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It’s been a year of many ups and downs with my now 18 year old son.

Last year, his senior year and w Covid brought out the worst of it all.
He had his lifelong passion of playing football taken away. He was “quarantined”from school more times than I can count from close contact tracing.
He hit rock bottom the night before his 18th birthday and ended up in a mental health hospital.
Mind you on the hour he turned 18 I lost parental rights to him unless he aloud me to have access to any records to help him.
The hospitals are over flowing w depression issues and he was placed in a adult facility which seemed to only make things worse. In my heart I knew it was the wrong place for him to end up knowing him as well as I do.
I couldnt get him out of there quick enough. Had no say in the matter and could barely get him to speak to me because he blamed me for him being there. Even though I had nothing to do with it and fought the drs trying to get him out.
I’ve had him in counseling for over a year prior to this. That seemed to help some but slowly he started not wanting to go and lost interest in getting help.
We spoke of medication but he refuses it. He’s not big in taking any type of medication even over the counter ibuprofen.
So we made it through highschool and graduation. Then off to college. Which has been a downward spiral since he got there. He plays for the football team but very hard on himself and never happy with how he plays and doesn’t see his own amazing talents on the field.
His grades have not been great and he feels like a failure. He’s so very handsome but finds a million faults about himself.
So this 1st semester has been very hard with him so out of reach and the texts and phone calls I get are hard to read and hear. I stay supportive, I remind him of all his talents and all his accomplishments. I tell him I’m sorry he feels so unhappy with himself and I am always here to help. I remind him of the help I can get for him w a councelor. But ever since the mental health hospital he is completely closed off to help. I get why.. the system is broken and over full. He lost trust in it.
And I kinda did too.
His last game of the season he got injured. And that’s where things got really bad again. I finally got him to come home and was committed to driving him every day to classes till he felt he could get around better. I was very happy to have him home so I could closely work with him and try to help him through this low point in his life. I felt as if we were making progress.. but just like that his mood changed and he left tonight to stay at school.
I don’t want to strip him of any independence & w him injured I know dorm life and getting around will be a major challenge for the next couple weeks till winter break. He has spiraled back into feeling not good enough. Feels like a failure in class and not happy at the school he is at. So it’s very hard for me to let him go, but him being 18 it’s very hard to tell him to stay here. Because I get it. He wants to be independent and with this injury his independence he has lost.
I’m at a real loss here. He trusts me and vents to me and says things that are hard for me to here.
I stay strong and support him and try to give advice but he shuts that down quick because he’s stuck in the mindset that this is how his life will go.
And stuck in the mindset that he will never play football again, he thinks he will be replaced, wants to be working out with his team. And can’t pull his grades together at school.
I tell him he’s not stuck there, there’s other options to a education but with out football he feels there are no options.
We just keep circling around and around and I feel I’m losing the battle. I tell him only he can change how he is thinking, only he can decide on the help I can get for him. I’m being 100% proactive in helping him in every way and if I could get him to at least help himself 50% I’d feel that would be a win. I’m not sure how to make him realize He has choices and he needs to choose himself over football and school.
This is a very scary battle to fight against with your own child. A very lonely feeling and hard to know what to say or do to help. Especially when he is so far out of reach when he stays at the dorm and is miserable there. I get he doesn’t always want mom to come rescue him so try to give him the space but when the texts and phone calls start and he isn’t well mentally I don’t know where to turn. I’m so very close to my son and we are extremely open with one another. I’m just so lost on how to help someone who doesn’t want the help and doesn’t trust the help anymore.
Depression is debilitating but it can be controlled. With or without medication your mentality can beat it. But how do you convince your 18 year old that he can beat this.
I battled depression and still do. But when I was growing up the help was not there so I had to change my own mindset. Train myself how to get over my overwhelming thoughts. I am aware of what months are my hardest and I’ve learned to be patient with myself to get through them. But how do I get that through to my son? Who lately has not been open to discussion on how to help himself.

I apologize for the long post. It’s all so overwhelming to watch your child hurting in this way. And I’ve been so consumed with it all for so long. It’s become a way of life. A very hard way of life


Active scribe

Re: Depression

Hey @NM74616 

Firstly, I just want to validate that it sounds like you’re doing an INCREDIBLE job at being present for your son. It takes some true love, care, and value to put that time and effort into supporting your son as best as you can. There are a few things you mentioned I wanted to touch upon and I’d love to hear what you think:

It sounds like one of the major difficulties is in trying to find the right balance between respecting their independence and how and what you want to do to support them. On one hand, it sounds like you feel by being too involved, it’ll push them away, but on the other, you can recognise what could help, and want to offer input to them about it. There’s no black/white answer to what the right thing here is, except to say you’re doing a really good job because you said yourself that they trust you enough to tell you, and that’s a testament that you are in fact a reassuring space for them.

Secondly, in the way I’m reading what you wrote, I can’t help but hear that old adage “you can lead a horse to water, but can’t force them to drink it”. You’re right, 18 is quite a milestone age and they are going through some major changes in almost all aspects of life. In trying to answer your question “what can you say to an 18-year-old to convince them they can overcome what’s going on?”, I can empathise that it feels really difficult to figure that out, but it may not necessarily be about telling/saying anything, but about continually being that safe space for them, and if they find the capacity and desire to want to work on things, that you are available and ready. Perhaps it’s once again a reflection of where is the balance that works for both of you? That leads onto my next question. What do you find helps you connect with your son? Do you do any sort of activities together or is it just talking?

Finally, your own personal experience has given you such unique perspective and insight into what depression can look like, and I hear you when you just want to share what helped you overcome those challenges and offer your son the help where you otherwise didn’t have any growing up.

In reading your post, I can sense that in writing it, there were such charged and overwhelming emotions. I hope that by writing it, there is a sense of catharsis that you can share that burden. I wish I could more thoroughly answer your queries, but perhaps someone else may have some good input, here.

Active scribe

Re: Depression

Thank you so much for your understanding response. And thank you for your kind words.
You asked what we do to bond. Well each stage of his life has been different so when he was younger I was always taking my kids everywhere to experience life. Zoos, parks, vacations, hikes, bike rides, outdoor activities, beach trips, camping and so on. I was always closely involved in all their sports and rarely missed games or opportunities to volunteer and help.

As they all are getting older it has changed. But any car rides, shopping trips and vacations we can take I take those opportunities to bond. Long car rides where we can talk, still making every game there is. And still volunteering even w the college football pasta dinners or fundraisers. We take a day trip every summer for “me” just to walk on our favorite beach we used to visit weekly and enjoy the day till sunset views and dinner. We still occasionally go on hikes when the time allows. Spend time with our dogs, sometimes I just sit w him until I start to feel I’m annoying lol. And we love to go out to eat of coarse.
I find especially as my oldest one has gained independence and strong friendships it’s important for me to remember to never make him feel guilty for the lessened time spent with me because I know our bond will forever be strong and I’ll always be available for how ever much time there is aloud to spend with him.

It’s Hard watching them grow up, and hard watching the struggles. Hardest is letting them fly out of the nest and knowing when is the right time to intervene. Difficult to see confidence deflate when you see such a determined, handsome talented young man.
As they say if only they could see what you see through your eyes.
And yes,
My post is filled with so much emotion. As for many, my kids are my life. I feel what they feel and when they are hurting or having a tough time I am too. I know somehow I got through so much in life, I just pray I have given them all the life tools to be able to do so as well.
Thank you for your thoughtful response. It’s hard to know your doing the most you can when things seem to be falling apart.


Re: Depression

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@NM74616 I just wanted to say that it sounds like you've really invested a lot into trying to make sure your children feel supported and loved through your presence and involvement in their lives.
I think that reflects in the fact that your son trusts you and he's able to vent to you. 

It is such a hard balance to strike as we watch our young people grow into adults - wanting to be there for them, wanting to protect them from hard lessons or painful experiences, but at the same time knowing they have their own path to walk. It sounds like you have a strong awareness of that challenge and you're doing everything you can to support your son's independence and wellbeing.

I remember someone saying to me that having children is like having your heart walk around outside you, and that really resonates - it sounds like what you're describing when you say that if they hurt, you hurt too. Parenting can be both so rewarding and so challenging.

I do think it will stand your son in good stead having such a caring and supportive parent he can turn to, and hopefully then one day if he's ready he will be open to accepting other supports as well. 

I was wondering if you have much support for yourself? I'm not sure if it's of interest either for your son or for you, but NAMI runs support groups (including ones for family members) in case connecting with others in a similar situation could be helpful. 

We're also here for you any time you need to talk. 

Active scribe

Re: Depression

Thank you for your kind words.
For myself I talk with a few friends who are also going through tough times with their kids. I find support through them. I have thought about going to talk w a therapist, but honestly through some of the experiences I have had when I was young w the mental health system and what I recently went through w the system with my son I have little trust in talking to many people. Including the professionals. It’s unfortunate but the experience I have had and what I have seen has really made me step back and realize there is so much to be worked when it comes to helping people with depression, anxiety and other very common problems.
I read a lot on what to say and do for your child who is battling hard times. And I use my memory of my own experience with it when I was at a younger age.

I will look into NAMI as it is comforting to know of or find things that can help in a time if need. Just like I know of a few amazing places that would be great for my son if he ever chooses to open up and talk to someone other than me.
It has made me feel better just telling my story on here. Sometimes just saying it all aloud or writing it down calms the soul.
Prayers to everyone out there going through this with their child. I think it’s harder to see your child hurting than getting through some of my darkest days.
Prolific scribe

Re: Depression

Hi @NM74616 , I'm really glad to hear that you've found some support and solidarity in other parents. I can completely appreciate your hesitancy to access the mental health system if you've had some negative experiences with professionals yourself and on your son's behalf, unfortunately not receiving the right support can stay with you sometimes (and rightly so). All in all, the most important thing is that you feel supported, regardless of whether this support comes from. 


It sounds like you're doing everything you can to surround your son with as much love and support as possible. As horrible as it is to hear that you too have experienced some tough times, I'm sure that being able to speak from lived experience has given you a lot of insight into how to stand beside him in a meaningful way. He sounds lucky to have you Smiley Happy 


I'm glad that sharing your story with us has been helpful with you. Please feel free to keep us updated and to write about how you're feeling here if you feel it would be useful for you. Sending all my best to you