Of Mental Illness, Amanda Bynes, And Her Mother…

I typically don’t pay much attention to pop culture or celebrity garbage, mostly because I don’t care about it; but my eye is usually caught when mental illness comes into play. I’m always interested in the way the public perceives the person’s behavior as they are exhibiting their instabilities. Charlie Sheen was a good example. I would have bet money he was screaming through a Bipolar manic cycle when he was coming unhinged and lost his contract for Two and a Half Men. Many folks argued it was cocaine, which is a valid point if not for the length of time it ran. You would have to do a ton of cocaine to maintain that kind of pace for that length of time.

Amanda Bynes was recently trending due to the actions of her mother, Lynn, who pursued a temporary conservatorship over Amanda and won. Now, her mother has taken her off all of the psych medications she had been on for the past 9 months or so because “she hasn’t had an episode since”. The mother now claims that Amanda does not have a serious mental illness, even though she was placed on an LPS Hold which requires doctors to show evidence of grave disability as the result of mental illness or chronic alcoholism.

The basis of this move- she’s not mentally ill, it was marijuana that did it to her. If you’ve ever smoked or associated with people who smoked pot- please use this time to get the laughter and disbelief out of your system. I’ll wait.

You good? Cool.

Not only is it a great example of ignorance of mental illness; it’s a great example of the 1980’s Public Service Announcement misinformation mentality about drugs.

Yes, certain drugs can have a negative affect on people with mental illness.

But I have to say that of the hundreds of times in my life that I’ve smoked pot, hung out with several people that smoked pot, and been a third party witness to pot-smoking shenanigans; nobody ever thought it was a good idea to set fire to a neighbor’s driveway with gasoline, strip off their pants because they were on fire, retrieve their now gasoline soaked Pomeranian, run to a liquor store to the backroom to wash it off in their sink, and have a melt down when confronted by the employees which resulted in an arrest.

That’s wayyyyy too much activity for someone who was supposedly under heavy influence of pot.

Some have posited that removing her from psych meds and claiming it was pot is a form of damage control. I don’t think her mother is stupid; just ignorant. I don’t think that her or her lawyers would be dumb enough to think you could “damage control” 4 years of drastic instability that even had Courtney Love of all people tweeting to her to “Get it together girl”. When Courtney Love acknowledges that you have a problem- you have a fucking problem.

And this long ass intro leads into the point of this post. What I’m seeing from her mother is something I see on a regular basis from the loved ones of folks with mental illness. It’s often just related from the mentally ill person rather than the third party.

It centers around that person’s inability to accept their own perceived “failures”. You take a mother who loves her daughter, has had pretty significant difficulties in her life over 30 years or so, but she loves her unconditionally and does everything she can to create a better life for her. Now, you reveal that the daughter has been hiding some pretty significant behaviors from her mother for a long time. Cutting, drinking too much to cope, drugs, reckless behavior, maybe even a suicide attempt or two. The daughter gets worse with age to the point where her quieter behavior suddenly starts getting much louder. Now she’s getting hauled in by the cops, setting fires, doing the insane shit that severely mentally ill people do.

What goes on in the mother’s mind? Some parents are able to adapt and help. Others can’t. They would “know” if their child was mentally ill. They did everything in their power to make sure that child was taken care of and had opportunities in their life; so they couldn’t possibly have a mental illness. Acknowledging that their child has a mental illness is a blow to them as a person because it’s easy to perceive it as them failing their child. How could someone you love miss something that important and major? Well; it’s pretty simple actually. It’s not like everyone is walking around with a PhD in psychology or anything.

And in Amanda’s case; she was successful. A multimillionaire and retired by 26, as she said. So in her mother’s mind; it couldn’t possibly be Amanda’s mental health that was exploding. No, it must have been the pot even though there is a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Mental illness doesn’t care about how wealthy you are. It’ll tear down a wealthy person just as easily as a poor person. But her mother is ignoring all of the evidence supporting mental illness and taking her off a medication cocktail that is commonly used for schizophrenia.

I’d give her less than six months to have another psychotic episode if she sticks to this course of action.

Pride has no place in this struggle. Whether you’re a supporter or mentally ill; pride is an enemy. We must all understand that we can fuck things up. Pride prevents apologies, it prevents acceptance, it prevents progress.

If I’m right about her mother’s mindset; her pride is undermining Amanda’s mental wellness. Is the daughter going to listen to her mother or her doctors? Many people would trust their mother more and wind up screwed for an even longer period of time. Who knows how long her mother’s decision is going to set back her mental wellness? It could be years. Or maybe Amanda will remember how much better she felt on the meds and get back on them soonish. Who knows?

If you are in a similar situation or were handed this article by someone; it’s not your fault or any kind of knock on you as a person if you missed a mental illness. Lots of people don’t understand or “get it”. It’s no flaw to have not understood what your loved one was going through.

What is a flaw is a refusal to acknowledge the evidence that supports it when it’s staring you in the face. That refusal can fuck your loved one over far into the future. The past is done. Help your loved one reach a better, saner future for themselves.

And regardless of the position you are in; educate yourself on the claims being made about the person in your life. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve talked to who are diagnosed Bipolar that couldn’t tell me what Bipolar Disorder is. How the hell are you supposed to help yourself or anyone else if you don’t understand what the claims are? It doesn’t matter if you’re the loved one or the mentally ill one; educate yourself!

I get asked constantly “what books do you recommend?” and my answer is always the same- “All of them.” Read anything and everything you can get your hands on. Mental illness is an intensely personal experience. If you’re Bipolar, you can read a book about another Bipolar person that has no relation to how you experience the Disorder. Now you’re questioning if that’s actually the case when the next book may have struck home for you. Read everything you can get your hands on. That way you’ll have a much better idea of how to help your loved one or help yourself.


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9 Responses to Of Mental Illness, Amanda Bynes, And Her Mother…

  1. frank says:

    I agree with you – if you or your loved ones cannot put aside the notion that this mental illness must be due to a failure on somebody’s part then the possibility for a life with the least symptoms is drastically reduced. With this crappy illness there is no room for pride.


    hi there i have been searching and searching for a site that can help repair the relationship between my sister and her daughter , my sis has bipolar 2 and her daughter is 30 now , the problem thats going on right now , its like my sister is obsessed with her daughter , she wont stop emailing her texting calling , even tho her daughter has said she will not reply to anything from her for at least 6 months , all the family has tried to make my sister understand about her daughter to let her be , stop the communications with her , my sister has so much guilt about everything in her life as she was diagnosed with bi2 a few years ago , she will not stay on meds how can we help her please she is out driving around now and we have no idea if she is ok , she is afraid to go home she does not want a blow up with her daughter again help us to help her thank you

    • Dennis says:

      Hello there. Thanks for taking the time to comment. The lynch pin in the wellness process for Bipolar Disorder is the person with the Disorder. They have to WANT to be well because then they will go through all the unpleasant, tedious bullshit that we have to so we can attain wellness. I hate taking meds too; but I’d sooner cut out my own thyroid than give up the stability and clarity that lithium has given me. So, how do you help her? Well, you should focus on getting her to want to understand and be well.

      If I were in your position; this is what I would do.

      1. Tell her something to the effect of “If you’re truly sorry and want to make things up to your daughter; you should do your best to get well and stable in this six month break she is taking. That way when you two reestablish contact you’ll be in a better place mentally. You can’t change the past, but you can make a better future.

      2. And then her (or the two of you) can talk with her doctor who is treating her about referring her to a therapist to learn management skills for the disorder and deal with the guilt that she’s experiencing. I was in cognitive behavioral therapy for about a year and a half and it was incredibly helpful for me. I learned skills for managing that I still use often. Encourage her to talk to her doctor about getting back on and staying on her meds. Reinforce that it is a process and takes time to find the right ones; but once you do it’s a world of difference. You may also ask why she keeps coming off of them if you don’t already know. Eliminating that on and off again crap is paramount. It just destabilizes the person horribly.

      3. Have her look into local support groups. If you’re in the United States; you can search for Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance ones on their webpage at http://www.dbsalliance.org . They are a national NPO ran by people who have recovered from mood disorders and have chapters in most (if not all) of the states. If you’re elsewhere, check into local resources or ask her doctor. It will be good for her to be around other people that have had similar lives and gone through similar struggles as she is right now. At most, you don’t have to share if you don’t want to but even the presence can be helpful. Being mentally ill can be lonely even if you are surrounded by loved ones.

      4. Encourage her to educate herself on the Disorder as much as she can. It’s perfectly possible to live a well and (mostly) healthy life as a Bipolar person; but it takes work. And as in warfare; one must know their enemy.

      And this could all very well fall on deaf ears until she crashes out of this cycle that she is presently in. So it may be a good idea to hold off until she crashes and just work to minimize the potential damage she can do to herself and her life right now. Being Bipolar, she’ll have a depressive crash at some point when this cycle has ran its course so you want to ensure she has support if she hits low enough to be suicidal.


        thank you so much , we love our sister and our niece so much , we have no idea how to help them, but we are there for them no matter what , my sister with the bipolar we speak to her in direct way we dont pussy foot around with her , we tell her to take her meds , we try to get her to see the way shes talking she perceiving it wrong , we try to get her to rationalize her thinking , yes its very hard because alot of the time we dont know her mindset , it just saddens me to see my sister hurting so much because there is no relationship with her daughter and i honestly do not know why my sister has never said and wont say what happened and yes there are two sides to everything here ive seen the disrespect from both sides here ,it eats me up because my sister was a nurse for 40 years recently retired took care of our mom till she passed away and shes so caring to everyone and now i just feel she feels lost now like she has no purpose in life , so sad , all of our family write to each other on how we can help our sister , we always tell her listen kiddo its the bipolar its not you there are no easy answers thats for sure , i am so glad i stumbled on your site thank you for info here

        • Dennis says:

          Well, the problems between your sister and her daughter are just things they will have to work on resolving on their own. If neither of them have told you; I would suspect it’s probably a good idea not to pry too deeply into the whys for now. Just focus on helping getting your sister back on track. The direct approach is definitely the one I’m most in favor of. Subtlety usually gets swept under by the chaos that the Disorder brings with it. Those subtle words are often wasted.

          Knowing that she’s a nurse and a caregiver and all; you could push the angle that the sooner she gets well and balanced off she can help other Bipolar people as well. That’s what I do with my bullshit and she has a lifetime of experiences to turn into help for other people through either volunteer work or maybe another career later? That seems like the approach I would take since caregiving is such a central part of her nature.

  3. S says:

    Well, it seems as though your 6 month comment was very prescient.

    • Dennis says:

      Mental illness is complex in many ways. It’s simple in many ways. It ebbs and flows. That was really the basis of my “prediction”.

  4. Matt says:

    This is manic… and she stopped her meds recently to ride that high again. I have been there. Mania is a lot different than bipolar II issues. It takes you over. She may get it with this round, who knows?

    • Dennis says:

      Eh. She was being treated for Schizophrenia originally and doing better on those meds.

      And yeah, I’m very familiar with the differences. I have a couple of good friends who are Type 1’s. They are two similar beasts in different clothing really.

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