Wednesday, November 05, 2008

My Son

Posted by Anonymous.

My son will be 27 years old in a few months. Up until he was about 21 or so, he was a responsible, happy young man. His Dad and I never worried about him getting into trouble. He had many friends (mostly girls, but a few guys), held part-time jobs, life was good. The only area where there was a shadow was he never had a girl-friend (this bothered him, not us). When he confided this to us, we couldn't really figure out why, nor could he. People instantly liked him, including girls, but they always wanted to be "just friends", according to him.

He started to work at my husband's place of work about 4 years ago. He was doing well, getting lots of on-call work, making good money. Again, he seemed happy. He decided to move out with a girl he worked with (strictly platonic). It only lasted about 8 months. He wanted to live on his own, so he rented a small apartment. We helped him with the first/last month's rent. He again seemed happy. But he wasn't managing his money well, and got behind in his rent. Again, we helped him, with the promise from him that he would manage his money better. He decided to move in with a guy into a new apartment to save costs. Things then took a real turn for the worst, he started not showing up for work. This was so difficult for my husband (remember it was his place of work too), as we would get calls asking if we knew where he was, why didn't he show up. We would get worried sick wondering what had happened to him. Finally he would call us, saying his bosses were idiots and he didn't want to work there anymore. We bailed him out financially again. He started to work a string of minimum wage jobs, but claimed he worked for idiots and would finally leave. He told us he was very depressed. I tried to get him into counselling, doctors, he would have none of it. When I saw him he looked unhappy, worn out. I suspected drug use.

Finally, I convinced him to come home and get his life in order. He admitted there was drug use (mostly pot, but some ecstacy), introduced by his roommate. He also admitted he had been having suicidal thoughts, but had never acted on them. He often thought of hanging himself. His Dad and I were sick with worry. Again, tried to convince him to see someone. He refused.

Being at home seemed to bring him some stability, although the endless jobs continued. But whatever drug use there was seemed to stop. He was happy again, eating well and acting normally. He wanted to move out with two other roommates again. This was a year ago. We helped him out with money again.

In the last year it has been difficult because we give him between $300-$500 per month for living expenses. He finally agreed to see a doctor and counsellor and try anti-depressents. He claims they didn't work for him and he feels better just dealing with life on his on terms. He says he still gets suicidal thoughts and gets down but not as much. When he asks for money, I try and advise him on budgeting, etc., which he seems responsive to, but obviously doesn't implement because he needs money every month.

Part of his depression is the fact he can't meet someone. He says girls don't like him because he is only 5'4", yet he is an attractive, intelligent young man with a lot going for him. A few months ago he confided he may be bisexual. His Dad and I were very supportive of him and told him we fully accepted his choices in life.

Where have we gone wrong? Why can't he be responsible and act like an adult? My husband and I are very scared that if we don't help him financially, he will become depressed again and try and commit suicide. It feels like a Catch-22. His father and I have tried talking to him endlessly about being responsible with money, and he listens and nods but I guess he feels that we have always helped out so why bother. We do not feel he is doing drugs because he has held down a job in a coffee shop for a few months now and appears healthy and happy whenever we see him. He has also registered in a web design course at college (we have paid for this - it's $8,000) which starts in the fall. He is very excited and so are we for him.

So what do we do - continue to help him financially until he has completed the course and can look after himself? Although my husband and I do make good money, the monthly draw stills comes at a cost. I don't know what to do.


Anonymous said...

Where have we gone wrong? Why can't he be responsible and act like an adult? ... His father and I have tried talking to him endlessly about being responsible with money, and he listens and nods but I guess he feels that we have always helped out so why bother."

You've answered your own question. You've never required him to stand on his own two feet. You've always bailed him out and paid for his whims. You've never even set conditions for your help; you've just made 'suggestions'. Why on earth should he change his ways if you're going to foot the bills and the lifestyle choices? All's he has to do is throw out a phrase such as, 'I'm depressed. Maybe I'll end it all' once in a while to ensure the financial support keeps rolling in, and it does.

Yes, he may well be depressed. But if he refuses to get help, or flippantly blows it off all the while accepting your cash, then he's not taking it seriously either. He's using it to get support out of you.

I know this sounds harsh, but you and your husband need to talk to a counselor about how you are enabling your son. Because you are. Ask your doctor for a referral.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that my heart hurts for you. What a terrible and scary position to be in. If your son truly is depressed (and it sounds to me like he does suffer from depression) he may need to bottom out before he really wants help. Please continue to take his suicide talk seriously and think about getting some help for yourself to help you deal with this incredibly stressful situation.

Hang in there. My thoughts are with you.

Anonymous said...

I wish I couldn't relate to this but I can. Our daughter is in her mid twenties. Even though she has a child she only supports herself. We support the child and she never has any money. Drugs were a part of this for a while but she has been clean for 5 years.

My husband and I with the help of a therapist have decided to quit enabling her. When she runs out of money she's out. Is it hard extremely but at some point they have to take responsibility for themselves. We will not be around forever to take care of them.

I know how hard this is and I wish you the best.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the first comment. It will not be easy to enforce this brand of tough love but it will be worth it. Be there emotionally for him but explain that you just can't support him financially anymore.

Chrissy said...

I'm going to offer a different perspective here from the other commenters. I am a mental health professional as well as one who has dealt with the mental illness of a family member, and based on my experience, it sounds as if your son is suffering from a mental illness.

Depression is a possibility, as is bipolar disorder. The only way to be certain is for him to see a psychiatrist. This, of course, can be tricky, because he is an adult, and it sounds like he is unwilling to cooperate with that sort of treatment. There is no easy answer to that problem.

My main reason for commenting, however, is to encourage you to PLEASE take seriously any mention of suicide from your son. This is not something he can "help" or that he will "snap out of". If he has clinical depression or bipolar, he is not in control of what the illness doing to his mood/brain. If he has thought about suicide, and has even gone so far as to plan it (hanging himself), that is a MAJOR red flag, and should be taken seriously. Calling 911 is an option if you feel that he is in immediate danger, and you may want to familiarize yourself with your local mental health treatment centers, and make a plan of action.

The National Alliance on Mentally Illness (NAMI) is a good place to get information. They have chapters all over, and have lots of answers for family members.

Good luck to you, I hope that you get some good help.

Chrissy said...

Sorry, that's the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the website is

Please feel free to contact me through my blog profile if you need to. I hope this has been some help.

Crazed Nitwit said...

I am not a mental health professional but I have dealt with mental illness in my family and depression in myself. I would be very careful about the suicide comments.

I think talking with someone from NAMI or someone in your area would be very helpful. It always helps to have support from folks who understand your situation. His state of mind is not your fault. Best wishes.

Shelli said...

It sounds like he's gay and has a lot of shame issues around it, which would explain the depression.

As much acceptance and love as you can share will help him. Please know it's not a choice. It just is.

Lots of love to YOU, this parenting stuff is HARD!

Chrissy said...

Sorry to take over your comments here, but now that my kids are in bed I've been able to give a little more thought to your situation. I wanted to mention to you that erratic spending can be a symptom of bipolar disorder. Also, the fact that you mentioned that his personality seems to have changed from when he was in his early twenties can also be an indication.

One idea: since he depends on you financially, maybe you could give some thought to 'requiring' him to be under psychiatric care in order to receive money from you. You could even make the appointment and offer to go along. Just an idea. I'm almost hesitant to mention it, because the traditional 'tough love', 'shape up' approach can backfire with someone who is not capable of making rational choices; but on the other hand it sounds like he desperately needs help. I hope you'll post an update.

Anonymous said...

After reading this it gave me an insight into how my parents must have felt about me a few years ago. I got out of a bad relationship and moved back home to help myself get on my feet. I took a break from school, which at the time was good and it made me feel more at ease. But I lied to them constantly, I smoked pot, dabbled in other drugs and drank all the time. But they never gave me money, only offered emotional support. I finally found an amazing job and suddenly all of the bad feelings I had about my life went away.

Finding someone might seem like everything to him right now, and I know it can be hard to be alone when everyone around you has someone, but just tell him to give it time. God has it all planned out and he'll find true happiness.

I say try not to give him to much money and let him see that he can do it on his own. Giving him a place to stay should be enough to show him how much you care. It really made me appreciate my parents a lot more!

Anonymous said...

This may be harsh, but you are as responsible for his situation as he is. Giving kids money is probably the worst idea in the world. Make them earn what they get in life and they will appreciate it more. Never start and you won't ever have to quit it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Shelli. My first thought was that he's gay, and he's trying desperately not to face it. And based on Chrissy's info, does sound like he's bipolar.

I have no advice at all, I just hope things work out for you and for him. Please keep us posted.

Anonymous said...

I agree whole-heartedly with Chrissy. My brother is bi-polar and I've been watching my parents deal with it for years. At least in my brother's case, erratic spending is a problem that he can't control - a symptom of his illness.

From the perspective of someone who loves a person with a severe mental illness I would suggest you take Chrissy's advice and take the situation, and your son, very seriously. Hopefully it's something you can get under control before too long.

Best of luck getting through this.

Anonymous said...

Hello everyone - I am the anonymous poster.

I do thank everyone for their comments, especially the ones who understand that this is most likely a mental illness (depression or bipolar) and that to just implement "tough love" at this point would probably not end well and is not the answer.

Although my husband and I have made mistakes in raising our children, I can honestly say the biggest mistake came from protecting them too much (this arose from us losing a son to SIDS many years ago and has left a great fear of losing another child ever since). Our children have always come first in our lives, and our two other children have grown into well-rounded, functioning adults in spite of us "enabling" them as well.

I would love for my son to agree to see someone, but he won't. Right now, he is doing well in school and seems to be in a good state of mind, although another job has ended. We are still supporting him monetarily each month. As cowardly as it may sound to some, and that it may be prolonging his progress and eventual independence, it is what I feel we must do for the time being. Is he manipulating us? Possibly, but I don't feel it's a concious manipulation on his part.

I will take the advice offered here to contact resources available here in my hometown regarding support for mental illness. And please understand that I have NEVER not taken any mention of suicide seriously. I have talked at length with this to my son, my husband and my therapist. I do agree I need to talk to experts and I will.

Thank you again for your comments, every one of them.


Avalon said...

Personally, I wouldn't withdraw the financial or emotional support right now as he seems too fragile. However, it would come with clear conditions to continue. If that means an actual written contract that he has to read and be it. Even if he is depressed, even if he is bi-polar.....there is nowhere else in life that he will get a free ride. He needs to understand that his choices have consequences. His refusal to seek and stick with mental health help may mean that while he is able to live with you-----you will NOT shell out 8000 dollars for school. You can provide the basics such as housing and food, but you are under NO obligation to provide more than that until he makes a firm commitment to helping himself.

Anonymous said...

The whole time I was reading your post I thought to myself that it sounded like your son was gay. And then he came out as bisexual. He may very well be bisexual (I am), but he may very well be gay and working that out in a very anti-gay, homophobic world. Growing up with a minority sexuality is hard, really hard, and can cause depression, mental illness, etc. Do what you are doing: love him, support him, be there. Let him know that if he were to bring home a man, he would be welcomed at your table and that thier relationship would be supported 100%. The gay youth that don't make it (suicide) usually don't because in addition to a world that doesn't accept them, they don't have a home that does either. You are doing everything right.

And at some point, your son (gay or not, depressed or not) will have to take the reigns of his own life. this is just fact.

Good luck to you.

selzach said...

My mother is bipolar, so I know how difficult it is to care for a mentally ill family member. I agree with Chrissy - it sounds like your son has depression or bipolar disorder and drug use often goes along with mental illness.

NAMI is a wonderful resource. Your local chapter may have family and consumer support groups or can at least point you in the right direction. You and your husband may want to see a counselor to help you deal with the situation and of course, if you can get your son into treatment, that would be wonderful. It sounds like there's codependence going on - something I've had to deal with.

It's a harsh reality, but nothing you've done or didn't do is to blame for your son's illness. Don't blame yourself. If your son does hurt himself, it's not because of you. That's something I've had to come to terms with. Carrying around the responsibility for another's life is a huge burden.

If you ever feel that your son is a danger to himself or others, call 911. Many states allow law enforcement officers or medical personnel to place such people in a 72 hour involuntary hold at a psychiatric facility - I've had to do that with my mom. You may also be able to appear before a judge and get an order for a mental health hold. Expressing suicidal thoughts with a clear method for carrying them out is probably enough for him to be placed.

My heart goes out to you.

Anonymous said...

From the side of the young 20-something:

I'm also going to advise against completely cutting him off. That's a huge slap in the face to a child, not to mention it will feel like he can't come to you for any type of support, emotional included.

What I would advise is weaning him. Set a point where you want him to be financially independent and figure out how much the amount needs to decrease per month in order to get there slowly. Sit down and work out a budget for him with your husband. If your son is willing to participate, great. If he's not, do it anyway. Present it to him and say "The amount we're going to give you is going to decrease by X number of dollars each month and here's a budget that if you stick to it, will work."

And stick to those guns. After that point, don't use large sums to bail him out. He's a grown man who needs to learn how to handle finances and not be tugging at mama's purse strings in his late 20s.

Does it sound like there are some mental issues? Definitely. Am I going to try to diagnose? No, I'm not a health care provider. Do I agree with the other posters, that he may be working up to coming out as gay? Yes I do. Girls are only ever friends and not many male friends is something I've seen in a lot of gay men because they don't fit in the with alpha male type, the "I *might* be bisexual" sounds like testing the water on how you'd feel if he said he was gay, etc.

But by protecting him over and over, you and your husband have unwittingly enabled the lifestyle he's choosing. Girls only like him as friends, everyone he works for are idiots, etc etc. It doesn't sound like he takes any responsibility for himself, and when money's tight, instead of sucking it up and working a job he doesn't love, he runs home to you. Problem is, you keep letting him. And as long as you continue to do so, he's not going to grow up.

You can also think about putting conditions on continuing monetary support, such as going to therapy, keeping a job, etc. My parents paid my tuition through university, and helped with other expenses but my marks were expected to be in a certain range or the support would cut back, and I didn't think it was unreasonable of them.

No matter what you choose, good luck. You have to find that delicate balance between mothering your son and parenting him.

Cloudy said...

You sound like a very loving and doting mother. I wish the very best for you and your family.

jess said...

My heart is with you. I hope the best for your family and I will be praying for all of you. I'm so glad your son has people who love and support him, but I hope he also learns to function as an adult so that you won't have to bear the burden of supporting him. Thank you for sharing with us.

Anonymous said...

Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings—from overly “high” and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes in mood. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.

Hayley said...

This sounds so much like my 22 year old brother Andy. Although he's never admitted to being suicidal, he has admitted to fits of anxiety and whatnot. I can't say in your son's case, but in my brother's case- he is a very selfish person. Mommy has done and paid for everything for him. And he treats my mom like garbage. My mom is always a basketcase and my stepdad is having a hard time staying in the marriage because of her need to put Andy before EVERYONE else. I think that while Andy and my younger brother are to blame, so is my mom. And so is my stepdad for not putting his foot down.

It makes me so angry, not only because I see my parents suffer, but because I had to work for EVERYTHING.

That's the way I see OUR situation. I would never judge your son without knowing him. The whole suicide thing would probably make me do the exact same thing you have. Good luck and I hope he gets better.

Hayley said...

Oops- thought I mentioned my youngest brother. He's a jerk too.