Leading a double life: responsible, respected professional... And parent of an out-of-control-teen

(18 Posts)
flow4 Sat 24-Mar-12 09:21:13

Anyone else out there feel they are living a double life? Or even more than double? I have a responsible professional job, and I work in an environment where people are generally hard-working, helpful and respectful to each other... Then I come home to a teenage son who is out of control - lying, stealing, swearing and abusing me, taking drugs, staying out all night, not going to college, and smashing things up in our home... Then too I have another younger child who is charming and helpful and a star pupil at school...

It was hard enough to juggle it all when it was just the normal ups-and-downs of single-parenthood. I have always worked part-time so I had time for my kids too. But now things have hit crisis point, I feel like I might go mad... I am pretty sure this weekend I am going to throw him out permanently... And spend time supporting my younger son to deal with what's happening... And then go back to work on Tuesday and smile and make light of it and get on with my work as best I can...

I am doing some things already to cope and 'look after myself': I talk to friends, and come on here, and try to do at least one nice thing each week, and I have been having a fortnightly massage for the past couple of months... But I'm wondering whether anyone else has any experience of coping with this kind of 'schizophrenic' existence, and has any wise words or practical tips?

nightswimmer Sat 24-Mar-12 09:31:01

No tips really, only I don't think it's that unusual, every where you look you'll see people who may seem to have it all under control and everything going swimmingly, but in certain areas of their lives they are struggling. It's just life. A few years down down the line your son may be out of this very difficult phase, I hope sooner. Eventually you may look back and say "Wow, that was tough time in our lives".

Brightspark1 Sat 24-Mar-12 10:16:19

No suggestions, but if there is an answer, I'd like to hear it. I feel the same except I'm not a single parent though that has meant that I'm propping up DH who has struggled more than me. Have always worked part time to fit in with children and juggled my way though babyhood and schooldays. Three days after my DD's full on suicide attempt I delivered a one day conference which involved lecturing for four hours and doing all the organisation, looking back, I'm still not sure how I did it. Unfortunately, I don't work in a supportive place and have had to deal with being bullied at work, I don't know how it happened as I am not a doormat, but a strong person. I might have been more tuned in to DD's problems if I hadn't had this to deal with. I have ended up handing in my notice as I can't cope with the atmosphere at work and deal with DD. so I have ended up with DD in care and career in tatters. It's weird listening to everyone's holiday plans and reports of other's DC's grade 8 piano exam, buying their DD's prom outfit etc etc when all I'm doing is lurching from one day to the next and feeling I'm slowly losing it. Hang in there and accept all help offered.

I think you are doing the right things... Time for yourself and people to listen . it's so hard isn't it? When my son was at his worst I felt very isolated because it felt like all the people with whom I worked, had perfect home lives, perfect families,; who would faint with shock at the mention of drugs and had no real concept of just how helpless you are in this situation . I felt there was an attitude of somewhat smug ' oh we have been very lucky but James has always had strong boundaries and respects them' and I'd think , ' you have NO idea'
Because until you have an adult child systematically destroying their own prospects and making your life hell you just cannot know what it is like.

Ironically I work with young people who have extremely challenging behaviour due to their disabilities, and in the workplace have to be able to take control of some very hairy situations...but couldn't at home.. Made me feel even worse at times!

I think if you can.. If there is someone fairly senior at work you can trust and who might have the foggiest idea of the level of stress you are under, you should let them know and not just put on a happy face, just so they are adware of the stress you are under...

I think for me, it was finding other people..here and in RL that kept me sane during the worst times. It did feel a split existence.. Still does at times tho things are much better than before. ( ds1 is 19 now and in the last year has matured a LOT. Still on the weed but holding a job and is a LOT nicer to be around...)
I really hope that the weekend goes ok for you.l. If you do have to throw him out..be strong..it may, sadly be what he needs to jolt him into reality a bit. While I narrowly avoided actually booting mine out ( he was never here anyway) one of my good friends did have to kick out her 17 yr old 6 months ago... And after the novelty of bagging beds at mates houses wore off,it has made her ds take stock and he is beginning to pull himself round.
Hang in there....

Maryz Sat 24-Mar-12 18:49:44

Yes, I have lived it for five years sad.

And, believe it or not, and beginning to come out the other side smile.

However, I do realise exactly how you feel - it's that "am I going mad" feeling of living two completely different existences at the same time, and never quite knowing how much of each existence the person you are talking to knows.

I personally think you have to learn to dissociate yourself from it a bit - deal with each thing as it arises, don't waste time or emotional energy on what has happened in the past, or might (or even definitely will) happen in the future.

I also found things more bearable when I stopped lying to people. When I actually said to them "I'm upset because ds smashed down the sitting room wall yesterday and left the house with a carving knife" rather than "oh it's a bit tough at the moment".

Very few people (once they knew the truth) condemned me. Though I have had my fair share of "I wouldn't put up with it", "Why don't you just ground him" and "You reap what you sow with kids" type comments hmm. They are water off a duck's back these days.

Mutteroo Sat 24-Mar-12 19:02:30

I have responded on your earlier thread, but I have thought of an option which may help you. look up the phone number for your local Connextions or YAC office. They will have a ...I forget the title, a worker who can either help your teen deal with the underlying issues causing their behaviour or at least offer you some support. It's free and I know it's available because I've had to use it. My DD wasn't ready to accept help, and still isn't, but I felt listened to and less alone.

You are doing everything to look after you and do not deserve to feel guilt about a supposed double life. If everyone was honest, I bet the minority would be those saying their lives were simple!

noteventhebestdrummer Sat 24-Mar-12 20:18:29

Yes, I have lived that feeling. Sometimes it got too much and a well-meaning acquaintance who asked and asked 'What are your boys doing now?' nearly got TOLD. It made me feel like my head was had a wiring fault at times. I also worried that youngest DS was feeling the same - I'd be reminding him to clean his teeth and to call the mental health crisis number on the phone if his brother kicked off and he was scared, in the same breath, that wasn't good. But he seemed and seems OK.
It's really good to keep some time and headspace for you and to ask and take help where you can. I hope things get better for you.

GnomeDePlume Sat 24-Mar-12 20:55:58

errrmmm..

I am probably that well-meaning colleague or acquaintance.

I have never suffered the problems you good people are experiencing but I have a brain lodged (low rent) between my ears and I am capable of empathy.

Please say something. Explain, tell. If nothing else it will stop me treading on your finer feelings because I really dont want to add to your burden.

christinecagney Sat 24-Mar-12 21:07:35

Hello all and ESP. The Op,. Yes def. know what you are talking about and feeling . I work with young people with challenging behaviour and often help families with advice etc, whilst keeping a professional demeanour and not saying that I live with a very challenging child at home who frequently makes me feel helpless. If its any consoloation there are three of us in my workplace in the same situation and we can collectively fend off the ridiculous comments of Why don't you ground him? Etc ha ha ha ha we silently mouth to each other. Of course why didn't I try that.... Aarrgh. .Confide in someone you trust at work, and if you can your boss too, youll be surprised at the amount of support you get... More than you think

flow4 Sat 24-Mar-12 22:48:02

It helps to know I'm not alone, thanks everyone smile I'll ask and answer some specific Qs tomorrow, but I am exhausted now and need to sleep now.

teapot5 Sun 25-Mar-12 12:28:18

I've been in a similar situation with my DD and everyday is a battle. I don't even remember when was the last day that I didn't cry. I was also in a situation being a well-meaning freind but said completely wrong things because I had no idea.

Thus I was lying to everybody for a long time pretending it was just a 'phase'. Earlier this year I confinded to one friend saying 'I can't lie anymore, I'm depressed because....'. That made me feel relieved. Problems still there and in our case, it's almost 'minute by minute' situation.

Flow, I read your other thread, too. I think you are doing the right things to look after yourself. I know it's hard, but as Maryz said I think we need to learn to dissociate a bit.

victorialucas Sun 25-Mar-12 12:31:57

How old is he? There is a big difference between an out of control 13/16/19yo.

You need to prioritise the safety of yourself and your younger child.

Could he live with his Dad?

flow4 Mon 26-Mar-12 07:16:18

Oh teapot, that sounds grim. I do get calm days - not over the past few weeks, but I can still remember them. How do you cope with 'minute by minute' stress?

Victoria, he's almost 17. I do indeed prioritise our safety. He is rarely violent towards us (tho I have a lot of holes in walls and doors) and each time I have made a 999 call. His dad has seen him once or twice in the past 4-5 years. He left the country when the CSA made an attachment of earnings order in him and now lives abroad. Which is of course part of the problem.

teapot5 Mon 26-Mar-12 13:09:48

Hi Flow, it's so tense at home. Even when I'm not at home I'm preoccupied, can't switch off. I know it's bad. I guess lack of sleep and thinking over and over make it worse, and that exhausition shows and creates tension even more. I was sort of coping unil last week. But a huge workload at the moment and feeling frustrated that I can't do as well as I could have done..
Anyway I need to de-clutter my mind, make a space there. As I'm writing I can see the blue sky from the window. So in a minute I will go outside and get fresh air!!

Maryz Mon 26-Mar-12 13:18:56

Can I make a suggestion to you lot?

Something I used to do when ds was at his worst was to keep a diary and write down the awful things he did (late home, lost temper, violence, theft, loads of stuff).

But I also wrote down the good things (maybe not good but not-so-bad). So I would write down if he went to work, said good morning (!), came in sober, put out his clothes for washing, replied to a text: as many little things as I could think that were positive.

At the end of a few months I realised that although it seemed like we lived in a battle zone, in fact when I looked back we only had really bad incidences a couple of times a week at worst, and we had many "calm" days.

But because I was always on tenterhooks, expecting an explosion, I couldn't relax at all, ever. Once I realised, I found myself much better able to only react to the disasters, not be constantly reacting to the "might happens".

If that makes sense.

teapot5 Mon 26-Mar-12 16:41:13

Thanks, Maryz. Your advice did really make sense. If you put that way yes, there are positive things. This morning DD got herself up, had breakfast, said 'thanks' for the lift. Of course negative attitude outweighs the positives but need to focus on the positives, yeah?

christinecagney Mon 26-Mar-12 21:15:17

Maryz that's such good advice. I was just thinking about last week and actually he emptied the dishwasher (once) played with his brother nicely (once!), and didn't miss the bus to college every day, only once. I'd forgotten that he did these things which are really bloody excellent for him .l

Maryz Mon 26-Mar-12 21:43:21

There you are smile.

And you know, if you can change your attitude of expecting the worst, then sometimes you can really enjoy the best of them, without the constant draining fear.

Of course it's much easier to say than do, but I found over time I got quite good at blocking out thoughts, and saying "what will be will be" type mantras to myself.

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