Friday, June 27, 2014

Nothing Is All Right


I’ve told people when I see them in person, but it has been too painful to make an effort to reach out, so I feel I should put an update here. Short story: over the last couple months of fourth grade, my son became more and more anxious and upset about school despite there being no bullying or any trouble with his friends nor any difficulty getting his work done – in fact, he was ahead of the game most of the time. He also became furious at us over anything at all. We tried to listen/diagnose/encourage/help but the situation devolved until he finally refused to go to school at all and confessed that he was living in a gray world, things would never be better, and he felt that it would be best to commit suicide. He had a reasonable plan as to how to achieve this.

Enter psychologist, psychiatrist, low dose of an SSRI, removal from school, working from home as much as possible & family leave for my husband so that my son would never be alone. Hospitalization was considered but not ultimately deemed necessary.

Also enter guilt (about my role in his nature and his nurture), fear, grief, and constant worry every moment of every day and night.

My job is very hard at the moment and there is literally nothing that can be done about that short of quitting (which I’ve contemplated but that would create so many other problems), so I’m just doing a crap job on everything. I have told my bosses and they’ve been great, but there is only so much they can do. Oh and my assistant went out on extended sick leave.

My son refuses to talk with the therapists. He will go under protest but sits there angrily. (My husband and I are also going without him to develop strategies.) Things have gotten somewhat better. He says he is no longer suicidal (though we are of course not leaving him alone). He has continued to do his music throughout and with enthusiasm. He is voicing some of his feelings instead of just being angry all the time. But he started his day camp, which he usually loves, this week. The first couple days went well, but it has gone downhill and today he refused to go.

I am not shocked that he would have trouble – this child has always been so intense and dark that I feared he would have to face some of these things eventually – but he only just turned ten. I figured we had a little while left before the demons he was born with started to torture him in this way.

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever faced and I’m afraid it will only get worse from here.

39 comments:

parodie said...

Oh, that sounds terrifying and painful. I am so sorry you (& especially your son) have to deal with such big and painful things. I wish you wise guides but especially I wish you a more hopeful tomorrow.

Julie said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. It's so hard to watch someone you love in pain like this.

I don't know if it's any comfort, but my nephew had a similar experience (including the suicidal ideation) at around age 5, and while he's still seeing the psychologist, things are much better. I say that only to hold out some hope that, with time and treatment, things will improve.

MJ said...

I am very sorry to read about how unbearably difficult things have been for your family.
I know how difficult this is because it was my life too with my 11 yr old son.
The good news is that after 18 months of therapy for us and him, he's much better. He still feels "grey" at times but he can manage it better.
I wish I could offer some magic parenting advice about how we got him to talk to a therapist but it was pure dumb luck. I've no idea why he agreed to go. That said, I've another friend who had a similar situation with her son and she couldn't even get him to sit in the therapist's office. She and her partner went instead to learn strategies and he improved as well.
I share our story so that you will know that although it is the hardest thing (like you I questioned every parenting decision I'd ever made, every word I'd ever spoken) that it can get better.

~Kristi~ said...

I don't know how helpful this is, but if a) The fact that he let you know about this problem is amazing. If I would have let my parents know about my depression I might be a different person than I am now. b) The fact that you immediately got help for him is life-changing, amazing, wonderful. It was probably 5 years after the onset of my depression that I got help and I'm still having problems and trying to find a new therapist. You're doing a lot of things exactly right, and I wish those things would have happened to me when I was his age. You're helping more than you know, and you're amazing.

swimmermom said...

I'm so, so sorry.

I know this: kids are who they are. They come into the world already wired and all we can do is respect, nurture, and guide what is there. Your son is well-loved and well-cared-for; that is all you can do, and it is everything.

Love wins.

Anonymous said...

I hope you find the support you need and know that you are not alone. It's a positive change that these struggles no longer have to remain a dark secret.

MFA Mama said...

Ah, shit. This is one Unfortunate Event I have absolutely no experience with in a child of mine, so I can't say I know what you're going through. I have a vivid enough imagination though that I am thoroughly dismayed on your behalf, and I'm so sorry you are dealing with this. You and TH are about as well-equipped as any set of parents could be to try and help AB/HB through this, and it sounds like you are doing all of the right things, but I wish it didn't have to be so hard for y'all. xo

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about this. I don't have any wisdom but am thinking about you and your family.

--Susan

Anonymous said...

I'm terribly sorry that your son is suffering this way. I don't want to imagine the stress of trying to deal with this kind of issue. Sending peaceful thoughts to you. JB

bobbi said...

10 and 11 were the hardest years I've had to deal with as a parent, and they were nothing compared to what you are dealing with. I hope and pray that things continue to improved. You are doing everything you con...keep on keeping on...

J-mom said...

I'm so glad he's continuing and enjoying music...seems like a glimmer that can perhaps grow and light his world further. So sorry you're going through this stress and that he's going through this low :(

yatima said...

Oh DoctorMama I am so sorry. So much love to you.

jill said...

XO

Cory said...

I'm so sorry. Your writing has helped me a great deal over the years; I wish I fill in for your assistant - some small thing to ease your every day while you support your son and family. Best wishes from Salt Lake City.

Jaya said...

I am so very sorry for all this. This must be unimaginably difficult. Often, these psychological disturbances can have their roots in physiological imbalances. For example, my brother during teenage went through this utterly horrible patch where this happy, happy child morphed into one who was filled with rage and lashed out at everybody. He was utterly lost for maybe 2 painful years. Towards the end of the period, we discovered a really bad Vitamin B-12 deficiency and had him corrected for it, and coincidence or not, he returned to the person he used to be; very low B-12 levels are linked to behavior such as this in teenagers, apparently. I would strong suggest checking his Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin D levels (this one is also strongly linked to depression), and people can get (or always be) startlingly, surprisingly low on both without realizing it. In addition to therapy and checking/supplementing with B-12 and D3 if necessary, I'd also throw in every supplement that has ever been linked with healthier brain function (DHA for example) and hope that it helps. Best of luck!

Blue said...

when my son was nine, he confided he'd thought about suicide and knew how some people did it and confessed he didn't really want to go on. I was gut-sick over having not keyed into where he was at...that he was really depressed.

we went to work. his therapist did something called EMDR with him...I don't know a whole lot about it, but it uses light and sound and seems to have good results in retraining one's brain to go down new neural-pathways vs. the familiar grooves certain thoughts travel in the brain. His therapist had worked with vets suffering severe PTSD, a child who'd stopped talking cold turkey a couple years earlier...people with severe trauma and anxiety. She taught him new skills to cope with his feelings. It was very effective and in the past 5 years he's had SERIOUS evolution as a person. Depression and anxiety are tamped down and mostly not an issue. He's aware of his propensities and we have tools to employ if he's ever starting to go "dark".

I know how scary and stressful and guilt-riddled this can be. Hang in there! Knowing he has people on his team, who've got his back and are going to help him is the biggest thing. He's not alone. And comparing my boy's feelings to a magic trick that seemed 100% and true, but that actually there is an explanation helped him understand that just cause that's how he was feeling (like there was no point in living) doesn't mean it's true. That even though it seemed real, it was like a magic trick that wasn't real, because he was sick, and there were things we could and would do to help him get better. ANd that his mommy had experienced a lot of those same feelings.

kirsten said...

I have no amazing words of wisdom but know that I am thinking of you. This is just plain shitty.

Steph said...

Wow, tough things. I don't know if anything I can say will be helpful but this was totally me when I was a kid. I was (and am, at 41) willful, intelligent, dark, moody, sad, anxious, even vaguely suicidal (too afraid to actually make an attempt but always on my mind).
I am encouraged that your son confessed all this to you. I never talked about my feelings with my parents or therapists. (They forced me to go to therapists when they were divorcing when I was 12).
I didn't have the resources your son has (or if I did I didn't know about them and/or resisted).

I now have an almost 4 year old son who in inherently happy and a 2 year old daughter who is willful and not a happy person by nature. She also does not eat food (all she will do is drink formula, yes, that's right) and she WON'T WALK. At 26 months. So I am going through the guilt thing too. We are taking her to every imaginable specialist (neurology, GI, speech and feeding pathology), she's getting an MRI of her spine and brain, early intervention is on board.
My husband is a physician and it's been hard.

I know my story doesn't compare to your 10 year old crumbling in front of you, but I get the feelings he is feeling as well as the feelings of helplessness as a mom. I'm sorry, I wish you the best! He's a smart kid, and I think in the long run his intelligence and emotional intelligence will win.

Thinking of you.

-Steph

rdk said...

I'm so sorry to hear all of this. I have no advice to give, only my best wishes and energy to send. Like others, I do think it's a good sign your son, despite his darkness, has been able to confide in you. I hope you're able to keep building and building on that until you're back in the light.

Anonymous said...

Aw shit, DoctorMama. I'm so sorry you're having to go through this. I was a depressed child and suicidal teen who got no help at all and somehow managed to survive until diagnosed with bipolar 20 years ago in my 40s. I'm now on lithium and wish I'd had it in my teens. You are being a Good Mom getting him help and giving him support. Wishing you much strength and courage.

- TX slowrunner

Melissia said...

Doctor Momma, I also feel compelled to write so that you know that you are not alone. We have been there as well, with both of our boys. Both were hospitalized, briefly, as teenagers, and both are now college students, one married, in grad school. It did start early and we did what you did. We switched schedules, so that one parent was home all the time, and went to therapists and learned techniques to help. And it did. And we made it through. And they are now both functioning adults

Anonymous said...

I, too have been there with two of my three children. My son was a bit older. my daughter began refusing to go to school in third grade. I can only offer you support and encouragement. It took three different therapists before we found one to connect with my son. That being said, it is a long road. SSRI's are wonderful but they can "stop" working and need to be changed but as a medical professional, I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't know.

This is heart-wrenching stuff. Some kids simply come into the world with demons to battle. I have a third child who is as even-tempered as can be. Hang in there. As trite as it sounds, do the best you can to take care of yourself and nurture your marriage, You need each other.

CecilyK said...

Oh, dude, I am so sorry. I have a good friend who has dealt with that, and I know she’d be happy to offer an ear/support/experience (her son at one point had to be hospitalized). She’s amazing, as are you. I know you’d click. Let me know if you’d like to get in touch with her.

Becky said...

Wow! I just saw this- I've been distracted this week. I wanted you to know that I am thinking of you and your family. I'll write more once I've had a chance to think things through more. Please feel free to reach out as needed. This is hard. This is really, really hard.

Alexicographer said...

Oh. I'm sorry you and your son are needing to deal with this but glad that you are, I have to think, much better equipped than many many parents would be to do so. Not to downplay the difficulty even given that. I'll be out here thinking of all of you, for whatever that's worth.

Kellie Aindow said...

I'm just so sorry you are going through this, I can only offer cyber hugs, and my prayers for you, TH and your wonderful son.

so very sorry.

Kellie

Erika said...

I'm so sorry. My daughter started having trouble in 2nd grade. Massive tantrums in which she would repeatedly say she wanted to die, and in fact asked me to kill her. She was convinced that I wouldn't get in trouble if she'd requested it. Refusing to get out of bed on Saturdays. Refusing to go to school (sometimes we had to put her in the car in pajamas).
It got better, although we find that we have PTSD and are constantly wondering when the next breakdown will be, especially since her anxiety is ramping up.
So, no advice, especially since you're doing what needs to be done. But empathy, and commiseration, always. Give yourself permission to cry when you need to.

Anonymous said...

Doctor Mama,
I hope my suggestion is not completely and utterly naive, but I like the suggestion in this post (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=11290826) about slices from an orange.
Thinking of you.
LD

clairesmum said...

you are doing the right things, it is NOT any body's fault!!! you are taking the right steps, this is a dark scary path that nobody chooses to walk. for him to know that you will not blame or abandon him no matter what happens will help him not to get lost. you and your husband need support for your struggles with this, too...nobody copes easily or ever feels in control of this stuff..
EMDR and other processing techniques might not meet "gold standard clinical trials" to prove efficacy, but have low risk of harm. Biofeedback and naturopathic/functional medicine have lots of anecdotal support and some research..so may be useful as well. This area of 'dis-ease' is closer to the art of medicine than the science of it. So, do the best you can...you are all in my thoughts.

kris (lowercase) said...

i am so sorry for what you all are going thru. i have a son who went from being 'the perfect' child to going thru just normal teen attitude/etc and that has been hard enough. i can't even imagine going thru this.

E. said...

So sorry that you and TH are going through this, and that HB has been having to face such difficult stuff at his age (or any, but esp. at his age). I can only echo what everyone says above that the fact that he was willing and able to tell you something of what was up with him is important. And I think it's an amazingly good thing that he's still engaged in music. I hope that continues.

You guys are in my thoughts and my chaotic heathen prayers. Much love to all of you.

8junebugs.com said...

I have no words of advice, only thoughts of peace and serenity to send through the intertubes. I...I like that so many other parents are opening up here. I hope it helps to know that you're not alone on the journey, even if everyone's path is a little different.

I popped in because I recently started running again. Every mile's for you and HB now, lady. Hang in there. I've got my fingers crossed for all of you.

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you and your family. I'm so sorry to read about HB's struggles and hope that life gets much easier very soon.

Still running thanks to your words many years ago.

Sharon/Anon

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear you are facing this. But your role in his nature and nurture is that you are the best mother a child like HB could have. You understand his darkness. You are patient with him. You have always given him the environment he needs to be himself. I shudder to think what might have happened to him if you hadn't been his mom. I speak from experience in the sense that I was a very depressed child, and I had a very depressed child. Both of us had extended absences from school, but eventually got back into it, and thrived. My girl is well right now, and although her dark times were fraught with fear and sadness, parenting her through them made me who I am today, and healed some of the wounds I suffered when I was the dark child. Courage, hope and strength to you, dear one. F.

Micaela said...

I'm so sorry. I'm hoping for the best for all of you. You are doing everything right. Hang tight.

Co. said...

I am so sorry about your son's depression. I see what exercise does for you and for my husband - have you considered starting him running or cycling? It may help.

Co.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear you're going through this, and I'm really glad you reached out to tell us. I know that must have been difficult too. Sending you and your family best wishes and healing thoughts for your son. All the best, Sinéad

Anonymous said...

It's been a long while since I've visited your blog and I was sorry to read your post today. We've been through (are still going through) this with our daughter since the winter of 2012. She did get placed on a 5150 for self harm and SI at one point. She's on Lexapro. If you haven't already, check in to dialectical behavioral therapy. She did an intensive 8 week program (3hrs, 4 days per week), followed by 10 months of weekly group DBT in conjunction with weekly individual therapy. She sees her PDoc monthly. Sometimes she seems better, sometimes not. It is a frightening, exhausting roller coaster and I too feel we have many years yet to work through. You are not alone, though it really feels like a lonely and isolated place to be. Hugs to you!
Angela

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you shared about your tough times here. You make the world a better place with your candor. Please don't think that it's just going to get worse; that's not necessarily true. Your son's brain is still developing. He can learn techniques to improve his mental health; they really work.