Q: Your post in a recent Daily Dose of Reason (8/31/11 “Bipolar: Valid Label or Excuse?”) is spot on. I have a brother who was diagnosed with this so-called “bipolar disorder.” My father had a massive heart attack last November. Ever since then he has required constant medical treatment. The good news is he is still independent and is able to drive. Unfortunately, my brother lives with my father and has abused this privilege for 3 years. Since I’m pretty much responsible for my father’s health; my brother has not bothered to lift a finger in helping Dad.
I make sure my father has all his meds. And I make sure he keeps to his scheduled medical appointments. Please keep in mind I have no problem doing this. My father was a good father, and very responsible. What does my brother do? Here a rundown of what he’s done:
1) punches holes in my father’s walls when angry;
2) tore all the wallpaper and carpeting in his room, which has made the room bare (in its original pre-built state);
3) does not contribute one dollar to anything for living expenses;
4) was arrested for attacking Dad, and had a temporary restraining order placed on him.
Despite all this my father will not kick him out. I have pages of police records of what my brother has done to dad over the years. And now, I’ve been arguing with my mother about my brother’s behavior. Both my parents excuse my brother’s behavior. They all say because he is mentally ill, and that’s why he behaves the way he does!?!?!?
Can you believe this garbage? So now elder abuse is excused. I’ve made my decision that I no longer have any contact with him. I don’t talk to him. I’ve effectively disowned him. I now consider myself a de facto only child.
A: You’ve heard the phrase, “Honor they father and mother.” This command implies that you must love your parents unconditionally, no matter what they do. That’s what your parents are doing with their son. No matter how unloving their son’s behavior, he can count on them to forgive and excuse him because that’s what unconditional love leads to. Unconditional love is the reason we have so many excuses in our society. It animates those excuses. Without the false idea of unconditional love, those excuses would disappear overnight, along with the behavior of most of the people such as your brother.
The psychiatric and medical establishments are working hand in hand to make sure that your parents keep loving your brother, unconditionally, no matter what he does or how far he goes.
Punching holes in your father’s walls when angry? Not long ago even psychiatrists and psychologists called this “lack of impulse control.” Now it’s simply Bipolar Disorder. He has a blank check to keep doing it.
Tears up all the wallpaper and carpeting in his room? It should be called destruction of property. Instead, it’s called Bipolar Disorder. One might speculate that he’s in a rage about his dependence on his parents, since grown adults hate being in such a position. Instead of taking constructive steps to do something about it, he throws a series of gigantic and destructive tantrums. He’s a child in a man’s body. These are things no psychiatrist will ever say, but they’re true, and refusing to say them ensures that he keeps getting away with it.
You say he does not contribute one dollar to anything for living expenses? In plain English, and using clear thinking, that’s mooching and taking advantage of others. Psychiatrists and social workers will say, “Oh, he’s disabled and he cannot work.” Really? What about all the people who are labeled Bipolar and do work? What about the people who have emotional difficulties and don’t impose those on others, in the aggressive and violent way that your brother does? Mental health professionals and other fools ooze with compassion and empathy for people like your brother, and in the process they are unfair towards those with similar emotional problems who — whatever their failings — would never hurt a fly. Just as there are good and bad people without Bipolar, can’t there be good people with it, assuming you trust the label in the first place?
I wonder what your parents fear will happen by removing your brother from the house. Calling the police and having him permanently removed from their property would send him a powerful message. Among other things, it would tell him that he has to fend for himself. True, in our welfare state the government would provide for him. But the government would only provide the minimal in a clunky, bureaucratic way. And he couldn’t show up at government offices and act the way he treats your parents. The experience of facing reality in this way would force him to grow up, at least some.
Your parents must think they’re helping him. That’s how they rationalize it, at least. But what they’re doing is “helping” him stay dependent on him until they die. One day they’ll be gone, and he’ll be left alone to fend for himself. Surely you’re not going to help him, nor should you. None of us are obliged to help anyone, least of all those who would damage or destroy us.
That’s the insanity and, frankly, the barbarity of what passes for human ‘ethics’ as we know it. We’re supposed to excuse and be kind to those who are nothing of the sort. This is insanity, more than Bipolar Disorder, or anything else.