Am I worrying too much???(41 Posts)
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??
Palika, when I first read your post at 23.45 I was despairing as he'd not had tea tonight and was still refusing to have anything (we had only come back from his grandma's at 11pm), but then he finally came downstairs and, after saying the usual: "Don't give me very much" actually said it was nice and had second helpings followed by a pudding. Not ideal at gone midnight but better than not eating, I guess! Ironical because a couple of years ago he used to eat far too much, was overweight and I was always on at him to eat less: you can't win with children, can you??
Before reading halfway through your post (at the beginning) I thought that sounds like me before I became anorectic and bingo! you said he stopped eating and had become stickthin. Watch out for the eating disorder because this seems to be worst in your post.
I have not read the whole thread and wish things will get better again for you and DS
I'll keep my fingers crossed for you, your DS and grandma
Thanks for asking, flow. A glimmer of hope I think as she saw him for half an hour and has booked two further appts to see him, which he won't mind as he'll be missing lessons! Although she didn't get very far really, she said he seemed quite down, but when he talked about his grandma a smile lit up his face. Awww! She said that there is the option of referring him on to a primary mental health worker who comes into school, and they also have a close link with Cruse, who also send in counsellors to help kids look at bereavement issues. Of course, he may very well refuse to take things any further but it seems like progress and is at least a start.
Meanwhile his grandma has just been discharged home so a lot rests on how she gets on over the next week or so....
And meanwhile I've had a message from the pastoral person at school to say that she's had a chat with ds and would like to speak to me (she's not in again until Thurs, though, which is a bit frustrating). I asked ds about this chat and he was very non-committal so I guess he didn't disclose much/anything, but she obviously feels it's worth ringing me to discuss.
over, that all sounds positive - like you are ready for counselling and will benefit from it. I think you will probably find it makes a big difference. It's totally understandable for you to worry about suicide under the circumstances, but hopefully counselling can help you manage that fear without it disabling you.
Mindfulmum, thanks for your helpful post. The fact that dh is a counsellor yet seems to bury his head in the sand makes me really angry, which of course exacerbates the situation. I have told the school about some of ds's behaviour, but that annoys dh as he doesn't think they need to know. This also makes me angry (in truth I'm a very person!) and ds is very like me in lots of ways, whereas dh represses his feelings.
Re taking a break and leaving dh to it: TBH I don't think I trust him enough: half the time he seems oblivious to what's going on and my vivid imagination would have ds drowning in the river or hanging from his high bed without dh even having noticed that anything was amiss! Oh dear, that sentence shows my fears and why I need counselling - but I have two friends whose children have committed suicide and they always come into my head when things are bad.
A couple of vaguely hopeful developments last night: I tried to be calmer and more matter-of-fact with ds and he eventually stopped grunting inaudible monosyllables and actually spoke, then he seemed faintly interested when I told him I was going to try and access some counselling for myself. And also dh did respond a bit better to my written note the other night: he's been depressed in the past and IMHO his way of preventing that happening again is just to shut out emotions.
I found counselling through work really helpful because it gave me a safe place to sort out my own feelings and see more clearly what I could do something about and what I couldn't.
As for what would work or not work for your ds- the truth is we never know that until afterwards.
Some teens genuinely do benefit from somebody stepping in and saying "look here, I am not going to stand by and watch you destroy yourself, you are getting into that car now". Some teens don't even particularly mind if it's a parent.
But other teens most emphatically do mind and the same thing that does good in a different case might end up doing harm by driving a wedge between you. Your ds does sound as if rebelliousness is part of his particular packet. If it's a control issue, then taking more control over him won't help him.
In any case, looking after yourself can never do any harm and it might help you get that little bit of extra perspective that we all need.
It's easily done. We're often so focused on looking after our DCs that we forget to look after ourselves. Accessing counselling thru work sounds like a good idea.
Yes, that's a very good point, flow4, as I'm not good at looking after myself so he doesn't exactly have a great role model. Might check whether I can get counselling via work as I think this could be quicker than GP. Thanks again for your support.
over, ask the GP for some counselling yourself, and make sure DS knows you have. Talk about how you believe it's helpful for dealing with stress and difficult emotions, and for heading things off before they become a problem. Arrange some fun things for yourself to do - exercise, time out with friends, something creative, and/or something that will make you laugh - and make sure DS knows you think looking after yourself is important...
Flow4, I agree with what you say about CAMHS, and dh says he doesn't think ds would qualify for support. Rusticlanguage, I tired to repeat to dh what ds had said about not being able to help himself and about being OK about feeling down but he denied he'd ever said it... I thought that trying to force help on him might work, as it seemed to for his friend, but maybe it only has a chance of working if it's a peer who asks for the support - and he won't talk to his friends about his feelings.
x-post with you over. Given what's going on at school, I would definitely second going in for a meeting and bringing someone in from the pastoral side - all your ds' actions seem to be a pretty loud cry for help.
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!
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.
I should have said I'd caution against seeing CAMHS as the sole solution.
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.
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?
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.
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
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...
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.
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