What Happened to My Brilliant, Loving, Talkative Son??

My son is 19.  He's always been a wonderful, talkative, studious, smart, computer guy par excellence.  Over last years, though, he's so depressed (or ??) i don't know what to do.  It's due to violent crime suffered at age 13 and bad experiences at school.  He hasn't spoken since October.  He eats  bare minimum and looks famished.  He was going to BCC after graduating BHS but has stopped.  I gave him BCC catalog and told him to sign up.  I don't know if he has. 

He's up nights and sleeps days.  Used to be up 7pm till 7am but now gets up around 11:30 pm and in bed by 7am.  I think he has no energy due to lack of food though fridge is jam packed with what he loves.  Yes, i cook for him, since he only heats frozen dinners & eats once a day. As i get up he goes straight to bed.  When family came for Christmas he stayed in bed all day, refusing to see anyone.  He absolutely avoids all contact with people except 1 friend (in S. Cal on vacation now) and our neighbor, who's busy studying for exam and can't be bothered.  In past he'd talk to me when his friend would come, but last time not even his friend could get him to speak to me.  I open his mail, like Jury Duty & Selective Service (yes, he went to Jury Duty & signed up online for SS but won't open any mail, not even cards w/ $$ in them).  He only goes out to do laundry in the yard, then comes back & often dumps baskets on floor till i shove it all into drawers so we can walk in this place.  Shower?  About 2 per month.

He has seen therapist but it's been over 3 years.  You can't make him do anything, especially talk.

He CAN function if he really wants.  At 16 he had techie job running computers at a factory, installing software, etc.  He was doing great and they loved him.  He COULD get another job easily if he tried.  He barely graduated due to lots of help from case manager at BHS (i got him an IEP for depression and they still track him) and cyber high to make up flunked classes.

A program that helps youth will start working with him but so far all has failed (i've tried a lot).  He has Kaiser so that eliminates almost all other programs.  I am hoping it'll work and they won't say "He has Kaiser, we can't help".   A Kaiser social wkr. came 3x to talk to him, but he stared at computer the whole time. 

No, you can't have him 5150'ed.  Forget it.  The cops won't come for a guy sitting quietly on the couch with laptop.  He'd have to be violent or destructive, which thankfully he isn't.

I can't take his laptop.  He WOULD  probably get violent.  I'd need backup here, 3 people.  Turning off internet won't work.  He goes to cafe with laptop & sits there, or uses cell phone.

My idea is to go on 2 month vacation & leave him  here with rent paid.  He'd HAVE to get food, cook, wash dishes, etc.  My neighbor has keys to look in on him (she's great).  It'd stop the dependency & force him to go out (maybe motivate him to get job).  He can get food stamps if not and i'll leave Berkeley Bowl gift cards.  I see no other solution, having tried so much.  Any sincere suggestions welcome.

Desperate Mom.

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

Hi--you must be so worried. As a recently retired therapist working with teens and families, I strongly encourage you to find a therapist/social worker for yourself who can help you work through this situation. You can't make him do anything but you can change the situation by making changes by yourself. You already have some ideas and some support so build on that as you move forward. Good luck to you!!

Sounds like you have tried everything. In our house if you are over 18 and not in school or working, you got to leave. I've had to kick out  depressed young adult because he was getting billigerent with me in front of the younger ones.  There comes a time when parents just have to get on with their lives and young adults have to see it. Life goes on whether you like it or not. 

Last I heard that depressed young spectrumy adult is moving on with life. Found a place to live and went to Jc and has a job with GNC. He's managing. I'm not in his life but I'm not getting disrespected and abused. Maybe one day he will wake up and appreciate what I have done. 

I've seen parents and society coddle so much which includes myself that these young adults just aren't ready by adulthood. I'm trying to do differently with the next set of kids. Don't do anything for them that they can do for themselves. If you do too much for them lovingly, they don't have a sense of accomplishment and pride. That causes depression. Let them fall and rise again. 

Many people have suffered from violence and bullying but just got to rise up again. 

I'm sorry you have to go through this. It's utterly painful to watch your kid slip and fall. But once you are down the only way to go is back up. You can tell him that and just step back. 

Dear Desperate Mom,

I believe that you are the same Mom who posted about your troubled son on June 6, 2016. (See letter reprinted below. I would simply link to it, but it was one of the last posts on the old BPN site, and I don't have time to try to find it.) 

Was any of the advice helpful?  It was I who suggested that you 5150 him, but you replied that it is impossible. Yet It is clear that this situation -- already terrible six months ago -- is now extremely dangerous for your son, and for you.

I suggest that you find a psychiatrist who can help you to decide on a strategy and give you the tools to implement it.  (I don't know of one, but the network here has good recommendations on file.)  

Professional help is required at this point.  Don't wait!  

"Nightowl Son Walks Around Town in Dark Alone Who knows Where"
"My son, 18.  has become a night owl, up all night, sleep most of day.  Lately he goes out at
9pm, comes back around 12:00, goes to sleep at 6am.   I ask “Where did you go?”  “out.”
“What did you do?”  “Nothing.”

 He has no car, goes on foot who knows where.  I gave him condoms (which he left).  He’s
only 114 lb, not a match for muggers/etc.  No drugs/alcohol/gangs/crime ever in his
life--he’s a nerd, on computer, reading, trouble shooting, programming.  He’s always been
a good kid.

  Due to depression over last 4 years he speaks very little (though he has bright times).
Sometimes he speaks twice a month.

I tell him to go out in day but it fall on deaf ears.  You can’t make him go to shrink (or
do anything).  It’s dangerous in the middle of the night with no witnesses.

He eats minimally, maybe a Bagel, peanuts, some ice cream and that’s it all day.  Meals
(that he likes) are often left on table.  If i don’t cook the food rots and $ is wasted so
i cook.  He’s skinnier than a fashion model, wears 16 slim.  He hasn’t seen MD since 2012.
He’s malnourished if you ask me.  Last time he saw MD was 2012.  What are you gonna do,
pick him up and strap him into the carseat and drive him there?  Yeah, right.

I had idea to travel for 2 months with rent paid leaving him Berkeley Bowl gift cards.  He
could get Food stamps too.  It would force him to shop,cook, clean etc. and stop all
dependency on me (he does his laundry as i won’t touch it).  BUT i got FT job that won’t
allow it.  When i get vacation Will go.  For now,the cycle continues.

He was at BCC first semester after graduating Berkeley High but he didn’t go this term.
Hope he will next term.

I’ve tried shutting off internet.  He walks to cafe & uses computer there then walks back
alone at midnight-perfect target for muggers.  Then i have no connection for my needs, so
i’ve punished myself.

Please no rude, judgmental, sarcastic or hostile comments.  I’ve always been the best mom
possible under hard circumstances.  Keep those comments to yourself please.  I’m looking
for helpful suggestions only.
--Thank you"

From the history you describe, it's likely your son is suffering from PTSD. Though therapy can be helpful, it does not deal with the underlying trauma and so does not resolve the original state. An approach that deals effectively with PTSD and its resulting depression is classical homeopathy. Homeopathy is effective because it treats the person holistically at all levels - mentally, emotionally and physically. I would strongly recommend that you take your son for a homeopathic consultation with Wanda Smith-Schick (https://www.yelp.com/biz/wanda-smith-schick-san-francisco and http://thoroughhealing.com/). Wanda is especially skilled in treating PTSD and depression. She has treated hundreds of people, including numerous veterans and hardcore homeless populations, with amazing results. Please give it a try - you are likely to be amazed as well. 

He sounds like he is dealing with depression and some PTSD.  Have you considered a Wilderness Program?  Talked with an educational consultant?  Not cheap by any means but immensely helpful.  Our son also crashed and burned after HS, very depressed and doing many of the same things you mentioned.  We ended up sending him to Wilderness Program (Evoke Therapy in Utah) and a residential program in Oregon ( Dragonfly in Klamath Falls)  Saved his life and ours too.  You should call and speak to someone at a program for some ideas.  SO overwhelming as a parent.  Also check out Brad Reedy's book "the Heroic Parent"  Our son is now in his twenties, living independenlty, has a loving relationship and is back at school.  You will get through this but you must get help and be ready to play hardball.   These are critical years and he needs you and he needs you to be involved in his healing and well being.  Going away on vacation for two months is interesting but not very practical in my option.  Running away and hoping that it will get better is not realistic.  This is his young life you are talking about.

You have the right to have rules to live by in your home.  You do not have to go away for 2 months to get your son to change.  Your son is currently crippled by a seemingly very treatable mental health issue.  But it is a huge plus that you & he know that he has had success in the work world in the past.  

Something that I noticed in your post was that you said "(i've tried a lot)."  It is past time for him to start trying, even if it means that he has to leave his comfort zone.

You can give him choices & support, in order for him to continue living in your home.  Such as he must start psychiatric treatment & therapy immediately.  You can give him reasonable deadlines (two or three weeks) for him to change to a more normal schedule that fits your lifestyle; to start a job program; to contribute to the family workload (chores, making meals, etc.); personal hygiene.  

Otherwise, he may need the wake-up call of having to leave home.  He probably doesn't get it that Mom is not just going to (and shouldn't for his sake) take care of him indefinitely without him putting in the work to "grow up."  Parents have had to evict their abusive adult children in order to end situations such as yours, that is just starting.  You do not want to look back, when he is 30 years old, and realize that you have been putting up with an outrageous situation because you were not able to set boundaries in your own home.  

He is not going to like you forcing change.  He will push back.  But it is your home, and your life.  Your happiness & peace is very important.  More important than allowing him to continue to live a dysfunctional lifestyle.

Wishing you the best in a difficult situation.

Thanks for the replies.  

As for kicking him out, this has been suggested by friends.  But kick him out WHERE?  Telegraph Av.?  E. 14th St?  A homeless woman was just found dead by Berkeley High.  This happens all the time.  This is your solution?  No thanks.  

Youth from program to help youth texting him but he won't respond.  They make appTs. with me to come talk to him but he sleeps days so they haven't been able to come since he is sleeping at the time.

Soc. Worker for Berkeley says she can't do anything.  She covers whole city of Berkeley by herself--imagine--has no time.  The guy at Kaiser would work with him.  I'll see if he can advise me.

Good News:  He got PT job.  I heard him call in sick and say "Tell YouthWorks", so i know it's good job.  He walks w. umbrella, then comes back & eats the food i set out (usually).   He glues himself to  computer the minute he gets in the door. Looks like 20 hrs. a week.  

 First day he came back with big fat sandwich from Sandwich Shop and devoured it.  On weekends he reverts to nightowl schedule, glued to computer all night.  

YES i'm glad he's working!  

He will cook ravioli or heat frozen dinner (very small amount of food) and eat just that, one meal a day.  He eats ice cream, cookies, scones etc. i get/make.  He's not starving but not getting enough to eat. 

This was posted 1/9/17  and varying responses and opinions were received.  Some said kick him out, try homeopathy, get him into therapy, have him 5150ed, etc.   Thanks for the responses. There was some good insight there.

 My solution was to leave the country on vacation for 2 months and let him fend for himself.  

In spite of being dependent on me for food, roof over head, and virtually all other needs, he would not express gratitude or even speak to me.  This had been going on for years and only getting worse.  It was heartbreaking.  Dozens of things i tried failed. He would not go to therapy.

  Well i have just returned from vacation, over 2 months gone.  Guess what?  It worked.  He is happy to see me and eats with me, talks to me, helps me with computer and putting away groceries, all the things he refused to do for so long.  

  He's been in a computer program since about Sept. and has part time job as well, so life is 100 times better.  He used to up all night on  computer and in bed all day before that.  

  I'm so glad i made this decision.  It's true, abscense makes the heart grow fonder.  He had to come to grips with reality, going out shopping, taking out trash, doing dishes, cooking or at least getting frozen food & seeing how expensive that is and how to manage  limited money. It was hard, i can see.  Sadly, there was hardly anything to eat in the house when i got back & he's just as skinny as ever (or worse), but maybe that's part of the reason he now is willing to talk to me, like he used to do all his life before he got so traumatized.    He knows i love him, and there’s no need to be boycotting Mom.