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Help me help by depressed, anxious, self-harming teen

(28 Posts)
GreenMouse Fri 15-Jul-16 21:26:22

Sorry this is very long.

My teenager (15, year 10) has been self-harming for the past couple of years. He’s also suffering from panic attacks and anxiety (which is being controlled to an extent with propanolol). We’ve had a lot of interventions from CAMHS, including 1-to-1 counselling, group sessions, family therapy, and awaiting a referral for DBT. We’re also waiting for an appointment at the Tavistock and Portland gender clinic as he’s transgender (this is fairly recent, he was born a girl and came out to me last summer, to everyone else last December) but there is a long waiting list and the appointment is not likely to be until November. He’s also getting a lot of support from the school counsellor.

He hates going to school, which is a shame as he’s really clever and capable academically (although like many teens I guess, lazy as well). His attendance this year has been quite bad, between all the appointments we’ve got to attend which always seem to be during the school day, various illnesses, regular migraines (now under control) and the days when he just won’t go to school. When this happens I try to persuade him to go, sometimes it works, other times not, and there really isn’t much I can do as I can’t physically force him, even if I wanted to (he’s taller and stronger than me). He’s always struggled with friendships, he’s finally found one best friend but has hardly any contact with anyone else from school. I should add that he’s at a girls’ school, who I can’t fault when it comes to dealing with the gender issue, they have been great.

He has a very bad relationship with his father, actually none at all as he has chosen to no longer have any contact (long story). No siblings or stepparent.

He doesn’t seem to enjoy anything anymore and spends his free time sleeping or on his phone/laptop. He has been given “skill to increase positive feelings” by CAMHS but says they don’t work for him.

Today was a bad day. He self-harmed at school for the first time and cried in front of his head of year (he rarely cries, and certainly not in front of teachers). When he got home I attempted a conversation about his feelings, but as usual it ended with him refusing to engage. It’s either that or we end up arguing. He’s very all-or-nothing. He no longer takes any pleasure from things that he used to love, for instance playing the piano. He’s no virtuoso but he’s very musical and used to love playing the piano. Now, he’s so self critical, says he’s crap at it (not true), doesn’t practice anymore, compares himself to others constantly (friend X who’s been playing 3 weeks and is a grade 8, you get the idea...). To me it looks as if he’s depressed but CAMHS are saying it’s not depression, it’s low moods. What do I know.

I think maybe I have been too soft lately, as he'd been really ill and I eased up on some stuff like chores, but we don't seem to have gone back to normal. I recently allowed him his laptop/phone in his bedroom during the day (he has to bring them downstairs at bedtime), with the result that I hardly see him at all anymore as he disappears upstairs as soon as he's home, and I have been lax in enforcing things like piano practice and bedtime even. So this is my plan of action:

1.Strict 10pm bedtime during the week (relaxed at weekends)

2.I will change the wifi password every day and he can have it when he has done his chores (emptying the dishwasher, feeding the cat, walking the dog for at least 30 minutes), practiced the piano for at least 20 minutes and done something else creative for at least 15 minutes (I don’t care what, writing, drawing, painting, knitting, as long as it doesn’t involve a screen).

I’m not mentioning homework as it’s nearly the holidays but next year is GCSE year so from September the above list will also include homework and revision.

Does that seem OK, or is it too harsh? Too lax? It’s hard to tell.

Sorry for the mammoth post, I didn’t want to leave anything relevant out (I could have put loads more though), well done if you’ve made it this far flowers

It’s been really helfpful actually to put everything on paper, it’s made me see things a lot more clearly but if anyone has anything to say please do. I’ll welcome any input.

GreenMouse Sat 16-Jul-16 08:33:32

I'd like it if someone replied,,,

AdelindSchade Sat 16-Jul-16 08:46:24

I think it's a good idea to be doing something other than laying in bed on the lap top. But trying to impose it at 15 may not be to easy? I don't have teenagers so bumping for someone who does. A lot going going on there I feel for you. flowers

Stopmakingsense Sat 16-Jul-16 10:46:47

Lack of motivation - real sign of depression, could you go back to your GP?

GreenMouse Sat 16-Jul-16 11:43:16

Thanks both for replying. I know he's not going to be over the moon with this new regime, but he'll have to accept it if he wants to be able to go online as he uses up his data allowance really fast (it's already all gone this month!)
We've been to the GP several time and there isn't anything they can do pther than send us back to CAMHS, who say "it's not depression it's low moods". I'm feeling really unsupported by them and that they're letting DS down.

GreenMouse Sat 16-Jul-16 11:44:06


GreenMouse Sat 16-Jul-16 11:45:26

Damn didn't mean to do that, I was trying to correct the spelling mistakes in my previous post!

Stopmakingsense Sat 16-Jul-16 12:12:14

Yes it sounds like you are being let down. Could you manage to fund some counselling privately? From someone with experience of adolescent mental health / clinical psychologist?

GreenMouse Sat 16-Jul-16 16:54:09

Well it'd be a stretch but I think I'm going to have to. Where do I find one of those though? We need to make sure we find the right one, that he has a good rapport with.

freetrampolineforall Sat 16-Jul-16 16:58:13

Wifi plan sounds sensible but don't forget that depending on what if any mobile phone he has he can create his own wifi hotspot as it were using mobile data. Or using some one else's. Good luck. brew

Cowboyjoefrommexico Sat 16-Jul-16 23:30:20

Sounds very similar to what I've been through with 15yo. Was convinced they were a trans male and had many appointments at Tavistock and now have decided they are non binary instead. Doesn't go to school after two years of patchy attendance with anxiety, aspergers diagnosed this year. Extremely clever and CAMHS haven't been a lot of help. They try to give us the tools but 15yo won't use them. I can't offer any advice, just empathy!

t875 Sat 16-Jul-16 23:41:37

Have you looked at his computer / social media!!? Is he being bullied?
Are his friends ok
My dd went through anxiety and low moods - we along with her have got her to use cbt - no black and white think / fortune tell/ over think - try think positive that sort of thing.
What does he like doing? Is there a sport or an interest he could get into? I think it builds on their confidence. Our dd got into baking which has done wonders for her self esteem as she's good at it.
I know it's good for them to have Space but we found our dd would go within herself in her room.
Get together as family / play games get him out with his friend or have the friend to yours.
Good luck hope you turn a corner ASAP. X

chocolateworshipper Sun 17-Jul-16 17:57:19

My DD self-harmed in Y10 and CAHMS were utterly, utterly useless. If you can afford it at all, I strongly recommend going private. We went private and I honestly believe it's the only reason she's still with us. Find a therapist that is a member of the BACP and who also deals with adolescents (the one we found works with children from the age of 11). I wish you the very best of luck

GreenMouse Mon 18-Jul-16 00:23:33

Thank you all. I'm looking into private therapists in our area, I've found a few that look promising, hopefully he will click with one of them.

We had a long chat tonight and he is so, so sad, it breaks my heart. He is not bullied at school, I do monitor his social media, but he has a lot of issues with friendships. He has one close friend but doesn't really get on with the others in the friendship group. He thinks people find him weird and he always has to be the one making the one to make the first step to message people or suggest doing something. There's been a couple of occasions where everyone in the group has been invited except him.

I've told him about the new regime I'm implementing and he agreed it was a good idea. He told me I should have been stricter with him! In the past he always complained I was to strict and everyone but him was allowed to do such and such... You never can get it right as a parent can you?

freetrampolineforall Mon 18-Jul-16 10:39:35

Well done OP. He's very lucky to have you on his side. Does he have any creative outlets for putting all his feelings into? Best wishes.

t875 Mon 18-Jul-16 18:09:54

Is there anything he's good at loves to do!?
He sounds like he's got to build up his self esteem / confidence
Poor thing. Do feel for you. My dd has been through this. Feel free to pm.
Hugs to you. So very very hard. Good luck with the private councilling.
Also young minds are very good they will also call you back for a one to one chat with a councillor. They had great advise.
Look them up on their website Hun x

GreenMouse Mon 18-Jul-16 21:24:22

Yes he has creative outlets but one of my worries is that he's not taking any pleasure from any of them.

I'll have a look at young minds, thanks for the tip.

And thanks a lot for the good wishes, it means a lot

t875 Mon 18-Jul-16 23:20:23

No problem Hun.
Let us know what young minds say.
With the outlets he likes baby steps first of all. Just get him doing it
Maybe he could change his room round or decorate it. Or get involved with any projects for the house? Is there any cousins he could see of old junior school mates? Or a 1-1 visit to cinema?
What sort of thing does he like green mouse

GreenMouse Tue 19-Jul-16 00:34:02

He is loves music and film, he wants to work in the film industry, he likes writing and drawing. Today he's done his piano practice and chores without much complaint and did some colouring (we have lots of those colouring books for adults, I like doing it too). He's also working on arranging a song for his choir and spends a lot of time on this but unfortunate that involves being hunched over his laptop... He's already done one and I'm very proud of him for doing this.

His bedroom was decorated not long ago and he likes it, although it could do with a good tidy up!

Next month he's going away to my parents', he'll see his cousins and step cousins and the rest of the family that we don't see very often as they live abroad. I hope the change of scenery and being a bit spoiled by his grandparents will do him good. Plus I'll get a break which I really need!

Before he goes and after school breaks up we've planned a day out in London to see an exhibition and have a look around the new Tate Modern extension. I've invited one of his friends to come with us, we're waiting to hear if she can.

I'm also planning to take him shopping for clothes and silly bits from Tiger.

t875 Wed 20-Jul-16 10:54:15

Sounds like nothing more can be done. Hopefully just time will heal. My daughter still gets anxiety on and off and the dark clouds but not as much as they we're.
You sound so incredibly supportive.
My daughter is into art too. smile

GreenMouse Wed 20-Jul-16 11:54:02

Thanks t875.

I managed to get through to Young Minds' Parents helpline this morning and I feel a bit more hopeful. They're getting a professional health worker (someone involved with CAMHS) to call me within 7 days. Specifically they've advised me to ask for some advice on how to approach CAMHS in a non-confrontational way and what words to use.

They've also given me some useful links to look at for free counselling as well as advising me on where to look for a private counsellor. I'm going to call a few and see if we can get an introductory session.

It's the last day at school today so hopefully DS will start feeling a bit better...

t875 Wed 20-Jul-16 15:59:59

That's great young minds were so helpful. I had a lady call me back too and she was massively helpful. Spoke to me more about anxiety and I thought I understood it but there was parts which were helpful.

What was the free online counciling you were saying about? Obviously if it's in your area don't disclose, just wondering if it was standard help online x

GreenMouse Thu 21-Jul-16 15:19:26

The free online counselling sites that were mentioned were Kooth, and, but these last two redirect to The Mix so I guess there must have been some kind of re-organisation. Relate was also mentionned as being useful.

Anyway I had a call back from Young Minds and had a long chat with a clinician, which was good. She advised me on how to approach CAMHS with concerns: to be specific about what is worrying me, to ask why they think my son is not depressed, to ask for a second opinion, and if still not happy, to approach the manager.

It was good that she called today because we have an appointment at CAMHS tomorrow, so that was good timing.

Tanaqui Thu 21-Jul-16 15:29:09

Um... This may not help, but I know a girl, at a girls school, one of whose friends has transitioned (ftm). She is 14- there have been issues with this boy feeling left out, for example from a clothes shopping trip- however the girls didn't feel it right to invite him to go to Victoria's Secret etc! Think there was also a pamper party a while ago he wasn't invited too- however, if it was a mixed school, it would be obvious that the boys aren't generally invited to these things, so it may be worth discussing that with your son, as he may have little experience of typical boy/ girl friendships. It could be a positive for him, as it suggests the girls are thinking of him as they would any boy?

GreenMouse Thu 21-Jul-16 17:41:22

Yes that's a possibility Tanaqui, although the invitations were not for particularly girly things. Also he is in a girls' school, so no other boys to "dilute" the non invitation, if that makes sense. The thought crossed my mind that the parents might have a problem, but I hadn't thought of this angle. I'll mention it if it comes up again, thanks.

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