I feel like the worst mother ever

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by lindalou, Mar 29, 2016.

  1. lindalou

    lindalou New Member

    I have two kids. An 18 year old daughter who is a freshman in college and my son. Who is 30. And still at home, not doing anything to make his life better. Who is about to become homeless this Friday. His psychiatrist recommended this, told us we are not helping him, it is destroying our family, and he has to make his own choices and deal with the consequences. We set a date of April 1st (yes, I appreciate the irony but this is NOT a joke!). Any suggestions on how to deal with the overwhelming guilt that I somehow failed as a parent? How to get past the fact we may never see him again, know what happened to him, deal with the thought of my first-born getting physically hurt, abused or even end up dead?
  2. AppleCori

    AppleCori Well-Known Member

    Hi and welcome, LL

    It is so hard, this parenthood thing.

    Can you tell us a bit about your son...mental illness, drug/alcohol addiction/something else?

    LL, you will almost certainly see/hear from your son again, after he leaves.

    At least, that is what most of us have experienced after we have kicked our adult kids out.

    It does get easier, after a while. We sometimes find that they do quite well on their own.

    Stick with us, LL. It really helps to stay near the board in times of strife.

    Others will come along soon.

  3. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Hi, and welcome to our little corner of the "world".

    You have this amazing 18 year old daughter. So... how can it be that YOU raised her, and him, and somehow you are at fault for how he turned out? Trust me. We all make parenting mistakes. But there are a LOT more influences on our kids, over which we have no control - things like school, extra-curricular activities, their friends, there genes...
  4. lindalou

    lindalou New Member

    We have been dealing with issues for probably the last 13-14 years. He barely made it out of high school, tried one semester of college and flunked out, has had jobs, saved money, lost money, been swindled, been fired from jobs, walked away from jobs and fired from a volunteer position. He's had porn addictions, moved out three times, lies more than a rug, destroyed two cars, has hygiene issues, steals food and has stolen my credit card. He was finally identified as having a learning disability in 5th grade but was not put on a IEP until 7th. By then he didn't care anymore. We've been round and round with a psychiatrist, medications (he doesn't take them regularly or lies and says he did take them but hides them in his room), behavioral contracts, bribes, threats, two trips to a homeless shelter and on and on and on. He was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder and depression although he was also tested as I felt he might fall in the Autism Spectrum. During all this time there have been glimmers of hopes and giant steps backwards. But he doesn't seem to get that his life sucks because of the choices he has made. It is now "sink or swim" time but I am beating myself up over this. I know we have to do it but OMG, the guilt and feelings of failure.
  5. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Lindalou... be kind to yourself. Please... we've been there too, and no, it is NOT your fault.

    Like many of us, you were failed by the systems that are supposed to be there to support us. School. Medical. Mental health. And the list goes on.

    Did YOU refuse to take him for help? Did YOU work against the interventions and accommodations? I didn't think so.
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  6. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    Welcome Lindalou,

    I am so glad you found us here. We do not have all the answers but we are a wonderful group of parents who have traversed one of life's most difficult journeys, having an adult difficult child.

    Here is the link to an excellent article about detachment. You may even want to print it out and keep handy so you can read it often.

    "GUILT" is something most of us here have dealt with. One thing I have learned is we have nothing to feel guilty about. Are we perfect parents, absolutely not but we have done the very best we could. You have a daughter and a son, you raised them both and there came a point in each of their lives where they started making choices for themselves. Your daughter chose to go to college, your son did not. It's nothing you did or did not do, it just is what it is.

    This my friend just takes time. I experienced all of these emotions. I played the "what if" game until I was beyond frazzled. In the end, all of my worrying and catastrophizing did not change a thing, all it did was cause me to be anxious and lose sleep.
    I can also tell you that our "guilt" can be used against us. Our adult difficult children will use our emotions against us. I have learned to not allow my son to hold my emotions hostage.

    I think your son's psychiatrist is spot on. You see there is a fine line between helping and enabling. When we cross that line and start enabling we actually do more damage than we think. While it may make us "feel better" to "fix" things for our adult children we are not allowing them to grow. There is a common question that is often asked here "What will happen when we the parents die and are no longer here to take care of this adult child?"
    You see the sooner they start learning how to deal with life on their own the better it is for them. The struggle they will endure is a good thing.

    The following story helped me, I hope it will help you also.

    A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther.

    Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.

    The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body which would contract in time.

    Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

    What this man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were nature's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

    Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If nature allowed us to go through your life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we could never fly….

    Hang in there and stick with us here. We are here for you. Let us know how things are going and how you are doing.

    ((HUGS)) to you........................
  7. RN0441

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


    I LOVE that story! That will stay in my mind every time I want to do something for my son that I shouldn't do. I so NEED things like that in my brain to refer to!

    Thank you!
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  8. lindalou

    lindalou New Member

    Thank you all for the support. I think a lot of my guilt stems from the fact that he was raised with the "crazy" mom. I was manic-depressive for decades without being diagnosed as I was fantastic at acting as if I was fine. But of course, there are always those wild highs and lows and unpredictability of mental illness and I will always wonder if I missed doing something because I was out of my mind.
  9. Please don't beat yourself up. Your daughter is fine. If it were really "bad parenting", both your kids would have problems and they don't. He may very well have an autism spectrum disorder or some other disability or mood disorder that is affecting how he handles things. Unfortunately, once our kids turn 18, they can refuse treatment and there is nothing you can do. Sometimes pushing them out of the home is what is necessary for them to make changes. They can get too comfortable at home and won't see the need to do things differently. You ARE helping him grow and change, even if it doesn't feel like it. It will take awhile and there will be ups and downs. He may make progress or he may not, but if he stays with you, there will definitely not be any progress. My husband's aunt, who is in her 80's had two of her four sons living with her until the past year. One has bipolar and the other is "quirky" They are in their 50's! Totally took advantage of her and fought all the time. She enabled and refused to do anything about it. Finally the sheriff got tired of coming out to break up fights and wrote a restraining order so the brothers couldn't be in the same house and one had to move out. You really, really do not want to be in this situation when you're in your 80's!
  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I also saw some red flags for autism. Has he ever been evaluated for anything?

    A good parent in my opinion gives a child roots to grow and wings to fly. They cant stay with us forever.
  11. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    Hi Lindalou and welcome to the forum. You're at the right place for support and encouragement for YOU.

    I'm sorry about your son. I so understand the struggle in your mind and heart about setting a boundary with him, one that feels very stern and very hard.

    I, too, had to set that same boundary with my son. He was homeless multiple times for months at a time over several years. It was very hard to live with.

    However, this is what I have come to believe: adults must function at some level of self-support in this world. Other people can't live their lives for them, and it doesn't work to "shelter them in place". I did that, too, waiting for my son to grow up, to become more mature, less lazy, tolerating his pot smoking and drinking and flunking out of college, and being a slob and not working and being disrespectful. I thought he had "failure to launch" and all kinds of things I told myself that delayed the inevitable.

    I finally had to understand that nothing changes if nothing changes. All of the "talks" in the world weren't going to change one single thing, unless he was ready to change his own behavior. I couldn't understand it for the life of me, his attitude, his whole way of living and thinking. He surely wasn't raise that way. What did I do wrong?

    In my son's case, it was about addiction. He had become addicted to alcohol and pills and pot. You can trace all of it back to substance abuse, but I was in the dark about what was really going on for so long because he lied and lied and I believed him. I was very naive and wanted to believe him, because I loved him so much.

    As I learned more about what was really going on, and the final straw came when he stole money out of my bank account (and lied about it of course, and for a while, I BELIEVED HIM!!!) and was stealing things from my house here where he lived to sell for drug money. You can't live in a house with someone who is stealing from you, it just doesn't work. I'm really glad that happened, looking back, because who knows how long I would have gone on like we were.

    I kicked him out and it nearly killed me. But guess what? He survived. He learned how to navigate life on the streets, and in jail (for using and selling drugs) and this went on for a long long time, months and years. He is a survivor and there are a lot of resources available for homeless people (almost too many).

    In time I learned more, thankfully, because I was distraught and extremely afraid for his life and safety, and truly felt he probably would die on the street.

    But he didn't.

    Finally, he got "scared straight" the last time he was in jail (he was in jail 8 or 9 times and we finally stopped being involved at all with jail, lawyers, court hearings, etc., all of it) he was told by the public defender that he would like go to state prison the next day for four years. My son said he lay awake all night scared to death.

    That was his bottom, and who would ever have thought that he had to get to that point before he would start to work for change in his life.

    I think there comes a time when we have to stop, as mothers. We have to stop, stand way back, set firm, kind and reasonable boundaries (without anger) and then learn how to stick to them. If we don't, our adult kids don't have a real chance to learn how to be adults, to learn how to navigate the real world, not on our terms, but on their terms.

    Perhaps your son really does have disabilities. A lot of people have disabilities and they live as adults in the real world as best they can.

    If you can, start thinking of it this way: Giving him the space to grow up and learn how to become an adult will be the greatest gift you can ever give him.

    It will take tremendous self-discipline from you to not cave in..and if you do cave in...that's okay, just get back up and try again. We are only human.

    Work to let go of the guilt, because it's a barrier to you and to him. You have done the best you could do, and once you learned differently, you worked hard to do differently. That's all anybody can do.

    We're here for you during this struggle and this time of change. Please share with us openly. There is a lot of support, encouragement and compassion here. Hugs!
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  12. SeekingStrength

    SeekingStrength Well-Known Member


    What your son is dealing with is not of your making. I hope that, deep down at some rudimentary level, you know that. That is crucial--that you get that. Because, it is NOT.

    My firstborn (almost 35yo) is a Difficult Child. He still is not catching on how to navigate life. He is always the victim.

    His dad and I finally (and it was most difficult until I found this forum) set him free about three years ago. Son's choices have not improved, but his dad and I have enjoyed life so much more.

    As of the last couple months, my 80yo+ parents have been enabling Difficult Child. So, life has gotten a bit more complicated. I am seeing my parents less until this blows over. I cannot afford to get sucked back into that vortex.

    My BiPolar (BP) is much lower when Difficult Child's happenings are not on my radar.

    Your son is going to do what your son is going to do. The cocoon story is wonderful. It is past time for you to step aside and let your son make his way.

    How do I feel qualified to say that?

    My son was 32yo when I found this forum. Believe me, husband and I were struggling. We felt so much guilt. Now, I look back and think WHAAAATTTT?

    It will become much clearer to you a few weeks from now and you will feel peace that you cannot imagine where you are today.

  13. Ohemgee

    Ohemgee New Member

    I know that pain the guilt I don't think it every goes maybe just the intensity of it big hugs can the state not house him? Is he' on disability?
  14. LostSoul1

    LostSoul1 New Member

    Hi Lindalou and welcome to for forum. I read your posting and your son sounds soooo similar to mine. I can see many similarities like the iep, learning disability, stealing credit cards, lying and on and on it goes. I too suspected he may be autistic but apparently not....He was diagnosed with Bipolar/manic depression, anxiety, adhd. Our psychiatrist also recommended to stop the enabling. Like many have said on here...nothing changes...if nothing changes. All my helping has done absolutely nothing! That story about the butterly in the cocoon pretty much sums it up. As hard as it is to watch them struggle, we have to let nature run its' course. We have to let them live out their journey...as hard as it is to want to jump in and help get them out of every situation.

    Hard as heck...as i too am a fixer and a doer...i find solutions, sitting on my hands is hard!! Hardest thing i have ever done. But good point was raised in one of the posting...how would they figure things out if god forbid something were to happen to us...they would have to figure it out wouldn't they? Easier said than done i know, but this forum has been a TREMENDOUS support to me and offers great perspective from folks who are going thru alot of what you are experiencing.

    We are here to support one another and welcome to this forum. :)
  15. SeekingStrength

    SeekingStrength Well-Known Member

    ahhh gee, i meant my blood pressure is much lower! I remember somebody else sharing that BiPolar (BP) showed up as BiPolar when he/she meant blood pressure.

    And, i found this forum two years ago, not three.

    Lindalou, stay with us!
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  16. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    Hi Lindalou, welcome to the forum. I am so sorry for your need to be here, but it is a good place for folks like us to come and share our stories, receive good advice and compassion from others in similar situations. From reading over the responses, you have received some really good advice.
    We have all gone through the guilt stage, running through memories and mistakes wondering if we did, or didn't do something to cause what's going on with our kids who fail to launch. What it boils down to is free will and choice.
    People have come out of more extreme situations determined to live well.
    It is up to our adult children to want to do better for themselves.
    My two do not want better for themselves in my home. They just kept spiraling down and expecting everyone else to pick up the pieces. They wreaked havoc in our home, stole from us and were disrespectful. Unacceptable.
    So, here we are.
    It is not an easy place to be, but, here we are.
    LL, this is the hard part when you know you need to make a move for your sons sake and for your family to be able to live peacefully in your home. It goes against our instinct and the patterns we have fallen into, trying to rescue our d cs. You will have intense feelings but they will ease with time. Keep posting and let us know how you are doing. We have all been where you are at and understand how difficult it is. Hugs for your hurting mama heart. You are not alone.
  17. lindalou

    lindalou New Member

    No I don't but most important, I DO NOT want to burden my daughter with having to "take care" of her older brother. I know she willingly would, she has a generous soul, but his choices to waste his life are not her responsibility.
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  18. lindalou

    lindalou New Member

    Help!! I need advice! I think I know what needs done but hubby is waffling. We set April 1st as the move-out date for our son almost a month ago. He has known this was coming. The fact that he waited until two days ago to get ahold of a case manager or anyone for assistance is his fault, not ours. I have been preparing myself (as much as one can prepare for this) for today to be the day. His only real option now is a homeless shelter in Akron, it is nights only so he would have to hang out on the streets, a coffee shop or the library I guess. I was ready, it sucks but again, no surprises that today was the day. Well.... my husband wants to talk to the case manager today AND Douglass has a psychologist apt Monday. My husband now wants to wait until after the Monday appointment and he wants to make sure the psychologist is aware that Douglass is now homeless. I really think we need to drop him off today as planned and what happens, happens. I think this is just more of trying to run my son's life which is partly why we are in this situation anyway. I really need some advice here :(
  19. ColleenB

    ColleenB Active Member

    You and your husband need to be on the same page. I don't know what to tell you accept that whatever decision you made, don't blame yourself.

    These issues are organic and things change that necessitate adaption to plans sometimes. Maybe it is best to wait.... Maybe not.

    I know how hard it is to convey all the information in a post.... I struggle with it myself, as I hate texting! So sometimes our advise isn't really the best since the post can't convey every complex detail.

    I hope things went ok, and that you keep moving forward.