What to say?


Active Member
Hi all, looking for wisdom as usual.

difficult child is in jail, to be sentenced June 13. Am getting frequent calls, some of which I take and others I ignore. Always the same theme-he is losing it, can't take any more, emotions are out of control, reality is slipping away from him and he doesn't think it will ever come back.

He's on medications (especially since his suicide attempt-or whatever that was) but feels he needs them increased. The medical staff are not acknowledging his requests to up the medications. One of the nurses has twice given him a double dose of anti-anxiety medications and this helped a lot but this only happened every couple of weeks.

Just got off the phone with him-same theme. He was crying and then laughed a bit manically, then very abruptly said "Okay I have to go " and hung up. He asked me "Why am I in here, why am I doing this?" I said "Because you broke the law and you got caught". That's when he hung up.

I keep telling him "Son, I have NO idea what to tell you. You HAVE NO CHOICE, so you have to keep going." I mean, what the HELL ELSE can I say? I don't know how the system works, I feel sad that he is going through this, but a MAJOR part of me feels shut off from him, completely flat when he tells me this. That's a little worrying, I think. Then again, this stuff is really nothing new. I said I wished there was something I could say to make you feel better, but there isn't. It's up to you to find some kind of coping skill. What do other inmates do to get through? Maybe the suicidal thoughts are part of the medications-isn't that sometimes a side effect?" etc etc ad nauseam. I tell him "Come ON, you're not going through 7 months of this, to just give up when the end is in sight?" but really ....

I don't know what to say! He feels that talking to me might make him feel better but I can't see how it would because I have nothing to offer him. Am I becoming too hardened?

What do I say?


Well-Known Member
Staff member
Is talking to him making YOU feel better?

Blackgnat, your son is in jail, he is getting medications, unless you want to call the mental health liaison in jail and try to have him get more help, I think all you can do is limit your exposure to him.

In another thread recently we were talking about how most of us have to severely limit our time with our difficult child's. They want to pull us into their dramas on a fairly continuing basis, for whatever reason, however, you don't have to go down that rabbit hole each and every time.

Perhaps you might limit your talking to him to once a week. Tell him that. Then limit the phone call to 5 or 10 minutes whatever YOUR limit is. If he starts in that circular talking, say, there is nothing I can do to help you with that and I need to get off the phone now.

I believe, and this is my own experience, not a truth of any kind, that our kids make these choices, get in trouble and then want to lament to someone over and over again about their issues. My daughter does this too. I can't listen to it. I won't. I have set such stringent boundaries around her behavior that realistically there is not much of a connection left. I find her behavior to be toxic to me. I know that sounds so harsh, but it is the truth, for me.

My daughter is also in jail. I have not spoken to her for almost 3 weeks. I don't want to either. It is always the same, I am simply the empty space into which she throws all her words and emotions, we don't have conversations, we have chatter about her life and I listen. I have gotten to a point where I don't want to put myself in that position very much, there is no energy exchange as there is in "normal" interactions, give and take, talking and listening, asking questions, interest, a sense of being seen and heard. I am an invisible entity neither seen or heard, simply a means to some end I know nothing about.

I did it for a long time and now I don't. For me, this works a lot better. I found that with each interaction, it would take me awhile to return to my normal reality. I'm just not willing to do it anymore. Life is short, so much of my time has already been offered on the mantle of parenting a difficult child.........I have simply become unwilling to offer any more time. Each interaction invades my life in negative ways.

Talking to you gives him something, but what does it do for you?

He is not 8 years old, he is a grown man who has made mistakes and now he is paying the consequence. There is nothing you have to do, nothing you should do. Decide what it is YOU want and then do it. Decide what it is you want to say and then say it. You are not hardened. You are allowing his trip to interfere with your life and you feel guilty that you can't help him. Well, you did help him, in every single way possible and this is his fate. Don't allow him to drag you into his world. You can't live there. He can't live in yours. So, limit your exposure to him. For me, that is the only way to find a peaceful and joyful life. And, tell him that. Usually, they have absolutely no clue how they impact us. I told my daughter how she impacts me. I don't know if she heard me or not, but it made me feel a lot better.


one day at a time
BG, if it would help you, I would call the jail and tell the mental health professional there about his calls to you. Ask them to evaluate him.

Otherwise, you are in an impossible position.

I also have spent time sitting with the idea that I can't prevent my son from killing himself. I pray to God that he never does that, but I can't prevent it. We can't prevent anybody from doing that. We can report it when they threaten suicide, but really, is there truly any way to prevent it if someone really wants to do it?

Allowing myself to reason through that has helped me. It is the unthinkable, but instead of just pushing it away again and again, I reasoned through it.

Maybe, BG, your son will do what it takes---since he is having a very hard time in jail---not to be there ever again. Maybe this is his path, his journey, to a better way of life. Maybe this is his rock bottom. I hope so.

It doesn't help you right now, helpless, on the other end of the phone, hearing these things. I would take RE's advice after you do whatever you think you can do or should do, and then work to set it aside.

Prayers and blessings for you tonight.

Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
blackgnat, this is something Recovering pointed out to me about the interactions between my daughter and myself. My daughter's relationships always seem to become physically abusive. It just about kills me to hear about it, or to see the bruises. It puts me into that place Recovering calls the FOG. I literally cannot think when that happens. What Recovering pointed out to me is: This may be why your daughter tells you those things.

And blackgnat...much as it hurt me to see it? Recovering was right. Some time after Recovering pointed that out to me, my daughter was asking me for something, and I had said "no". Immediately, with no forewarning of any kind, she posted pics of herself in the hospital after a truly horrible beating. (It was a FB conversation.)

Immediately, blackgnat.

She was manipulating me ON PURPOSE, with my own pain over her situation.

And here is the other thing I have come to understand a little bit more about, just recently: When we allow our kids to run these games with us, when we do not stand up to them when they verbally abuse us, when we do not call them at it when they are telling us something that is not true or when they are justifying, one more time, how they have been victimized...we are teaching them it is okay to do those things, blackgnat. For their sakes, for the sakes of our own beloved children, we HAVE to start respecting them enough to tell them the truth about their situations.

We have to do that, blackgnat. Kindness, understanding, sympathy, money and time and empathy have not worked. We have to try something different, something other than the things we know will not work.

We have to try, blackgnat.

I began by telling my son I expected more of him than to do what he was doing. I told him life is a hard thing, and that he was not exempted from its challenges. I told him to stand up.

I think I went too far. He has not responded to me for something like six months, now. But I would do the same thing again. I don't know how to be more gentle about it. If I did know how to say those things in a better way, I would have.

But to this minute, I believe I am doing the right thing. Teaching my grown man of a son that justifying his failures to his mother solved anything was wrong. There is a right way. That is to acknowledge whatever the problem is and deal with it. And there is a wrong way. And that is to expect everyone else to give you a free pass because the only thing that you have to offer is that you have a problem.

It does the kids a disservice blackgnat, to continue allowing them to believe that way once we know kindness and support do not help them to regain control of their lives.

Your son has other, valuable gifts that he is not identifying with. He will have to find and believe those good things about himself through challenge, through struggling and failing and falling down a thousand times, just like we did, blackgnat.

That is what happens in that "hitting bottom" place the therapists are always talking about. We face ourselves, make our choices, and face up to the lesson. But then, that little part of us is our own, blackgnat. And no one can ever take that away from us, because we earned it.

Could you tell your son he is strong enough to do what he needs to do? Could you tell him you are proud of his strength, and that you know he will make it? Could you focus the conversation, again and again, on his strength and resilience and courage? Could you tell him you expect him to stand up, to be a man?

I have been where you are, blackgnat. Recovering calls that place the FOG. It is the worst place I have ever been. But I know it now, blackgnat. I know how to take a breath. I know how to remember what I told myself I was going to do the next time this happened. Sometimes? The bad thing is so awful that I can't get past it right away. But sooner or later, that source of strength is there for me.

We are right here, blackgnat. You are alone with it? But you do have us. We have been able to put ourselves in a place where we can at least see a way to go, a way to get out of that dark, panicky place.

I think it is time to try a different way of interacting with this grown man son, blackgnat.

I learned how to do it. I know you can do it, too.

I'm so sorry for the hurt of it, blackgnat.



SOC, I really needed to read what you wrote today. My 21 year old son was given until July 1 to move out. He broke the rules and snuck Psycho girlfriend into our house overnight and was caught. My husband moved his move out date until June 1. Maybe he wasn't expecting that. But this was last week, which gave him two weeks to find a place to move in.

Here's the thing. We explained that we will subsidize his rent for the first couple of months. So, yes, he has to move out, but he won't have to pony up the money himself. I gave him a few leads, one of which was perfect, two young guys looking for a third roommate, it looked awesome. Bachelor pad, fully furnished. He sat at the kitchen table this evening and cried because he can't move in because there is drinking ( the ad said, no heavy partying, which I guess means light partying, therefore SOME drinking) and his Psycho won't let him live in a place where there is drinking. Although she drinks. So he's prepared to go live in a tent to satisfy her requirements on HIS living situation. How abusive is that? It's not enough that she hits him and emotionally beats him every day, now he has to live like a dog in a kennel. He just got a good job as a security guard, looks so cute in his uniform, and yet, I wonder how long he'll keep it before she makes life so hard he'll quit or get fired. I just found out this afternoon that he pawned his favorite Nixon watch so that he could get a hotel room for ONE NIGHT with her.

So, as he cried, I thought, I've said no, but then turned around and said yes in the past. I'm not going to do that anymore. No means no. I am not doing him any favors by constantly not calling him on his BS. But it's so hard. But I can't get through to him with kindness and caring and empathy and love. He told me I don't love him because I'm kicking him out.

He's almost 22!!!

I am kicking him out BECAUSE I love him and I want him to be independent. He's choosing to not find some cool roommates his own age because he wants to,live with this Psycho chick, I told him I would help subsidize his rent with roommates, but not to live with a woman. If he wants to live a girl, as a couple, then mommy isn't funding "Lets Play House" so that can happen. He can pay his own rent. And he said he couldn't see the difference. Wow. Well, okay.

SOC, what do you tell yourself when you see your kids making choices that are bad for them? I can only tell myself that THEY are making these choices, that I have a door open that they can go through if they CHOOSE, but that for whatever reason, they want things to be this way, and I cannot change them. It's like become my mantra.

They are choosing this way of life. They are miserable, but they aren't doing anything to change, and they are adults, so therefore, nothing we can do or say is going to change their minds.

So, I'm listening to you. I'm trying something different. I drew a line in the sand, he crossed it, and the consequences fell. I can only hope he learns from this. I'm not sure what else I can do, but I don't want to be replaying this scene at 22, and 23, and 24...