This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

At what point do you let go?

Many of my friends are struggling with children who are chronologically on the cusp of adulthood, but do not have the skills needed to be successful... in fact, most are determinedly on a rapid self-destructive path.

It feels like I'm in the middle of the ocean holding my son like a lifeguard would.  We did everything we could to teach my son to "swim," and he just couldn't learn.  For as long as I hold him, he hates me, is actively fighting me, and is convinced he can do it all on his own. His struggles could drown me and almost have in the past.

I know that the minute I let go, he will flounder for a little while, but will eventually sink to the bottom of the ocean.  How can you let go, knowing your child will drown?  At the same time, I know I cannot hold him forever.  At what point do I let go?

Because Bear wasn't on meds when he entered jail, he can't get back on meds without a medical assessment, which he was told wouldn't happen until he went to prison.  I tried to advocate to get him assessed and back on meds when he was first incarcerated but hit a brick wall.

Last month, he told us he'd accepted a plea bargain, but wouldn't actually be admitted to prison for another 8-9 months.  I started advocating again, to get the assessment moved up, but hit another brick wall (same one) and let it drop.  Today, I was contacted by an Oklahoma disability advocacy agency I'd reached out to in the past and was told their lawyer was willing to send a letter to the jail asking them to get Bear assessed.  I figured it couldn't hurt.

Tonight, I got a call from Bear telling me that I was ruining his life.  That the jail administrator is blaming him for the letter (which was apparently faxed today) and going to punish Bear by moving him back to a pod where he was beaten up all the time.

Bear kept saying he's "almost 20" (chronologically he won't be 20 for more than 6 months, and emotionally... - Honestly I hear someone else being quoted in this) and that he can handle this on his own, like he's taken care of himself his whole life (yeah right!) in group homes, RTC, foster care....

He  wants me to contact the lawyer and make them "take it back." I left it alone because I knew the attorney had no plans to do any more than he already had.


A big part of me wants to just let him go.  I've already stepped back a lot.  I feel he's fine where he is (he's got 3 hots and a cot and doesn't have any real life skills to do anything else.).  He's legally an adult.  He chose to move out.  He chose to move back with biofamily.  He chose to break the law (many laws actually). He's in another state, and he's mostly safe in jail.

The only thing I was worried about was that he was struggling so hard being off his meds, and I felt a moral obligation to advocate for him.  Now I've been attacked for it, and I even paid $60 for the privilege (2 collect calls).

Hubby is the one who is making me feel guilty about just totally backing off.  He knows that Bear can't really handle life on his own and therefore we shouldn't allow him to push us away.

Bear's going to self-destruct.  It's inevitable.  We've been delaying the inevitable for 7 years.  So where is the line?  Legally, we have no obligations.  Morally?


Edited to add:

I decided to back off on the case management/ advocacy stuff. Bear has now been incarcerated for almost 5 years. He got out briefly after 3.5 years in, but committed additional crimes and violated his parole, then got in more trouble while in prison and was moved to a maximum security facility. So he's back in prison for who knows how long.

I finally realized that Bear needs a LOT of Structure, which we cannot legally provide him. The only place for an adult to get the amount of structure he needs to function and feel "safe," is the military or prison. Bear has never been eligible for the military due to his mental health diagnoses. Therefore, he will be in the biggest mental institution in the country (jail/ prison), off and on (mostly on) for the rest of his life.

Here's what we decided to do:
  • We accept his collect calls 2-3 times a month (they're very expensive). Early on, it was weekly, but it's tapered off over the years.
  • I will usually reach out to his latest love interest for him, but the majority of the time I warn them that he's a mess, and they need to seriously think about getting involved with him. Most of the time, they're a mess too. {It still amazes me how many relationships, and even engagements, he's had while incarcerated. I do have reason to believe that a few of them are exaggerated in his mind.}
  • We send him a small amount of commissary money each month.
  • Bear cannot leave the state he's in until he's off parole, so he will most likely never be able to come "home." This helped me feel safe enough to finally heal from the PTSD I struggled with.
  • I try to write him letters and send him the pictures he requests every time he moves to a new facility, but I suck at writing letters, so I haven't written him much.
  • We are still here for him and care about him, and he knows it. However, we have set boundaries and are sticking to them. 
One thing that has really helped me with understanding why my son acts this way, and setting boundaries, was one of my favorite books, Stop Walking on Eggshells. I reread it often. 

This book is for people living with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (which is an "adult" disorder), but there are a LOT of similarities to kids with attachment and trauma issues. (Some people say that BPD is what RAD turns into when our kids turn 18 and technically "outgrow" the diagnosis of RAD).

The first half of the book gives insight into WHY they act the way they do, which helped me with understanding what they needed and why, so I could better decide what to do about it. The second half of the book is actual PRACTICAL ADVICE! Which I found to be really on target.

It's a quick and easy read... except that it's hard to process. Everything hit home so closely, that I found myself reading it in small chunks. (I kept it in my car to read during the kids' doctor appointments, while waiting in line, anytime I had a minute alone.) I'm re-reading it now actually.

This book also made me understand why Self-Care is so important and made me feel less guilty about prioritizing it.

I also reread this post, You Have Not Failed, whenever I feel like there was something more I could have done and this was my fault.

For the Adult Child Who is Incapable of Being Independent
We struggled a LOT with how to handle Kitty becoming an "adult." While neither she nor Bear is ready to be independent, fully-functioning adults, the difference is that Kitty's disabilities are severe enough that professionals see the need to allow us to provide the support she needs (rep payee for her SSI finances and eventually legal guardianship) and Kitty is able to *mostly* accept that support. 

These posts have more about how we handled getting Kitty the help she needs (which is still a work in progress) -
How To Get Treated Like an Adult.
Parenting the Special Needs Child


Anonymous said...

Let your husband deal with Baer if he. what bear is doing is not your fault and you can't stop him anyway.

Lisa said...

The fact of the matter is this - Bear is going to drown no matter how much you do for him. The only difference is that you are going to drown right along with him if you continue doing the things you're doing. He is very clear that he doesn't want your help. He is even making things worse in his zeal to get you off his back. As long as you are giving help and advice, he is convincing himself that he knows better, is smarter and can handle it all himself - and hating you for it. What's wrong with letting him know that you are going to step back and let him handle things, but that if he needs your assistance with meds (or whatever you decide the boundaries to be) that you are willing to help in any way you know how - but only if he asks. Maybe after a few months he will concede that things aren't going as smoothly as he thinks.

His perception of how he's taken care of himself all this time on his own is only a small indicator of his distorted thinking. The one thing I've learned (the hard way over and over) is that their reality doesn't really have to be based on the facts, and when it isn't, there is no reasoning with them. I know it is so painful to watch, but this is real life and unless you have guardianship (and lots of times even when you do), he is legally able to make his own decisions - which he's been doing. YOU are doing all the work on improving his life and he's fighting you every step of the way. Let your husband field the phone calls and advocate for him - I think he will find out quickly that helping Bear isn't as easy as it may seem.

Kari O said...

I don't want to sound cruel, but your adult son is in jail, and headed to prison.

They do not care about calls from Mom. He will need to advocate for himself, or through his attorney.

marythemom said...

Lisa - You're right, Lisa. Bear will never get it. He'll be mad at me next week for something else, probably NOT doing something for him. Hubby does get it, but doesn't want to believe it. I'll probably continue to try to support Hubby's wishes, but will continue to take care of myself and keep the rest of the family as priorities.

Kari O - Apparently they do care about calls from Mom (if she's backed up by an attorney). Also, I have power of attorney so I can do some advocating for him, since he is not really capable of advocating for himself due to his severe issues. That being said, I'm done. I will not be advocating for him anymore.

Anonymous said...

You're not wrong for caring about Bear and trying to help him. He is your son; are you supposed to refuse to take his calls and abandon him to whatever fate has in store for him? Prison is a horrifying place, especially for first-time offenders who are young and vulnerable as Bear is. They need advocates on the outside who are willing to assist them in getting their needs met.
I have no idea why the prison administrator found the lawyer's letter so disturbing that he threatened to retaliate by sending Bear back to a pod where he had been beaten but that kind of attitude is not okay. The ACLU is usually very helpful in advocating for prisoners who are being denied basic necessities, and psych meds ARE a necessity for Bear.