Crippling anxiety


member since 1999
Arrangements are being made for thank you to visit the next placement. Should have a firm date for the visit within the week. Basically, a meet and greet for the day, then the final decision will be made on if they will take him. If so, we wait for a bed - impossible to know how long the wait will be. (I'm not even contemplating they won't take him, so let's just not go there, ok?? :wink: :wink: Just call me Scarlett.)

He doesn't do transitions well. He does waiting even worse. Anticipation is his enemy. This is fact. Throw in he will milk it for everything it's worth and then some - we've already had the school refusal over his "stress" about upcoming move. :hammer: I don't doubt it's on his mind, but it's not even a done deal yet.

He hit me tonight with- his heartache over leaving "peers". On further prodding, the "peers" are his "girlfriend". Sigh. He doesn't want to leave her, in spite of the fact that *she's* planning her own discharge back to her parents' home. I think he's truly aching over this... second reciprocated relationship, been going on for several months (by the way, not condoned by Residential Treatment Center (RTC) staff so contact is limited to school but he's definitely smitten).

Usually I can find the right words for him but I really was useless this evening. Maybe I'm too old, maybe I just cannot see anything beyond this positive step forward (the move) for *him* that could possibly be important.

But the kid is absolutely drowning in anxiety. I knew enough to not point out that girlfriend's parents may not be thrilled with- her continued contact with- him, or that I'm not thrilled with- a more long term relationship with *her* (sorry, I'm a difficult child snob - 1 is more than enough and I have nightmares about the potential heck 2 difficult children in an intense relationship might create!). I didn't point out that she is only the beginning of his life with- women, or that there are not only girls at next placement (separate home, but same school) but a whole lot more freedom. Which meant that the best I could come up with was a really pitiful empathy, which wasn't what he was looking for.

I'm completely at a loss right now on how to help guide him. His anxiety over the change (it's almost 7 years to the day that he left for his first Residential Treatment Center (RTC)), his completely reasonable heartache over girlfriend, plus his usual completely *unrealistic* expectations of how much better it will be there (anywhere-but-here-itis)...

Any suggestions on how to walk him thru this? I'm trying role playing a bit, cognitive stuff, how it will be different than anything he's done before, how I *know* he is ready for this step, how positive it is, how he will truly be preparing for his independent adult life, and how the only reason this is even happening is because of all the hard work *he's* done in the past year... but I just feel completely inadequate. Didn't realize until this evening how badly I want/need this placement to work out for him. He's *got* to learn to live outside of locked placements.

Ideas would be greatly appreciated.


Well-Known Member
I'm going out on a limb here, Sue, please don't be offended. Is it possible that he's feeling very institutionalized after 7 years? He may be beginning to internalize that he's not a child and that this next placement will have one heck of an effect on his life in the foreseeable future. The girlfriend is a problem as young love tends to complicate everything in a teen's life.
Maybe someone could help him prepare a list of (appropriate) questions to ask at the new place; asking questions and getting answers may help him prepare to transition easier.


Well-Known Member
I think the list of questions is a good idea... something concrete that will empower him.
Wish I had more ideas...
Good luck with-all of this.


Former desparate mom
<span style='font-size: 11pt'>I noticed that some of the interventions/placements that thrilled me were met with anxiety and a little trepidation from difficult child. I was totally shocked that he wouldn't be over the moon just to be out of the present situation. It was a case of me seeing different needs from the big picture to his very real, very now need to be a kid who thinks in a very small focused picture mostly of himself.
I think the anxiety is healthy and normal. Mourning over the loss of people who were his "family" of sorts. He has grown attachments and feelings for the people who are part of his every day life. I know that feels very unsettling to me as a mother. His attachments and loyalty and emotional energy should be to his family. This is where you have to step back and realize he has a right to how he feels about those people. They will always be a part of his life experiences that don't include his bio family. You aren't a part of that. It's ok for him to miss them and to be afraid of the unknown. Heck Sue, I know a lot of adults who are just fine in their known world but ask them to come out of their comfort zone and they can't do it or freak. So asking a 16 yr old who is just finding his path out of the chaos of mental illness and behavorial instability to change what works for the unknown is a big step.
Reassure him and give him an out. I always told difficult child to give it a week/month/3 months. If it doesn't work out we will do xyz. My difficult child seemed to appreciate that he had options and a back up plan.
Teen love is pretty traumatic for easy child teens so his anxiety at being away from each other is pretty much expected.
by the way,allowing relationships within a controlled setting is a good thing. It's where they are supervised and proper boundaries can be taught and monitored. They have to know how to love their future mate and it our kids have to be taught. It's much better than him having his first love when he has no supervision. It's also healthy that he wants long term relationships.

:bravo: He is doing well. How far he came from those early years. It does my heart good to see him defy the odds. Many hugs. I don't know if what I wrote is of any use but it how I think. Let him have his feelings but love him and reassure him of what he has already accomplished. He can do this. </span>

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Transitions are so hard for our difficult children. I don't have any advice but I do like what you said you are already doing in the last paragraph of your post (actually I guess it's the 2nd last paragraph). I like what Fran said about giving an out and what TM said about having some questions for him to ask if he wants to.

I will be keeping fingers crossed and prayers said for a smooth transition :angel: It's great he done so much work to get to this point! Hugs.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts

I'd be frightened if thank you didn't have anxiety or sadness over this move. Your young man is making a huge transition & leaving some very important people & supports.

Sweetie, let thank you know that it's perfectly normal to feel this anxiety over the move, the sadness over leaving friends. If GFs parents allow can they communicate after discharge? Can you help thank you with this?

I really can't think of anything else - I'll be watching this closely. I anticipate the same types of anxieties out of wm when he reaches thank you's age.


I wholeheartedly second what Fran said.

When I read your post, it reminded me of my relationship with my mother. I always was overcome with angst and anxiety over a new change (in my case I moved a lot - 6 schools in 4 years, and I was a very shy and anxious kid) and my mother would always walk me through it pretty much in the way that you described with your son. What stuck with me most, though, were not her actual words, but that she stood by me through it. If I were completely honest, as a teenager I probably rolled my eyes at most of what she said during those times. She was right about most things, of course, but it was all stuff I had to do and learn on my own (and when you're 16 you don't think that your mother could understand a thing you're going through ever - and when you're 16 you think you are the ONLY one ever to go through what you are going through). But she heard me...she listened to me...she supported me...she offered words of encouragement and her insight (she said all the right things - nothing especially unique) ...and she let me go. I could unload my fears and heartache and she didn't downplay or invalidate any of it. I wanted desperately for her to be able to fix it for me, and I'm sure she wanted to be able to do so, but of course that's not possible. She held my hand, but she didn't carry me. That's what I remember most.

I hope that makes sense. I got all emotional thinking about it.


Active Member
No words of advice, but I sure feel for you, Sue. Those days with my difficult child and his debilitating anxiety were very dark indeed.

I can't imagine *anyone*--no matter their neurological makeup--not being anxious over the life changes that are before him.


member since 1999
Thank you guys! It's good to parent by committee. :wink:

TM - absolutely no offense and you are of course right. thank you's been in very controlled settings where he had the option to make good choices but there was a huge safety net if he didn't. That safety net will still be there in the GH, but it will be smaller. No question it's a bit overwhelming for him. Genius idea about writing questions down - I called him this morning and suggested that it might be a good way for him to get a handle on his concerns *and* have them addressed. Thank you!!

Fran - bless your wisdom and experience. You're right, I need to balance much better what I see as the big picture and thank you's perception of the situation, which is very small. His concerns may seem extraneous to me but if they aren't addressed satisfactorily for him, if he doesn't get the support where he thinks he needs it, this isn't going to work. I did tell him last night that it's very appropriate for him to feel a sense of loss over the people he's leaving. While I'm focused on the future and the possibilities, he's really stuck on the loss. I need to be mindful. I'll talk to his SW about plan B. It's kind of a vague plan right now - we definitely need to firm it up for thank you so he has that security.

Heather - thanks so much for sharing. That's been my goal, to be supportive but at the same time pull back a bit so that he's spreading his own wings. Very very easy to do in Residential Treatment Center (RTC) and I think I've been able to be halfway decent at it up to this point. I just stumbled so badly last night, couldn't find the right words at all.

Thanks to the rest of you for good thoughts and support. I realized several years ago that thank you's family is quite large and quite fluid. Staff have come and gone, thank you has come and gone. I can't regret it because it was how it was and I'm glad that thank you was able to have such a variety of supportive people in his life, but they also are not constants. Time (long past time, actually) to help him start building a concrete base of support, in addition to us.

I know this kid can take off and soar but I also have to temper my cautious optimism and let him falter and be hesitant. I just don't want him to get overwhelmed and give up before he really gets started. What a balancing act!