New here...Parent of 16 year old with severe anxiety and depression

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by MamaHal, Oct 23, 2015.

  1. MamaHal

    MamaHal New Member

    Hi all - I'm new here and hope I'm doing this right. I'm sorry it's long, but here's my story. Since this is a "parent" story - I'll start with me - I am a full-time supervisor of a help desk. My husband is a teacher in elementary school. My parents are aging and we just recently placed my dad in a nursing home for his declining Alzheimer's Disease. My mom is now living alone. Before we placed him, I was spending 2 nights a week there (100 miles away) helping my mom since she was the caregiver for my dad until we placed him. My daughter, (who I am extremely close to) just left for her first semester at college - about an hour away from here. We have also just started a remodel on our home so that we can sell it at a moments notice if we needed to, in order to do ANYTHING we have to for my son - which is who this thread is about. I also was just started on Zoloft, at least for now - because of all of the above, major life-stresses I have going on.

    My son has always been charming, smart, very charismatic - he never met a stranger. He excels at any sport or academic he attempted, and he knows it. He told us just the other day, he knows he has a good life, and that he's smart, and can do just about anything he tries to do.

    But for some unknown reason he has been plagued in the last couple of years by anxieties and depression. I think it started when the school decided to have these "tracks" where they made it kind of sound like you would have a "major" in high school. It freaked him out because he has no idea what he wants to do. Despite the school counselors, me and his Dad trying to tell him that these tracks are not set in stone, and that the counselors even said they EXPECT them to change tracks many times over their school time, while they explore different areas, he still is very worried and concerned about it. That, and when he was younger, he and his dad were riding bikes - my husband did a wheelie and my son thought it was cool and asked him to do it again. When he did, he fell and broke a leg that had been previously injured and therefore bones were weak. It was a very bad break, and he spent about a year undergoing surgeries and hospital stays. My son felt terribly guilty about that - and still does despite us trying to tell him that he probably would have done the wheelie again anyway, and despite the fact that my husband could have decided NOT to do the wheelie.

    Anyway, fast forward to the last year or so, we've seen him slowly withdraw. He has always been "hard edge" and not interested at all in alcohol or drugs. And last spring finally had a breakdown with us and told us he was struggling with depression and thought about hurting himself. He said that he had been smoking cigarettes for a couple of months and that he hated himself even more for giving in to that, being "Hard edge" and all. But he said that it helps him not want to put a bullet into his head just a little bit when he has a cigarette. We immediately started counseling and started working to get him to a psychiatrist. The process took a few months between trying the family physician, insurance coverage, etc. In the end, we used a counselor that is not covered and found a psychiatrist even though they were 45 minutes away - and allowed him to smoke cigarettes in our back yard :(.

    They started him on some medications that eventually made his thoughts of suicide worsen (Lexapro), and we stopped that. But just before we stopped it, I went to drug test him and he told us that it would be positive because he'd smoked weed. He's always been pretty honest and up front with us, although I'm sure it's not been TOTALLY honest, I do feel like he tells us quite a bit. But he said that he resisted trying it alot, that he now hates himself even more for doing that, but when he is high, it calms him and makes him feel almost normal. He says he hates feeling this way and doesn't remember what it's like to be "really" normal any more. He worries about school, about every test and every assignment to the point that he cannot even study really. If he doesn't understand something it freaks him out and he just focuses on that one aspect.

    Anyway, the 1st psychiatrist said that, since he tested positive for marijuana, that she would need for him to "get his addiction under control" before she would give him anything different. So we found another one. She prescribed Prozac and now after 3 months on that, we find it's not helping - he's not worse this time, but it's not helping. And, he's still testing positive for weed of course because - so he says - it helps to calm his anxieties. This 2nd psychiatrist now said that until he stops smoking she will change his medications for us, but will not continue to see him. No mention of making him go to rehab, or us trying to get him there, just "I'm done" after 3 months.

    He is clearly self-medicating and convinced himself that this makes him feel better. He's just about stopped smoking cigarettes now, I think because he's smoking pot more often now. I am not a total prude about the pot, and believe it may really be calming his anxieties, but also know he's a teenager who probably also just likes getting high! I'm so torn, my husband used to be a heavy user, I never have used, and his counselor even confided in us that her husband actually smokes weed for HIS anxieties, but of course she doesn't (and we believe her).

    I'm faced with finding another psychiatrist at this point, all the while trying to decide if I need to administer tough love to make him stop (which may end up with his running away or worse - hurting himself). I'm reading all over the internet about how forcing a teen into a facility never works. He has said he really does not want to do that. So we are at our wits end.

    Does anyone else have experience with severe anxiety and depression in their teenage son? Any advice on where we can go from here? What would you do when faced with your child telling you that marijuana makes them not feel like wanting to hurt themselves for a little while? I'll be calling his counselor again today to ask about starting the painful search for a psychiatrist who will treat teens again, but feel like I'm on this horrible treadmill, trying to reach my son who is slowly inching farther and farther away from me. :(
  2. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    While weed makes them feel better temporarily, it is a depressant. Medication for depression will not work properly when weed is involved. Weed bought on the street is often laced with other drugs to intensify the high and to make it physically addictive. He needs a therapist and psychiatrist that deals with dual diagnoses (drugs/alcohol in addition to mental issues). Contact your county for a list of mental health providers. Contact NAMI ( national alliance for mental illness) and find out what they offer in your area. Find an ALANON meeting in your area and go to it with your husband.
    Cut off the use of cars, money, and any extras that you provide. Make sure he knows that while you will support his effort to get help, you will not provide him with the means to get his weed, and that as long as he is using, he will not drive a vehicle for his and others protection. Google James Lehman's Total Transformation. I found some it very helpful.

    I want to welcome you to our little corner of the world. Please read along and feel free to post when you feel/need to. This is a journey not a race. Take care of you mentally and physically. You matter.
  3. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Skip the psychiatrist for now. Start with a comprehensive evaluation - the kind that take 6-10 hours, usually over multiple days, to complete. You need to know what you are dealing with. While the use of things like marijuana will cloud the situation somewhat, there is usually a reason for self-medication with street drugs - and I always took the position that we had to find the root cause, not just deal with symptoms. (having said that... if there is serious addiction, it isn't possible to find root cause without dealing with the addiction)
  4. MamaHal

    MamaHal New Member

    Thanks for that... is this comprehensive evaluation something our regular MD can do?
  5. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    No. Usually, it is done by a PhD-level psychologist specializing in comprehensive testing, OR an evaluation team at a children's hospital or teaching hospital, OR a neuropsychologist.
  6. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    Although I have/had 5 current and former teenagers, I have no experience with drug or alcohol use. However, I do have experience with anxiety which is school based and I have a suggestion that might seem out of the box to you, but might be something you'd like to discuss with your son and husband.

    My oldest son is Aspie-light and had some social anxiety issues. After 9th grade, we switched him to an alternative school which specialized in kids with those issues. It also had a program for kids with generalized anxiety and other mental health issues. He's 25 now and although he didn't graduate from college and is underemployed given his intelligence, he is much less anxious now (no medications), has friends and even a girlfriend. He is finally starting to mature and H and I have hope for his future.

    Second son is off the charts brilliant but had school anxiety. We resisted moving him to an alternative school and he wound up graduating HS late, because he failed English. He took a year off, went to college and was thrown out for poor grades last semester. After that, he confessed feelings to us which are similar to your son's (inability to decide what he wants to study, inability to deal with not being perfect, etc.). We got him into counseling and were able to expunge the last semester. He's away at school, in counseling, no medications and actually calls or texts us once in awhile. When he was younger, his diagnosis was ODD.

    Maybe you might want to look into a different HS for your son since the one he is in seems to fueling the anxiety. In my district, we have a HS which is referred to as a portfolio school - there are no grades, just write ups and when it comes time for college, the teachers write joint recommendations for the students based on their work with them. The kids get into some very nice schools - one graduate is in the entertainment industry and is someone you would likely have heard of. A school like that might relieve your son's anxiety and if he is less anxious, he might feel less of a need to self-medicate, That is not the school my son went to but I know several kids who went there and the parents have all been pleased.

    Good luck...
  7. Rannveig

    Rannveig Member

    I can't improve on the advice the others have given but want to send sympathy. There's Alzheimer's in my family, so I know well how painful and exhausting that is. And I, too, am preparing to sell my house in order to increase my family's financial flexibility. And my high school-age son, too, has problems that are stumping me at the moment. I did get my son a thorough work-up with a neuropsychologist, and it did clarify for us what we need to do, as well as help demonstrate to him how much we care about his pain, but even that is just the beginning of a journey. And it is certainly difficult to find a treatment provider who checks all our very reasonable boxes. So...I hope you'll keep posting and find as much kindness and good sense here as I have. Take care, MamaHal.