Daughter with mental illness moving out, practical advice?
July 21, 2014 8:10 AM   Subscribe

19 year old is moving out to a rented room this week. We live in a city where young adults typically live with family until marriage or 30s, and her four siblings (one older, three younger) live with us. The decision to ask her to move out if she escalated in breaking household rules (no drugs, porn, sex-work, hold down a job or school, don't abuse other family members) has been run past her psychiatrist and long-planned. She's excited to live on her own with no restrictions, we are terrified due to her long history of risky behavior and struggles with borderline personality disorder and PTSD from abuse.

She has narrowly avoided a police record so far, as well as HIV, but barely with a long casefile and multiple STDs. Her four siblings (psychologically healthy and generally resilient and happy people) are mostly guilty/relieved she is leaving. About six months ago, she moved out briefly then returned due to cash flow. She has a fulltime job at a restaurant that should cover her bills, although she is likely getting cash from different men as well.

Specific questions:
1. Do we change the locks? We want her to feel like our home is still hers, but we are worried with past theft and damage, etc.
2. Should we pay part of the rent with the condition that she has to see her psychiatrist every two months and/or get STD tested? She quit regular therapy when she turned 18. Same for her co-paid meds.
3. Do we keep her room as-is or clean it out and let the other siblings use the space?
4. On the day that she moves out, should we let it go quietly or treat it as a rite-of-passage celebration with a positive spin?

What else could we do that would be helpful both to her and for our family? Throwaway email is: knittingsockmonkeysforeveryone@gmail.com

To clarify ahead: she cannot stay in the house without agreeing to start therapy again and follow rules, we sleep with locked doors because she has tried to poison me, hit other siblings and threatened worse, and her diagnosis has been a decade of therapy and teams of specialists and is very much confirmed. She is not anti-social personality disorder or a sociopath however.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
1. Yes.

2. No. She has a history of not keeping up her end of the bargain, is there a reason why you think she's going to change this?

3. If the siblings need the space, then clean it out.

4. Quietly. She's a troubled individual, nothing to particularly celebrate.

posted by Melismata at 8:19 AM on July 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

Agree with all above except #3 - what relationship do you want with your daughter going forward? This dictates #3.

If this really is the end of things, clean out the room immediately.

I was going to say keep it as-is for 6 months then clean it out until I read about the poison.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:39 AM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Changing the locks seems like a definite yes. The fact is, it's not her home anymore. It seems to me that she maybe should be welcome as a guest in your home, but not feel like it is her home. Honestly, I think some families would cut her off completely after these actions. She's physically assaulted people in the family, tried to kill you, and stolen things. She needs to see the consequences of her actions - i.e. that she will not be trusted unless she proves herself trustworthy, which it definitely doesn't sound like she is right now.

I do not think you should pay part of her rent. I think you could offer to pay for her psychiatrist and meds so that cost is not a barrier. She shouldn't be going to the psychiatrist because of a bribe. You can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped - she needs to want the help. I know this is hard to accept. I have been in the same position and I still have constant thoughts of trying to somehow coerce/bribe/entice the person in question to get more help.

I think you should do with the room whatever you did with her siblings' rooms when they moved out. As much as you'd like it if she got healthy and was able to move back in, it doesn't sound like this is on the horizon.

As for moving out day, she's not moving out for positive reasons, so what would you be celebrating? It seems to me that this would be giving her the wrong impression. Like you are celebrating the fact that she could not adhere to standards of basic human behavior (not hurting people, not breaking the law). You are sad about this and it sounds like rightfully so. I would just tell her that "we are very sorry to see you go. We wanted you to move out and lead an independent life, but not like this. We really feel like you need to keep seeing your psychiatrist and we hope that you will decide to do so very soon."
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:41 AM on July 21, 2014 [9 favorites]

1. Do we change the locks? We want her to feel like our home is still hers, but we are worried with past theft and damage, etc.

Yes, change the locks. Your safety and feelings of security are important, too. You're still her family, and that's important for her to know. But that house is no longer where she lives, for very important practical reasons, and it's OK to be real about that (with her, with her siblings, and with yourself).

2. Should we pay part of the rent with the condition that she has to see her psychiatrist every two months and/or get STD tested? She quit regular therapy when she turned 18. Same for her co-paid meds.

I'm not sure. If you think that she'll end up engaging in even more risky behavior because of financial issues, then it might be better for all involved if you go ahead and make sure that she'll at least have a safe place to live and no need to engage in risky behavior to ensure that. On the other hand, I'm actually surprised that someone with her issues and under psychiatric care isn't going to some kind of supportive housing, and isn't in the process of qualifying for any public benefits (though I see that she's able to work, so I'm not quite sure I've got a handle on the circumstances/context here)?

She might need help making a more stable life for herself, including making sure her living situation and finances are stable, but since she's an adult, that help shouldn't necessarily come from you as her parent. It sounds like she has quite debilitating mental health issues, and that they're well-documented. It can be more difficult to get (public) support (such as disability income, a housing voucher, etc) for psychological disabilities as opposed to other kinds of disabilities, especially since she's able to work, but it's not necessarily impossible. She should probably at least have a social worker or some other kind of maintenance help like that, since she's having problems with risky behavior and not staying within the bounds of the law. Can you and she (together) talk to her psychiatrist about community or public programs she could get involved with or qualify for in order to help her stability?

3. Do we keep her room as-is or clean it out and let the other siblings use the space?

Clean out the space and let her siblings use it, if they need it. No need to create a Shrine to a Moved Out Sibling out of her old room. Your daughter moving out is going to be a permanent thing (since she wasn't able to safely live in the house with you any longer) and it's better for everyone's ability to accept and understand that if you are real about it and not keep up a facade -- even if that facade would be for loving, sentimental reasons.

I think you should talk to her about it first, though, so that she isn't blindsided by her old room being gone.

4. On the day that she moves out, should we let it go quietly or treat it as a rite-of-passage celebration with a positive spin?

I personally would treat it as a rite-of-passage. Yes, it's happening now for sad, disturbing reasons, and it's OK to be sad and disturbed about it. But it's also a new beginning and a chance for new independence for her and a new way of connecting as a family for all of you, and it's OK to be hopeful about that, too (and to celebrate that hopefulness).

I think shaming her by refusing to mark what is apparently an important event for her (since she's excited) isn't productive. That'll only drive her away and make her feel more disconnected to you and the other positive influences in her life (like her siblings). Even if she's being very brave and/or naive about moving out again, it's also likely that she's going to feel or already feels destabilized, afraid, and alone. If it's out of the ordinary for someone her age to live on her own in your city, she might also feel embarrassed.

You want to make sure that she understands that she's still safe, supported, and loved, even though a new stage of her life is starting. If that means acknowledging the positive aspects of her moving out or marking it as a rite of passage, instead of a public mark of her bad behavior or deviance, than you should mark it as a rite of passage. I don't think that it would make sense to throw a huge celebratory party or anything for it, because that seems "false" to your feelings and the circumstances as well, but on the other hand, marking it in the same kind of way that you mark other special occasions, like a family birthday for example (in my family, that would mean a family dinner together with the birthday girl's favorite foods, something like that), might make the adjustment a lot smoother and put everyone more at ease.
posted by rue72 at 9:05 AM on July 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

Your post seems to skip over some salient points of information. For example: is she being kicked out, moving of her own volition, or is this a "you can't fire me because I quit" sort of deal?

1. Yes, you should probably change those locks. Just because she is always welcome in your house does not mean that she has proven that she can be trusted with that level of access to your home and the well-being of the people who live there, as well as their property. I disagree about needing to see "the consequences of her actions" though, simply because I'm hesitant to believe that's going to register given what you've shared about your daughter.

2. Why did she quit therapy and her meds?

Does she think she's actually okay? Does she disagree with her diagnosis? Is she proving a point that she doesn't need anyone or anything to save her? Is she actively trying to mess her life up as an unconscious and almost existential cry for help? Is she protecting her brokenness with a "I broke it so it's my responsibility to fix it" attitude? Does she just not trust her health care providers?

The answer would determine a lot about how to move forward. But in general, I think you might get more mileage out of a standing policy to pay for those things if she decides she'd like to continue with them rather than paying half rent; if you think she will actually take advantage of the meds and therapy if you trade that for ongoing rent support then you might have cause to go the other way. With that said, we reflexively devalue things that are easy to get, so cutting her off and giving her an avenue to ask for support back might be helpful.

3. Do you anticipate her coming back? Do you want to take her back in if she can't make a go of being on her own? Do you actually physically need the space, or is it more of a symbolic statement to keep the room vs. re-purpose it?

4. It isn't clear, as I said above, what the whole story is around why she is moving out, and why now. If she's being kicked out, then there's nothing to celebrate. Not that it necessarily has to be covered by a cloud of judgement. You can still give hugs and tell her you believe in her, etc etc. If no one believes that she's going to be able to make a go and really "be an adult on her own", celebrating might feel a little off. A small, discreet housewarming gift or framed family photo might not be a bad idea though.

If she's excited to be on her own, then why wouldn't she have done it under her own volition before now? How close to home is she going to be staying? 10 minutes away, or 40 minutes away in a significantly different part of town? Did she find her own place? Is she staying with friends (or "friends")? Given the impulsivity you describe your daughter having, it seems unlikely that she would have looked for an apartment, talked to the landlord, and put down a deposit in anticipation of moving out all on her own.
posted by Poppa Bear at 9:13 AM on July 21, 2014

She is not anti-social personality disorder or a sociopath however.

Even though she tried to poison you?! That seems like anti-social and sociopathic behavior to me.

People are being way too nice here. Someone tries to poison me, I don't even consider having them in my house (or even talk to them, although it's your daughter, so maybe some phone calls would be ok) unless I hear from a reliable outside source that she has her mental illness completely under control for more than a year.
posted by Melismata at 9:18 AM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

1. Yes, locks should be changed. Your children deserve a safe home where they feel do not worry about being assaulted (as do you).
2. The money you spend on rent will be used by her to buy drugs. You supporting her drug habit is dysfunctional.
3. The siblings deserve to have a safe home and know that she is not returning. Are any of them sharing a room? If so, the rom should be given to one of them so they each have their own room. Otherwise, give it to them so they can physically reclaim a part of "family" and feel for once they are the priority over her needs. They don't need a reminder of the hole in their life she has created by not being a good sister.
4. Let her go quietly. She doesn't want to celebrate with her family - she will be celebrating in her own way in own space later in a way you probably won't like anyway.
posted by saucysault at 9:34 AM on July 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

1. Change the locks. Immediately. She tried to poison you, she abuses her siblings. She's your daughter and you want her to feel like part of the family, but not this way.

2. She hasn't been following your rules while she's been living at home; why would she once she moves out? Don't give her any more money.

3. When she moves out, give her her things to take with her. Whatever's left should go into storage. What is she going to leave behind?

4. Let it go quietly. This is not a good situation; more attention does not need to be called to it in order to make it more palatable for her. Her siblings are already feeling guilty; don't add to that.
posted by RainyJay at 9:48 AM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

For the celebration, maybe instead of a party-like event, you instead think about a gift basket for her new home. Some toiletries, some food to stock the fridge, stuff like that.
posted by CathyG at 9:58 AM on July 21, 2014 [14 favorites]

Get her into a *good* in-patient psychiatric program, against her will if needed (the poisoning would be reason enough). I do not say this lightly. I am mentally ill myself. Such programs definitely have downsides and should carefully chosen. But throwing her out will *guarantee* that she continues down her current path. She needs help, desperately. Please force her to get it.
posted by mkuhnell at 10:00 AM on July 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

She refuses to allow you to parent her. She is disruptive to the household to the detriment of the other children. You owe it to yourself and your other children to let her go. Yes, change the locks. Do not pay for anything except a treatment facility. Do not pay for rent, parking tickets, anything. Do not bail her out of jail or pay for her cell phone. Save up your money for a treatment facility. And then live your life with joy. Let her see how great things are when people are healthy and pray that one day she wants to be healthy too.
posted by myselfasme at 10:31 AM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

The missing piece for me is what you think will happen when she loses her job and can't pay rent. Unless she has been working full time for at least 6-12 months, I think it is foolish to assume that she will be able to keep the job. From what you know about her and yourself, what are you going to do then? Do you think she will promise you anything (follow the rules, go to therapy) so she can move back in? Do you think you will cave and let her move home rather than be homeless? Do you think she is so committed to bad choices that she would rather be homeless than behave? You need to brace yourself for the continuing drama. (unless you decided to cut all ties but things don't seem to be at that point yet.)

1. Yes, change the locks. She doesn't live there and you need to know when she is going to be there.
2. Don't do a deal unless you have reason to think she is able to make the commitment and follow through. The problem is in the implementation - how do you know she is complying? if you find out she misses just one session then what? two? I am totally in favor of agreeing to pay her medical expenses (doctor's visits, tests, co-pays). If you do decided to help her financially, make sure you pay the expense directly to the landlord/vendor so you know where the money is going.
(As an aside, I think it can a reasonable decision for parents to decide to pay rent, if they can afford it, to make sure their child has a safe place to live, especially when they can't move back home but let her worry about getting a job to cover food, utilities etc.)
3. changing the room immediately sends a message that you are kicking her out and she will never move back in with you. if you are sure that is what you want, then this is a symbolic way to underscore the change. if not, wait a few months before you decide.

Good luck. You might see if you can find a parent support group to help you deal with all of this. In the US, NAMI offers various family education and support groups . There is also a great on-line support class/group at http://familieshealingtogether.com
posted by metahawk at 10:54 AM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Changing the locks is not sufficient because an abusive person with a history of drug problems is likely to take a brick and smash a window. Consider an alarm system that will be triggered by something like that.
posted by Candleman at 11:37 AM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

1. Yes. She will almost certainly be coming back to steal from you, if not now then soon.
2. If you want to pay her rent, pay it with no strings attached. I'd suggest you offer to pay for her psychiatrist, meds, and STD tests (pay directly, don't give her cash or a cheque to pass on), but not for her rent.
3. This depends on how much you need the space, but I'd try to consider keeping it as is for now.
4. Quietly, but maybe buy her some food -- again, don't give her money -- to start out with.
posted by jeather at 12:13 PM on July 21, 2014

Specific questions:
1. Do we change the locks? We want her to feel like our home is still hers, but we are worried with past theft and damage, etc. Natural and logical consequences - Yes. Also, it removes the temptation to steal.

2. Should we pay part of the rent with the condition that she has to see her psychiatrist every two months and/or get STD tested? She quit regular therapy when she turned 18. Same for her co-paid meds. 'Sweetie, let me know if you need $ for the pharmacy; I'll come with you and pick up the copay.' When I was applying the same standards to my child, I would buy groceries for him, including some junk food, but not beer. No cash. Conditions haven't worked, so lay off, for now.

3. Do we keep her room as-is or clean it out and let the other siblings use the space? Don't decide that right now. Clean it, have her pack away mementos, but leave it for a while.

4. On the day that she moves out, should we let it go quietly or treat it as a rite-of-passage celebration with a positive spin? Help her move, be loving and positive, but I wouldn't make a big deal. Love her, be affectionate, buy her music if you want to reward her, hug her, note accomplishments and do your best to ignore failures. She's an adult; treat her like an adult. It may or may not get her to behave like an adult, but you've done what you can, and it's time to allow her to deal with her life. As a parent, it's really difficult to do that.
posted by theora55 at 1:28 PM on July 21, 2014

Full disclosure I work in a harm reduction program so I see things differently.

This kid is a foster child/adopted I'm assuming. I just want to remind you that you are her only family for better or for worse.

I think you should ask her about her room at least for now. There is no reason not to unless you desperately need the space. Honor her choice, even if she changes her mind.

Regarding behavior in the household I'm from the mindset of harm reduction. She's an adult. But you can give her money for condoms, medical check ups, longer term birthcontrol. You can talk to get about safety when she engages in these behaviors such as letting someone know where she is at, affirm she can refuse anyone. She can insist on condoms and do inspections for open sores, pus or other kinds of nasties (obviously this does not work for everything).

It is a way for you to support her outside of her house and let her do things her way. No matter how disturbing it is to you it is normalized for her. Shaming just re affirms she's stuck in a cycle. Supportive for safety allows her a space to communicate and possibly affirming self worth.

I would celebrate her moving. She's alive, has a job and isn't in jail. She hasn't killed herself. These are amazing things for someone with as much trauma (self inflicted and otherwise). It is a learning experience. A new beginning.

As for the lock change if you feel unsafe do it. I'd make up some excuse like the deadbolt broke the day after she moved out our something to lessen the blow of 'turning in her keys.'

You are a good parent and you have done your best with a very difficult child. It is okay to let her learn from her experiences. Regardless how she acts now permanent support from family members can be rewarding and actually therapeutic in the long term even if she doesn't and you don't see it now.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:25 PM on July 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


as someone with BPD,I'd say she absolutely needs her diagnosis revisited. In general, BPD sufferers aren't violent--or at least not murderously violent--towards others.

If you have set limits and rules and she has broken them, repeatedly, then (I hate saying this) she's on her own. You've tried, she's rejected. Tell her if and when she starts complying with te rules laid forth, she can have support from you.

Change your locks, yes.

This sounds horrible and I wish you all the strength possible to get through what sounds like an untenable situation. The worst thing about mental illness is, speaking from experience, the rejection of getting better. There's only so far you can push her to get better, and after that she is on her own. The only thing I'd suggest is getting her hooked up with community services/caseworker/social worker who will be able to check in on her and make sure things are (relatively) okay.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:29 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

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