Need advice: adult son with mental problems ... things getting worse

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by cynlee, Jan 30, 2018.

  1. cynlee

    cynlee New Member

    I've just joined.Thank you for sharing your stories. Our 35 year old son lives with us. He was always a bit different, but we didn't think he was mentally ill. He was very bright -- in the gifted classes, but left HS at age 16 via the HS proficiency exam. Couldn't handle school. He then worked from age 17 to 23 and then up and quit because things got too stressful. He went back to school, got into a university and then flunked out. That was in 2010. He was very depressed, said he was suicidal, and moved home to live with us. We thought it would be for a short time. Ha!

    He had self diagnosed while in school and somehow managed to get Nardol. He also was diagnosed with ADHD by the university and was prescribed Ritalin. When he moved back home, he briefly saw a psychologist. However, he thinks he's smarter than anyone else and no one can help him. So that didn't last. In 2014, he became psychotic after using marijuana. He just up and left home. Ended up being taken to a psychiatric hospital by the police because he told them he was suicidal (51-50). Was there for 4 days, then back with us. After that, he saw a psychiatrist at a county-run mental health program for about 4 months. They gave him several different medications, which he only took for a short time.

    For several years, he had his own saved money. So all he got from us was food and shelter. He even bought himself a car. He tried one job. Didn't last. Two years ago, he let the registration on the car expire. He also let his driver's license lapse. He just seemed to continue a downhill decline. Husband and I went to NAMI classes a couple of years ago, which helped us a bit. Sometimes he seems to be okay and then not. I think he might have Bipolar 2. Through NAMI I got the name of a private psychiatrist, but he refuses to go. Says they can't help him. He's tried that.

    About three months ago, I thought that money was disappearing from my purse. I thought I had spent it. However, I missed enough that I knew he had stolen it, even though he denied it when asked. He also began drinking heavily usually after we've gone to bed.

    I decided to give him a way to earn money by doing various household chores. That seemed to work, briefly. Then a month ago, I discovered marijuana in his room. Mind you he doesn't drive and only leaves home when it's dark out. We also discovered he'd been taking my husband's Gabapentin. Then last week, he stole my ATM card out of my wallet and withdrew $100. This behavior is so unlike how he was as a young child. He was so honest. Tonight we told him he either goes to the psychiatrist, which we will pay for, or he leaves. First, he just shut us out. Wouldn't talk, but we persisted. He finally said: "Well, I guess you'll just have to evict me."

    I hope someone out there can give us some advice. My husband and I feel if we kick him out and something bad happens to him, we'll feel guilty, especially since he'd mentioned suicide within the last year. But ... we don't really want to see where this pattern of disturbing behavior will end up, if we let him stay here. I'm not comfortable in my own home.

    Thanks for any suggestions you have.
  2. Littleboylost

    Littleboylost On the road unwanted to travel

    Mental health issue or not your son is refusing to help himself in a constructive way. You have been to NAMI. Are you familiar with the term enabling.

    If he stays in your home what will change? Will it be for the better or worse? If he continues on this downward spiral and something happens to him, how will you feel.

    There are a great deal of self help guides dealing with detachment and letting go with love. And as a wise person once told me....several times l, love does say NO.

    Do what you feel is in your heart to do. But please keep yourself and your belongings safe. I don’t feel safe in my own home either. We are coming to a conclusion to all of that.

    I had my son arrested, more than once. I have put him out of my house more than once and he is only 18. We do what we can bear to do. There is no right or wrong answer here.

    So think about getting support for yourself emotionally. A therapist may be a good idea. This is not easy stuff.
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  3. cynlee

    cynlee New Member

    Thanks for your helpful comments and your support, Littleboylost. I did see the information describing enabling and told my husband that's what we've been doing. As you wrote, it's not easy. We've been enabling and ignoring for way too long, I think. Just kept hoping things would turn around and get better. I guess we've had our heads in the sand.
  4. BloodiedButUnbowed

    BloodiedButUnbowed Active Member

    Your son is an adult and is making his choices. You now have to make your own choice.

    He will not change, he has no reason to change as long as his parents are taking care of him, as if he was a child. This is not a slam, please don't take it that way. Just a reminder that he is not a little boy that you are obligated to feed, clothe and house any longer. He is a 35 year old man who will not grow up.

    Many people suffer from mental illness and still function as adults in society. They are responsible citizens who take their medications, go to therapy, and otherwise do what is necessary so that they can live normal lives. There is no reason your son cannot do so.

    If he threatens suicide you can call the police and report that he is a danger to himself. They will take him to a hospital for observation.

    So sorry you are going through this. Chances are if you do not put him out, it will continue to get worse with stealing and lying.
  5. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Cynlee, welcome. I'm sorry you are struggling with your sons choices. You've been dealing with your son's issues for a long time, I know how exhausting that is.

    It may be helpful to read the article on detachment at the bottom of my post. You may also find solace in the book, Codependent no more, by Melodie Beattie. Many parents here find comfort in 12 step groups, like Families Anonymous, Al Anon or Narc Anon. It is important for us on this path to develop excellent support systems, this can be devastating for us parents.

    I have a 45 year old daughter who exhibits behaviors which match various mental illness/conduct disorders, I understand your feelings. I've tried having her live with us many times, it never works, she is presently couch surfing which she has done for years. I've had to learn much more than I ever wanted to about detachment, letting go and accepting what I cannot change.

    Unfortunately, when our kids begin stealing from us, lying to us and manipulating us to get what they need, it usually ushers in us asking them to leave. I understand how heartbreaking that is, however, what are your alternatives? Being held hostage in your own home? Locking up your valuables? These are hard choices. You've given your son a choice to get help and he has refused. Perhaps he doesn't believe you will act on your ultimatum. However, since you gave him the choice and he refused, if you don't follow through then it will be apparent to him that your word means nothing.

    You might look up shelters in your town and offer your son that list.

    This is the sticking point for most of us.....the guilt of what MIGHT happen if we act on what we believe to be the right action. That guilt can keep us stuck for years. What happens to us when we face reality with our adult troubled kids is that we often slip into the FOG, fear, obligation and guilt, which then prevents us from moving forward. I would strongly encourage you to find a therapist well versed in mental illness AND addiction. Is appears you are dealing with both issues, mental illness AND substance abuse. It is difficult for many of us parents to make these hard choices without professional help. Overcoming that guilt is challenging and can keep us stuck in the same situation for a very long time.

    Often when we reach the point where eviction is now an option, we have reached OUR bottom, the point at which we recognize that our enabling our kids has not helped and in fact, my have hindered any real change or growth. Your son has no incentive to change as you take care of everything for him. It will have to be YOU who changes. Which means you will need to stop enabling him and start responding differently, setting boundaries, saying no and putting your own needs and desires as the priority.

    I encourage you to continue posting here, it helps a lot to write our stories down and receive acknowledgment, understanding, compassion and support. I would also encourage you to get yourself a therapist and stay strong on your resolve to have your son take the reins of his own life and either get the help he needs or start to live his own life however he desires without inflicting his choices and the consequences of his behaviors on you.

    Hang in there Cynlee. Keep posting and get yourself a good support system. You're not alone. We're all here with you.
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  6. RN0441

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


    You have already gotten great advice here so not much than I can add except that we are only responsible for ourselves. We are NOT responsible for our adult children's choices. Period. If you worry what he will do if you evict him, that will cripple you from moving forward. Our "kids" are more resourceful than we think.

    Your son is way past the age that he should be living at home with you tiptoeing around him. What about YOUR fun? What about YOUR marriage? What about YOUR life?

    I agree that seeing a therapist would be very helpful for you. That is what I did and she helped me to set healthy boundaries. Our son needed this as much as we did. If we did not, we knew he would not change.

    You found this forum so you seem to be ready to take some action. This forum helped us to do that and we have been enjoying our life again since our son has been gone working on himself. He has hit many hurdles but he keeps getting up and trying and that's all we can ask.

    We love our troubled adult children and we are all trying to find ways to cope.

    Good luck and glad you found us!
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  7. cynlee

    cynlee New Member

  8. cynlee

    cynlee New Member

    Hello everyone. I am so glad I found this community. Thank you so much for your very helpful replies! They are comforting and confirm much of what I've been feeling. I'm sorry for what many of you have had to go through. It seems that none of my close friends have dealt with mentally ill children. Their children are very successful and normal, which makes it worse. I just don't talk about my son much with them.

    I agree that it's time for my husband and I to talk with a therapist. It certainly helps to gets things out and discuss them. I appreciate the suggestion of giving my son a list of homeless shelters. Homelessness is a big issue where we live, since the climate/weather is so nice. There are efforts to support them.

    It's just hard to accept that one's dreams for how their talented and smart child was going to turn out have to be re-adjusted. But, I am beginning to realize that I can't make that happen. He'll have to make his own way. Thanks for the information on 'detachment.' I'll check that out.
  9. cynlee

    cynlee New Member

    PS - how do you get the summary information about you and your family (the bio info) to appear below your comments?
  10. RN0441

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

    At the top right click on your name and then signature. It does help to have information there so we can keep track of what we're talking about.
  11. Triedntrue

    Triedntrue Active Member

    Other than the article on detatchment my therapist recommends a book called codependent no more by Melody Beattie. I am about halfway through and it makes some good points.
  12. Sam3

    Sam3 Active Member

    What I’ve found helpful is to think about what steps would give my son opportunities to change course, given his abilities and where he actually is today, while also forecasting the future I can live with if he’s not pursuing those steps

    For me, Ive come to terms with the fact that if my son is not working towards being an employable and independent adult, that at some point he will have to qualify for disability and rely on the social safety net.

    That is the natural consequence of being unemployable.

    I’ve also realized my son will need some time and supports and patience to get to a place where he is employable. So I’m offering those things now.

    But I think there is power in letting our adult children know, without catastrophizing, that we have wrapped our heads around the possibility that their futures might involve jail, homelessness,and living off the dole, if they don’t beat their addictions and treat their illnesses.

    It takes away the X factor: their belief that they would get another bonus life because “my parents would be too horrified to let that happen to me.”

    So it becomes their informed choice whether they want to see a therapist, meet with a job counselor, take medications — or not.

    Your son has been an adult for as long as he was a child, at this point. Your idea of what he is capable of and what you would need to see to know he is trying, might be very different.
  13. cynlee

    cynlee New Member

    Thanks for the recommendations!
  14. cynlee

    cynlee New Member

    I will do that, Copabanana. Stealing the prescription drugs and money has really pushed me over the edge. Thank you for your kind words of support.
  15. cynlee

    cynlee New Member

    Thanks, Sam3. What we've found frustrating is that he was able to work full time for almost 7 years and then, BAM, he wasn't able to deal with something, the boss or some kind of job-related stress, and he just quit. It was sad because he was working at the same university where I worked and I couldn't really explain to anyone why he just fled. After than, he went to community college and did well. He then left home to go to a university. We eventually learned he didn't handle being on his own and he was disqualified.

    Now he refuses to look for work. Heck, he could do something from home to make money online, but he won't even try that. I guess the answer is: when it's all handed to you and you have no motivation, then why bother?

    Thanks again to everyone for your support.
  16. SeekingStrength

    SeekingStrength Well-Known Member

    Love this/wishing husband and I had thought of sharing this with our Difficult Child years ago.
  17. Sam3

    Sam3 Active Member

    I don’t know. That sounds like a newly problematic drug habit or a depressive cycle or an extended low point in life, more that some protracted difficult child thing.

    I’m not sure that changes much — if he’s not doing anything about it.

    But maybe it would make it easier to be patient and encouraging. He has made many positive choices in his life. It might be meaningful to him to know that you don’t think he’s doomed. That maybe this is a really rough patch that he, above all, knows he has to emerge from eventually, whether he admits it or not right now.

    I think if we treat as a “given” that healthy adult children are independent, and that any period of dependency is temporary, we don’t lower the bar or drop it altogether.

    (I’m going to see if I can dig up some wisdoms along these lines, that I had bookmarked from the forum.)
  18. Triedntrue

    Triedntrue Active Member

    [​IMG]Struggle is Good! I Want to Fly!

    Once a little boy was playing outdoors and found a fascinating caterpillar. He carefully picked it up and took it home to show his mother. He asked his mother if he could keep it, and she said he could if he would take good care of it.

    The little boy got a large jar from his mother and put plants to eat, and a stick to climb on, in the jar. Every day he watched the caterpillar and brought it new plants to eat.

    One day the caterpillar climbed up the stick and started acting strangely. The boy worriedly called his mother who came and understood that the caterpillar was creating a cocoon. The mother explained to the boy how the caterpillar was going to go through a metamorphosis and become a butterfly.

    The little boy was thrilled to hear about the changes his caterpillar would go through. He watched every day, waiting for the butterfly to emerge. One day it happened, a small hole appeared in the cocoon and the butterfly started to struggle to come out.

    At first the boy was excited, but soon he became concerned. The butterfly was struggling so hard to get out! It looked like it couldn’t break free! It looked desperate! It looked like it was making no progress!

    The boy was so concerned he decided to help. He ran to get scissors, and then walked back (because he had learned not to run with scissors…). He snipped the cocoon to make the hole bigger and the butterfly quickly emerged!

    As the butterfly came out the boy was surprised. It had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. He continued to watch the butterfly expecting that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to support the swollen body. He knew that in time the body would shrink and the butterfly’s wings would expand.

    But neither happened!

    The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.

    It never was able to fly…

    As the boy tried to figure out what had gone wrong his mother took him to talk to a scientist from a local college. He learned that the butterfly was SUPPOSED to struggle. In fact, the butterfly’s struggle to push its way through the tiny opening of the cocoon pushes the fluid out of its body and into its wings. Without the struggle, the butterfly would never, ever fly. The boy’s good intentions hurt the butterfly.

    As you go through school, and life, keep in mind that struggling is an important part of any growth experience. In fact, it is the struggle that causes you to develop your ability to fly.

    As instructors our gift to you is stronger wings…

    I also found this story given to me by my therapist give me help with my son as the butterfly.
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  19. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    There's another one like this, from veterinary science:

    Occasionally a baby horse (foal) is born with neonatal maladjustment syndrome, commonly called a "dummy foal". They don't know how to nurse, seem to be blind, and have no instinct to find their mothers to or do anything a horse needs to do to survive.

    Some live with intensive medical treatment, but many died.

    Then, I don't remember where, a smart veterinarian got a very smart idea: they tied ropes around a "dummy" foal's body and pulled and squeezed HARD to simulate the pressure and pain of being squeezed through the mother's pelvis.

    The foal fell deeply asleep, slept for about half an hour, and then woke back up. When it woke up, it staggered to its feet, and miraculously, could see and immediately started looking for its first meal.

    Turns out baby horses NEED the pain of being squeezed through the birth canal for their brains to wake up properly from the quasi-sleep of last few weeks before birth. If the birth is too EASY, the foal can suffer ill effects.

    The moral of the story: Having it too easy sometimes isn't the best thing for development.
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  20. cynlee

    cynlee New Member

    That's what we're wrestling with. Sometimes, he just seems to be tormented by demons and then sometimes he seems fine. He helps with things around the house, cares for our dog, fixes our computers and car, but then he goes and steals money and the drugs. I feel he's in pain, mentally, but he refuses to go see someone. My husband kept telling me to give him time, that he'll turn things around, but the recent 'bad' behavior worries me that things may not get better. I feel like we need to push harder for some change. Thanks for pointing out a positive viewpoint.