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Helping my son with depression

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  • #397375
    Jo
    Participant

    Hello, I’ve just joined this forum looking for advice and connection. I’ve been living alone as a divorced mum for 7 years and my son has been at university. He’s 22. After failing his 2nd year he took a year out which also coincided with the start of Covid pandemic. I supported him with that and said I’d always help and told him how much I loved him.  I have some contact with his dad for my son’s sake but I do struggle with how insensitive his dad is.  My son was living with his friends at university whilst he took the year off. He declined to get a job and wanted a break bit enjoyed the social life. He probably had a ball to be honest but think he also felt a bit guilty.

    He said he wanted to go back to university and finish his final year although there were concerns that he shared that his friends had moved on and that he would be in halls with no one he knew.  After the first month’s he started coming home and seemed really quiet. As time progresses I could tell something was wrong but he didn’t open up. I started visit regularly when I noticed he wasnt looking after himself. Not eating, cleaning his bathroom and he looked terrible. I tried to intervene but he got angry with me.  One night at 2am I got a call from him. He was very distressed to say he needed me to come. He said he had been covering things up. He said he was lonely and sad. He hadn’t left his room properly or even his bed. He wasn’t doing his course work. He didn’t enjoy doing anything anymore. He wanted to leave university. I immediately collected him and that was 6 weeks ago. With my reassurance he’s contacted the doctors and a therapist. They suggested he had social anxiety and depression. Now he’s at home I’m make sure he gets up every day and showers most days. He comes to the shop with me and helps around the home and little things like that. He doesn’t have any friends locally and struggles to talk or engage with anyone. He had close friends at university but he didn’t stay in touch. I even contacted some of them and they said he never answers their messages and they tried to keep connection going but my son blanked them.  He reads books on his phone for 6 hours a day. I try and start conversations but it’s hard to sustain. I bought him a mood journal and I shared my personal struggles and story of anxiety and depression. We go on short walks.  I see glimmers of something sometimes but he definitely doesn’t want to talk about university and says he has no hope of a job and clams up when I talk about future. His dad keeps asking what he doing with his life and I try and feel I should try and protect my son from his dad’s insensitive questions – “like hello son how is your mental health today and are you going back to uni because you can’t throw all that away ?” The waiting time for his therapy is 3 months.  I feel like I should try and continue the ideas of getting him up and out of the house but I don’t know of that’s just creating a dependency. I’ve started putting my life on hold, not going out with my friends etc as I feel bad going out when my son is home alone and lonely. I’ve met up with some other family friends for a walk and meal and my son joined too, that seemed to work quite well. I’m stuck what to do for the best, probably I’m over thinking it! Any advice welcome.

    #397400
    Helcat
    Participant

    Hi Jo!

    I think you’re doing all the right things to try and help your son. Remember not to neglect yourself. I hope that things will work out in time when he starts seeing his therapist. There so much that you can do for him, he will have to figure out the rest himself.

    Your son is very lucky to have such a caring and loving mom.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by Helcat.
    #397405
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Jo:

    Welcome to the forum! You shared that your son (22) failed his 2nd year at university, took 2020 off but remained living at university with his friends. Later he resumed his studies, but you noticed that when he was home with you, he “seemed really quiet“, and when you visited him at university, you noticed that he was “not eating, cleaning his bathroom and he looked terrible“. Six weeks ago, he called you at 2 am, telling you that he was “very distressed… lonely and sad… hadn’t left his room properly or even his bed“, and that he wanted to leave university. He saw a few professionals who suggested that he was suffering from social anxiety and depression. He lives with you, having no friends locally, and he “struggles to talk or engage with anyone“, including with you. He reads books on his phone for six hours a day, says he has “no hope of a job” and clams up when you talk about his future. The waiting time for his therapy is 3 months.

    I read all that you’ve been doing to help your son, all good things. Your love and care for him are very evident.

    I see glimmers of something sometimes” – in his eyes perhaps, in his voice?

    This glimmer of something is under attack by (1) the thoughts in his head, thoughts that scare and depress him, (2) the chemical habit of being anxious and depressed; neurotransmitters produced in his brain and hormones are maintaining his anxiety and depression.

    His dad keeps asking what he’s doing with his life, and I try and feel I should try and protect my son from his dad’s insensitive questions” – (1) I doubt that you can fix his father’s insensitivity, (2) It’s too late to protect him from his father’s questions because by now he internalized his father’s (and others’) insensitive questions and negative messages; these are now his own thoughts.

    Talking about university and his future trigger certain thoughts and chemicals that cause him anxiety; on the other hand, reading a book for 6 hours calms those thoughts and chemicals. You already observed what suggestions and activities trigger his anxiety and what suggestions and activities calm him. Offer him the latter and avoid the former.

    If he sees that you are significantly distressed over his mental state, he is likely to figure that his mental state must be very poor to be causing you such distress, so it’s important that you appear as calm as possible and that your attitude is positive and light, best you can. For a person, other people, particularly parents, are like mirrors. If he sees (and hears) a content mother he figures that he must be doing better than he thought, or not as badly as he thought.

    Part of appearing calmer is that you take care of yourself, socialize with your friends and make fewer suggestions to your son in regard to what he should do to get better. In other words, be less involved in his life and more in yours, it will be better for him.

    Antidepressants such as the SSRI group are commonly prescribed for depression and for anxiety. These may provide the fastest change in the chemical habit I mentioned, the one which is currently maintaining his anxiety and depression. It is better to change this chemical habit with regular, daily exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, other regular practices such as yoga perhaps or tai chi, and mindfulness exercises, including guided meditations with the mindfulness theme, but sometimes the anxious and depressed person is too anxious and depressed to regularly exercise etc., and it takes the fast and easy taking of a pill (SSRI and similar medications) to jump start a person in the right direction.  After a person exercises etc. on a regular basis, and feeling better for it, then he/ she can stop taking medications, gradually, as prescribed.

    I hope this helps somewhat…?

    anita

     

    #397409
    Roberta
    Participant

    Hi Jo

    Like Helcat, I think you have been wonderfully supportive to your son and doing the right things. I see you have him helping out around the house, if you have a garden then being outside close to earth can be therapeutic. There’s a great documentary on earthing/grounding on youtube which both of you might enjoy.

    Sometimes it is hard for a child to open up to a parent but they may have a go to relative like a favourite aunt or uncle or grandparent. Its not that the parent is doing anything wrong it just feels easier. My son would go for  a drive with his grandmother and just sit and watch the sea together, no pressure just gentle company. I had a favourite uncle in my teen years ( he was the black sheep of the family) and in my 30′ s I became close to my gran but it did not mean that I stopped loving my parents.

    You probably spent years nurturing and protecting him as he grew up and it is painful to watch your child suffer and all you want is to help them feel good. If we could only take a lump of happiness from our hearts and place it in theirs!

    #397410
    Jo
    Participant

    Thank you 🙏

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