Helping adult son who has depression

Posted by Twocoastsm @marlenec, Jan 19 4:24pm

My son is in his forties and has clinical depression. He was in residential (Sierra Tucson) 6 years ago. He is on medication but his therapy has not been as frequent as previously d/t insurance changes. He is basically unemployed but is pursing an MSW. He lives with me, his 6 year old son (my grandson,) and his ex-wife lives in our addition. Bizarre but it works for us. I am concerned about his feelings of worthlessness after multiple rejections when he was applying for various jobs and his despair about the fact he is still living with his mom and is financially dependent upon me. He feels that if his son (whom he adores) ultimately finds out about his condition he will lose his love and respect. Although he stays alive for his son, he wonders if it would be better if he wasn’t here at all, if it’s better for him to be gone now rather than prolong what he feels is a facade. I know these are his demons talking to him and he’s intelligent enough to know that too, but when he gets into a “trough” these feelings overwhelm him. During such episodes he becomes immobilized (e.g., won’t get out of bed) and tells my grandson (who’s old enough to notice) that he has a headache or is sick. I’ve encouraged him to tell his son the truth about his depression because I know young kids can draw incorrect conclusions but he won’t due to his shame and guilt. Does anyone – either someone with depression or someone who loves someone with depression- have any advice?

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Approaching children with information about our disease is a good thing, but it's important to keep it simple so they understand it. For instance, "I have medical conditions called depression. It will never go away, but it does get much better most of the time. Sometimes, I feel really bad so I have to stay in bed until I feel well enough to get up again."

It's important not to lie to kids, because eventually kids believe the parent is a liar and can't ever be believed. Keep it simple, explain it as a medical condition (such as diabetes), and the child will probably take it matter-of-factly. The child may feel much better about sharing info with the parent, as well.

That's what I did with my children, and now that their adults, they openly discuss all kinds of things with me!

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@birdiemomma

Approaching children with information about our disease is a good thing, but it's important to keep it simple so they understand it. For instance, "I have medical conditions called depression. It will never go away, but it does get much better most of the time. Sometimes, I feel really bad so I have to stay in bed until I feel well enough to get up again."

It's important not to lie to kids, because eventually kids believe the parent is a liar and can't ever be believed. Keep it simple, explain it as a medical condition (such as diabetes), and the child will probably take it matter-of-factly. The child may feel much better about sharing info with the parent, as well.

That's what I did with my children, and now that their adults, they openly discuss all kinds of things with me!

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I totally agree – I just wish he would do this and it’s hard since it isn’t really my business. I have asked him to discuss it with his therapist but he hasn’t as far as I know. I feel as if he needs to hear this advice from a person who has depression. I also feel as if a condition doesn’t make you appear weaker but actually makes you appear stronger since you are up against and meet a challenge. He just cannot seem to see it this way.

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@marlenec

I totally agree – I just wish he would do this and it’s hard since it isn’t really my business. I have asked him to discuss it with his therapist but he hasn’t as far as I know. I feel as if he needs to hear this advice from a person who has depression. I also feel as if a condition doesn’t make you appear weaker but actually makes you appear stronger since you are up against and meet a challenge. He just cannot seem to see it this way.

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Understood. It's not your business, EXCEPT he is your son and lives under your roof and isn't exactly being honest with your grandson.

I have had depression and anxiety most of my life, have been hospitalized due to depression more than once, have been to several doctors, therapists and psychiatric nurse practitioners who have managed my meds, and have had genetic testing to see what meds work best. I have been through divorce and have children with my ex. I have remarried and have a son with my current husband as well as a stepdaughter. All of my children are now adults and my children have children. The ONLY thing that works is being open and honest.

Perhaps you can let your son know that you can't support his dishonesty with your grandson and explain that you will always be honest with your grandson. Evidently, your son needs a little push in the right direction. You can be his mom and be supportive, but you don't need to put up with lies that have (or will) hurt those that you love.

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Good point. I have just engaged a therapist for myself – once again, since I have had therapy in the past – and am hoping to gain something from it for myself since I am not doing myself any good fretting about this. It’s ironic because he knows that by not revealing his condition to his son he IS faking (aka lying) and that bothers him a great deal. So your advice to be honest makes so much sense. I have found over my lifetime – even though I have only raised one child – that it’s a fine line between protecting one’s children by keeping secrets and being honest with them.

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I wondered if your son has kept up to date with visits to his current primary care provider. When one is depressed I have found this to be important too. It sounds like he has experienced a lot of loss and perhaps a dedicated Grief Group might help him in this area. I have tried out several and have preferred one run by a local church, which I am not a member of. Some insurance arrangements may allow concurrent Group Therapy with private therapy it seems. I have been in a group where some participants were being seen privately as well. This might help fill in the gaps in his current therapy schedule. He may even be able to participate via a Zoom group should he not wish to get out of bed. I recently read a Mayo Clinic online article on using light boxes as a means of improving one's mood. Has has your son's mood affected his appetite? What never fails to get me out of bed each morning is my cat showing up and demanding breakfast.

I have heard in the past that messages between divorce parents can get sent via their children. Do you think staying in bed could be serving as a nonverbal form of communication in this manner? Perhaps he is turning his anger in on himself and doesn't feel he can shake it off at this time for even his son. Is there an Uncle or Grandparent his son could also spend time with when he stews?

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He is in contact with his PCP and also with his former psychiatrist who has been great about renewing his meds while he’s searching for another practitioner where we now live. We moved across the country after my husband died. So he’s lost his dad; he didn’t necessary engage in a lot of emotional communication with him but his loss has certainly affected him. There isn’t another older male figure in his life at this point.
After reading birdiemomma’s posts, I approached him again last night about telling his son and he said he knows he should do it and wants to but he wasn’t sure how/when. So I advised him to do it when he is not in a low spot rather when he’s in the midst of a crisis and to keep it very simple. He said he doesn’t know if his son can understand a mental vs physical condition but I don’t think that matters. He simply has something which you can’t really see and which isn’t catching or anyone’s fault but which causes him to not want to get up and engage at times – period. So he seemed amenable and willing to do that. We will see. To your point about messages – I see it – and I may be wrong- as self fulfillment in a negative way. That is his ex is very efficient and hard-working and I am not sure she truly understands that he hasn’t a lot of control over his moods – so he knows she emerges as super-mom their son and when he feels like crap I think he figures he may as well live up to his poor estimation of himself – if that makes any sense.

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@marlenec

He is in contact with his PCP and also with his former psychiatrist who has been great about renewing his meds while he’s searching for another practitioner where we now live. We moved across the country after my husband died. So he’s lost his dad; he didn’t necessary engage in a lot of emotional communication with him but his loss has certainly affected him. There isn’t another older male figure in his life at this point.
After reading birdiemomma’s posts, I approached him again last night about telling his son and he said he knows he should do it and wants to but he wasn’t sure how/when. So I advised him to do it when he is not in a low spot rather when he’s in the midst of a crisis and to keep it very simple. He said he doesn’t know if his son can understand a mental vs physical condition but I don’t think that matters. He simply has something which you can’t really see and which isn’t catching or anyone’s fault but which causes him to not want to get up and engage at times – period. So he seemed amenable and willing to do that. We will see. To your point about messages – I see it – and I may be wrong- as self fulfillment in a negative way. That is his ex is very efficient and hard-working and I am not sure she truly understands that he hasn’t a lot of control over his moods – so he knows she emerges as super-mom their son and when he feels like crap I think he figures he may as well live up to his poor estimation of himself – if that makes any sense.

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If he's going to tell his son, it is really best to call it a medical condition than mental or physical. That way, there's knowledge that no one is at fault, which can be attributed to mental illness. Also, if it's physical, there can be the belief that it is like all injury and will get "all better." Medical is more like diabetes, which can be treated, but probably can't be "cured." Best wishes for healthy communication!

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@marlenec

He is in contact with his PCP and also with his former psychiatrist who has been great about renewing his meds while he’s searching for another practitioner where we now live. We moved across the country after my husband died. So he’s lost his dad; he didn’t necessary engage in a lot of emotional communication with him but his loss has certainly affected him. There isn’t another older male figure in his life at this point.
After reading birdiemomma’s posts, I approached him again last night about telling his son and he said he knows he should do it and wants to but he wasn’t sure how/when. So I advised him to do it when he is not in a low spot rather when he’s in the midst of a crisis and to keep it very simple. He said he doesn’t know if his son can understand a mental vs physical condition but I don’t think that matters. He simply has something which you can’t really see and which isn’t catching or anyone’s fault but which causes him to not want to get up and engage at times – period. So he seemed amenable and willing to do that. We will see. To your point about messages – I see it – and I may be wrong- as self fulfillment in a negative way. That is his ex is very efficient and hard-working and I am not sure she truly understands that he hasn’t a lot of control over his moods – so he knows she emerges as super-mom their son and when he feels like crap I think he figures he may as well live up to his poor estimation of himself – if that makes any sense.

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@Twocoastsm Your grandson may indeed be more in tune with what is going on than either of you realize. By calling the situation a medical condition, not giving it any more of a label than that, as @birdiemomma said, leaves a lot of space to expand. You and your son can team up together to help him, if he'll let you. But he needs to make the decision to work on it and get better, noone else can do it for him.

And, please don't forget that you need support, too!
Ginger

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I have seen over the years quite a few books for young children that deal with subjects like: parent's divorce, moving, grief, when a parent is sick, when a grandparent dies, etc. Some were even in a coloring book form. The child is said to blame whatever is not right on themselves, and these books aim to dispel that notion.

I had a therapist who told me it is OK to be good. I was surrounded by people who excelled, but I was told for probably the first time it was OK to be (only) good.

I also knew a travelling ICU nurse whose talented husband in a state or two could not line up work, because the locals simply preferred to hire only their own locals for job openings. Trying to line up work in any location with this mind set is a losing battle.

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My daughter was diagnosed with debilitating depression and anxiety which she has been dealing with for 10 years we have seen her at good times and really bad times It seemed as though no meds ever really made that much of a difference so this year we were able to try TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation ) a noninvasive therapy that uses magnetic fields to stimulate the nerve cells of the brain Thankfully her insurance is paying for it but honestly even if it didn’t we were going to try anything to help our daughter from suffering .It does seem to help quite a bit She is 27 and has been going to college for years because she has had to take medical leaves here and there but the college has been wonderful in helping her achieve her degree May she is graduating and has come home this year to have us near to help her along If your son can try TMS it is worth it

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