK, I supposed you want a discourse on that, and from someone who, had it been a college lecture, my daydreams would have been out the window like my Dad who told me when he was in college, he wished he had been one of the guys cutting the grass outside the building rather than sitting in class trying to figure out what the professor was talking about.

OK, right, as long as we understand each other. Whew! Is right, for both what your daughter is able to keep up with and for what I’m being asked by the mother of those two.

OK, now, well, I was trying to guess what the woman on the video was saying, what her point was, like, is she going to say no medicine for anybody?

She seemed to be saying she got better without medicine, and she needed only talk therapy. Said she believed depression was a physical illness.

One of the things I was noticing when she was saying this was her age. She was about 20 or 22. One of the things I realized I left out in my account of having had a mental breakdown and then sometime later was able to get a job, was that, for a few months, I was on medicine for my mental breakdown.

When I got my job and was around people, the doctor took me off the medicine. And I was not on any medicine for several years, we’ll say. But then, like the woman in the video, I was at a younger age, also (28-29).

So. I’m realizing while she’s talking about no meds, she’s also at a young age. We don’t know what her case is going be when she's 30.

And sure enough, after I lost another job, right, I went straight back into depression from not being around any people. Just like the woman in the video was talking about, I didn’t get talk therapy (by being arpound poople and socializing).

But there‘s a little catch to that. I was using constant conversation to stay stable, to keep my spirits up.

The “constant conversation” was actually mania from social stimulation, and “to keep my spirits up” was an effort to stay manic.

And the opposite of that, when I would lose my job, was depression from lack of socialization followed by isolation, loss of confidence, doubt that I had what it took to ever function and hold a job again.

Of course, that’s a description of manic-depression. Most people don’t become so excited when they get a job and are around people that they talk constantly, and can’t concentrate and perform their job.

Most people when they are out of a job by only a day or two, don’t become so depressed that they can’t leave their apartment, can’t socialize, can’t think, can’t consider applying for another job. But then most people don’t have manic-depression.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m bad, or weak, as I would perceive myself at such times.

But in a way, I’m able to realize now, it does mean that. Having bipolar does mean that I’m weak.

One time I had been at a job only a few days, I was supposed to meet my boss and an important person who I was supposed to work with. Well, that like a little bit too much pressure.

My boss would be difficult enough, say on the job interview. But my boss and an important person, and one I was supposed to be working with from time to time, who was about 38, and I’m like 26.

Too many stressors. Fate is about to tell me, I don’t belong here. I did not hold up. I have never held up in social situations.

Growing up, I always let my older brother and sister do the talking at teen parties at our house. I passed it off on, well, they’re older than I am, that’s why I’m not saying anything.

Well at 26, I was older, it was my time to put up or shut up. I did not put up. I had a collapse of sorts. I did not present myself well, is a nice way to put it.

My boss held that against me for two years until he finally forced me out of the organization. It was my mental illness, the same one I felt for years around my older brother and sister, but passed it off that I was younger than they were, not that I was mentally ill even at young ages.

I’m not worthless, I’m mentally ill. There are things I can do, but there are things I cannot do, and being the socializer at a formal or informal gathering is one of the things that I cannot do. It is because of my mental illness.

So, in a way, for the woman in the video to say that talk therapy or medicine is going to make it OK, it’s not. She can do better with those things, but it’s not going to make her cured or fully OK.

I just got back from a walk with my beagle dog. For the 3rd time in several years, a man who walks his two vicious (to me) big dogs, one of them got lose and ran some 40 yards as fast as he could to try and destroy my Beagle, who was on a leash.

He puts my dog on the ground first, like he’s going to kill him, but he doesn’t.

I screamed at the dog first, when his owner appeared, I screamed at him. For 5 minutes I screamed at him. As I screamed, the owner kept talking to me while he held his dogs on leashes. After about a total of 8 minutes, I told him I was manic-depressive. We sorta got along after that.

But that’s what I mean by, even with meds, I’m still sick, doesn’t make me good at social at gatherings, one on one, OK. Talk therapy, medicine, doesn’t take away the sickness, the weakness. It makes it more tolerable, but it doesn’t make it go away.

Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2007
Total Posts : 39
   Posted 10/11/2017 7:39 AM (GMT -6)   
Tim Tam, how scary for you and your dog. I am glad that things are OK.

I agree, meds and talk therapy are not curative (I have come to believe that there are few things in medicine that are curative--perhaps some infectious diseases). I was interested in what the young woman had to say about community and socialization--a la talk therapy. She was saying how it helped her when people would kindly point out that her thoughts were distorted. She also stated how important it was to have (for lack of better phrasing) a soft place to land. A place where she was safe, could be taken care of, watched over, and accepted.

It seems to me that you have come far and have accepted how things are. I believe that acceptance is the cornerstone of healing.

It is a cunning, baffling illness. I really do appreciate our discussions. I enjoy reading what your post.

Take care, dear Tim Tam


Tim Tam
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Date Joined May 2016
Total Posts : 1024
   Posted 10/11/2017 12:29 PM (GMT -6)   
Listening to the video woman talk about her own bipolar, and how she believed talk was good therapy, I did agree with that, but I know I also need meds, not all the time at her age, c. 20-22, but as I got around 30, I had to have the meds all the time.

Younger I could take the meds while a crisis was going on, and then I could get off the meds, although I did have problems off the meds, just maybe not a complete break for a few years.

But the woman talking about the benefit of talk therapy helping with her bipolar, did force me to look at my bipolar from the other side.

(Normally, I think, I'm OK, but that's when I'm sitting here by myself. When I come face to face with a social situation, I do block out what is going on, but I'm also allowed to see to a certain degree, that I am sick.)

So, hearing the young woman sing the virtues of talk therapy, again, allowed me to lower my defenses and see the weak side of myself, which I hide from myself most of the time.

Writing it down for myself and someone else to see, was therapeutic, not the normal kind of therapy I do for myself of, oh, I do pretty good most of the time, but the other side of myself, the gosh awful social blunders that have gotten me fired from jobs and invited out of situations.

So it was refreshing in a way, in a protective environment, to an understanding person, to take off the cover and stare openly at my weaknesses. In an effort, not to hurt me but to see the real me.

I've done that a little, but not to the extent I've done it this time. But again, what has helped me is to be positive, even through my weakness. It especially helps through the weakness.

Is the cutting situation with your son a separate issue?

Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2007
Total Posts : 39
   Posted 10/11/2017 2:22 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Tim Tam, I do not know about the cutting issue. I believe that it is related to the BPD. I do not know due to the depression, the hallucinations, or the distorted thinking. i suppose time will tell.

Tim Tam
Veteran Member

Date Joined May 2016
Total Posts : 1024
   Posted 10/11/2017 5:00 PM (GMT -6)   
OK. I hope he does well.

You can keep us posted.
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