23 year old son returning to college--very anxious

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by agingrapidly, Aug 12, 2016.

  1. agingrapidly

    agingrapidly New Member

    Hi: I am new to this forum and have been going back and forth about whether or not to post. But here goes....

    My son left for college fit, smart, and healthy and suddenly things took a wrong turn. After his first semester sophomore year we received a call after he returned home for break that he had failed to submit final papers (the school found a way around FERPA). We were shocked as he had told us everything was great. He told us he had anxiety. We immediately took him for help, appealed for him to be readmitted, and he was able to get rid of his incompletes and took one F. The second semester began and the Dean called us and told us that he was not doing what was needed per his academic probation, and we flew up to take him home. When we met with the Dean, our son convinced the Dean to let him finish the semester and he finished (doing well). He returned junior year after (first semester went fine) and toward the end of the second semester he came home on medical leave. Things really unraveled. During all this he was seeing a therapist, went on medication, went off of medication, and gained a lot of weight. He was also diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

    When he returned I thought it would be a "fast" fix..get the right doctors and he would be okay. While he was medically compliant, for the first three months he barely left his room (except to get fast food) and was up at night playing video games. Eventually he started working about twenty hours a week and starting socializing...but still depressed. We were naive...we learned he was smoking a boatload of pot and started drug testing him. His smoking excessively was probably going on for a long time, but everything was attributed to the depression. While psychiatrist and psychologist told him not to smoke, they did not focus on the pot and said we should be focusing on the depression (and in fact I often felt reprimanded for stating that the pot was also a big issue). But the pot definitely impacts the depression and his ability to feel better...though he will deny it. There is no doubt he is addicted to pot.

    With monitoring and not paying for things his ability to purchase pot (we live in CA so it is basically legal) has diminished. He took some classes at a UC and did fine. He started the process to get reinstated to his school with is therapist. Both his dad and I wanted to deal with the concurrent marijuana issue and depression before he tried to get reinstated. But, he is now reinstated and returning....I am an anxious.

    This is what I have put in place for him---since I am a "trigger" for him my husband will be going to get him set up: we got a psychologist for him by the school, a psychiatrist that specializes in major depressive disorder, and an addiction counselor (he needs to meet with the psychologist and addiction counselor weekly) and he is signing releases so that we can have communication with his doctors. He is registering with the office of disabilities. Meeting with his dean to discuss path to graduation (has one more year left). We sublet him an apartment in a building owned by university near school. He will have a meal plan (which will mean that he needs to go to campus to eat) and we will give him limited money--I told him that he needs to use his debit card because cash withdrawals would be an indicator that he is buying pot. My husband is meeting with everyone when he goes back.

    I have two other kids 19 and 20 (rising sophomore and rising senior) and this certainly is not the way we deal with them at all. And clearly I understand this is not the best way to return to college. We told him that if it does not work (because he is insisting on going) he will either have to get a job and live on his own or go into a residential treatment center for depression and marijuana (which he has refused to do). In no uncertain terms, we will not pay for him to come home before going to a treatment center if things don't work. His therapist and psychiatrist think that sending him is a better option than forcing him out of the house and living with us is no longer an option (it is not healthy for any of us).

    On the positive side, he did do okay in the two UC classes, has been exercising for the past week or two, and seems motivated to finish school (it seems to be important to him). I am hoping for the best, but know the odds are not in his favor. Whew.....

    Just to finish out the story---my husband and I see a therapist to help us deal with him, I see a therapist to help me deal with the situation, and we went to the NAMI family-to-family program. It has been an emotionally exhausting two years, and, to be honest, I am looking forward to him being away (and think we will get along better because he won't feel like I am criticizing him--why don't you eat dinner with us instead of wasting your money, why don't you go for a walk, why don't you try to go to sleep).

    Has anyone had a child return to school after being on medical leave for mental health issues? What have you done to make it work? What accommodations did you request? How often did you go to check in (we were thinking a monthly check-in)?

    I know there will be mixed views on what we are doing...but it is a done deal.
  2. mof

    mof Momdidntsignupforthis

    Wow...well, welcome. I wish I had answers but our son left school in An ambulance.

    You certainly have set him up. What has he done to help himself? What do you do if he doesn't show up for appts?

    He is obviously smart, and seems like he can graduate and move on. Unfortunately, many young people think pot is no big deal. He may always smoke...do you fear this will derail him?

    I'm sure more people with wisdom Wil be along soon...Blessings! We do understand!
  3. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    That pot is killing his motivation and doesn't help depression. Probably also making him hungry. Some Psycologists smoke dope themselves...I don't trust many of them. This one hasn't helped your son one bit.
  4. agingrapidly

    agingrapidly New Member

    Hi Mof:
    Thank you....I am sorry about your son. The same happened to my mother's step grandson, but he would up fi
    I am happy that there will be a new "team" dealing with both issues at the same time. It is very hard to switch unless there is a reason because my son has to agree to the switch. I agree that not dealing with both issues is a problem.
  5. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    Hi AG and welcome to the forum. We're glad you're here.

    It sounds like you have been through the wringer with him. I am hoping and praying that this "takes". It sounds like you have done what any parent goes---most of us here have done many of the same things---and I certainly understand why you did everything you did.

    In my son's case, my best efforts didn't change his behavior. Every situation is different. Your story is another story about pot and its negative effects on people. I am not a fan of legalization, because it just opens the door for widespread recreational use for many people who do not need to be using substances, like your son and my son. Maybe some people can use it recreationally and keep on functioning well, but it's clear that some people can't.

    Please keep us posted on your son and especially on YOU and your husband. I am with you about him leaving and your relief. I felt exactly the same way. My son literally wore me out with all of his "stuff." At some point, we have nothing left to offer and give.

    You have set boundaries with him, and it sounds like he is motivated now to get with the program. I believe there are many young people who mature at different points, and are ready to handle their problems later rather than sooner, and all at at different points on the continuum. I truly hope and pray your son takes all that you have done and put in place and makes something good happen for himself.

    We're here with you, no matter what happens and what you decide to do next. We understand that every situation is different! Warm hugs and thoughts going your way.
  6. agingrapidly

    agingrapidly New Member

    Thank you! It sounds like your son is doing well now. Honestly, while I hope he does finish school, I want him to be independent and functional. At one point he did steal (and I am purposely using the word steal because it is easy to make it seem better than it was) money from us (big jar in closet where I would throw bills and change to save) to the tune of about $500 over a period of time. This was probably 18 months ago. So my brain goes everywhere with him, and I told him that he will have limited access money (since he has managed to save basically nothing from his work and I did make he pay for his summer classes) and if he does something stupid/illegal that I am not bailing him out.

    To be honest (just like all of you), these are conversations I never thought I would have. Depression is one thing, which I can understand and be very empathetic about, but the marijuana adds a whole other level which is the part that makes me pissed.

    I am definitely not a fan of legalization. But to be honest, I know my other two smoke on occasion, but they are doing great. My other son will be applying to PhD programs this fall. They do know in no uncertain terms they cannot bring anything into the house or ever smoke with him. In fact, when they are home they often have to wake us up and tell us that he is smoking and then they find the pot and give it to us to flush. Idiot us...we believed sometimes what we smelled was these cigarettes he smoked (which I hated and said he couldn't smoke in the house) or e-cigs (same thing I hated and said he couldn't smoke in the house), but we were told that if he is trying not to smoke that many people would be smoke ecigs. Never dealing with someone who had an addiction, I did not really know the lying, stealing, and manipulation.

    I am not stupid anymore. I verify everything and I know things can change on a dime. It has been an emotional rollercoaster...and I know that for many of you it has been a lot harder...my heart goes out to everyone. This is certainly not where we want to be posting. I'd much rather be posting "everything's awesome" on Grown and Flown.
  7. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    AR---something you wrote reminded me of early on when my Difficult Child began smoking cigarettes. I kept smelling cigarettes on him and asking "are you smoking? Surely you aren't smoking cigarettes when they are so bad for you and we have talked about this so many times and you have always said how much you hate cigarettes..."

    His response: mom do you really think I would ever smoke cigarettes? It is awful and I have always hated it you know that...on and on...it's all my friends who smoke and that is what you smell on me and in my car...on and on...

    ...and I actually believed it. I mean, I really could not get my mind around him smoking as he had railed against it and still was.

    I was incredibly naive about so much for so long. And he was really good at lying about everything.

    Shows you how far I had to come...
  8. mof

    mof Momdidntsignupforthis

    I guess our love fogged our lenses. Sad, cause now I don't believe anything....and he has to prove it.....
  9. savior no more

    savior no more Active Member

    Dear aging-
    I'm sorry you have been through both mental illness and substance use with your son. I have had both a niece and a nephew who had to drop out of college due to depression but both returned. One is still in college and the other graduated. The one that graduated used drugs heavily all during college but was able to pull it together and get a degree. She since has gone to treatment and started making better choices. The fact that your son has the motivation to go and has made grades is a good sign. Obviously the marijuana doesn't help his depression, but I can see why the psychologist is encouraging him to finish school. Success always helps fill a gap with more options. His depression is real and hopefully with the boundaries of no extra $$ he will be able to complete school and have limited access to the marijuana. Only when he decides marijuana is a problem will he be willing to look at it's affect on his life no matter how much you think it is a problem or want him to see it. I related to child of mine's story - I used to tell my son that meth was evil and to promise me that he would NEVER do it. How in the world when he was a sickly, skinny kid could I not see the obvious? Of course he would tell me no because I left him no other choice. Keep reading and learning about detachment becuase in the end for me detaching with loving interaction with my Difficult Child has helped me lessen the anxiety.
  10. agingrapidly

    agingrapidly New Member

    Mine really does not believe it is a problem. I also think that what is adding to problematic dynamics (and why I need to detach) is that he is very happy to have me do the crap he does not want to do (fill out forms, pay bills) but does not want to hear anything he needs to do. I feel like I have been spending a lot of time with "clean up on aisle nine," which could be avoided if he would be honest. Gosh the more I post, the more I realize how hard it is been and how many things we have had to deal with the past few years he has been home and all the clean ups we did when things were getting out of control. And, I really do believe that the marijuana has a lot more to do with than his medical professionals do.
  11. trolli

    trolli New Member

    Hi Aging
    I'm pretty new to this forum as well.Been on to seek advise and support concerning my 20 yr old daughter and have found many wondeful,caring people offering great insight and support.Just paying it forward so to speak with my 2 cents.My 23 yr old son has similar issues with depression and anxiety,and I can tell you,as will he,that the pot made it considerably worse.He was on academic probation for quite some time and until he finally realized that the pot was a major contributor to his lack of motivation as well as contributing hugely to his depression.He just graduated and although it still worries me,he does still smoke on occassion,but is quick to say that it's a slippery slope and he checks himself often because he does not want to return to that dark period,as he puts it.I strongly believe it was the pot that was making his depression so much worse.I have a friend who is going through this with her son.He cannot seem to stop and she has noticed him sliding into depression.
    There is hope,my son had a light bulb moment and graduated and is doing well.Prayers that your son will continue to do well and graduate.Peace for your family.These kids can drain the life out of us,I know.
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  12. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    Welcome Aging:

    Maybe these doctors see so much worse so that is why they are making little of the marijuana. Hard to say. I personally never thought it was that bad - I did it in high school myself - however it was certainly a gateway drug for my son. He also suffers from anxiety and depression.

    It sounds like he is set up for success right now and you have done everything in your power to make sure he has the support he needs. The rest is up to him. Sometimes we just have to let go and let them sink or swim. It's so draining I know. I'm living it too but when they are out of your home it helps SO MUCH.

    Good luck and keep us posted on how he does. We all get it.
  13. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Some people really can't smoke pot. it was ok for you, but not for me. Our brain chemistries are different. It isn't good for mental illness or people who are prone to it. it has been known to trigger depersonalization, derealization and even schizophrenia.

    Obviously these mental health issues were latent before the person smoked pot if they got so ill, but pot can be the straw that breaks the camel's back, if one isn't mentally healthy.

    Its like alcohol...most can use it responsibly but many can't.
  14. agingrapidly

    agingrapidly New Member

    So happy for your son!!! I hope mine has that light bulb moment. I really do thing it is a major problem.
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  15. agingrapidly

    agingrapidly New Member

    I agree...that is what I have been telling him. Hopefully the literature out there will catch up...so many young people think it is not addictive or problematic.
  16. agingrapidly

    agingrapidly New Member

    I will keep you posted. He leaves next week. I think it will be better when he is out of the house too.
  17. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    Hi aging...

    I want to deal with this part of your posts, because I think a lot of the answer to relationship issues and strain between us and our offspring is held here. We do the stuff they don't want to do. We think it will make them see things our way, that it will somehow model good behavior for them. We think if we just get it done they will grab that help and lift themselves up. We think if we don't do it they will somehow be in a worse situation.

    I have four kids and an ex husband who was equally reluctant to do anything he didn't want to do at home (he was fine at work, thank goodness). I picked up cleaned up filled out took out moved in moved out answered checked responded looked up left out wrote out filled in and called back for everyone. And you know what? It was lousy. They didn't appreciate it. I came to resent it. They resented me for my doormat behavior (who likes a doormat?--I'll digress for a second and say that I am in a very aggressive field where I am a leader and hold sway over literally scores of other people in various arenas, and none of THEM think I'm a doormat...they wish! and yet, at home....)

    With my neurotypical kids, I just alerted them. "I'm not going to do this anymore...whatever "this" was. You'll need to take responsibility for either doing it or living with the consequences." and you know what? It was fine! They did most of it, and what they didn't do...well, they lived with the consequences. And I was very nice to them when the consequences were nasty. I listened and sympathized, but I did not step in to fix. They are fine. I like them better and they like me better.

    With my Difficult Child, well I did do the same thing. And I am better...he isn't really any better. But also, and this is key, he is not worse. And I don't resent him. I did what I could while he was growing up, and I did what I could when he was a late teen..but now he is 22 and I can't really impact his choices, so I choose not to do his work for him either. He is OK with that. I am the better for it. ONe of the consequences of his choices is that he is currently in jail. He calls me for 5 minutes a day, and I am generally quite sympathetic and nice to him (while pointing out from time to time that his being in jail is not a random event but the result of his choices...seee...I'm not a doormat!)

    I guess what I am saying is...you are on the right track. Seeing the problem for what it is is a start. Fixing your own maladaptive behaviors is all you can do...all any of us can do. That and be nice to them when the consequences of their choices are nasty. And let them live with them. It won't necessarily "fix" our Difficult Child..ss but it will give us the space and resilience to live our own lives, and give them the space to figure things out in their own time in their own way, as we all must eventually.

    Good luck to you.


    Oh gosh, I forgot to note...I actually had to leave college as a sophomore for major depression...imagine my surprise when my mom called me in my apartment one day and said she was coming (from 5 hours away) to get me. My room mate had called the dean and the dean had called my mom. I took several incompletes and failed one course. I spent a month in bed then my mom wrestled me out to see a therapist. After several months at home I went back to college to dip my toe in the water with a summer session. They made me do all the talking to my professors about either dropping classes, making up missed work, or taking a fail. I sorted that out, survived summer session, and ultimatly graduated on time and went on to grad school (I had to take an extra year of classes to qualify). So ye...it is possible to get back on track.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2016
  18. so ready to live

    so ready to live Active Member

    Hi Aging.
    ..and that's the beauty of it, if there can be beauty. You are learning with the remembering. When you are in it so deeply, you can't see or simply don't. I didn't have one once of energy left to get off the merry-go-round, let alone reflect on it.

    Thank you Echo, you are so right. They just don't "grab that help". It seems logical to us but that's because our side of the line looks much different for so many reasons. The big reason is that it's our side of the line. Not theirs. It's that oneness with our children, although now adults, that's hard to divide. I'm not him, he's not me...but shouldn't everyone see my way as being better??? My son is 29, everyday I struggle multiple times not to go into full-blown anxiety. But, having removed ourselves, letting him handle it, he's NOT worse. I need to remember that. He's the same, with or without our $, support. The assistance we gave only lessened my anxiety for a moment, now I really get that it's his life and I so need to work on me. We listened to this over and over at al-anon but It took some time for me to see it. A heartfelt thank you to all of you today for sharing your hard-earned wisdom. I'm learning. Prayers.
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  19. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    I really think that this is core to managing our relationship with our Difficult Child's. They aren't any better for our help, we all seem to get that. What we don't get is that the corollary is that they don't seem to get much worse with out it. It is hard to wrap our mind around..we feel like we are saving them from sure disaster whenever we step in..that is WHY we step in even though we don't want to or know we shouldn't or everyone is telling us to stop...but we fear their disaster. And sometimes they TELL us they will have a disaster if we don't step in...but usually, as we see over and over on this forum, that doesn't happen. Sometimes they even make up disasters to make us feel guilty (i was mugged, robbed, I'm sick but can't get to the hospital, ripped off, thrown out with no money no clothes, etc etc) and yet...somehow, the next day they are on social media with a bong, or they drop off the radar and reappear in another state on another couch with new "best friends."

    I digress.

    I had an instructive moment with one of my neurotypical kids. He is a nice kid, underachiever, very social, somewhat school averse. We dragged his ass through "sure disaster" in high school over and over, with multiple tutors and coaches, and ramping it up around exams, and somehow ending up his senior year with hours of tutoring and coaching each week. Happened so slowly we never noticed, although I did notice when I paid bills. We thought he should take a gap year...but no, he wanted to be like all his friends and go straight to college. So spring semester his senior year I said...no more tutors. This is a trial run. No judgment...if you can't keep a certain gpa, or there are significant missed deadlines for projects, or undone homework, or ANY failed exams, you are not ready for college. And guess what? It isn't a Cinderella story...he didn't become captain A+ responsibility. He did exactly the same as he did when he had all that support. He got it done. I think he felt a bit better about himself, and he didn't waste energy resisting authority and hiding things because authority (me, and the tutors) had stopped telling him what to do. It is not a lot different with our Difficult Child's. They are all growing up, separating from us. The more we push and tell them what to do the more they get to focus their energy on resisting us, and it becomes a danse macabre. If we stop pushing...they will do what they do. And we can use our talents and energies to better avail, whatever that may be.

    My morning thoughts over coffee.

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  20. agingrapidly

    agingrapidly New Member

    Thank you for your post! I just got back from moving my sophomore daughter into her apartment. My other son just returned from abroad, flying directly to NY to meet friends and then return to school. The one who is dealing with issues I have been packing him up...I am looking forward to not being the doormat or the scapegoat. I don't know what will happen, but I do know it will be easier for me to detach with him 1800 miles away. I have done the leg work and have everything in place for him (including an addiction counselor)...he'll either do what he needs to do or he will have to get a job in that city and support himself or go into residential treatment. My other kids are sick of hearing about him, and it puts a damper on everything we do. I hope he does make it through...I guess a good sign is that he did everything to get back and did contact a professor about his incomplete.