New member seeks help....

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by DesparatelyAfraid, Aug 30, 2015.

  1. DesparatelyAfraid

    DesparatelyAfraid New Member

    This is my first post. Not entirely sure whether Parent Emeritus is the right forum or whether I should post to General a Parenting. My son will be 18 in January.

    My 17 yr old son is clinically depressed, sees a therapist, refuses to admit he has any problem, refuses medication or any other treatment. He goes to the therapist because we ask him to, he says, but also says it's a waste of money. He's ridiculously bright, raised overseas in several different countries, and I could go on here, but the bottom line is this: he has become immersed in philosophy, reading dozens of books. He has adopted the theory that we (everyone...) are all fools for engaging in the social constructs like school and employment that are coercive and controlling. There should be no obligations. The nuclear family should be disbanded as a social group. Nothing is authentic. No one should have to work yet everything should be provided. There is little logic to what he espouses. He refuses to do homework and barely made it through 11th grade. He has tried to run away from home at least three times since March. He says he wants to live on the streets, money is irrelevant, and that going back to school will be a nightmare. We are at our wits end trying to figure out what has happened to our son, and how to help him.

    53 yr old mom married to a fabulous man. We have three boys, ages 22, 20, and 17.
  2. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Welcome, DesparatelyAfraid.
    I am so sorry you are going through this.
    You can either post here or on the General Parenting board. He's under 18 and still living with you, so General is still fine. Just read the posts and see which ones you identify most with.

    In regard to your son's attitude, was he always precocious and depressed? IOW, maybe you just started to notice it when it got worse. Or maybe, now that I re-read your note ... maybe something DID happen. Going back to school will he a nightmare? Why? If he's that bright, he should be acing everything. Does he have friends? Have you spoken with them?

    When he tried to run away from home, how long did he stay out? Did he pack clothing and food, carry cash? Matches? Blankets? Water bottle? Or just walk out the door? IOW, how well did he plan?
    ls the therapist asking these questions?

    If he's bright and likes to read, I'd get some books on cognitive therapy. Tell him that if he's willing to do the work, he may be able to help himself without medications.

    Then again, he doesn't seem to want to work. Any idea if he's doing drugs?

    Also, in regard to philosophy, try Ayn Rand, which is the exact opposite of the philosophy he is espousing (and if he hasn't seen any Nietsche yet, don't show him! :) ) "Authenticity" was a favorite topic of Martin Heidegger. You can look him up online. He talked about how death makes things "real," in regard to realizing what is important and how meaningless our daily projects are.
    Did someone die recently? Or is he just really good at taking on the mantle of others' ideas so much that they become real for him? I think all teens go through this stage, but not to this degree.

    I can feel your fear. So glad you found us. Others will be here shortly.
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  3. runawaybunny

    runawaybunny Administrator Staff Member

    Welcome @DesparatelyAfraid

    I just wanted you to know that I have read your post and based upon what you describe I think that your concerns about your son's behavior are pretty much where I would be if he were my boy. I would be at my wit's end too.

    Hang in there. You are not alone.
  4. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Sounds to me like more going on than just "depression". There may be other forms of mental illness, for example - and in our experience, the doctors tend NOT to diagnose most of these before adulthood. We managed to get in to "adult" doctors once our kid turned 17, and got a lot more answers that way.
  5. DesparatelyAfraid

    DesparatelyAfraid New Member

    so much support here. Thanks to each of you.

    My son should be acing all of his classes. But when i look back on it, i think that maybe what happened or at least may be contributing to the problem is that when he reached that age when--like all of us and all things--everything no longer came with no effort he seemed to take on an edge of hyper-confidence, if that's a word. At the same time, he started to think his work was never good enough. An assignment for a 4-page short story became a maybe-publishable 12-page story. Yet he would say it was crap. If he gets even an A+ on a paper, he insists it was crap and the teacher's grade is just further evidence how bad the system is. He says why does he have to write in the formulaic way his teachers insist on, that good writing need not follow that formula. (He is not wrong about that...) Part of what 'happened' was we moved back to the US. He had never really lived in the US. He went to small private international schools. We put him in a well-respected public school for 10th grade. It was a disaster. The teachers did not know him, made no effort to know him, he likely knew more about much of the subject matter in some courses than the teacher did--but certainly not all. He registered for--and the school agreed to--what was probably an overly rigorous schedule that included 3 AP courses and 2 honors courses (plus two regular courses). That was such a difficult year--it seemed at the time. We had put him in to therapy about mid-way through the 10th grade because he seemed depressed, had no friends, was really down on himself. With the therapists help, we found a small private school that seemed to really perk our son up during the interview. He participated in a foreign exchange program over the summer (are very positive experience for him). We thought all was back on track as he started 11th grade. Things were pretty ok, not good in math, but he loved his teachers, made friends, all was good. Then by Christmas, he was barely doing any work. By February we were working with the school to try to get him back on track with home work. Then for 2nd semester he took a philosophy course, which frankly i thought would be great and right up his alley. I am not convinced that that would not have happened regardless.

    with regard to how planned were his running away attempts? The first time he bought a one-way ticket to Japan. (!!) There were a couple of other more half-hearted attempts. Then last week, we were on a family vacation, he tried it again. He had planned to go become a migrant worker. He researches everything on the internet -- how to live on the streets, how to make a fake identity, etc. He is convinced that if only he could leave us, we would never find him. So far, it seems like maybe he wants us to discover it--since we do. But he completely rejects the idea that he has any problem that requires 'fixing'.
  6. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    Oh DA, I am so sorry for your fear and your confusion about your son. Welcome to the PE forum.

    My heart goes out to you.

    I think it's really hard to be really smart. It sounds like your son is highly intelligent...and...what does he do with that intelligence in high school, where often, it's not valued and kids are growing up and everything is very confusing.

    I think you said he doesn't even want to start college. there a way to get him some information interviews with some professors of philosophy, even, at a nearby 4-year college? So he can see what is available to him there?

    Just a thought.

    And there are other parents here on this thread whose adult kids have "gone off the grid" for a while or longer.

    It's so hard when your beloved son is still a minor...but almost not. Once they are 18, it's really hard to get them to do anything, because they are of legal age. I'm glad to hear that your son isn't breaking the law---that is a great thing!

    Can you and your husband...and anybody else who has influence with him...offer some creative solutions, like a study course overseas (since that's where he wants to go, etc.)...or something like that, that might engage and excite him right now?

    Please know we are here for you, to offer support, encouragement, options and ideas. We will walk with you through whatever you are dealing with. Our purpose is to be a sounding board and a "soft place to land" for parents who are struggling with their adult children.

    My problems were very different from yours, but the feelings are the same.

    Warm hugs today. We care.
  7. DesparatelyAfraid

    DesparatelyAfraid New Member

    thx for your support. We have offered many options to our son. But frankly, we have been trying to get him to at least finish high school. We have given up on any college ideas for now. That's really sad, as when he accompanied us on college visits for his older brothers, he was right up front in the group, asking more questions than those closer to college age. (he was maybe 10 or 11 at the time). He had set a plan to apply to CalTech, Georgia Tech, or Johns Hopkins. He was really into computers--including robotics. But that was at the time when he began to realize that no matter how smart one is, these things take work. And he has given up on the computer idea.

    i think he is really hoping we give him an ultimatum like "our way or the highway". He would jump at the chance to blame us for 'letting' him leave. every time we intervene, he gets more more annoyed at us. He says we have been great parents and none of this is about us (except maybe a bit that we are far too bourgeois and living in a bubble and have never had an authentic experience, according to him). He says he wishes we would not be as reasonable has we have been as that would make it easier for him to leave. I have encouraged him to find a community of people who agree with his try it out. But he insists there is no such place. his logic on these matters is negative and somewhat circular. he professes something but when i point out the lack of logic, he just says what i'm saying dumb or stupid. He seems unable to give justifications for his thoughts at the same time that he is over-intellectualizing everything. he talks about revolution and anarchy, but refuses to examine the various historical instances of how such movements have succeeded or failed.
  8. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    He sounds a lot like our son. Let me guess, along with the intelligence is a lack of common sense, outwardly very confident but realistically very unsure of himself, a lack of social skills, he is the only one who has a clue about what he's going through/how hard it is to find work, how clueless the bosses/teachers are?

    Depending on which state you live in, you have limited options. Where we live, at 17 you are still financially liable for them but no longer have authority over them. If they run away the police cannot force them to return but you cant kick them out because they are a minor. Get whatever testing done you can now because once he turns 18 all bets are off. If he doesn't want to cooperate at that point there is nothing you can do.

    A major life philosophy change like this doesn't happen overnight without a reason. If you haven't seen any mental health warning signs as he grew up then have him drug tested. The philosophy you described is VERY popular with the drug culture. They use it to justify the life style. Basically they believe that nobody has to work and should be provided everything. We all see the obvious flaw in this attitude but to them, since we CHOOSE to work, there is no flaw.
  9. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Maybe if he actually leaves and sees that homelessness is not a philosophical community of likeminded thinkers, but a haven for drug addiction, criminality, and crime, he will learn a reality lesson. He is very young. If he wants to go, he will go. If you don't help him while he is on his quest for the perfect non-materialistic life that may be the best method to change his philosophy. At least if he stays in the U.S., it is no picnic for the homeless and very little intellectual conversation. It is more about where to get a meal or sleep.

    I volunteered at a homeless shelter. Most of our clients were serious drug addicts, not enlightened intellectuals.
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  10. DesparatelyAfraid

    DesparatelyAfraid New Member

    at this point, even his therapist does not believe he is using any drugs. I did insist he go for psychological assessment, but that was a horrible experience. my son was firmly against the assessment and viewed it as a way to control people. he went very very reluctantly and was clearly adversarial in his dealings with the psychologist. His therapist had not recommended the assessment because he strongly believed my son would manipulate the assessments. And boy did he! it was a mistake. and the psychologist who did the assessment seemed like she had never had any life experience. She latched on to a couple of one-time things that,in my experience, are not the least unusual for teenagers, and made them into very big deals.
  11. DesparatelyAfraid

    DesparatelyAfraid New Member

    i think he has decided that stealing food is not a crime...that having food is a right. so if stealing food is a crime, he is on his way to criminality. i think he has convinced himself that jail wouldn't be so bad. ??!!

    is there anyone out there that seen their child come out of this on the other end?
  12. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    How familiar this all sounds. He craves a justification to not even fail, but not even try. Word of advice? Don't give him advice anymore unless he asks for it. He is going on 18 years old. You have taught him everything that he needs to sort his life out, its up to him to actually do it.

    This conversation always amused me! My son could NEVER figure out that he would be one of the first victims of anarchy, not one to benefit from it.

    That's because the logic is faulty and they know it. My son's favorite line when I called him on faulty logic was "I don't know!". He very much wants a utopian society where things will just work out on their own with no effort on his part.
  13. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    That's a hard one to answer. It can be the start down that slippery slope but it could also just be a justification for a lifestyle he wants to live. And our sons therapists never thought he was doing drugs either. Boy were they wrong.
  14. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    Yes, my son is really doing well at this point, and has been progressively doing better for the past 15 months. You can read my signature to see how far down he went---and of course, me right along with him.

    His slide started at about age 19---at least from my perspective. He played high school soccer so kept his issues between those lines for the four years, although he didn't try in school at all, would do homework but not hand it in, etc. He did work part time, go to school, play soccer...was not very social in terms of getting engaged in high school activities.

    My son, when he was growing up, would say things like this: I don't want to grow up. I want to stay a kid forever. and...

    I'm going to be rich and live in a mansion.

    He was the name-brand person, had to have the latest and best clothes and lots of them, was/is an anxious person. I think his anxiety and depression and thinking everybody was looking at him ruled him in high school.

    My other son rejected all of that, was a good student, played music, also worked part-time and bought his clothes at Goodwill.

    Teenagers are bewildering!

    My oldest son did all of the things (not perfect, but good) like I would have hoped. My younger son did the opposite.

    My younger son started using alcohol...and then drugs...I believe because they made him feel better about himself. He could fit in, and not be so anxious. All of that led to serious prescription drug addiction and all that comes with it, stealing, jail, homelessness, rehab, etc.

    Nothing I did made a difference. I will tell you that. I did it all, begged, cried, threatened, pleaded, reasoned, manipulated, got other people to talk to him, gave consequences, wrote contracts...on and on and on...trying to make a dent in it all. It just got worse.

    Finally, I had to learn to let go of him. It is the hardest journey of my life.

    When I got out of the way, finally, and created some boundaries and started focusing on my own life, and he turned 25, things started to change---last June 2014. I think a lot of it was being terrified that he was going to prison for 4 years. He told me about the night he lay awake all night in jail thinking that would happen in court the next day.

    There is no rhyme or reason to this type of journey. Your son's will be different from my son's. And I am in no way saying that you should "give up" at this point in your son's life. If I were you, I would continue to try to reach him, and nobody would be able to tell me differently.

    Just realize that you can't control what he does. You will not be able to. And you will have to learn to live with that. There is a lot of help out there for us, reading books, journaling, 12step groups, NAMI, meditation, prayer, exercise, focusing on ourselves and how we can become better people, etc. All of our energy can be turned in another direction, at the right time, onto ourselves, who are truly the only people we have a prayer of changing anyway.

    Today, my son is rebuilding his life. It's not perfect and it's not pretty. I have come to believe that there is a huge issue with young men aged 17 to 19....through 26 or 27. I think the research will bear it out.

    One thing the receptionist at jail told me when I visited my son once:

    How old is your son?

    23, I said.

    Oh, well, you have a few years to go?

    I said, what do you mean?

    She said, it takes most of them until about 26 or 27 to get it, and then we don't see them back here again.

    At the time, I kind of halfheartedly smiled and thought how in the world can I do this for another three or four years?

    Truth is, I couldn't. I had to stop and I had to set boundaries and I had to change myself.

    This stuff is very very hard.

    We're here for you. No matter what.
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  15. AppleCori

    AppleCori Well-Known Member

    Hi and Welcome, DA

    So, what does the therapist think is going on here?

    I am assuming he has been diagnosed with Clinical Depression by the therapist or some other professional?

    It sounds like something is going on here other than just depression.

    My step-son also wanted anarchy and, conversely, a utopian society in which he could sit around smoking cigarettes, pot, drinking, drugs, and anything else that he found pleasurable, while being supported by society? dad? Of course, he was/is in the drug culture. He may or may not have bipolar. He was diagnosed but since he was also on drugs, who knows if it is accurate.

    Anyway, I am glad you have found us, and hope you will continue with us as we all walk this terrible road.

  16. Lil

    Lil Well-Known Member

    Hello and welcome. I'm so sorry you have to be here. I'm Jabberwockey's wife. We're unusual I think, as we seem to be the only couple on the board.

    Our son sounds a bit like yours, but ours made no secret of his love of weed and still does, though whether he's still smoking regularly I don't know as he no longer lives near us. He too has some of the revolutionary ideas you mention, but to a much smaller extent. College for him was a place to live for free (on our dime) and get stoned all day. I think he'd do very well in a hippie commune - "Turn on, tune in, drop out".

    This is always a possibility. I find it interesting how my son has "done" homelessness. He talks about being homeless, but the fact is, he's never slept on the street. We put him out for stealing - not food - things he could pawn and finally cash, which I'm sure went to drugs. He spent three days with a friend, then a homeless shelter, then an apartment we rented, then some guys he met had an apartment he stayed in, then his grandparents then his girlfriend rented a hotel room now with her and her mother.

    One thing he learned in the shelter is it's hardly full of philosophers. He spent a lot of time talking about how stupid the people he knew were and got himself in trouble for stealing...with a friend from the shelter...who also stole from him! In his mind, it's a terrible thing to steal - from him. Him stealing was a whole different thing, of course.

    Reality slapping your son in the face might change some things.
  17. DesparatelyAfraid

    DesparatelyAfraid New Member

    my son has just announced that he will not go to his therapist any more. i will keep trying.
  18. DesparatelyAfraid

    DesparatelyAfraid New Member

    childofmine, so nice to hear that your son is doing better. not sure i'll make it 10 more years, though.

    my son seems to think there is really no one out there but him. everyone is stupid and dumb. i do think he may be starting to seriously consider suicide. We've spoken to him about it over the course of these bad times. at first he said he'd considered it, but set it aside as 'not worthy', and as something that he probably couldn't do. He tell the psychiatric at the assessment that if he did decide to attempt suicide, he's step in front of a train. last week, after trying to run away, he said if make him go to school is will be so miserable and it will be a nightmare and he may have to reconsider killing himself. I know that sounds like maybe mostly manipulation, but how does one put that aside?
  19. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    You don't. When he says these kind of things, you inform the police. If he isn't serious then one time talking to the police should stop that. Otherwise, you may be able to use these encounters with law enforcement as a way to force him to get help.
  20. DesparatelyAfraid

    DesparatelyAfraid New Member

    he has already had conversations with the police when he tried to run away twice before. Those were times when he actually left the house. This last time, we 'caught' him before he left the house (the house where we were vacationing, far from home). he gets very polite with them and then starts dropping philosophers' names as in asking the policeman "have you ever read Hegel?...[or Kierkegaard, or any number of others]"

    he actually seems to be hurting deep inside. At least that has been the overwhelming sense i get from him. he used to say things like that and i think that he is still hurting/miserable. He is grasping at these philosophies as a self-medication. Today, when i asked him for the probably the 6th time over the past 6 months, if he would consider trying prescription drugs to help him feel less miserable, he said, again 'no!' ...but this time he added that if he was going to try drugs, he'd just try heroin because at least that would be interesting.