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Am I worrying too much???

(41 Posts)
overthehill Sun 16-Jun-13 00:19:24

My 14-y-o ds has had issues with bedtime for several years but over the last couple of months things have gone from bad to worse. He is very attached to his 90-y-o grandma, probably to the point of "anxious attachment", to use a technical term. She had a fall nearly ten weeks ago, sustaining a bad fracture and ending up in hospital, and she's now in a rehab unit. He visits her twice a day if he can, when we were away recently he phoned her every night and he's saying he doesn't want to go on a school trip abroad next month (which he's been looking forward to for months) as he won't be able to speak to her every day.

Ever since she's been ill he's refused to go to bed at any kind of sensible time and most nights I find him sitting in the dark wrapped in his towel after showering and staring into space. He very often falls asleep in the chair, at c.2 or 3am, and it's virtually impossible to get him going in the mornings, with the result that he's late to school virtually every day. He also has activities on Sat and Sun am's (for which he's also nearly always late) so doesn't get the chance of a lie in, and he refuses to give these up.

He's gone into overdrive with physical activities, going for late-night runs or swimming multiple lengths at the local pool, but he's not eating properly either and has gone from being chunky to being stick-thin.

He says he doesn't care about looking after himself and almost seems to want to suffer so that he can empathise with her, and he says that he'll be all right when Grandma gets better - but that might not happen. I think he's depressed and he kind of admits it, but he refuses any outside help, saying that he can deal with it.

During the day he carries on just about as normal in spite of being desperately tired so h reckons I'm catastrophising and that the problem's in my head. However, h always goes to bed soon after 10 so just doesn't see what goes on - and to my mind just buries his head in the sand, a long-standing problem. I'm terrified that if ds is this bad ATM when she's making progress, albeit very slow, he won't cope at all if/when the worst happens as he doesn't appear to be able to cope without his grandma.

Is this just over-dramatization or should I be pushing for some help??

ITCouldBeWorse Sun 16-Jun-13 00:21:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NatashaBee Sun 16-Jun-13 00:30:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

overthehill Sun 16-Jun-13 00:41:58

H doesn't think GP would refer to CAMHS as he doesn't believe ds is that bad and ds says he wouldn't go anyway, so that makes me quite reluctant to go to the GP - although I'm getting increasingly desperate and feel I must do something.

flow4 Sun 16-Jun-13 01:15:30

I'd be worried too.

I don't usually approve of guilt-tripping, but this might be a moment to try a bit of it. Could you perhaps ask him to think about how his grandma would feel if he got ill? Perhaps point out that she would be very upset, and really unhappy to think he was making himself ill on her account. Also point out that his current behaviour inevitably means that you have to turn your attention to him, whereas if he was fit and well, you could give grandma the attention she deserves. Tell him he needs to look after himself so that he can support you to look after grandma... Being healthy is the best thing he can do to show his love for her.

cory Sun 16-Jun-13 09:55:10

Was going to say the same as flow: point out that you can only help the people you care for if you look after yourself and that any illness of his will affect his grandma both directly and indirectly.

overthehill Sun 16-Jun-13 17:19:11

Hi, Cory and Flow, thanks for your suggestions, I really appreciate your taking the trouble to post. However, I have tried to take this tack with him but I'm afraid I've got nowhere as he thinks he's invincible and not going to get ill so he just won't listen. He also accuses me to trying to make him feel guilty... Will keep trying, though.

Last night he fell asleep in his chair yet again before he'd even gone in the shower, and when I went in (at about 1.15am) I had a terrible job waking him up to get him to change into his PJs and get into bed. However, he was so tired that for about the first time ever he didn't insist on having a shower, so this small thing felt like something of a triumph. Pathetic really. Today we've gone to see Grandma and she's had yet another fall (only a minor one) so he'll be even worse. I feel so stressed and churned up inside, it's dreadful.

rusticlanguage Sun 16-Jun-13 19:13:05

You are certainly not over-dramatising, the strength of his attachment is quite unusual and I would be very worried about this behaviour if it was my ds. You really need to talk to someone or you will become ill with the stress. GP seems a good place to start and since he has agreed that he has a problem (even if he says he doesn't want any help) that at least gives you a starting point to make progress.

As you observed above, gran might well not recover and even if she does it might be only temporary - at some point he is going to have to deal with losing her and he needs help now to start learning how to do that.

Have you got a sympathetic GP?

MuchBrighterNow Sun 16-Jun-13 19:19:02

Oh dear, he sounds terribly anxious and fearful.

Seeing someone he loves get old and ill must have made him feel very frightened and powerless hence the exercising, not eating, not sleeping etc. He's trying to take control of the things he can.

I think you are right, he needs help. Some counselling would help him clarify and understand his emotions and feelings around his grandmother's old age and injury and help him accept that old age and death are a natural part of a life well lived.

If he wont see a counsellor could you perhaps get him to write a diary about how he's feeling.

overthehill Sun 16-Jun-13 23:06:29

It's a bit complicated with our GP surgery: we are at the same practice as my mother and I had a shouting match with our registered GP a few months agoblush because he refused to prescribe blister packs for my mum (to ensure she took the right medication) as he wouldn't believe she was confused (which she was extremely at the time).

My mum's GP refused to come and see her when she had her fall but diagnosed her over the phone(!) as fine, and I was the one who had to arrange for her to go to A&E when I called in after work. Unbeknown to me, ds had spent all afternoon with her (it was over the Easter holidays) and was quite traumatised, but I thought she was fine after what the GP had said and hadn't been at all worried. So as you can imagine I'm not too happy with my mum's GP either.

There are two female GPs with whom I've not fallen out so perhaps I should try and see one of them. However, the fact that neither ds nor (d)h is on board makes it seem more difficult to do so - even if I hadn't had issues with the surgery.

Rustic-language, you're so right about my mental health: I'm permanently on an ultra-short fuse and really struggling to keep on top of work and everything else.

I just feel so alone with all this, hence the original question of whether I was over-reacting, and it's interesting that no-one on here agrees with my h.

rusticlanguage Sun 16-Jun-13 23:42:56

Yes, sounds like your H is just trying to ignore and make it go away but that is no help to you or ds. I would start with either of the GP's that you feel ok about and see what happens - you need to take action of some sort, that helpless bottled-up feeling is very destructive.

If the GP is no help perhaps you can talk to the school and access cahms through them - maybe there is a particular member of staff he would listen to? I personally wouldn't try guilt-tripping or coercing him - it's such a delicate area and is only increasing your stress and likely to encourage him to put up walls against you.

Your H really needs to support you more or at the least not undermine you by trying to second-guess what CAMHS would say when he really has no idea.

overthehill Mon 17-Jun-13 00:22:36

Have just had a session with ds and he said he knows he's getting worse but he doesn't care about feeling bad, he doesn't want any help and he doesn't know how to help himself. I've written h a pleading note to take me seriously as ds says that dad doesn't think I need help and he ought to know (well, he's right as, guess what? he's a counsellor). Ds suggested I should go to the GP to get help for myself (not for him as he's refusing and they can't make him accept help) and I think he's probably right. When I was talking to him just now I was overcome by a sense of panic and I honestly feel I'm about to have a breakdown (which of course would only make things worse). Oh dear, what a mess.

Have suggested to ds that school may be able to help (and he even recently had the courage to talk to a teacher on behalf of a friend who had poured out their troubles to him on Facebook so it was obvious they needed help - although they said they didn't want it). I reminded him of how he'd helped this friend but again he repeated that no-one could help him. Without meaning to sound over-dramatic, it chills me to the marrow to hear the way he talks - although I know that teenagers' hormones are all over the place so it's more normal for them to be extreme.

overthehill Mon 17-Jun-13 00:23:45

Signing off now as need to try once again to persuade him to get in the shower, but thanks to all those who have offered words of wisdom. xx

ripsishere Mon 17-Jun-13 02:42:40

Very late to be showering. Couldn't he do it in the morning or every other day?
Good luck with the rest of it. It sounds draining.

claraschu Mon 17-Jun-13 03:33:27

This sounds like a very upsetting and worrying situation, and I think you are right to be doing your best to get help for your son.

I don't want to say anything to upset you more, but you seem quite obsessed with showering at night; is it possible that you have some issues with control yourself? I think you should find a councillor to help you, even if your son refuses to talk- you could get advice in dealing with your son's troubles, and also make sure you are staying ok yourself.

cory Mon 17-Jun-13 08:28:01

Have been in slightly similar situation and now have a dd whose life has been changed round by counselling and medication: she is eating properly, having a real social life and is looking forward to going to college, having just sat her GCSE's after 2 years of school refusal and a couple of suicide attempts.

I found what helped me (not saying it would work for everyone) was staying terribly matter-of-fact and (outwardly) calm. Just keeping reinforcing that it is the illness that makes her feel she doesn't want to be helped, that she can get help and that once she gets control of her illness she won't feel that way.

A large part of her resistance (and she has admitted this) came from the feeling that if she got better she would be expected to deal with things. Like when you've had an operation and you're a bit nervous to tell the doctor that you're feeling better in case they'll send you straight home. Depression was a kind of safety blanket, but because she was depressed she couldn't see that if she wasn't depressed she wouldn't need a safety blanket. Iyswim.

As for the guilt tripping that cuts both ways- doesn't it? He is also trying to guilt trip you by accusing you of guilt tripping him. If you are the kind of honourable straightforward parent you probably are, then you will be very sensitive to that kind of argument, and he knows you well enough to realise it's a sureproof way of putting a stop to anything unpleasant. Don't fall for it. You can answer: "No, pointing out the obvious is not guilt tripping". Or: "Yes, I am trying to guilt trip you, because I care about you and your grandma." Either will do as long as you stay calm and don't act guilty.

I was quite surprised when our family therapist pointed out that we were all walking on eggshells around dd and failing to protect our own interests, because we were so afraid of making her feel guilty. But he was right. Because she doesn't have anger issues and nobody is afraid of her in that sense, it hadn't occurred to us that in another sense we were afraid: afraid of making her feel bad, afraid of letting her see how much her problems were impacting on the rest of us.

Because of our horrendous fear of making her feel guilty, we were living in a permanent state of guilt.

We haven't started shouting at her or being nasty to her as a result. We're quite nice really. smile But we have perhaps become that little bit more assertive, that little bit more inclined to point out our own needs too.

cory Mon 17-Jun-13 08:41:21

sorry, more to add to mega-post:

One thing that often puts young people off counselling ime is that they have no idea what it is like.

If they have read oldfashioned books or watched films, they are likely to think they will have to lie on a couch and spill their innermost secrets and lay bare the depths of their soul to some kind of Freudian character in a white coat. Which is a prospect most of us would recoil from.

It might help if you could outline the kind of service he would probably get:

There would be some kind of booking-in meeting where he would have to explain what the problem is. You would not be present for most of this, though you might be invited in for 10 minutes at the start or at the end. This would be his time for explaining how his life is impacted.

The whole thing will be about handing over control to him.

They would then discuss possible approaches with him.

They would probably not go straight to medication: he is very young and there are only so many types you can prescribe for an under-15-yo.

Instead they would probably arrange weekly or fortnightly sessions where they would be discussing various types of relaxation and CBT techniques. So basically techniques for controlling his own thought patterns and not letting the negative stuff take over.

He would be testing those between sessions to see what works for him. He would probably also be encouraged to keep a diary over his moods to see if there are any specific triggers.

The whole treatment would be about giving him control over his thoughts.

It probably wouldn't be a quick fix, but over a period of time he should see an improvement. If they find after a while that he is too far gone to access the programme, they may discuss medication: if so, this will be something discussed between the three (4?) of you, but he will still have an input.

flow4 Mon 17-Jun-13 09:28:14

clara, I read the OP's post differently: I think she was trying to hurry him into the shower because he insists on one before bed and it was already after midnight, rather than that she was insisting he had one.

That said over, I think you may need to back off. This is going to sound contradictory, so before I explain, I will repeat that your son's behaviour does sound worrying, and I would also be concerned.

However, one of the very most difficulty parts of parenting a teenager is that at some point you have to confront and accept your own powerlessness.

When they're little, you generally get to decide what they do. When they're adults, you obviously don't, even if you can see they're making terrible mistakes. Somewhere in between, you have to make the transition from one to the other, and that often seems to start when boys are about 14.

Lots of kids fight and rebel, which is a nightmare at the time, but effectively 'helps' this process, as they become more independent and you give up control. It struck me that lots of parents fight to get their 14 yos into bed before 2am (I know I did!), and to eat properly, etc... But they tend to be noisier battles, somehow - more 'in yer face' than your DS is being...

Because of the circumstances, it's very hard (for you, him, and us) to separate out what might be 'normal rebellion', from what is worrying... It sounds like your son is involved in a different kind of 'rebellion' from most teens (a more passive-aggressive one perhaps?) - but a battle with you none-the-less...

So, I reckon it's worth trying to remove yourself from the battle, because that will show you which bits are about a struggle for independence. If you stop exerting control over him, even just for a bit, then you will see what he can control for himself, and what he can't.

So, if I were you, I would try a new tactic... I would say quite straightforwardly to him "OK, I can see you think you know what you are doing. I'll back off and give you a chance to prove to me that you're responsible enough to look after yourself without me hassling you. I'll back off for a week, and if it works, and you don't get ill, and you get to school and continue to do ok, and you still do your chores/sports/whatever, then I'll stay backed off. I am still worried about your health, because I know from experience that not eating and sleeping properly makes people ill, so if I think your physical or mental health is at risk, I'll step back in... but if you stay healthy, I'll let you make your own decisions... So, I'm going to stop chasing you to go to bed: when you go is up to you, and if you're late for school, you'll need to deal with that. I'll stop chasing you into the shower, but I don't want to be woken in the middle of the night, so if you haven't had one by X o'clock, you'll have to leave it til the morning... And I'll leave it up to you what you eat/how you exercise/etc... Is there anything else you'd like me to back off from..."

This is very different from 'giving up' on him; this is not you 'doing nothing': this is giving him a chance to prove he can take responsibility for himself, since he's showing you very clearly he doesn't want you to control him.

Of course I might be wrong. Of course you know your son better than me. But it seems worth a try. And your DS and dh are right: if your DS doesn't want counselling, then you can't make him have it, so your options are v limited.

These years can be hugely stressful, and it sounds like you're feeling the strain already. I echo the advice to get some counselling for yourself, and to look after yourself in other ways. I'd emphasise the importance of this, in your particular situation, where you are worried specifically about your son looking after himself, because you need to be sure to 'show him how it's done', rather than unintentionally showing him self-neglect.

Blimey, sorry, that's a bit of an epic! I hope at least some of it makes sense and is useful... smile

cory Mon 17-Jun-13 10:09:26

flow's suggestion does sound like it could be a good starting point

if it is more about teen rebellion, giving him back control might go a long way to solving the problem

if it is genuine depression, it won't make any difference- but then at least you will know

(when I let dd stay in bed, she just stayed in bed and deteriorated- ad infinitum)

and even if it is genuine depression, the solutions will still be about handing control over to him

cory Mon 17-Jun-13 10:21:17

Thinking about it, one of the most disheartening things about parenting is that state of not knowing what is causing the behaviour. Not knowing whether it is:

teen rebellion (which can take the most bizarre forms)

something purely physical (in one case I knew of, extreme disengagement and lack of selfcare turned out to be caused by a thyroid problem- clearly never going to yield to either CBT or changed parenting)


You have to take the risk of making mistakes.

rusticlanguage Mon 17-Jun-13 14:04:29

Thinking about it over you are dealing with three of life's biggest problems here - coping with the failing health of an elderly parent, trying to understand and adapt to a teenaged child and, if I'm reading between the lines correctly, living with an unsupportive, unsympathetic partner (very sad to hear he is a counsellor and yet so little help).

That is a hell of a lot for any one person to have on their plate and I feel for you. You should certainly benefit from getting help for yourself, it would be good start.

I really feel for your ds as well - I have a son the same age and would hate to see him in a similar state. Your instinct is telling you that things are getting very serious and you should follow that.

Can you bypass ds and speak to the teacher that he dealt with on fb, tell him how worried you are and ask if he can talk to ds about cahms?

flow4 Mon 17-Jun-13 16:28:05

I agree with almost everything rustic says, certainly about the major challenges you are facing... But I'd caution against seeing CAMHS as the solution. Many parents here, me included, will tell you that they fought and fought for a CAMHS referral, because they knew there was something wrong with their child's mental health, only to be told that their child did not reach the threshold for support. Or that their child refused to be seen, and CAMHS therefore withdrew.

A CAMHS referral is worth asking for, but I think it's really important to have other options too.

flow4 Mon 17-Jun-13 16:28:49

I should have said I'd caution against seeing CAMHS as the sole solution.

overthehill Mon 17-Jun-13 18:49:08

Dear kind folks, thanks for your replies, it really helps and I know there are some very wise people on here, so I'll read them over again slowly to absorb them, having returned from work. I've had an awful feeling of foreboding in the pit of my stomach all day and really need to do something to stop myself cracking up.

Had an e-mail from ds's teacher forwarded by dh today saying basically that he was out of control in school, constantly getting into trouble, on report and failing to get his report card filled in a lot of the time. I e-mailed back to say that I was happy to go into the school to discuss his behaviour but I believed that they needed to look at the whole picture and recognise - as I have already said on about 3 occasions to his form tutor - that ATM he is a very unhappy individual. I therefore asked that there should be a member of the pastoral team at the meeting.

This e-mail appears to have been ignored - or maybe the teacher is consulting his senior colleagues, I don't know.

Dh was with ds when I came in from work today and we tried to talk to him about school, but he just rubbished the whole thing. I then repeated that I felt he needed some help but he got quite angry and threatened to go straight out, repeating that he didn't need any help and wouldn't listen. He's now gone out to see his Grandma.

I do realise that he's not going to accept counselling until he's ready for it - and I think this would be the same even if he did understand what it entailed - so I think I'll just have to grit my teeth and try and back off.
I shall try and appear more matter-of-fact about things - but it's so hard. I guess that if I had some support for myself that might be the first stage as I just feel so low.

It doesn't help that we've had a lot of deaths recently: last week a friend of the family with 3 young kids, a couple of months ago another friend with 4 kids and last year a family friend who was like an auntie to the children. To cap it all, I went to see my mum this afternoon and she told me that she thought she was depressed; I told her to join the club!

Oh and the thing about showering at bedtime: he's the one who insists on having the shower, whatever silly time of the night it might be, and he won't take any notice if I try and stop him.

rusticlanguage Mon 17-Jun-13 18:51:21

Good point flow but I suppose at the moment the OP just needs to take some action and deal with the outcome as it happens. I agree with your comment above that by taking positive action for herself the OP might show the way for her ds. It's the feeling of not being able to make any positive changes that can really break you down.

Ds has admitted he has a problem and that it's worsening - in a way that is quite positive. The fact that he goes on to say he doesn't want help sounds very much like he's emulating his friend who said the same thing - to me that's the little child in them who wants someone to overrule and get help because they can't allow themselves to accept it. Hope that's not too garbled!

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