Just for some background: My son is 17 and has been living with Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety for the past 3 years. He self harms every month or so, and has tried to end his life twice. We changed doctors a few times until we found a good fit of psychiatrist/psychologist. He doesn't want to see the school counsellor, which is fine. He has been on many different combinations of medication, none of which seem to be correct; yet. We even tried a DNA test to try and get it right..Still waiting to see if that medication works. We reduced his subjects at school from 6 to 4, but still there are days when he just cant make it out of bed because he is so sad/scared. He spends all weekends at home; in bed, mostly on the computer/xbox, sometimes reading or playing ukelele (bought when he was in the psych ward-best $10 investment ever), communicating with friends on social media but never in person. Like your son, mine also wont talk about anything to do with his illness. What has helped me is: Looking after myself. MOST important thing. If I'm not well and strong I'm no use to him at all. For me that's exercise, yoga, meditation, gardening, walking. Having short breaks when possible (husband and I tag team). Reaching out to support networks; friends, family, Carers.org. Education. Podcasts work for me. When I am exhausted its tiring to read, so I just listen. RN: All in the Mind, and No Feeling is Final give awesome insights to what its like being inside someone's head who is dealing with a mental illness.The somewhat grimly titled Procrastinators Guide to Killing Yourself; most useful book I've read on the subject. Humour. TV shows. Funny podcasts. Its like going out with a group of really fun friends when you cant really leave the house (sad I know!). Having a nice home. We are home a lot because he cant go out. Having dinner together is non negotiable. We each try and have an anecdote or a story to tell at dinner time. Communication. My husband and I were initially on very different paths with my son's illness. He was all for getting angry and forcing him out the door to go running. I made him go to all the psych sessions with my son. Now my husband goes to the school counsellor in lieu of my son! Now we are more of a team its much better. We talk often about how hard it is, how tired we are, how sad we are. We try and recognise when the other is getting stressed out and remind each other to breathe. But it took time and patience and acceptance, and its still by no means smooth sailing all the time. Accepting that this is how my son is at this point in time. If I try to 'fix' him, its not unconditional love; or trust that he can find a way to live with this. It devalues his unseen daily effort to just get out of bed. Understanding that we don't need to talk. He talks to his psychologist about all that stuff. A lot. Its enough. Its fine just to lie in bed and hold him. Or lie and read a book while he plays games. I think this is what he needs the most when he is really really sad. I cant fix him, he needs to do that. I just need to be there. Trust and hope that he will take that first step one day, but it has to be his step. Very hard. Lots of patience required. Bucketloads. Identifying who owns the problem. Letting go of our expectations for school. Panicking about him failing school is actually our problem. He may not finish year 12, but he needs to get better-first and foremost. School can happen later. This has been hardest for my husband. Having said that; on bad days I take him up breakfast-blood sugar makes a big difference. We celebrate each step; eating breakfast, drinking tea, getting dressed. "How about we just start with eating? Then if you can get dressed, do it. If not, its ok" If he gets halfway down the road and has to come back we celebrate that he got that far. If he gets to school 3 days in a row we acknowledge what an achievement is, how hard it must have been to do that, what demons he had to overcome in his head to get through the day; the negative self talk, public transport, the strangers, the students. etc. Subtly and minimally though, as like we said-he doesn't like to talk about it. Words to use: I say "Are you safe?" "How do you know?" "What will you do if you are having thoughts that are not safe?" "What will you do today that will help with the sadness/fear?" "Be kind to yourself" "Im sorry that it got so bad you had to hurt yourself, it must have been a bad one". Active Listening: " I feel... when I see you...because..." His younger sister. She is on her own journey with this one but she shares a common language with him. She drives him crazy much of the time but can make him laugh when no one else can. We are not very good with the Xbox. We let him play when he doesn't go to school. Hats off to the writer who doesn't let their son play on school days (!). We wanted to do that but never felt strong enough because he seemed to need to play games to stay... Sometimes it feels like emotional blackmail; he needs the games to give himself a break from the negative thoughts in his head, so if we stopped them-then we risk the elephant in the room-The thing we are all terrified of. He finally does it- the end. I cant even write it. Sometimes I wonder if we are too passive, too accepting, but none of the alternatives seem to stack up when I think about that ending. I hope some of this helps you. I think writing it down has helped me! BTW administrator; we are an Australian family who has been living overseas for the past 5 years-returning next year. Hoping that the son can finish the routine of school in body only if not in marks. Hope that qualifies me for a post!
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